Is Command the Dreadhorde the Biggest Big Spell in Standard?

Welcome to a new era of big spells in Standard!

Sure, Mono-Red is going to try to play Fun Police, but much of the rest of the format? They’re casting big, big, Magic: The Gathering spells. No no – Bigger than that.

Command the Dreadhorde

Command the Dreadhorde – Is it the Biggest?

Certainly not in every deck.

Ben Friedman played a copy in his main deck (and other copy in his sideboard). Otherwise? Just a modified “Esper Superheroes” deck. Yes, there were powerful Planeswalkers to get back (as well as a full quartet of Basilica Bell-Haunts… But this is not really where Command the Dreadhorde shines brightest.

Dedicated Command the Dreadhorde

Command the Dreadhorde is more central to the winning deck of last week’s Classic, played by Robert Hayes.

With a ton of Explore creatures like Jadelight Ranger and Merfolk Branchwalker, the Hayes deck willfylly dumps extra cards into the graveyard, making for potentially juiced commands. On top of this, four copies of Tamiyo, Collector of Tales both fills the graveyard and searches for our key spell.

Tamiyo, Collector of Tales

The card that laces everything together is Wildgrowth Walker!

Wildgrowth Walker can help you gain life along the way, which will either give you fuel to Command the Dreadhorde or a ton of triggers paying you back once you already have.

I’d say keep your Walker safe, but if you don’t you can always get him back later, life-granting Explore triggers and all!

Hayes is so big into having the biggest end game he even played Trostani Discordant.

Oh I get it… Is Mass Manipulation even Bigger of a Big Spell?

Mass Manipulation

Sometimes!

Your size will vary on Mass Manipulation depending on how big and strong and overall powerful the kinds of cards are that it will steal.

But what we do know: Trostani Discordant could be better.

Trostani defends creatures only… So if the opponent lines up to get Planeswalkers? The Selesnya Legend has no opinion 🙁

Check it all out:

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Is Narset, Parter of Veils the Best Card in Standard?


Is Narset, Parter of Veils the best card in Standard?

… Probably not.

But we might be able to have a fun discussion around the topic!

Mike advocates for Teferi, Time Raveler as the best card in Standard, and Patrick largely counter-points with Narset… But he has a few points.

Narset, Parter of Veils in the Red Deck Metagame

Narset looks fantastic against many blue decks. In and against [other] blue decks, that is. You’ll see some cutting Chemister’s Insight to make room for Narset. Narset both fills in Chemister’s Insight’s old job and makes life difficult for other folks trying to draw two cards at the end of your turn!

But where this card might really shine is Mono-Red!

The consensus among War of the Spark red mages is to play Risk Factor. The first big event featured three Red Decks in the Top 4. Wow. Yowza! All of them played three Risk Factors, whether in the main deck or sideboard.

Surely those Risk Factors will be in against a blue control opponent, as soon as they can make their way into the deck.

But look at Narset’s static ability:

Each opponent can’t draw more than one card each turn.

That means that when the opponent casts Risk Factor, you can decline to take four damage… But they will not get all that much value. Certainly they will not be peeling three cards.

Another Red Deck casualty of Narset is B/R midrange. Generally featuring Rix Maadi Reveler (which is a superior two-card combo with Risk Factor generally), this deck is even more vulnerable to Narset. Why?

You can’t even filter one card with Rix Maadi Rewveler if it’s on your own turn!

Narset, Parter of Veils as a Card Advantage Engine

We know this card has some built-in card advantage just by virtue of messing up other people’s card drawing plans. But no one would play it if not for the powerful [-2] ability.

−2: Look at the top four cards of your library. You may reveal a noncreature, nonland card from among them and put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

As a three mana Planeswalker, there are many implementations that make sense proactively. In the Simic Nexus deck alone, there are at least two amazing four mana spells — Tamiyo, Collector of Tales and Wilderness Reclamation — that can complete a vicious three-four punch.

This ability is generally stronger than drawing a card in the abstract. Even when you spend it twice, leaving Narset depleted, you will generally still have a powerful, disruptive, asset.

The Best of the Rest

Everything from the ins and outs of the new-look Red Decks with Chandra, Fire Artisan to how to build a Niv-Mizzet, Reborn control deck!

Check it out here:

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The Rise of Gruul Aggro

It’s not just that Gruul Aggro won Grand Prix Kyoto last week… There have been several different types of Gruul decks popping up (and performing) in Standard.

Tell me about Gruul Guildgate in Gruul Aggro?

Gruul Guildgate

Gruul Guildgate is not usually the kind of thing you want to see in an aggressive deck. It comes into play tapped, so can be curve-contrary… Best on turn one, Gruul Guildgate is a non-bo with the aggressive one drops we often see in Red Decks.

