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By: Sabi0, Kyle Lewis
Sep 26 2018 12:00pm
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Hello readers. The fall season is upon us, a time where we are reminded of the cycle of life and death through the profound metaphor of standard rotation. This particular rotation is likely to bring cries of “good riddance” as the last vestiges of a format plagued by bannings and degeneracy are at last consigned to history. In this article, we examine the new standard environment in the light of the full Guilds of Ravnica spoiler. This article will have two parts. In this first section we will focus on extant cards and decks to see how they fare in the new standard. Next time, we will look forward to what new strategies Guilds of Ravnica will bring to the fold. Let’s take a look at a few possible lists now, starting with an early favorite, Teferi control.

The Uncrowned King:

 

Though kept in check by some of the more offensive pre-rotation cards, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria exploded into standard early and made his presence known week after week. While the deck does lose some important pieces (notably Irrigated Farmland and Torrential Gearhulk), it’s safe to say that the Teferi plus control cards combo isn’t going away any time soon. The biggest thing keeping Teferi in check right now is the mana. Without Hallowed Fountain Teferi is unquestionably worse off, but it’s entirely possible he is still the best card in the format. Moreover, Surveil is a mechanic tailor made for control decks, and one I’m sure most Teferi control players will be eager to try out.

Esper control in particular has taken some big losses. Even discounting the mana, Fatal Push Glimmer of Genius and Torrential Gearhulk are all format defining cards. That said, a lot of nice spells stay and some new ones are added. Teferi decks have never been shy about being light on win conditions, but Gearhulk was a big help in closing out games without getting behind. Karn steps into that role to some extent, as does the new Doom Whisperer--both are certainly worse while still being pretty good. The loss of Gearhulk does mean enchantments go up in value, making way for high impact reprint Dead Weight

The biggest boon for this deck in new standard will be Discovery // Dispersal. Discovery is a great cantrip. It’s basically two mana Preordain with the upsides that it can dump cards in your yard and be cast with black mana. Cards like this are nice because they help you hit land drops early and gas later on. In the case of this card however, you also have the option of casting Dispersal at instant speed, potentially killing off a high value target if your opponent is hellbent, but at least staying even on cards and putting in a huge tempo play.

Control decks almost always require some tuning, and standard provides a wealth of reactive options right now. Some other new Ravnica spells Esper plays would do well to test with include: Citywide Bust Dawn of Hope Mephitic Vapors Plague Crafter Price of Fame Ritual of Soot Nightveil Predator Notion Rain Thief of Sanity Thought Erasure Unmoored Ego Connive//Concoct. 

Outlook Unclear:

 

(pic=Fog)

 

Speaking of Teferi, the Turbo Fog deck enters new stadard with most of it’s pieces intact. Haze of Pollen leaves us, but don’t worry because Pause for Reflection is ready to take its place. The biggest issue with this deck is that it loses everything with cycling (including Supreme Will, which basically has better cycling). Without cycling, I suspect this deck may simply not function, but I wouldn’t completely write it off while the future is still hazy.

 

A Blue Period:

 

 

Mono-Blue is a deck that’s been flitting around tier-two for a while now and has never really gone away. I wouldn’t invest heavily in the long term health of this deck, but the deck is real and loses very few pieces. I could easily see it stealing a few wins in the format’s early goings. Here is a list from SWPC which went 6-2 at the most recent PTQ.

 

In the main, the deck loses Baral, Chief of Compliance Slither Blade, and Nimble Obstructionist, and only two one ofs Jace's Defeat and Aethersphere Harvester from the board. With the decks main strategy in tact, one is best off filling holes rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. Mist-Cloaked Herald is an easy substitute for Slither Blade. Having only one toughness makes the Herald worse, but if Goblin Chainwhirler isn’t in 80% percent of the decks, this may not be a huge loss. The merfolk tribal synergies also open up some possibilities.
 

The other substitutions are less clear. Much of the decks power rests with its ability to cast Wizard’s Retort as Counterspell. Therefore, wizard-ey replacements should take precedence. Given the four extra merfolk, it’s tempting to just add four Silvergill Adept and call it a day. However, in a deck with so many spells, the threat of not being able to cast Adept when you need it is just too much for this style of deck to bare. I think I would settle on one Naban, Dean of Iteration and one Omenspeaker in the two drop slot (Mystic Archeologist, Passwall Adept, and Timestream Navigator are also contenders). At the three drop slot, I think I would go with two Aven Wind Mage (with Exclusion Mage and Watertrap Weaver as strong alternatives). I think I’d use the two free sideboard slots for the two Exclusion Mage, but if you want to be puritanical Negate and one Fountain of Renewal are fairly clean substitutions.
 

It’s possible that the best thing for this deck would be to tear it down and rebuild it from the mana up, but I really doubt it. I think this deck executes it’s delver-esq plan very well and I’ve certainly had many Standard Leagues upset by it. My expectation is this deck will be pretty good for a few weeks then gradually either return to being a good, cheap, tier-two deck or peter out all together.

