Hey, guys! Do you remember me? Watchwolf92? Sukenik?
Well, whether you do or don't, I have missed writing and talking about Magic. What's new with me? I got an awesome girlfriend (sorry ladies, off the market), am trying to pick up a second degree (Computer Science), and am on my way to being a Residence Assistant and Orientation Leader! Also, I'm trying very hard to qualify for another Pro Tour and have been playing a lot of Magic Online as a result.
So what's in store today? The answer: Return to Ravnica Block Constructed!
My personal opinion of the best way to go infinite on Magic Online is playing Block Constructed from the beginning and waiting until it becomes Standard. Articles have been written about this topic both by me and other wonderful writers on this very website.
For those of you at home who have not been following Return to Ravnica Block Constructed, let's just say that it was interesting for the first two weeks and then got stale very quickly. The popular decks in the format were hashed out very quickly and resulted in a couple tier 1 decks and several tier 2 decks. The main problem was that the best deck's (U/W Control) mirror match had a major problem: the win condition was the chess clock.
This in itself brings up a major problem when it comes to Magic Online. Even if you are playing as fast as your Internet lets you, casting Angel of Serenity every turn takes forever, so the person with the slower Internet connection loses. Personally, I always try to win the game and attempt to ignore the chess clock. However, this deck was the first time where I actively had to measure my moves in terms of clicks and response time instead of the most optimal move. I don't think there is a way to solve this on Magic Online, so if anyone has any ideas and wants to tell Wizards, that would be awesome!
Luckily, the gates are crashing on this stale metagame! Before we get into the new cards, what did the old decks look like pre-Gatecrash?
- 3 Angel of Serenity
- 3 Armada Wurm
- 2 Centaur Healer
- 4 Gatecreeper Vine
- 1 Keening Apparition
- 3 Loxodon Smiter
- 3 Lyev Skyknight
- 4 Ash Zealot
- 2 Deathrite Shaman
- 2 Desecration Demon
- 2 Gore-House Chainwalker
- 4 Hellhole Flailer
- 4 Rakdos Cackler
- 3 Rakdos Shred-Freak
- 3 Rix Maadi Guildmage
How do we shake up this mess?
For those of you looking to stick with U/W Control, might I suggest a few copies of Luminate Primordial? This card allows you to win Angel of Serenity wars since your Luminate Primordial will permanently remove that card from the game.
However, if you are like me, you are probably sick of U/W Control by now. Let's look at a card that will interfere with some aspects of U/W Control, like Frontline Medic.
U/W Control really prospers from its ability to play Sphinx's Revelation (and to a lesser extent Syncopate). They may even splash red for Aurelia's Fury. Luckily, Frontline Medic will be there to put a nice little tax on those cards. You may be thinking that it will still be susceptible to Supreme Verdict, but first they have to draw it and then you have to not have Boros Charm or something of the sort. Regardless, this little guy will definitely make a splash.
Gideon, Champion of Justice is a card that I personally don't like in the slightest. However, planeswalkers have always influenced Block Constructed (see Liliana of the Veil and Garruk Relentless last year). I just can't picture a place for it, but I would love to have someone prove me wrong!
The blue card that interests me the most is Cloudfin Raptor.
I've wanted an aggressive deck to be good very badly in this Block Constructed format. The R/B decks and early G/B decks have been ok, but Cloudfin Raptor has the potential to be very close to Hada Freeblade (with one less counter). Back in Zendikar Block Constructed before Rise of the Eldrazi, B/W Allies was very strong and featured Hada Freeblade very happily in the one-drop slot.
An evolve deck would have to be sculpted very well and will take a lot of testing to get where it needs to be. However, Magic Online seems to have a way of hashing out the details. There may be a Zoo-like deck out there that can feature this as a one-drop in Block Constructed. The fact that this card and Experiment One exist is very important and should not be underestimated.
