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Eight After Midnight

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It's just a few minutes - metagame-time-wise - past the release of new set Innistrad: Midnight Haunt.

But the world is already on its ear! Standard-Standard was previously mostly a mess of people cheating really predictable card advantage and mana savings with Emergent Ultimatum versus people cheating really volatile card advantage and mana savings with Winota, Joiner of Forces... But Standard 2022 gave us some good insights as to what the post-rotations Standard might look like.

Much of the structure is there, but there are some pretty big rocks splashing the veritable Standard sluice. Here are the Top 8 most important changes to play patterns and rules of engagement... So far.

1. Play with Fire is as Good as Advertised... And even more relevant

Play with Fire was featured in the winning decks of both Standard Challenges over the weekend; a three-of in both Gruul Dragons and Rakdos... um... Also Dragons.



We're just scratching the surface of Play with Fire's versatile inclusion in all kinds of decks. But I think the most important reason is its interaction with this card:

Wrenn and Seven

The most common move with Wrenn and Seven (a card featured in SNAPCASTER-BOLT's own list, somehow over the fourth Goldspan Dragon) is to immediately make the Treefolk creature token. This might be because you have to defend Wrenn and Seven (and the Treefolk at that point is likely to be the biggest thing on the battlefield), or because you want to get your own offense on.

In either case, Wrenn and Seven starts with a very respectable five loyalty... Which falls to two loyalty the second you make that Treefolk. While creature decks are still going to have to find some way to deal with the token, the token maker will die a quick death at that point to the versatile Play with Fire. Two is exactly how much damage you need; and one mana versus probably the best card in the opponent's deck is a heck of a mana exchange.

We are just starting to see it, but I predict Play with Fire to be a perfect complement to the returning best Blue creature of all time...

2. Delver of Secrets Will Eventually Skew the Metagame


Most of the top decks in Standard are about getting a ton of lands in play... I've hit as many as nineteen myself so far this week!

But not this little package. Delver decks are going to roflstomp high end Ramp and mid-range decks without ever laying a fourth land. And they're going to do it with the help of cards like Play with Fire.

Pointing a Play with Fire at the opponent's grill does something very important: Namely, it helps to flip Delver of Secrets into Insectile Aberration. Consider is a compelling new one-mana draw spell, but it is not nearly as accurate as Play with Fire for specifically the purpose of flipping a Delver.

Delver is probably the deck that can get the stone luckiest. Try beating one who plays Delver of Secrets on the first turn and then just reveals Negate or Saw it Coming naturally. The clock is very quick relative to Delver's mana cost... Which is obviously helped along by the presence of direct damage like Play with Fire. Fading Hope is actually awesome in this deck as well, doing much the same work as Play with Fire for flipping Delver, and making short work of a certain Treefolk creature token.

In my opinion, GHOST_KILL's deck is a bit creature-heavy. I think the Delver deck further along in the format will have fewer creatures, but perhaps get more oomph out of them. Think a lot of one-mana instants and sorceries to flip Delver naturally... But maybe also rev up Poppet Stitcher.

3. Wrenn and Seven is the New Apex Predator

The biggest departure from the previous format is Wrenn and Seven at the top of many decks' curves. Some decks are using Jaspera Sentinel and Magda, Brazen Outlaw to hit five despite low land counts; others are playing not just a ton of lands but a ton of ways to Ramp them.

In the previous world of Standard 2022, the apex predator slot was mostly held by Blood on the Snow powering out Lolth, Spider Queen; with Alrund's Epiphany as the high end counterbalance. Now it seems like Wrenn and Seven is the star destroyer of choice, providing card advantage, mana acceleration, and powerful threats all in one.

This card is a straight four-of in Mono-Green StOmPy now, and played in a variety of big mana decks, from Werewolves to Bant to Naya. I think this one showcases just how apex this predator has become in a short time:


The biggest actual threat here is Wrenn and Seven... But it's not the most expensive card. That honor belongs to four-of...

Storm the Festival

I have to admit I completely missed this one in my Top 13 hot takes for Midnight Haunt. This card is basically a slightly more expensive but wildly more potent Collected Company!

BCS8895 only has one class of five mana spell, but you can actually play more than one! Even in this deck the prospect of hitting Wrenn and Seven and Esika's Chariot; or Wrenn and Seven plus Felidar Retreat is daunting. There are a lot of decks that can't deal with all the permanent types in this deck, not to mention all the ones that cost four or more can potentially take over the game solo.

Storm the Festival decks seem to be designed to play Storm the Festival... Again. This card is deceptively well positioned for Flashback, despite an intimidating cost. Remember, when you [+1] Wrenn and Seven, you not only are setting yourself up to be able to cast crazy tens... You're more likely to even see crazy tens because you might have just put one into the graveyard!

4. Felidar Retreat Decks Now Apparently Play Instants

It was a hard eight or so turns.

