It's rotation time, ladies and gentlemen. Out with the old and in with the new. The two decks that didn't lose much of anything are UR Mill and GW Hardened Scales. I want to go over those two decks, what we lose from them, and possible replacements. After that I'll look into a couple of brews.
First up let's look at UR Mill
Like we talked about before, this deck doesn't lose much. Maindeck the only things we lose are Temple of Epiphany, Radiant Fountain, and Anger of the Gods. Out of the sideboard we lose Annul but that's not a big hit. We might be forced to just play Mystic Monastery and we can then replace the Radiant Fountains with basic lands, Evolving Wilds, and a couple of Blighted Cataracts. We then run into the problem of Anger the Gods. What can replace that? Well Radiant Flames seems to be the best thing but we'll need to play a third color to get the three damage consistently. If we don't want to do that we can just play Radiant Flames anyway and run a full playset of Mystic Monastery and a Prairie Stream to fetch up. If we do want to add a third color then the question is if we want black, green, or white as our third color. Black offers Crux of Fate / Languish, Dark Deal, Ultimate Price, Read the Bones, Duress, and Virulent Plague for the sideboard. Green gives us some possible Fog effects and Gaea's Revenge out of the board. White would give us End Hostilities, Jeskai Ascendancy, and possibly Monastery Mentor out of the board. I'm personally just going to go with old faithful and give you a straight UR list.
Not too much of a change. Just cut Pyromancer's Goggles since they don't play well with Radiant Flames or Brutal Expulsion. I've also added the second Alhammarret's Archive because I feel like you just always want one every game. It's so hard to lose once you get the Archive onto the battlefield. If Hangarback Walker becomes a really big thing we will need to look into the possibility of just going green for Fogs or going black so we can cast Complete Disregard. We could just play Touch of the Void but that card just so slow because of it being a sorcery.
Keep a lookout for this deck; it will be popping up since some people don't really like to build new decks.
Next up is the GW Hardened Scales deck.
The Scales deck loses Gather Courage, Gods Willing, Temple of Plenty, and Mana Confluence. The lands aren't a big deal because we can just replace them with Canopy Vista. Out of the board we lose Hunt the Hunter but that's okay because devotion decks are no longer a thing so we don't need to kill Elvish Mystics and Voyaging Satyrs anymore.
This is where my GW Hardened Scales deck would start.
Not too much difference. The deck did however gain Undergrowth Champion which could be a decent addition. The only problem is you really want to play him when you can also play a land to get value out of him immediately. In this deck though you probably can't afford to wait around, so jamming it right away could be the right call. Especially if your opponent has already wasted removal on your other creatures. Removal overall got worse which is good for this deck. The only problem is we also lost Unravel the Aether so that makes Hangarback Walker harder to deal with. Luckily Aerial Volley can also help with that.
Keep an eye out for the GW Hardened Scales, GW Collected Company, UR Mill, and Esper Dragons. Those decks haven't lost too much from rotation.
Now I'd like to brew up some new decks. We all know that aggro tends to be the best deck for the first month or so after a set is released because nobody quite knows what's good. If everyone is stumbling with their new cards and strategies well, aggro always plays the same way. It tries to get you down to zero as soon as possible. So my first brew is a deck that doesn't go to zero life easily. In fact it does the exact opposite and gains as much life as possible. I'm so high on life right now!
ALL THE LIFE GAIN!!! In fact you can gain so much life that you win the game, thanks to Felidar Sovereign. Keep in mind this deck isn't fully tested but it's a good start for it. I'm sure it needs some tweaks here and there but the core seems to be good. Let's break down some of the card choices.
Retreat to Kazandu: I wanted this card to help us live as we cast our ramp spells. Having a single Retreat to Kazandu out turns a fetchland into gain three life instead of lose one life. That's actually pretty huge, and if you have multiple out the life gain can get out of hand pretty quickly. On the other hand this card might not be needed at all. Only playing with the deck more will tell. If this card is not needed we can run more ramp and add an Ulamog, another Ugin, or another Great Aurora.
