Card Knock Life #69 – Put the Cat Down

This week, Corey and Darrel examine the first weekend of Amonkhet Standard and dig into the decks that gain the most from this new set.

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(Standard) GW Emeria Renegade Primer

On our last cast, Darrel and I got on the topic of how great Renegade Rallier worked with Eldrazi Displacer and started to brew a deck around this engine.

This week, I began brewing around this idea and came up with something that I am quite excited to share.  In the process, I’ve uncovered some incredible interactions between many of the cards in standard that aren’t outwardly obvious.  Rather than posting the decklist first, let’s start by going through the opening to a hypothetical game.

Let’s imagine that this is our opening hand on the play…

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(Standard) GW Tokens Primer

by Christian Lorenz


My name is Christian Lorenz, and I began playing magic in 2006 with the release of the magic expansion Guildpact. I played through the introduction of Time Spiral Block, and then took a break from magic until the release of Return to Ravnica. Nostalgia brought me back in, and I haven’t looked back since. I am a green mage at heart, and drift towards aggressive and midrange strategies. I play Standard competitively, but my true goal in any game of magic is to learn and have fun. I currently reside in Denver Colorado, where there is a large and thriving magic community.

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(Standard) Deck Spotlight – Abzan Aristocrats

by Corey Murphy


 

Let me just start by saying that Abzan Aristocrats might be my favorite standard deck to pilot ever.  I’m starting to think, after taking down my local game day, that it’s the real deal, too.  No, not a humble brag, I realize game day is meant to be more of a casual event and definitely was expecting that going in.  I didn’t even have my deck completed when I entered the shop but, luckily, was able to buy the last two Zulaport Cutthroats from the store (not sure how I was going to get buy running only two).  It ended up being an 8-hour, 5-round event with about 30 players in attendance full of tier 1 standard decks.  Here’s what I had to face:

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Card Knock Life #23 – Michael Jordan

(Standard) Deck Spotlight – Emeria Ramp

by Corey Murphy


 

We’ve got two full weeks of BFZ Standard under our belt and not one ramp strategy has broken into the top 8.  We have seen 0 Ulamogs, 0 Ugins, and 0 Void Winnowers so far.  But why!?  Is it possible that the best curve topper for a ramp deck hasn’t been discovered yet?  This card is way too powerful for the lack of love its getting right now…

Emeria Shepherd

Emeria Shepherd’s base stats are quite lackluster…7 cmc for a 4/4 flyer?  I can see why it is being overlooked.

It’s trigger ability, however, is one of the strongest ever printed.  If you assume that Emeria Shepherd is virtual 8-drop, you can net three threats from one single play (via a fetch land drop and crack for a plains).  It’s ability to return a nonland permanent of any type is unprecedented.  This free and repeatable trigger reminds me of another large white creature that we met during our last trip to Zendikar standard.

Sun Tit

In fact, Sun Titan appeared in a standard W Ramp deck during this time along with quite a few other cards that have recently been reprinted or…”functionally” reprinted (air quotes because some are strictly worse).

First, take a look at the deck…

Mono W Control (GP Barcelona 2011)

4 Pilgrim’s Eye (reprinted in BFZ)
4 Squadron Hawk
4 Stoneforge Mystic (sorry, I don’t consider Relic Seeker even close)
4 Sun Titan
3 Wall of Omens (we now have Orator of Ojutai)
2 Kor Sanctifiers

4 Day of Judgment

3 Elspeth Tirel
2 Journey to Nowhere (we now have Silkwrap)
2 Mortapod
1 Bonehoard
1 Sword of Body and Mind
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sylvok Lifestaff

11 Plains
4 Marsh Flats (we now have Windswept Heath, Flooded Strand)
4 Tectonic Edge
4 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
1 Terramorphic Expanse (reprinted)

This deck used ramp creatures like Pilgrim’s Eye (and occasionally Kor Cartographer) to reach six lands.  This would allow you to either cast Sun Titan and spam the enters-the-battlefield triggers on cards like Stoneforge Mystic or Wall of Omens in order to fetch out the sword of choice and commence the beats.  Once Emeria, Sky Ruin was online, the engine became event more resilient to removal and wrath spells and the pilot could rebuild a relatively scary board state very quickly.

While we don’t have Stoneforge and the Scars swords in our current Standard, we do have a lot of scary midrange creatures and planeswalkers to recur.

