Last week, we discussed potential updates to existing Standard decks using the new cards from Ravnica Allegiance. Now that we can view the full set, we're getting a clearer picture than ever as to how the new Standard format will look – and it's pretty clear we're going to see brand-new archetypes emerge.
In the meantime, however, there's no reason to completely jump ship from what you've been playing for the last three months, especially if your existing deck can be upgraded. While you're working on getting your hands on all the new Allegiance cards you'll need, looking for ways to improve the power level of the decks you have built right now is a good way to get stuck into the format straight away.
Last week, we talked about Mono-Red Aggro (or Black-Red, if Rix Maadi Reveler has its way), Golgari Midrange, Boros Aggro, and Jeskai Control. Today, we're going to round out our survey of existing Standard archetypes by investigating which recent previews might fit into other established decks.
Most Mono-Blue lists play Essence Scatter as a one- or two-of, and in a deck that only plays basic Islands, Essence Capture is a clear upgrade on Essence Scatter. While Essence Scatter isn't a centerpiece card in Mono-Blue, Essence Capture still improves the overall power level of the deck, and at virtually no cost.
The usually-restrictive UU mana cost isn't even close to a downside in this deck, and furthermore, Mono-Blue should have a creature in play to benefit from the +1/+1 counter (ideally turning Mist-Cloaked Herald into a more respectable threat). I can't think of any reason for Mono-Blue to play Essence Scatter, now that Essence Capture is on offer.
Conversely, I don't think Quench has a place in Mono-Blue Tempo. The list already plays Spell Pierce, principally as a cheap countermeasure to opposing interaction, and Wizard's Retort - which, with eight main deck Wizards, is often an Actual Literal Counterspell. Quench is somewhere in between these two cards and does a poor job of emulating both of them.
Spell Pierce is an excellent tempo play, allowing you to deploy a threat and defend it on the same turn – much like Dive Down. Wizard's Retort is a late-game hard counter that can be used either proactively or reactively as the game stretches on, once a few Tempest Djinn will be enough.
Quench doesn't really do either of these things. It's too expensive in the early turns and too conditional in the later turns. As a result, I don't think Quench will become a regular inclusion in Mono-Blue, as it does a poor job of splitting the difference between two existing staples.
This is the sort of addendum card that offers two incredibly powerful and useful roles, and I expect it to see play in go-wide aggro decks moving forward. Protecting your creatures from sweepers is obviously a powerful effect – but traditionally cards like Heroic Intervention haven't been all-in mainstays of aggressive decks due to their conditional nature.
Unbreakable Formation changes that. Cast as an instant, it counters Deafening Clarion, Cleansing Nova and the brand-new Kaya's Wrath – not to mention helping you survive tricky combat steps (and hopefully kill them on the crackback!). Giving your creatures indestructible is very powerful, of course, but it's also very narrow – and that's where the addendum comes in.
Casting Unbreakable Formation as a sorcery – especially when ahead – is going to put so many games beyond the reach of your opponents. If you've ever attacked with the team after the third chapter of Song of Freyalise, you'll understand what's at play here - indestructible and vigilance combine to make any attack "free." This mode on Unbreakable Formation mitigates the conditional nature of its instant-speed effect and pushes this card well into the realm of playability - expect to see it in any and all go-wide white aggressive decks, Selesnya in particular.
I'm interested in testing out this card in Selesnya. Thorn Lieutenant isn't the most impressive two-drop in Selesnya Tokens – the 2/3 is a good blocker against opposing aggro decks but Thorn Lieutenant rarely makes more than one token. Opponents don't usually target it unless it's going to die, and even then generally just wait to remove it with a sweeper.
Hero of Precinct One, however, threatens to assemble quite an army. A significant proportion of Selesyna Tokens is multicoloured – Flower // Flourish, March of the Multitudes, Trostani Discordant, etc. – and so triggering Hero of Precinct One is not going to be too difficult. In the same way that Emmara provides incidental token value by rewarding you for playing your natural game, so too may the Hero.
I'm not sold on it, as Thorn Lieutenant may just be better due to its increased stats and useful lategame ability. Nonetheless, it definitely warrants further investigation and I'm sure I won't be the only one checking to see if Hero of Precinct One can pass the muster as a part of Selesnya Tokens.
Bedevil is a slam-dunk inclusion to any Black-Red deck that isn't in the business of all-out aggression (where it's likely too slow). An unconditional answer to almost any threat in Standard – with the important exception of Experimental Frenzy – Bedevil has an incredible pedigree and will certainly see Standard play.
