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Theorycrafting Zendikar Rising

Zendikar Rising is here and with it, a new batch of puzzles to solve when it comes to deck building. By now, you've heard the goldfish crew talk about how many lands we can take out for the new MDFCs (Modal Double Face Cards) and after sitting down, it is a lot harder than it looks. Currently, the lists I've got are extremely rough as the number of lands might need to be adjusted. However, the new set does look extremely fun as playing big creatures are good again. With eyes on Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, hopefully your week one lists are prepared for the titan. I will also make a disclaimer that a lot of these sideboards are hypothetical as the meta will have to play out before we can fully tune any of our lists. With that out of the way, let's dig in!

Starting us off is a deck that looks to play Leyline Tyrant!

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Big Red is a deck that has always interested me as it's not your typical mono red deck. We're used to seeing Mono Red play low to the ground but with Zendikar, can red play Midrange? We sure hope so! There are enough pieces in the format! Leyline Tyrant is a solid body for the cost that has some sweet upside if you get to untap with it. I imagine untapping with it will usually be a win for us unless people start running more exiling effects like Eat to Extinction. The tyrant gives us an Upwelling and a way to burn! What can we do with all of that excess mana? Shatterskull Smashing and casting a Yidaro, Wandering Monster of course! I thought about adding cards like Volcanic Geyser but it just felt bad. For right now, our mana sinks aren't the greatest. So I went for Yidaro and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. There are still a few things that need work with the deck as we don't have the most efficient ways to deal with Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath in mono red outside of Soul-Guide Lantern so we'll have to see how this deck stacks up with the meta. The whole reason we're splashing green is because it feels free so why not add a Klothys, God of Destiny? This way we're constantly eating away at an opponent's graveyard with an unkillable threat. We've also got Cleansing Wildfire out of the sideboard if the meta starts getting greedy and starts trimming basic lands.  

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There are too many sweet wizards in the Izzet colors to not take a swing at with a spellslinger style deck. With Magmatic Channeler, we can smooth out our draws and have a solid 4/4 body. We've also got an excuse to use Sea Gate Stormcaller and double some spells. When we've got so many spells to cast, I had to naturally throw in Riddleform as it dodges Bloodchief's Thirst and sweepers which is always nice.  I'm currently trying this list without any counterspells in the main. The only thing we've got is Unsubstantiate and bounce spells and that could be wrong but for week one, I usually want something that does something to the board as I expect a ton of aggro. If the deck needs more filtering, I think adding Deliberate could help us as Stormcaller can double it if needed. 

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It wasn't long ago that I was screaming at my monitor from Nissa, but that was back when she shook the world. This time, she doesn't double mana and her +1 is much more reasonable and I actually think she's a really sweet card so here's a list that is pretty much Golgari Rock!

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As you can see, I'm leaning a little more into the +1/+1 counters but we're not really running any Selesnya cards because I'm pretty sure adding the third color will hurt us way too much. We only have the light splash for Mythos of Nethroi. Otherwise, we're all in on Grakmaw, Skyclave Ravager! The card pairs quite nicely with Polukranos, Unchained and all of our other +1/+1 counter friendly threats. The deck also has a decent amount of removal so you know the first thing I have to try to jam is Chevill, Bane of Monsters. Bloodchief's Thirst is looking to cement itself as one of the best if not the best removal in quite some time. Thanks to versatile removal like that, Chevill is back on the menu! A card I could see throwing into this deck is Liliana, Waker of the Dead but I think that's mostly because of my love for Golgari Rock decks. 

A card that I've been pretty hyped to play with is Skyclave Apparition and we might've found quite the party for it!