That said, Gruul Guildgate is an important source of green for the red-heavy version. It’s not so much that you need green for creatures; Unclaimed Territory set to “Warrior” can cast all of Goblin Chainwhirler (red), Growth-Chamber Guardian, or Kraul Harpooner.

Part of what makes Gruul is the availability of wild cards like Cindervines for the sideboard; and you need good old fashioned green mana for that. Sorry, Wilderness Reclamation.

Rhythm of the Wild in Gruul Aggro

Rhythm of the Wild

Another way to run Gruul is a Riot-themed version with Rhythm of the Wild or Domri, Chaos Bringer. Yoshihiko Tokuyama finished third in Kyoto with a Dinosaur deck that started many of its monsters sideways.

Domri, Chaos Bringer is great as a one-of. It not only adds a dimension to a creature deck, it gives the Gruul Dinosaurs resilience against sweepers. Plus, the fact that both your bodies on Regisaur Alpha can come down swinging is a meaningful dimension. Multiple sources of Riot (say both Domri and Rhythm of the Wild) are not really diminishing returns. Why not choose the +1/+1 and haste?

Not for nothing: But Kraul Harpooner is already one of the strongest two drops in Standard. The fact that some kind of a haste engine can level this card up so much — especially against control — broadens the impact of that already-awesome card.

Cheating with Status // Statue

Most Gruul builds can’t cast Statue at all.

But Status?

Try adding that card to a Goblin Chainwhirler or Skarrgan Hellkite. You can give your creature deathtouch to splatter two (or all) of the opponent’s creatures in one sweet sweep.

See what happens when you give me deathtouch.

You won’t believe what Mike’s favorite deck of the week was.

We’ll give you a hint: It was a Rhythm of the Wild deck. And not a Gruul Aggro. Really!

Find out more:

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Top Decks from Mythic Championship Cleveland

Cleveland Rocked: Mono-Blue Took Down Mythic Championship

It’s hard to argue that Mono-Blue Tempo wasn’t the top deck of the inaugural Mythic Championship. Autumn Burchett defeated all other mages with their nineteen land-one-Heral version… But there remains a lot of wiggle room in the archetype, even with the dust settled. Consider:

  • How many lands is right? 19 Islands? 20? … And should any of them match with any others?
  • How many copies of Entrancing Melody? Main deck or sideboard?
  • Ditto on Exclusion Mage. Or Jace, Cunning Castaway?

One thing’s for sure: Mike thinks Experimental Frenzy and friends is the right way to go in Standard moving forward… But his beloved Goblin Chainwhirler and friends did not back up its reputation against Mono-Blue in this Top 8 specifically. Patrick disagrees greatly, despite our duo’s mutual appreciation of the all-new Cindervines.

Arclight Phoenix Returned to the Top Tables at Mythic Championship Cleveland

“Greek Mythological Figure” Luis Scott-Vargas also returned to Top 8 play (since, you know, his last appearance at the last Pro Tour) as the Arclight Phoenix pilot.

Why might you play Arclight Phoenix instead of Drakes?

Why might you play the card basic Mountain at all?

Are there any Ravnica Allegiance cards to play in this deck?

These questions and more are answered!

The Best of the Rest

Mythic Championship Cleveland gave us some spicy options outside of the Top 8… And some all-new decks that you may not have seen before.

  • Into Control? Sure there was Esper in the Top 8, but that’s not the only Thought Erasure deck in the format. Check out Seth Manfield’s Dimir Surveil build… With zero main-deck copies of Sinister Sabotage!
  • Straight Beatdown more your game? There were multiple takes on Mardu with Judith, the Scourge Diva. Whether you’re into Mavren Fen and the Vampire squad or hastily dominating the Red Zone with Heroic Reinforcements, Standard has some corners still worth exploring.
  • Or our favorite… Hall of Famer Raph Levy was into Merfolk Trickster… Just not as into Merfolk Trickster as all those Planeswalkers in the Top 8. Raph only played two in his Simic Merfolk deck. Bask in the aura (and recoil from the fishy odor) of thirty marauding Merfolk! Theme is broken here only for four copies of Kraul Harpooner in the sideboard. Truly a spicy brew that both our hosts would gladly sleeve up.

All this and more:

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Kraul Harpooner – Evolutions and Synergies


Kraul Harpooner is one of the most underrated cards in Standard

Kraul Harpooner – Current Implementations

The Insect Warrior from Guilds of Ravnica has done most of its damage recently coming out of the sideboard. This past weekend at Grand Prix Memphis, it was featured in the sideboards of both Top 8 Sultai decks, as well as the aggressive Gruul deck.

