Everything Old is New Again in Standard!

New stuff is still new, but we’ll get to that in a second.

Peer into the Abyss:
New, weird, and extremely powerful

Nissa, Who Shakes the World in Mono-Green

Mike is a huge fan of EDEL’s recent innovations in Mono-Green.

At the top end we see The Great Henge AND Nissa, Who Shakes the World!

The Great Henge is an awesome three-four combination with Lovestruck Beast; while — essentially to the surprise of no one — Nissa, Who Shakes the World provides an entirely new dimension to Mono-Green play.

It’s all about hiding behind your creatures until you get to Nissa’s ultimate… Then if you can lose after drawing twenty or so extra cards… Okay, you’re probably not going to lose very many of those games.

Rotting Regisaur in Mono-Black

Aggressive decks are doing well in Standard right now. Not just Mono-Green… But Mono-Black has stormed back with a Vengeance.

One of the main reasons is the return of Rotting Regisaur. Once again the biggest bad in the format, Rotting Regisaur provides a semi-combination with a new card from Core Set 2021:

Rotting Regisaur can discard Demonic Embrace with little penalty

Before you successfully Hellbent yourself, your Rotting Regisaur will often do a little damage to your cards in hand. If you have to discard an action spell… It might as well be Demonic Embrace!

Not only can you cast Demonic Embrace from your graveyard later in the game, but it can also set up a ten-point smash with the Rotting Regisaur that put it there in the first place.

Speaking of older cards, Blacklance Paragon is quietly one of the most effective cards in this archetype… Despite its being a Knights-poor deck

Everything New… Is Also Still New

So up top we teased out the new card Peer into the Abyss.

… But how do you even cast that?

May we suggest a…

Titans’ Nest

Mono-Green blah blah. Mono-Black blah blah. Updates to Rakdos oh sure.

But Peer into the Abyss plus Titan’s Nest in a Yorion, Sky Nomad deck?

In the podcast, friends! Find out more now:

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First Looks at Core Set 2021 Standard

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Is Ugin, the Spirit Dragon the spiciest “new” card from M21?

Patrick is not sold on the three-color Casualties of War deck featuring four copies of…

Adding “new” card Ugin, the Spirit Dragon as spicy at all. A mild spice perhaps?

But third turn Cultivate is not too bad; unless you’ve hit a second turn Cultivate via Arboreal Grazer (in which case third turn is disappointing).

But clearly Mike loves 14 four-ofs with “exactly” the correct number of Islands and Swamps. Discipline!

“Ugin is a great card to Ramp into, you know?”

-Patrick Chapin

A Lesson in Glaring Aegis

Glaring Aegis can affect opposing blockers

Small note for folks interested in beating down with white weenie creatures. Mike has actually played a lot of the White Auras deck with Lurrus of the Dream-Den over the last month or three, and makes a strong argument for four copies of Glaring Aegis (versus three or fewer).

Glaring Aegis is actually one of the only cards in your deck that can interact with the opponent’s side of the battlefield (or for that matter, one of the only cards that you can put into your graveyard).

The theory is that you can put Glaring Aegis on your Alseid of Life’s Bounty, tap one of the opponent’s creatures of color x, and give your attacker protection from color y. Both Alseid and Glaring Aegis go to the graveyard. Now you play the Aegis from your graveyard, tapping another creature, and ultimately getting in for one extra damage.

This is how you get past two colors of defense, exploit your option for Lurrus card advantage, and punch for one more damage.

So now you know!

But what about…

Lurrus of the Dream-Den main deck?

Archfiend’s Vessel

A new build of Rakdos Sacrifice playing multiple copies of Lurrus of the Dream-Den main deck enables you to break Archfiend’s Vessel.

Lurrus and Rakdos Sacrifice were no strangers to one another before, but instead of a now-expensive Companion, Lurrus is promoted to main deck. This lets you aggressively play and trade Archfiend’s Vessel early. It’s a 1/1 lifelink for one mana… Not “bad” at all.

But if you can trade it, or sacrifice it with one of your numerous Cauldron Familiars or Village Rites, main-deck Lurrus lets you play one quickly out of the graveyard. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO LOSE?

