The Three Styles of Boros Aggro

Boros
Boros Aggro took a whopping six of the Top 8 spots at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica.

Basic Mountain: Boros Aggro? Boros TOKENS!

PT Champion Jeremy Dezani showed us one of the new styles of Boros Aggro. Relative to the other decks in Top 8, this “redder” r-w deck had many points of differentiation when compared with the “whiter” or even mono-white builds.

Chief among this would be a missing Benalish Marshall. Benalish Marshall is very good… Unless you are playing lands that don’t tap for white.

Dezani played a whopping four basic Mountains!

These Mountains helped to support a couple of gold cards (two Boros Challengers, and two copies of Aurelia, Expmplar of Justice), but more importantly, four copies of Goblin Instigator.

Instigator is thematically appropriate for such a tokens-centric deck list. Jeremy played both Hunted Witness and Heroic Reinforcements; neither is an automatic four-of in Boros Aggro.

Mini-Soul Sisters: Ajani’s Pridemate in Boros Aggro

One of the most unique takes on Boros was played by Luis Scott-Vargas.

Luis and team “splashed” Ajani’s Pridemate into their White Weenie deck. This card starts off with a little bit of life gain with Healer’s Hawk. Adding Leonin Vanguard gives the Pridemate plenty of things use to grow Ajani’s Pridemate. The Pridement itslef can play a little bit of Tarmogoyf; it only costs two mana, but it can pack quite the punch. Given the limited spot removal of some of these white aggro decks, an Ajani’s Pridemate with too many +1/+1 counters is just going to kill you.

Rustwing Falcon: Trusty Rusty in Boros Aggro

One card you might have espied in the PT Guilds of Ravnica Top 8 is Rustwing Falcon.

“A 1/2 flyer for W?” you ask. “Why would you play this?”

There are two reasons:

  1. If you think people are going to play Healer’s Hawk — and all the Boros Aggro decks are playing between 2 and 4 copies — Rustwing Falcon rules the skies.
  2. Goblin Chainwhirler. The success of these White Weenie-type decks is largely predicated on people just not playing Mono-Red, and therefore being able to ignore its indiscriminate slaughter of x/1 creatures. Rustwing Falcon, with its two toughness, offers some incidental resistance to Goblin Chainwhirler.

The winning list, played by Andrew Elenbogen, went even lower: If 1/2 flyers make you scratch your head… What do you think about 0/3 dinosaurs?

Beyond Boros Aggro…

While there were six Boros decks in the Top 8, those slots were largely earned on Limited records. Consequently, Standard has lots more viable decks. And boy do we talk about them!

Direct Download

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Supreme Phantom – How is This a Real Magic Card?

Supreme Phantom
Supreme Phantom

How is Supreme Phantom a Real Magic Card?

Not so long ago, our own beloved MichaelJ played a 1/3 creature for 1U. Its goal was just to slow down the many 2/1 creatures of the Standard Red deck of the time. The U in its upper-right helped to power up Master of Waves, but this card had to, more or less, contribute successfully on its own.

This card served Mike super well. He sided it in in the Top 8 of the Regional PTQ, essentially cancelling all the Foul-Tongue Invocations his opponent had drawn. That card was, of course, Omenspeaker.

Omenspeaker was fine. Unexciting, but Mike really wanted it for the 1/3 body. Compare that to Supreme Phantom…

Supreme Phantom is also a 1/3 creature for 1U. But instead of a fairly minor Scry ability, it has two abilities… And they’re both doozies. Flying is maybe the best keyword evasion ability in Magic, and its +1/+1 buff ability makes the card a perfect anchor for the Bant Spirits archetype.

Supreme Phantom in Bant Spirits

Supreme Phantom is obviously a great card in Bant Spirits. The Grand Prix winning list by Peiyuan Zheng plays double-digit Spirits. That starts the Phantom off with tons of potential buddies to buff. But even better? Hexproof!

