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The Last of the Core Sets


Finally, we are here; the time has come. The day of the core set is over, Magic is moving in a new direction, and so must we. With the release of a new set comes the usual theory-crafting that comes along, both as a player and as a financier. This set in particular is exciting for me—we have a great, diverse format that will probably be broken wide open once again for the three months of crazy we get to see once a year. Will Mono-Blue Devotion be dominating Top 8s again? Is Timetwister still playable if you cannot break it in the format? Can you break it in this format? So many questions are left unanswered, so for now, we brew.

I don’t want to talk this week about cards that slot into existing decks, as that topic is better served when I have the full spoiler to work from, so instead this week, I will be looking at the three fourths of the spoiler I have now. I’ll be seeing what new fun, unique, and competitive strategies may exist. Of course, I will not be able to jam every new card I want to play into decks—that will come in time through the season—but for now, these are some of the more creative lists I have come up with.

Let me just start by saying I am one of those degenerate players who had the Serra's Sanctum, Leyline, Opalescence deck built back in the day for fun, and with Starfield of Nyx, I want to see what of that I can bring to Standard. This card feels like it does so much, and though Back to Basics is a played card, it is not exactly in every sideboard, so at least I do not see enchantments falling prey to that often to begin with. I wanted to grind value out of our Starfield triggers while still shooting for an endgame of giant enchantments, some life-gain to keep away from 0, and a few enchantment creatures thanks to Theros block.

Dromoka, the Eternal
Some notable cards I like that would potentially work within the ’board are Mastery of the Unseen and Font of Vigor. Against aggressive strategies, gaining 7 life a turn combined with the triggers from Courser of Kruphix and Herald of the Pantheon seems to be a strong survival plan. I can also see a black splash in this build for the more conventional approach of Whip of Erebos and Doomwake Giant. I just wanted to stray away from that to attempt to make use of Karametra, God of Harvests, as she needs a day to shine before she is relegated to casual boxes everywhere. I am not sure how this deck would fare against control, and I am sure you may want to add something like Dromoka, the Eternal to the ’board, but having Starfield online can certainly generate enough value to be a threat on its own even without the Opalescence inevitability.

I would love to see what other ideas people have for the enchantment-themed archetypes that are out there. I am curious to see if a Heroic variant pops back up with the introduction of another Hero of Iroas of sorts. I could see the deck leaning on bestow a little more while dropping some of the more Heroic-themed cards that are not playable on their own. As much as that is something I would love to see back in Standard, I want to start chaining Starfields together in the beginning of the season and see if I can make anything out of that.

So as much as I wanted to stray away from the Planeswalkers this week, with Liliana, Heretical Healer in particular, given her hype, I just cannot do that given one of the fun, albeit frustrating, decks I have brewed up this week. With the addition of Fleshbag Marauder, we have eight 3/1s in the format that Edict, and that seems pretty solid next to Liliana. While this deck is certainly not cheap, I am not sure how much better you can do at keeping creatures off the board, and while it is not likely to fare as well against control without some tweaks, imagine your midrange and aggro matches are great.

Not only does every card in the deck come into play with Collected Company, almost always ensuring two hits, we can also flip removal off the Company—or in some cases one of the Edicts and Liliana—to flip her immediately. From there, we use either a Palace Siege or Liliana’s negative ability to keep cycling through Edicts or copies of Elvish Visionary, building up a board and hand while keeping our opponent’s threats off the board. I imagine any midrange matchup should go well for you—things like Siege Rhino and Rakshasa Deathdealer do not do much against this deck, and removal is woefully terrible against everything that is not named Liliana. Since we are going for the grind-the-opponent-out method, we need no large attackers, thus placing a great deal of dead removal in most decks.

The ’board may need some Shrivel effect in order to deal with something like an unchecked Goblin Rabblemaster, but not many other creatures scare you, meaning you can really focus your attention on adding in some larger threats against control after ’board when almost all of the opponent’s removal has left and he or she just has a few Wraths and Hero's Downfalls left. There are a multitude of options for the ’board in this place, but I would start with some number of Nissa, Worldwakers and Thoughtseizes to back her up.

The other nice part about this deck is how little it loses at rotation. We have so little invested into anything rotating that you can play this right through and lose almost no value, and you will not really have to find much in terms of replacements. Your mana is what is hit hardest, losing Satyr Wayfinder, Temple of Malady, and Elvish Mystic come September. If these issues can be shored up in the remainder of this set or in the next, I feel this may really be a contender come the fall, if not before. As happy as I am to see Elvish Visionary back, it seems Wizards of the Coast will be denying my request to reprint Satyr Wayfinder in this set, thus leaving our graves feeling just a bit colder after rotation; he will be missed.

As long as I could prattle about all of the lists I have been working on this past week, I don’t want to spoil all of the fun from Magic Origins just yet, but for this week, I want to cover at least one more deck I have been toying around with for the coming season.

Since Wizards of the Coast of course decided to print a card with Goggles in the name and make it, at first glance, a do-nothing mythic, I found the humor entertaining, but I never really looked again. At first glance, this card seems miserable, and perhaps it still is, but after listening to a few people bounce around ideas about the card, it got me brewing. I was stuck up until another card, Magmatic Insight, was spoiled. Though I believe this card will mostly be used in Modern and potentially Legacy combo, I am excited to see what red can do with a cobbled-together draw-four that could net future value down the road.

I am not sold on how to build this archetype, but starting with a shell that blanks removal and has plenty of game against aggressive decks seems to be the correct foothold. The control matchup may not be as bad as I suspect given the number of burn spells and draw spells we have to cycle through them, but I would mostly work on that in the ’board. You do blank a great deal of the opponent’s deck main, and as long as you can catch his or her few Dragons and ’Walkers with counters, you may have a shot anyway. I am not sure what the format will look like in a few weeks, and as always, building a control deck for a future that is uncertain can be a little rough, but this would be my launching point.

I had a blast this past week as always, playing Wayfinder to this new Standard, and I look forward to doing so more moving forward. Next week, once we have the full spoiler, I will talk a little more in depth on the cards that are coming out and can already support existing archetypes, and I’ll also take a look at any new cards that may boost some of the Tarkir-block singles after rotation. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me below or on Twitter. Brew away, and come back next week for more Magic Origins action.

Ryan Bushard


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