Our New Titan

The beauty of Emeria Shepherd’s trigger is twofold…

1-It is not restricted to “3 cmc or less”.  This means that you can play Gideon, -4 Gideon, reanimate Gideon, and activate him for a second time (possibly another emblem?) all in one turn.  Excellent.

2-A landfall trigger with a plains gives you an option to return the creature to your hand OR the battlefield.  This makes creatures like Den Protector, who you’d want to cast morphed rather than return directly to the battlefield, much more appealing.

den protector Gideon

Breaking Down the Deck

Something I’ve toyed with, though I’m not quite sure it isn’t too ‘cute’ in this sort of deck, is Silumgar Sorcerer.  Since Silumgar Sorcerer can exploit itself for its “remove soul” effect, it allows you to place it directly into your graveyard.  This way, every live fetch land becomes a free counterspell.

silumgararrowfloodedarrow silumgar

The double blue in Silumgar Sorcerer’s cost was a little concerning to me as I had originally wanted to keep the deck mono white.  Fortunately, the two colors I had considered splashing for had both a fetch land and a battle land that shared white in common.  That way, I could run a mana base where every single land was a plains (best use of Emeria Shepherd’s ability) and I would still have access to my splash colors with very little draw back.  I had already intended on running as many white fetch lands as I could in order to trigger landfall.

I did, however, manage to very awkwardly squeeze one copy of Nissa, Vastwood Seer into the deck.  To do this, I learned from a very embarrassing test run that I would need to run at least one main deck basic forest (and probably even more are necessary).  As forced as this seemed, my experiences with Nissa during testing solidified her spot.  While it’s most obvious function is to fetch a forest for ramp and landfall, I found that her chance to spark into planeswalker form came pretty consistently alongside Pilgrim’s Eye, Explosive Vegetation, and lots of fetch lands.  Once flipped, Nissa’s +1 ability has a chance to trigger additional Emeria landfalls.

nissa 1 nissa 2

Going Big

The deck runs enough gas to function without any Emeria Shepherd shenanigans at all and can simply send Archangel of Tithes and Dragonlord Ojutai flying over low-to-the-ground midrange creatures for lethal damage.  Things get really explosive (pun intended…Explosive Vegetation, get it?) when you can untap with Emeria in play.

As previously mentioned, you typically will want to play Emeria Shepherd on turn 8 when you can also drop a fetch land for two reanimate triggers.  When you are free to use all of your mana to abuse this ability, there are a number of ways to squeeze multiple land drop triggers into one turn.

blighted woodland Explosive vegetation oblivion sower

When permanents like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar can immediately place themselves in the graveyard to great benefit, for example a +1/+1 emblem, these landfall triggers tend to add up fast.  Eventually, your Pilgrim’s Eyes are looking scary…

The Deck

4 Archangel of Tithes
1 Den Protector
4 Dragonlord Ojutai
3 Emeria Shepherd
4 Knight of the White Orchid
1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
2 Oblivion Sower
4 Pilgrim’s Eye
2 Silumgar Sorcerer

2 Valorous Stance
2 Explosive Vegetation

1 Quarantine Field
2 Silkwrap
3 Gideon, Avenger of Zendikar

2 Blighted Woodland
1 Canopy Vista
3 Prairie Stream
4 Flooded Strand
4 Windswept Heath
10 Plains
1 Forest

—Sideboard—

3 Retreat to Kazandu
2 Tragic Arrogance
4 Arashin Cleric
4 Dromoka’s Command
2 Mastery of the Unseen

So there it is!  Version 1.0.  I’m sure that I’m missing something so please tell me any ideas you might have in the comment section.

Thanks for reading.  Catch you next time!

(Standard) Deck Spotlight – Sultai Eldrazi

by Corey Murphy


Fathom Feeder is the most underrated card in Battle for Zendikar.

fathom feeder

While many players are calling this a ‘weaker’ Baleful Strix, I see it as quite a different source of card advantage and utility.  Let’s break it down based on its four lines of text…

Devoid: This is subtly useful if the card is played alongside something like Ghostfire Blade or Dominator Drone.  Building the ‘colorless strategy’ in a standard construction deck seems to be a natural fit for artifact all-stars like Hangarback Walker.  While I included Hangarback Walker in my deck, I did so only for it’s incredible value and ability to generate early blockers and flying attackers.  I am mostly not concerned with the Devoid aspects of Fathom Feeder in this case but it’s certainly something to look at in other builds.

