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Week One: Magic Origins By the Numbers


The first week of a new Standard format is always an exciting time. Players are testing fresh cards, and in some cases whole new decks. All the theories, reviews, and arguments of spoiler season are suddenly thrown out the window, and we actually get to see the cards in action. As a result, we start to develop a sense of what is underrated and what is overrated, along with our hits and misses. This matters not only for players, but financiers as well.

However, week one results are not always predictive of the future. For instance, the weekend after Khans of Tarkir released there were two SCG opens, Indianapolis and New Jersey. The two most played KTK cards were the green fetchlands Wooded Foothills and Windswept Heath. The five most played non-land cards were Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, Siege Rhino, Mantis Rider, Jeskai Charm and Rattleclaw Mystic. Today, three sets later, some things have stayed the same (Windswept Heath is still the most-played fetch and Siege Rhino is the third most played creature) while other have changed (neither Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker nor Mantis Rider are among the 50 most played cards in standard.)

At the same time we need to take week one data with a grain of salt. It will be the upcoming Pro Tour Magic Origins that sets the metagame for the next few months, but digging into the week one data is still beneficial since it gives us a first look at what Magic Origins cards people are excited to play and what decks they are putting these cards into. As has become traditional with week one tournaments, StarCityGames did all of us a favor and published the Top 64 decklists of SCG Chicago, which means we have a ton of data to dig through.

One thing we don't have is a day one metagame breakdown, so it is more or less impossible to talk about which decks performed well and which performed poorly. Instead, today we will focus on which Magic Origins cards saw play and what decks they were played in. We'll start by going over the decks most represented in day two one by one before wrapping things up with a look at the most played Magic Origins cards overall.

Abzan (24 Decks in T64)

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Magic Origins in Abzan
Card Total Number Percent of Decks Playing Average Number Per Deck
Languish 42 70.8 2.47
Nissa, Vastwood Seer 33 54.2 3.54
Elvish Visionary 5 8.3 2.5
SIDEBOARDS      
Gaea's Revenge 6 16.6 1.5
Languish 3 8.3 1.5
Tragic Arrogance 3 12.5 1
Hallowed Moonlight 2 4.2 2
Infinite Obliteration 1 4.2 1

The more things change the more they stay the same. Once again we had a new set enter the format and once again Abzan is — by far — the most played deck on day two. This category technically includes three different decks (Abzan Midrange, Abzan Megamorph and Abzan Aggro), but the differences are so slight I decided not to break them down into separate categories. Plus, Abzan Midrange/Control was by far the most played, with only two Abzan builds truly qualifying as aggro (based on the presence of Anafenza, the Foremost and Rakshasa Deathdealer) and another four or five walking the line between control and megamorph (with the main difference being more copies of Deathmist Raptor and less Ugin, the Spirit Dragon). 

As far as Magic Origins only three cards saw main deck play, but two of these additions were widely adopted on week one. First we have Languish, which was almost universally accepted as a two or three of in Midrange and Megamorph builds (fun fact: not a single Abzan deck played four copies). If you were wondering why the price spiked on release day, here's your answer: a ton of Abzan players needed their copies for week one. A few Abzan Control decks were still running some number of End Hostilities or Crux of Fate, which might be a hedge for the mirror since Languish gets much worse when your opponent is playing copies of Siege Rhino and Tasigur, the Golden Fang as well. Also worth noting, none of the Abzan decks went out of their way to maximize the Languish synergy; for example, by playing Gurmag Angler or other addition five-toughness creatures. Apart from throwing in some number of Nissa, Vastwood Seer, the creature base in these decks looks much the same as it did a month ago.

Speaking of the new Nissa, the jury is still out regarding her inclusion in Abzan. Slightly more than half of the decks tried her, most often as a three of, while the other rest left her out of their builds altogether. I'm a little surprised that playing a miser's Nissa, Vastwood Seer for value wasn't a more popular strategy — only one deck played a single copy.

