We're excited to continue Coast to Coast Casual (CCC), a blog series written by East2West, published on MTG Cardsmith.
As a Magic player Standard is not my forte. The last time I really played it consistently was Return to Ravnica - Theros and I played a jank Dimir Mill deck. I got out of Standard almost the minute Khans block entered the format. The decks that were in the format were just a little to aggressive for my taste, even the control decks were low to the ground (from what I recall). That's when I started getting more into casual formats and drafting as my main ways of playing the game. I revisited Standard during Kaladesh because I got a job at a store that had primarily standard players, I also got an employee discount so I had a pretty steady stream of playables. I was very proud of my Boros Vehicle deck. I ended up quitting the job just a little before Ixalan dropped so once again I went back to my little casual corner. In recent times I still haven't been able to get into the format, there's something about buying expensive singles that will only lose value after rotation that turns me off a bit. However I have been asked to write an article about War of the Spark, a set I have been drooling over since I first heard the phrase "Planeswalker in every pack." So I spent the last couple weeks diving deep into Standard to see what impact WotS will have on the meta in the short term and what the cards could do in eternal formats. I'm not going to break down every card, but there are a few specific ones that I think herald some interesting shake ups for Magic's most popular format.
Part 1: Mechanic Spotlight
In WotS we're introduced to the new mechanic Amass. Now flavor wise it's supposed to be Bolas's army amassing (wink wink, nudge nudge) and this flavor is where it kind of flops. If it's supposed to be an army then why is it a single token? Why can a single Ravenous Chupacabra eat what is supposed to represent let's say 10 whole zombies? From a power standpoint though I totally get it. Imagine if every card that had Amass created 1/1 Zombie tokens instead. It'd be kinda busted. However for the same reason it flops in flavor I think it'll flop in gameplay. It's nice incidental value but it seems a little weak compared to the other threats the current metagame holds.
We also see the returning mechanic Proliferate, now this is something I have huge hopes for considering the state of both WotS as a standalone and the current Standard meta. All planeswalkers and Sagas benefit from Proliferate being in Standard making for some interesting combos. Cards like Growth Chamber Guardian, Venerated Loxodon, Runaway Steam-Kin, and a few others also get a sort of helping hand from the mechanic.
Although not keyworded I do want to mention some interesting additions I noticed during the previews. Awakening of the Vitu-Ghazi is reminiscent of Awaken from Battle for Zendikar. Evolution Sage has Landfall, an ability seen in every Zendikar block. Devouring Hellion has an ability similar to Devour from Alara block. Makeshift Battalion has well Battalion which was the Boros mechanic from Return to Ravnica block. Finally, Tenth District Legionnaire has Heroic from Theros block.
My first impression here is that Proliferate will outshine Amass like crazy. Proliferate is insanely good considering the amount of planeswalkers and counter synergies in standard right now while Amass doesn't quite fit as well. Amass can be insanely good, it's not something to be taken lightly, but it still only creates the one token making it very weak to the large amount of removal in Standard. Still Amass is something that performs way better than I first expected so if you see that little Zombie token keep an eye on it.
Part 2: Current Decks
The main part of my research into Standard has been what types of currently existing decks will be getting new tools to work with and just how good those tools will be. I focused on the top 11 decks in Standard right now according to the MTGGoldfish meta page.
Esper Control gets a bunch of new options that honestly I don't know if it'll take. A lot of the different things I can see being put into the deck aren't strict upgrades and the current list seems solid. Time Wipe, Tyrants Scorn, Enter the God Eternals, And Teferi, Time Raveler are the main cards I can see being used mainboard with a hesitant mention of Ignite the Beacon and Contentious Plan depending on if the list leans more towards Esper Super Friends for its mainboard. The sideboard is definitely getting Super Friends though as I see Narset, Parter of Veils being added alongside Finale of Eternity, The Elderspell, and possibly Lazotep Plating to help against said Elderspell.
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar slides so cleanly into this list, sneak attack on a stick would be good already but a 6/6 for five mana plus hard to remove, plus it has trample is so sweet! As for possible includes I could see maybe a one of Domri, Anarch of Bolas and Rubblebelt Rioters also seems sweet but there might just be better options. As for the sideboard I could see the inclusion of Vivien, Champion of the Wilds. Flashing in your creatures for pseudo haste is always a powerful thing.
Azorius Aggro is a bit of a weird one, the includes here are all pretty uncertain except for one, God-Eternal Oketra. With Oketra on board all your small creatures will also generate a 4/4 token which can really help you flood the board. The other possible include would be Finale of Glory which just generates so much value in this deck, however this may be more of a sideboard card than a main deck card. As for definite sideboarding Ravnica at War is a sweet pick for this deck, all of your permanents are monocolored so this becomes a solid board wipe against more multi color dependant decks like Esper Control and any deck running Hybroid Krasis. These suggestions also apply to mono-white aggro lists which is why it's not here.
