Welcoming our Eldrazi Overlords

Posted in Event Coverage on January 10, 2016

By Corbin Hosler

It began with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger carelessly eating all the things. It continued with the rise of Kozilek at Sea Gate, as the planeswalkers of the Gatewatch fought to save Zendikar. In the lore, the Eldrazi are no longer a looming threat; they're here and ready to rumble.

Standard will soon be the same.

Oath of the Gatewatch releases next week, and players everywhere are ready to welcome their new Eldrazi overlords.

A World of Color

Since the release of Battle for Zendikar, Standard has been more defined by the one color you aren't playing moreso than any color you are. Four-color decks have become the norm, from Dark Jeskai to four-color Rally the Ancestors to Siege Rhino Mardu to even more aggressive builds that play all five colors for Bring to Light. Manabases are carefully selected down to the exact fetch and battle land combination in order to ensure the most colors as consistently as possible, often need three different colors by Turn 3 and four different ones by Turn 4.

There has been some pushback. Two color decks have always had some representation in Atarka Red, but recently there's been a push to Black-Red Dragons, White-Black Tokens that can punish the color-intensive decks for stumbling while also providing access to powerful-but-colorless lands like Blighted Fen and Foundry of the Consuls.

Hunter Cochran is one of those players. He arrived in Oakland with an innovative two-color deck (with a slight splash for the sideboard), and ran off an 8-1 Day 1 record by taking advantage of his streamlined mana compared to his opponents.

“A lot of decks can't afford to play colorless land, but when you can it's really good,” he explained. “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.”

Draining the Color from Standard

All of which sets the scene for the arrival of Oath of the Gatewatch. With the introduction of the new colorless mana symbol and the extremely potent Eldrazi spells, deckbuilders will soon be faced with a dilemma they haven't ever encountered before: is it better to play all the colors, or none at all?

Kozilek, the Great Distortion

Oath of the Gatewatch is filled to the brim with cards that reward players from cutting the colors from their decks. From the Great Distortion himself to other attention-grabbers in Matter Reshaper, Reality Smasher, Eldrazi Displacer and the much-heralded Thought-Knot Seer, the benefits to cutting colors may be even greater than playing more of them for Khans of Tarkir powerhouses Mantis Rider, Savage Knuckleblade and Siege Rhino.

Matter Reshaper and Thought-Knot Seer

No one knows exactly how things will play out, but that doesn't mean the game's top players aren't already deep in their planning process.

“Where it really changes things is the manabase,” said hall of famer Brian Kibler, who was excited to find ways to fit Thought-Knot Seer into any deck he builds. “It makes the pain lands from Magic Origins much more interesting because they're essentially tri-lands that come into play untapped. That lets you have colors when you need them but also play some of the best colorless cards.”

With the coming advent of colorless, the battle for Zendikar may just spill over into Standard, as the color-filled world of today clashes with the colorless world of tomorrow.

“I think three months from now you could see colorless decks with a lot of pain lands matched against the Mantis Rider decks with the fetch-battle land manabase,” fellow hall of famer Ben Stark said. “There's just not room for both in the same deck, so people are going to have to make a decision.”

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