Strixhaven: School of Mages available now!
   Sign In
Create Account

Old Dog, New Tricks


For a while now, Standard has ground to a halt, mostly due, of course, to the release of Modern Masters 2015 Edition and the Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier season. With a new set on the horizon this week, it should shake things up a bit, and I expect to see a plethora of new decks at the Pro Tour. But what if you are not looking to reinvent the wheel? Maybe you are just looking to tune up that Abzan list you have been jamming since September. Well, fear not; this set certainly provides some tools for existing archetypes to play around with as well.

I am not going to be able to list every deck that is currently viable going into Magic Origins; as I am sure you can imagine, there are a great deal. I am going to cover some that I believe secure more tools than most, and I’ll even highlight a few decks that may have fallen out of favor but could look to make a resurgence before rotation.

Abzan is the most logical place to start, as that has been the bread and butter of Khans of Tarkir block since day one, and it is still a pillar you must be prepared for. Since there are a few versions of Abzan, I am going to stick to the main two: aggro and midrange. Control looks a great deal like midrange outside of the late-game shell, of which I see little change from this set anyway.

Kytheon, Hero of Akros
I have been really curious to see how Kytheon, Hero of Akros works out in a deck, and though I am not certain he is great in this deck, he does play like extra Rakshasa Deathdealers in some cases and plays well with Anafenza, the Foremost even if he never transforms. Midgame, when you want to put the pressure on the mirror, his +1, once he’s transformed, can provide a solid defense while still having an attacker on command. The fact that, once he’s transformed, he avoids Wraths is just an extra bonus. Though this deck already has a great deal to sink its mana into, this feels at least worth testing.

Though I am a much bigger fan of Gilt-Leaf Winnower in the midrange version, I would like to still fit at least one in the main or ’board, as it plays very well in a number of matches and can create the two-for-one you are looking for at the midpoint of the game to set your tempo too far ahead for the opponent to recover.

Though I am certain many decks want Liliana, and though I can see this one included in that list, I am just not as excited about her in this build as I am in those tailored to her. For 3 mana, I want something like Anafenza coming down; I can certainly see the build adapting to her in some ways, but at that point, it is hardly the same deck.

The last new card I would like to explore in the ’board of aggro is Evolutionary Leap. I am still not sold on this card, but it does seem useful against control variants as a way to keep pressure coming even though removal. I do not like having to leave the mana up early in the game, but late game, it is just another mana sink to which you can spin bad creature draws while also avoiding being attrition’ed out.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Gilt-Leaf Winnower seems more at home in this type of Abzan list, and along with him are some sideboard options for midrange, including their new favorite Wrath, Languish. This card kills so much and yet so conveniently leaves around Siege Rhinos and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. I can see this morphing into the heavier control build with the addition of Languish, which can play very well with Elspeth, Sun's Champion as well as Nissa, Vastwood Seer in the late game to get back in control against decks that go wide, such as Mono-Green Devotion.

The other addition, Tragic Arrogance, seems to be more of a casual card than anything, but it’s still something I want to test with. I can see this being a reasonable response against the devotion-based strategies while also being very playable in matches such as Abzan Aggro, where Fleecemane Lion can normally be a pain. Languish serves many of the same purposes and is probably better in most spots, but I am not willing to dismiss this as unplayable just yet.

Moving away from Abzan, I want to talk about some of the new tools Mono-Red has received. I am not too excited about much in the set, and though I do see Chandra as playable, I am not as excited to play her in a blitz deck so much as in a midrange R/G variant or something along those lines.

Goblin Glory Chaser
So, I found this old list from March and had to reevaluate what could be done with Goblin Piledriver, if anything, to increase Goblins as an archetype. Though not much in the old list outside of Goblin Rabblemaster cared about creature types, the addition of Piledriver may take this from a tier-two red deck to the go-to for the next few months. I also missed Goblin Glory Chaser on the first run through, and though he is certainly worse than a Goblin Guide, this may be a real enough card next to Foundry Street Denizen to create a real curve and force very early pressure while Rabblemaster and Piledriver each steal you free wins at times.

The only other new card I saw that may be of use in a build such as this from Magic Origins is Scab-Clan Berserker. I am not sure if he is quick enough to be relevant, and he may still be better suited as Eidolon of the Great Revel, but I can certainly see at least testing him for the spot as a great swap card with Goblin Heelcutter against control.

Subterranean Scout earns an honorable mention just for getting my inner Timmy excited for a moment. It plays well with both Rabblemaster and Piledriver, but beyond that, it comes with a lackluster body and a miserable feeling when you top-deck him late.

I am going to spend at least next week concentrating on more lists to update the metagame with Origins, and I hope to have some new tech to follow shortly, but for this week, I want to wrap up with a facelift of one of my favorite decks this season: Heroic.

I am not sold this is any more playable than it has been for the past few months, but with the addition of another Hero of Iroas of sorts in the Bant build, I think it may be time to take another look. I think if we are looking to focus more on enchantments, it may be best to look back toward the beginning of the season for some inspiration, but Origins does bring some new tools.

Herald of the Pantheon
With the addition of Herald of the Pantheon, we can increase the number of cantrip enchantments we play even if we drop our heroic count some. I would like to find room for two more creatures in the build, and Herald may prove to do nothing, but from my experience, having a Hero of Iroas live and untapping always felt like I was in the driver's seat. This may be a downgrade, but the extra life you will gain may help soften the blow when you end up in a race against aggro. I am also a huge fan of Grasp of the Hieromancer as an upgrade to Aqueous Form in most matches. I would run Forms in the ’board still, but with Stratus Walk already taking us to the skies against Mono-Green Devotion or other wide matches, we have game regardless, making Grasp much better in the midrange matches and thus my choice.

If you have a more impressive build on some of the madness that can be created with Hero of Iroas and Herald of the Pantheon in these few short months, I am all ears, as I would love to find something both entertaining to play and competitive for the summer, and as always, I am leaning back toward Heroic. I hope everyone has a great prerelease weekend. I will not be participating in the festivities this time, but I look forward to all the stories after. Until next week, keep brewing, and enjoy the weekend.

Ryan Bushard


Order Magic Origins booster boxes and singles from CoolStuffInc.com today!

Limited time 35% buy trade in bonus buylist