With Geist of Sant Traft, or, perhaps more importantly, Drogskol Captain, many a Spirit will live to smash many a face.

Bant Spirits in the Modern Context

Besides its awesome sideboard options to dominate KCI or Dredge, Bant Spirits has a solid game plan of its own.

It’s got the StOmPy draw enabled by the Phantom; Bant can turn up the speed sometimes! It’s got Spell Queller. But not only that, it’s got Collected Company off the green splash! This gives Bant Spirits essentially eight permission spells in Game One (as the Company can hit Queller).

While not the most specialized archetype, Bant Spirits did win the Extended Grand Prix last week, and that makes it more than worth discussing / looking at.

Direct Download

Watch Out for Tocatli Honor Guard

Tocatli Honor Guard
Tocatli Honor Guard will be a main-deck four-of

Tocatli Honor Guard Just Got a Promotion

This card was previously largely a sideboard card; Patrick himself played it in his R/W Control deck as a foil for Energy triggers. Today, the Honor Guard is an amazing inclusion specifically to stifle the Golgari Midrange deck.

Golgari relies heavily on the 187 effects of its creatures. You cant — you actually can’t — remove a Tocatli Honor Guard from play with a Ravenous Chupacabra. Worse yet, Golgari will often he in a situation where it needs its Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger to hit lands.

With the Honor Guard in play?

If you started out manascrewed, you’re staying manascrewed.

Tocatli Honor Guard is Played in Boros and Selesnya

Both of the white aggro strategies played the Honor Guard at Grand Prix New Jersey.

For Boros, the Honor Guard took the spot of Knight of Grace. For Selesnya, playing this card means killing its own darlings. Simply, you don’t get to play your own Explore guys.

On the other hand, you really do beat up anyone relying on creature-based 187 engines. In addition, it is a 1/3 creature, and therefore, pretty good at blocking the Red Deck.

Don’t Sleep on Jeskai

Eli Kassis broke the Jeskai archetype wide open in New Jersey. Instead of Cracking Drake, Eli played Azor’s Gateway. Not only does this give him something to dow with his extra lands (especially given his enormous mana count) it flips consistently for Banefire and Expansion // Explosion. Azor’s Gateway into Sanctum of the Sun represents a meaningful different dimension for the control strategy. Banefire for, say 24 will be uncounterable.

Check it:

Direct Download

Will Tajic, Legion’s Edge Take Over Modern?

Tajic, Legion's Edge
Will Tajic, Legion’s Edge break into a Humans deck near you?

Tajic, Legion’s Edge provides Humans with Many Tools

Kevin Ambler added Tajic, Legion’s Edge to his Top 8 deck from last week’s Modern Open. Tajic provides many awesome advantages to a Humans deck:

  • Tajic has much of the Mantis Rider to him. Mantis Rider was one of the highest performing cards in Humans before, and this is another three-power hasty attacker
  • Exalted is a little bit of a non-bo with Mentor, but to that Mantis Rider comment, above, Tajic is a sweet follow-up to Noble Hierarch on turn two
  • Further, you can drop Tajic with an Aether Vial mid-combat [with mana open]… And get a sweet block!
  • Most importantly, Tajic’s “Prevent all noncombat damage that would be dealt to other creatures you control” clause is just bananas in a deck with 35 other creatures! You can drop Tajic at instant speed not only for a sweet block, but to “counter” a burn spell. This can shut down cards like Izzet Staticaster or Grim Lavamancer that often lock down Humans. This card is amazing against sweepers. Trade your Tajic for a Slagstorm? Trade Tajic for the rest of your team.
  • “Very impressive advancement by Kevin.”

    “Could become industry-standard.”

Guilds of Ravnica is Poppin’ in Modern!