Standard deck designers have been including it… Just not as the centerpiece.

Kraul Harpooner in Main-Deck Sultai

Patrick had the pretty novel idea of playing Kraul Harpooner in his main deck at the Mythic Championships. There are many benefits, including just mugging the dominant Mono-Blue deck on turn two.

Can you imagine an opponent passing with a Siren Stormtamer in play on turn one? Maybe a Healer’s Hawk? Because the 3/2 Harpooner can take one of those creatures out while both generating card advantage and establishing a threat on the board, the positional advantage generated on turn two can be absolutely devastating. Talk about getting a free win!

But the advantage of adding this guy to the main it isn’t just the ability to catch Mono-Blue or White Weenie unaware. Relative to the stock Sultai list, Harpooners are taking up creature removal slots (while remaining creature removal-ish). So you also get a turn two threat that you can use to attack against Esper or Wilderness Reclamation! The fact that Kraul Harpooner is a guy you can cast early instead of a Cast Down that you will never cast might make all the difference in a race.

This attitude towards initiative versus instant speed removal goes beyond just the 3/2 body. Patrick chose also to sideboard Thrashing Brontodon at Cleveland instead of Crushing Canopy. The Brontodon is a potential attacker (or blocker for Mono-Red)… At the point that you can or should cast Crushing Canopy, the dino might have put you 6-9 points ahead already… While still being capable of Reclamation removal

Kraul Harpooner and Friends

We spend this podcast talking about all the relevant decks of Standard, including the resurgent “one true color” according to Mike. In the green-splashing Red Deck, there is a novel synergy between Goblin Chainwhirler and the Harpooner. Both are Warriors.

Therefore you can open up on Mountain; play Unclaimed Territory on turn two (naming Warrior) to hit the Harpooner; then play a second Mountain for Goblin Chainwhirler on three without missing a beat!

The Gruul midrange deck is chock full of other Goblins, so this might be a slightly unusual use of Unclaimed Territory, but it’s important to note… Especially as Growth-Chamber Guardian is not just a Crab, not just an Elf… But a Warrior as well!

Check out all the new deck talk here:

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Play More Thief of Sanity

Thief of Sanity
Play more Thief of Sanity? Try playing four Thief of Sanity already!

Thief of Sanity in Jeskai?

Since Thief of Sanity is a Dimir (ergo black-blue) and Jeskai is a white-blue-red color combination… So you can’t actually play the Thief in Jeskai.

Mike briefly argues that it’s not necessarily the case that Esper is the superior control deck to Jeskai in Standard (regardless of what the Top 8s say). Patrick argues that the ability to play Thief of Sanity after sideboarding pushes black over the red three-color control version.

This three drop Specter is of course an awesome tool in Esper decks after sideboarding, offering a combination of persistent card advantage and ongoing disruption against any of the Wilderness Reclamation type powerhouse decks.

How About Thief of Sanity in Sultai?

This card can be played in the main deck or the sideboard. While we are not sure which is best… We do know that we would lean on playing more copies.

Argument For Main Deck: Llanowar Elves on turn one can potentially allow you to play your Specter on turn two!

Argument Against Main Deck: It’s awful against decks like Mono-Red and you might just lose if you draw two copies.

That said, this creature is much like the full promise of the Mono-Blue Aggro deck — currently the most successful deck in Standard — all bundled into one card. This is essentially one of Mono-Blue’s 1/1 evasion creatures that starts with Curious Obsession already in play.

It can keep you when you’re already winning. It can steal from decks that require particular spells to function. And especially coming out of the sideboard, it can help control decks put their victims on a clock.

Find out more places we think players should play more copies (and all the other current Standard trends) here:

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So Much Ravnica Allegiance Standard

Pteramander Adapts to Allegiance Standard

Pteramander

Alexander Hayne, the great Canadian Pro Tour Champion, put out a new Mono-Blue deck featuring Pteramander this week. Packing only 19 Islands, Hayne’s deck relies on a ton of super cheap threats, including 11 one casting cost evasion creatures.

Alongside Pteramander, Mist-Cloaked Herald and Siren Stormtamber make for many creatures to catalyze Chart a Course or Curious Obsession on turn two.

Overall, this strategy can keep the opponent on their toes; it’s got just enough permission to hold a lead — not indefinitely, but maybe long enough to get Tempest Djinn across the Red Zone once or twice…

Light Up the Stage Brings Back Experimental Frenzy

Light Up the Stage

After an off week, Mono-Red players suddenly remembered they are allowed to run Experimental Frenzy!

Part of the Red Deck’s bounce back came from the power of Light Up the Stage. This Ravnica Allegiance sorcery found homes immediately, but often at the cost of the more expensive Frenzy. Why? Light Up the Stage kind of does the same thing as Experimental Frenzy (draws cards). Turns out it doesn’t have to be either / or.

