The Great Standard Distortion

Posted in Top Decks on January 8, 2016

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).

With Oath of the Gatewatch on the horizon, I can think of no better time to look forward to the next couple weeks of Standard. Let's take a look at a couple decks, and the cards that might fit into them.

Kozilek kicks things off with a bang, as this is the headline card for the new colorless mechanic. It's especially convenient that the deck most interested in 10-drops is a deck chock-full of colorless mana sources.

Eldrazi Ramp

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Eldrazi decks were already a force to be reckoned with before Oath, and having one of the major mechanics be one that essentially fits in for free is a huge boon. This is the deck that gains the most from Kozilek and his ilk, which might propel this deck firmly into tier 1.

The most powerful new addition is the Eldrazi titan itself, Kozilek. Kozilek does three things this deck is quite interested in.

  1. It draws lots of cards. If you are ramping furiously, you will usually just have a few cards in hand by the time you are looking to slam Kozilek. Drawing three to five cards is absurd and reminiscent of the previous incarnation of Kozilek. Having your finisher come with an uncounterable Tidings is huge, making this deck more resilient and more powerful.
  2. It stops whatever your opponent's follow-up is. This deck has a wide range of casting costs in it, and your new hand full of cards can probably match up with some of the cards your opponent is planning on playing. Tapping out for a huge finisher but still being able to use the counterspell ability is incredible, and Kozilek quashes many attempts that would otherwise be problematic.
  3. It's a 12/12. Funnily enough, this is the least important ability. But hey, a 12/12 monster is not to be taken lightly. Kozilek can and will kill plenty of opponents.

Casting Kozilek isn't all that challenging, as Shrine of the Forsaken Gods can produce the required colorless mana all by itself, and you essentially get to play eight of them once you count Sylvan Scrying. Likewise, Hedron Archive gets you there, and combining two of Blighted Woodland or Sanctum of Ugin isn't that difficult.

Other new additions help shore up this deck's early and midgame, which is perfect, given that Kozilek and Ulamog have the late game covered.

One of the reasons I'm most excited to play Eldrazi Ramp is that the deck can play Warping Wail without much trouble. I could see playing up to three copies in the main deck, with four between main and board, because the card covers so many bases. Colloquially known as "Eldrazi Charm" (maybe not yet, but with my efforts I believe it will happen), Wail is a multi-pronged threat. Its three modes are distinctly different and all very useful.

  1. It kills a lot of problematic creatures. Eldrazi Ramp never had much in the way of early interaction, due to green being short in that department, but Warping Wail has you covered. Some of the important targets for this are Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Abbot of Keral Keep, Monastery Swiftspear, and Warden of the First Tree (plus many more).
  2. It counters sorceries. Stopping Duress effects, Painful Truths, Treasure Cruise, and more is a big game, especially as a bonus mode (given that the other two modes are more important.
  3. It ramps you or provides a temporary blocker. Making an Eldrazi Scion can often let you skip an entire turn ahead, and casting a powerful spell a turn early is worth giving up a card. It even provides the second colorless mana necessary for Kozilek, and if there's a deck that cares about this mode, it's Eldrazi Ramp.

Warping Wail seems tailor-made for this deck, as it's easily castable and all three modes look very good. I anticipate this being one of the big reasons Eldrazi Ramp improves in the new format.

Lastly, we have the biggest Mesmeric Fiend we've ever seen. Thought-Knot Seer may end up being more of a sideboard card, but the power level is such that I'd start it in the main deck. It disrupts the opponent, even if only temporarily, and does so while providing a body that's good on both offense and defense. I will admit that beating down for four isn't really what this deck is trying to achieve, so this is more of a defensive measure, but it's still disruptive enough to try. Even if the opponent does kill the Seer, they get a random card, not the one you exiled, which is much better for you overall.

Eldrazi Ramp is the biggest winner, at least early, and we will be seeing a fair amount of this deck and its new toys.

Wait, Monastery Mentor isn't in Oath of the Gatewatch. In fact, it's not even from Zendikar at all. What gives?

The reason I bring up Monastery Mentor is that I feel like Mentor is finally getting the traction it deserves. It's becoming a major player in Standard (and is already good in Legacy and Vintage), and the addition of a new set is unlikely to slow it down.

I'd like to claim that we were ahead of our time when Team ChannelFireball played a Monastery Mentor deck at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar, but I think our deck lacked the proper insight needed to be great (the insight in question being the decision to cut Magmatic Insight, which we played; it was awful).

Here's what a Monastery Mentor deck looks like in Standard right now:

BK_pls's Mentor Control

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Monastery Mentor replacing Mantis Rider is a big shift, but this is the Jeskai deck I think most people are going to be looking at come the new format. Why did Monastery Mentor get the nod over Mantis Rider? Is Painful Truths really that good? Am I really asking myself questions that I'm immediately going to answer?

One of these two cards is going to be present in just about every Jeskai deck, but Mentor is becoming the preferred finisher of choice for a couple of reasons.

  1. It's more resilient to removal. When you play Mentor on turn five or six, you can often string together multiple spells that turn—which means that even if the opponent kills it, you got a bunch of value. A 1/1 prowess Monk is not far behind a real card, and it's very easy to kill the opponent with a couple of them. As more people play removal, Mentor becomes better and better.
  2. It's a much faster clock. When trying to kill an opponent without many other creatures, Mentor is definitely faster. This is a deck full of spells, not creatures, and Mentor plus spells wins the game sooner than Mantis Rider plus spells.
  3. Painful Truths and Treasure Cruise ensures that you will have plenty of spells to play. Previous versions of Jeskai played Dig Through Time and no Truths, which led to a lower spell count, but this version doesn't have that problem. The spells must flow, and Mentor takes advantage of that.

As for my second question, Painful Truths really is that good—especially with Soulfire Grand Master to mitigate life loss—and I believe I've now implicitly answered the third question posed (again, by myself).

What updates could this deck get from Oath?

Snapcaster Mage is back, but this time as a five-cost Goblin (which is an absurd sentence to write, though I think accurate). Goblin Dark-Dwellers is on the hunt for spells to cast, and Crackling Doom is likely the best of them. A 4/4 that deals 2 damage to the opponent and eats their best creature is very good, and adding a couple more spells to the mix makes this even more flexible. Kolaghan's Command is another good one, and even hitting Fiery Impulse in a pinch can do some work. It might be worth playing a copy or two of Read the Bones over Painful Truths if you are playing a ton of Dark-Dwellers, but my guess is that you probably won't want to play enough Goblins to make that worth it.

This looks like an odd addition, but Jeskai is a deck that needs two-drops and doesn't necessarily want just Soulfire Grand Master. The casting cost is very doable, and as such a 2/3 deathtouch with some minor good abilities is appealing. Ayli is legendary, but playing a copy or two could give Jeskai a more resilient two-drop that can actually battle many of the creatures in the format.

Linvala is more of a sideboard card than a main deck one, but she's powerful enough to warrant some attention. When playing against a deck like Abzan Aggro, Linvala sounds awesome. This Jeskai deck hits land drops with Painful Truths, can manage its life total well, and doesn't have to play many creatures if it's looking to trigger Linvala. I could see playing one copy main, but the sideboard is likely where Linvala is going to live.

LSV's OGW Mentor Control

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This list incorporates these new cards, while still keeping the overarching themes of the deck intact. Jeskai is going to be quite good in the upcoming months, even if it didn't change quite as much as the Eldrazi Ramp deck did.

These are just a couple of the new possibilities offered by Oath of the Gatewatch, and I look forward to seeing what else the next few months has in store for us.


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