Tajic might be the most archetype-influencing, but he certainly wasn’t alone in Guilds of Ravnica’s additions to the format. Further highlights:

  • Risk Factor in Jund? Michael loves it, but is not in love with it. Patrick respects Risk Factor’s interaction with Liliana of the Veil. Both our hosts agree that for a deck that is sometimes beatdown, sometimes card advantage… You’re not likely to get the beatdown when you want it, and not likely to get the card advantage when you want it. But it won!
  • Creeping Chill in Dredge! One of the week’s most exciting innovations, Creeping Chill is turning the Dredge deck design on its ear. A man with Shriekhorn in his Dredge deck means serious business.
  • Knight of Autumn in Humans. Will it ever be “just a big guy”? Mike is a little incredulous. Knight of Autumn does what Reclamation Sage did, and the “gain four” mode is just as valuable in certain matchups.
  • Arclight Phoenix: Simply the future of Modern.

Modern. Guilds of Ravnica. What are you waiting for?

Direct Download

Golgari Runs the Tables

Golgari

We’re just a couple of weeks into the new Standard and there is a clear current king: Golgari.

What makes Golgari so good?

The Standard b-g deck is basically a stack of two-for-ones. Most of them play Llanowar Elves, but believe it or not, some simply don’t!

Many of the Elves-less versions play as many as twelve two and three casting cost Explore creatures, meaning they have a very high likelihood of hitting their early land drops. They may sacrifice Llanowar Evles — one of the only cards consistently dominated by Goblin Chainwhirler — for the security and consistency of drawing all two-for-ones.

Explore two-for-ones like Merfolk Branchwalker are outstanding blockers, even when they trade. The b-g actually wants to put creatures into the graveyard for cards like the Findbroker or Find // Finality.

Basically: This strategy combines consistent early game draws and hitting land drops with a consistent flow of card advantage. In the absence of a blisteringly fast or over-the-top threat deck, that is a heck of a combo for Standard.

Golgari in Context

Standard b-g is an outstanding anti-beatdown deck. Not only do its early game creatures block and trade well, but you can gain access to cards like Wildgrowth Walker.

Not only does Wildgrowth Walker completely dominate cards like Viashino Pyromancer, it is just big enough to contain Knights from History of Benalia and many other small creatures. Of course, a deck with twelve Explore guys is going to make this card look fantastic. Turn two Wildgrowth Walker, turn three Jadelight Ranger?

That is, “give my Walker +2/+2, gain six, draw two cards… and still play a 2/1 creature”? Heck of a combo. Series of combos, even.

Sorry Red Deck: Meet Golgari

So Golgari draws extra cards every turn… Or kills your creature with its creature… Or gains size and life simultaneously… Can other decks compete on card advantage?

What about our darling from last week, Experimental Frenzy?

The problem is that on top of everything else, Golgari can remove almost any kind of permanent!

Vivian Reid can shoot enchantments like Experimental Frenzy and keep kicking. Moreover, Assassin’s Trophy is great at shooting at a big enchantment. On the other hand, Assassin’s Trophy is not good against Golgari generally… All of its guys are two-for-ones! How much card advantage do you want to give the opponent? As flexible as Assassin’s Trophy can be, it’s not at its best against Golgari.

Michael and Patrick give you the lowdown on how to approach this format-defining deck, whether you want to beat it… Or join it.

Direct Download

Is Experimental Frenzy the New Necropotence?

Experimental Frenzy
Mike thinks Experimental Frenzy is a Necropotence-esque card.

What does he mean by this? To Mike, Experimental Frenzy is going to inform both deck design and in-game play. Like Necropotence, the Frenzy is going to offer a relentless stream of card advantage limited only by how much land you have in play.

But the card — at least when surrounded by a bunch of cheap creatures and burn — is really good at playing many cards per turn + hitting that land drop. That said…

Experimental Frenzy gets stuck on consecutive lands

Sadly, this is a true story.

