With Innistrad now Standard legal, I thought I’d go through some of the deck-building components and discuss the various engines within the format. An engine is system of card or cards within your deck that can chug away to achieve something that powers yours deck through its game plan repeatedly, be it removal, drawing cards or even discarding cards. A famous removal engine is the Punishing Fire – Grove of the Burnwillows combo, and a good example of a single card draw engine is Jace Beleren.
So, what do we have in standard at the moment?
Whilst not an engine of infinite use, it generates a lot of card advantage and can often fuel itself. Using Forbidden Alchemy to net you a card in hand and a Think Twice in the graveyard is a powerful way to dig through your deck building card advantage. When you flashback the Alchemy, you get to do it all over again and provide yourself with some amazing card selection and advantage. Adding in more flashback spells turns this into a powerhouse draw engine, and Snapcaster Mage keeps cards in your graveyard chocked with value.
Again, not as constant as a Jace, The Mind Sculptor in terms of keeping your hand stocked, but this combination draws you card for a cost effective sum of mana and is open to all colours. Obviously a blue deck will usually have better options, but for other decks to be able to draw a card for two mana, then draw a second card (and gain 1 life) for two mana at instant speed later on, is a big deal. Pair it with something like Sun Titan and you have a real card draw engine that chugs away indefinitely. This is something I’m a big fan of at the moment, and the Mycosynth Wellspring can help you fix colours to play combinations with access to only one dual land, like RW for example.
This is a one card discard engine. Whilst discard engines are generally worse than draw engines, they allow a deck to execute a graveyard strategy reliably. The Solar Flare style deck that wants to use Unburial Rites to recur large creatures or cheat them into play is where Liliana has found her place. Whilst in my testing the Solar Flare decks have been poor, they remain popular and all of them use Liliana. The problem with this engine though, is that you often get in a situation where discarding hurts you too much, so you are left with a Planeswalker on the field that you cannot use, also, to get advantage from her â€œplusâ€ ability (which is the make or break nature of walkers) you not only need to have built around her, but also to have the specific cards in hand, and for your opponent to not have cards that play well around the discard. This makes her very limited indeed, and whilst she is an effective discard engine, a lot of decks only want to discard once or twice in a game, which makes her pretty unexciting. In my opinion, she is the most overrated card in the set and is destined to crash in value.
A familiar engine to most of you, it was a staple fixture at the end of the last standard format. The ability to cheat your way up the curve whilst firing off â€œenters the battlefieldâ€ abilities is very strong, also giving you the ability to tutor up cards that are good in specific circumstances without having to play many of them so they don’t pollute your draws when you don’t need them. This is already a proven deck plan and I imagine it will continue to be, even though it has lost its consistency thanks to Sea Gate Oracle and Preordain leaving standard, making it more vulnerable to bad draws and mulligans. Ancient Grudge being in the format makes the Birthing Pod engine very easy to disrupt indeed.
This card is very similar to Lightning Rift once was. A way to constantly gain an extra advantage from something you are doing anyway, and build a removal engine that can also kill your opponent. There are a whole stack of flashback spells, Think Twice, Desperate Ravings, Forbidden Alchemy as well as Snapcaster Mage to really hammer home the point. You end up with a mass of card advantage and with support from creatures like Consecrated Sphinx and Grim Lavamancer you can literally bury your opponent’s under card advantage and removal. This engine is something that also appeals to me a lot and I think it will be a serious part of the format.
A very nice utility card, allowing you to remove creatures as well as field your own, this constant stream of 2/2 wolves for only four mana is a pretty effective creature factory and allows you to run away with board position if not stopped quickly. Obviously Garruk, Primal Hunter is still around, but at one mana less and with a much easier mana cost for decks wanting to only play a little green, he takes over the board a turn earlier and can squeeze into almost any deck. This creature engine is one of the best ways to create and maintain board position in standard, and only costs you a single card.
There are other core engines to decks around, but these are the ones I see in the immediate future becoming the staples of the format and being relied upon by many decks in order to function.
Anyway, that’s all from me this week, I’m off to GP Milan tomorrow, so you can follow me and the rest of the UK players travelling to Milan on the event coverage on the Wizards web site and on the mtgUK Chat Room.