… And getting a Deathtouch counter on Mayhem Devil with Call of the Death-Dweller is a heck of a machine gun, itself.

And so many more M21 deck lists…

  • Punching for zero with Primal Might
  • Patrick explains playing Jolrael to Mike (or tries)
  • How to get even more value from Frantic Inventory
  • And more!

Check it out now:

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The Many Faces of Yorion, Sky Nomad

The man — err… Bird Serpent — of the hour:
Yorion, Sky Nomad

Yorion, Sky Nomad has taken over as the most popular and successful Companion in Standard over the course of the last week!

It’s no Lurrus of the Dream-Den in powered formats [yet], but for the low low cost of twenty extra cards in your library, this card can become a reliable source of massive card advantage and synergy.

Tale’s End; with and against Yorion, Sky Nomad

The popularity of Companions makes Tale’s End a versatile tool for Standard

First thing’s first: Tale’s End is a reliable “Essence Scatter” type in a format with so many Companions. Even better, it usually trades favorably on tempo… Two for three; even two for six!

But that’s not all!

Many decks play Legendary permanents other than their Companions… Whether a ubiquitous Planeswalker or Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath in Temur Reclamation, Tale’s End can counter them for two.

You can counter the ability of Priest of Forgotten Gods! What a beating on the battlefield that would be!

Or how about countering a Cycling activation? Trading a permission spell for a card drawing spell has never been completely out of the question, but these days that might also mean depriving the opponent of a specific trigger or the 1/1 token from an Improbable Alliance.

It’s pretty important to stop the Control Magic-type ability on Agent of Treachery in these Yorion decks, too! Don’t sleep on Tale’s End.

Popular Builds with Yorion, Sky Nomad

  • Jeskai – Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast can team up with the token creatures from a variety of sources (Castle Ardenvale, Shark Typhoon, even Omen of the Sun) to upgrade into Agent of Treachery.
  • Arcanist’s Owl – In a non-Lukka build… The Owl can help dig to Fires of Invention or rack up triggers from Archon of Sun’s Grace.
  • Four-color – If you’re already in the market for an Omen of the Sun, what about Calix, Destiny’s Hand for a green splash? The deck is full of all kinds of enchantments, up to and including Fires of Invention, and digging to them is generally welcome. Given all the enchantments, Calix is reliable removal, too.

Yorion combines brilliantly with all these enters the battlefield effects. Omen of the Sea, Omen of the Sun, and even Omen of the Forge represent card advantage coming and going and coming back again!

Load your battlefield up with 187-style permanents and Yorion, Sky Nomad will pay you back, reliably, circa turn five.

Learn all the secrets of the Sky Nomad in this week’s podcast:

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The First Week of Standard with Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths

Companions from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths are Taking Over Every Format

The Companion mechanic is extraordinarily powerful. While the deck building cost to use a particular companion can vary, the combination of consistency and the so-called “eighth card” cannot be exaggerated.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den seems to be the best companion on rate so far, and has already successfully crushed large events in Modern, Pioneer, Vintage, and Legacy.

We’re sure Lurrus will be even better in Standard.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den in Rakdos Sacrifice

Lurrus of the Dream-Den from
Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths

Companions are so good it isn’t even clear which ones should go in which established archetypes! There are at least four Companions that might make sense in Rakdos Sacrifice, but two have risen to the top so far.

The Lurrus build of Rakdos Sacrifice forces some hard cuts. Woe Strider, Midnight Reaper, and the iconic Mayhem Devil all cost too much. Look for the Lurrus build to play a lot of two mana haste attackers like Dreadhorde Butcher or Robber of the Rich instead.

Perhaps more importantly, this build can [still] use Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger. Because Kroxa is technically only two mana, it is not only eligible to be played, but can work a two-man game with Lurrus itself.

Other notable additions from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths include Whisper Squad and Serrated Scorpion.

Whisper Squad starts on one but fills many additional, important, roles. If you do nothing else on turn two, you can activate the Whisper Squad to Squadron Hawk up another copy. It’s also a great “virtual three drop” for a deck that can’t play any real three drops… Kind of like a Wood Elves for Whisper Squads. And of course, if you have a ton of mana already on the battlefield, it can become a one-card army on the quick.

