With Oath of the Gatewatch only a couple days from being legal for Standard play, it seems like a good time to talk about some new brews inspired by cards from the set. There are certain cards that seem to enhance archetypes already in existence, and others may be able to start completely new strategies. Personally I really want to see a Superfriends strategy do well. While there weren't that many legal planeswalkers in Standard, perhaps now there are enough for the Oaths to be strong enough for Standard play.
My goal when building this deck was to select which Oaths I wanted to use in the deck, or figure out if it is possible to play all of them. Ob Nixilis Reignited is an expensive planeswalker that I really wanted to fit in as well, but unfortunately there is not a black Oath. Wizards planned it this way, as it makes it difficult to fit in everything you want to play in a Superfriends deck. Sorin, Solemn Visitor is also worth taking into account as a potential source of life gain.
To start off, the Oath with the most significant impact of the three on planeswalkers is Oath of Gideon. Coming into play with an additional point of loyalty is very relevant, and the tokens generated have uses as well, even if just for chump blocking. Oath of Nissa is clearly a useful tool for only one single mana, and is very likely to at least find a land, if nothing better. Oath of Nissa also can help include more colors on the surface of the card, but in reality this plan doesn't work when Oath of Nissa isn't drawn. Oath of Jace is a very strong card on its own. Oath of Chandra is most simply a removal spell, that can end up dealing a bit if damage too. Each of these cards is a role player though and needs to have the correct planeswalkers to support them. In the end it was too difficult to build a deck that can support all four Oaths, but I do believe three is quite doable.
Here is what my version of Oath Control looks like:
This is my current version of Jeskai Black Superfriends. Clearly the only color missing here is green which does mean that neither Oath of Nissa, Sarkhan Unbroken, nor Nissa, Voice of Zendikar are present here. While I did want to include green initially there were a couple flaws in that plan. Oath of Nissa is very hard to cast on turn one without a manabase revolving around doing so. The main reason why you do want to play it on turn one is to find a turn two Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. In addition, without an Oath of Nissa on the battlefield playing Nissa, Voice of Zendikar on turn three was very difficult to do. I do believe that there is a green based Superfriends deck which can be built though it doesn't want to also play Crackling Doom.
This list maximizes the potential of both Oath of Jace and Oath of Gideon. Both are very strong turn three plays that help set you up for the rest of the game nicely. Oath of Jace is particularly good at fueling delve spells like Treasure Cruise and Murderous Cut, so discarding two cards isn't too big a drawback, in fact Oath of Jace is better in this deck than something like Painful Truths. Not having to pay three life to draw your cards is a big deal, but beyond that the ability to scry over the course of a game can make a big difference. There are only two copies of Oath of Jace because, while there are ways to discard excess Oaths if they are drawn, it is still pretty annoying to draw multiples. Similarly there are two Oath of Chandra as the card is not more than a role player, though the damage it provides does add up.
Playing an Oath is actually the best possible turn three play and Oath of Gideon is what really makes the deck as powerful as it is. The planeswalkers are the primary win conditions and threats in the deck, and it is actually not very difficult to get them to go ultimate. Being one loyalty closer to an ultimate is super nice, as is being able to ultimate Gideon, Ally of Zendikar immediately, without it dying. Overall the planeswalkers really swing the late game in your favor. There is a three-to-one split between Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Sorin Solemn Visitor. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar has already been proven to be very powerful, but I don't think you want four. Sorin Solemn Visitor can give creatures lifelink when your life total is in danger, but sometimes there aren't enough creatures in play for this to be that relevant. However, against certain decks, ultimating Sorin, Solemn Visitor can practically win the game on its own.
Looking at the more expensive planeswalkers, the primary reason for wanting to include black in the deck is Ob Nixilis Reignited. This is a card that has been seeing more and more play in Standard recently, and for good reason. This deck doesn't play as many one-for-one removal spells as traditional versions of Jeskai Black decks do, but Ob Nixilis Reignited can be used as a removal spell. This is a planeswalker that can also draw cards, and really break serve in many of the midrange matchups. This isn't just a Superfriends deck, it also draws a ton of cards, making its late game spectacular. Chandra, Flamecaller is actually very similar to Ob Nixilis Reignited in many ways.
