This is one of the hardest times for me as a Magic writer who primarily specializes in making Magic Online videos. Not because there's a lack of content to write about, but because what I really want to be doing is playing with the new cards on Magic Online and showing them off to you guys in some videos. Thankfully Magic Online has done a wonderful job at closing the gap between when a set is released in paper and when it's released on Magic Online.
The paper release for Battle for Zendikar was last Friday, October 2nd, and the set will be available on Magic Online this Friday, October 9th, when the Prereleases start. Granted the set won't officially go on sale until October 12th, but the cards will still be entering the system starting Friday! That's only a week between paper and digital, which is just awesome. The wait used to be much longer and I for one am thrilled about streaming some Battle for Zendikar Prereleases on Friday over on Twitch. Make sure to follow me so you can tune in.
That being said, it means that this week I unfortunately won't have any videos. What I will have, however, are some deck ideas that I've been throwing around ever since the full Battle for Zendikar spoiler was released. Both decks contained some cards that I feel are pretty solid in the current metagame, and the overlap is as follows:
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Kiora, Master of the Depths
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Scatter to the Winds
In my opinion these cards are very powerful right now and I'm intent on finding a shell that can utilize them best. The first deck is a Sultai list that tries to exploit new cards like Fathom Feeder and Sire of Stagnation, while the second list is just something I tossed together after having a discussion this week about Part the Waterveil with my podcasting bro, Ali Aintrazi.
Let's begin with Sultai which, as I've actually mentioned before, is typically a color combination I look into every time a new set is released in Standard.
The funny thing about this list is that it initially started as Grixis list that obviously looked completely different. My goal was to exploit Sire of Stagnation by casting him early enough for his card drawing ability to matter. You see, some people have their preconceived notions about Sire of Stagnation, about how he doesn't seem very good, but I actually like to test cards like this before judging them and give them the best chance to succeed.
As you can see there are a couple unconventional choices here, like the two maindeck Stubborn Denial. This is obviously a nod to protecting Sire since he instantly enables ferocious making Stubborn Denial a one-mana hard counter. This is also a format that plays a lot of cards on curve, so being a Force Spike for things like Bring to Light or planeswalkers will also get people from time to time. We have a lot of other unique choices as well, so I'll go over a few of them here.
Fathom Feeder kind of does everything I want an early creature to do in a controlling deck. It blocks profitably, it can attack and ingest if that's ever something we're interested in, and it can draw us cards late into the game. This is the kind of creature that's pretty solid at any point you draw him, which is awesome.
The Gilt-Leaf Winnower is a one-of that takes care of a surprising amount of creatures; most notably Siege Rhino, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, and nearly any Eldrazi outside of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger (for multiple reasons). But he does manage to take care of Oblivion Sower, Void Winnower, and even Blight Herder if any of those end up seeing any amount of play. Or you can just cast this as a 4/3 with pseudo-evasion, which is safer now with Lightning Strike and Bile Blight out of the format.
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Nissa, Vastwood Seer are both in here because they're just solid creatures that turn into solid planeswalkers. Jace is also fantastic at filling up our graveyard for our delve cards like Dig Through Time and Tasigur, the Golden Fang.
Rattleclaw Mystic is the ramp creature we're left with as green mages since we no longer have access to things like Sylvan Caryatid, Farseek, Rampant Growth, or Elvish Mystic. Don't get me wrong, Rattleclaw Mystic is fine. I'd just rather have a creature with a higher toughness that can produce black mana. Nevertheless, our goal is to produce a faster-than-average Sire of Stagnation, and Rattleclaw Mystic works perfectly in conjunction with...
Kiora, Master of the Depths! When I first saw this Kiora I wasn't sure exactly how good she would be. After playing a few games with her though she definitely earned her place in the deck. Considering we have a 17/24 split of creatures to lands we can usually hit two cards with her -2 ability. Additionally, you can untap a land to keep up Stubborn Denial mana, along with a creature like Rattleclaw Mystic or Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. Heck, even just being able to untap Sire of Stagnation to put him back on defense seems pretty good.
The other planeswalker is Ob Nixilis Reignited, which I was sold on from the moment I first cast him. His abilities are just so clean and elegant. Kill a creature, draw a card...they almost seem too simple to be as effective as they are.
