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Taking on the Oath


This time of the season is my absolute favorite, hands down. Not only do we have a new Limited set to figure out, I also find it is one of the few times of the year I can manage to play Magic in person. This time around, I will be joined by my girlfriend, and that should prove to be entertaining, as she has only played Duels of the Planeswalkers so far. Prereleases are beautiful events for old and new players alike—everyone is there to see and play with new product, and considering it is midnight, most of the patrons are fairly tired or wired on caffeine, so it makes for some enjoyable stories.

Of course, the second major reason this part of the season is so relevant to most of you reading this article is the shake-up we will see in Standard. While this set does seem to promise more than Battle for Zendikar did, I still want to focus on two categories, new decks, and updating current decks. This week, since the spoiler is fresh and I have been brewing constantly, I will be looking at some new strategies Oath of the Gatewatch provides. I typically look down the spoiler until a card catches my eye and see how the current card pool may support it. This time around, I have three cards that led me to these lists. There are surely more to come over the coming weeks, but these are the ones I have been most excited about thus far.

Absolutely Smashing

While I have seen a number of people praising Reality Smasher, I have seen only a few lists that really concentrate on the colorless theme. I went into this list looking for a reason to stay double or—gasp!—single color.

Ruin in Their Wake
While there may prove to not be enough sources to hit the colors we need on time, this is where I would start with the mana base. This gives us the potential for two different ramp spells on 2 mana, with a third in a pinch. Rampant Growth, even a conditional one, is a very powerful card, and I feel if anything is going to be able to exploit it outside of perhaps the R/G or G/U ramp decks, it would be a shell like this. We have a few counters peppered in with removal and tempo plays that can slow the opponent down just enough to close out the game with the aggressive suite of midrange creatures we are playing.

I want to play more with the colors and strategies that can be used, as this deck could have easily shaped into an extremely aggressive variant closer to Sligh as well, but this is where I ended up. You will have to excuse the inclusion of Crush of Tentacles over the coming weeks. I feel that card is going to make a huge impact, and I have heard very little about it so far—the ability to force your opponent to reload in the face of an 8/8 needs consideration.

I am not sure where Mirrorpool really belongs yet, but this seemed to be a fine place to start. In the late game, it turns any of your threats into a duplicate and can just as happily act as a second removal spell in the midgame. That being said, you may want more Wastes here for Ruin in Their Wake, and that may prove enough combined with them coming into play tapped to push these from the main.

Back from the Grave

Graveyard strategies have always had a special place for me—from Vengevine to Flame-Kin Zealot, I have rocked all of the decks in every format, and when something pops up in Standard, I have to at least see what I can make happen. By no means is this a theme in this set, but it does seem to add enough to finally warrant a look, and that is what led me to the following lists. This seems a bit strange at first, but I feel this set combined with a forgotten mythic from Magic Origins may lead to something; if it doesn’t, the deck still seems to be a blast to play. The second list focuses on the graveyard, but in a more straightforward way, still trying to kill your opponent with some number of large creatures.

Whisperer of the Wilds
While Whisperer of the Wilds does not fit as well into this deck, it does give us the consistent 4 mana we need on turn three next to Herald of the Pantheon. Zendikar Resurgent is the card that got me looking at Starfield of Nyx again, and while I would love to find ways to cheat it into play early, the most viable strategy seems to be sticking with ramp until you can use the Starfield to end the game. We also have the addition of Kozilek, the Great Distortion to give us the reload the deck was missing before—that, combined with the extra win condition, makes this shell less of a one-trick pony than it has been in the past. With all of the converted mana costs in the deck, it is very plausible that his secondary ability will also be relevant, which certainly cannot hurt.

With the loss of cards such as Satyr Wayfinder, it is just too difficult to fill the grave, and that means it is much harder to use the Starfield in the way it was originally used months ago. Instead, using it as a supplement in a ramp–control deck may breathe new life into this archetype. The two new cards may not look to be that game-changing, but I feel both play crucial roles in filling the gaps the deck had. I look forward to seeing what else can come of this type of strategy, but this is certainly not the only way to play from the graveyard in Standard going forward.

