WMCQ Oakland 9th Overall (1st in NAYA)

fiendslayer

On August 16, Four Hundred Eleven players descended upon downtown Oakland for the first of three United States World Cup Magic Qualifiers. The winner would walk away with a ticket to France and a spot on the U.S. national team. Fate would also have it that this person would lose only once on that day, to me. Me and my Fiendslayer Paladins, that is.

Michael Paul Skipper – 9th Place – WMCQ August 16, 2014
NAYA:
4 Temple Garden
4 Stomping Ground
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple of Plenty
1 Temple of Abandon
4 Mana Confluence
1 Battlefield Forge
1 Plains

3 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Fleecemane Lion
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Advent of the Wurm
2 God’s Willing
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
2 Boros Charm
2 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
1 Banishing Light
3 Selesnya Charm
2 Setessan Tactics
2 Mizzium Mortars

mortars

Let’s talk about the main Deck. First and foremost, Naya is better than Selesnya. I started my testing with G/W, but I realized that it wasn’t going to be good enough for me in a big tournament. Naya has the edge for 3 reasons:
1. Mizzium Mortars is still a very good removal spell, even though it Izzet widely played in current standard. This aggressive style of deck HAS to kill Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Stormbreath Dragon in order to win some games, and it also cannot fall on it’s back foot to Pack Rat or Courser of Kruphix.
2. Scrying is powerful (and necessary), even in aggressive decks. Between 5 scry lands and 2 God’s Willing, scrying into the correct half of your deck is a very important play that this deck can make on its way toward victory. I played against a friend who was on Selesnya at the event and was beating me 43-3 (life) in game 3. He drew 7 lands in a row and lost the match because of it. Scrying is important.
3. Late Game PUNCH. Nothing say’s ‘you’re dead’ like Ghor-Clan Rampager and Boros Charm. After crafting a gamestate to the point where you can take out your opponent in one shot, these two cards do the trick, and its never fun every time. Selesnya sputters out, NAYA has REACH. Not the keyword reach, the ability to reach into your opponents life total and put it to zero.

Now that I’ve established why I chose to play Naya, lets look a little closer at the main deck removal suite in relation to some major Standard threats:
Desecration Demon: 3 Selesnya Charm, 1 Banishing Light. We have the best spell in the business against the old “second main phase”. The fact that Selesnya Charm and Voice of Resurgence make this creature a liability is one of the big reasons to play this style of deck; but make no mistake, 2 or three demons in a row will still easily kill you, so it’s very important to be prepared for them.
Pack Rat: 2 Mizzium Mortars, 2 Setessan Tactics, 1 Banishing Light. The best way to beat Pack Rat is to stay in front of it. Mono Black cannot win with a turn 2 rat…they have to deal with your threats first. If you’re on the play and able to curve out, they will eventually chump block. If you’re on the draw, it’s best to kill the rat and move on from there.
Master of Waves: 2 Setessan Tactics, 1 Banishing Light. Luckily, I did not face Mono Blue at the WMCQ, but I hear Setessan Tactics is quite good against them.
Blood Baron & Stormbreath: 2 Mizzium Mortars, 4 Advent of the Wurm. There weren’t many dragons in the field, and the only game I lost to Vizkopa is when I mistakenly sideboarded Mortars out against Esper. These threats are so late in the game that the opponent is hopefully close to dead at that point. Having removal when you untap all but assures victory.
There are other important threats in Standard, but these are some of the most important to be ready to remove in game 1.

The Sideboard:
1 Banisher Priest
1 Setessan Tactics
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Glare of Heresy
1 Scavenging Ooze
2 Skylasher
2 Boros Charm
2 Xenagos, The Reveler
4 Fiendslayer Paladin

Going into the event, I knew Rabble Red was the deck to beat. It’s super fun to play, it’s new, and it’s very consistent. It’s been a long time since I dusted off Fiendslayer Paladin, but I thought he would be a good choice. Hallelujah. If weren’t aware, Rabble Red won the tournament, but did not defeat me. The Paladin’s were important in that match. Fiendslayer was also a nightmare for Mono Black, because it is essentially hexproof. At one point, my opponent had a Soul of New Phyrexia, but not enough mana to make it indestructible, and decided to block my Paladin, which promptly became a blood-rushed 6/6 First Striking Life Linker. My opponent did not win that game.

