So Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar was this past weekend and I'm sure most of you were excited to see what new decks would emerge and do well. I for one wasn't too excited about the prospect of new decks. The main reason being the vast majority of the competitive players will go with playing the deck that is known or one that has done well in previous events and you can't fault anyone for that. The Pro Tour is hard to get on and pretty hard to stay on. So why would you want to risk anything? Especially if you just want to win. Even if there is a crazy new deck out, only a handful of people will be on said deck and they could even fall out and not do well because of doing poorly in the Draft portion. So you're much safer playing something comfortable with a proven, positive record.
Gideon proved to be the strongest planeswalker in Battle for Zendikar and we had more copies of Gideon in the Top 8 than Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. However what caught my eye was the deck with the best record during the swiss rounds: it was a G/W deck. Why did a G/W deck catch my eye you might ask? Well...unlike the rest of the white midrange lists this one ran the full zero copies of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. I'd like to talk about Autumn's list and then go over updates to my five-color control deck and where my ramp deck is going as well. So let us look at Autumn's G/W Aggro deck!
Autumn did exceptionally well with her list, with the biggest stand outs being Archangel of Tithes and Whisperwood Elemental. Whisperwood Elemental was a pretty big haymaker prior Battle for Zendikar Standard but seems to have become a bit weaker and less played once we lost the good mana dorks. However Archangel of Tithes has seen a little play in White Devotion and in some G/W decks. Most of the G/W decks have gone on the megamorph plan though, playing Deathmist Raptor alongside Den Protector. Autumn kept that plan but she also believed Archangel of Tithes to be very good and maindeck worthy, and she was rewarded generously for her efforts. This deck looks pretty and sweet, the only thing that saddens me in this list is the one Nissa, Vastwood Seer maindeck. I'd really try to get the one from the board into the maindeck somehow, but otherwise it looks solid and I wouldn't change anything without playing the deck first.
Next up I'd like to talk about my five-color deck and some changes I've made. Biggest change from my previous list is the removal of Catacomb Sifters. This is where my list currently stands.
By removing Catacomb Sifter in favor of more noncreature spells it has made Jace that much better. Previously I had mentioned that the deck wanted more delve spells to abuse Jace and all the fetches. What better Delve spell can we possibly add that is better than Dig Through Time? I couldn't think of any and I had previously tested a 3:1 split on Dig and Treasure Cruise but Dig was far superior and wasn't that much harder to cast as long as you kept tabs on how you fetched. Speaking of fetching, this deck will punish you hard if you fetch incorrectly. It's not always correct to get basics. Sometimes it's more important that you have access to your colors than having your battle lands enter untapped. You can focus on getting your battle lands untapped after you fix your mana. So make sure you get some games in and learn how to fetch correctly.
I'd like to talk about some of the new cards in the maindeck.
Crackling Doom: This has been a great spell to add to the arsenal. It's been stellar across the board from aggro to control. Against aggro it picks off their biggest guy just be careful if you tap out to cast it since Atarka Red can just blow you out of the water with Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage. Crackling Doom is nothing too special against midrange decks. It's just always going to get their biggest guy, hopefully a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Against control most removal sucks. However Crackling Doom shines in the control matchup because, at worst, it kills Jace and, at best, it kills one of their win conditions in Ojutai or Silumgar.
Sultai Charm: I've been really impressed with Sultai Charm. It just always does something valuable. Its worst mode is to draw two then discard a card which is still fantastic, where its other modes can kill an annoying creature like Whisperwood Elemental or Wingmate Roc. Also if you ever get to destroy a Stasis Snare or Silkwrap with this card you gain such a huge tempo advantage, especially if you use it to destroy a Stasis Snare on your Siege Rhino basically giving you a Siege Rhino with flash. As if Siege Rhino wasn't good enough.
Languish: Previously the deck struggled with fliers, mostly Wingmate Roc since it made two fliers for one card. Languish solves that problem along with many others, basically being a board wipe that your Rhinos survive. Languish has been good and I like the 2/2 split in Languish and Radiant Flames.
