For this week I want to talk primarily about where Standard is before Dragons of Tarkir is released, and next week start to get into the sweet cards that are getting previewed from Dragons of Tarkir. The main reason is that this Standard format hasn't actually been around for very long, and as a result of Grand Prix Miami the format has changed once again. Besides that there are a couple brand new decks that look promising, and are worth being aware of once Dragons of Tarkir is released.
For Grand Prix Miami there was actually quite a large contingent of control players, yet none were very successful. The reason is Mastery of the Unseen. This is a card that can be played in midrange, combo, or even aggressively slanted decks, and all of a sudden you have inevitability. A deck like Blue/Black Control has maybe one Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and one Perilous Vault to try and answer a permanent like Mastery of the Unseen, and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon isn't a good answer because it doesn't deal with the manifested creatures. By turn eight Mastery of the Unseen has already done enough damage to put the game out of reach, most of the time. Other control decks like Abzan Control may be relying on a single Utter End to get rid of Mastery of the Unseen, and that is not where Abzan Control wants to be.
The key to Mastery of the Unseen is that while it creates such incredible card advantage, it can also gain life, which makes it comparable to something like Sphinx's Revelation. Certainly the effects are different, but the concept remains the same. Mastery of the Unseen gets even better in decks that have the potential to activate it many times a turn, like in the Green/White Devotion deck. This is the best shell for abusing Mastery of the Unseen, and the deck is built around it. Here is the breakout deck from Grand Prix Miami from winner Daniel Cecchetti:
The fact that this deck has mana acceleration, devotion, Whisperwood Elemental, Courser of Kruphix and Genesis Hydra is what allows it to absolutely abuse Mastery of the Unseen. Genesis Hydra allows you to find Mastery of the Unseen, so in almost every game the deck has the ability to find at least one, and oftentimes multiples. Multiples can be good to double the lifegain, and have an insurance policy in case the other Mastery of the Unseen is dealt with. Mana acceleration is nice, but the fact that the acceleration comes in the forms of creatures is very important, as it means gaining more life with Mastery of the Unseen and adding to the devotion count.
Whisperwood Elemental is perfect in this deck, as it is very difficult for an opponent to leave up removal for Whisperwood Elemental, especially since the Devotion player oftentimes has no need to commit additional cards to the board, because the turn can just be used to manifest with Mastery of the Unseen. The fact that Whisperwood Elemental manifests creatures itself means that it is less necessary to activate Mastery of the Unseen, and it allows you to use mana more efficiently. Whisperwood Elemental also provides some insurance against mass removal. Because of both Mastery of the Unseen and Whisperwood Elemental the deck is less afraid of End Hostilities.
There aren't actually that many cards that really do something on their own in the deck. Courser of Kruphix is fantastic with Mastery of the Unseen because you can manifest a card main phase or not depending what is on top of your deck, or choose not to manifest at all, if the card on top is important. This may be the best place for Courser of Kruphix which is saying a lot. The other big creature worth noting is Polukranos, World Eater. With so many ways to manifest it is important to have great creatures that can secretly be manifested and flipped up to great effect. While almost every deck in the format has an answer to Polukranos, World Eater, this card is an absolute necessity. The deck plays very little removal besides the one Banishing Light, so this is basically the primary form of removal. It is also a creature that adds to the devotion count, which allows it to have other uses. Remember that it is possible to monstrous Polukranos, World Eater for a relatively small amount, so that if your opponent does cast a removal spell in response, you can then monstrous Polukranos, World Eater again.
There is a lot going for this Green/White Devotion deck, but there are also some major issues it presents to the Standard format moving forward. The biggest issue is the mirror match. If a lot of players pick up this deck the mirror is a very real possibility, and unfortunately it is very difficult to win a mirror match in a timely fashion. In fact, a far as I know the only mirror matches that were played in the swiss rounds of Grand Prix Miami, didn't finish the first game. This makes the proposition of picking up Green/White Devotion for a big tournament more of a challenge, unless there is some card that could be added to the deck, which would end the game faster. Green/White Devotion is a great a home for Mastery of the Unseen but it also isn't the only home.
