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Standard's New Clothes


Last week saw the dawn of a new Standard with MOGGED on top with a new Mono-Black. MOGGED's deck, like most of the first week's successful builds, was a swing with Liliana of the Veil; and almost by necessity (as with literally every deck in the first Standard Challenge) was a Black one.

Well, a week went by; and with it additional Standard Challenges. It's worth noting that MOGGED won another. Albeit with a very different Black list.

If the first week was a showcase for Liliana of the Veil, it might be fair to say that a different Planeswalker has emerged this week, vying for a position of coveted cachet. The Wandering Emperor appeared in a number of different decks; usually in a supporting role to be fair... But the important thing? She appeared in a number of different decks.

Mogged's update here is a little all over the place. Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia is producing some extra value but with almost no synergy. Dennick, Pious Apprentice // Dennick, Pious Apparition is a fellow Innistrad: Midnight Hunt best buddy with some tenuous claims to the latter. Neither of these cards were very popular over the course of the last year, though both saw at least a little play. Dennick provides additional materiel if you look really hard... But I think the greater claim to fame is just some Tenacious Underdog defense. Dennick is also a helpful racer.

Like, he has lifelink, right? What if you - I don't know - gave him a bunch of extra power. But how would you do that?

Raffine, Scheming Seer

Mogged's deck is of course an update to a Reffine creature strategy. A little more removal than we might have seen a few months ago. A little more card advantage; a little more mid-range.

This deck is built to race. In addition to Dennick, Pious Apprentice // Dennick, Pious Apparition, it boasts four copies of Obscura Interceptor. Wedding Announcement // Wedding Festivity can make Mogged's lifelinkers a little bigger. The Meathook Massacre is another way to eke out life points while trading cardboard.

Five Planeswalkers give this deck some legitimate card advantage, plus potential staying power. As has been a theme for this format, both Kaito Shizuki and The Wandering Emperor are worth multiplier permanents themselves.

One thing to note is that if anyone knew how the top end of this Standard worked, it would be Mogged. Mogged took down the first Standard Challenge in part by being the biggest bully: Other people could stick a Planeswalker, or hide behind The Meathook Massacre, but all those cards could be trumped by Invoke Despair.

Setting aside the three-color-ness of this week's Mogged choice, doesn't that bbbb sorcery seem a little, I don't know... missing?

The theory is to keep an opposing Invoke Despair from ever resolving. Doubtless this week's Esper build will be on the offense against big Black decks most of the time; forcing them to react. That's where Obscura Interceptor, Make Disappear, and much of the sideboard come in. You don't have to have perfect answers, or even permanent answers [I'm looking at you, Obscura Interceptor!] if you can end the game quickly rough.

This deck isn't playing around.

Well, what about all those early lessons? Each of the two Standard Challenges I looked at this week were seven-eighths Black decks. How about it?

Fwanz gave us a powerhouse of a mid-range deck.

This one goes all the way to four copies of Invoke Despair, but pairs that card with heavy hitter after heavy hitter along the way. Of course we see The Wandering Emperor in the mix (albeit in a very supporting role). Instead, we see a variety of Legendary threats like Edgar, Charmed Groom // Edgar Markov's Coffin; and Ao, the Dawn Sky (with lots more in the sideboard).

Fwanz has a decent amount of removal, but really seems to be in it for the card advantage. Reckoner Bankbuster, The Restoration of Eiganjo // Architect of Restoration and the ever-present Tenacious Underdog are all putting cards in hand. While Fwanz - like Mogged - did not play Liliana of the Veil this week, it's difficult to look at this deck without imagining its attention to last week's It Girl.

Reckoner Bankbuster puts cards in hand to fight Liliana's symmetrical discard. The Restoration of Eiganjo // Architect of Restoration not only gives you straight up chaff to throw away, its second chapter can help you recover from a bad discard. Edgar and Ao are costly targets of Liliana's Edict-like ability. And four copies - each - of Graveyard Trespasser // Graveyard Glutton and Tenacious Underdog help wage a long-term war against the opponent's Tenacious Underdogs.

... And as we said last week, so long as Liliana is good in the format, Tenacious Underdog will be even better.

And how does all that play out? Tenacious Underdog has haste. That means that, combined with a little cheap removal like Infernal Grasp and Cut Down, Planeswalkers in general become a little less safe.