Let’s mention some losses. Mono Black Aggro and R/w Burn. Now, I don’t like to talk about the luck factor in Magic, but when my opponent has 3 Mogis’ Marauder in their 75 and plays all 3 back to back to back…well, they’re just a good player I suppose, and that player certainly was better than me in round 7. I could have lived at least another turn, but I stopped playing around Marauder after the second one. Whoops.

The R/w burn matchup is quite difficult for this deck to beat, especially when the opponent plays Satyr Firedancer. That card eats decks like this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Satyr Firedancer puts every move you make into a compromised position, and I made my worst play of the day by tapping out in the face of one, and could not recover from the card disadvantage that ensued. Honestly, it’s quite possible that my entire chances of Top 8-ing the event came down to one ill-advised Selesnya Charm, and I will not forget the gravity of this choice when playing in future high stakes events.

WMCQ OAKLAND 2014:
W 2-0 Mono Black Devotion
W 2-1 Bant Quicken Control
W 2-1 Selesnya Aggro
W 2-0 Selesnya Aggro
W 2-1 Mono Black Devotion
W 2-1 Rabble Red
L 0-2 Mono Black Aggro
L 1-2 R/w Burn
W 2-1 Esper Sphere Control
W 2-1 Mono Black Devotion

ghorClan

I want to give special thanks to my friends in the community for helping me test in the days leading up to the WMCQ and for helping me make last minute sideboard decisions. After playtesting for two days with metadeck.me, I scribbled my list together at work the night before the event, and never would have had such a high finish without the valuable input from Bay Area Magic players. Also, congratulations to Anthony, Danny, and Michael for actually Top 8-ing! Way to go fellas.

Thanks for Reading!
-Michael Skipper
Untap, Draw for Turn.

Dies To Removal – Journey Into Nyx – Standard Edition

feastOfDreamsThe ability to disrupt your opponent’s game plan is an important component of nearly all successful Magic decks. Because of the way cards are designed, every strategy has a particular counter-strategy to bring even the mightiest spells toppling down. If a deck doesn’t account for the popular counter-measures toward their archetype, the player will run into serious problems in a tournament. That’s where removal-centric cards step in to get those troublesome adversaries out of the way. This article focuses on the new tools presented in Journey Into Nyx, the final set in Theros block. The Magic community seems universally excited about this last expansion, myself included, so let’s dive in.

BanishingBanishing Light
Just about everyone loves ice cream and craves it from time to time. “What flavor? Vanilla? Can’t we do better than that? Oh well, at least its still ice cream.” A lot has been said about Oblivion Ring 2.0, Banishing Light. This is your basic, vanilla flavored removal spell Stormbreath Dragon and Blood Baron of Vizkopa notwithstanding, Banishing Light has the potential to efficiently deal with every troublesome non-land permanent in Standard. This includes decks that could or couldn’t play the similar Detention Sphere. Notably, Soldier of the Pantheon and Mistcutter Hydra were previously difficult for control decks to contain because Detention Sphere was not an answer to those threats. Banishing Light will be a popular mainstay for years to come.

DeicideDeicide
Instant speed enchantment removal became incredibly important in the world of Theros. With quality enchantment creatures, auras, weapons, and gods; there are no shortage of Deicide targets in Standard. After rotation in the Fall 2014 Season, enchantments will likely have an even stronger presence than they do today. God cards are the most iconic Mythic from Theros block, and Deicide couldn’t be any more efficient in taking them out of the game. In Magic, context is everything, and I expect Deicide to be a mainstay in Standard well into 2015.

Oppressive RaysOppressive Rays
This card’s usefulness is limited to decks with large quantities of cheap creatures. These creatures want to kill you quickly, and this card is a blocker’s worst nightmare. Time will tell if these strategies are viable, but the tools are available for those willing to try.

ReprisalReprisal
Here is a reprint that will be a solid role-player in certain decks. Shock, Plummet, and Last Breath are all highly conditional removal spells that have proven their usefulness for top decks in recent months. Reprisal fills a similar void that some deck builders will need in the coming year. Notable Reprisal targets include Reaper of the Wilds, Polukranos, Boon Satyr, and Fanatic of Xenagos.

