Heretical Stirrings (Pro Tour Magic Origins Standard Primer)

Posted in Perilous Research on July 30, 2015

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

Welcome to Liliana Week here at Perilous Research! We're just hours away from the beginning of Pro Tour Magic Origins, and everyone is eagerly awaiting the latest Standard technology. Today, we'll be examining the current state of Standard in preparation for this weekend's Pro Tour. Standard has found itself in an interesting place as we enter the fray in Vancouver. Let's take a look!

Standard got weird over the last week. Players finally started going deeper down the respective rabbit holes available with new cards from Magic Origins, and the format has quickly warped itself. This last week has showcased an exciting range of new decks that are available with the inclusion of Magic Origins.

As illustrated by last weekend's Standard Open in Richmond, the format is still a wide open playing field. Many of the format's expected top dogs performed well, but the real story of the tournament was the success of new and innovative strategies.

Liliana, Heretical Healer had been written off by a lot of deck builders who made false assumptions about its power level in the current format. These underestimations were blown out of the water last weekend, when Ray Tautic proved the card's value by piloting an innovative Abzan strategy to victory in a big Standard field.

Let's take a look at what's been winning in Standard over the last week!

Ray Tautic—Abzan Rally— Standard Open Richmond Winner

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One of the most exciting innovations from last weekend is Ray Tautic's Abzan Rally deck. The deck aggressive plays its creatures with reckless abandon, often staying ahead of opponents by chaining effects from Fleshbag Marauder and Merciless Executioner. The deck gains a ton of longevity from Deathmist Raptor and leans even harder on that theme by playing Rally the Ancestors to return a huge swath of creatures that should be strong enough to take over the game. The deck seems very strong in a field that doesn't have a lot of token production or focused speed, and its ability to find a line to victory through seemingly unrealistic board states is very exciting. The deck has the most exciting and intricate interactions with Collected Company that we've ever seen in Standard, often creating a huge draw engine, a planeswalker, or multiple removal spells from a single use of the powerful instant.

Christopher Calhoun—Abzan Control— Standard Open Richmond Top 4

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Languish is a good card, especially when we're playing Siege Rhino and Tasigur, the Golden Fang, which conveniently go over the top of it with 5 toughness. Abzan Control strategies have sat on the backburner in recent months, but Languish solidly establishes the strategy as a tier 1 game plan once more. Nissa, Vastwood Seer provides a new source of card advantage that secures land drops and forces opponents to deal with an interesting angle of attack—one that can be especially frustrating for the new breed of control decks. We're seeing a lot fewer hard removal spells than we were before Magic Origins, and Siege Rhino and Tasigur, the Golden Fang both operate very well as flag bearers to clear the way for Dragonlord Dromoka to come down and threaten 10 life point swings against the more aggressive decks in the format.

Todd Anderson—Bant Heroic— Standard Open Richmond Finalist

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Bant Heroic didn't pick up any new toys from Magic Origins, but it does benefit a great deal from a wide open format. The deck has, in the past, struggled with Self-Inflicted Wound, and will still have trouble in the face of those types of effects. But most decks are eschewing those cards for newer, flashier choices, which opens the way for Bant Heroic to dominate. Dromoka's Command has become quite a bit stronger against the new Standard, both as a removal spell and in its ability to generate two-for-ones.

Robert Vaughan—Sultai Control— Standard Open Richmond Top 8

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Jace, Vryn's Prodigy seemed like a great angle for Jeskai Token strategies last week, but the card is quickly being adopted by a whole host of strategies that are starting to recognize how powerful a two-mana looter is in a format with cards like Dig Through Time, Murderous Cut, and Treasure Cruise. This deck seems like it may suffer some consistency issues, but it's going to be difficult to beat someone in the long game when their entire game plan hinges on chaining copies of Dig Through Time together. Remember, strategies like this have won a lot of big Standard tournaments over the last few months.

