Jeskai Humans, Orzhov Afterlife, and Simic Counters
Ravnica Allegiance is totally bonkers.
To me, it feels like we have pivoted away from the old and into the new. As I continue to emerge from the doldrums of a stagnant Standard meta, and begin to fully embrace a complete Shock and Buddy land format, I find myself digging deeper into the possible competitive archetypes. I feel like our pool of cards to brew from has not been this fresh, nor exciting, for years. I have been pouring through the spoilers and brewing. I've been trying to find the most exciting archetypes that I think may have an immediate, and profound, impact on LandSayGo's favorite format - Standard. Follow along with me.
Humans are back in a Big Way!
Hero of Precinct One is an intimidating card. It reminds me of the earth-moving impact Monastery Mentor and Young Pyromancer had on the game of Magic. Sure, it's just a 2/2 for 2 mana that generates tokens when you cast multicolored spells, but I want you to stop and think about where we are right now in Standard...Hmmm. Is it possible that the designers of the game have intentionally crafted the release of this card to kick start a new humans archetype? That's the direction I'm going, but more importantly the cast trigger this card produces creates a creature barrier for "non-creature" decks. In a format where we have Ionize and Absorb on curve, this card represents a shift in possibilities. Shocks and Buddies.
Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that the first direction we take the Hero is to create the simplest of decks - creature aggro. Let us also "hypothesizzle" that the most effective way to build this aggro deck is to leverage the creature archetypes which compliment the Hero - humans. What can we produce from some engine searches in the human archetype? Here is a sneak peak at a couple of cards that you will find in my finalized Jeskai Humans list coming this Friday - hopefully this gives you inspiration and food for thought:
"Going wide" is one of two distinct fundamentals in creature decks, the other being "going tall." A go-wide strategy is what the Hero suggests we do, but there is more to a 3-color humans deck than just finding and playing multicolored creatures. There are varying degrees of commitment to the multicolored strategy to consider. There are varying opinions on the amount of creatures, and the amount of multicolored non-creature spells to consider. We also have to take into consideration whether or not four copies of the Hero is enough to build an entire deck around? From a competitive standpoint, we have to have other answers and mechanics built in to conquer the meta. From a logical standpoint, a creature based aggro deck may not be the perfect use of Hero of Precinct One when all cards and combos in #Standard are taken into account. But I think it's a great start...
This Friday, I will be sharing a Jeskai Humans brew that I believe will see play after the release of Ravnica Allegiance. So, the review of this archetype will be a little light compared to the two following as I am trying to save you from spoilers so you can enjoy the deck review. Stay Tuned!
Orzhov Vampires will make a run at top spots in Competitive Standard.
It feels like I've been banging my head against a wall trying to make Elenda, the Dusk Rose great. Ixalan dropped, we got all these great white and black vampires, Rivals of Ixalan dropped, and we got this wonderful mythic in Elenda, but she was constantly overshadowed by The Scarab God, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Glorybringer. As Ravnica Allegiance continues to unveil itself, and Orzhov solidifies its presence in Standard, Elenda promises to finally live up to her potential. Not only do we get more in the way of Orzhov support, but more specifically, some insane interactions between multiple new cards leveraging new abilities and strategies to make a black-white Vampires-esque deck competitive, to say the least.
The new Afterlife ability creates some valuable interactions with Elenda, we are gaining traction for token strategies, and forcing our opponent to exile her before we can create possibilities for ourselves. I think it all starts with Teysa Karlov. We start getting some scary trigger stacks when we are benefitting from both Afterlife and Elenda. Sure, Teysa is designed specifically to create more BW Spirit tokens when creatures with Afterlife die. The game is simplistically designed to support drafting environments, limited tournaments, and single set games. Pulling a timestamped Teysa at Pre-Release would be awesome; given the pool of commons and uncommons we have to work with, she might be considered a bomb. Then again, in a limited environment, I might me much happier with Seraph of the Scales.
Seraph of the Scales is the bees knees. Mana efficient, deadly, and capable in combat, we also get some wacky value when Teysa is in play. 4 flying spirit tokens when she dies? Wacky. Even a cute little common like Imperious Oligarch becomes a formidable threat when Teysa is giving us additional spirit tokens, your opponent may not want to block her, but they will, and Elenda will get a plus one plus one counter - two if Teysa is in play. The synergy is powerful. Let's look at possible line that gets me really really excited. Let's say we are playing against an aggro deck, and our opponent is curving out well, and turn seven or turn eight the stars align for us. We are running several creatures with Afterlife, and we Kaya's Wrath on our main phase - it doesn't get countered. We wipe the board, gain X life, where X is the number of creatures we control, and get a bunch of BW flying spirit tokens. Teysa.
