Power, Nostalgia, Innovation, Bravery

Posted in NEWS on July 10, 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. We're almost there! There being the Magic 2015 Prerelease events that will be held around the world this weekend. Magic 2015 may be the most exciting core set of all time. Over the last few weeks, we've been introduced to powerful new cards like Ajani Steadfast; Nissa, Worldwaker; Jace, the Living Guildpact; and Garruk, Apex Predator. Finally, after days that seemed like years, we'll have an opportunity to play with them. Prerelease events offer us a special opportunity to be among the first to battle with these new cards. Magic 2015 takes us on a journey through the planes we've visited in the past. Today, in the spirit of Magic 2015, we'll be exploring Magic Online's latest innovative strategies from a number of different formats.

Power

We should be excited for Magic 2015 because it's powerful.

Looking at a card like Ajani Steadfast, it's easy to get excited about the possibilities of Magic 2015. The raw strength of the set's cards are sure to have a major effect on Constructed Magic. Speaking of power, Vintage Masters has reintroduced the world to Vintage through Magic Online. Vintage features the most powerful decks of any Magic format by a large margin. The hive mind works quickly, and over the last few weeks, the Vintage format has changed dramatically as thousands of new players have gained access to cards like Black Lotus and Ancestral Recall.

Let's take a look at what might be the most powerful deck of them all:

Vintage Oath by Dain5 (4–0)

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Vintage Oath is a powerhouse. Like many Vintage strategies, the deck has access to turn-one victories with Time Vault and Voltaic Key. The true power of the deck comes from Oath of Druids, which, in conjunction with Forbidden Orchard, allows the pilot to search up Griselbrand and put him directly onto the battlefield. Once Griselbrand comes down, the game is essentially locked up. Any spell that might attempt to kill or disrupt Griselbrand or the pilot will be met with Griselbrand activations to find Force of Will. Once a player untaps with Griselbrand, the world is her or his oyster. We can expect Oath of Druids decks to remain a major force to be reckoned with in the Vintage format going forward.

Nostalgia

We should be excited about Magic 2015 because of nostalgia.

In Magic 2015, we'll visit the planes of Magic's past and remember the fond times therein. The return of Slivers, among many others, warms my heart. Looking back, as it turns out, can also teach us something.

Rewind to 2009. I was defeated. I had fallen off the Pro Tour and I had lost in the finals of the last two PTQs I played in. The Extended PTQ season was starting the next weekend and I wasn't sure what to play. Elves, the Extended deck I had grown comfortable with, was proclaimed dead by the masses. My friends encouraged me to play Elves anyway, convincing me that I didn't need Birchlore Rangers to win with the deck. To pick up the slack, we employed a card that had previously been employed by Sam Black and friends in their Pro Tour Berlin Elves deck: Cloudstone Curio. We drove to the first PTQ of the season and I promptly lost Round 1 to a homebrew featuring Chalice of the Void and main-deck Darkblast. Luckily, I won my next eleven matches and secured a qualification for Pro Tour San Juan.

Vintage Masters has had a rippling effect on the popularity of Magic Online's formats. Vintage players who have recently joined the legions of loyal Magic Online players have taken a liking to the less-powered eternal format and breathed new life into Legacy as well. Let's take a look at the newly resurrected Elves!.

Natural Order Elves! by CrisaoSilva (4–0)

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Elves has its ups and downs, but the newest versions of the deck are tremendously powerful in a format that's moved away from combo strategies in favor of more consistent victory. Elves plays a lot of inexpensive creatures that produce mana in conjunction with Glimpse of Nature to draw through a large portion of the deck quickly and efficiently, leaving itself with a full grip and Natural Order ready to end the game.

In the past, Elves decks have struggled to win within a reasonable amount of time, especially on Magic Online. Going off with the deck feels like playing speed chess at times. Natural Order solves this problem beautifully, though. With Natural Order, there's no gimmick—we simply cast it, put Craterhoof Behemoth onto the table and attack our opponent for lethal damage. Post-board, we can add Progenitus against the decks that can't kill us quickly; Ruric Thar, the Unbowed for decks like Storm; and Worldspine Wurm for non-white decks with a lot of removal. There's no doubt that Elves will continue to evolve with the format.