Serrated Scorpion is a great card to start with in this strategy, and awesome to sacrifice (even through combat) and re-buy with Lurrus. Patrick believes this card will inspire a Rakdos Burn deck in Modern.

Obosh, the Preypiercer in Rakdos Sacrifice

Obosh, the Preypiercer from
Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths

Competing for the allegiance of the resilient and resurgent Rakdos archetype is Obosh, the Preypiercer.

Obviously more expensive than Lurrus, Obosh offers immediate payoff the turn it hits the battlefield, but a harsh deck building cost.

No even costed cards means no Priest of the Forgotten Gods (making it a little harder to summon a five drop). The fact that three mana cards are available to this build (unlike the Lurrus one) makes the curve quite a bit higher. That is something to watch out for as these builds settle.

Gyruda, Doom of Depths Delivers a Whole-New Archetype

Gyruda, Doom of Depths from
Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths

Here’s the thing: Lots of good mana acceleration is even-costed. Growth Spiral, Paradise Druid, new stuff.

If you get to six, you can pretty much always cast Gyruda… Because it’s a Companion and that’s how Companions work. You never have to draw it!

When you play Gyruda in this new deck / world / disaster for the opponent look for cards like Spark Double and Charming Prince to keep the party going. Your expectation will usually be to attack for lethal if you’re given the opportunity to untap.

Believe it or not… There is even more Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths in this week’s podcast!

Check it out:

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How Cavalier of Thorns Makes Sultai Escape

Cavalier of Thorns… Is There Anything it Can’t Do?

If qualifying Mike for the Players Tour wasn’t enough…

As with last week’s qualifying events, Cavalier of Thorns really stepped up to help Mark Jacobson win the first MagicFest Online Weekly Championship!

In Sultai Escape, Cavalier of Thorns both highlights the deck’s strengths… And helps to shore up its weaknesses.

Cavalier of Thorns as Engine

The Elemental Knight will put four (and in rare cases five) cards into your graveyard, directly from your library when it enters the battlefield. One of those four cards might be…

Polukranos, Unchained

… or better yet…

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

Putting one of those cards directly into the graveyard is like drawing an extra card. The Escape mechanic allows you to play either Polukranos or Uro out of the graveyard; and in Uro’s case it’s even better than drawing the card normally.

This is on top of (probably) getting an extra land; and on top of the expected re-buy later on in the game.

If you “whiff” on either Escape creature; rest assured that the four cards you’re putting directly into the graveyard can help you to pay for Escape some time in the future. So Cavalier of Thorns is always doing something nice for your development.

Cavalier of Thorns in Context

Mike in particular has always been a Bant > Sultai guy.

Both decks have similar advantages… Growth Spiral to get out of the gate; Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath as the persistent powerhouse; Hydroid Krasis to take huge advantage of all that extra mana.

Teferi, Time Raveler and Narset, Parter of Veils are two of the strongest Planeswalkers in Standard; both are game-altering and easy on the mana… At least one is a four-of in Bant while neither sees much (if any) play in Sultai. But that’s not the main reason for the aforementioned Bant bias. It’s really just about this creature:

Dream Trawler

Dream Trawler is difficult to counter for Sultai, and thanks to its floating Hexproof ability… Notoriously difficult to remove. It isn’t just that Bant had Dream Trawler and Sultai didn’t… It’s so tough for Sultai to deal with one.

Well… That was before the days of Cavalier of Thorns.

Today, the six toughness Elemental Knight WITH REACH can guard a Sultai mage’s life total against Dream Trawler; and in the case that the Dream Trawler accumulates sufficient power to trade… Cavalier of Thorns can redeploy one of Sultai Escape’s other mighty threats.

The world has changed.

Or, at least, this matchup.

Sultai ended up on top… So now what?

More from…

  • Rakdos Sacrifice… and Rakdos Sacrifice
  • Four-color Nicol Bolas
  • Azorius Blink
  • Temur Adventures

… And more!