Felidar Sovereign: This card is a core part of the deck. This is what makes our control and midrange opponents care about our life where they would normally ignore it. Against aggro decks Felidar Sovereign can just end the game by itself. Who would have thought it? A 4/6 lifelink, vigilance creature is good against aggro decks.
Animist's Awakening: Half of our deck is lands so statistically we should get half the mana we invest into this spell as lands. However, if you're a good Magic player you should hit all of the lands! And of course you're a good magic player, right?
Explosive Vegetation: A simple ramp spell that helps us go from four lands to six since that's when we start casting our haymakers. A nice spell to have.
Dragonlord Dromoka: This card is very good against control and aggro for obvious reasons. The matchups where it's bad are midrange but even then it's a 5/7 lifelink flier and most midrange decks struggle against fliers.
Planar Outburst: This may just need to be End Hostilities if awaken is prominent. If not then this slot is much better as Planar Outburst since we ramp and it can allow us to leave behind a 4/4 Elemental.
Nissa's Renewal: Sphinx's Revelation for lands. I would be playing more of this card but we are already getting so many basics out of our deck. Not only that but we also have a lot of six-drops and I don't really want to run more than one at the moment.
Nissa's Pilgrimage: A Cultivate for Forests. Nothing really to talk about here, it's a ramp spell and we want it.
The Great Aurora: This card can act as another win condition. Especially after we've cast our Explosive Vegetations, Nissa's Pilgrimages, and Nissa's Renewal. The reason being the ratio of lands to spells becomes higher on the land end which is very good for this spell. The only reason you might not want to play this card is if you want to run Stasis Snare or Quarantine Field maindeck. You could also cut The Great Aurora for a different win condition maindeck like Ugin. I just feel like The Great Aurora fits perfectly here since we have thirty lands maindeck. Feel free to test and change what works best for you!
Originally I wanted to run Oblivion Sower in this deck but when you cast The Great Aurora the lands go back into your opponent's library and that's a nonbo with Sower so I opted to not run him.
Now let's talk about Ulamog, shall we?
This is the most all in deck on Ulamog I can think of. Technically you could run Frontier Siege and From Beyond but you need some sort of early interaction. This deck is already lacking a lot of it. I was going to run From Beyond in this list but I believe it's too slow for this particular deck. This deck has no real way to grind you out; instead it's just trying to win the game by casting Ulamogs or Ugins as fast as possible and Explosive Vegetation helps us get there quicker than From Beyond. Hedron Archive is a nice way to ramp and then later trade it in for a couple of cards. Is Nissa's Renewal better or worse than Oblivion Sower? Do we want to run a Conduit of Ruin with Void Winnower and trim the number of Ulamogs? Is that better? I honestly couldn't tell you right now. I'm just trying to get your juices flowing. I don't have nearly enough games under my belt to say which is better right now, especially not knowing what the metagame is going to look like. So you guys and gals should test this out and get back to me!
The last deck I want to talk about is another ramp deck. This one not so much all in.
This deck isn't all in on Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger but it has some other very strong cards as it builds up to Ulamog. Siege Rhino is obviously a very good card and one that can just win games by itself. Abzan Charm can act as removal or card advantage. Hangarback Walker is a nice roadblock against aggressive decks and it can also take over a game by itself. From Beyond is never a bad top deck and doesn't get exiled by Ugin like its cousin, Frontier Siege. The rest of the cards should speak for themselves. This deck is what I'll be testing next week and I'll get back to you with my results. I have a feeling that you probably just want one Ulamog in this list, but my starting list will have two.
Well that's it for today. Next week I'll have some more brews for everyone. I want to find a home for Omnath and I also want to build some control decks. Narset, Sarkhan Unbroken, and Sarkhan, the Dragon Speaker all got better after rotation since we lost Hero's Downfall. Is the best ramp deck one with Shaman of the Forgotten Ways and Kiora, Master of Depths? I don't know yet, so make sure to read my next article to see some sweet new decks and by then I'll have more games under my belt!
Until then, check out Freshly Brewed, a podcast where Frank and I discuss many things Magic with a lot of fun banter in between.
@AliEldrazi on Twitter