Hello TCGplayer readers! Today I'm going to talk about some Oath of the Gatewatch cards that I think will make an impact in Standard and also provide a few decklists for those cards. Please note that I'll only be discussing officially previewed cards seen here. I will not be mentioning cards that have been unofficially leaked. Now, on to the cards.
Devoid wasn't really pushed in Battle for Zendikar, but there are already quite a few cards that should make this archetype stronger. Colorless-matters is a theme that I think will make an impact and the cards we've seen so far fit pretty well in an aggro shell. Eldrazi Mimic is a great two-drop that is very likely to attack for three or more on subsequent turns. A follow-up of something like Forerunner of Slaughter or Ruination Guide can really do a decent amount of damage. At worst he's a 2/1, which is not really what you want in Standard, but in the right deck he can be really good.
The next card that looks great in this type of deck is Eldrazi Obligator. I think this guy is kind of bananas. Have you ever played with Zealous Conscripts? Well this card is very similar and has the added option of playing it earlier for three mana just to get extra damage in. Eldrazi Obligator's "kicker" requires colorless mana which can be a little awkward, but from what we've seen so far, Oath of the Gatewatch looks to have plenty of support for it.
Speaking of colorless mana, Spatial Contortion is a strong, versatile removal spell that should see lots of play if your deck can cast it. The question is where will it fit in Standard? Colorless mana is a psuedo-sixth color in Magic now, so you really can't just jam it into your two-color deck, add some Wastes, and call it a day. You really need to treat it as adding another color to your deck and your manabase must reflect that.
One of the most interesting reprints in Magic Origins was the enemy pain lands, and we didn't even realize it at the time. Once Oath of the Gatewatch told us that colorless mana was going to matter, the enemy pain lands suddenly became very valuable to our manabases. I mean, it's a land that produces three colors of mana and it doesn't even enter the battlefield tapped! These lands are screaming "play me in a devoid deck!" While I really want to play a black/red devoid deck because it gives us the strongest two-drop in Forerunner of Slaughter, I'm going to begin with blue/red because it's easier on the mana and it allows us to play Brutal Expulsion, a very strong card that fits great in an aggro-tempo deck. I'm actually surprised that it's not seeing any play to be honest.
Here's a rough list:
Obviously this list is untested in today's Standard environment but it gives you a good idea of what devoid aggro can look like. I have also considered Eldrazi Skyspawner and Whirler Rogue for this deck but I wanted to keep the curve low and I liked the other three-drops better. I love Herald of Kozilek here. Playing spells like Spatial Contortion for one mana and Brutal Expulsion for three mana is amazing, and a turn three Herald of Kozilek sticking around allows you to have a very explosive turn four.
We are playing cards that require colorless mana but zero copies of Wastes. Unfortunately I don't think Wastes will be a big part of decks like this due to the much better options available. Wastes is great if you are playing decks with Evolving Wilds or Explosive Vegetation, but if you have no ways to search for basic lands you are better off playing lands that have additional value besides tapping for mana, like Ruins of Oran-Rief and Sea Gate Wreckage.
Ruins of Oran-Rief is very important in this deck and while it may look weak because it enters the battlefield tapped, it's actually quite strong in a deck filled with colorless creatures. The synergy with Hangarback Walker is a real thing and this card allows your creatures to compete with format staples like Siege Rhino and Anafenza the Foremost.
Sea Gate Wreckage is a card that seems like it was just made for a devoid aggro deck. Aggro decks tend to go hellbent (a term that means to have zero cards in your hand) much more often than midrange or control decks, so this land is a great thing to have access to in order to give the deck a little extra reach. You really don't want to play four copies in this particular build because we are also playing red and blue, but if you are playing solely colorless or colorless-plus-one-other-color then playing four copies is valid.
Another land that is deceivingly strong is Crumbling Vestige. This card allows you to cast your colored spells on curve while also providing colorless mana later on. The most awkward thing about this land is if you are forced to play it as your turn one land drop and have nothing to cast off of it. It's usually great on every turn after that and very flexible the turn you play it. Playing this land definitely requires some thought of how you sequence your lands drops and cast your spells. For example, you don't want to use the mana you get on a blue spell if you are holding an island, have no red sources, and have a red card in your hand. It's usually better to wait to play this land until you can get full value out of the mana.
The single card that gives this deck the reach it needs is Ghostfire Blade. This card was forgotten about since its inception in Khans of Tarkir so I'm glad it's getting a last hurrah before it rotates out with Shadows over Innistrad. Devoid aggro decks are literally unplayable without access to Ghostfire Blade. The creatures are small and just can't compete with what's out there. The games where you draw Ghostfire Blade will increase your win percentage by quite a bit; it's that important!