Grixis Control is a perfect deck for this card, as it's looking for unconditional, efficient removal – exactly what Bedevil is. Blood Crypt improves Grixis' mana base, meaning casting Bedevil on time shouldn't be too much of an issue, and just as Hero's Downfall played a huge role in Theros Standard, it's safe to assume Bedevil will follow in its footsteps.
Currently, Grixis Control decks play quite a robust creature suite, with cards like Nicol Bolas, Doom Whisperer, and Dream Eater. Should the deck ever want to move away from creatures - perhaps to further blank opposing removal – Captive Audience might actually be the way to do it.
This card will end the game pretty quickly, has an immediate impact (odd, for a seven-mana enchantment), and is difficult to remove. Of course, it does cost seven mana, but it's not unreasonable for a hard control deck to use an expensive card like this as a win condition. I've always been a huge fan of creatureless control, and if we see cards like Kaya's Wrath make contesting the board a near-impossibility, diversifying Grixis' threats will be a useful way to stay ahead of the competition.
Conversely, moving into a more midrange space by adding more hard-hitting creatures might prove to be an attractive prospect, and Skarrgan Hellkite offers terrific flexibility between both proactive and reactive gameplay. Any card that offers such a wide range of options is always worth a second look - flexibility is one of the most valuable attributes a Magic card can have, especially if it's already very powerful.
Hasty five-mana 4/4 Dragons have done good work in Standard in the past (Stormbreath Dragon, Glorybringer), and when you don't need immediate pressure, this card can get in for five a turn and manage opposing creatures. I'm not claiming this card is a game-changer for Grixis decks, but it's an option to remember should the format converge towards a midrange slugfest.
This card is aptly named, as it describes its own chances of seeing play in Izzet Drakes. It's a powerful effect – don't forget that Impulse sees fringe play in Legacy – and offering such powerful card selection at a relatively low cast is no joke. Shimmer of Possibility is sure to see play in slower blue decks, but is it a good fit of Izzet Drakes?
The very clear downside of Shimmer of Possibility when set against something like Discovery // Dispersal is that it doesn't put cards in the graveyard. Chart a Course, Radical Idea, and Discovery all fuel the graveyard, allowing you to bin Arclight Phoenixes and fuel your Drakes. Shimmer of Possibility doesn't do this.
Nonetheless, it offers premium card selection, digging very deep indeed, and as a result shouldn't be summarily discounted from seeing play. As it stands, Izzet Drakes has some flex slots that get filled with everything from Quasiduplicate to Deafening Clarion, so perhaps it's possible that Shimmer of Possibility is added just to firm up the deck's consistency.
Despite the hype around this card, I still don't see it – not in Jeskai Control and not in Izzet Drakes. What's the play – spend four mana to deal two and cast Chart a Course? I get that it can happen at instant speed, but I'd rather just spent two mana on a Lava Coil and then cast my Chart a Course the usual way.
Another strike against this card is that Izzet Drakes often wants to play a sorcery-speed game, so as to trigger any Phoenixes in the graveyard – instant-speed removal loses a lot of its utility (although, to Electrodominance's credit, it does "cast" two spells). I see how Electrodominace becomes insane at higher casting costs - spending six mana to deal four and play a Crackling Drake seems excellent, but… six mana. I'm out on Electrodominance.
In what will become a recurring theme for Izzet Drakes, I'm also out on the next potential card. Scorchmark is just a work Lava Coil, and as discussed, this deck is not as interested in instant-speed gameplay. Scorchmark does hit opposing Phoenixes, which is important, but being able to kill everything from Jadelight Ranger to Crackling Drake is what makes Lava Coil a standard staple, and Scorchmark isn't about to change that (in Izzet Drakes, at least).
Surely a deck that's interested in cheap spells and filled with evasive creatures is the perfect home for Light Up the Stage? Once again – no, it's not. Light Up the Stage, despite being a sorcery, will generally be cast in the post-combat main phase, at which point it's too late to trigger Phoenixes. It's such a shame, too, as a one-mana Divination would otherwise be the perfect companion of Arclight Phoenix, but putting these cards in the same deck will, for the most part, be like trying to force two magnets together at the wrong end.
With Ravnica Allegiance almost upon us, a whole new world is about to open up. There will be new decks, for sure, but the starting point we have for this format is all the decks that already exist. Upgrading those decks with these new cards will give you leverage on an unsolved format and pay dividends in taking advantage of everyone unfamiliarity with this new territory. Best of luck to everyone playing in prereleases – good luck in getting your hands on the new incoming staples!