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Back into the Bulk

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This week, I am going to continue discussing the bulk rares that are catching my eye with this rotation, and now that we have a few cards spoiled, I will also be able to throw a few of these ideas into an initial shell just to see how things look so far. Since last week, we have had a few new keywords arise that have influenced some of these picks, but overall, just a few cards were added. Not only are we finally getting Eldrazi back, but we also have a new form of hidden treasure awaiting us within cases of Battle for Zendikar, and I could not be more excited about this set already. Combining my favorite plane with the sense of degenerate pack-opening in search of that lottery ticket sounds like a blast that I cannot wait to experience. Before I devolve into a pile of fan-boy on the floor, let’s continue with where we left off last week, this time with even more knowledge in our arsenal as to what Battle for Zendikar may hold.

Icefall Regent
A card that already had its fifteen minutes of fame when W/U Dragons ran rampant earlier this season could look to make a breakout again next season. Icefall Regent not only comes equipped with a reasonable flying body, it also sets tempo, deals with the one large indestructible threat such as Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, and is hard to deal with on curve while not taking your entire turn to do so. Poised for an inevitable return, I really like how well positioned this will be if the format devolves to large creatures and ways to cheat them into play.

The next card is stretching the term bulk a long way, as it is still a very strong price considering the printings, but Knight of the White Orchid continues to look better and better with not only landfall, but the early, aggressive body that so far seems to be lacking from Battle for Zendikar. I believe white is very well positioned to withstand this rotation, and for once, it may even be the stronger pick over Mono-Red for early play. The color already has a few ways to deal with large creatures and a variety of early- to midgame aggression even without the new set, and this is likely to be a staple in almost all of those builds.

Mantis Rider has been such an underplayed card from about week four of being legal in Standard. I can understand that not everyone wants to play Jeskai and that it may not always be the perfect fit for versions looking toward a longer game, but this card is so powerful and aggressive that I just cannot see how it stays bulk. This is one of those cards that people don't question when it is suddenly worth $5 because, in their minds, it should have been worth that all along.

Mastery of the Unseen
Last week, I touched on how powerful the morph and manifest mechanics may prove to be with the new set if devoid gets any support, so I will not focus on that for long, but there is one card I do want to remind people about for a moment: Mastery of the Unseen. This card dominated Standard for longer than a month or so, and then it faded to sideboards and the occasional person still willing to play devotion. I don’t believe this card will ever be the powerhouse it was last season, as losing Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is probably a fairly large blow to most decks incorporating this strategy, but that does not mean it will not see play as a way to surprise your opponents with some ingest or even just to keep the board populated against decks aimed to handle much larger threats.

Every once in a while, you see a cute interaction, and nothing usually comes of that, but it is always wise to keep an eye on them regardless, as you may see a point early on in the season when such a strategy is exploitable. With all of the tokens that the Eldrazi look to be pumping out, I am looking at Master of Pearls to possibly head up a more aggressive deck with a surprise late game able to overwhelm with tokens and efficient creatures. As I said this week on Brainstorm Brewery, we are unlikely to see a card that produces 1/1s for extremely cheap, but we may see a rare or mythic that fits the bill, and if so, this would be among the first places I would be looking.

If we were working on a deck, currently just theory-crafting, I would probably start with mono-white, or at least close to mono-colored. Clearly, we don’t have nearly enough information about the new set to look forward that far, but a strong shell will probably look something like this.

Decks already following this vein have been doing well these past few weeks, leaving me with high hope after rotation. The Ally subtheme may prove to take over and force you in that direction, but I hope there are also enough powerful non-Ally cards to allow something like this to continue to be viable. There are so many takes on how to approach this deck, but until we see more spoilers, it is difficult to commit to any one direction.

Profaner of the Dead
Profaner of the Dead is one of those funny cards that is unlikely to actually go up in value much even if it does see play, as it will most of the time not even be in the main deck. I would snag my set anyway, as the number of token strategies is sure to go up, and this sets them back to square one even without another creature in play.