I had somehow lived through two big waves of attack - Morphling only knows how many bad blocks - to stabilize on two. The opponent had two cards; one I knew was a Mascot Exhibition, the other a mystery.

They had a Lair of the Hydra down, but the Blood in the Snow that had cleared out the many, many attackers with their even greater number of +1/+1 counters left me with Wrenn and Seven. Surely its subsequent Treefolk creature token would be bigger than that stupid Lair of the Hydra, no?

I had two Treasures open. Should I play Shambling Ghast? It seemed wasteful. Instead, I passed with both open and something like six cards.

The mystery card was revealed to be:

Fateful Absence

Goodbye Treefolk creature token :(

All kinds of thoughts raged through my mind for the next twenty or so seconds... Maybe they'll fear a Power Word Kill [that I don't play] from the open Treasures. Maybe they'll miss my life total and swing for the open Wrenn and Seven. Maybe they'll register my spent Blood on the Snow and deploy that Mascot Exhibition.

Nope.

Right play. Damn you, right play! Animate the Lair. Swing for the face. Dead Michael J. Ho hum.

This is certainly not the same deck my opponent was playing. For one, it doesn't have a Lesson / Learn sideboard. But it is representative of a trend seen in multiple formerly mostly-big-permanents decks: Fateful Absence is a near-perfect include. So cheap. So versatile. And so, so unexpected.


5. It's Time for Yasharn, Implacable Earth to Shine in Standard

A card you may have noticed from TRAFT's sideboard, that has been earning wider and wider adoption in Standard is Zendikar Rising's Legendary Boar.

Yasharn is kind of a Next Level threat in Standard. On its face, it's pretty good. 4/4 for four mana is right between the rate rails, abilities depending... And Yasharn draws to cards when it comes into play.

But the bigger deal is that last line of text:

Players can't pay life or sacrifice nonland permanents to cast spells or activate abilities.

Wow. Yowza.

This card single handedly turns off Deadly Dispute and Skullport Merchant... Basically most of the Blood Money engine from Standard 2022. Worse, Blood Money decks rarely play point removal appropriate to Yasharn! Even when they get to six mana for the Blood on the Snow, black mages will not be able to cash in extra creatures with Skullport Merchant beforehand, severely limiting their card advantage.

That said...

6. Blood Money Remains a Strategy to Beat


In fact, Blood Money picked up a partner to Blood on the Snow in The Meathook Massacre!

At three mana you can bias this new Legendary Enchantment to scoop up all your opponent's Eyetwitches and Shambling Ghasts... And at the market rate six, you're mostly taking care of most of the threats in the format. Nothing stopping you from putting more mana into the thing, of course.

But...

7. As Ever, Sweepers are Challenged by Haste


I'd like you to look at two cards in this list. One of them is all over the place:

Reckless Stormseeker // Storm-Charged Slasher

This card is in a ton of lists, across a ton of different strategies. In fact, it was a four-of in both the winning lists we mentioned up top: Gruul Dragons and Rakdos Dragons.

In this deck, the Werewolf is situated in a dedicated Werewolf deck. Meaning, it is even more likely to attack at night.

Reckless Stormseeker in the abstract is the enemy of Control. Giving creatures haste (including itself) makes fighting with one-for-one removal or sweepers both awkward. You might be able to kill an attacker, but Reckless Stormseeker is going to make sure it gets a little money first.

The bigger problem is when Reckless Stormseeker flips. As Storm-Charged Slasher, this card gives twice the offensive buff and trample! So, anyone planning to hide behind an Eyetwitch or Spider token creature while buying the time to hit sweeper mana is going to be gravely disappointed.

This goes double for:

Unnatural Moonrise

The buff, trample, and Ophidian-like extra are all nice... But the bigger issue with this card is just turning it to night. The vast majority of LUCASDUSEK's threats start out daybound. You're talking about adding a point of power to almost everyone on the battlefield. So, this card has Overrun DNA to go along with the rest of its text.

We've talked Dragons; we've talked Werewolves; but can it be the most interesting Gruul deck is...

8. Bard Class!


Bard Class was previously held down by the presence of Winota in Standard. Winona just cheated mana and card advantage in a more compact way, I think.

Once you get to Level 2 with this card, it can be unreal. Do you realize you can just play Targ-Nar, Demon-Fang Gnoll for free? It doesn't cost you much of anything to cast anyone once you're at Level 2... Which, by the by, costs almost nothing to activate.

If you haven't encountered it yet, do not sleep on Bard Class's mana saving ability. And once Level 3 is online? Most fair decks simply can't keep up.

So that's about where we are. Some of the big effects in Standard got cheaper, with a better Shock and the best Blue creature both coming in at one; at the other end of the metagame, big fives and sixes are redefining what it means to be on top. While the structure of the present Standard is definitely recognizable, mistake it as the former Standard 2022 at your peril.

LOVE

MIKE

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