Some people's favorite part of Magic is the deckbuilding and metagaming, the part of the game that happens at home. Not me. I live for the tournament hall, for the actual games and matches themselves. Instead of wanting to find some sweet new technology to break a mirror, I want to find a new way to sequence the same 75 cards to gain an edge. Knowing the best way to play with and against the commonly played cards of a format is critical to winning.

The Dragonlord Silumgar Dance

My favorite play in Standard right now is declining to activate my Planeswalker. It's such a classic goof, oh-woops-I-forgot, but lately it has been unambiguously correct to let your walkers take a breather. Not that they are tired of course, but rather that you need to ensure all the hard work you're doing to inspire their loyalty doesn't get subverted by Dragonlord Silumgar. A game where your planeswalker's ultimate is stolen by your opponent is very difficult to win. Sure, ideally you leverage a minus ability in these spots rather than do stone nothing, but sometimes that's just not possible. Nahiri, The Harbinger's minus two ability doesn't always have a target. Giving a +1/+1 counter to your team of one with Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is generally not that big of a deal. Instead of taking these minor advantages it's often better to keep your Planeswalker near ultimate, threatening to go all in on it once your opponent commits their Dragonlord Silumgar.

If having to pass on using your Planeswalkers somehow doesn't sound appealing to you, the good news is that this is more or less only a game one conundrum. Post-board it is correct to take out most Planeswalkers in decks that run very few ways to remove a landed Dragonlord Silumgar. Sadly, being unable to consistently tick towards ultimate makes most of the commonly played Planeswalkers more of a liability than an asset against Dragonlord Silumgar. The big exception to this is Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. The intersection of costing only three mana and having an easily manipulated loyalty gives Nissa, Voice of Zendikar a lot of play against Dragonlord Silumgar. You want to minus with her early and often in these matchups, keeping her loyalty low enough that even if she is stolen you will easily be able to strike her down yourself. Turn three Nissa, Voice of Zendikar can use her plus one ability once and her minus two ability twice before Dragonlord Silumgar even has a chance to show up, clearing her from the board before she becomes a liability.

Managing Duskwatch Recruiter/Krallenhorde Howler

Duskwatch Recruiter has a good case for being the power uncommon of Shadows Over Innistrad, providing a huge late game card advantage engine at little cost. Krallenhorde Howler is solid and plays his role admirably, but Duskwatch Recruiter is definitely the more exciting side of the card. That being said, we would much rather have Krallenhorde Howler up in the early game, where spending three mana to possibly get a card is generally a poor idea and having your creatures cost one less mana is very good. The dilemma of the card then is that of a flip card whose sides we would love to reverse.

The first flip is the easy one: eventually, one player will pass without playing a spell. Both of the major decks playing Duskwatch Recruiter have access to powerful instant speed effects and will find themselves incentivized to pass anyway. The trick to the card is managing the flip back. I have watched multiple Bant Company matches where the board is stalled. Nothing is getting through on the ground, both players have no cards in hand, and the Bant Company player very clearly wishes that their Krallenhorde Howler was showing the other side. Despite that, they keep casting the spell they draw each turn to make marginal inroads at gaining board advantage. Instead, in positions like these, start hoarding spells drawn until you have two you can chain together to flip your Krallenhorde Howler. Even if your opponent immediately passes back, you have an upkeep to get some activations in and pull way ahead in cards. And it doesn't have to reach the point of empty hands either -- most often, you can see when a game is heading for a board stall. Hold some inconsequential creatures in your hand to ensure you are able to flip your Krallenhorde Howler when the time's right.

Lambholt Pacifist, the Assassin

I've told multiple people that Lambholt Pacifist is basically a Standard legal printing of Tarmogoyf, and that's an incredibly hyperbolic statement that I can't really stand by. However, I do think Lambholt Pacifist is underrated right now. The W/G archetype in this format is interested in having a formidable defensive board presence with which to protect its Planeswalkers, and Lambholt Pacifist delivers this in spades. Further, the W/G deck is obscenely good at having a four-power creature (worth noting that Lambholt Pacifist can turn herself on if she is augmented to four power). Nissa, Voice of Zendikar's minus two, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar's plus one or minus four, a Dromoka's Command counter, Archangel Avacyn (full stop) — the list of enablers is quite extensive. Lambholdt Pacifist is even fantastic on its own in interactive blue matchups, where they are forced to play a spell on their turn or face the Lambholt Butcher. This makes it hard for them to leave counter magic up, clearing the way to resolve your Planeswalkers.

Specifically, I've been having great success using Lambholt Pacifist to pressure opposing Planeswalkers, most important among them Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. Finding three power to deploy to the board on turn two is not exactly easy in this format, and it's the minimum number you need to represent a meaningful threat to Planeswalkers. Take a look at this scenario: you're on the draw, but your opponent has stumbled slightly and their first two lands entered the battlefield tapped. You have a turn two Lambholt Pacifist, and your opponent deploys Nissa, Voice of Zendikar on turn three. On your turn three, you use Dromoka's Command and your attack step to clear your opponent's board. Dealing with a turn three Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is not easy, and this plausible line let it happen on the draw. On the play, you don't even need your opponent to stumble. Dromoka's Command and Lambholt Pacifist is a match made in heaven, and the combination pressures Planeswalkers like no other.

A Dromoka's Command Trick Inventory

Dromoka's Command is a powerful and flexible card, and one that players are used to by now. That flexibility gives Dromoka's Command a ton of play, and as the cards around it shift in the format, the relevant tricks it can perform change. Take Dromoka's Command's role as an anti-burn spell protection card for your important creatures. Previously, you could use Dromoka's Command to save a creature from a burn spell, but you would lose out to a second such burn spell. But now the main red based decks take one of two routes: Lightning Axe/Fiery Temper, or Pyromancer's Goggles/ Fall of the Titans / Fiery Impulse. In both of these cases, they have to commit both of their burn spells before you can play your Dromoka's Command. This means that to beat your trick, they would have to target the same creature twice and lose value. Most times they won't, and you can use Dromoka's Command to Nullify the burn spell you care more about. If you're really fortunate, you get to effectively counter both burn spells with the prevent and +1/+1 counter modes. This interaction is particularly great against a copied Fall of the Titan, as they need to declare four different targets. Odds are you will get to effectively save three targets with your prevent and counter modes. This effect has caused me to leave in more copies of Dromoka's Command against red-based creature-light, removal-heavy decks than before because Dromoka's Command got better against red removal.

Last but not least, the intentionally poor fight trick. Sometimes, you really want to pick a fight you are going to lose. Dromoka's Command lets you do that. In the past, this was often used to keep your Deathmist Raptor in the graveyard in response to removal that would exile it (in response to your Complete Disregard, I'm going to fight my Deathmist Raptor and your Siege Rhino). Deathmist Raptor sees less play, so this comes up less often. However, the trick is still super relevant in the fight against Ormendahl, Profane Prince. Sometimes you are way ahead in a game, but they managed to summon Ormendahl, Profane Prince and leave him on defense, and there's nothing you can do about it. Nine power of lifelink is absurdly hard to have an effective offense against. Swinging for the fences, letting them block, and having the creature blocked by Ormendahl fight something else that it will lose to stops the lifelink and lets you end the game. Note that you can't fight your own creatures with Dromoka's Command, so your opponent needs to have a creature of sufficient size.

Thanks for reading,