Chandra, Flamecaller is a card that has gotten very mixed reviews early on, and honestly it seems good in very specific decks, if you can use it properly. Here it can be used as a way to filter cards in your hand, a form of mass removal, or a way to pressure the opponent. None of the modes on the card are absurd, but over a couple of turns the advantage Chandra, Flamecaller provides really adds up. The other red planeswalker here is the single Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, which is a great way to pressure opposing planeswalkers. This is another planeswalker that is noticeably close to going ultimate with an Oath of Gideon in play.
Clearly there are a wide range of planeswalkers here, not even considering when Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is able to successfully flip. The deck really just wants to reach six mana and enter the late game. Once you get to six, Linvala, the Preserver factors into the equation as a way to really swing the game around. This is a deck that is seemingly always on the back foot for the first few turns, until suddenly the game swings and the opponent has no chance of coming back. Linvala, the Preserver is perfect in this sort of deck as a way to boost your life total and make the opponent use their resources to deal with her. There are twenty seven lands here because of just how important hitting each land drop is in order to get to the late game. In many ways this deck is similar to traditional Jeskai Black, it just has a different plan to win the game.
A lot of the spells in the maindeck and sideboard are the same ones seen in Jeskai Black lists, and the manabase is similar to a traditional Jeskai Black deck too. These removal spells are the best that Standard has to offer and are necessary in order to have a chance to make it to the later stages of the game. There are matchups where the Superfriends deck is not set up as well as traditional Jeskai Black, but after sideboard you can take out expensive planeswalkers for more forms of interaction. Overall this deck is pretty cool, and preys on midrange strategies, while having some difficulty with combo and aggro.
This isn't the last you will see of Oath of Jace! I have really wanted to build a Reanimator deck and Oath of Jace provides an additional way to loot. While there aren't actually a ton of ways to bring back creatures to play from the graveyard, there are enough to give the deck legs.
Here is what my current version of Dragon Reanimator looks like. I really like the direction this deck is going in, though it is not yet a finished product. The idea of bringing back absurdly large and powerful creatures from the graveyard has been around for a very long time. Recently though, there have not been many serious attempts to make a Reanimator-style deck work. Since Oath of Jace provides another discard outlet, alongside Tormenting Voice and Jace Vryn's Prodigy, I decided to give the deck a shot. In addition, later in the game Chandra, Flamecaller can be another discard outlet to help make sure there are going to be plenty of creatures in the graveyard.
The creatures start with the Merfolk Looter in Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, but then the rest are big expensive guys worth reanimating. There is quite a large selection of big creatures to choose from in Standard right now, many are Dragons and Eldrazi. The issue with the Eldrazi is that there is generally a big bonus upon casting the creature, rather than when the creature comes into play. For instance when looking at Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, is the card strong enough if it doesn't come into play and exile two opposing creatures? The answer is that against some decks it may be good enough to win the game, but in other situations it may just trade for a spot removal spell. Also, the dragons can be hard cast fairly easily, unlike some of the larger Eldrazi. This is why I decided to go the dragon route.
We have seen dragon-based decks similar to this one before, though not generally based on reanimating the dragons. The primary plan is in fact to bring a dragon into play from the graveyard on turn five, like a Dragonlord Atarka, which is two turns earlier than it normally would be cast. This deck could have a mana accelerant like Rattelclaw Mystic, but in the end it doesn't seem necessary. Going from costing seven to essentially being five mana and coming into play with two additional counters seems good enough. The creatures aren't terribly expensive, as Dragonlord Atarka is the most expensive of the dragons here, but that doesn't mean the reanimation theme isn't worth it.
The deck doesn't need to have a dragon in hand in order to make Draconic Roar a good card for the deck. There are no copies of Silumgar's Scorn since that card is tough on the mana, and you actually want to dump dragons like Dragonlord Atarka into the graveyard rather than hold them. Fearsome Awakening is clearly the best way to bring back a dragon from the graveyard, as the two bonus counters
make bringing back even a five-casting-cost dragon better than hard casting it. If Fearsome Awakening is unavailable or spell mastery is turned on, alternatively we have Necromantic Summons as another form of reanimation. This deck has two different plans of attack, the first is to Reanimate a dragon, and the second is hard casting one; both are very reasonable.
Thanks for reading,