I have been playing Magic for a pretty long time. Twenty years now, actually.
During most of that time, especially as long as there has been such a thing as "Standard" people have complained about the formats and especially about the dominant decks. Players in the early years hated the card drawing dominance of Land Tax and Necropotence, the overbearing luck of particular cards (especially early on) like Hymn to Tourach or Hypnotic Specter, or cursed a midgame topdeck of Zuran Orb.
Even the really great Standard formats, people found reasons to complain.
But what do I know? My favorite Standard of all time was during the spring and summer of 2011, when tournament attendance was cratering over the consistency of Preordain and Jace, the Mind Sculptor decks.
Is there anything remotely worth complaining about?
The current Standard format has been, or at least seemed to me, a rolling cascade of solid strategies and cool new decks. Early on it was billed as a verdant monochrome of Sylvan Caryatids and Coursers of Kruphixes. That hasn't borne out, exactly.
Not only have there been a slew of different green decks -- starting with Doomwake Giants supplementing Voyaging Satyrs, ultimately culminating in a Pro Tour Abzan win -- we've seen all manner of mid-range decks, a couple of different control decks, and even some beatdown (and combo!) decks.
Just last weekend we learned of a cool new hybrid combo deck combining Heroic and Ascension strategies!
Standard isn't showing any signs of slowing down (or stabilizing), either.
...which brings us back to a new-old little archetype:
At first I didn't realize what became available that suddenly this deck was a contender...then I realized what was going on elsewhere.
If nothing else we no longer have a Mono-Black Devotion deck (or related decks) pacing the metagame with their Lifebane Zombies.
But of course in the course of making an Open Series Top 8 this week, Tom Ross incorporated Magic 2015 card Heliod's Pilgrim as part of his UW deck. One more mana but one ability down, Heliod's Pilgrim has drawn some understandable parallels to the invincible Stoneforge Mystic. Here in the UW Heroic deck, Heliod's Pilgrim acts as a card advantage engine, a setup man, and of course a Silver Bullet searcher. This deck plays one copy of Aqueous Form, one copy of Stratus Walk, and so on... You can find those cards with Heliod's Pilgrim, and apply where strategic.
Of course, the redundancy on Ordeal of Thassa is quite welcome, as Heliod's Pilgrim acts kind of like Ordeal of Thassa five, six, and seven.
Anyway, after seeing Tom's Top 8 I decided to jam a few dozen games with this UW Heroic and I have to say, this is one of the most fun decks I've played in a long time. In addition, it's quite strategically and tactically challenging. Sometimes you want to make one big threat, and sometimes you want to spread your creatures widely sideways.
While pretty quick offensively, this deck boasts a surprising amount of card advantage, and is pretty good at weathering attrition battles. This week let's look at an interesting Fork in the road...through the middle of one of those protracted battles.
The situation here is game three of a match against a Mardu Tokens deck.
We got game one via a steady partnership between the heroic mechanic and Heliod's Pilgrim.
Everything was looking peachy in game two, but the potential weakness of this deck was revealed. There is no real 20/20/20 to a deck like UW Heroic. Tom might have laid out his deck as one-third quality creatures, one-third lands and one-third buff spells...but that doesn't really work the same way as one-third burn spells.
In game two we got our last guy killed with the opponent quite low and succumbed to a Wingmate Roc with three Gods Willings in hand. Stupid Crackling Doom. :(
In this one we've gone a couple of exchanges deep already, but the opponent is still on 20.
Our Seeker of the Way was removed from game via Magma Spray.
Heliod's Pilgrim and our first Hero of Iroas bought burn spells.
We've managed to keep a body on the battlefield now, though, and our Favored Hoplite is wearing a decorative +1/+1 counter.
...but now we're in the driver's seat.
The opponent still has a couple of cards in hand, and one Raise the Alarm token in play.
His graveyard only has one Lightning Strike and one Murderous Cut (mostly because of that Murderous Cut, which has removed Magma Spray, a couple of Lightning Strikes, and the aforementioned Raise the Alarm.
And like I said...he's still on 20.
As for the heroes? We have a ton of cards in hand, six.
We "only" have 19 life, but we have three lands and a 2/3 Favored Hoplite on the battlefield.
That said, our hand is going to afford us a ton of options:
● Ordeal of Thassa● Eidolon of Countless Battles● Singing Bell Strike● Hero of Iroas● Defiant Strike● Defiant Strike
The job here is to get some offense going before the opponent can cut us off entirely; and we have a nice shot at that this turn.
Your challenge is to describe how you would play this turn. We have NOT played a land yet.
Get to it!
This is Make the Play Monday.
Every week I present a problem like this one and ask the TCGplayer.com community to describe how they would play in the given situation.
Our belief is that Magic is a game of decisions (and decisions, and more decisions)... So learning to make better decisions should help any and all readers to kick more butt in tournaments.
Describe how you would play this turn in the comments below and you might win a $25 TCGplayer.com gift certificate.
I'll be back on Friday with how I played this game, and bring a Celebrity Guest along with me. One reader who agreed with my play, and one who agreed with the Celebrity Guest's, will each win $25 gift certificates.
Get to it!
How do you play this turn?