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All the way back to Mirrodin

September 29, 2010

Scars of Mirrodin is now officially here! Hope you all had a dandy prerelease, at least I did. Scars of Mirrodin limited seems like a really fun and interesting limited environment and I’m thrilled to sink my teeth into that format in the upcoming months. But that is for a later blog post, today’s topic is Standard and a little bit of Extended.

Standard

Shard of Alara Block along with Magic 2010 is rotating out of Standard this friday. What does this leave us going into the next Standard format? To me there are 3 things from the past Standard that will haunt the upcoming Standard and be forces that everyone need to either embrace or recognize as threats:

Fauna Shaman + Vengevine

It was love at first sight when this two met  I tell you. And it’s a love that is going to last until this time next year (and even further on in Extended I imagine). This combination of cards creates a game state that could weather through just about any nutrition standoffs there was in the last Standard and you bet this supremacy will continue on. While it’s in theory possible to deal with Vengevine with cards like Memoricide or Nihil Spellbomb, it’s usually a losing proposition. Assuming that the player on the Vengevine-side of the battle at least is playing a remotely well constructed deck, he has more gas that also needs to be dealt with aswell. Remember the Extripate vs. Demigod of Revenge fight way back in Standard in 2008? Did the Extirpate-side of that battle ever win? Not on my watch…

The best way to deal with Vengevine (and the Fauna Shamans that leads to Vengevine-recursion) is simply avoid taking that nutrition fight. Just accept that you can’t expect to win a nutrition based affair against that card. What you need to do is either a) win fast or b) do something powerful enough that nullifies that recursion. Off the top of my head that could be casting a huge Eldrazi or playing with Destructive Force. I’m sure there are more cards than those but you get the idea.

I have seen people bantering about bantering about that the most elegant ways to ensure Vengevine recursion, Bloodbraid Elf and Ranger of Eos, are gone but there is still a lot of ways to get back those Vengevines. The returning all-star Trinket Mage is my number #1 pick in that aspect…

Primeval Titan

The release of Primeval Titan almost propelled ramp-style deck in Standard to tier 1. The consistency and acceleration from 0 to 100 that Primeval Titan brings to these decks are just unreal. During the past summer there was really three types of Primeval Titan decks that had the ramp-aspect in common but delivered the kill in different ways. Pairing Primeval Titan along Destructive Force was really popular at first but slowly faded out as the season progressed in favor of the other two version; Eldrazi Green and Valakut Ramp.

These types of decks lost practically nothing in the rotation so you can bet these are archetypes to be forces to reckon with, whatever version that gets more popular.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Like Primeval Titan, Jace 2.0 is a big player and is more or less the flagship in the decks he is in. It might sound like a broad statement to make since Jace, the Mind Sculptor can go into a lot of different decks. Pretty much every single deck that could afford the UU casting cost played him last season. But the most iconic place to find Jace (and it’s those places where JTMS really shines) is in control decks and for the upcoming Standard that seems to be UW control.

Anyhow the acutal 75 card decks turns out, JTMS was the blade last season and I don’t see his powerlevel dropping due to the rotation. A lot of good ways to deal with Planeswalkers in general such as Oblivion Ring, Maelstrom Pulse, Blightning and Bloodbraid Elf isn’t around anymore which leave one to think that JTMS and his buddies will be more difficult to answer in the future.

Red…?

With those major forces established, you might be thinking “dude, what about red decks?”. Well, you see. Red, or rather Red Deck Wins-style of decks, are like cockroaches in the sense that there is always strategies with efficient cheap creatures and burn to the head that is at the very least playable. It’s true that red decks will be a force to reckon with in the upcoming Standard, but the red deck you played a couple of weeks ago will be very different compared to the red deck(s) that we will see this season. A lot of staple red cards rotated out (Ball Lightning, Hell’s Thunder, Hellspark Elemental, Earthquake, Manabarbs along with a couple of more) which means that red deck in Standard needs a new angle of attack. What that angle is exactly is unclear. You might want to go back to Devastating Summon like the red decks in Zendikar Block Constructed or maybe Koth of the Hammer might inspire a new type of Big Red (or Kuroda-style Red if you will). Time will tell.

What about the new stuff?

I have been sifting through the spoilers and giving this some thought. From where I’m sitting there is 7 cards that really stands out for the upcoming Standard environment.

  • Trinket Mage
  • Volition Reins
  • Ratchet Bomb
  • Elspeth Tirel
  • Koth of the Hammer
  • Molten-Tail Masticore
  • The dual-land cycle (technically 5 cards but you know)

I don’t have much to say about this card that I haven’t already said or I have nothing to add to the common voice of the interwebz. These cards will slide into various decks more or less imitate, since they are all very powerful and versatile. Some of you might miss Mox Opal here and here is why Mox Opal is there on my list:

 Mox Opal seems like the Lotus Cobra of this set to me. It’s hyped out of control and everyone talks about all the crazy plays you can pull off with Mox Opal. Off course things aren’t going to work out that way in reality… People are so eager at looking at the best case-scenarios without weighting in the fact that this card might actually don’t do a thing. I do think though Mox Opal will see play here and there like Lotus Cobra eventually did.