As for the rest of the cards, two Abzan Midrange player went the Elvish Visionary route; I assume on the theory that a chump blocker that replaces itself is good enough for a deck that is looking to get to its powerful late game. In the sideboards there were not any major trends, although several players opted for Gaea's Revenge to shore up control mirrors. One very ambitious Abzan Aggro player tried this as well; how often is that deck getting to seven mana?

RG Devotion - (9 Decks in T64)

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Magic Origins in RG Devotion
Card Total Number Percent of Decks Playing Average Number Per Deck
Nissa, Vastwood Seer 4 22.2

2

Sword of the Animist 1 11.1 1
SIDEBOARDS      
Gaea's Revenge 19 100 2.11
Nissa's Revelation 2 22.2 1

While it is hard to makes any definite statements about the best and worst decks of the weekend, on first glance it would seems that RG Devotion is a winner. Not only did it manage to put three players in the Top 8, but it also took down first place in the hands of Tuan Nguyen. As far as Magic Origins goes, things really aren't too exciting here. Two players tried two copies of Nissa, Vastwood Seer, but she wasn't widely adopted in the archetype like she was in Abzan. One player ran a miser's Sword of the Animist, and that player just so happened to win the tournament. I have a hard time imagining that Sword of the Animist is better than the card it is replacing, but hey, on week one it feels wrong not to play at least one new card. 

The most noticeable change to GR Devotion is in the sideboards where Gaea's Revenge was played in 100 percent of the decks, typically as a two-of, although one player who really didn't want to lose to control ran a full playset. If you've never played with or against the card before, it is a beating in the right matchups. Against a control deck, it is almost impossible to kill with targeted removal (although as Patrick Sullivan pointed out on coverage, Sultai Charm is one of the few cards that get the job done) and eight hasty power closes out the game quickly. The problem (and reason Gaea's Revenge doesn't show up in main decks more often) is that it gets chumped all day by Satyr Wayfinder, Elvish Visionary and Thopter tokens. Regardless, it is definitely worth a couple of sideboard slots moving forward unless control moves toward's Jeff Hoogland's Thopter Spy Network build, in which case Gaea's Revenge might become unplayable. 

Mardu Dragons (4 decks in T64)

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Magic Origins in Mardu Dragons
Card Total Played Percent of Decks Playing Average Number Per Deck
SIDEBOARD      
Languish 2 25 2
Tragic Arrogance 1 25 1

Nothing to see here, one player tested out Languish and Tragic Arrogance in the sideboard, otherwise Mardu Dragons is untouched. I could try to write a paragraph or two about nothing, but instead let's move right along to a more interesting deck. 

Jeskai Aggro (3 decks in T64)

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Magic Origins in Jeskai Aggro
Card Total Number Percent of Decks Playing Average Number in Deck
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy 11 100 3.67
Harbinger of the Tides 6 66.7 2
Clash of Wills 2 66.7 1
(Bonus)Ojutai's Command 9 100 3

Alright, I admit it: Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is slightly better than Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. In fact, you could argue that this weekend, at least for Jeskai Aggro, is all about the Jace. By the numbers, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy was the most widely adopted card on week one, showing up in 100 percent of Jeskai Aggro decks, more often than not as a four of. Plus, the little blue walker garnered the support of one of the best players in the room in Gerry Thompson. 

The other two inclusions surprise me in different ways: I didn't really expect Harbinger of the Tides to be widely adopted in three-color decks due to the UU mana cost, but apparently Jeskai Aggro can make it work since it plays 17 blue sources and only 7 non-blue sources. Sure, you might not always get to cast it on turn two, but this might not matter; how often is your opponent going to have a tapped creature to maximize the value? On the other hand, I assumed Clash of Wills would be more heavily played. Probably not as a four-of, but at least as a two-of; one person passing over it altogether and the other two only running a single copy is slightly unexpected. 