Going into Grand Prix Miami I was not taken by surprise by the rise of Green/White Devotion, because there is another deck I have been working on, along with platinum pro Chris Fennell and Forrest Mead, who played the deck in Miami. Mastery of the Unseen happens to be an enchantment, which means that it could potentially go into a constellation themed deck. Let me say before showing the list that the deck is actually very good, and even though some of the cards have essentially seen zero play in Standard up until now, I recommend trying the deck out. Here is Black/White Constellation:
This is basically a Black/White Constellation and Soul Sisters hybrid. There are eleven two-drop creatures, which means that the deck can have aggressive starts, but also has late game power with Mastery of the Unseen.
Going into some of the card choices, the best two-drop is Underworld Coinsmith. The lifegain is very relevant against any aggressive deck like Monored or Red/White, which are both very good matchups for this deck. The lifegain also triggers Ajani's Pridemate, and there are plenty of enchantments to continually gain life, unless Underworld Coinsmith is dealt with, and they are absurd whenever you draw multiples. Another important note is the two points Underworld Coinsmith contributes towards turning on Athreos, God of Passage is far from irrelevant. The activated ability of making each player lose a life, is great at finishing games out, especially versus control.
Seeker of the Way shouldn't need too much explanation, as this card is the best white two-drop in a vacuum and gains life to trigger Ajani's Pridemate. Speaking of Ajani's Pridemate, this card is just super fun to abuse. It can become huge very quickly in this deck, and at worst is usually a 3/3. Even Scoured Barrens makes Ajani's Pridemate bigger, not to mention Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Lightform, or Mastery of the Unseen. It is certainly possible there should be four copies but we wanted to cut a two-drop and weren't sure which one there should be one less of, and it ended up being Ajani's Pridemate.
The deck has a variety of threats, and can keep up the pressure, which is why the control matchups are very good. Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Athreos, God of Passage are both great against control. When playing Blue/Black Control a turn three Brimaz, King of Oreskos can be troublesome if you don't have the immediate Hero's Downfall. Athreos, God of Passage is even more difficult to answer, and it makes trying to kill your creatures a more daunting task. Oftentimes a manifest creature will die with Athreos, God of Passage in play, and this can allow you to get back manifested spells like Citadel Siege and Sorin, Solemn Visitor.
The four-drops are what make the deck tick. You always want to be playing Citadel Siege or Sorin, Solemn Visitor on turn four. Sorin, Solemn Visitor is so obviously great in this sort of deck, the only reason that there aren't more is that it is competing with Citadel Siege. Both Khans and Dragons are important modes for Citadel Siege. More often than not it is correct to choose Khans and start making large guys, but there are other times when locking down an opposing creature is just awesome. Since the deck doesn't play a ton of removal, just permanently answering a threat from Rakshasa Deathdealer, to Mantis Rider, to Pearl Lake Ancient can be great. Also, there will be times when two Citadel Sieges are drawn and it is correct to put one on Khans and the other on Dragons. Since other Sieges have been getting attention Citadel Siege has been overlooked a bit, but this card is very strong.
The deck does have a Constellation theme, and runs Doomwake Giant. Doomwake Giant is very well positioned, it is just hard to find a home for the card. Not only is Doomwake Giant your best card against the red deck, but it can destroy the Green Devotion decks. Versus Devotion you really want to draw multiples to be able to just wreck their board. Doomwake Giant is even important versus Abzan Control because of how important wiping away tokens from Elspeth, Sun's Champion is. The deck tries to play a bunch of enchantments to make Doomwake Giant and Underworld Coinsmith better. A card like Banishing Light is important as both a removal spell for troublesome permanents like Outpost Siege, and a way to trigger constellation.
The deck can play in a number of different ways, but at its core the deck is a black/white grind it out style deck. This may not be as great a home for Mastery of the Unseen as in the Devotion deck, but Mastery of the Unseen is still fantastic here. The deck has a bunch of cards that are difficult to deal with, and cards like Back to Nature have fallen out of favor. The sideboard is geared towards just crushing other midrange decks, as while this deck doesn't have any bad matchups, game one versus Abzan Control can be tough. Bloodsoaked Champion is great against any controlling deck that doesn't put much pressure on you.
Black/White Constellation is very good right now, and not on anyone's radar. This is a deck I recommend picking up now, and perhaps it could get even better with the introduction of Dragons of Tarkir. Mastery of the Unseen is a card that should be on people's radar moving forward, and makes playing a true control deck that much scarier.
Thanks for reading,