Magic 2015 has been officially released and is now legal in all formats! The full impact of the new set may not be seen for weeks, but M15 is already changing the Standard and Modern landscape. Unfortunately the set won't be out on Magic Online for another week, but Magic-League players have been using M15 cards for well over a week. I don't blindly put my faith into the quality of any tournament results and decklists, but historically Magic-League has long been a consistent source of quality results and decklists, particularly after a format sees change like a rotation or new set.
Going back a number of years, Magic-League is where I first discovered archetypes like Lightning Rift / Astral Slide and Broodstar Affinity the week before they went mainstream. After Lorwyn hit Standard, I used an adapted a Magic-League Blue Pickles Morph decklist to win the Ohio State Championships. Just this past year I wrote an article sharing two new Magic-League decks, Monoblack Devotion and Monoblue Devotion, which a week later went mainstream at Pro Tour Theros and grew into the most dominant archetypes of the format. I will continue to look towards Magic-League for information, and today I'll share some of the most interesting decklists from a world with M15.
Some weeks back I shared decklists from the "God of Standard" tournament held in Japan, featuring a Top 8 that included numerous Japanese pros and a lot of interesting decklists. The Japanese have been playing Standard with M15 since as early as Friday, and I had two tournaments worth of results to check out. Today I will share some very solid Standard decks with M15 that look to be strong starting points from which to approach new the format, along with some very exciting brews.
Without further ado....Magic-League
This is a very straightforward Monogreen ramp deck powered by some excellent M15 additions:
A full playset of Nissa, Worldwaker is clearly a big win here, and it may have brought this deck into the top tier. It's a card that must be answered or will snowball out of control very quickly with a stream of creatures. It has a huge tempo ability that potentially pays back 80% of the mana cost, which also plays into its snowball nature. When I previewed Garruk, Caller of Beasts last year I really focused on the power of the -3 tempo ability to Recoup the initial mana cost, and Nissa, Worldwaker has similar ability but in a +1, and it's far less situational because it doesn't require a large creature in hand. This card is so good in Monogreen that it's a four-of here, and it will define any game where it hits play.
Genesis Hydra is a huge gain from M15 and a cornerstone of the strategy. Genesis Hydra reminds me of a fixed Bloodbraid Elf in the sense that it plays two cards for the price of one to generate a large tempo gain. See a pattern here? In the early and mid-game Genesis Hydra can be used to generate board presence with a modestly-sized body and hopefully a relevant card to go with it, most likely a mana creature. Unlike Bloodbraid Elf, Genesis Hydra gives its controller choice of card, so given enough mana and some luck, it's also Blue-like in its ability to mimic something like Impulse. In the late game, Genesis Hydra can be cast huge and used to dig for a very large threat like a planeswalker, so it's also the win-condition here and source of endgame inevitability.
The core of the deck is the mana creatures Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid, and Voyaging Satyr. Courser of Kruphix and Eidolon of Blossoms provide a value-package that generates card velocity through the midgame. Polukranos, World Eater is another bridge to the midgame that provides this deck much-needed creature removal.
In addition to the finishers I already shared, the deck plays Hornet Queen as a hard to deal with threat that generates big board presence and potentially a huge tempo gain. The combination of large, evasive threats along with tokens to expend on defense chump blocking ground fat or to push the aggression in the air harder makes a potent combination in one card. Nylea, God of the Hunt makes this a true Monogreen Devotion deck, and back in action are four copies of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which up until M15 had largely fallen out of flavor.
Most impressive? This deck was from a tournament on Friday, and on Saturday a Monogreen Devotion list went on to finish ninth in the SCG Open in Baltimore. I am interested in his sideboard, which includes two copies of Setessan Tactics and a Time to Feed as all-important removal spells, replacing Scavenging Ooze and some Reclamation Sage. In the comments the Magic-League player admitted to having a weak sideboard, so I'd recommend making sideboard adjustments to anyone playing the deck in the future.
Metagame wise, the Monogreen Devotion deck is simply very powerful and proactive, think Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle / Primeval Titan decks. As a ramp deck with a mix of acceleration and more expensive cards it's not necessarily consistent, but this deck does not play many if any truly expensive spells, and with a strong, stable curve and a lot of redundancy is much more consistent than the typical ramp deck. The enchantment creatures and Polukranos, World Eater go a long way in making this deck function smoothly. It's very midrangey, and it's the sort of the deck people must focus to beat, as it's simply impossible to race and very difficult to overpower with fair cards.
