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Innovation Post-Pro Tour


Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica took place last weekend and Andrew Elenbogen brought home the trophy with his Boros Aggro deck. Congratulations, Andrew! For those of you that might not have been able to watch the Pro Tour, let's take a look at his deck.

Benalish Marshal
This Mono-White main deck is basically a White Weenie deck that has a plan for the game if it should go long. White Weenie decks have typically been made up of creatures that cost one or two mana and have some sort of evasion or other useful ability. That's the case with the majority of creatures in this deck. There are a couple of exceptions, though. Benalish Marshal comes in with a converted mana cost (CMC) of three, however its ability to pump the remainder of your whole team makes it an invaluable member of your team. The other exception is Venerated Loxodon. While Venerated Loxodon has a CMC of five, the fact that you can Convoke it into play while simultaneously granting a +1/+1 counter to each creature that you tap to Convoke allows you to get much more value from playing it than a "normal" five CMC creature will give you.

While this deck features six lands that can produce both White and Red mana, there's no need for the Red mana until after sideboarding. Of course, my favorite use for that Red mana will be Banefire. There's just something very satisfying when you're able to cast this so that X equals five or more, so that the damage can't be prevented and the spell can't be countered. It's one of my favorite ways to close out a game that has become a stalemate.

Another use for that Red mana is Response // Resurgence. Response is a great way to deal with an attacker that is too large to be blocked easily. Since you can also use it against a defending creature, it can allow you to keep an attacking creature alive that would otherwise die by being blocked. Resurgence is a great way to clear out an otherwise crowded battlefield. While you do have to telegraph using it since it's a Sorcery, you can use it to force your opponent into some difficult blocks or otherwise take a ton of damage.

The final card that utilizes that Red mana is Experimental Frenzy. While I didn't get to watch the entirety of the Pro Tour, I did see a match where Experimental Frenzy was used to cast a number spells from the top of Andrew's library that he otherwise wouldn't have had access to. Keep that in mind when playing this card. Once it's in play, you won't be able to play any cards from your hand. So you'll want to play as many cards as you can from your hand prior to casting this. It's a lot like The Flame of Keld in that way. Also, another thing to remember is that you have the ability to destroy Experimental Frenzy. If your opponent casts a removal spell on it that also gives them some other sort of advantage, such as Invoke the Devine, you can destroy it in response to deny them the lifegain.

Since my articles usually come out on Friday, it's likely that some other content creator has already written about the abundance of Boros decks in the Top 8 of the Pro Tour. It's also likely that another content creator has already proposed ideas on how to combat these decks. So I'll focus on what I do best and provide you with other options of decks to play that are doing well in other tournaments or on Magic Online (MTGO).

Gruul Unsealing

I'll start with a deck that's like a blast from the (not-so) past. When Core 2019 came out, Standard was not at its best. People were looking for answers that would shake up the format, and one of those cards they looked to was Sarkhan's Unsealing. For a few weeks, people experimented with this card but nothing much came from it. Now, it would seem, people are trying it once again. Let's take a look at Gruul Unsealing.

The plan with this deck is fairly straightforward - play increasingly large creatures and deal copious amounts of damage. There are a few key cards that help set up this deck. It should come as no surprise that Llanowar Elves is a great way to ramp up your mana production. The deck is also running a couple of copies of Adventurous Impulse as a way to make sure you're able to get enough lands into your hand to be able to cast your big threats. The single copy of Merfolk Branchwalker can also help with this if you happen to reveal a land when it explores.

Now that we have the mana production covered, the next step is to try to get a Sarkhan's Unsealing in play. If you don't happen to have it in hand right away, don't be concerned. This deck is more than capable of winning games without it. But if you do have it in play, winning will be much easier. You have ten creatures with power 4-6 and four creatures with 8-12 power. Getting even a couple of these out when you have a Sarkhan's Unsealing in play can add up to a ton of extra damage to your opponent, their creatures, or their planeswalkers.

One card I really love in this deck is Aggressive Mammoth. It's a card that really should be seeing more play in the aggressive dinosaur decks as it provides a way for your creatures to no longer be simply chump-blocked. Plus, it's no slouch either. In a ramp deck, getting to the six mana needed to cast Aggressive Mammoth should be fairly easy, and if you can get this out on turn four, your opponent will be in a world of hurt. Attacking with an 8/8 with trample will either leave your opponent down a bunch of life or down a bunch of creatures. It is vulnerable to removal, though, so you'll want to try to protect it with your single copy of Assure // Assemble if possible.

Izzet Aggro

The final deck I have for you this week landed in the Top 4 at a recent PPTQ in Japan. Let's have a look at Izzet Aggro.

Departed Deckhand is a card that doesn't see much play, but is really good. It has its own form of evasion and can grant that same evasion to any of your other creatures. Using this ability is a great way to be able to punch through an opponent's defenses and finish the game. Of course, it does come with a vulnerability to any spell that targets it, which I look at as being invulnerable to Vraska's Contempt. What I mean by this is that if your opponent targets Departed Deckhand with their Vraska's Contempt, they won't gain any life from that spell since you have to sacrifice Departed Deckhand in response to them targeting it. Departed Deckhand will then go to the graveyard and your opponent's spell will fizzle and they won't gain any life.

Warkite Marauder is another card that is really good but doesn't see much play. When you attack with it, you turn your opponent's best blocker into a 0/1 creature with no abilities (assuming it doesn't have hexproof). This can allow you to attack into threats that are much larger without fear of repercussion. If you happen to have a burn spell in hand such as Shock, you can destroy that creature very easily. Imagine Ghalta, Primal Hunger being taken out by a flying Pirate and a Shock. I've done it on Arena and it was sweet!

Wrapping Up

If you thought the Pro Tour would mark the end of innovative decks in Standard, you were wrong. Even though there was an abundance of aggressive Mono-White/Boros decks in the Top 8, most people agree that this style of deck is not unbeatable. Standard has not been solved and is still a brewer's paradise. If these decks I've shown you today prove anything, it's that cards that have been previously underplayed can still find a home.

Are there any cards that you feel are deserving of a spot in Standard but are currently being underplayed? Let me know by leaving a comment below or you can reply to me directly on Twitter (@mikelikesmtg), or email me directly at mikelikesmtg@gmail.com. And be sure to join me here again next week as I continue my search for innovative decks in Standard. I'll see you then!

-Mike Likes

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