Part of the long-term challenge in building Experimental Frenzy Red Decks will be how you solve this problem. There will be multiple possible solutions. Here are some ideas:

  • Dismissive Pyromancer – A Human Wizard, this card synergizes with the Wizard’s Lightning you’ve already got. The Pyromancer can shoot at large creatures but also change the top card of your library under Frenzy.
  • Treasure Map – An amazing tool against mid-range and Control decks, Treasure Map is one of the best possible cards to have in play while under Frenzy. It can help you dig to what you need early, then keep your gas going late.
  • Field of Ruin – Mike is currently sideboarding this card as his extra land. Not only does it have text against stuff like Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin; it can change the top card of your library while you are under Frenzy.
  • Risk Factor – a new card from Guilds of Ravnica, Risk Factor can be played from the graveyard while you are under Frenzy, often changing your top card. For next level performance, try discarding Risk Factor to your Risk Factor.

The Best of the Rest:

Boros Angels – Find out about the new home of Lyra Dawnbringer and friends.

G/W Tokens – Mike claims this is the most powerful initial deck in the format.

Blue control (various) – Get ready for a change of pace!

One thing is for sure: Standard is waaaaay different than it was a couple of weeks ago. Check it out:

Direct Download

Doom Whisperer: The Critics Agree!

Doom Whisperer
Doom Whisperer is great, and is going to be great!

This Nightmare Demon has a solid body for its casting cost.

This creature easily passes Magic’s lowest bar. At 6/6 for 3BB, Doom Whisperer is far bigger for a five drop than many tournament (or at least Standard) Staples. For comparison, cross-archetype All-Star Glorybringer was only 4/4 and current Baneslayer Angel Lyra, Dawnbringer is 5/5. Doom Whisperer towers over most of its competitors… Or, rather, tramples over them.

Oh yeah, both flying and trample are kind of thrown in!

Doom Whisperer is a lockdown threat.

While its size and its evasion are both spot-on, neither is what really makes this card so interesting. Surveil 2 — with no attached mana requirement — is something special. The Whisperer can break an opponent in multiple ways. We think its most common use will be in mid-range control decks. In such decks, the Nightmare Demon can utilize Surveil to ensure drawing action, turn after turn. In some decks it will be able to load the graveyard with jump-start cards, or even trigger Narcomoeba and Crippling Chill. But the “mere” ability to keep a permission spell on top for three turns will be enough to win most races.

It can be played in multiple different strategies

There is no reason to damn Doom Whisperer to Mono-Black Control. I mean, Mono-Black Control is probably going to be a reasonable home… But so will Orzhov Control, Golgari, Sultai, and other color combinations. That is because a 6/6 flyer for five can slot right into many of those strategies. Creature decks sometimes need a huge finisher, Control decks need a way to win at all: This card can fit both those roles and almost everything between them.

This week’s podcast offers some Doom Whisperer consensus over last week’s… But also explores a card Mike thinks will make a big splash in Modern (which Patrick thinks is fringe playable, and maybe only by Reid Duke); a selection of small evasion creatures (you might want to buy back from the graveyard); and an exploration of Guilds Goblins. Check it out:

Direct Download

Some of Our Favorites from Guilds of Ravnica

Guilds of Ravnica
Guilds of Ravnica continues to wow us!

Patrick and Michael continue their takes on Guilds of Ravnica and its many new cards.

Michael Sun Rises and Falls with Doom Whisperer

Michael is over the moon for this black five drop. Reminiscent of both his tap-out strategies and the Titan cycle, Doom Whisperer is one of the best “last” cards you can play. In an attrition battle? Your opponent will fade some of the time. Remember to pay 2 life? You simply won’t.

That’s just the fair side! Combine Doom Whisperer with a little Jump-Start and the cards will flow. With enough life, you can self-Mill your entire deck if you have to. This would give you access to a level of self-mill that, at least according to Mike, hasn’t been seen since the days of Hermit Druid.