And in a context of Cut Downs and Hero's Downfalls - and even a poorly laid Invoke Despair - Tenacious Underdog gets to show just how tenacious it is. Not just swift on the haste; not just flexibly even more swift on the curve; it is resilient in a world seemingly back-to-back with Black removal.

Which of course brings us back to The Wandering Emperor! If Tenacious Underdog - good already, even more valuable in a world with Liliana of the Veil - is so important... The Wandering Emperor brings this full circle. Why? Not only does The Wandering Emperor's flash make her less vulnerable to Underdog beatdowns, that [-2] can eliminate the big bad boxer permanently. So, you know; value.

One thing that probably seems evident about Fwanz's deck is that it almost doesn't have to be Black. I know that that's odd given its quartet of bbbb-costing sorceries and maximum number of Tenacious Underdogs, but hear me out. While obviously a Black deck, Fwanz's gives us both glimpses and hard stares at White battlecruisers.

Ao, the Dawn Sky. Farewell.

It even bridges the mid-game with Anointed Peacekeeper and The Restoration of Eiganjo // Architect of Restoration. So, it's not to say that this isn't well and truly a Black deck, but rather at least implies that there is a high end White control hiding in the format.

How about this look?

If you were worried that the loss of Doomskar would, ahem, doom the fortunes of White-based control, JiggiestJay's 5-0 list from a recent League should give you pause.

This is a powerhouse deck, at least relative to the threes and fours dominating most of the control landscape, with a high end from Elspeth Resplendent to Farewell to Vanquish the Horde. It has bigger casting costs and can answer almost anything.

While I was a little surprised it wasn't leaning on Reckoner Bankbuster like most of the Black contemporaries, JiggiestJay's deck is deceptively card advantageous. It's mostly a creature deck. The middle turns are all about playing creatures to block and bridge; or create proxies like The Restoration of Eiganjo // Architect of Restoration or Wedding Announcement // Wedding Festivity.

All those cards are extremely value laden. Ambitious Farmhand: two-for-one. Extraction Specialist: two-for-one. Spirited Companion: You know the drill!

Serra Paragon and the enchantments are all more-than-two-for-one (at least potentially).

I like where this deck is going but I am a little wary of it. Non-Blue control decks tend to have glaring flaws in the "big spell" department; and this one can answer an Invoke Despair mostly by trying to absorb it. Though to be fair, a single Wedding Announcement // Wedding Festivity goes a long way. While its spells are potentially bigger, they're not so much proactively bigger if that makes any sense.

So, on the subject of "proactively bigger" ...

Here's our last The Wandering Emperor deck of the week... And it's a four-of!

While that is true, it's not so much a The Wandering Emperor showcase. The Wandering Emperor is kind of a consolation prize here, as well as a mana bridge.

The real show is Invoke Justice, which costs five mana. The Wandering Emperor not only gives you something big to do before turn five; it's a potential payoff if you haven't previously binned Sanctuary Warden or Titan of Industry.

Thematically, this deck has a lot of the same game plan as the Mono-White we just looked at. Two-for-one after two-for-one; including a lot of value coming off of multi-phase enchantments.

But in addition to just accumulating materiel, melody_5233 weaves all the cards together to produce coherent offense.

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki
The Restoration of Eiganjo // Architect of Restoration

We looked at several different decks that all play The Restoration of Eiganjo // Architect of Restoration, but none of them (before this one) exploited Chapter II as part of an offensive game plan. Filtering, sure. But melody_5233 is all about discarding Titan of Industry for a big - and I mean really big - Invoke Justice.

I love this deck.

It's not just that it can make such elegant use of The Elder Dragon War (I mean wow), it's that - despite not being itself Black - it operates with such awareness of the Black-led metagame. What do you think happens when the opponent forces you to discard with Liliana of the Veil? How good is Liliana's Edict effect against a Sanctuary Warden that makes a 1/1 Citizen, or a 1/1 Dog that just drew a card for that matter?

Most of all it can go toe-to-toe with the biggest bully. Invoke Despair? Meet Invoke Justice. Both are powerful. But mine just gained five life and drew a couple of extra cards. I'm not saying yours isn't good - yours is g-d great - but I'm not sure you can prove it before I attack for twelve a couple of times.

P.S. "Shield Counter"



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