The input from Scars of Mirrodin will off course not stop here. I think there is a lot of potential in Scars that isn’t obvious or are very niche. These are the kind of cards that doesn’t necessary have an imitate home but are seem destined to shine at some point. Here is my top 8 of sleeper hits in Scars of Mirrodin:

  • Genesis Wave
  • Necrotic Ooze
  • Spikeshot Elder
  • Wurmcoil Engine
  • Skinrender
  • Leonin Elder
  • Tunnel Ignus
  • Venser, the Sojourner

Genesis Wave is a unique card that got an effect he haven’t really seen…ever. It might turn out to be a little inconsistent to be good enough for tournament play but it sure look like powerful. It can be used as a direct kill card, say you play Genesis Wave for x=5+ and hit Ob Nixilis and a couple of (fetch)lands or it can simply be used in green creature decks to greatly refill your board. Genesis Wave is one of the cards I’m really psyched to try out.

Necrotic Ooze is also a unique card that is intriguing. For Standard Necrotic Ooze might be the key for a DredgeVine update to work in the new Standard. Anyhow, this is a card to pay attention to as it will just be getting better as more and more cards get printed.

Spikeshot Elder is tight little card. It reminds me of Magus of the Scroll, which was a card I played around with a lot, except Spikeshot Elder does have higher potential. While just having a good manasink for any given red deck is nice this card can be much more than that. Putting on equipments (say something like a Basilisk Collar or Adventuring Gear) is off course nice but just subtle interactions with Teetering Peak is gravy. Sleeper hit for sure.

Wurmcoil Engine is there on the list just because of its insane stats. Paying 6 colorless mana for that seems just unfair. A couple of years ago we would have to pay like BBGGWW for something similar. I would be surprised if this guy doesn’t show up in Standard… Moving on, Skinrender is just a straight up very powerful card that doesn’t have a direct home and Leonin Elder/Tunnel Ignus are “hatebears” that are lethal under the right circumstances.

Venser, the Sojourner is an interesting card. Unlike the other Planeswalkers in the set Venser doesn’t really stand on his own. His effects are quite powerful but you constantly need to “hold his hand” in order for him to shine. And those Planeswalkers in the past haven’t really done to well. But off course there are exceptions like Ajani Goldmane and Venser, the Sojourner might be another exception. Clearly an interesting build-around-me card that might become a flagship for a new archetype in Standard.

I have pointed out some of the ground basics of the upcoming Standard and provided with what I think are potentially some new directions which deckbuilding can take in this format. Now I’m going to fiddle around with the new cards and observe what other people think about the format and individual deck to get a better understanding of the individual cards and the format as a whole. I recommend you do that to!

Extended

Finally a couple of words on Extended. While the PTQ season doesn’t start until after new years, yours truly have a Worlds to play in which means I need to pay attention to this format already. So a couple of preliminary thoughts on Extended:

What has happened since last time?

The by far most important thing that has happened with Extended since Pro Tour Amsterdam is that the Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows combo isn’t around anymore. That fact is so liberating for several archetypes. Cards in exciting decks couldn’t play because of Punishing Fire can once again be played or whole decks that more or less didn’t existed because of the recursive flame (might) have life.

The rotation also means that ANC combo (Ad Nauseum-Conflagerate) is no more and that the 5cc control decks need to go through a major overhaul due to losing both Punishing Fire and Mystical Teachings. Not having Tarmogoyf around is also something worth mentioning.

And there is also the fact that we got a new brand set that is now also legal. And how Scars of Mirrodin is going to interact with what’s left of Extended I don’t have a clue about at this point. Figuring out that I partially what I’m going to do in the next two months.

And that leaves us with…

Two extremely powerful archetypes that was still around and kicking even thought the presence of Punishing Fire was Faeries and Elfball. There was several Elfball decks that went 6-4 or better at the Pro Tour (and I know that at least one Elfball deck was in the top16 of the Pro Tour in the hands of Bertil Elfgren nonetheless) and there was more than 1 Faerie deck with positive result aswell. And now with Time Spiral leaving the format the greatest chokehold is removed from these decks. Coming into the format both these decks looks really powerful for the upcoming Extended format and I wouldn’t be surprised if either or both decks will rule the Extended portion of Worlds in December.

Moving on I could definitely see that Doran/Treehouse is still a deck, if for no other reason because it’s got the best manabase for aggressive green decks in from of Misty Rainforest/Verdant Catacombs into Murmuring Bosk. White Weenie is also a possibility but I reckon that deck now without Punishing Fire in the format it will evolve and look more like the white aggressive decks that infested Standard in 2009 (i.e. embracing Windbrisk Heights). You can’t rule of 5cc control either.

And finally there is the Scars of Mirrodin-factor I haven’t counted in at this point. Ratchet Bomb seems even better in Extended than Standard since the format is quicker and the threats people play are in general cheaper, meaning that Ratchet Bomb gets more efficient. Other than that I can’t think of any card of the top of my head that is going to make instantaneously splashes in the format. I think there is a lot of hidden gems and interactions in and with Scars of Mirrodin that is out there and is for us to figure out.

Conclusion

Scars of Mirrodin is here and is destined to shake up formats in Magic. I have just started to delve into the formats today and I’m looking forward to explore both Standard and Extended in the upcoming months. Worlds is looming in the horizon and I’m psyched. Because of obvious reason I’m probably not going to post much in the way of Standard and Extended decklists until Worlds, so you will have to be patience for those.

Until next time!

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