Check out this week’s Standard recap now:

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Hottest Standard Tech from #mtgtogether

#mtgtogether gives us a window to this weekend’s Arena “Grand Prix”

In light of what’s going on in “the real world” (and the wide scale cancellations of large paper Magic tournaments) CFB Events are trying — for the first time — to run a Grand Prix on Magic: The Gathering Arena.

The simple rules…

  • CFB Events runs multiple flights per day
  • Anyone going 5-1 or better (generally 5-1 or 6-0) qualifies for the Grand Prix this weekend

What was amazing and inspiring to us?

There is all kinds of legitimate great new tech popping up as a result of #mtgtogether!

To date there hasn’t been one reliable repository for the performing lists; so we thought we’d curate some of the Tweets from qualifying players and discuss their deck lists in this week’s episode.

Ral’s Outburst in Temur Reclamation…

… is not even the craziest thing about this qualifying list!

What’s even crazier?

This is a Wilderness Reclamation deck… Crossed with Draw-Go? In addition to two copies of Thassa’s Intervention, the miser’s Aether Gust, and a couple of Negates… Temur Reclamation now packs four — count ’em four — Mystical Disputes in the main!

Pair that with a legitimate transformational sideboard bringing in the Full Four copies of Nightpack Ambusher and you have a meaningfully different look at the archetype.

Who needs Storm’s Wrath or Nissa, Who Shakes the World? Am I right?

Bonecrusher Giant in <strike>Simic</strike> Temur Flash

Here’s another Temur innovation:

Two-thirds Simic Flash… One-third Temur Reclamation?

This deck has a lot of what made Simic Flash the first time around — including Spectral Sailor — but added sweet red cards like Bonecrusher Giant and Expansion // Explosion. And Wilderness Reclamation!

We see the Nightpack Ambushers main deck here… But very low permission (relative to past Simic Flash decks). But who doesn’t love Wilderness Reclamation powering up those Sailors?

And Matt Sperling’s near-perfect Bant List

Mike’s friend Roman Fusco took down an #mtgtogether event 6-0 packing what might be the mathematically perfect Bant list:

Notably:

  • Two copies of Arboreal Grazer
  • Zero copies of Knight of Autumn
  • Four (!) copies of Elspeth Conquers Death (4!) [as it is the best]

Mike would have liked a second Dream Trawler; but Patrick thinks that’s a mere security blanket. The pair agree that Bant is the best deck in Standard, and the list that Sperling came up with (and Roman qualified with) is very — very — close to what they would both play right now.

And Finally… Cavalier of Thorns in Sultai!

Mike has been really low on Sultai, at least relative to the availability of Bant in Standard. His main reason? Not only does it not play Dream Trawler, it couldn’t historically stop it, really.

But Yuta Takahashi’s Cavalier of Thorns has enormous toughness that is difficult (though admittedly not impossible) for Dream Trawler to get through; and with Reach, it can kill Dream Trawler in combat.

And of course, Cavalier of Thorns can help power up the Escape routes on Uro and Polukranos!

Patrick’s favorite feature? Cutting Agonizing Remorse for the last two copies of Growth Spiral. Mike heartily agrees. This is a substantial improvement on the Sultai archetype.

But wait! There’s more!

  • Rakdos sacrifice with no copies of Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger
  • Rakdos sacrifice that really — really — hates the graveyard
  • Whether Erebos’s Intervention is even playable
  • Even more Temur

Let’s get #mtgtogether now!

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Let’s Talk About Phoenix of Ash in Mono-Red

Phoenix of Ash was not a popular inclusion in the Worlds Red Decks…

But… Phoenix of Ash Roars Back to Win Grand Prix Lyon

So what happened here?

Phoenix of Ash was a medium-popular card in the pre-Worlds Red Decks. Yet it did not crack the starting sixty of a single deck in Hawaii (by our count there was a single copy in a single sideboard).

And to be fair, for a tournament where Azorius Control ended up on top, Phoenix of Ash is only pretty good.

