Return to Ravnica Cards and Standard Deck Ideas by Tom Harle
So the full spoiler is now up and, rather than going through everything card by card I’ll just finish talking about the cards I think are going to be most impactful:
Angel of Serenity – This gal has been covered pretty well by other writers online and with good reason. 7 mana is a lot, especially with triple white but a 5/6 that triple Fiend Hunters when it comes into play is no joke. If that wasn’t good enough the fact that the guys go back to hand instead of to play is insane – turning this into a super Hoverguard Sweepers even if they do have the removal immediately. The final ability where you can take cards out of graveyards to stop them being reanimated or to ensure you get something back in your hand if she dies is just the icing on the cake. Expect to see this as both a finisher in control decks and potentially as a reanimation target too.
Cyclonic Rift – I’m not as impressed with this as some people seem to be, comparing it to Vapor Snag or Into the Roil. Sadly 2 mana is a lot more than 1 and getting to 7 in the type of decks that have been playing Snag seems unlikely. It’s also never going to draw a card to replace itself like Roil or Repeal do which makes it a poor choice for a control deck. It might see play as early defense in a ramp deck that can realistically get to 7 but I think there’s better Overload cards (like Mizzium Mortars) for that role.
Psychic Spiral – Is an interesting card that potentially allows for a combo style kill in a self mill type deck, without having to attack with creatures. Throw in an Unburial Rites on an Archaeomancer and you don’t even have to draw it. Sadly the self mill deck usually needs a lot of creatures to make Gnaw to the Bone enough to survive but it’s worth bearing in mind as a sideboard card.
Epic Experiment – Is another card that has attracted a lot of attention and has a very powerful effect. Sadly in Standard I don’t think the ritual type effects are there to make a pure combo deck work but as a card advantage engine in a mostly spell deck it has potential. Farseek and Ranger’s Path both provide spell style acceleration and there’s plenty of burn spells. One thing that I’d like to try out is a Burning Vengeance style deck, using Faithless Looting, Desperate Ravings and Izzet Charm to fill the graveyard then a bit of Ramp for mana and Epic Experiment and Past in Flames as the final kill spells.
Sphinx’s Revelation – Is a card I’m almost certainly going to be casting in the new Standard as the combination of cards and the life buffer to give you time to cast them is very powerful. I remember the days of Stroke of Genius where you just traded 1-1 early game then Stroked for 3-4 and they couldn’t compete with that card advantage. Sweepers like Wrath (at the time) or the new uncounterable Supreme Verdict stop people rushing you too quickly and give you time to set up your powerful X spell.
Neither the Golgari Charm nor Rakdos Charms seem particularly impressive – the abilities aren’t that singularly powerful like the Azorius or Selesnea ones and they’re not as versatile as the Izzet one. Having the destroy Enchantment and Artifact modes is nice but it does limit their main deck power.
Finally the Keyrunes all seem very playable in the right decks – 3 mana acceleration is never as good as 2 but the ability to turn your acceleration into a threat late game is very useful. I particularly like the Izzet one as the Looting ability you get when you hit them can turn excess lands into more threats/answers.
So that’s not everything and I’ve sure I’ll have missed one of the big players of the next Standard but I wanted to move on from discussing single cards to what I think new Standard might look like. I was asked what a control deck might look like in the new format and I think before we can start discussing that we need to think about what decks we need to control first!
(Disclaimer – I’ve not done any testing yet so all these ideas are work in progress – as such I’m not going to give decklists just talk about the kind of decks and cards I can see making an impact.
The big obvious deck post rotation is going to be Zombies. It already had a lot of powerful cards in Gravecrawler and Geralf’s Messenger and new toys like Dreg Mangler and Loleth Troll give it a more consistently powerful early game.
There’s the option of a super aggressive version with the new unleash R/B 1 drop giving you up to 12 1 mana 2 power guys if you want to go down that route. Currently it seems that BG has slightly more powerful creatures but BR will have Vampire Aristocrat as always and more reach with burn and Blood Artist.
It remains to be seen which version will be best but I’d be wary of trying 3 colours. Even with all the duals and Cavern I dont think there’s enough fixing to make it work quickly and consistently enough.
RDW another deck that the Rakdos Cackler could possibly invigorate is a mono red style aggro deck. Rakdos Shred Freak and Ash Zealot give a couple more powerful aggressive monsters to fill your curve and there’s still Thundermaw Hellkite as a powerful top end if you want to go that far.
Personally I think there’s probably not enough reason not to splash for the new powerful gold cards – even if it’s just something like Snapcaster Mage for your burn and Izzet Charm to give you more interaction. If the format is going to be very fast then I think people will respond with cards to slow it down – things like Thragtusk, Sphinx’s Revelation and the new 3/3 gain 3 life centaur for 1GW are all the kinds of things mono red doesn’t really want to see.