Exert Influence: I've been extremely impressed with this card. Originally in the sideboard, I decided to move it maindeck after some of the swings the card made. The card works fantastic with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. Not only flashing it back and probably just winning you the game, but also shrinking your opponent's power with Jace so you can steal even bigger stuff with Exert Influence. I've stolen many things with this card from Hangarback Walkers to Dragonlord Dromokas.
Sarkhan Unbroken: If Sarkhan ever truly finds a home it's probably here. His plus ability is fantastic at fixing your mana, ramping you, and gaining you card advantage. He also spits out 4/4 flying dragons, which fight very well against Wingmate Roc and Mantis Riders. His ultimate basically doesn't exist but that's okay since we can just win with an army of 4/4 flying dragons. One thing to note: just be careful when you play this card on an empty board when your opponent can Crackling Doom. It's very sad to not only lose your flier, but also lose your planeswalker. It's usually better to just plus Sarkhan and get him out of range while gaining a card than making a dragon the following Turn Against Crackling Doom decks.
I really like this deck and I'm going to continue playing it off and on in tournaments. I've always felt like I was even-if-not-favored against every deck in the format except Atarka Red. That's your worst matchup but it's still winnable. I'm okay not winning most of my games against that deck in order to be better positioned against everything else. This deck is very sweet and I really enjoy playing it. The only deck I might enjoy playing more is an Ulamog deck.
Speaking of an Ulamog deck, I've worked with Minh Nguyen a bit and revised the Five-Color Eldrazi deck, even narrowing it down to only three colors now. Here's the list.
It's been cut down to just Naya. I did well with a Naya list recently, if I recall correctly it actually helped me win the Invitational. Minh Nguyen has done most of the numbers in this list with me just giving pointers from the sidelines. Basically just saying things like, "want four Hedron Archive," "From Beyond is Sweet!," and "Is Oblivion Sower even good?" Turns out the answer to that last question is, "not really." Not yet anyway, maybe if the meta shifts a bit, or if it had reach, but for now it's not that great.
However Nissa, Vastwood Seer and Hedron Archive are amazing. I didn't like Explosive Vegetation and didn't want to run more than one but Nguyen pointed out that it also helps flip Nissa that much quicker. So with that I could get behind running a couple in the maindeck.
From Beyond is either too slow or just gets out of control relatively quickly, especially against control decks. You'll be surprised at how early you can crack the card to go and fetch out Ulamog, especially if this card sticks for a couple turns. There are also some games where you just don't even want to crack it and value the creatures and pressure it's creating. This mostly happens against control decks, but it is something to note. Keep in mind Hedron Archive and From Beyond work fantastically with Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Not only do they ramp into Ugin but they also survive Ugin wiping the board which is amazing! Previously if you ramped into Ugin with an enchantment, say something like Frontier Siege, then Ugin would eat it along with everything else. Thanks to the devoid mechanic From Beyond sticks around for more after Ugin does his thing.
The sideboard is pretty self-explanatory. Nothing too crazy going on in there. I've been impressed with Rending Volley and how many annoying things it kills. It's a nice one mana uncounterable spell that kills Ojutai, Mantis Rider, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Wingmate Roc, Anafenza, the Foremost, and more. Now if only it also killed Siege Rhino!
So this is where we stand with the ramp and five-color decks. I'll continue playing both and brewing new things up. I'm looking forward to testing Part the Waterveil and The Great Aurora. But what has me really excited is Jace, Vryn's Prodigy in Planeswalker control for Modern. Not only can you Rebound Time Warp with Narset, Transcendent but now you can flash it back with Jace, Telepath Unbound too, very exciting!
Catch me again next Tuesday where hopefully I'll have some brews for you if everything goes well. In the meantime make sure to check out the Freshly Brewed podcast with Frank Lepore. You can Subscribe through iTunes or help us out over on our Patreon page.
Until next time, make sure to ramp into eldrazis or just use all five colors of magic,
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