Dominator Drone ghostfire blade

Deathtouch: Besides being able to trade with an attacker of any size (I’m looking at you, Siege Rhino), Fathom Feeder’s deathtouch encourages players not to block.  It is hard to justify losing a sizable creature to prevent one damage so often times, the ingest just ‘gets there’.  We’ll talk about how useful that is next.

Sidebar-loving the interaction of Ojutai’s Command and Fathom Feeder for a surprise blocker.  We’ll build Esper Eldrazi next time!

Ingest: Cards in your opponent’s exile will function much like one-time use mana sources for valuable ‘kicker spells’ in your Eldrazi deck.  Some of my favorite processors can be incredibly backbreaking when the opponent’s exile is piling up.  In my sultai deck, I run Oblivion Sower as a primary source of ramp.  Two things to remember about the Sower:

  1. You only need to cast it to trigger its ability
  2. Lands put into play enter untapped (leaving your mana for counterspells like Ulamog’s Nullifier and Spell Shrivel)

nullifier oblivion sower

Draw/Ingest Opponent: The perfect late game mana sink that also generates gas for your processor spells.  Imagine this…

Attack with Fathom Feeder >> Ingest >> Activate Fathom Feeder at end of opponent’s turn >> Ingest and draw into Ulamog’s Nullifier >> hold to counter or activate Feeder again on their next turn

The Deck

Of course, on its own, Fathom Feeder may not be enough to build a deck full of Eldrazi processors.  Fortunately, there are plenty of useful removal spells and counters that exile your opponent’s cards.

horribly shrivel transgress

One shortfall of my list is its inability to exile an opposing Hangarback Walker.  As much as I want to run a card like Complete Disregard for this situation, it only leaves you a small window of time to cast it at 3 CMC before the Walker has grown out of range.  As an alternative, we can ramp up to Ulamog and exile it.  Obviously not an ideal answer…still looking…

My theory behind the ramp here is to play spells that are more versatile than strict ramp spells like Explosive Vegetation or ‘mana dorks’.  For example, From Beyond.  While this card’s primary function here is to produce one-time use mana for big payoff spells, it can function similar to a planeswalker with a loyalty ability of “0: Make a creature token”.  The 1 power that these tokens have is not a negligible difference it’s original Zendikar version, Awakening Zone.  In a deck that plays a long game, these 1/1’s can overwhelm an opponent for the win.

The best function of From Beyond is its ability to sacrifice to search out an Eldrazi spell.  This allows you to play singleton Eldrazi spells in your deck that would otherwise crowd your hand in the early turns.  One of my favorite interactions is to sacrifice to search out an Ulamog’s Nullifier and cast it in the same turn to counter a crucial spell.  From Beyond can also find your single Ulamog or Void Winnower (from the sideboard) for the big payoff.

From Beyond UlamogAwakening Void Winnower

Here’s my list (version 2.0)…

1 Hedron Archive
3 From Beyond

4 Ulamog’s Nullifier
2 Den Protector
4 Fathom Feeder
4 Hangarback Walker
2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
3 Catacomb Sifter
3 Oblivion Sower
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

1 Horribly Awry
3 Spell Shrivel
3 Transgress the Mind

7 Forest
2 Island
4 Lumbering Falls
4 Polluted Delta
2 Swamp
3 Sunken Hollow
3 Opulent Palace

SB: 2 Languish
SB: 1 Void Winnower
SB: 3 Wasteland Strangler
SB: 2 Self-Inflicted Wound
SB: 1 Villainous Wealth
SB: 2 Dispel
SB: 2 Sultai Charm
SB: 2 Horribly Awry

Possible modifications include:

  • Going up to 4 Oblivion Sowers: this guy is just that good
  • Running one of either Blighted Cataract or Blighted Fen (or both?)
  • Splashing one Smoldering Marsh (searchable with Polluted Delta) to allow for sideboard Crumble To Dust (Oblivion Sower’s best friend)
  • Cutting Void Winnower-will have to see if he’s relevant and this depends on what else is being played in Standard

Thanks for reading!  Leave your ideas in the comments section!

-Corey Murphy