Warriors, Come Out to Play!

Posted in Perilous Research on September 18, 2014

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 back to Perilous Research, DailyMTG.com's exclusive Magic Online column. This weekend, Magic players around the world will head to their local game stores to participate in the Khans of Tarkir Prerelease. Khans of Tarkir promises to be one of the most exciting Magic sets ever and Prereleases give us the opportunity to be among the first to play with the new and exciting cards. Today, we'll be discussing a powerful new deck for Standard with Khans of Tarkir in preparation for the upcoming format.

Earlier this week, on ChannelFireball.com, I discussed an aggressive black strategy for the new Standard that takes advantage of powerful new cards like Bloodsoaked Champion. This strategy has been discussed ad nauseam over the last few days, but a lot of players have questioned the viability of Warriors as a subtheme to the aggressive black strategy. Today, I'd like to discuss the different ways we can go about building a Warrior deck for the upcoming Standard format.

The most obvious route for the Warrior deck is straight white-black. By playing two colors, we get to reliably cast Chief of the Edge and Chief of the Scale on the second turn while still being able to cast our one-drops on the first turn. Also, by keeping the deck straight white-black, we massively increase the power of Athreos, God of Passage. Athreos is one of the more powerful cards in the new Standard format thanks to its newfound devotees in Khans of Tarkir. We can experiment with a third color later, but the two-color version of the deck should give us the cleanest and most consistent game plan available.

Athreos, God of Passage | Art by Ryan Barger

We want our Warrior deck to be as aggressive as possible. Cards like Chief of the Edge encourage us to attack our opponent's life total. The first thing we'll need is some one-drops.

Tormented Hero is an obvious inclusion. We get a 2-power creature for one mana that can occasionally pick up some upside if we're able to target it with something.

Bloodsoaked Champion is a winner. It's a 2-power creature for one mana that keeps on coming, even when the opponent is able to get it off the table. Draws that involve multiple copies of Bloodsoaked Champion will be especially frustrating for opponents armed with spot removal instead of big blockers.

Gnarled Scarhide may not be a Warrior, but it's still a 2-power creature for one mana and sometimes we'll get additional value by using the bestow ability to essentially give it haste. Bestowing on Tormented Hero lets us drain the opponent for 1, and using it on Bloodsoaked Champion makes a large body the opponent will often be forced to use a card on even though we'll get both cards refunded.

I thought about Soldier of the Pantheon, and it's definitely the best one-mana creature in Standard. Unfortunately, we won't be playing enough white lands that come into play untapped to make it a serious consideration as a turn-one play. Once we start looking at two-mana cards, we have a lot of powerful options to choose from.

Chief of the Edge and Chief of the Scale are both efficiently costed creatures that happen to make a huge portion of the deck's creature base better. Chief of the Edge is an obvious four-of in any aggressive white-black deck as a 3-power creature for two mana that often gets in for a point or three the turn it comes down. Chief of the Scale gives the deck a lot of resilience to cards like Drown in Sorrow, makes blocking much less profitable for the opponent, and powers up the devotion we'll need to turn on Athreos, God of Passage.

Mardu Skullhunter seems like a winner to me. We'll always be swinging, and this guy gets us a card while also giving us a 2-power Warrior. We can pump this up, it contributes to our devotion, and we'll never be down on cards in the process. We can think of it as the Warrior's Silvergill Adept.

Athreos, God of Passage should make the game tremendously difficult for our opponents. They'll have to be losing huge chunks of life to keep our forces at bay and our deck has plenty of devotion to turn on Athreos, God of Passage so we can start pounding away for 5 points of damage at a time.

We can expect a lot of midrange green decks in the new Standard and we'll need a way to deal the finishing blow in these matchups. Mogis's Marauder seems like the perfect card for this situation. We don't need to play too many copies in our main deck, but we can include the rest of the set in our sideboard for the matchups where it's most important.

Spear of Heliod may not be the easiest thing for the deck to cast, but the first copy has a ton of upside so we'll only play one. It's especially good when we're trying to get to seven devotion for Athreos, God of Passage.

For spells, we'll want four copies of Thoughtseize because it allows us to deploy our aggression with perfect information while plucking cards like Anger of the Gods out of our opponents' hands. Hero's Downfall seems like a great way to fight Planeswalkers and large green creatures alike. We'll also want access to Bile Blight in our sideboard for the token-based strategies.

Return to the Ranks is another awesome sideboard option for a deck like this, especially against decks with sweepers that aren't Anger of the Gods.

Here's our finalized list for White-Black Warriors:

Athreos's Warriors by Jacob Van Lunen

Download Arena Decklist

The White-Black Warriors deck is fast. In fact, it's capable of winning a lot of games on the fourth turn, even while it's Thoughtseizeing and casting Mogis's Marauder. We can expect this to be a real archetype in the new Standard, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was one of the breakout decks of the Pro Tour.

Some people may not be satisfied with the straight-up white-black version of the deck, though. There are a lot of fun and exciting cards for us if we put red into the deck. Suddenly, we're no longer looking at a deck based on Athreos, God of Passage and Mogis's Marauder. We'll have other ways to close the long games.

One of the most exciting inclusions possible in the three-color Warrior deck is Tymaret, the Murder King, who happens to be a Warrior of epic proportions. This card gives us the ability to end games out of nowhere. It applies constant pressure to the opponent's life total, and it's a nice way to kill Planeswalkers with Bloodsoaked Champions if the opponent has a blocking force on the ground and we're getting in with an airborne Butcher of the Horde.

Goblin Rabblemaster is the most well-respected Warrior in all the land right now and I don't expect that to change. This card combos nicely with Stoke the Flames and it also happens to be a Warrior in addition to its already impressive stats.

We'll be playing Chief of the Edge here because it's just an incredible card, but Chief of the Scale won't be worth our time. We're not working for devotion anymore and our deck has become less Warrior-centric in the process. We can play War-Name Aspirant as a two-drop that's easier to cast than Chief of the Edge and also attacks for more damage when we're drawing well.

Grim Haruspex lets the deck go off with Tymaret, the Murder King or Butcher of the Horde. We can get value for sacrificing our creatures and draw cards to replace them. This also lets us attack and block much more aggressively because we'll be given cards to replace the ones we lose.

Butcher of the Horde is a spectacular card and I'm extremely excited to be playing it in virtually whatever. It's awesome against green decks that are often weak in the air. It's not an enchantment, so it's going to survive a lot of the cheap removal people will be playing. It combos with our other cards in multiple ways. It's also a 5-power flier for four mana, so there's that.

Stoke the Flames has a ton of obvious synergy with our deck and we'll obviously be playing four copies. We'll round out our spells with a copy of Ride Down, which is a card I really want to try out, and a pair of Mardu Charms, which is one of the most impressively versatile and exciting cards in the new set.

Here's the final list for Mardu Warriors:

Mardu Warriors by Jacob Van Lunen

Download Arena Decklist

This deck isn't as fast as the straight white-black version, but it has a lot of longevity as the game progresses and it's able to attack from more diverse angles. I think the white-black version is definitely stronger going into an unknown field, but the Mardu versions of the deck can adapt to the metagame and will likely become better as they're tuned to perfection in the wake of Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir.

This weekend is the Khans of Tarkir Prerelease. Don't miss your chance to be among the first in the world to play with the new cards! Make sure to contact your local gaming store to secure a spot at the Prerelease. I'll be representing the Sultai at Gamer's Gambit in Saddlebrook, New Jersey, at the midnight Prerelease. I'll probably be playing in a few more events over the course of the weekend, too. See you there!

Knowledge is power!

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