Keeping it Simple in a Colorful World

Posted in Event Coverage on January 10, 2016

By Corbin Hosler

The release of Battle for Zendikar ushered in a rare era in Magic: the ability to nearly effortlessly play as many colors as possible. With the fetch lands playing alongside the “Battle lands” from Battle for Zendikar, players have the ability to find almost any color they want, all at the low, low cost of one life and — only occasionally — a tapped land.

Predictably, players took the opportunity and ran with it. When the “average” deck is three colors and many go all the way to full five for Bring to Light, you know you’re looking at a unique period in Standard. From four-color brews like Dark Jeskai and Rally the Ancestors to dragon brews of all flavors, mana has almost never been easier.

But it’s not free.

Patrick Sullivan addressed it as the “failure rate” of decks. That is, almost all of the top decks in Standard have a high power level, but there are some games where they beat themselves by either not finding the right lands or by being forced to put those lands into play tapped. This results in some games that are lost by stranding critical spells in their owners’ hands or rendering mana-intensive spells like Mantis Rider or Crackling Doom unusable.

“Every deck has a high fail rate,” Sullivan explained. “Whether it’s your mana, or your enter-the-battlefield-tapped lands, it’s not often both decks are firing perfectly.”

That would explain why some players have opted to avoid those risks entirely.

Zac Elsik opted for White-Black Tokens in Oakland, taking advantage of risk-free mana to punish stumbling opponents.

Black-Red Dragons was one of the more popular decks on the weekend, leveraging its two-color manabase to get onto the board fast and punish opponents trying to assemble three or more colors at once.

The benefits go beyond just punishing opponents who stumble. With fewer colors to amass, more specialty lands come into the equation. Finding success with a black-red token deck that just barely splashed blue, Hunter Cochran used that to push another powerful land that has had a hard time earning the spotlight thanks to its inability to produce colored mana.

Foundry of the Consuls has been insane for me,” he said. “A lot of decks can’t afford to play the colorless land, but when you can it’s really good. Two color decks are able to actually play their two-drops and Turn 2 and their threes and fours on time after that, which is something the Abzan and Jeskai decks really struggle with.”

There’s plenty more where that came from. The Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger ramp decks are happy running the full suite of colorless lands in Sanctum of Ugin and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods, which Haven of the Spirit Dragon and even Blighted Fen have been spotted at the top tables as well.

With just a small splash of a third color, Cochran was able to take advantages of the powerful-but-seldom-used Foundry of the Consuls.

When Battle for Zendikar first premiered, competitors rushed to add all the colors of mana they could. Only recently have we seen the pushback, as the two-color decks have made a resurgence and sent players to the top alongside their Crackling Doom-Mantis Rider peers. Will one of the increasingly-popular two-color decks rise to the top in Oakland, or will the old favorites power through? We’re just a few short hours away from finding out.

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