I know many of your Magic seasons and events have already started. My Magic year is just getting underway though. I have a number of PTQs and SCG Open Series coming up within driving distance, which encourages my testing group and me to kick it into high gear. One event in particular has me very excited, SCG Open Series: Indianapolis on March 9-10, because my good friend Matt Volkenant will be attending. Many of you don't know Matt, but he is an old-time Legacy player whose schedule doesn't permit to attend a lot of events. We are fortunate enough to have convinced Matt's wife into thinking there is true value in allowing him to use his precious vacation time to go on one or two Magic road trips a year.
Matt brings me back to the good old days when you never looked at an event from an EV perspective and just wanted to have a good time. At the last event he traveled to with us, his sole goal was to crush his Legacy opponents with Exalted Angel and Worship. Like I said, Matt is an old-school Legacy player, but his issue (or gift, depending on how you look at it) is he hasn't transitioned from old-school cards to current-day cards. He comes from back in the day when Werebear was king of the jungle and Flametongue Kavu was a complete house.
If you ask any Magic player who has been playing for a long time, there has been an obvious power creep in the game. You can compare it to sticker shock when someone sees the price of dual lands for the first time since early 2000's. This can make for a comical experience because Matt tends to play with cards that many players have forgotten about. Matt's White Weenie deck features cards like Armageddon, Worship, and Pariah paired with Mother of Runes. Seeing the look from Matt's opponent after he cast Armageddon at the last SCG event he attended was hilarious, especially since Matt's opponent was playing a Lands deck. I'm sure he wasn't expecting Armageddon to blow him out of the event!
Another Matt story before I get into the meat and potatoes of this article involves the trip we took to SCG Open Series: Indianapolis last Standard rotation with New Phyrexia. Matt was absolutely amazed by the power level of Shrine of Burning Rage, and being the red mage that he is, couldn't believe that it was only going for 25 cents, so he bought SCG's booth out of them, speculating that their value would go up because of how overpowered he felt it was.
Matt was then the proud owner of 35 playsets of Shrine of Burning Rage, and he frequently referred to them as Goblins Shrines because he felt that's how Goblin Shrine should have been printed back in the day. We all tried to tell him that they probably weren't going to jump up, but there was no telling him otherwise. To this day, we always get a good laugh about it, and Matt is always ready to pose proudly with his beloved Shrines.
SCG events and GPs are great excuses for old-school gamers like Matt to come out and a have a good time. If you have friends who have been out of the game, bring them along because I promise you it will make your trip much more memorable. And who knows, maybe they will get the fire to start playing competitively again.
I can go on and on with stories about Matt, but the events are fast approaching. They are all relatively new formats with Modern's recent bannings, Gatecrash's effect on the Standard metagame, and Legacy showcasing more Bloodbraid Elves than ever. I thought it would be a great idea to look at a few decks have been successful at the local level and that I can't wait to try upcoming PTQs and SCG Open Series.
Standard is in a really good place, and its popularity is at an all-time high. My recent SCG IQ had over 70 people and actually ran out of room to hold players. Part of the reason for the current success of the format is not only the variety of archetypes in the format but the variety of how the decks within each archetype are built. For me as a player, deckbuilding is more fun when I have options. We don't want to be tied to the same aggro or control decks. We want to be able to make each of these decks our own with a number of great card choices.
For example, right now you get to choose between great threats like Garruk, Primal Hunter, Domri Rade, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Aurelia, the Warleader. The list goes on and on; you have so many different options! Having a variety of options in deckbuilding is why Legacy has always been my favorite format, and seeing this happen in Standard has me very pleased with Wizard's current card design.
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Boros Reckoner
- 3 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 3 Loxodon Smiter
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 4 Thragtusk
- 2 Thundermaw Hellkite
- 1 Aurelia, the Warleader
When it comes to picking a deck to play in this day and age, I am usually sold on playing some sort of good stuff deck, and Naya Midrange is exactly that. It can drop haymaker after haymaker, and even if your opponent can deal with the early aggressive creatures, they have to find a way to deal with your end game threats as well. All of this is accelerated with Avacyn's Pilgrim and Farseek so you can move ahead of your opponent in what stage game of the game you're in.
There's really no question why Naya is one of the boogeymen in current Standard. As the format continues to shift towards more aggressive strategies, I may add Oblivion Ring to the deck to help deal with Boros Reckoner. You can definitely fine-tune Naya to give you edges in a variety of match ups.
Hooray, the queen is dead! Bloodbraid has finally seen her end! No more Jund...? That won't be the case because Jund is still a very powerful deck. Deathrite Shaman has essentially given Jund its own Noble Hierarch, which is scary. Jund will not be going away anytime soon, but on the bright side for Jund haters, the banning of Bloodbraid Elf Jund causes Jund to lose much of its steam. The door has opened for a little innovation. I also think it's safe to say that Storm is dead with the banning of Seething Song, which is an aggro player's dream come true.
I'm excited to play this iteration of Zoo. I think you get a lot from adding black for Dark Confidant, and having access to what black gives you out of the sideboard is great too. I need to test it some more, but I personally rather would have Bob over Tarmogoyf to help me get the reach I need. I feel like Grim Lavamancer stock is on the upswing since he beats Deathrite Shaman in a fight and helps clears the way for your team to get through all while working wonderfully with your fetchlands.
Boros Charm is a new card I've been excited to try out in Modern Zoo. Protection from sweepers or two mana for four damage is never a bad thing. Not to mention that I can't wait for my buffed up Steppe Lynx to double strike someone out of the game!
Abrupt Decay is here, there, and everywhere! In a format where most of the cards cost less than three mana, it's no wonder why this card has found the spotlight. I feel Legacy has slowed down a little bit, and with all the BUG and Jund decks being more popular, I think that gives players opportunity to innovate.
I have always had an affinity for Rock style decks in Legacy, and since the old Spirit Monger days, that's what I've always played. I feel like Knight of the Reliquary alongside Deathrite Shaman gives you the opportunity to play Hero of Bladehold or Elspeth more efficiently. Either can just win you the game on their own. With Abrupt Decay being a main source of removal, having a couple of four-drops in your deck isn't a bad idea. However, if I am going to spend four mana on something, it better have the ability to be a major game changer.
Knight of the Reliquary isn't too shabby herself. I understand that she hasn't been getting as much love as she deserves lately because of Deathrite Shaman. But people need to remember that it's Knight's versatility to fetch you different utility lands that makes her so incredible, not necessarily the power and toughness she gains from lands in your graveyard.
On turn 1, you have the ability to not only play Deathrite Shaman but also Dark Confidant and Stoneforge Mystic thanks to Mox Diamond. Out of the sideboard, playing Chalice for one on turn 1 or Hymn to Tourach is exactly what you need against those tough combo matchups.
I'm excited to get my Magic year underway! I plan to try each of these three decks in a number of events in the coming months. As the year continues, I will be sure to come back and give an update on my results and changes I have made to each of the three decks. As I get deeper into my season, I look forward to the opportunity to give some in-depth matchup analysis and tournament reports, so be sure to be on the lookout for that in the coming months. Each format is in a good place and is wide open, so I can't wait to really dive in and get my feet wet!
As always, thanks for reading!
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