Our "answers" come in the form of Horribly Awry, Ruinous Path, Scatter to the Winds, Sultai Charm, Stubborn Denial, and a single Murderous Cut., So far this configuration has proven to work, but with the metagame so liquid at the moment, it may need tweaking from week to week. Don't forget that we can awaken onto a Lumbering Falls, making a 3/3 hexproof elemental with either three or four +1/+1 counters on it. That's kind of a big deal.
The sideboard basically consists of some cards that I thought would be versatile enough to tackle an unknown metagame, including a way to block and gain life, a sweeper, a threat that is also an answer to tokens or removal spells, and a number of Counterspells. I also anticipated decks ramping into huge creatures like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Dragonlord Atarka, so the three Infinite Obliteration were a nod to those strategies.
The next deck was initially going to be just blue and green, but I came across Omnath, Locus of Rage and figured this was the perfect shell for him.
We're already aiming for nine mana to cast Part the Waterveil with awaken...what's seven mana with the promise of 5/5 elementals and the Thunderbreak Regent clause? Adding the red mana gave us the perfect excuse to play Sarkhan Unbroken as well, which is an extremely underrated planeswalker. Couple that with the fact that Rattleclaw Mystic now conveniently produces all of our colors, and it seems like it was meant to be.
I apologize for including full playsets of Jace, Vryn's Prodigy in each of these decks, but seriously, he's that good guys. There were times when I had Satyr Wayfinder before rotation where I could flip Jace on turn three. A turn three planeswalker with six loyalty? You can't really compete with that, let alone the fact that he's incredible at smoothing our draws with his looting ability. The worst part about Jace in this particular deck is that we don't have very many instants or sorceries to flashback, but even then he remains incredibly powerful. Also, activating him a second time after a Part the Waterveil is a pretty sweet bonus. I have little doubt that Jace when considered when they added Part the Waterveil's exile clause.
Ideally we'll have an Omnath in play before we Part the Waterveil and straight up win the game. I haven't actually cast him yet, but I have to assume that, if we're able to untap with Omnath in play, we just win, right? The card is extremely powerful, and even if the opponent has a sweeper to Remove him, unlike Thunderbreak Regent, the elemental legend triggers upon Elementals dying, not being targeted. Another difference is that we can target creatures with this ability, so that unflipped Jace or Nissa on the other side of the table is in for some bad news.
Hedron Archive might be one of the best ramp cards available. I initially had Natural Connection in the deck, but Hedron Archive seems too good, especially in a deck that doesn't have a lot of ways to accrue card advantage. Outside of our planeswalkers, of course. The only problem I have is that it tends to make the double blue in Scatter to the Winds a little tougher to manage. Truth be told, Scatter was in the deck when I was leaning toward straight U/G and that slot might be better suited toward something that's a little easier to cast and can protect our planeswalkers. Again, I'm tempted to lean toward something like Stubborn Denial (or Negate if you're not feeling as risky) because the card becomes a hard counter with Omnath, Dragonlord Atarka, or any of our Sarkhan Unbroken dragons in play.
Ultimately these two lists are pretty untuned, but I think they look pretty sweet and I'm very eager to test them out this coming weekend when Battle for Zendikar becomes available on Magic Online. I think people are pretty much playing it safe right now with things like Bring to Light (packing every good card they can fit in the deck) and R/G Aggro. I think there's a ton of room left to explore and I'm eager to find out what comes of it. Maybe we can carve our own path. I can't wait to find out.
That's all for today, but I'll be back again on Monday with some more Modern videos! Battle for Zendikar will be legal at that point, so I'm thinking of trying this sweet Jeskai Allies build that I found, complete with brand new allies and a playset of Ally Encampment. So don't miss it! In the meantime be sure and check out my podcast, Freshly Brewed, with Ali Aintrazi. You can subscribe through iTunes or help us out over on our Patreon. Thanks for reading and I'll see ya soon!
@FrankLepore // FrankLepore on Twitch // FrankLepore on YouTube
Freshly Brewed Podcast with Ali Aintrazi (available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio)
PS. If you get the reference in the title, you win 1,000 internet points.