Pin to the EarthPin to the Earth
Poor Blue. All the most powerful effects in the history of the game, and it can’t get a decent removal spell. Thank goodness. Blue’s weakness to permanents is offset by evasion and counter magic. A card like Pin to the Earth can buy valuable tempo (and Devotion) while allowing evasive threats to continue squeaking through damage. I don’t think that Pin to the Earth will be popular, but it is an option. Kiora’s Dismissal also provides tempo and utility to blue mages.pinToTheEarth

ExtinguishExtinguish All Hope
This 6-mana conditional wrath isn’t likely to make much of an impact on Standard. Merciless Eviction already serves more utility and is widely un-played. However, if an all-enchantment creature control deck exists, Extinguish All Hope is a fun include.

FeastofDreamsFeast of Dreams
Am I really stretching for playables here? This card’s usefulness is highly dependent on the shape of the metagame. However, I find it intoxicating to imagine a Standard where Feast of Dreams makes sense as a sideboard choice, and I hope that we get there this year.

Silence the BelieversSilence the Believers
This card is not a stretch. Instant speed exiling and the ability to 2-for-1 means that Silence will see some time in the spotlight. The upside of getting auras along with creatures means that Wizards may feel safe printing some powerful ones, but I’m not holding my breath for Rancor.  Silence the Believers makes the most sense in Cube and Block Constructed, but Standard should see some use as well.

Magma SprayMagma Spray
I’ve been waiting for a Magma Spray reprint since Pillar of Flame rotated. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this card is seeing print alongside Athreos, God of Passage. Athreos has the potential to warp Standard, but there are plenty of spells in every color to make sure that the god won’t be too dominant. I’m excited to see how many weeks pass before Magma Spray replaces Shock, if ever.

Spite of MogisSpite of Mogis
Legacy? I can’t pretend to know enough about that format to know how reliable this spell will be, but it may be more useful in older formats. If Modern decks are casting Flame Slash to kill Tarmogoyf, they may be interested in Spite of Mogis as well. I’d love to see this find it’s way into Izzet based Standard.

Setessan TacticsSetessan Tactics
My beloved Selesnya has been yearning for a spell like this. It may be annoying to take a turn off from attacking to use your kill, but Master of Waves, Pack Rat, and other small pests need to be shown the graveyard from time to time. Green has a hard time getting quality removal, and Setessan Tactics will be one of the best for the next year. The great thing is that +1/+1 makes this useful even when no creatures need to be killed.OppressiveRays

Journey Into Nyx really brings a lot to the table. Some of these spells will  be cast exponentially more than others, but they all serve valuable roles for deck builders, and for a healthy and evolving metagame. Thanks to Wizards of the Coast for releasing such a strong finish to an interesting block.

Thanks for reading!
-Michael Skipper
Untap, Draw for Turn.

36th Place @ the TCG5K

borosCharmTCG Player recently held a 5K Standard tournament near Orlando, FL that I attended with some friends. I placed a disappointing 36th out of 190 competitors, which left me just out of making prizes. I’d like to share my thoughts about decisions for the tournament that led me to this result, and break down the matches. For reference, here is the Naya deck that I registered that day.

NAYA
4x Advent of the Wurm 4x Boros Charm 3x Boros Reckoner 1x Destructive Revelry 4x Fleecemane Lion 4x Ghor-Clan Rampager 3x Gods Willing 3x Loxodon Smiter 3x Mizzium Mortars 2x Plains 4x Sacred Foundry 4x Selesnya Charm 4x Stomping Ground 4x Temple Garden 3x Temple of Abandon 4x Temple of Plenty 2x Temple of Triumph 4x Voice of Resurgence Sideboard 1x Glare of Heresy 4x Heroes’ Reunion 2x Mistcutter Hydra 2x Skullcrack 2x Skylasher 4x Unflinching Courage