Innovation

We should be excited about Magic 2015 because of our opportunity to innovate.

There are a lot of cards being talked about at length, but some of the set's most interesting spells still seem to be under the radar. For example, Heliod's Pilgrim finds Underworld Connections, Chained to the Rocks, Gift of Orzhova, Unflinching Courage, Ethereal Armor, and many other powerful cards in the current Standard format. Hammerhand seems like a very nice inclusion in the Tom Ross hyper-aggressive versions of the Red deck. Nissa, Worldwaker combos quite nicely with Darksteel Citadel, which is conveniently in the set.

The velocity of innovation is what sets Magic apart from other games. The game is in a constant state of flux, wherein an unplayable deck from one week can be format-dominating the next. The powerful cards of Magic 2015 open up a lot of opportunity for innovation. Recently, Modern has become a lot more fair. The combo decks had such success that everyone started jamming their decks full of disruption. The combo decks reacted by slowing down and becoming more interactive themselves. This opened the door for a less obvious permanent-based control strategy to be successful. Let's take a look at how JB2002 is changing Modern.

Azorius Control by JB2002 (1st Place)

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Three weeks ago, this would have seemed like it was unplayable, but the Modern format is about trading cards for single cards these days and this deck plays some very powerful cards. The deck absolutely demolishes Affinity and other aggressive creature strategies while having access to a strong control game plan against the combo decks. Detention Sphere positively interacts with cards like Birthing Pod that might be otherwise be impossible for a control deck to deal with outside of chaining Cryptic Commands to bounce and then counter. Consecrated Sphinx is a card that has been overlooked for some time now. Plucked from history, Consecrated Sphinx may actually be the best six-drop in Modern. Especially when we're talking about a deck that plays this many inexpensive/interactive spells. It seems like this deck may still be a bit weak to Splinter Twin strategies, but there's a lot to be learned from this and we can be sure that a lot of the lessons here are applicable to the format at large.

Bravery

We should be excited for Magic 2015 because it gives us an opportunity to be brave.

We can go against conventional wisdom and take the new Standard format by storm with an exciting new strategy that was scoffed at during its inception. An established format, especially a smaller format like Standard or Block Constructed, can be a difficult place to be our own person at times. There are established decks that we all know have what it takes to compete at the highest levels of competition. We need to be brave. It's hard, sometimes, when all of our friends are steering us toward mainstream decks. Today's Standard is ready for change, the format is extremely diverse, but it's hard to break the chains of the established archetypes this late in the game. Ohsnap overcame the stigma of difference in a recent Standard Daily Event with an exciting strategy reminiscent of the powerhouse Junk Unburial Rites decks of last year's Standard:

Big Junk by OhSnap (4–0)

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OhSnap's Big Junk deck fills the graveyard with powerful cards via Grisly Salvage and Satyr Wayfinder. Once the graveyard has a bunch of goodies, cards like Obzedat's Aid and Whip of Erebos allow the pilot to start dropping bombs turn after turn. I've tried putting huge monsters into play with Obzedat's Aid and failed more than I'd like to admit, but I was missing the key to success that OhSnap discovered.

We become a more consistent strategy by playing mana acceleration and big targets that cost five instead of eight. We don't need a way to fill our graveyard because we can just cast Obzedat, Ghost Council on the third turn of the game. Being able to cast our spells makes this deck run smoother than previous incarnations ever could. The best part about this deck is that, despite its rogueness, all of the cards are exceptionally powerful. Control decks will have fits trying to deal with an endless stream of Obzedat, Ghost Council; creature decks will have to contend with a deck that goes slightly bigger at every stage of the game; and burn strategies will be helpless in the face of excessive amounts of lifegain. Will this become a major archetype with the release of Magic 2015 and cards like Garruk, Apex Predator? Only time will tell.

Magic 2015 is poised to be the most exciting core set ever. Be sure to preregister for your local Prerelease Event to secure a spot. In the coming weeks, we'll see how these powerful new cards will affect existing metagames. Join me as we keep our fingers on the pulse of ever-changing formats.

Knowledge is power!