Aether Gust, Devout Decree, Glass Casket… and even Cerulean Drake saw play at the two at Worlds; all those cards are faster than Phoenix of Ash and all of them foil its natural card advantage in some way.

But Phoenix of Ash is hitting not only sideboards but main decks nowadays… How did it get better?

Phoenix of Ash… Flies?

Believe it or not, “flying” is one of the main things that Phoenix of Ash has going for it. At the time of Grand Prix Lyon, one of the most popular decks in Standard was Temur Adventures… And for a deck with 8+ flying creatures itself, Temur Adventures is embarrassingly bad at defending itself in the air.

But flying is the only thing going for the 2/2.

  • It’s “firebreathing”-type ability allows Phoenix of Ash to not only mow down certain blockers, it scales very well with Embercleave.
  • The card is a great way to set up Spectacle for Light Up the Stage
  • It reinforces both the Red Deck’s haste sub-theme and its two-for-one sub-theme.

We might even play more!

But wait! There’s more!

  • Why Mike likes Bant the best in Standard
  • How Patrick convinced Mike to play Knight of Autumn (you know, like everyone else already does)
  • What’s wrong with the structure of Sultai Ramp (spoilers! we’d run more copies of Growth Spiral)
  • … And more!

Give it a listen now:

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The Most Exciting Decks from Worlds 2020

Innovations in Standard? Look no further than Archon of Sun’s Grace

PV won Worlds 2020 with Azorius Control

Was PV’s one of the most exciting lists of Worlds 2020?

Patrick in particular calls it well tuned.

Moving away from four copies of Dream Trawler to incorporate faster threats (or stabilization tools) like Archon of Sun’s Grace, PV’s winning list exploited a power enchantments sub-theme with cards like Banishing Light and Thirst for Meaning in addition to the ubiquitous Omen of the Sea and The Birth of Meletis.

Mike loved U/W coming into the tournament… But liked a different list.

Thoralf Severin added key innovations… Especially to the sideboard of Azorius Control

Spectral Sailor out of the sideboard!

In the market for “some kind of Commence the Endgame”?

Thinking you might try to grind with Chemister’s Insight after sideboarding?

Thoralf Severin did you one better with his addition of Spectral Sailor.

Dodging Dovin’s Veto and largely sneaking under other types of permission spells, Spectral Sailor can act like a portable Chemister’s Insight… But one that skirts the rules of Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Time Raveler much better than some other card drawing options.

Speaking of powerful card draw, Severin also packed Emergency Powers!

One of the flashiest cards to see play a Worlds, Emergency Powers — at least when you have a Narset and they don’t — can have a spectacular impact on the the game.

A “Shock”-ing Number of Burn Spells at Worlds 2020

If I told you there would be four dedicated Mono-Red players in a field of sixteen; and you didn’t know much else about them…

How many Shocks do you imagine they would be packing between their decks?

Sixteen?

That would have been my guess!

The real answer?

Three… Between the four of them! One mage didn’t even pack main deck Bonecrusher Giant!

The aspiring fire gods of Worlds 2020 had a really specific thought process on Shock… Don’t be bad against Azorius Control and Jeskai Fires.

At the very least… They largely beat up Temur.

Was Jeskai Fires the Deck of Worlds 2020?

Play Robber of the Rich in your sideboard

The most pronounced sideboard card that Gabriel Nassif and Raphael Levy ran in their Jeskai Fires deck was of course Robber of the Rich. Quite simply, it can potentially single-handedly dominate Azorius Control.

But Robber was far from the only unique feature of their build! Check out this week’s podcast to find out all the reasons we think it might just have been the deck of Worlds 2020:

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The Return of Mono-Black Devotion

Gray Merchant of Asphodel creates a huge incentive to play Mono-Black Devotion

Starting with Mono-Black Devotion

There are a ton of great new decks (and new looks at old decks) thanks to Theros Beyond Death entering Standard…

But both Patrick and Michael think Mono-Black Devotion will be one of the most important breakout strategies.