One last card I'd like to mention is a land from Khans of Tarkir that was unplayable before but will go way up in value when Oath of the Gatewatch is released. That card is Tomb of the Spirit Dragon. If you are playing a mostly-colorless deck that doesn't need a lot of colored mana, you definitely want to be playing this card. It swings aggro mirrors greatly in your favor and makes it very difficult for your opponent to finish you off.
Blue/White Control is one of my favorite decks but it really wasn't viable until now. Prior to Oath of the Gatewatch, if you wanted to play control you were better off playing Esper Dragons, mostly because you needed to play blue for counters and card draw, black for removal, and white for Dragonlord Ojutai. This lead to some awkward situations involving mana. With fetches and battle lands you have an excellent three-color manabase but it comes at a price. Usually these decks require two blue mana early as well as both black and white mana early. You're also usually playing Haven of the Spirit Dragon. This will often lead to battle lands entering tapped due to not having the appropriate basics. I prefer to play a control deck with only two colors as it will greatly improve your manabase and give you your colors when you need them.
Luckily for us, Oath of the Gatewatch gives us some great new cards for a Blue/White control deck!
The first card I'd like to talk about is the most obvious one, Linvala, the Preserver. This card is amazing in a deck that is usually behind. It's pretty sweet to have a card that instantly puts you in a winning position. Five life is pretty huge in a control deck and getting a free creature isn't too bad either. One thing to keep in mind when playing Linvala is that your opponent needs to have two creatures on the battlefield in order to get a 3/3 angel, as Linvala itself does count as a creature for you when it's ability triggers.
One downside of Linvala is it's pretty awful in a control mirror. The life will rarely matter and it's very unlikely that your opponent will have two creatures to your none. Linvala may be a sideboard-only card for that reason, but it really depends on the metagame.
The second card I'd like to talk about is Immolating Glare. Wow, what a perfect card for Blue/White Control! It's practically a Doom Blade and pretty hard for an opponent to play around. It's so cheap to cast that you can usually kill something and counter something in the same turn. White rarely gets cards like this. They are usually more situational or more expensive to cast, but this one is really strong and the reason why you don't need black in your control deck. The last card that we had like this was Swift Reckoning from Magic Origins. That card saw a tiny amount of play but the biggest problem with it was it was not a turn two instant removal spell. Immolating Glare is a strict upgrade and will likely be a big part of the metagame going forward.
The last card that I think will make an impact in control decks is Comparative Analysis. The surge mechanic is pretty high variance. When you have a spell to play before it, it's amazing, but if you don't, it's atrocious. Comparative Analysis is a generally good card that is useful whether or not you can surge it. If you can't surge it, it's a Weave Fate which is unplayable in Constructed, but if you can surge it, it's an instant-speed Divination which is just amazing for control decks. It's definitely worth putting Weave Fate in your deck if you can cast it for three mana some of the time.
For example, let's say it's turn five. Your hand is Scatter to the Winds, Immolating Glare, and Comparative Analysis. If your opponent attacks with a creature, you can Glare it, and if they pass the turn you can surge your Comparative Analysis. If they cast a spell after the attack you have the option to counter and if they do nothing during their turn you can always cast the Comparative Analysis for four mana. This card gives you plenty of options and is the exact type of card that control decks want, and honestly the card draw in Standard isn't great right now and I think this is a nice step in the right direction for stronger control decks.
While I'm a huge fan of all of my lands entering the battlefield untapped and at the right time, this list does have some weaknesses. The first problem with it is that it can't deal with Planeswalkers very effectively. Other than using counters, the only ways we have are Quarantine Field, which is not the most efficient answer, and Ugin, which is extremely late game. Another problem that won't come up too often is the interaction between Ugin, Silkwrap, and Quarantine Field is not a favorable one. With only two Ugins in the deck, the times where this will matter is few and far between. There will be times where you really need that reset button and there will be times where Quarantine Field will Remove three permanents. This deck has so much removal that it's likely that an Ugin will only be bolting anyway.
The other weakness of this deck is that the control mirror is not good matchup. There aren't any cards in this deck that can help get an edge in the mirror and there are way too many cards that are just dead, like Immolating Glare and Planar Outburst. That said, the midrange and aggro matchups are excellent. A well-tuned sideboard can get around this problem.
It's important to remember that these lists must be taken with a grain of salt. We don't know the entire Oath of the Gatewatch set so it's really hard to build these lists optimally. These lists are a good starting point for these archetypes and still need to be fine-tuned.
Overall Oath of the Gatewatch is shaping up to be a great set and I'm really excited about what we've seen so far. I think Oath really picks up the pieces that were left by Battle for Zendikar and answers some questions that most players had. For example devoid is now a real deck we can consider playing.
This weekend I'll be playing Standard at Grand Prix Oakland! This will be my first major event in about fourteen months and I'm looking forward to it. My playskill is probably very rusty as I've been out of the tournament scene for a while, but it will be fun to get back into competitive Magic and in a great city. Come say hi if you're there!
Until next time,
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