We also receive Spell Rupture from Gatecrash. If Supreme Verdict wasn't a real card, I would love Spell Rupture a lot more than I do now. I do like it a lot though. It can be very tricky to both play and play around. For instance, if I have only a 3/3 in play and try to Spell Rupture a spell since they have two mana available, they may just Simic Charm my creature in response. Similar situations can come up, but if your deck can establish a slight board presence without overcommitting into Supreme Verdict or if you have certain Keyrunes, Spell Rupture can be a very strong card.
Devour Flesh could be a decent way for slower decks to interact with faster decks. I have always felt like formats are typically defined by their powerhouses, removal spells, and efficient creatures in that order. Devour Flesh being only a single colored mana could make it decent in a multicolored control deck.
Cards like Cabal Coffers and Nirkana Revenant have always been good casual cards, but Crypt Ghast is a really interesting one. If you have a mana base plentiful in Godless Shrines and Watery Graves, then you may be able to play some huge Sphinx's Revelations. The same can be true for Clan Defiance and its respective shocklands.
Five-Alarm Fire is a seemingly terrible card, but in the right deck, it may find a home. That will likely be one with cards like Fencing Ace and Frontline Medic. In a way, it is a lot like Beastmaster's Ascension, which made a slight appearance in Zendikar Block Constructed. Aurelia, the Warleader may like to see this card by her side, too. Is this a win more? Maybe. Will people still try it? I sure hope so!
Skullcrack is a card that has been getting a decent amount of Standard hype. In my opinion, being able to stop half of Sphinx's Revelation may be good enough. Deathrite Shaman also exists in this format, so you may be able to get a little bit of value that way. Without cards like Thragtusk and Huntmaster of the Fells, this card may not be as popular as one may think.
I have already mentioned that I feel like Experiment One may find a home in some aggressive strategies. But there also seems to be a little bit more support for ramp strategies that people seems to like.
Greenside Watcher and Gyre Sage are two Scorned Villager type cards. Greenside Watcher is in a tough spot since it requires that you play a Guildgate on the first turn, which could make the mana base a bit tricky in decks with him. Gyre Sage may be closer to Somberwald Sage then Scorned Villager since he will take a turn or two to charge up. However, this guy into Armada Wurm into Sphinx's Revelation may make him better than Gatecreeper Vine in Bant style decks like the one listed near the beginning. The presence of these cards and Keyrunes along with ample fixing may make ramp strategies viable.
Probably the best card in this guild is Obzedat, Ghost Council. He can dodge Angel of Serenity, Supreme Verdict, and Detention Sphere. If your opponent tries to race you with Angel of Serenity, you have the ability to outrace them. He will stick around when you need to block aggressive decks. With the mana bases being as good as they are, he may even be able to see play in more than two-color decks. To be honest, I am most likely to start with an Esper deck in this format with this guy in it.
Other cards that capture a bit of my attention are Alms Beast, Deathpact Angel, and Treasury Thrull. While Deathpact Angel is my favorite card in the set, each of these are in a way just generic, efficient fatties that may be a potential finishers or roadblocks in slower decks. Deathpact Angel dies to Angel of Serenity, Detention Sphere, and Merciless Eviction but will survive almost everything else. Alms Beast is a great roadblock against aggressive decks, but watch out for Traitorous Instinct and Act of Treason! Treasury Thrull is almost like a Sun Titan when Torpor Orb is out. He will be very good if he survives a turn, but he does nothing the turn he comes out. In my eyes, he might be the most likely candidate for the fatty spot.
Bane Alley Broker, Dimir Charm, and Psychic Strike are all cards that are just ok. They will see play and give Block Constructed players access to some very essential cards. Psychic Strike can be better than Cancel if double blue is hard to get. Bane Alley Broker gives us a Looter in this set, which can be very good. Her body is not irrelevant either (no pun intended). Dimir Charm seems like it has a decent amount of utility to be useful.