Adam Bialkowski—Dragon Combo— Standard Open Richmond Top 8

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The most exciting strategy to come out of last weekend's Standard festivities has got to be Bialkowski's Dragon Combo deck, which uses the less popular version of Atarka to win games seemingly out of nowhere. Think about it: Atarka, World Render wins the game in a single attack for 24 when paired with Xenagos, God of Revels. Surrak, the Hunt Caller also does a pretty nice job of getting a giant double striker into the red zone as quickly as possible. See the Unwritten finally has a plan for ending the game immediately here.

John Taylor—Abzan Constellation— Standard Open Richmond Top 8

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Herald of the Pantheon may seem a bit gimmicky, but constellation strategies have been doing well enough without the card for some time and it seems reasonable to believe that adding a two-mana creature that wildly supercharges the deck would change things quite a lot. Now, the deck applies long term pressure that actually has the ability to literally go over the top with Sigil of the Empty Throne, as opposed to merely drawing a ton of cards that often would get stranded in hand with Eidolon of Blossoms alone. Starfield of Nyx provides another angle of longevity, and Kruphix's Insight pushes even further in that direction. The current lists for this deck are trying very hard to have enough action, and it seems like they could afford to be a bit more early game-centric when they're headed to the Pro Tour.

Jim Davis—Blue-Black Control— Standard Open Richmond Top 16

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Hangarback Walker continues to be one of the most powerful sleeper cards from Magic Origins. Thopter Spy Network operates both as a win condition and a card advantage engine for new control strategies. There's still a large camp of people that believe Dragonlord Ojutai to be the superior victory angle for control, and that card may pick up traction as we head into the Pro Tour, with so few spot removal spells floating around that actually kill the legendary Dragon.

Jun74—Goblins—4-0 Magic Online Standard Daily

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Goblins has actually been winning quite a bit in initial Magic Online Standard events with Magic Origins. The deck seems like it could have a lot of trouble with the Languish decks, but the generalized strategy of playing inexpensive/efficient creatures alongside burn and pump spells seems like a great recipe for success. Goblin Piledriver may return to its old glory after all.

Thetezzerator—Red-Green Devotion—4-0 Magic Online Standard Daily

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Red-Green Devotion strategies still seem like the top dog coming into Pro Tour Magic Origins. There was a lot of wackiness at the top of the standings at the Open Event in Richmond, but Magic Online has presented us with a more stable world—a world where Red-Green Devotion is putting up more 4-0 finishes than any other Standard archetype. Gaea's Revenge gives the deck a new angle of attack against the control opponents, and Dragonlord Atarka still does a very good job of beating everything that's trying to be cute.

flamyblade—Jund Delve—4-0 Magic Online Standard Daily

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Gather the Pack isn't a card that many thought would get much traction. It's a card that wants us to play enough creatures to guarantee hits, but it also wants us to play enough spells to pick up two cards. This version of Jund tries to strike a balance where it uses Gather the Pack as a Commune with the Gods that fills the graveyard while smoothing draws and occasionally being a great card advantage engine, usually in the mid-to-late stages of the game. This deck looks like a pile of some of the most powerful effects in the current format, and the prospect of strong disruption, removal, and threats is always something that demands a lot of respect.

Adrionus—Abzan Aggro—4-0 Magic Online Standard Daily

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Traditional Abzan Aggro decks are experiencing a decent amount of success in early Magic Online events in this Standard format. It's still unclear whether the streamlined lists are preying on loose new concoctions, but Abzan Aggro is definitely one of the most important decks to watch at Pro Tour Magic Origins. The archetype has done tremendously well at virtually every Pro Tour since the release of Khans of Tarkir, and we shouldn't be surprised to see the deck find a way over the top of Languish.

Magic Origins has already turned Standard on its head. Tomorrow, the greatest players in the world will converge in Vancouver, Canada, to battle in Pro Tour Magic Origins. All the action will be streamed live right here on DailyMTG. Don't miss your opportunity to be a part of the height of Magic competition. What deck would you play at Pro Tour Magic Origins?

Knowledge is power!

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