Profound Journey is another cute card that will probably not go up much just due to the limitation on how many decks it can fit into, but with it being revealed that the Eldrazi, or at least Ulamog, do not shuffle back in, you can reanimate to your heart’s content, and why not double that fun in case the opponent has the removal the first time around?

I am going to lump a couple of creatures in here together, and, realistically, I could probably lump Mantis Rider into this category as well—these are cards that will almost certainly see play but that are so niche in what they fit into that they do have a ceiling of probably $5 at most. Considering Savage Knuckleblade, Rakshasa Deathdealer, and Mantis Rider all share such a low price now, though even getting up into the $2 to $3 range, you could pay less for a set now than you would for one down the road.

I have talked about Scab-Clan Berserker in detail before, but now that the card has finally settled again from the rumblings of playability we were hearing a month ago, it may be time to move in. With Mono-Red as an always-solid starting point and Eidolon of the Great Revel rotating, I would expect this card to have a great early part of the season. If you do not have them and have any interest in playing red, acquire these now!

Shaman of Forgotten Ways had a busy week as the speculators took to the Internet. I am sure the card is fine, and since it is a mythic, the new price may be perfectly accurate, but if I had to pick a Shaman to be in on for the early season, it would have to be Shaman of the Great Hunt. This card has been waiting for its time to strike, and with everyone else so Eldrazi-crazy, I am looking at the far more aggressive strategies, and this guy plays into that perfectly.

Silumgar, the Drifting Death
Away from the aggro cards I have been so keen on for most of this article, there are some very solid control pickups that also play well against what it appears we will be facing down this season. One that stands out to me—and it has driven me crazy that this is bulk even with all of the play it was seeing—is Silumgar, the Drifting Death. This has been a staple of Dragon Control since its inception, and now with the added bonus of clearing Eldrazi Scions, I think this is a great pickup for the early season if aggression is not your preference

Stratus Dancer saw a great deal of play right away, and it has since slowed down, but with the hype behind all of these linear decks looking to win off the back of See the Unwritten, I can see this being a tool in both midrange and control strategies to keep pressure while being ready to deny your opponents any free Eldrazi.

This is probably not a card I would be picking up for any value, but it’s certainly one I may want for sideboards. Supplant Form seems to be a great way to deal with cheated-in creatures while also gaining a win condition. I cannot see this ever making main-deck play, but I would still stash a few away just in case the need ever arises in the sideboard.

Hero's Downfall
Both Surrak Dragonclaw and Surrak, the Hunt Caller seem very well positioned in the upcoming metagame. Whether giving green a midrange threat that also turns on late game aggression, Eldrazi or not, or producing a blocker from nowhere to summon your uncounterable army, I have loved both of these cards since print, and I feel they both only grow better as some of the cards they were competing with now rotate out.

The last card I want to cover this week before I depart is another card that has been lost by the wayside of reasonably costed removal: Hero's Downfall in particular. Utter End, appropriately named in this situation, as we have reached the end. All jokes aside, we have been so spoiled with the removal from Theros and Thoughtseize to supplement that we have forgotten about how powerful this card is. Moving forward, it appears that, overall, the format will be slowing down, thus opening up the more expensive removal such as this, whereas it just could not keep up before. Having a catch-all in the beginning of the season seems to be a great place to start, and if there is an Abzan shell the can compete—or any other W/B deck for that matter—expect this to be included.

I was hoping to cover a few more decks this week now that we have some spoilers rolling in, but that list got the better of me, and though I have a ton of ideas floating around, it is hard to nail any down yet with such limited information. Next week, and in the weeks that follow, I will begin exploring the ever-exciting world of theory-crafting and looking to push what limits we had this past year with some cards, and we’ll see what they can do with all of the new toys. Before I go, I do have one more list that will certainly gain some more upgrades over the coming weeks as we have more of the set, but it is already an exciting concept just with what we have.

Ryan Bushard

@CryppleCommand


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