WW/Tokens is a deck that seems like it could be very good with some of the new tools. Champion of the Parish into Gather the Townsfolk was very good in block and now there’s potentially 2 new 2 power 1 drops that could make the grade in War Falcon or Dryad Militant. If Zombies does become the new best deck then both Knight of Glory and Elite Inquisitor as aggressive white monsters that are very good against them.
Delver has lost a lot but is still going to be a powerful strategy – either Izzet with burn and the new charm or traditional UW with Geist of Saint Traft. One potential route I can see a Delver of Secrets or Geist deck going is with populate effects or abusing hexproof and auras.
BG self mill is another deck that has gained a lot from the new set both in the Grisly Salvage and Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord. Possibly playing Blue for Armoured Skaab and using Deathrite Shaman as a mana fix and utility creature. While not as fast as the other aggro decks it will be capable of making very big threats very quickly and Gnaw to the Bone gives it a big life boost against aggro. Tracker’s Instinct and Jared give it some good long game vs control too, the only problem being the splash damage from graveyard hate.
I’ll lump these together as there isn’t really going to be a pure combo deck in standard I don’t think and ramp and reanimator both try and use setup cards to try and get to a late game state early. I mentioned the ramp Burning Vengance idea earlier and I think that it might be a good way to avoid the creature removal people will be playing. Sadly there isn’t a huge amount of good big creatures to reanimated/ramp into, although just 4 of the new Angel of Serenity might be enough to make a very powerful deck.
So that’s not all the new potential decks that might get played in Standard but I think it’s enough a baseline to start thinking about what control decks might want to be playing.
Return to Ravnica Control Decks
Firstly I think we can see that we’re going to need some cheap removal – the aggro decks are going to start making threats as early as turn 1 so removal like Pillar of Flame is going to be pretty common, especially with the recursion of Zombies and Undying.
We’re also going to want some sort of sweeper effect as most of the aggro decks will want to put 2-3 guys out and if they know you’re not playing some sort of mass removal they’re going to have a much easier time adding to the board and trying to overwhelm you.
Counterspells sadly seem like they’re going to be more of a liability than a staple as there’s already Cavern of Souls and a whole host of new uncounterable spells to make them look foolish, but also a lot of big spells from the ramp/reanimator type decks that you will want to counter.
Rakdos’s Return is another big spell that zombies might main or board against you that a deck without counters might really struggle with. Gilded Lotus is a card I think we’ll see more of in the new standard as expensive things like Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, Angel of Serenity and powered up Sphinx’s Revelation are a good end game for control decks and Gilded Lotus is a big leap forward in making them happen early. Especially if you can use the 3 extra mana you get on turn 5 to play a removal spell.
Realistically I think there are 2 main types of control decks we can start thinking about: UW(R) and Bx. UW will be similar to what I mentioned above – early 1-1 removal spells and then big finishers like Angel and Revelation to seal the deal. Some Planeswalkers might see play as good removal spells like Tamiyo, the Moon Sage or card draw like new Jace but they won’t be the main win condition like that have been in recent control decks – too many cards like Vraska the Unseen, Dreadbore and Rakdos’s Return, coupled with the very fast aggressive creatures make me think this is unlikely. They’ll be played but more as utility or value than the threat that seal the deal.
UR potentially could play the same style of game but I don’t think it has the same late game powerful spells that UW has, although UWR taking advantage of all three colours is a very real possibility. Having sweepers for Geist of Saint Traft and tokens will be a must which makes me think Supreme Verdict is where you want to be, but I can see Mortars being Overloaded off of a Gilded Lotus being a common play too.
Grixis is another popular control colour combination but I think it’s lacking the sweepers and big threats to be as good as UWR. Snapcaster Mage and Restoration Angel are still going to be a powerful combination if you have the mana and/or cheap spells to recur and I think both the Izzet and Azorius Charms fit the bill nicely. Fettergeist is another under-costed creature that would be a good fit in a creature light control deck and saw some play in this style of deck in Barcelona.
Bx control based around Mutilate seems like the other main control route – with the new duals, Keyrunes and Evolving wilds you can get a splash colour in mono black based off a single non swamp land so you keep the power level of Mutilate up, possibly even taking advantage of huge monsters like Desecration Demon so that your guys survive.
The new enchantment that turns a land into a Phyrexian Arena gives you some nice reusable card drawing and the Thragtusk – Disciple of Bolas “combo” is very good if you have enough creatures for Disciple. If they’re keeping your Demon tapped down by saccing their Lingering Souls tokens then cashing him in for 7+ life and cards seems like a nice option. Targeted discard will help vs the ramp/reanimator/control mirrors and Vraska gives you a powerful Planeswalker.
So there we are – hopefully you’ve picked up some ideas as to what the new standard might look like, obviously I’ve barely scratched the surface of the new cards and I for one and really looking forward to seeing how the new cards play out in limited, standard and even modern. Happy brewing!