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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Jan 27 2016 1:00pm
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As I write this we are mere hours shy of a world without Cloud of Faeries. What does the ban mean for the top decks and the format at large? Well, I have some thoughts on that.

I think the most logical place to start is with Delver. The blue deck has been at the very top of the format since shortly after its namesake card was released in the last quarter of 2011. In this new world Delver loses the ability to commit threats to the board while simultaneously leaving up mana for either Counterspell or Spellstutter Sprite. Make no mistake this is a blow to the strategy but one that is far from fatal. Delver will adapt and it will start at the one drop.
Delver of Secrets is not going anywhere and the reverse side of the card will continue to induce groans come February. However, there are two prime options to take some second turn swings. Phantasmal Bear is a known quality as it has seen play before. A consistent two power the Illusion has some serious downsides - namely its fragility - but it provides a solid clock. While it would not surprise me to see some decks pick up the Bear I believe that Faerie Miscreant will fill Cloud’s shoes. Why? Miscreant turns on Spellstutter Sprite while also enabling Ninja of the Deep Hours on turn two. The ability on Miscreant also helps to mitigate drawing multiples in the latter parts of the game as it can replace itself. Considering that the longer the game goes the less value a 1/1 flyer has this attribute can be considered a Good Thing.
The loss of Cloud of Faeries may also necessitate an increased reliance on Daze. Daze is a powerful card that has not seen as much play as one might expect. While part of this is may be due to the high monetary cost of the card the fact remains that leaning on Daze disrupted the Cloud of Faeries draw. Without Cloud putting pressure on the second land drop, Delver decks should be able to leverage Daze as a way to keep opponents off balance while continuing to commit to the board. An updated Delver deck may look something like this:

 

Delver
 
Creatures
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Ninja of the Deep Hours
4 Spire Golem
16 cards

Other Spells
4 Faerie Miscreant
3 Daze
4 Counterspell
4 Vapor Snag
4 Ponder
4 Preordain
1 Echoing Truth
2 Gush
1 Bonesplitter
23 cards
Lands
17 Island
17 cards
 
Daze

 

It is also possible, however unlikely, that blue moves away from Delver and towards Cloudfin Raptor. The Gatecrash standout has a higher upper bound of power but requires a deck be built in a drastically different fashion. Raptor places a greater emphasis on progressively larger creatures. Such decks have had a moderate amount of success to date and moving forward they will provide a way to go slightly larger than an average build of Delver.
 

For the other known quantities, I would not be surprised if the early leader of the new format is Affinity. The deck is highly consistent with access to multiple cheap 4/4 creatures and a combo kill with Atog and Fling. The deck also utilizes Galvanic Blast to clear the path or go to the dome. Thoughtcast helps Affinity churn through its deck to help find correct threat.
Galvanic Blast has cemented itself as the lynchpin removal spell in Pauper. Four damage at instant speed is no joke and decks like Kuldotha Jeskai have shown that the spell can do work outside a dedicated Affinity shell. Even Temur Tron has started to run the instant, adding some numbers of Prismatic Lens to help enable Metalcraft. With Seer’s Lantern coming this week, it would not surprise me to see more control decks adopt the Blast as a removal spell in their repertoire.
The biggest barrier to Affinity’s success is the fact that it relies on Artifact Lands to progress its game state. Another high dollar card - Gorilla Shaman - excels making life difficult for these decks. A turn two Gorilla Shaman can start acting as a one sided Armageddon that manages to hit an occasional threat. Why turn two? To make sure the Shaman nets at least some value in the face of a burn spell. While Affinity will continue to see play, I expect that it will have a hard time sustaining dominance in the face of the once and future Mox Monkey.
Izzet Blitz also looks to be an early winner as decks adapt. With new toys like Slip Through Space, the Nivix Cyclops/Kiln Fiend combo deck is poised to continue attacking for twenty points of damage in a single turn. Izzet Blitz is a tight design and the defensive slots will remain important. As control decks evolve and adjust their removal, Blitz must find the correct answers. Dispel is a strong option but fails to stop Chainer’s Edict, a spell that looks to remain a corner post of the metagame.
Just like Affinity I expect this deck to thrive early but once the metagame resettles, removal will adjust. If the kill cards of choice are easily stopped by cheap spells, then this deck will survive. Otherwise it may remain a metagame call.
Mono-Black Control stands to gain quite a bit in the new metagame. A stalwart of Pauper, MBC has biased itself to be the best possible Gray Merchant of Asphodel deck, potentially at the cost of flexibility. Cuombajj Witches was a concession to Delver of Secrets and Cloud of Faeries that just so happened to fuel devotion. Without needing to come into matches pre-sideboarded for Delver of Esper Combo, MBC can go back to fighting on an attrition axis. Font of Return or Grim Harvest both make sense as potential inclusions for long games. Tendrils of Corruption, once a defining card, could make a return as the format slows. It could be that (Pharika’s Cure) is simply the better card given that it is more mana efficient.
Kor Skyfisher decks - Kuldotha Jeskai and others - are likely facing a crossroads. These decks seek to extract value from using cards like Skyfisher and Glint Hawk to recast Ichor Wellspring and keep the cards flowing. The low cost of the fliers combined with the ability to translate Wellspring and Artifact Lands into turning on Metalcraft for Galvanic Blast helps to offset the tempo loss accrued from constantly resetting an investment. The zone shift also lets these decks catch up on card advantage in the midgame. Without Cloud of Faeries, the need to constantly shift cards from zone to zone without progressing the board state becomes less enticing. In a format with Cloud of Faeries, cheap creatures that could block fliers and facilitate card draw were golden. Decks were going to lose the tempo war to Delver regardless so the ability to have more cards was attractive.
Now it will be far easier for the rest of the format to keep pace. Because of this it will not be as profitable to repeatedly reset permanents for a meager advantage. These decks already run two  key removal spells in Galvanic Blast and Journey to Nowhere. Drawing to these cards is still strong but it may make more sense to try and achieve this with the raw power of Mulldrifter and Deep Analysis than try to be fancy with Glint Hawk.
This leads me to perhaps the most important element of the new format early on: the removal. Galvanic Blast, Journey to Nowhere, and Chainer’s Edict all appear to be ready to ascend to the top tier of kill spells. The Battle for Zendikar season has demonstrated that acquiring three artifacts is fairly simple and this has pushed Blast past both Lightning Bolt and Flame Slash. Journey to Nowhere is still one the best card as it takes care of just about everything. The Edict has a spot because of its inherent card advantage. If Kuldotha Jeskai retains a chance of succeeding it will be because it runs two of these spells. It would not surprise me if many of the early decks mix and match these three spells to try and find the right blend.
This shift may also portent good news for Llanowar Elves and its ilk. These cards have seen play in the tribal Elves deck but have struggled to find ground. Decks that run mana elves often have a need for one on the first turn but are not able to devote multiple slots to ensuring one resolves. Now it is far more likely a first elf sticks, meaning it can become a more integral part of a strategy. Whereas before tempo was a domain of solely Islands, it seems that decks that can cheat tempo, whether it be through fair acceleration like elves or the overwhelming advantage of the UrzaTron, will have an advantage.
 

Or I could be completely wrong. Either way, we’re getting something very new and exciting. And that is a very good thing.
 

Keep slingin’ commons-

-Alex
 

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1 Comments

Games need to do with guts. by daogunta2016 at Fri, 07/15/2016 - 08:57
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Games need to do with guts. Being scared will not lead you to winning. - Mark Zokle