Core Set Musings

Posted in Building on a Budget on July 6, 2011

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

The Magic 2012 Core Set Prerelease is this weekend. The new core set looks very powerful and very fun. There are also a lot of interesting shifts in the basic strategy of the game as a result of Magic 2012. I'm excited to see what the new Standard environment might look like after Magic 2012 is introduced into the metagame. The full card list goes up at the same time as this article, so I can't predict the upcoming metagame with perfect accuracy, but you can see it now in the Card Image Gallery on the Magic 2012 Minisite.

Rampant Growth will be reintroduced to the Standard metagame. This may seem nonthreatening at first, but Rampant Growth will reliably allow people to cast their Titans a turn earlier than they would have otherwise. Titans will probably be the endgame plan of every competitive non-combo deck that isn't trying to win by the fourth or fifth turn. The Titans do a lot of work. They live through Dismember, the most important removal spell in Standard. They also have a powerful effect upon entering the battlefield. Someone playing against a Titan may have a removal spell in hand, but by the time he or she can cast it, the Titan will have already netted some amount of card advantage for its controller.

Being a strong Sealed Deck player has often been largely dependent on one's ability to hold removal for powerful late-game monsters that people had built their entire game plan upon. In M12, however, many late-game monsters have powerful "enters the battlefield" abilities. This probably means that people playing M12 Sealed would be well advised to build and play their decks with a more aggressive school of thought. In Constructed, this will make countermagic better, particularly hard counters. Most decks that want to cast Titans will have the ability to ramp their mana and eventually get completely out of Mana Leak range.

Valakut decks will be very happy with the new Sandard landscape. Rampant Growth is a huge addition for them. Chandra, the Firebrand will probably make an appearance here also. Remember, you don't have to sacrifice a second land when you copy a Harrow. People might -2 their Chandra and search their library for four untapped lands. This is a powerful interaction that will allow Valakut players to kill people without their Primeval Titans. Valakut also has access to Slagstorm and Pyroclasm, two cards that make things very difficult for swarm-based aggro decks. The deck also plays green, so it will have access to things like Obstinate Baloth and maybe even a few Pelakka Wurm after sideboarding. This will make things very difficult for red players. All of these factors, in conjunction with the deck's very fast clock, will make Valakut the deck to beat for the first week of the new Standard. The good news is that if you want to beat Valakut, you can beat Valakut. Flashfreeze, Spreading Seas, and other resource denial spells are worthwhile tools that should keep Valakut honest and fair.

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

I'm not gonna lie, I'm terrified of the post-M12 red deck. It's got Lightning Bolt, Grim Lavamancer, Goblin Guide, Incinerate, Koth of the Hammer, Chandra's Phoenix, and Searing Blaze. I played a Zoo deck at an Extended Pro Tour (Valencia) that wasn't close to this power level... and it had an awful four-color mana base to boot. The power of the red cards is going to encourage a lot of players to pack huge sideboard packages. Will this be enough? We'll find out very shortly. I suspect the Dismembers in every deck are a fad at best, as most players won't willingly Flame Javelin themselves to deal with a creature—unless, of course, those players are playing red and need an effective answer to Kor Firewalker.

One strategy that is known to do well against Red is Vampires. The Vampire deck gains a decisive edge with cards like Bloodghast and Gatekeeper of Malakir.

Visions of Beyond is obviously a staple for Legacy dredge decks. In Standard, Pyromancers will be happy to add another cantrip for a single blue mana to their decks. The fact that it's an instant makes it a fine spell for Pyromancer Ascension even if it only draws one. Luckily, the Pyromancer deck is good at sawing through a large quantity of spells at a fairly quick rate. This creates an interesting kind of Cruel Ultimatum countdown where players playing against Pyromancer will be counting cards in graveyards constantly. The moment a Pyromancer gets to twenty cards in the graveyard, he or she starts casting Ancestral Recalls. Generally speaking, whoever is casting Ancestral is usually winning the game.

Smallpox is a very powerful card that can only be used to good effect by decks that have been built to take advantage of it. If your opponent is sacrificing a creature and you're not, then you're breaking even. Now it's time for deckbuilders to figure out how they can get ahead with this one. Smallpox became a huge part of Standard the last time it was printed, and creature-based strategies have only gotten more popular since then.

Birthing Pod decks will be very happy about the addition of Solemn Simulacrum. I don't know what it is about this card. It's not the most powerful card in the world, but it never goes later than third pick in a cube draft. It really is one of the most fun cards ever printed. It's a truly exciting experience the first time you play with it. You get to do so much stuff! In Birthing Pod decks, though, Solemn Simulacrum will be an absolute beast. The amount of cards you will net in the process of casting or "podding" up a Solemn will be well worth the effort. It easily chains into Acidic Slime, and it sets you up to have a very solid mana advantage throughout the game.