This deck started from a list popularized by Brad Nelson. I decided to remove the one drops from that build in favor of the more powerful Mizzium Mortars and Advent of the Wurm. The deck performed very well for me in the weeks prior to the 5K; Boros Burn notwithstanding. Since I expected burn to be popular, I made significant sideboard slots available for that match, and thankfully, my expectations were correct. Lets dive into the rounds. Round 1 – Boros Burn – Win When you dedicate an entire night of testing and 4 sideboard spots to a single archetype, it’s so rewarding to face off against it in the first round. Needless to say, I would not have won without Heroes’ Reunion, so I felt immediately vindicated.heroesReunion Round 2 – G/R Monsters – Win My opponent was incredibly cool in round two. As we sat down and shuffled, she looked at my deck and said, “White box, white sleeves; let me guess, you’re playing mono black.” I laughed and told her that it was a Shadowborn Apostle deck to which she immediately hoped was true. I had very good draws in this round, and was patient with my Mizzium Mortars, even though I was being attacked by Stormbreath Dragon. I scryed a shockland to the top because I wanted value from my removal spell. On the next turn she played another Stormbreath and I luckily had enough life to overload Mortars and coast to victory. Round 3 – Esper Control – Win Esper is my favorite match. It’s certainly losable, but I really enjoy the axis on which these two decks fight each other. After missing land drops in game one, I was able to claw back into making a decent game, losing out to Blood Baron of Vizkopa + Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Perhaps my proudest moment on the day was baiting out a counterspell on Gods Willing, giving me a window to resolve a main phase Advent of the Wurm. It didn’t get the job done, but I was proud of my sequencing. In game three, I was able to monstrous TWO Fleecemane Lions and topdeck a Boros Charm for the win.godsWillingFoil Round 4 – Boros Burn – Win This matchup played out as expected. Loxodon Smiter is a problem for them. Satyr Firedancer is a problem for me. I exclaimed “yes” to his game 3 Firedancer, which had him audibly worried, but I just love a good challenge. His mana base seemed to cause too many problems though, and Advent of the Wurm carried me home. Round 5 – Mono Black Control – Loss Believe it or not, none of my friends that I tested with had Black Devotion, and I was worried about the match going into the tournament. When playing Selesnya Aggro, I never lost to this archetype, but the lack of Experiment One and Boon Satyr really hurt the matchup for Naya. Besides that, I surely should have mulliganed in games 1 & 3, so I blame myself for poor decision making in this round. Either way, Black is not to be trifled with, and I surely need to test and adjust going forward.duress Round 6 – Naya Hexproof – Loss What a shit-storm. In this match, we both have the Ghor-Clan Rampager + Boros Charm combo, and we both have ludicrous amounts of lifelink. I also happen to have main deck Destructive Revelry. I drew it at the best time to unlock my Fleecemane Lion mid-combat and blow up Gladecover Scout in game one. In game three, I made a terrible sideboarding mistake, which surely cost me this round. Expecting to not have targets for my removal, I sided out Mizzium Mortars and Selesnya Charm in favor of Heroes’ Reunion. I thought the card could swing a race. The problem was, he ended up putting pants on a Ghor-Clan Rampager that I had zero outs to, and the race quickly turned to his favor. This match is about permanents, not life totals, and it’s correct to leave in removal!selesnyaCharm Round 7 – Dredge – Win This match is all about Selesnya Charm, Skullcrack, and artifact destruction. I lost the game where my opponent gained 43 life from Whip of Erebos, but had enough pressure and answers to take the match. They are low on removal, so just stay ahead of the board, and you’ll be fine. Round 8 – U/w Devotion – Loss I really should have won this match, but my lack of understanding cost me greatly. In game 2, my opening hand had lands, Skylasher, and Unflinching Courage. Nuff said! My mistake was not killing Jace, Architect of Thought when I had the chance to do so. My experience with Jace is to ignore him, as the control decks that play Jace just want to stall you and preserve life. In those matches, it’s usually better to kill them, not the ‘walker. However, against Blue Devotion, there are many blockers to consider, and my opponent was able to mount a strong defensive presence that I couldn’t push through, as Jace ticked above ultimate and kept climbing.voiceOfResurgence_face Wrap Up Finishing in the top 20% of participants certainly isn’t terrible, but it was pretty disappointing, as I finished just out of cashing the event, which was my goal. My failure in specific situations ending up being costly. However, I do think I represented myself well, and I certainly gained some valuable knowledge for future matches. Also, if I had to play the same tournament again, I wouldn’t make a single change to my 75, which is the first time I can say that. Until next time, good luck keeping your pulse on the meta, and don’t kept sketchy hands! Thanks for reading! -Michael Skipper Untap, Draw for Turn

Review Review

Image

It’s been a while since I’ve taken a look at the Standard metagame, so it seems worthwhile to asses how my set previews have turned out in the real world. I haven’t touched on Born of the Gods cards yet, so I’ll take a look at some of those too.