At first I couldn't see what Sultai Midrange would get from WotS and then I did my first draft of the format and the rare smacked me in the face. Vivien, Champion of the Wilds shows up once again on the list for the insane value of flashing in a Hybroid Krasis. Sphinx's Revelation is shaking. Vivien might not see mainboard play since it hurts your gameplan to take a turn off to cast her but as a sideboard piece I can see her being a valuable card to include. Other cards that might shine here are Tamiyo, Collector of Tales for your more removal heavy matchups. Sultai Midrange is also one of the decks that will benefit from Lazotep Plating since counter removal is a thing now and a lot of your threats rely on their counters.
Personally I think Temur Reclamation will actually fall way out of favor with the printing of the new Teferi. I mean yeah it's cool your lands are untapped but it's not like you can actually use them. Dovin's Veto also makes it harder to remove that lock. Since I anticipate the new Teferi being a big part of the meta it might be time to say goodbye to the Reclamation shell. If we don't though, once again Vivien is a great addition for the more creature heavy builds.
This seems like the deck that will end up benefiting most from WotS as a whole and Amass as a mechanic. Grim Initiate, Dreadhorde Butcher, Dreadhorde Invasion, Widespread Brutality, and Banehound all seem like perfect fits for the current beatdown strategy however I could see a small zombie package being included in the sideboard in the form of Liliana, Dreadhorde General and Angrath, Captain of Chaos are booth quality zombie style includes that fit nicely in the board for grindier matchups. A definite include for the board has gotta be Angrath's Rampage, such a good card for this deck!
Selesnya Tokens doesn't get anything massive from WotS and is actually supremely hurt by the printing of Blast Zone. The best card in WotS for Selesnya Tokens is Finale of Glory which other decks in the meta will be able to utilize better than the token deck. Other than that Tokens just gets a few removal options like Return to Nature and Prison Realm. The only other card I can see here would be Pledge of Unity which could be seriously powerful with the right board. This is a deck I don't expect to see much of in the coming season.
Okay so Jeskai Control is about to get some major upgrades. Teferi, Time Raveler, Ral's Outburst, Invade the City, Dovin's Veto, Time Wipe, Solar Blaze, Augur of Bolas, Finale of Revelation, Commence the Endgame, and God-Eternal Kefnet all work for the deck! Seriously, Jeskai control just got a lot better and a lot grindier. I can also see maybe a one of the new Ugin in the board for the mirror match but unless the game goes long I doubt it'll be castable so I wouldn't mainboard it.
Not much to speak of here except for Invade the City. Drakes is a great deck but it might be one of the ones that just can't keep up with the new decks coming in. I could be wrong here but I really couldn't find any other card (except maybe Ral's Outburst) that will fit nicely with the drake tell. Feel free to tell me I'm wrong :)
Three words. Chandra, Fire Artisan. Light Up the Stage has been showing everyone the power of red's unique type of card advantage and Chandra saw it and said "Hold my beer." Not only will she create a massive board presence very quickly once she's down but removing her is also a hassle. Since damage removes loyalty counters she gets to deal damage whenever she is damaged meaning often she can kill whatever hurts her. She's the only card from WotS I can see in the deck but hooooo, watch out folks.
Okay so once again we find a deck that doesn't get any obvious spice. To me I can see a few sweet board options with Narset's Reversal and Dovin, Hand of Control for the mirror but not much is given in terms of main deck playables. Maybe Aven Eternal? We'll see.
Part 3: Possible New Decks
Whew, wow you're still reading, thanks man. Now that we're done with what's already in Standard let's get to the fun part, brewing. I'm going to make the five decks that I can see being strong in the new Standard format. Now the deck composition isn't what I'm betting on more the archetypes themselves since, like I said, I am no brewmaster when it comes to Standard.
My personal favorite here is Chromatic Jeskai, hybrid mana is a pet project of mine so I'm excited to see it actually being used in an interesting way.
Part 4: Wrap Up
War of the Spark has got to be one of my favorite sets I've been around for. The story elements and power level feel right and there's an air of extreme fun to the whole thing. The draft format is sweet, Jeskai Walkers has been a favorite of mine and pulling a foil Interplanar Beacon felt so so so nice. I hope to hear about your drafts and games in the future. As always this has been East2west with CCC, I'll see you guys on the battlefield.
East2West is an aspiring writer from NJ currently seeking fame and fortune on the internet. She's been playing Magic since Zendikar block (the original one) and is a commander player with one deck for each two color pair and one for each single color. The only non EDH deck she plays is her own personal Pauper brew, Pauper Eggs. Follow her on her newly created and probably soon to be underused twitter @East2WestMTG.