 

Nicol with the Good Text

 

 

Since seeing print, the strategy behind Nicol Bolas, the Ravager has been to construct a deck which can cast it then proceed to do so. Grixis has been fortunate to have many of the format’s best cards in its colors (it’s no surprise that the current formats only remaining decks are R/B and U/B). Unfortunately, the mana was never great. It will get better once we get access to Blood Crypt, but for now it’s about the same, with the deck being down Fetid Pools and up Steam Vents. To make matters worse for the old elder dragon, he seems to have drawn a lot of hate on Ravnica as Assassin’s Trophy makes his flipped form much more vulnerable (and its loss a huge tempo swing), and Nullhide Ferox makes even casting him a possible blowout.


The good news is that Bolas is still an excellent magic card, and he gets to take advantage of all the spells from both Dimir and Izzet. Izzet might have it’s own thing going with some kind dedicated of U/R spells deck, but two cards seem strong enough to see wider play across control decks. First Ionize. While not quite as damaging as the classic Undermine, Ionize is easier to cast getting in for two is still a big deal in any tempo oriented control deck. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see modern Jeskai, a deck which wins by picking away with Snapcaster Mage and Lightning Bolt, quickly adapt this card. Standard is a format where Cancel with upside almost always sees play and two damage is the best upside we’ve seen in a while. Second is Expansion // Explosion. Like Ionize, Expansion//Explosion is the quintessence of a Jeskai control card that lets you pick away at opposing life totals. Expansion can be used to double up on a Lightning Strike or Negate, but Explosion is the real all-star here as a reverse Sphinx's Revelation. Though probably too slow for modern I can see Explosion blowing standard games wide open as you kill their best creature or planeswalker at instant speed only to draw into more gas until you start throwing Explosions and Ionizes upstairs for the win.

 

As exciting as all that is, this deck has several obstacles to overcome. Most obvious is the mana, can you cover the casting cost of this minagere of spells and is it even worth it to do so? Second what is your deck doing? Ionize and Explosion really reward you for playing at instant speed, but many of the good instants are gone [most impactfully Glimmer of Genius, but also all the cycling cards and Supreme Will; does this deck really want to play counterspells or is it better of playing more of a midrange/tap-out control style? Lastly, is this any better than what the Teferi player is doing. Both decks revolve around playing control and winning off one over powered threat. At least for the time being, I think I’d rather be on team Teferi than team Bolas. This may change once the second Ravnica set drops with those good good Rakdos cards, Bolas might even already be better. Either way, unlike some of the previous decks, the damage here is too severe to make quick substitutions. Once the format is more settled, a focused Grixis control deck of some kind might have the potential to be a long-term player.

 

We Didn’t Start the (Dumpster) Fire


Okay hear me out.

As I was flipping through the Grixis cards, I realized there were a lot of playable goblins. I suspect this actually might be a very good deck. Flame of Keld has been seeing a lot of play recently in very low to the ground mono-red decks. The current iteration relies upon wizard synergies with (Wizard’s Lightning) and generally good cheap red creatures. This iteration takes a lot of it’s queues from that build, but substitutes in a slightly higher curve and goblin synergies. It’s possible Skirk Prospector belongs in this deck, but this is an archetype that seems worth exploring, as the payoffs for being tribal are very real and the Flame of Keld strategy has proved worthy of respect.

 

An Idea I’ve Been Batting Around:

 

Other than Nicol Bolas, Desecrated Tomb looked to be one of the defining cards of M19. So far it hasn’t done much of anything, but it gains a ton of support from Guilds with both Golgari’s graveyard shenanigans and Dimir’s Surveil. This deck seeks to get as much value as possible out of Desecrated Tomb while still playing a solid g/b midrange game. Fungal Plots and a a large creature count are paramount. Exiling a creature with Fungal Plots and Tomb out nets a 1/1 on the ground and a bat in the air. The life you gain can be used to fuel Doom Whisperer stacking your draws and filing your yard with more targets for Fungal Plots. Golgari Findbroker can even dredge up any Plots or Tombs that have been milled away over the course of the game. Other cute synergies with Tomb include recurring Blood Operative and activating Graveyard Marshal. Most of the other cards are there to dump creatures into your yard. I think this deck has potential early with a strong proactive plan, resilience to removal, and a potent go wide angle.

 

Meanwhile, back on Ixalan:

 

To cut to the chase, we’ve been saying for a long time: maybe the Ixalan tribes will be good when… In something of a cruel joke, WoTC decided to put the most relevant shocks for the Ixalan tribes in the second Ravnica set. M19 and Guilds have also failed to give much of any support to Ixalan’s tribes, and their power level was far from amazing to begin with. For better or worse, I expect Ixalan will be remembered as a set lost in the shuffle between a degenerate standard format and a powerful Ravnica block. You can still build any of these tribal decks as they were built and do fine with them. In the early goings, I could see vampires or merfolk sneaking into a top 8, but I don’t hold out much hope for any of these decks in the short or the longer term.

 

The Road to Town

 

Hopefully these lists have given you some orientation on how existing standard cards will impact the format. Next time, we will dive into decklists for each of the five Guilds of Ravnica guilds. R&D’s philosophy as of late seems to not shy away from putting explicit decks into sets and this looks to be starkly true in Guilds. Join us next time to explore which guild is most likely to come out on top. Thanks for reading.