Image

Homeruns
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Lifebane Zombie, Stormbreath Dragon, and Sylvan Caryatid. Elspeth is the best planeswalker in Standard. I love Domri, Jace, and Chandra, but only Garruk is even close to the same ballpark of Elpeth’s power level. When ole’E was first spoiled, we were amidst a format where 6 mana spells were generally too expensive to see play. However, the format has slowed down, and Elspeth has played a huge part in grinding games to a halt. She’s awesomely powerful. Lifebane Zombie has been more of a role player, but has remained a heavily played card and is excellent in many matchups. Stormbreath Dragon and Sylvan Caryatid were easy choices, but they have also both proven to be Tier 1 creatures.

Image

Bunts
Thoughtseize, Mutavault, and Scavenging Ooze. When a card is good in older formats, it’s a no-brainer that a reprint will shake up Standard. I had never played with these cards in their previous incarnations, but now that I’ve had a chance to cast them, they have all been incredibly fun and useful. Sliver tribal and Mutavault isn’t a thing (and obviously won’t be), but that hasn’t stopped the 2/2/ land from being the most played card in Standard by a wide margin. Thoughtseize ran rampant for months and Scavenging Ooze shut down Junk Reanimator upon arrival.

Strikeouts
Steam Augury, Read the Bones, Kalonian Hydra. I suppose two of these weren’t total misses. After all, Read the Bones made top 8 of Pro Tour Theros, and Kalonian Hydra made 2nd place at an SCG Open thanks to none other than “Huey” Jensen…but Steam Augury? Nada.

Image

Born of the Gods has been available for a month, and after a large reaction of disapproval from players, the small set has never-the-less had an impact on the standard metagame. G/R Monsters was putting up results in the months prior, but now the deck has become one of the 4 major decks alongside U/W/x Control, Mono U/x, and Mono B/x.

Image

Courser of Kruphix
This card is amazing. Sure, you let your opponent know what card is coming next, but but that doesn’t negate the upside of drawing an extra card every couple turns. It also gains you life and blocks for days. Once you add Domri Rade and/or Chandra, Pyromaster, these cards give you the best deck manipulation in Standard. They are incredibly powerful and synergistic together.

Image

Bile Blight
The hype around Bile Blight was enormous before its release, but its printing certainly hasn’t caused Mono Black Devotion to overwhelm every other strategy. In fact, Pack Rat has been receding out of the spotlight as a result. I (perhaps mistakenly) sold my Boros Reckoners in anticipation of x/3’s falling out of favor, but never-the-less, this solid removal spell hasn’t been as dominant as the pre-release hype would have led you to believe it would be.

Image

Brimaz, King of Oreskos
There’s no denying that this guy is really good, but he is just a big, dumb 3-mana beater. Two things are currently holding him back, Jace, Architect of Thought is everywhere and Birds of Paradise is nowhere to be seen. Jace really neuters the king’s ability for his token army to be a factor, not to mention turn 3 Polukranos. The problem is there is no competitive way to cast him on turn 2. If a white-mana producing one drop creature becomes available, then you can bet that Brimaz will start racking up Top 8 appearances. He’s already phenomenal with Spear of Heliod, but he needs some help to truly shine.
*EDIT* Because Jace’s +1 and Brimaz’s attack trigger both go on the stack at the same time, the newly created Cat Soldier is NOT effected by -1/-0. I originally published this article with an incorrect assessment of this interaction.

There doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of room for innovation in this constructed environment. When Journey Into Nyx is released in two months, I do hope some sweet brews will shake up the status quo. Until then, I’ll be casting Sphinx’s Revelation.

