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Spirited Away


With the hype of Eldritch Moon in full swing, people are starting to go in on cards they believe will be needed right away, both from the new set and the things already in Standard. We have seen a number of price changes this week already, including my personal favorite Ishkanah, Grafwidow. I do believe the card is good and was underpriced when I bought in under three, but the price may have swung a little too far in the other direction with the card now sitting closer to fifteen.

This time in a sets life is always interesting because we believe we have finally identified what is playable, or at least where the format will start. Inevitably there is a sleeper even after everyone has combed over the set a dozen times. Last week, I spent the entire time talking about cards I believed needed to adjust before the set released; and, while we have already seen a number of those adjustments happen, I don't want to spend another week just focusing on prices. After all, what we really care about is putting some seventy fives together and playing some Magic. With that in mind, I want to look at a couple decks, Spirits included, that you will likely see out of the gate, and then I want to look at a new deck this week in preparation for some full on brewing next week.

Spirits is likely nowhere near as oppressive as Faeries, for those of you that remember that era, but it does follow a similar game plan of taking the same turn as your opponent most of the time and reacting to what they do rather than forging ahead with your own plan. I have always been a fan of these tempo decks, but, for some reason, I am just not sold on playing Spirits this time around. At least, not yet.

One thing I don't see enough lists running is Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit, but I personally believe she is a huge factor for increasing the clock and just so happens to be a spirit, meaning you lose no synergy by playing her. With so many of your creatures at 1 toughness, it is easy to pick and choose what you are looking to pump; and, her added synergy with Mausoleum Wanderer was enough to convince me she should at least be tested in the starting sixty.

Of course, since everyone is gunning for this deck out of the gate you may need to get a little more creative to play against all of the hate; but, for your local scene, Spirits is likely your best bet day one as it already has a really strong all-around game plan backed with very strong tribal synergy. If this deck really does take off like everyone is expecting, I really anticipate B/G/x control to shine, as it has a number of very powerful answers to the flying onslaught and the card advantage to bury them once it has stabilized.

While this list would certainly require some tuning, I believe the high density of removal spells and efficient finishers would fare well in the creature heavy meta we will likely see out of the gate. Delirium is not nearly as hard as I expected to turn on and even in a deck like this, not running any way to fill the graveyard, it is often turned on by turn five anyway. Dead Weight and Evolving Wilds have been key pieces when looking to get some of the harder types in the graveyard, and, even without many creatures, a shell like this can turn it on early, with relative regularity.

I would prefer to see a shell like this that leaned away from so much removal and more toward a super friend approach, but I have yet to see that code cracked so it will likely just take people finally getting the cards in their hands and the hours of testing in before that is a reality. I am obviously a little crazy forcing a card like Ishkanah, Grafwidow into a shell like this, but once you have seen exactly what that card can do you will understand why I have been so keen on it from the start. More Spirits means more likelihood that she is Queen of the roost, so I, for one, welcome the expected meta.

When I first evaluated Oath of Liliana I was likely a little harsh on the card. After all, edicts have been really bad since G/W tokens and the effect just didn't seem worth the cost; but, after looking at the card through the lens of the expected meta, it gets much better and I would have to add it to my list of currently underpriced cards given it is sitting at or slightly above bulk currently. Two tokens from a Gideon is a hard deal to pass up and it curves very nicely in this shell with all of the other removal. I am not sure if it is a 4-of or 2-of in most lists but I feel it may be the second best of that cycle which means you should likely pick your copies up now!

I also like the more dedicated Delirium deck with Mindwrack Demon, but I feel this shell cannot support the life loss when it does happen so I stayed away this time around. Next week, I should finally have something hammered out for that list, but, for this week, I kept it a little more control heavy.

While I have been wracking my brain trying to think of something new and creative to test, I kept ending up back on a control deck or a tribal theme. I am not really looking to focus on ramp, but even that has been played over and over again. So, I dove deeper into the cardpool to see if there was anything I was missing. After all, there is no way every deck idea has been hashed out before the set even releases. I had a few fun lists that looked like they could certainly be enjoyable at the FNM level, but after throwing this together I abandoned everything else. Dumping your hand may not be optimal for most decks, but the speed and efficiency of a few cards in Standard make it ideal for at least one list.

This archetype did not gain a huge number of cards from the new set, but it did gain a very strong reason to dump your hand quickly in the form of Lupine Prototype. I am likely most excited about casting the mecha-wolf on turn two just to turn around and Tormented Thoughts my opponent on three. It is a pipe dream, but both cards work well enough in the shell on their own to warrant the inclusion anyway.

The hard part has been balancing the cards with Madness and the discard outlets, but, since testing the deck, it seems Madness is less important since you have other reasons to discard now anyway and that really opened the deck up to cards it did not have room before. As casual as the wolf may seem, it really is the keystone to any sort of deck like this, and I feel this list is close. I am really hoping to see Avaricious Dragon shine before rotation. I really disliked the card when it first came out, but, at the time, there was no reason to empty our hand. Now that there is, I feel the card has just been lost in the excitement of Eldrazi and Spirits.

As much as I am looking forward to the Pro Tour and set release online, I really do enjoy these few weeks of mystery before the format is solved; and, there is no better way to conjure up a few deck ideas to test than taking a stroll and catching some pokemon. So, I am once again heading out to brave the poke-infested waters and leave you all to do the same. Enjoy the weekend and our first glimpse into the new Standard. Don't forget to get outside and enjoy this nice summer weather as well!

Ryan Bushard


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