This next decklist is a work in progress that may just be a piece or two short to make much of an impact now; luckily, we do not lose a ton at rotation, and the key card, Grave Strength, will still be around to keep me ever-diligent in seeking ways to make this archetype viable.

Back from the Grave 2 ? Oath of the Gatewatch Standard | Ryan Bushard

While this creature variation still probably doesn’t quite have enough, I was excited about the addition of Seed Guardian giving the shell even more durability. I just don't think anything like this can compete with super-aggressive strategies, and there is enough of that around to keep a card like Grave Strength from seeing its full potential. If anyone has a shell that has been working, I would be curious to see it. Of the three decks I have for this week, this is the strategy I have been trying to work on the longest, and still feel I have hit a brick wall. When Grave Strength does go off a Hooting Mandrills, the effect can instantly end the game, but it just isn’t consistent enough from what I have tested.

What Is Hot, What Is Not

As I am sure many of you are headed to the prerelease this weekend, it is important to have some idea of what cards you want to walk away with and for what cards it would be best to wait for the early “tax” to drop off, leaving them at more reasonable prices. Even if you are not seeking a ton from the set, it is good to have an idea of where you want your value to be at the end of the weekend so you can dump all of the overpriced cards and trade them into cards that may go up—or at least not lose nearly as much over the coming weeks. These are my top five cards that I would not mind walking away with come Sunday.

Kozilek's Return While this may seem overpriced—and probably is in the long term—it will take a while for the price to plummet. This card will see enough play right out of the gate to draw attention and demand. That being said, I don’t know that I would want these in three months, but for now, the price will probably hold. There is also the added benefit of potential Modern play, and if this sees any camera time at the Pro Tour, you can expect it to go even higher.

Thought-Knot Seer This card is plain and simply fantastic. The large body combined with the delayed Vendilion Clique effect leads me to believe almost any midrange deck that can afford the colorless mana will be running some number of these. At rare, it is difficult to hold a price like this, but the card has so much hype—and for good reason—that it will be a while before it drops far, if it does at all.

Kozilek's Return
Thought-Knot Seer
Oath of Nissa

Oath of Nissa Perhaps this one is a little greedy, but I feel this card is going to see some Modern play at the Pro Tour, and given the average market response when that happens, I want to have copies now rather than picking them up after. It is yet to be seen how powerful this card actually is, but draw effects at 1 mana are already bannable in Modern, and this is in a color not known for cheap cantrips—perhaps that’s the perfect storm to an expensive spike over the coming weeks.

Reality Smasher It feels strange to have so many already expensive rares on this list given that I tend to stay away from them in most sets, but this time around, I feel that most of the cards that will be huge players in Standard have been identified, and this one is still cheap enough that it won’t drop far, if at all, and still has potential upside given the fact that like Thought-Knot Seer it is colorless and can play a role in a wide variety of decks.

Crush of Tentacles This is my sleeper pick of the set—it just seems to be rad—and easily dismissed, but powerful—enough to deserve a second look. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this in the first couple of weeks in Standard, but even if it stays under the radar for now, it is just above bulk for a mythic, making it a safe pick regardless.

Reality Smasher
Crush of Tentacles
Goblin Dark-Dwellers

Goblin Dark-Dwellers Okay, I lied. There are six cards this time, as I am also very interested to see what this card can do in Standard, and currently, the price feels very reasonable. This card has already sold out on some sites, meaning there is certainly demand, but the price hasn't risen yet. Any of these cards could pay dividends, but this is the cheapest among the rares and has the most potential for growth. The only reason I would hesitate if given the choice between this or Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher is the versatility they provide in deck selection.

That is all for this week. As always, feel free to leave any comments or questions below. I am really looking forward to this prerelease. Even if I do not get to play Two-Headed Giant, it should be a good time playing with the sixth color we have always had. Next week, I will continue brewing with the new set—perhaps with a better idea of some of the cards’ true power levels as people begin to test and prepare for the upcoming season.

Ryan Bushard


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