Thanks for reading!
-Michael Skipper
Untap, Draw for Turn

I love Magic because I love people

Image

I love Magic because I love the people who play Magic. Nearly all of the Magic content on the web is concerned with getting better at competitive play, and I try to soak as much of this up as possible, but it shouldn’t be lost on us that when we sit down to play a game of Magic, we get to directly interact with another human being. More than anything, I think this is what drives me to keep learning and to keep playing.

Image

Magic has caused me to gain so many friends. Yeah, maybe even you. Especially you! Think about your attitudes, about your competitiveness, about your sense of fun. You bring a lot to the game, we all do. There are so many familiar faces; no matter how far you travel to play, you’ll find archetypes of players just like you’ll find archetypes of decks. The curt know-it-all, the self-effacing youth, the railbird cataloging the decks of the day, the veteran who’s got every card, the tier 1, the fringe; you’ve been or met all of them before, and if you haven’t, then just keep playing. I know that I’m a Venn diagram of the list above, and more.

Image

I spent 4 months in the Northeast last year with no way to play paper Magic. It was long enough time to make me wonder if I could win anymore. My focus was on family in the fall of 2013, and that meant I had to join Magic Online if I wanted to play at all. I’m not a wealthy man yet, and consequently, I didn’t have the resources to collect sweet constructed cards in digital form. Being cooped up in the boonies was decent enough with a copy of MODO though, because it gave me a much better understanding of the phases of the game. Player priority was completely foreign to me before playing in the digital world, but now I’m a bit stronger. (official priority breakdown here) Since I spent most of my time drafting, I also learned to build decks with a visible converted mana cost. When returning to paper Magic in the winter, these new skills were very apparent.

Image

Magic is about a lot of things, but I really appreciate “The Gathering” aspect. You get to know people. You get to sit across from a man or woman and engage in a friendly battle of wits, skill, and luck. For the people who play very regularly, who read Magic articles, they may take this for granted; I know I did. But making friends should never be overlooked, because it leads to better play, and to roadtrips!  Over the course of 3 consecutive weekends, I was privileged to embark with 3 different groups of people to large scale events. We stayed in hotels, traded cards, tested and talked strategy; and just had a ton of fun. Playing the game can be exhausting mentally, but the collective energy among friends and the desire to get better is something we all shared to keep our spirits high.

Image

I love welcoming new players to the game. I remember how nervous I was when I started playing competitively, so it feels like a real privilege to be kind and helpful when I’m sitting across from someone with much less experience than me. After all, it gives me a chance to set the tone for their future in the game. The more players that exist, the better it is for everyone. It’s fun to see the same faces too. Inevitably, you’ll face familiar foes in local shops again and again, earning wins and taking defeats. People grow to respect one another and try to help each other get better at the game. You might deem all of this superfluous, but I think that taking the time to appreciate one another is not only valid, it’s necessary for all us as we grow and improve as Wizards.

Thanks for reading.
Michael Skipper
Untap, Draw for Turn

Theros Standard Metagame Report

angerbabyInnistrad is gone. No more Lily, no more Geist, no more Snapcaster. Goodbye Huntmaster, Bonfire, Resto, Thundermaw, Thragtusk. The retired block had some superstars, but Magic keeps on moving, and Theros brings in a lot of heavy hitter to fill the void. Let’s check out some new Standard staples.

removalAnger Of The Gods/Hero’s Downfall/Chained To The Rocks
My first impression of Theros is how excellent the removal is. With extremely good wrath effects at 3, 4 & 6 mana, creatures in trouble. Grixis & Izzet will heavily rely on Anger Of The Gods, and this card is going to drastically warp how sideboards are assembled. Hero’s Downfall is going kill one-hundred thousand planeswalkers, maybe more. If Boros or UWr are a effective, then Chained To The Rocks will surely be part of the success plan.

getRichOrDieScryingTemples/Magma Jet/Read The Bones/Dissolve
Scrying is going to play a very large roll in standard…the format is slowing down, and an abundance of card selection is going to help make each late game spell make more of an impact.

spellsThoughtseize/Steam Augury
All the card filtering mentioned above goes hand in hand with the big daddy of disruption, Thoughtseize. This card has an incredibly proven track record, and you can expect the rest of the block and/or next years set to pay some respect to this card, possibly in an unfavorable way. Steam Augury is also incredibly interesting, and should help control decks spread their wings.

