Facing Down the New Standard

Posted in Top Decks on March 13, 2015

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).

Besides Dragons (many, many Dragons), Dragons of Tarkir is bringing us a whole slew of face-down creatures, this time courtesy of the new mechanic megamorph. That opens the door to the possibility of seeing more face-down creatures in Constructed, and given the power levels on some of the cards that have been previewed, I'd be surprised if the number didn't go up dramatically.

Looking at pre-Dragons Standard, when your opponent plays a face-down creature, the list of suspects is usually short.

Some decks play both these cards, but neither of these cards is even meant to be played face-down if all is going according to plan, especially the Phoenix. That means that face-down creatures don't exude quite the aura of mystery that the morph mechanic hopes to deliver, and the decisions you make when facing down a face-down creature are not made more interesting by unknown information.

Recent success by the Green-White Devotion deck has complicated matters a little, thanks to these two cards.

After a breakout performance at Grand Prix Miami, Green-White Devotion has led to plenty of boards full of face-down creatures, any of which could be monsters such as Polukranos, more Whisperwood Elementals, or even the odd High Sentinels of Arashin.

Daniel Cecchetti's Green-White Devotion—Top 8, GP Miami

The funny thing about manifest is that it has the opposite play pattern as the current morph one. Instead of knowing exactly what morphs you are facing, with manifest you have no idea what it could be, initially (in both cases, the actions your opponents take do give you information). Given the vast range of possibilities, you have to make decisions without much information on what the creature is, which isn't as interesting to me as when you are battling against a morph creature that could be one of two or three different possibilities.

Apparently, what I've been looking for is in Dragons of Tarkir, as a new cycle of powerful megamorph creatures (plus at least a couple other interesting ones) will increase the number of morphs/megamorphs that get played in Constructed while also not being as wide-ranging as manifest. I like that it's a new and different experience than either of the other two I just mentioned, and it's one that fits with my first hope for morph back in the Onslaught era (where the only playable morphs were really Exalted Angel and Bane of the Living, which took away all mystery). I really like the idea of seeing a face-down creature and narrowing it down to a couple possibilities, but not knowing further than that. Of course, this might not be how it actually plays out, though I have hope after seeing some of the new cards, and if there are more in this vein, it could be a real possibility.

 

Look at these beauties. They are all aggressive two-drops that provide incredible value when turned face up, and I can see all of them seeing a lot of Constructed play. Having what is essentially a split card that draws you a card if you cast the expensive version is awesome, and not requiring a huge investment in either case is really what pushes them.

Casting a face-down creature for three mana is cheap enough that if it gets killed it isn't a disaster. That lets you cast them and hope they survive, while not committing too heavily if that doesn't happen. Additionally, once you hit the late game, paying the megamorph cost in the same turn as you cast them is not difficult, and makes them powerful expensive cards.

A card that is good on two, good on three, and good on five or more is exactly what I'm looking for, and this kind of flexibility plus power is exciting. What that means is that there is a very real possibility that multiple decks in the format will be playing more than one morph or megamorph creature now, and some may even play three or more if you combine Rattleclaw Mystic and some of the powerful new options.

For example, Den Protector fits right into any green devotion style of deck, at least as a one- or two-of, as the late-game power of being an Eternal Witness is awesome. Likewise, Stratus Dancer could lead to some interesting Temur shell games, as Temur now has a lot of interesting face-down options to choose from. My greatest hope is that when your opponent casts a face-down creature in Dragons of Tarkir Standard, you have clues to what it could be but it is by no means a guarantee, which I believe will lead to some awesome gameplay.

RG Megamorph Midrange

This is an example of the kind of deck that is poised to take advantage of the new megamorphs. This RG deck is solidly midrange and cares about damage enough to make use of Den Protector and Ire Shaman as both two-drop aggressive creatures and more expensive card-advantage engines. This list is modeled after the RG Midrange that Martin Juza wrote about, and I really like the synergies it has going.

Courser of Kruphix lets you know when flipping Ire Shaman is a good idea, Den Protector works with cheap removal, and Crater's Claws is the exact kind of card that's good early and good late. Den Protector-ing back Crater's Claws sounds like a good long-term plan, and I like the balance of control and aggression this deck can bring to the table. I expect to see this megamorph cycle in many such decks, as they provide good options early and late.

The Reign of Ojutai Begins

The other topic that I was inspired to mention today was White-Blue Control, thanks to some exciting new cards. Blue-Black and Sultai have been stealing the spotlight from the traditional White-Blue decks, but now that Ojutai commands it, White-Blue looks like quite the contender.

These cards are not weak. Even without the full set, I'm very interested in putting together a WU shell, and having a powerful new Planeswalker, kill condition, and some great instants gives me a reason to do so.

White-Blue Control

The numbers here I would expect to change greatly as (1) I get to see what the format ends up looking like and how the new cards play and (2) I get to see what actual new cards we get. This is using what I know now, but as more cards come out, we get more options.

All I'm trying to do with this deck is play a land and say "Go," which as everyone knows, is the best kind of plan. With almost every card being an instant, you shouldn't need to tap out unless it's to blow up the world or cast a powerful Planeswalker and/or Dragon. Between counterspells, card draw, and good finishers, this deck covers all the bases I'm interested in, and the raw power level has risen dramatically with Dragons of Tarkir.

Ojutai's Command, Narset, and Dragonlord's Prerogative give you a ton of card advantage, with the Command doing a good job of protecting you as well. Incidental lifegain is very powerful, and I love having the option of gaining a bunch of life in the midgame. The card I'm most excited about is Narset, who not only draws you extra cards almost every turn, but combines with End Hostilities, Dig Through Time, and Dragonlord's Prerogative to create some disgusting rebound turns. End Hostilities with rebound is very close to Time Walk, at least when it comes to keeping the board clear, and double Dig or double Prerogative is so many cards I can't even count them.

I'm hoping a deck like this is awesome, and after seeing these cards, I can't help but assume it is going to be. We aren't even done seeing the set yet, and there are already a ton of incredible cards, and more importantly, cards I very much want to play with.

LSV

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