Magic Origins is a pretty exciting set in my opinion. The set has so many diverse themes and throwbacks in it that a revitalization of old Standard archetypes is almost inevitable. Constellation decks get multiple new toys that breathe life into a strategy we have not seen in some six months; graveyard based decks get so many new tools that they literally cannot fit them all into existing shells; and devotion decks of every color seem to have picked up one or two color-dense permanents to help Nykthos and friends out a little bit.
One of the places I was most excited to see some loving was directed at the artifact deck. While it only had very faint murmurs around it, the idea of a deck using Ensoul Artifact to good effect is just an awesome one. Who doesn't love the idea of turning their 5/5 flying Ornithopter sideways on turn two?
The deck never really had the consistency to stay in the high tiers, but Magic Origins offers up all sorts of new tools for the strategy. I wanted to keep Origins in mind while going back and looking at all of the current Standard cards available for this kind of archetype.
The kind of archetype is where I wanted to stop though. Basically, we know we have artifact synergies and we know our biggest rewards for artifacts are in blue, but where do we go from there? Are we aggressive? Combo? Ultimately, I think it is best to let the cards tell us where they should go. Here is a list of every notable blue card and artifact upon a first rough glance:
Bident of Thassa
Hall of Triumph
Helm of the Gods
Harbinger of the Tides
Master of Waves
Ordeal of Thassa
Profaner of the Dead
Thassa, God of the Sea
Thopter Spy Network
Looking at the specific artifact callouts here, I noticed there is actually quite the density in terms of heavy blue mana symbols. Thopter Spy Network, Whirler Rogue, and the new spiffy Harbinger of the Tides all have two blue symbols in their cost. Taking that knowledge and combining it with the shells that Ensoul Artifact was already being played in, it would make sense to arrive at something that looks like Monoblue Devotion.
Naturally, as a brewer, this sent me on a tangent. I often use this practice and find it best to the alternative of "staying on task." Ideas are not something you can force out of yourself, so when they do come, I find it best to let them roam a little bit and see what comes of them. If you brush them off or set them aside to work on them later, there is a chance that the inspiration that got you there in the first place is gone. Being inspired and following where that takes you is quite the fun experience, so I highly recommend not bottling that process up.
As a result of that, I quickly brewed what I consider a baseline Monoblue Devotion list to work off of:
This list looks a lot better to me than it used to. Not only have we picked up some new options at our top end, but Harbinger of the Tides is basically the perfect card for us. We need a two-drop with color density for devotion and here we have that along with some real late-game value. Specifically, this is the kind of card that allows us to win any aggressive mirrors, which I suspect will be crucial in some match ups.
Still, that list is not exactly the same as the artifact based aggro decks that we have seen pop up. I wanted to correct that a bit and get to a list that really abused artifact synergies. Ghostfire Blade is one of the nicer incentives in these lists because it allows something like Ornithopter to become a threat while being another artifact for Ensoul Artifact and has crossover synergy with various morphs and megamorphs, allowing it to be extremely versatile. I wanted to play off of this particular equipment while capturing more of the artifact synergies (and staying monoblue).
I think this list is pretty solid, but I'm not sure it shores up enough of the weaknesses that the old list had. Thopter Spy Network plus any artifact is quite the engine against control, which does help, but for now two copies of the Spy Network are in the side as there were just too many four-drops in the main.
The idea of Ghostfire Blade excited me enough that I wanted to explore other cheap equipment options. It did not take long before I arrived at a new card from Origins: Helm of the Gods. Here is an artifact that cares about enchantments. At first, that combination seems strange, but if you actually examine the lists from above, you will find a pretty healthy cross-section of artifacts and enchantments together. On top of that, a bunch of cheap evasive creatures makes for the perfect pairing for a cheap but explosive piece of equipment. Could we actually have monoblue enchantress on our hands? Here is the list I arrived at...
Cloudform is actually the card that pulled everything together. I was struggling with wanting a three-drop that added devotion but was an enchantment and a creature. Riptide Chimera was first in line for a while, but I could not find a solid enough way to turn its negative into a positive. Instead, Cloudform comes in as an excellent target for Helm of the Gods, an excellent devotion enabler, and a nice way to occasionally sneak a Thassa or something into play, now with hexproof!
