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Standard Focus: Cards I Want to be Playing This Weekend

A freshly rotated Standard is usually a great time for diversity and brewing. You wouldn't have guessed that if you only looked at the Top 8 of the SCG Open in Atlanta this weekend.

That's it. Two archetypes. If you stretch out into the Top 16, you'll find two more copies of each deck. That's right, 12 of the Top 16 decks were GW or Jeskai. This weekend was dominated by Deathmist Raptor and Mantis Rider. So much for diversity... In reality I'm not surprised. Early in a format, many competitive players play it safe and play established decks, typically waiting until after the Pro Tour to pick up new cards.

That is all about to change, hopefully, because it's finally Pro Tour Weekend! We finally get to see the pros tackle Battle For Zendikar with their best efforts. But don't think established decks are going away. I'm sure there will be a lot of GW Megamorph and Jeskai variants. Expect to see plenty of innovation as well, with teams spending a weeks trying to find the best deck. For those of us not playing in Milwaukee this weekend, Den Protector and Ojutai's Command will still be flooding decklists and combating that is priority number one.

GW Megamorph is largely the same deck it has been for the past six months, while adding a few new hits such as the powerful Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Along with the Wingmate Roc duo, often you'll wind up against a clogged ground game with the Wingmate Air Force beating you down. Trying to beat this deck comes down to exiling parts of the engine. The best ways to do that are Stasis Snare and Silkwrap. However, with Dromoka's Command at the ready, it is difficult to rely on those methods. Add in Evolutionary Leap, which allows GW Megamorph to play around the exile-based removal, and this deck is very difficult to combat.

Jeskai decks play out in a similar way. They use Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Soulfire Grand Master to buy back spells and keep the board clear enough to win with Mantis Rider. Ojutai's Command helps bring back those card advantage engines. As you've probably noticed, the new trend is to splash black to throw in a few Crackling Dooms to answer problematic threats.

Every color has access to cards that should help them combat these decks moving forward.


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Yes, that's right. I'm suggesting you try out a 3-mana card that was probably designed as a limited only card. Major threats it hits right now are Soulfire Grand Master, Mantis Rider, Den Protector, Deathmist Raptor, pre-flipped Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, most Hangarback Walkers, Dragonmaster Outcast, every single creature in Atarka Red and GR Landfall pre-pump, Wingmate Roc, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, and so on. This card hits a huge percentage of the format. If you have a flipped Jace laying around, you hit pretty much everything short of Dragonlord Atarka and can play around Dromoka's Command with ease. During testing, this card was everything I have wanted and more; I highly suggest trying it out. Take care when playing this against Bant Megamorph and Jeskai as it does get hit by Dispel.


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Cards that produce a similar effect in Red are Burn Away and Touch of the Void. Touch is the cheaper of the pair, but also the least flexible. One extra mana and sorcery-speed is the price we pay for the exile clause on Lightning Strike. Of the two I like Burn Away a little more. It has a higher cost, but provides an instant-speed answer with the bonus of nuking graveyards. Obviously Dromoka's Command is still a beating against these cards, but sometimes you just have to hope they don't have it. 


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Green decks often have trouble against opponents packing bundles of removal. Add in the fact that more and more opponents are exiling those creatures, it's pretty tough for Green mages to keep up. Sneaking in an Evolutionary Leap on turn two allows you to keep sending your creatures to the yard instead of being exiled forever. Jacob Lively and his group were ahead of the curve in running a few copies in their sideboards this past weekend. I wouldn't be surprised to see a few more players sneak a copy or two into their maindecks this weekend.

Jacob's list also looks prepared for the mirror with Archangel of Tithes and Dragonlord Dromoka in the sideboard. If you are looking for mirror breakers, this is where I would start. I could even see the baby version, Dromoka, the Eternal, as a card that could do work in the mirror by being both a flyer and pump for your team. 


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Horribly Awry seems extremely well positioned. According to MTGGoldfish's format staples statistics, Horribly Awry doesn't hit three of the top 20 creatures played in Standard. That's it. Three out of the top 20. That's as solid a case to play a card if I have ever seen one. 

Spell Shrivel gives you a similar effect with additional flexibility in exchange for costing a little more and being worse as the game goes long. While I haven't played with Spell Shrivel enough to fully endorse it, having your opponent pay 4-mana is a lot and can mess up their sequencing, especially for decks that want to leave up their mana to flip morphs. You can pin them in situations where they have to choose between landing a spell or leaving an unflipped Den Protector vulnerable.

Dispel is another counterspell that is starting to see play. Tom Ross put the card to good use in his Bant Megamorph deck, splashing for Dispel and Stratus Dancer. Dispel is sneaking its way into quite a few main decks, and I expect quite a few feel-bads when players run into it. Don't be one of those players.


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There are a lot of powerful enchantments currently seeing play: Evolutionary Leap, Stasis Snare, Mastery of the Unseen, Outpost Siege, etc. The threat of Jeskai Ascendancy, Demonic Pact, and Sphinx's Tutelage is always apparent. Silkwrap would be the enchantment I would lean on this week if I wanted an answer to all of the Deathmist Raptors running around. I'm not a fan of playing cards that make Dromoka's Command better, but using a Silkwrap on a Hangarback Walker gives you some protection against it. If you are looking for an answer to all these enchantments, look no further than Felidar Cub. Having an answer that has the bonus of being a body, dodges Dispel, and synergizes with Ojutai's Command makes it a better choice than Erase for me. 


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When Battle for Zendikar was released, most people I spoke to thought Ugin's days were over. I mean, the set was full of colorless creatures. While we still have plenty of Hangarback Walkers around, other colorless creatures have pretty much been non-existent. I think it is safe to say that control and big mana players will start to lean on the Planeswalker Dragon as the answer to their troubles. It may not hit everything, but Ugin complements the tools these players  already have to keep the board clear. It may be a better choice for a ramp target than Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Granted, you could always run both!


With the Pro Tour starting on Friday, all of these suggestions could be thrown out the window if the pros bring some spicy deck choices with them to Milwaukee. We still haven't seen much in the way of Eldrazi or big mana decks. Other than Esper Dragons, control decks are still in their infancy. Unless you’re a pro with weeks of preparation, it will be difficult to make quick deck changes, so I expect a large part of the field to still be on Jeskai Black and Megamorph decks. If you do decide to brew, I would bring something that would give those decks the most trouble. A deck that could give these decks problems would be one that provides a quick clock and disruption. Another would be a deck that can just out value them. Perhaps something like this:


I'm not sure I like the inclusion of Collected Company over something like Rally the Ancestors, but I can appreciate the desire to stay two colors and not have to play with a Khans color mana base.

I still think this Standard has the potential to be an exciting and fun format. Fingers crossed that we'll get to enjoy a swath of brand new archetypes. It feels like there are a lot of unexplored archetypes out there. A lot of powerful cards have yet to find a home — I'm looking at you Oblivion Sower. Expect a few currently underplayed cards to break out this weekend. Which cards those are, we'll have to watch and find out!

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