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With Niambi, Esteemed Speaker in the format, we could definitely have some Azorius Bounce fun! Niambi is a sweet card but on top of that, she's a cleric! Barrin, Tolarian Archmage has been waiting for his time to shine and right now, when people are playing big threats, why not bounce a few things back and force the opponent to cast these threats again? Zendikar Rising has brought a few sweet "enters the battlefield" effects and one of them is Squad Commander to round out our Warrior package. The card is also a respectable card on it's own without having a full party as it can come down and produce a 1/1 token. Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate is really here to round out the party and add the wizard type but she's also got a sweet activated ability that can give our threats the much needed resilience. Glasspool Mimic is really there to be our additional copies of Skyclave Apparition or Squad Commander. It definitely got some sweet targets but isn't needed in high numbers as we do have a fair amount of Legendary creatures. A warning is that this deck is pretty week to aggro as we don't have anything to help us catch up if they go wide. We have sweepers in the sideboard but that's about it. We have to make sure that we're ready for the inevitable Embercleave but this definitely could a fun deck to play and might even be able to keep up with the meta.

Of course, who would I be if I didn't work on a few control lists?!

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Azorius Control doesn't have the best win conditions after rotation so our options are limited. Currently, we've got Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Shark Typhoon but I wonder if Crawling Barrens would work here? If everyone is playing Bloodchief's Thirst, this creature land gets around it as it dodges all sorcery ways to deal with it. Other than that, we're hoping to control the game long enough to win with Emeria's Call. With Aether Gust gone, if there is any kind of red or green aggro deck, we'll have a pretty rough time as having instant speed removal will be key. For now, Swift Response is what we've got! I can already tell you that going into week one, Mono Green will still be a power house even with the loss of Pelt Collector so I'll have to keep working on an Azorius list but this is a sweet start. However, if we add black...

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Ah, we have no shortage of solid answers here and our win conditions get a little more interesting. Once again, I'm leaning on Crawling Barrens if we lose all of our planeswalkers and Lochmere Serpent in game one. I'm currently running one serpent because it still is a six mana card but maybe it's time for Lochmere Serpent to shine! It eats up the opponents graveyard and can become an evasive threat. Its definitely not an Aetherling but it could be what we need. The issue control has right now is it's lack of efficient ways to close games so we'll have to keep trying things out. However, the removal and answers in this deck are great. We don't have a catch all sweeper like Shatter the Sky but we have tons of powerful spot removal which might be great for a format of big clunky threats. If decks go too wide, we have the sideboard to really swing the match in our favor. 

Staying in the realm of Dimir.... did I ever tell you all I love Rogues? Well, here's my take on rogues!

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A deck that mills in a format with Uro is scary but as Thanos said, "the hardest choices require the strongest wills" and we will prevail through the Simic menace! The best part about this deck is that it got a huge boost in power thanks to it's new lord effect in Soaring Thought-Thief and Zareth San, the Trickster! Obviously the lord is amazing for this style of deck but with Zareth, we're now able to pick up the best threat in the opponent's yard if we connect. Ontop of that, Zareth and Ghostly Pilferer are great as we can discard a card to get an unblockable threat. The deck appeals to my inner mill player but with a way to close games so you could say this is aggro mill. To keep up with the aggro mill plan, I threw in Mind Carver as it's a cheap equipment that rewards us for doing our normal gameplan while also being cheap! Speaking of cheap, our threats don't really go over three mana so a card like Agadeem's Awakening will help us grind the long game and is the perfect spell to bring our threats back in the event of a sweeper.

Rogues now have Bloodchief's Thirst so we have more cheap efficient answers to go with some Cling to Dust to really pick off an Uro without removing too many cards from the opponent's graveyard. I know what you're all thinking, "why Eat to Extinction?" and to be honest, I'm just playing the card as a clean answer to Uro. Maybe I'm respecting Uro so much that it's hurting our tempo gameplan so if I were to move cards around, it'd probably be some number of Eat to Extinction


The format is brand new and my mind is racing as there are so many things to do and so many new puzzles to solve as I feel like we all needed this rotation. There will be tons of things I miss and maybe some cards are just an obvious inclusion for some decks so let me know down below! Either way, Standard looks like it'll be really fun!!

Thanks for reading!

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-Your Friendly Neighborhood AsianAvenger

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