We make a lot of small concessions to help with our artifact/enchantment theme. For example, previous we chose to run Gudul Lurker as our primary one-drop because unblockability is better than flying and because being able to morph him means synergy with Ghostfire Blade. In this though, Hypnotic Siren just makes the most sense as a small evasive creature that also happens to be an enchantment. If we ever get to bestow the card, then great, but it offers more than enough value as a Flying Man with upside here.
When all is said and done, we manage to have 23 enchantments in that list, 17 artifacts (counting Thopter Spy Network here), and 17 cards with at least two blue in their mana cost. It is possible that we want the fourth Whirler Rogue over fourth Spy Network in the main to give us more consistent access to artifacts, but either way I like where this list is heading.
Despite not starting there at all, the enchantment build of this list looks really solid and seems like the avenue most worth exploring in the new Standard. Helm of the Gods is a powerful card and making that work seems like it would come with big payoffs.
That's all for the decks now though. Before I leave, I wanted to quickly explain my Hall of Fame Ballot and my thought process going into this year's voting.
My Hall of Fame Ballot
As many know, last week individuals turned in their ballots for this year's Hall of Fame vote. I have been voting for a quite a few years at this point, so it seemed like it would be another round of standard operating procedure. But this year was different for me. This year, the metrics upon which I evaluate people for the Hall changed.
Maybe it was that in prior years, everyone I was voting for was either a slam dunk, or was measured almost solely on stats and hearsay. It is not that I failed to value contributions to the game outside of winning, but simply that I was not as familiar with the work these individuals put forth. I was fortunate enough to receive many secondhand stories of people like Huey which, along with a stellar stat line, had me vote for him, but what about people like Bram Snepvangers? I did not vote that year, but I would not have voted for Bram, mostly due to ignorance of his impact on the game, especially in Europe.
Now we have entered a time where I not only know what those up for election have done for the game, but often I have personal experience with these individuals that is very hard to weigh. On the one-hand, I want to avoid blind bias, but on the other hand, my position as a peer to many of these individuals has given me select opportunity and insight that others simply do not have.
In some ways, that should make me an authority on the class of 2015, but the reality is that I myself am unsure of the value to place on these intangibles. Craig Wescoe is someone I greatly want to see in the Hall at some point. He has morphed himself into an upstanding citizen of the Magic community and has worked to help harbor new generations of mages and teach them the ways of the Pro Tour and of the Pro Tour Team. But how does that fact stack up against an extra PT top 8? Most people would be voting for Craig were he to have another Top 8 and yet not many are voting for him now. Should I be taking a stand here? Or do I wait another year knowing that Craig will continue to actively play and to bolster his resume even further?
It is honestly a tough call and one I am not certain of an answer to. This uncertainty has kept me relatively quiet throughout the voting process this year. I did not want to influence others when my own thoughts and opinions were being questioned by myself all of the time.
And there are a lot of questions this year. Some of them I have answered before, which is helpful. For example, I will not be voting for Tomoharu Saito. I believe his past accomplishments are not to be trusted and until he manages to establish a similar resume in a clean and respectable manner, I simply do not wish to give him my vote.
But what about Mark Herberholz or Willy Edel? I have given them consideration in the past and theoretically this is a "weak" year in terms of candidates. Do they now make the cut even when they haven't before? Perhaps I had been too harsh in the past? Perhaps I was not being harsh enough now?
Ultimately, I only felt confident in one vote this year. Eric Froehlich is someone I said I would vote for with just a few more accomplishments and he has gotten those over the past few years while being one of the best Magic players in the world. In the past, Efro has had some issues dealing with losses and whatnot, which has held me back from voting from him, but his skill has always been there and recently his attitude has taken an upswing, which has been pleasant to watch and root on from the sidelines.
Beyond Efro, Willy Edel and Craig Wescoe are my next in line. I did not vote for either but I expect both to remain active and I hope to be voting for them next year. I value the contributions and sportsmanship of both of these players so much that a slight dip in stats compared to others is not a big deal to me. I feel like I probably was a bit harsh on both of these players because I expect them to keep playing and because I know both of them personally, but they are both individuals who I would be proud to see in the Hall one day, even if it is not this year.
Until next time, thanks for reading!