Lazav, Dimir Mastermind is a very interesting card. Personally, I am very bored with hexproof by now, but this card captures my attention. If you can play him in a deck with a heavy amount of removal, you can just take your opponent's best creature and give it hexproof. However, with the mana being very demanding, one would have to rely heavily on black removal spells for this job. Supreme Verdict and Devour Flesh seem to be the only efficient answers to this card, so I would watch out for him.
Whispering Madness can be pretty interesting in a slightly aggressive deck that attempts to use it in an Ancestral Visions sort of way. You can unload all of your cards really early on and restock with Whispering Madness. I can imagine playing some Dimir Keyrunes, Dimir Charms, and a Jace, Architect of Thought or maybe Lazav, Dimir Mastermind. Once you are low on cards and have established a board presence, you can cipher this card onto your Lazav or Dimir Keyrune (when animated) to either Loot or draw extra cards whenever you are able to.
As mentioned before, usually planeswalkers find their way into Block Constructed (except for maybe Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded). Domri Rade looks promising for Block in either a R/G or Jund Aggro deck. There is enough support to go all-in on creatures between Experiment One, Ash Zealot, Dreg Mangler, and many others. Okay, maybe Ash Zealot is a little bit greedy; we shall see on that one.
Another thing that can make a mono-creature strategy work is bloodrush. In particular, Ghor-Clan Rampager is very exciting, as I was a person that liked Colossal Might a lot. Rubblehulk can be interesting with cards like Fencing Ace. Lastly, Skaarg Guildmage has the ability to win over the long game but might not have enough early game presence to be popular. It does allow you to attack without overcommitting to the board though.
Aurelia, the Warleader is another fatty with another devastating ability. I can picture her as the high end of certain aggressive decks or pairing up with Armada Wurm to eat people alive. Aurelia's Fury will also give rise to Naya decks very reminiscent to Standard lists as a replacement Bonfire of the Damned. While they are slightly different cards, they will likely have a similar impact in their respective formats.
Assemble the Legion is a card I like very much as a finisher in control decks. At first, it can go like Bitterblossom to force field duty, but after you Supreme Verdict the board, you can overwhelm your opponent with hasty Soldiers. It may also be a viable sideboard option for aggressive decks that can reach that level of mana.
Boros Charm has been getting a decent amount of hype in Standard and Legacy, so I will spare you more reading about it. Let's just say that this card and Boros Reckoner have been able to lay the ground for certain Standard and Block Constructed archetypes. Both are very good and make Boros a force to be reckoned with.
Do you guys remember Mirrorweave or Mirror Entity in Lorwyn Block Constructed? Because I sure do…
Biomass Mutation has a very similar effect. It is important to note that if I have a creature with two +1/+1 counters on it and play Biomass Mutation where X=3, then that creature becomes a 5/5. This is because of the layers in the order of how power and toughness is calculated. If you have more questions about this, feel free to ask your local neighborhood judge!
Anyhow, aggressive decks may be able to play Biomass Mutation as a finisher. I love Overrun type effects, and this one may just be a singleton in some G/R, G/U, or Jund Aggro decks. All I know is that I would love to see it get played.
The last card I want to discuss is Prime Speaker Zegana. This card is tied with Deathpact Angel for my favorite card in the set. In essence, it is like Soul's Majesty and a very huge creature. Personally, I compare this card to Sphinx's Revelation, where instead of gaining life you will get a huge creature. However, Prime Speaker Zegana comes online when most people would be only okay with casting Sphinx's Revelation (most people I have talked to are only satisfied if they are playing Sphinx's Revelation for three or more). Prime Speaker Zegana can be the top end of an evolve deck or paired with Armada Wurm. Judging by the way I've been talking, you should probably just pick up Armada Wurms online.
Before you guys venture out into the tall grass, please remember that Prophetic Prism, Keyrunes, shocklands, and Guildgates exist. Make sure that you can play all your powerful spells consistently before you have to mulligan into oblivion due to colors.
I guess that is all we have time for today. I'll be at the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Edison this weekend. See you there!
Thanks for reading,
Jonathan "Watchwolf92" Sukenik