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Shadows over Standard


This week brings us the first large round of confirmed previews, and this time around, Wizards did not pull any punches. I was working at Grand Prix Detroit this past weekend, so I was unable to participate in the festivities outside of the random preview that the amazing cosplayers would bring by, but I heard great things both in person and online. This is one of the first times we have really seen Wizards sell the experience of a Grand Prix just as much as the main event, and the triple Grand Prix weekend did not disappoint. The escape room seemed to be the talk of the event, and I am super-excited about this new era in Wizards marketing.

Even with the Eldrazi blemish on Modern, we still had well over twenty-five hundred people in the main event as well as constant side events all weekend long. As a vendor, I had little to no free time due to how busy we were, and that speaks volumes as to how much of a success this entire plan was, so before I move on, I just want to take a moment and say thank you to Wizards of the Coast. Thank you for stepping your game up as this world evolves and giving us a reason to keep coming back even after all of these years.

Siege Rhino
Of course, with the escape room came some fairly juicy spoilers, and this week, I want to break down some of these new cards to see where they might fit in the oncoming Standard. I feel people are not truly prepared for this rotation and the loss of fetch lands, Siege Rhino, Dig Through Time, and so many other big players in the current format, so I am going to spend the next few weeks attempting to get ahead of the curve.

There are a multitude of subjects to cover at each rotation, but as we have some flashy new cards to toy around with, I am looking to start there this season. Other things I hope to cover over the coming weeks include:

  • Cards that are leaving and what we can do to replace them
  • What new cards will slot into existing decks and which seek to form their own archetypes
  • Existing cards that become more playable with cards rotating out
  • Bottom value on cards rotating and which ones you should be holding for the long term

Each of these subjects could make up its own article, but I will probably be intertwining a few of them to cover more ground and have a chance to talk about the coming format and all of the new cards that come with. Of the ones we saw spoiled this week, I have already begun the theory-crafting stage, and these few lists show a few different directions I am hoping to see decks pull toward.

With SOI being a graveyard-based set, the first deck focuses on that theme, and while I am sure we will have a ton more coming down the pipeline soon enough, we already have a fairly strong base to see some of the possibilities that await.

While there are a ton of different ways already to build the Zombie shell, I would start with something like this in order to gauge more easily which of the Zombies work best together. Of course, over the coming weeks, we will see additional cards that will probably replace some of the lackluster filler we are forced to play now, but the general concept of flooding the board with difficult-to-remove creatures will probably remain. I could also see a control shell form running far fewer creatures but using Risen Executioner as a resilient win condition that also happens to pump any Zombies you do find yourself playing.

The themed decks within this block are sure to make a showing as they did last time around, but as with any set, there will also be some interesting interactions between the different blocks that can also make for some very cool deck designs. One of the cards I have been in lock with since Oath of the Gatewatch released was Crush of Tentacles, and we have another card in a similar vein in this set, so though this is just a rough draft, this is one of the deck ideas I hope to expand on once we have the full previews available to us.

A control deck like this may have a chance against the Eldrazi that will likely be terrorizing Standard over the coming months given the efficiency of the removal coupled with the ability to reset their tempo through Thing in the Ice and Crush of Tentacles. While there may also be some very cool things you can do in Modern to get this Thing transformed, I believe it will be a major contender in Standard as well in shells like this and possibly even value midrange decks that can make use of Reflector Mage to set up for the later game and also come back down the turn after the transformation to continue the disruption. I went with Stitched Mangler because it does not return, and it allows you to put some initial pressure on. That may prove incorrect and become Reflector Mage anyway. Running Ojutai's Command now becomes even more appealing, as you have another good target next to Jace, Vryn's Prodigy to continue to grind value over the course of the game.

The last deck I want to cover this week is a little more off the beaten path, as I have been also experimenting with Grixis Aggro since the spoilers began. With the loss of the fetches this mana base certainly takes a hit, but I believe focusing on black and red gives us a steady enough base to make a blue splash work while not offsetting too much tempo. Once I started playing around with the list, I realized B/R did nearly everything I wanted anyway, so that is where I decided to take the shell to start. While I do plan to test a third color, this build does ensure you will have little to no mana issues, which is never a bad place to begin a format.

I am really hoping to see one more creature released from this preview season that pushes this deck to be even more aggressive, but for now, the value you can gain through even just Fiery Temper and Incorrigible Youths can overwhelm some decks in the midgame.

How much they push madness will set the tone for whether this deck looks for more or less discard, but for now, this seems to be a fairly happy medium—happy to play what cards are available but not a slave to the theme.

Erebos's Titan
Erebos's Titan certainly gains some additional value now that discard is a value at times, and considering this outlet takes no initial mana investment, it makes cards like Incorrigible Youths that have a bit of an expensive cost more playable. I am still not sold that this card is great, but it is certainly going to have a better chance at showing up now that the premium 4-drop spot got a little easier to break into. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet may still prove to be better in this spot, but I like giving old cards that people have forgotten exist another chance every rotation, and the Titan at least deserves that this time around.

Join me next week as we begin to break down exactly what the new season means for some of the existing cards in the format and cover a few new previews that come out between now and then. If you have any strategies or deck ideas and would like to share them, please feel free to post them below or contact me on Twitter. Saito Wayfinder is one of my favorite things about social media come spoiler season, so any new decks—no matter how off the wall—are worth looking at, and I will do my best to respond with my feelings toward the builds and what other cards may be options going forward with rotation. As always, have a great weekend. If you happen to be at Grand Prix DC, come over to the Card Advantage booth and say hello—I will be working all weekend. Until next week, keep the brews coming!

Ryan Bushard


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