Birthing Pod

I'm also interested in the future of White Weenie. Magic Core Set 2012 gives white weenie players a few new toys. Grand Abolisher is great for those who hate it when other people interrupt them. Guardian's Pledge may not look like much, but a three-mana Overrun shouldn't be underestimated. The set is also littered with reasonably costed white creatures. White Weenie looks well-poised to become the new Equipment deck of choice. The next few weeks will tell us whether or not it has what it takes to be a tier one strategy.

Grand Architect strategies may also welcome Solemn Simulacrum. Mindslaver seems like a great anti-Valakut tool, and dropping a Wurmcoil Engine should be good against just about everything else. This is one of the most powerful cards available to deckbuilders right now. Now that blue decks aren't forced to build around Jace, the Mind Sculptor, we may see a lot more Grand Architect–based strategies pop up.

One of the most exciting cards to me is Swiftfoot Boots. People are going to be very surprised by the power level of this card. My favorite interaction here has got to be Kuldotha Forgemaster. The Swiftfoot Boots will let you activate your Forgemaster right away. This is going to let you do some pretty crazy things if you have Wurmcoil Engines and Voltaic Keys in your deck.

I was very excited to see the reprinting of one of my all-time favorite enchantments. Rites of Flourishing is an awesome enchantment that can easily result in Fog locks. Turbo-Fog strategies have popped up from time to time in Magic's history. These strategies use underpowered cards that let both players draw large numbers of cards. They depend on the opponent's deck being mostly comprised of creatures. The opponent may draw tons of creatures, but if you're drawing three or four cards per turn, you can virtually guarantee that you will have a Day of Judgment or Fog effect every turn.

Let's take a look at what a modern Turbo-Fog deck might look like. Rites of Flourishing hasn't been talked about much since it was previewed and I feel like it might be one of the most fun cards in the new set. Let's start by taking a look at the reasonable Fog effects that are available in the current Standard format.

Fog: This is perfect. I couldn't ask for a better Fog. There have been many imitations over the years, but the original will work just fine.

Safe Passage: This does a lot more than just Fog. Valakut players are going to have a very difficult time killing you through a few of these.

Safe Passage

Tanglesap: This is a two-mana Fog that doesn't work on Primeval Titan. It's not exactly what we're looking for, but it may have to do.


The other Fog effects available in Standard have mana costs too prohibitive to include them in this deck.

The deck will need to include a full four copies of Day of Judgment if it wants to function properly. Turbo-Fog strategies need "reset buttons" to act as additional Fogs. Day of Judgment is so important in this type of deck that you'll probably want to include a few extra board-sweeper effects just for value. I'd probably play a Phyrexian Rebirth or two... or three.

Noxious Revival is a card that I've really been itching to play with. I've already brewed up a budget Legacy deck that I've got in my back pocket for a rainy day. Standard Turbo-Fog would be very happy to include a card like Noxious Revival.

Noxious Revival

Luminarch Ascension seems like it would be the perfect victory condition for a deck like this. It's one of the better win conditions we've seen in some time and it fits perfectly into this type of strategy. Luminarch Ascension doesn't have much time left in Standard, but I'm sure it will see some play in future Extended tournaments. It's also important to note that a lot of Turbo-Fog games will end because your opponent runs out of cards. (They draw first off the Rites of Flourishing and you put cards on top of your library with Noxious Revival.)

Luminarch Ascension

Once we mash everything together the deck looks like this:

Turbo-Fog 2011

Download Arena Decklist

This deck shouldn't have a problem with straightforward decks. Enchantment removal is quite strong against us, and, new format depending, that may be something that sees some play in the near future. I'd try taking this deck for a spin if you've never gotten to play with Turbo-Fog. It's an interesting approach to the game that can teach a player a great deal about the inner workings of different archetypes and strategies. The strategy is fundamentally weak against planeswalkers and probably won't be competitive in a planeswalker-heavy field, but deck is a lot of fun and it absolutely demolishes creature based strategies.

Make sure to look up the location of your local Prerelease. The new core set is filled with powerful and exciting cards. Prereleases are some of the best places to get into competitive Magic. Judges and players won't be overly nitpicky about clean play, and it gives you a good feel for the tournament environment. Most players will be excited about their first chance to play with the new cards. Playing games with the new cards and hearing stories about how a certain card was used can often spark some great ideas that lead to truly fantastic Constructed creations. The best part about the Prerelease is the friend-making opportunity it presents. I've met some (all) of my best friends through Magic tournaments.

Go check out the Magic 2012 Card Image Gallery and start brewing up your own creations. Shoot me an email or hit the forums with any ideas you might have for future budget archetypes. I'm always excited to read your ideas and feedback.

Happy brewing!

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