This deck is notable for the addition of Soul of Shandalar. This card is among the most interesting of the cycle to me, perhaps because it reminds me more of Inferno Titan than the others in the cycle remind me of anything. It also has first strike, which makes it the most resilient of any in the cycle. While Soul of Theros is probably the most powerful, and Soul of Zendikar the most consistent, Soul of Shandalar may be the most practical. It has found a natural home in Red Devotion, which plays both the Nykthos-fueled engine mana engine to cast and use it, and a curve of creatures and removal spells to support it. I like Soul of Shandalar as a finisher, as a top-end that generates board presence and locks up the game in a way that Stormbreath Dragon cannot. It will gun down small opposing creatures as well as going to the face. It also provides value from the graveyard as an extra bit of reach for closing out a game; after all, this is an aggressive red deck that plays Eidolon of Revels. It's also excellent when hasted from Hammer of Purphoros.
From a metagame position standpoint, this deck is foiled pretty well by Monoblue Devotion, but as a Black Devotion player I think it's strong against black, and I know it has game against UWx decks. It's going to be strong against smaller aggressive decks like Red aggro, but I could see it having trouble against a large green deck. The black splash in particular seems important going forward due to the great power of Dreadbore and Rakdos's Return against the field.Japan
The results from Japan feature some known decks that have been tuned and updated for the M15 world, including some that were already top tier and some brand new brews!
One of the biggest winners from M15 was Black Devotion, which in addition to a few black cards, got Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and the painlands as even more mana fixing. Caves of Koilos was a boon to BW control, the Black Variant that stretches farthest from the Monoblack Devotion core and supports the largest color splash. This version took down a tournament in Japan:
This deck has a heavy white requirement with Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Obzedat, Ghost Council. Caves of Koilos allows it to play enough white to support its WW spells but still maintain a high enough black count for turn one Thoughtseize and BB on turn three for a number of spells. Previously this deck turned to either Orzhov Guildgate, which was quite clunky combined with Temple of Silence, or Mana Confluence, which is very painful, or even both. The upgrade in mana base gives this deck a little bit more edge and makes it even better against the field than it was previously. As far as the metagame positioning of BW goes, it's very strong in the mirror match and against UWx decks, though I don't love Blood Baron of Vizkopa if the metagame becomes clogged with Monogreen.
Moving on from BW, the other main black devotion deck is BG, which got a big addition from M15 in Llanowar Wastes. This version took second in a Japanese event:
The green splash version takes advantage of some excellent M15 additions. Garruk, Apex Predator is powered by Llanowar Wastes and provides this deck an enviable top-end. This gives the deck an absolutely crushing way to end the game, whether it be destroying Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Desecration Demon, or simply making an army of Beast Tokens.
Liliana Vess is a card I've discussed as having merit in Black Devotion, and it has already made an impact here. It provides value as a source of discard, and its ability to fire off two tutor-effects in a row make it difficult yet imperative to deal with.
In terms of metagame positioning, BG Devotion has long been proven as the best choice in the mirror match, mostly on the back of Abrupt Decay on Underworld Connections, and against UWx, again on the back of Abrupt Decay, in this case against Detention Sphere. If the metagame becomes more controlling than this is a great option, though if the metagame becomes more aggressive I would stay. As it is, it's a slight variation on the black core that comes with its own set of advantage and disadvantages.
Goblin Rabblemaster has found a home, and it looks comfy. The combination of Goblin Rabblemaster, Hall of Triumph, and Dynacharge provide a lot of incentive to a rush of creatures and this deck does an admirable job of it. I don't have much to say about this deck, other than it's probably not top-tier but is quite fast, think Boss Ross Red, and it's certainly not a deck I'd want to play against with Black Devotion.
If that deck was not interesting enough, check out this deck, nicknamed "Chimera Shoot":
This deck is built to abuse Spellheart Chimera. I like that it plays a bunch of M15 cards, going beyond Shivan Reef to include cards like AEtherspouts, Polymorphist's Jest, and even Stoke the Flames. This deck has a core of strong spells, including burn as removal and Counterspells, along with some pretty solid creatures like Young Pyromancer and Goblin Electromancer. As a counter-burn deck with a powerful combo-like finish in Spellheart Chimera, this deck is the total package.
Japan certainly impressed me with innovation this week, as both the Goblin deck and the Chimera deck look like a blast to play. Magic-League continues to put out quality results, and I will continue to look towards it as an early-indicator of the Standard metagame. Where do you look for decklists/metagame information? Any interesting websites to share? Going forward, M15 will be legal through the summer until Return to Ravnica block rotates, and that includes a ton of tournaments. I'll be interested in seeing the continuing impact of M15 upon Standard and will share all the best right here at magic.TCGplayer.