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Standard Returns

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Atarka's Command
For months now, Standard has seemed to be the red-headed step-child of Magic. While we all know that is not the case, it has been a whirlwind of new releases as usual this time of year, and now that Magic Origins is finally in the people's hands, we can move forward. About the time this article goes live, I—as I imagine many of you—will be drafting at my local game store, and though that is what excites me most about Magic currently, it will not be long after until the Pro Tour falls upon us.

This, of course, means now that we have our shiny new toys, it is time to break them out of those Sealed decks and boxes and into a few shells in anticipation of what the pros bring to the table. While it has been many years since I was anywhere near Pro Tour quality, that does not mean I do not remember a few things about deck-building. This week, I want to go a little rogue and focus on a few decks that, while cute, can build the type of card advantage I would be looking for if I were attending the upcoming PT.

There have been a dozen different iterations of red and green midrange decks over the past year, and many have come out during a point of stagnation, as they usually have the tools between the two colors to metagame fairly well on top of attacking the most popular deck. This has not always been through removal and ramp—though common, in this season, we have seen everything from all-creature decks to Atarka Burn in this color combination. Right now, we have a fairly healthy metagame, diverse with decks from all colors and playstyles. While this does not always bode well for control, that is exactly where I want to be when looking at this type of midrange deck. Of course, there are the usual suspects you are more likely to see, such as Abzan Aggro. You are less likely to play the same deck too many times over the course of the tournament, meaning you need to diversify your threats and answers.

After talking with my cohosts on Brainstorm Brewery this week, I changed my opinion of Abbot of Keral Keep and started creating lists that may be able to make use of his ability without warping exactly what the deck is attempting to accomplish. I do like the card in a number of other decks, but this one I drafted last night balances the ability to generate a great deal of card advantage with a focused and aggressive midgame. Some of the card selections may be a little cute for the final list, but interaction with scry and both Ire Shaman and Abbot of Keral Keep are far too interesting to pass up.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer
This deck also makes use of the ability I thought I would never want on Atarka's Command if you would like the additional land from Courser of Kruphix or either red value creature. With a slight amount of ramp, we can transition into a midgame of cycling through our deck with scry and Courser while recycling Deathmist Raptor and Den Protectors to keep the constant pressure.

I am not positive Nissa, Vastwood Seer fits in this deck, but if she transforms, which is likely given how many extra ways you have to hit land drops, her +1 ability can be fantastic alongside all of the other card advantage, and she gives you a larger body in the form of the Elemental if needed.

It seems that the mirror match would be rough, as you give up the late-game bombs in exchange for a full hand of things to do and a constant supply of mana along the way. I believe this would be a fit against other midrange decks that are looking for one-for-one trades as well as against control, against which you are able to outpace the opponent on card-draw.

 


As I pondered the above deck, I began to explore exactly what ramp cards are available to use in Standard currently and whether there would be support for a deck that diverged from Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx for more conventional means of gaining mana. Nissa's Pilgrimage really got me thinking about this archetype . . . at first for fun. Then, I saw it—the card I want to build around—and in that moment of inspiration, this was born.

The main deck focuses on ramping into an overwhelming number of creatures in the form of Zendikar's Roil or an early Dragonlord Atarka, which can at times seal games on its own. Again, the Atarka's Command in this build can be made use of to ramp in the early game on the back of something like Courser or Satyr Wayfinder. Without the sustainability many of the decks in the format currently have, this deck needs a reset, and I believe The Great Aurora may be just that. With the capability to rebuild so quickly, this may set some opponents too far behind, as you are able to act first. Combined with the tokens this deck can produce and the small bodies it leaves behind, this could easily net you six to seven lands and a full hand.

The Great Aurora
Though this deck does have a fairly linear game plan, we can expand greatly upon that in the sideboard. The beauty of ramp is you open up so many potential sideboard cards that may have been out of the reach for most decks. Gaea's Revenge, though clunky and expensive, may be able to seal a game against control before the opponent can find the needed Wrath, and even at worst, the card looks to crack in for 8 and usually force an early tap out to be dealt with. I am not certain of what makes the final cut, and I have to believe the Pro Tour would influence that, but overall, on a fun factor for Friday Night Magic, this cannot be beaten. The face your opponent will make when you shuffle up and drop six lands only to watch him or her be set back to turn three is priceless.

That is enough for lists this week. It is probably best we wait until some actual results come in before we continue—otherwise, the next thing you know, I will be sleeving up Merfolk or something equally crazy and having a go. I do want to touch on one more subject this week, and it is something we covered on the podcast but would like to expand on.

 


With this set having fairly low initial impact on Standard, it will be interesting to see if there are some hidden gems among the rough or if we are all just being a little hard on our core-set sendoff. With any set such as this, we are likely to see the few cards that do shine skyrocket in price, and if you have a card or cards you want to put your money on, now is the time. The set is releasing on the streets finally this week, and that means presale prices will begin to drop, allowing you more bang for your buck. Waiting to pick these cards up does come with its own set of risks now, and though I am all for waiting for cards to become cheap before buying in, it is just as likely anymore that someone will spoil the tech at a StarCityGames Open or other major tournament, and before you know it, that cart you had full and ready to order is ten times the price.

Gilt-Leaf Winnower
This is not to say you have to rush out and buy cards, but if you are looking to play the market, as many do before the Pro Tour, it is important to know when to get in. I have heard so many stories over the past year of people who waited until the last minute to order a card or wanted to see if it would put up results first, and they instead found themselves with no copies in hand and with only the claim that they thought of it first. This is the usual case of early birds getting the worm, and though you can certainly make money once the tech is known, you are much better off being that guy at your local shop who already has a few sets that you can sell or trade into the hype. Normally, I would talk about cards I believe have potential to do so from this set, but beyond the few I talked about on the podcast, such as Gilt-Leaf Winnower, my guess is just as good as yours this time around. The Pro Tour will be an interesting display of the power level of Magic Origins, and though I feel we can see most of the decks coming, I am hoping to see some haymakers come out of nowhere, and with that coverage usually also comes a jump in price.

 


That is all I have for this week in Standard. Next week should give us a great glimpse into exactly what we are dealing with heading into the Pro Tour, and I will be using lists from this weekend to begin manufacturing a metagame breakdown once again so we can see exactly where the holes are and how the pros are likely to attack them. As always, thank you for reading, and if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or contact me on Twitter.

Ryan Bushard

@CryppleCommand


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