Haven’t we seen this deck before? In the pretty recent past? Why Mono-Black Devotion now? Simple: Lots of the new additions actually reference the mechanic! Examples include:

  • The aforementioned Gray Merchant of Asphodel,
  • Drag to the Underworld, and
  • Tymaret, Chosen from Death

But despite missing some key words on its cardboard, Michael thinks that a different card is the one that makes this deck…

Nightmare Shepherd in Mono-Black Devotion

Nightmare Shepherd

This new Demon is one of the cards that really makes this deck hum. If you play a Gray Merchant of Asphodel with it on the battlefield, you can enjoy the intense combination of black mana symbols… But that’s not all. Sacrificing the five mana Zombie to a card like Woe Strider can set up another trigger.

Thanks to Nightmare Shepherd, it will be child’s play to take an opponent from half their life total to zilch in a single turn.

You can also exploit timing tricks, like sacrificing a Yarok’s Fenlurker or Burglar Rat during the opponent’s draw to keep them locked at no cards in hand (a pretty rare opportunity for instant speed discard).

Tons and tons of focus on Mono-Black Devotion this week… But that’s not all!

The Best of the Rest…

  • Where do Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven fit into this metagame?
  • How about Rakdos instead of Mono-Black? Do you get more from the second color… Or more from the literal Devotion to Black?
  • All the different ways folks have tried The Akroan War so far. What’s more exciting? Pairing it with Witch’s Oven… Or stealing creatures permanently with Thassa, Deep Dwelling?
  • “Time Wipe my Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths” … Also at instant speed
  • Which deck does Mike call “the king of mid-range”?
  • What seeming non-bo does Patrick point out is actually a combo?
  • WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Listen now!

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“Quasiduplicate my Risen Reef” and other key plays from Mythic Championship VII

Mythic Championship VII is in the books!

And, despite some missing aggro decks, the tournament did not disappoint in terms of cool decks and the best players winning.

Here are some of the best ones:

Simic Flash was the Deck of the Tournament

Three superstar players of the Pro Tour… Onetime Player of the Year Brad Nelson, former World Champion Seth Manfield, and the hottest player in the world Javier Dominguez all made Top 8 with their Simic Ramp Flash deck.

This build of Simic Flash incorporates some elements of Ramp decks. So while it has some of the Brazen Borrower / Nightpack Ambusher action we’re used to from Simic Flash decks… It is also a Paradise Druid-driven main phase deck.

The big payoffs to this wonderful new take are Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Hydroid Krasis like so many of the successful decks of the previous format. 

One of the best features of Simic Flash? An utterly dominating matchup against the popular Jeskai Fires of Invention strategy.

Simic Ramp, or… What was That About Quasiduplicate Again?

Quasiduplicate

Andrea Megucci played a novel new Simic Ramp deck that kind of went the other direction from the successful Simic Flash players.

Mengucci had the Nissa / Krasis action (of course)… But pushed the engine to an unbelievable degree.

He went with Leafkin Druid over Paradise Druid… Because it’s an Elemental. Do you know what else is an Elemental? Risen Reef. And Cavalier of Thorns, fo course.

When you Quasiduplicate a Risen Reef, you get a second copy of Risen Reef. Both –that is, both cards — trigger! You get the trigger from the old Risen Reef because the incoming token is an Elemental; and you get the trigger from the new one because it’s a Risen Reef.

Then when you Jump-Start Quasiduplicate, you now get three triggers!

Cool, huh?

Yes, Mengucci made the biggest Hydroids.

How about the Champ? Jund Sacrifice…

Patrick is a huge fan of Piotr Głogowski’s build of Jund Sacrifice. Not only did this strategy eliminate all three superstars with their Simic Flash decks in the Top 8, Glogowski took a subtle and effective route to replacing Once Upon a Time.

Beanstalk Giant

Beanstalk Giant does everything in this deck! It gets you to Casualties of War a turn more quickly in the mirror (spoiler! The Champ played all four copies of Casualties of War)… It finds your solo Mountain for the red splash, and it can win the game with its seven drop mode a few turns later.

Plus some hot tech that didn’t make the Mythic Championship at all, like…

Niv-Mizzet, Parun
The Solution to Simic?
Vivien’s Arkbow

Not sure what deck would want to sleeve up an Arkbow? You can find out right here:

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