Up and Down Standard: Hour of Devastation

Posted in Top Decks on July 17, 2017

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

Standard is evolving rapidly, and the release of Hour of Devastation is going to shake things up, in part thanks to Hour of Devastation. Because Hour of Devastation is a small set, we are going to see a lot of the established decks remain as part of the format, though there will be winners and losers. Let's run through some of the decks that gained or lost ground and the cards that made that happen.

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There are two distinct flavors of Oketra's Monument decks, and combined they are one of the most popular archetypes in Standard. These decks use the Monument to power out tons of white creatures and flood the board with a variety of resilient threats and powerful creatures.

Mono-White Oketra's Monument

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The mono-white version has a better mana base and more Angels, playing more like big midrange deck than anything else. The Thalia's Lancers package is a powerful one, and assembling Brisela is a very real dream. This deck isn't as popular as the next version, which is the evolution of the original mono-white list.

Blue-White Monument

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This deck gives up the Angel package for Spell Queller and Bygone Bishop, and plays more as an aggro-control deck. Still, both decks are Monument-based, and they both get impacted by the same new cards. What are those cards, you ask? Let's take a look.

This is a big one. Abrade is going to breathe new life into red-based control and fit well into red midrange or even aggro decks. It offers a high amount of flexibility at very low cost, and picks off Oketra's Monument, Bygone Bishop, and Spell Queller alike. Those are key components of this deck, and Abrade gives other decks a great (and cheap) tool against them.

Hour of Devastation is a sweeper that cuts neatly through the indestructibility granted by either Selfless Spirit or Archangel Avacyn, which makes it quite annoying for go-wide decks like this one. It does get countered by Metallic Rebuke, so all is not lost, but it dodges Spell Queller by being expensive (while being cheap enough to cast in a timely manner). Having a sweeper that doesn't care about the anti-sweeper cards in these decks is a big development, and one that makes it harder for these decks to get an edge.

Verdict: Down

Oketra's Monument decks didn't get many new options, and multiple cards that punish them just got added to the format. Abrade may be the most-played card in the new set, and it's very annoying for a small creature deck built around an artifact.

Mono-Black Zombies

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Mono-Black Zombies, besides winning the last Pro Tour, has established itself as the premier aggro deck of the format. It's consistent, fast, and resilient, which is a good combination. Unlike the Monument decks, it also may have gained some new options in Hour of Devastation, even if there are some cards it doesn't want to see as well.

A 5/5 Zombie for three mana is a good deal, and this even punishes the opponent for blocking. It can get shrunk down if you aren't careful, but between removal and other Zombie enablers, it will get through often enough. It does compete with Lord of the Accursed and Diregraf Colossus, which is my main concern, but the power level is here. It's also exciting that this can force through the last 3 points of damage, since afflict gives the Zombie deck some much-needed reach.

This might be a little ambitious, but I see some promise here. Ifnir Deadlands is a powerful card that comes without much of a drawback—it taps for black mana and doesn't enter the battlefield tapped. That's pretty big, and Zombies is in good position to take advantage of it. With Deadlands come some enablers, and Desert of the Glorified could be a way to get a few more Deserts into your deck. Once you are at six or more Deserts, everyone's favorite Camel might (might) be good enough. That is the least sure part of this whole deal, but a two-drop Zombie that's a two-for-one is plausible.

This card occupies a funny spot—it's a sweeper, which you'd think is great against Zombies, but it's cheap enough that Zombies could play it in the sideboard. I would never main-deck this, but as a sideboard option for aggro mirrors, it could be interesting. Some decks tried Yahenni's Expertise, and this has some similarities.

So that's the good news—what's the catch?

Unfortunately for Zombies, Abrade and Hour of Devastation are relevant here as well. An increase in sweepers and cheap removal is annoying, even to a deck as resilient as Zombies. A silver lining is that Abrade could reduce the number of Magma Sprays seeing play, and Spray is much better against Zombies than Abrade.

Verdict: Up

Zombies gets a couple interesting additions, and is an aggro deck that has a lot of creatures that come back from the graveyard. That puts it in a decent spot in the upcoming metagame, as it fights back against sweepers naturally and doesn't care a ton about Abrade. Ammit Eternal might also be a real upgrade, which would leave Zombies solidly in the black when it comes to metagame shifts.

The most popular deck in Standard is Temur Energy, and I expect that to remain true even post-Hour. The combination of intrinsically powerful cards and good synergy makes this deck great, even if it doesn't want to see Hour of Devastation.

Temur Energy

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Hour of Devastation (and to a lesser degree, Bontu's Last Reckoning) are annoying for this creature-based deck to deal with. It is nice that Elder Deep-Fiend ignores Hour, since that mitigates the damage significantly, and Bristling Hydra can grow large enough to live through Devastation as well. One of the reasons I like Temur Energy in this new format is that it's got a lot of threats that can close the game without much help, which does prevent it from needing to overcommit into all the new sweepers. It's not great for the deck that the sweepers exist, but the damage is less than it could be.

Verdict: Up

This deck doesn't gain much, but it also isn't that hurt either. Other decks will suffer more in comparison, and I expect Temur Energy to shrug it off and continue doing well.

Things change, cards get banned, sets get released, but Vehicles keep on rolling. Mardu Vehicles hasn't changed substantially since Aether Revolt, and it's still one of the best decks in Standard.

Mardu Vehicles

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Abrade is at its best here, killing most of the creatures Mardu plays while also picking off Heart of Kiran. If that weren't enough, Hour of Devastation takes out Gideon alongside all his minions, a development Vehicles pilots can't be happy about. This deck takes a huge hit, and in return maybe gets to add a couple copies of Abrade to its deck.

Verdict: Down

So, where are all those Abrades and Hour of Devastations headed, anyways? It wouldn't be a proper article if I didn't talk about my past (and current) favorite deck in this format, Blue-Red Control.

Blue-Red Control

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Besides the two red cards I've talked about at length, this deck also picked up Supreme Will, which is a nice addition to the Disallow/Essence Scatter/Anticipate class of cards. It gives you a counter and card selection in the same card, and makes for a nice Gearhulk target in the late-game.

Hour of Devastation (the card and the set) may have breathed new life into Blue-Red Control, and I'm curious how things pan out from here. Gearhulk decks get better both by adding sweepers to their decks and by facing more sweepers, so it looks like a win-win to me.

Verdict: Up

At the end of the day, Hour of Devastation brings with it a lot of cards that live up to the name, including one that literally is the name. Removal and sweepers are the main additions to the format, and I'm ready to see a lot of creatures get taken down.


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