Here is another card that intrigues me. It gives us options for recursion, and also showcases a really strange (in terms of Magic history) burn style spell in Revenge. I'm gonna go ahead and throw this out there: Revenge may be the best "burn" spell ever printed. Six mana to remove half of my opponents life total, and double my life total? Um...am I wrong here? Loss of life is categorically more difficult to mitigate than damage. Revival is also nothing to sneeze at. There are plenty of 3 cmc creatures that fit into Orzhov, Esper, and Abzhan (even monoblack and monowhite) shells in Standard. We will see this card being used. I would recommend that you flesh out your copies while the price is still bottom dollar.
I have high hopes for various versions of Orzhov decks now that we have a complete spoiler of Ravnica Allegiance. If you can't tell yet, this article is acting as a primer for my upcoming brews over the course of the next couple of weeks. Again, stay tuned, and submit your very own Orzhov lists for a chance to be featured on the site!
There's a new Ooze in town!
Get out your journals and mark down this date in your Magic: The Gathering history. Biogenic Ooze will be taking its time, slowly consuming the molecules of its victims, getting stronger, and hungrier, and more vicious. Simic Counters will be a thing in Standard. I don't know how efficient a plus one plus one counter strategy would be in Draft and Limited formats without some decent luck in pulls, but in a constructed meta, I can see it being very competitive. We will have to see how things shake out. I can tell you that we have pieces in place right now with Biogenic Ooze that make this card an engine all to itself. I will take a deliberate approach here and say I may be on "the hype train" right now, but I think we should look at the combo pieces before dismissing my energy and enthusiasm.
One need look no further than Adanto, the First Fort to see how effective paying for tokens can be in our current Standard format, and in the case of Adanto, we are paying for tokens in white - not a color known for mana production. Exciting possibilities are abound with Biogenic Ooze. Let's take a look! Biomancer's Familiar! This creature helps us solve the problem of Adapt being an otherwise slow and possibly "bad" ability. The familiar speed things along, turning good cards into great cards by allowing us to adapt more than once and reducing the cost of our adapt trigger by two colorless mana. More ooze tokens!
Growth-Chamber Guardian and Biomancer's Familiar are like peas and carrots (if peas and carrots were actually a delicious 5-inch deep lasagna with lots of ricotta cheese, sausage, and mozzarella). I mean, Growth-Chamber Guardian is very powerful without a familiar in play, but becomes totally nuts when they are paired together - one green mana for an instant speed permanent buff and a creature tutor? Whaaaaaat? I am predicting that this card begins to dominate Standard; that cards like GCG see control decks beginning to run Unmoored Ego to deal with the threat. On curve to the Ooze, we have Zegana, Utopian Speaker. She gets big fast, she is incredibly cost efficient, and she pairs perfectly again with a Biomancer's Familiar. She is a "total house," as DBoe would say - she even has the furniture inside the house to boot.
I digress. Let's get back to the Ooze, and an uncommon that makes some serious Magic happen (woo - sick pun!). Wilderness Reclamation has the brewing scene abuzz. Here at LandSayGo, we have been spitting out decks capitalizing on being able to effectively double our mana resources during our end step. Biogenic Ooze allows us to pay mana for additional 2/2 ooze tokens that end up catching a buff from Daddy-Ooze's endstep trigger. With Wilderness Reclamation in play, we can organize the triggers as we see fit, and double or triple up on ooze tokens prior to the plus one plus one counters being placed. It's the type of stuff dreams (or nightmares) are made of. Multiple copies of B-Ooze and Wilderness Reclamation make for some total hilarity at end step.
Adapt with a Biomancer's Familiar online feels unfair in testing. Growth-Chamber Guardian is a complete all-star in constructed testing thus far - I would not be surprised in the least if this card skyrockets in both deck appearances and price. The deck list we have produced in testing for Simic Counters has been off the wall awesome - a total haus! Depending on how we feel this week you may see the Ooze seeping from LandSayGo before the Jeskai Humans list is showcased. We shall see...
Much More Coming!
In the coming weeks we will be dropping several hot brews, and when Ravnica Allegiance hits the streets expect DBoe and Jeremy to be out there pounding pavement bringing the ruckus at #FNM. Wednesday brings us a brew, Thursday brings Episode 10 of The Main Phase Podcast, and Friday yet another fresh brew hot off the LandSayGo presses!
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