Although Oath of the Gatewatch is not exactly new, Grand Prix Paris marks the first time for many European players to compete in a premier Standard event with cards from Oath of the Gatewatch. The set has brought a lot to the format, as revealed by adoptions in the top Standard decks. (The choice for the top 10 Standard decks is inspired by recent online and overseas events.)
- Green Mardu: with Goblin Dark-Dwellers, Sylvan Advocate, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, and Chandra, Flamecaller.
- Four-color Rally: with Reflector Mage.
- Abzan Aggro: with Sylvan Advocate.
- Eldrazi Ramp: with World Breaker, Oath of Nissa, Kozilek's Return, Chandra, Flamecaller, and sometimes Thought-Knot Seer.
- Mono Blue Eldrazi: with Dimensional Infiltrator, Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, and more colorless goodies.
- Bant Company: with Sylvan Advocate and Reflector Mage.
- G/W Hardened Scales: with Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.
- Dark Jeskai: with Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.
- Atarka Red: with Reckless Bushwhacker.
- Esper Dragons: with Grasp of Darkness.
This list is of course not exhaustive—besides the cards listed above, there other Oath of the Gatewatch cards that have found their way into Standard decks—but the most frequently adopted cards have been listed.
Five cards appear more than once, so these five cards can be called the true Oath of the Gatewatch standouts for Standard. They are good now, and I would anticipate they will retain that status once Shadows over Innistrad enters the fray. So, without further ado, here are the five most important Oath of the Gatewatch cards for Standard.
In Abzan Aggro, despite competition from Heir of the Wilds and Snapping Gnarlid (which are better in the early game and actually get boosted by Anafenza, the Foremost) the two-drop of choice nowadays is Sylvan Advocate. In slower mid-range decks, the card fits even better: Sylvan Advocate is good on turn two, but you're still happy to draw it or find it with Collected Company in the late game.
Players who weren't playing the 2/3 themselves also had to take it into account. "I had to rebuild my deck to have more Roast as an answer," Gold level pro Oliver Polak-Rottmann told me. "I think Sylvan Advocate is one of the best cards in the format right now; it's the perfect two-drop."
Chandra is one of the more powerful things to do in the mid-to-late game these days. What's more, she adequately protects herself. Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch Top 8 competitor Patrick Dickmann, who is running Grixis this weekend, offered his praise for Chandra. "For most planeswalkers, you can't play them on a full board because your opponent will just attack them. But you can play Chandra on a full board: she'll swipe it, and then stay there to provide a very fast clock."
Reflector Mage is like a Man-o'-War on steroids, so I sought out the wisdom of a long-time Magic player. I found ChannelFireball event organizer Mashi Scanlan, who offered his analysis. "Back in the days, you'd bounce your own Spike Weaver or Nekrataal for value. Games back then were slower and more based on card advantage. With the more aggressively-costed creatures these days, games are faster, so bouncing an opponent's creature and locking them out for a turn can buy you enough time. One turn is all you need to set up a game-winning Rally the Ancestors or attack." If that wasn't enough to convince you, then keep in mind that Reflector Mage has made the Top 8 of the recent Modern Grand Prix in Bologna!
This card, too, is good enough for...ah, well, let's not dwell on that. In Standard, Thought-Knot Seer comes down on turn four, where it will disrupt the opponent and yield a sizeable body on the battlefield. Most commonly seen in Mono-Blue Eldrazi, Blue-Red Eldrazi, R/G Ramp decks, Thought-Knot Seer provides a good payoff for having lands like Tomb of the Spirit Dragon, Shivan Reef, and Sanctum of Ugin in your mana base.
A 3/4 lifelinker that produces Zombies is already reasonable by itself. As Patrick Dickmann told me, "Kalitas has nice combat stats by itself, and if you wait to play it until turn five when you have a mana up for Fiery Impulse or Murderous Cut, you can always get a token out to make it worth the investment." Kalitas also hoses the popular Rally the Ancestors deck, but according to Dickmann, the card might still be good enough even without the graveyard interaction.
The finals at Grand Prix Houston, several weeks ago, was between Four-Color Rally and Dark Jeskai. From the perspective of Oath of the Gatewatch, it was a battle between Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Reflector Mage. But the other Oath of the Gatewatch cards were frequently seen near the top tables as well.
Here in Paris, we're still in the early rounds, but I suspect these top five cards from Oath of the Gatewatch will once again play a huge role this weekend.