Patrick Asks if Beacon Bolt isn’t exactly what Izzet ordered

This ability — to deal a variable amount of damage — for just three mana is highly consistent with what Izzet decks seem to want to do. It’s not going to be tough to juice that graveyard… Especially when so many different cards are pointed at the same thing.

Etrata, the Silencer is just cool

Okay… Maybe not “just” cool. Cool AND good!

This card has a built-in card advantage engine… Even when it’s not cheating to win the game. Only thing is? Sometimes it just wins.

With a resilient toughness greater than you might typically see for a four drop, Etrata, the Silencer is tough to kill. And you can’t ever block it. Need a reason to steer clear of Mono-Green StOmPy? Look no further. This card will shred Mono-Green if the battlefield is at parity… And there isn’t much StOmPy can do about it.

Direct Download

Crackling Drake is Our Official Guilds of Ravnica Preview

Wizards of the Coast gave us this great, cool, preview card: Crackling Drake!

Crackling Drake

Crackling Drake is Not a Dragon 🙁

… That doesn’t mean that you can’t play it with Dragons. At UURR casting this card on turn four consistently is going to be a challenge. At least, you are going to have to build a specialized mana base for it.

But that’s okay!

Crackling Drake may not be a Dragon, but it can possibly play well with Dragons… One Dragon in particular.

Niv-Mizzet, Parun
Niv-Mizzet, Parun

Both of these cards really like instants and sorceries. The four mana Drake gets more power from casting instants and sorceries, while the six mana Dragon draws extra cards.

Speaking of which…

Crackling Drake has lots of text

Two things to note:

  1. Crackling Drake draws a card when it enters the battlefield. THAT IS REALLY GOOD!
  2. The Drake also counts both the graveyard and exile. This is an important point for a couple of reasons… In powered formats, you can cast Demonic Consultation to do dozens of damage on the spot. In Standard, there is a huge advantage to playing jump-start cards. They go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

Thanks again to Wizards for our great preview! You can listen to our podcast on this new card now:

Direct Download

Get Ready for Assassin’s Trophy

Assassin's Trophy
Assassin’s Trophy

Assassin’s Trophy is in Rare Company

Assassin’s Trophy has a down-side: That is plain to see. It in fact has the same down-side as Staples like Path to Exile and Settle the Wreckage.

Mike notes how players had question marks around the white cards before they had all become so popular. This caused some players to underrate them, and might cause some players to underrate the Golgari instant.

The truth is, this card is beyond flexible. Patrick thinks it would see non-zero play at four mana. It’s not actually so far off of an Utter End.

Compare it to Vindicate: Once you get past the ugly down-side, Assassin’s Trophy is a full mana cheaper and an instant (versus Vindicate’s sorcery). While you can’t really get the Vindicate / Recoil play pattern of the old Esper Angels deck… We probably wouldn’t want to see that anyway.

Assassin’s Trophy Can Blow Up Lands

Compare it to Ghost Quarter: Mike once underrated Ghost Quarter because of the inherent lack of card advantage. The same issue is present here, and becomes pronounced if you ever point this at a land. But! What happens when you aim it at a nonbasic land? When you’re taking out an Urza’s Tower, do you care so much that they are getting a basic Forest back?

It gets better: The opponent can run out of basics. At some point, you can overwhelm the opponent with so much redundancy with Field of Ruin and other, similar, effects that the opponent will literally have no basics to search up. If you have Crucible of Worlds + Ghost Quarter (in Modern), you can even start hitting their basic lands!

Look for this card to be a four-of Staple in Standard and wider formats. It’s so good (and so cheap to start) Mike even thinks it’ll see play in Nullhide Ferox decks.

Nullhide Ferox

It’s so good, people will play it in the same 75 (if not 60) as a card that says you can’t cast noncreature spells.

Tons more Guilds of Ravnica, besides! Check it out:

Direct Download

Don’t forget: Bonus episode tomorrow!