therosCreaturesFiredrinker Satyr/Soldier Of The Pantheon/Sylvan Caryatid/Stormbreath Dragon
Stromkirk Satyr and Champion Of The Pantheon have crystal clear shoes to fill, although its unclear if aggressive strategies can live among the gods. Sylvan Caryatid is very solid and will help ramp strategies bridge the gap to the late game. Stormbreath Dragon will close games out for any type of deck, but I’m most excited to see it alongside Aetherling in Grixis. It’s worth noting that creatures look quite a bit less exciting than last year.

elspethElspeth, Sun’s Champion
Elspeth is a win in a box, and you had better be prepared for her. She’s the real deal.

Outside of Chained To The Rocks, all of these cards should see major top 8 play, so be prepared!

Thanks for reading.
-Michael Skipper
Untap, Draw for Turn

Standard 2014

 

Also available at GAMES OF BERKELEY! Thanks Ralph!sOozeWhoa, that was fast. Dragon’s Maze went by in a blink. Theros is right around the corner. But now, it’s time for some Core Set action, Magic 2014 style. The summer set brings a couple well known reprints, as well as brand new heavy hitters for Standard. Let’s dive in.

scOozeJunk Reanimator’s days are officially numbered thanks to the already proven power of Scavenging Ooze. Most decks have had to run specific cards to combat graveyard strategies, even so far as main decking Ground Seal. That was the past. Unburial Rites will be rotating out of Standard soon, but it’s leaving in a knock down, drag out with this 2/2 hate bear. Lots of Oozes should be roaming the battlefields very soon, especially in the mirror match.

lifebaneFiend Hunter, Sin Collector, Thragtusk, and Acidic Slime were already best buds with Restoration Angel. Now, M14 brings a new combo piece in the form of Lifebane Zombie. While casting cost is an issue, the rampant presence of Voice of Resurgence decks should assure that Lifebane Zombie will have plenty of exile targets against the field of competition. In the future, look for a Jund Aggro list to utilize this intimidate creature, well after rotation in September.
dBladedoomBTruly, Doom Blade is one of the most efficient kill spells of recent times. Perhaps only bested by Go for the Throat, Doom Blade is going to find an immediate home in Jund, and cause trouble for creatures everywhere for the next year.

kalonianKalonian Hydra a bomb. Is an 8/8 attacking 5 mana Trampler good enough to end a game? Well, it dies to plenty of removal, but it takes a wurm army to block and trade. Plus, you can even Resto Angel the thing. This creature is a game winner, so keep your Selesnya Charms at the ready.

mutavaultPeople are brewing up the sliver deck, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t succeed in some capacity. From Naya to 5 color, a good assortment of slivers should assure that Mutavault has a place to shine in an Aggressive new build. Season to taste with Domri, Thundermaw, and Ghor-Clan Rampager.

thuneLifegain appears to be a thing that we’re headed toward in Theros, and you could certainly do worse for 5 mana than Archangel of Thune. How about giving her double strike for extra triggers?

youngPThis is the most unknown quantity in M14, and if the hype is to be believed, its the card with the longest term high ceiling. Perhaps Modern and Legacy are the real home for this Young PyroMASTER. Popularity alone should assure that this creature finds multiple homes.

ratchetBIn case you needed a reminder of how fragile tokens are, Ratchet Bomb is back, and is the clear cut best answer to Advent of the Wurm.

celestialFlareCelestial Flare exists in contrast to Witchstalker and Gladecover Scout. Fair decks need all the help they can get to respond to a GoST angel trigger, or, block/kill a mana dork to force sacrifice an Invisible Stalker at the end of combat. There’s room for Celestial Flare in Standard to answer the explosive starts that Hexproof is able to muster. It’s conditional Removal, but could see sideboard play.

cFlareSpecial mention to Elvish MysticGarruk, Caller of BeastsChandra, PyromasterPrimeval BountyBanisher Priest; Opportunity; and Xathrid Necromancer. Expect to see them!

Thanks for reading!
-Michael Skipper
Untap, Draw for Turn