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Expansions and Retractions in Wilds of Eldraine Standard


Part I: Retraction Helix

Well, pobody's nerfect.

Last week I didn't do justice to one of the most exciting decks in the new Wilds of Eldraine-driven Standard.

Let's look at the Standard Cascade deck:

This deck really can run a good Jund-style grinding strategy. It really does have lots of expensive cards, fueling the extra card draw of Up the Beanstalk. And it plays four copies of the best card in Wilds of Eldraine: Virtue of Persistence (I really don't understand who thought this card would be a good idea but it's everywhere).

That said, I missed something important in last week's first swing.

The catalyst here is Invasion of Alara // Awaken the Maelstrom.

There is almost nothing reasonably-costed that the Invasion can hit. But one card in particular that it can? That cute little Raccoon, Bramble Familiar.


No one is making a Care Bear Cousin if you know what I mean.

Rather, even though "Bramble Familiar" is the legal hit, it's Fetch Quest - the same piece of cardboard's Adventure / Sorcery side - that is actually going to get cast by the Invasion of Alara.

From there you turn over roughly a bazillion cards (or seven). Something exciting is sure to come up! But the most exciting might be Cemetery Desecrator.

That guy can flip over the Invasion of Alara; and Awaken the Maelstrom. All that card drawing and token making and buffing and murder are a riot.

The Standard Cascade deck is probably the most overall adrenaline-pumping, wild ride in the format. Occasionally you'll hit last season's big sevens: Etali and Atraxa. Since you have a graveyard full of expensive cardboard the seven-cost side of Virtue of Persistence is going to swing exclusively for the fences in any game that goes a few turns.

This is a deck that can grind.

This is a deck that can go over the top.

It is not, however, a deck that is particularly good against the Red Deck.

Part II. The Best Color Combination in Standard

This deck played by Rocardito is a good model for what the Red Deck looks like with Wilds of Eldraine added.

The deck is hyper focused on haste.

Every (!) one of the twenty-two creatures can attack the turn it enters the battlefield. So, from no pressure it can quickly turn the corner and littler The Red Zone with tapped creatures.

The Red Deck also has good closing ability via direct damage. Just getting in with some of the haste creatures can reduce the opponent's life total to a manageable number. Imagine you get the opponent to ten. Just one Stoke the Flames can take away 40% of the opponent's life total at that point.

The sideboard offers not only a couple of intriguing cards to trade in... It offers the Red Deck a series of different plans that you can use to tailor your Game 2 and Game Three experiences.

Twisted Fealty

This deck doesn't play a lot of copies of Twisted Fealty; but it's a pretty cool card to play, whether in the sideboard or main deck because of its ability to utterly reconfigure the battlefield state. "Threaten" effects are particularly effective against a single, daunting, defender that is holding off multiple potential attackers. You don't need a permanent Control Magic / Mind Control type effect if in a single turn your Threaten Twisted Fealty does enough damage. The addition of a Wicked Role token makes Twisted Fealty maybe the best version of Act of Treason ever to grace Standard.

In the current Standard there are just some creatures that are typically too big to remove; even with a big spell like Nahiri's Warcrafting. An example might be Atraxa, Grand Unifier. Atraxa, due to its enormous size, is not only too big to remove with most Red removal, it is outstanding at holding off 1/1, 1/2, 2/2, or even 3/3 attackers! Worse, its lifelink makes intentional sacrifice alpha strikes ineffective in most cases.

These same traits make Atraxa a heck of a creature to steal for the turn! You don't want too many copies of this card, because unless you're killing the opponent, casting Twisted Fealty can feel like discarding a card.

Twisted Fealty is largely a "beatdown" card. When the Red Deck sideboard this card, its intent is to keep swinging with attackers. An Act of Treason-type effect is good for not only getting a blocker out of the way. It also creates an attacker.

What is much more complex and enriching is the ability to shift into other roles. The Red Deck is by default (and in Game 1) an attacking deck. It has 1-drops, with haste. It has 4-drops (still hasty). It has drops in between that can - wait for it - also attack the turn they enter the battlefield. Red can get past defenses with point removal. Or it can use the same cards to end the game.

But should it desire, the Red Deck can be a pretty good mid-range deck after sideboarding.

Koth, Fire of Resistence, in particular, can help shift the Red Deck into a more controlling role. This is a one-card card advantage strategy. It draws cards by digging for lands; in fact it promotes consistency at the same time. It eliminates opposing cards by killing creatures. Upon a few setup activations, it lays out an inevitable end game.

But you know what's the best thing about Koth in this deck?

All those usually tapped creatures can just hang back and protect the Planeswalker.

Speaking of which...

Jaya, Fiery Negotiator

Jaya is a lot like Koth in this deck: a four-mana permanent that can help the deck to operate on a little bit of a different plan. But what might be more important is the Planeswalker's ability to synergize with certain cards in the main deck.

1/1 Monk tokens can help to trigger Celebration, making this Red Deck's signature 3-drop even more dangerous than your usual Boggart Ram-Gang.

Part III. Variations on a Common Theme

This deck seems to have only a few cards different... But it's like night and day relative to the kind of core Goddric, Cloaked Reveler build.

Notably we see fewer lands; almost in their place are four copies of a Red "Jackal Pup" that kind of put the original Savannah Lions to shame.

Embereth Veteran

Young Hero is kind of a powerful ability in a deck with so many low toughness creatures, but at some level that doesn't really matter at the end of the day. Anything would be an upgrade over no ability at all.

But Young Hero is not the only Role present in this version.

Monstrous Rage

This card is pretty good. It's a Giant Growth with Trample on the front-end; and leaves a little persistent toughness (assuming the now-Monster Role lives).

Part IV: The "Quest" for 4 power

"This is literally all your favorite cards on a stick."

-Brian David-Marhsall

The Pro Tour Historian Emeritus was talking about this:

Questing Druid

After Grand Prix Las Vegas in 2001, the Extended debut of The Rock (where I won the side PTQ with The Rock) I came back to New York to win a $1,000 tournament with the other breakout deck of that event: Miracle Grow.

Brian owned Neutral Ground New York back then, and the Quirion Dryads in Miracle Grow, hot on the heels of a PTQ win, made that Extended one of my favorite formats ever.

Questing Druid is literally Quirion Dryad! One that came down in a naturally card advantageous state after a Wrenn's Resolve-like Seek the Beast.

Yes Brian: This card checks off a lot of boxes.

BReal2 played a deck drawing mostly on the Goddric Red Deck model, but adding a couple of Green creatures for additional card quality. Ruby, Daring Tracker is a mana Elf (with haste!) that can also be a 3/4 attacker for only two mana.

Hitting the 4 power to trigger Ruby is not all that hard in this deck. For one thing Goddric can do it on his own. Monastery Swiftspear and Shivan Devastator are both capable. But the real glue that holds these Celebrations aplenty together are the buff spells. Audacity will do it easily (not to mention being itself a non-land permanent). Almost everything applies +1/+1 counters to the Questing Druid.

In summary: Right now I am (maybe not surprisingly) a fan of the aggressive Red strategies; though I felt like it was important to give the appropriate due to the Cascade deck, and its damnable Virtue of Persistence.

Wilds of Eldraine has already terraformed the Standard landscape, and the format has essentially just begun...



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