Finally, while it is not from Magic Origins, the sudden appearance of Ojutai's Command as a three-of in every Jeskai Aggro build it worth mentioning. After starting out with a ton of hype (and a price tag of nearly $10) during preorders, the UW instant swiftly fell all the way down to under $1 after seeing zero play. While it has been trending up slightly, there are still a bunch of copies available for around $1.25. If you think you might need some copies at some point in the next year, I would pick them up now. Remember, Dragons of Tarkir survives not one, but two rotations which gives a card like Ojutai's Command twice as many chances to shine in a fresh format. Plus, it is the buy a box promo and Wizards has a fairly strong record of making these cards Standard playable. While I don't think this is a slam dunk, the combination of being extremely low-risk with high-potential and high-reward makes Ojutai's Command a card I want to add to my collection now. 

GB Dragons (3 Decks in Top 64)

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Magic Origins in GB Dragons
Card Total Number Percent of Decks Playing Average Number Per Deck
Nissa, Vastwood Seer 7 100 2.3
SIDEBOARD      
Languish 5 100 1.67
Gaea's Revenge 4 66.7 2
Nissa's Revelation 2 66.7 1

If there is one word that characterizes five-color GB Dragons, it is ambitious. The the inclusion of multiple copies of Nissa, Vastwood Seer in a deck that only run three Forests is interesting. Now, it could be that Nissa, Vastwood Seer is just so good in the deck you don't even care that she will whiff on finding a land, or it could be that you shouldn't be playing Nissa, Vastwood Seer in the deck. The Pro Tour in a couple weeks should shine some more light on the issue. Otherwise, nothing significant to report. 

Mono-Red Aggro (3 Decks in T64)

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Magic Origins in Mono-Red
Card Total Number Percent of Decks Playing Average Number Per Deck
Exquisite Firecraft 11 100 3.7
Abbot of Keral Keep 6 66.7 3
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh 3 33.3 3
Scab-Clan Berserker 1 33.3 1
SIDEBOARD      
Exquisite Firecraft 1 33.3 1
Scab-Clan Berserker 1 33.3 1

It's no surprise that Exquisite Firecraft found a home in Mono-Red, a deck that is trying to get an opponent from 20 to zero as fast as possible. Four damage for three mana is a good deal in this type of strategy, and being able to play it alongside Stoke the Flames for the next three months is especially scary. It's hard for me to imagine this doesn't remain a four-of moving forward. On the other hand, the jury is still out on Abbot of Keral Keep, a card heralded by some as the best in the set. Of the three Mono-Red decks, one played the full four copies, another played two and another played zero opting instead for Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh. Personally I haven't been impressed with this card from the start, but enough pros are behind it that I've come to grips with the fact I could be wrong. This is another one I'll be keeping a close eye on over the next couple week, both at the Pro Tour and on Magic Online which could shed some light on the validity of Abbot of Keral Keep not only in Standard but in Modern as well. 

Finally, we had one player that decided the problem with Mono-Red Aggro is that it doesn't play enough three drops and the solution was to jam not only three copies of Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh but also a Scab-Clan Berserker. I'm far from an expert on the deck, but this seems strange to me. Wouldn't it just be better to run Abbot of Keral Keep, Frenzied Goblin, or even more Mountains? 

Other - (20 Decks in T64)

The rest of the Top 64 is made up of decks played by only one or two players, and as a result it really isn't worth breaking down each and every one individually — don't worry, all the Magic Origins cards from these decks will be included in the big list at the end of the article. So, rather than going deck by deck, I'd like to highlight four decks that I found particularly interesting. 

Rally the Ancestors has had a special place in my heart ever since I played it on Budget Magic a couple months ago. This new version looks absolutly insane and manged to go undefeated on day one before trailing off a bit on day two. Older versions of Rally the Ancestors were typically built around Siege Rhino and Gray Merchant of Asphodel, which necessitated casting Rally the Ancestors for x = 4 or x = 5. In Tickal's build, you only need to Rally the Ancestors for x = 3 to win the game thanks to the combo of Mogis's Marauder and Nantuko Husk. Better yet, this deck is just overloaded with synergies and mini-combos which means that unlike some other linear strategies, you are unlikely to get bored with this deck anytime soon. If you are looking for a non-budget updated Rally list, this is a great place to start. 

GB Elves wins the award for deck most influenced by Magic Origins. 26 of the deck's 39 non-land cards are from the set (66.67 percent). Considering that this is basically a Magic Origins block deck that loses almost nothing at rotation, the future looks bright for Elves in Standard assuming Battle for Zendikar (Nissa's home plane) gives the deck some more goodies this fall. While a three-mana lord that can be hit by Collected Company probably tops the wishlist, any powerful low-cmc Elves are going to make the deck better and improve its odds of being a real player in Standard over the next year. 

You can argue that Mono-White Devotion is the breakout deck from the first week of Magic Origins Standard, putting not one, but two player into the Top 64, including Jordan Haukereid who just missed out on the Top 8. The addition of Archangel of Tithes and Knight of the White Orchid and their five white mana symbols are what make the deck possible, and it seems like with a little bit of tuning (for instance, does Elspeth, Sun's Champion really belong in the sideboard rather than the main deck?) this deck could be a real — at least until Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx rotates in October. 

This is the deck that convinced me I might have missed on Hangarback Walker. Sure, it's probably fine in an artifact-hungry deck looking to turn on Thopter Spy Network (which seems irrationally hyped; one player in the Top 64 played BidentBlossom and only as a two-of), but the fact people are willing to jam it in pure aggro and also non-artifact control suggests that this seemingly inefficient creature has wider appeal than I imagined. 

The major problem I see with this deck is the mana is god-awful. Attempting to cast double-white two and three drops into double-red four and five drops means you have to play some bad cards, like a full set of Evolving Wilds. However, all of this changes if the enemy fetchlands return in BFZ. Replacing Evolving Wilds with Arid Mesa instantly brings the manabase from bad to acceptable at the very least. If this happens, there could be a strong Boros deck out there even with the loss of Stormbreath Dragon and Brimaz, King of Oreskos

The Big List

Week One: Magic Origins
Card (Main deck) Number Card (Sideboard) Number

Languish

47 Gaea's Revenge 35
Nissa, Vastwood Seer 45 Languish 15
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy 19 Tragic Arrogance 5
Exquisite Firecraft 14 Cleric of the Forward Order 4
Goblin Piledriver 12 Nissa's Revelation 4
Knight of the White Orchid 12 Sphinx's Tutelage 3
Hangarback Walker 10 Gilt-Leaf Winnower 2
Elvish Visionary 9 Eyeblight Massacre 2
Clash of Wills 9 Celestial Flare 2
Archangel of Tithes 8 Hallowed Moonlight 2
Harbinger of the Tides 6 Infinite Obliteration 1
Pia and Kiran Nalaar 6 Scab-Clan Berserker 1
Abbot of Keral Keep 6 Exquisite Firecraft 1
Kytheon, Hero of Akros 5    
Dwyen's Elite 4    
Gnarlroot Trapper 4    
Leaf Gilder 4    
Shaman of the Pack 4    
Sylvan Messenger 4    
Nantuko Husk 4    
Herald of the Pantheon 4    
Celestial Flare 4    
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh 3    
Artificer's Epiphany 3    
Thopter Spy Network 2    
Swift Reckoning 2    
Foundry of the Consuls 2    
Dwyen, Gilt-Leaf Daen 2    
Scab-Clan Berserker 1    
Liliana, Heretical Healer 1    
Sword of the Animist 1    

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. What saw more play than you were expecting? What saw less? What cards are missing from the list altogether? Let me know in the comments and as always you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 


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