Casting Light Up the Stage with Experimental Frenzy in play gives you the option of casting an instant on top of your library before Light Up the Stage resolves.

This creates a bit of a tension in Mono-Red Land. Do you maximize your instants? That would mean playing Wizard’s Lightning… Possibly over Skewer the Critics. But is Skewer — Light Up the Stage’s Spectacle buddy — just too good not to play?

How about Fanatical Firebrand? Many mages have cited the little Pirate as the weakest card in Mono-Red. Maybe… But it’s also the best setup man for Spectacles in the deck. There is no easy cut for the format’s Red Deck.

Allegiance Standard Gives Hostage Taker a New Mission

Hostage Taker

Hostage Taker seems amazing in the format right now!”
-Patrick

Why?

Two words: Hydroid Krasis.

Yeah? Not only can you follow up by casting their Hydroid Krasis for a bunch if your Hostage Taker lives, even if it doesn’t, the opponent will get back a 0/0 Krasis.

Not bad.

Tons more Standard in this week’s podcast!

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Breaking Hydroid Krasis

Hydroid KrasisHydroid Krasis is the top Mythic Rare from Ravnica Allegiance

How Do I Make a Hydroid Krasis Deck?

The top deck from the first week of Ravnica Allegiance Standard was Sultai Midrange. The inheritor of the Golgari decks, Sultai Midrange uses Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger to turn creatures into extra cards. At the top end, instead of just playing another big Jadelight Ranger, Sultai (over Golgari) tops up on Hydroid Krasis: It’s bigger, it draws tons and tons of cards (instead of just one), and it gives you something to do with all that Explore land!

Hydroid Krasis is a powerful finisher in a Wilderness Reclamation deck. A blue mage can tap out for it main phase without fear: Draw some cards! Gain some life! Wildnerness Reclamation will untap your lands and you can play defensively on the opponents turn.

The hip new Gates builds are also playing the Jellyfish Hydra Beast. Because accelerators like Circuitous Route can give you the materiel to make X big… It’s just a big threat in Gates. The Krasis can compliment your Angels, or draw you into your relatively limited sweepers. Or kill a mage.

Hydroid Krasis has “cast” triggers

While it is effectively not-so-different from the 187 creatures of the Golgari deck, the Krasis differs meaningfully against blue opponents. Jadelight Ranger only Explores when the Jadelight Ranger actually resolves. Hydroid Krasis, on balance, draws cards and gains life when you cast the creature, not only if you resolve it.

This rarely matters if the opponent isn’t playing permission. But you’ll appreciate this nuance in the cases that he is!

Memorial to Folly is great with Hydroid Krasis

One of the long-game uses of Memorial to Folly is to re-buy this creature. In the older Golgari decks, you might draw the spell-like Memorial thanks to Jadelight Ranger… But late in the game you were probably also just re-buying the Jadelight Ranger.

The Krasis gives you the option to recover and play a much more powerful finisher. Long game flooded? Tap a ton of mana! Gain a ton of life! Use your creature slot to hit an extra land!

This week’s podcast also features the early struggles of Mono-Red, a cool new Bant Flash build, color conflicts in Grixis, and much more. Check it out!

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How to Kill a Carnage Tyrant

Carnage Tyrant
Carnage Tyrant is one of the most important threats in Standard

Carnage Tyrant is an important card, a pillar of the entire Standard metagame. When this format debuted, the big Dinosaur was largely a mirror threat, a long-term answer to an opposing Golgari deck. You would land it, play Find // Finality to clear any non-Dinosaur creatures from the battlefield, finish the game with Carnage Tyrant.

But today, a renaissance of Carnage Tyrant is largely driven by the success of Jeskai. You see, Carnage Tyrant is as much as a three-of (alongside three copies of Vivien Reid) in some versions. Reid is there to kill Niv-Mizzet, Parun without triggering it; the Tyrant is for the opponent’s face.

The Jeskai Trio Can Kill Carnage Tyrant

Carnage Tyrant is one of the best cards against Jeskai! The irony is… Jeskai has several cards that can deal with it. Cleansing Nova and Settle the Wreckage are both efficient answers to multiple creatures (depending on what they’re doing). But the big weapon is Star of Extinction! The Star can deal 20 damage to any number of theoretically hexproof creatures, and take all the Planeswalkers with both of them!

The Eldest Reborn Can Be Great Against Carnage Tyrant

The Eldest Reborn can theoretically help against Carnage Tyrant. If you’re a black deck of some type, you will have to take care of all its friends first. Cards like Ritual of Soot can help with that; then The Eldest Reborn can show hexproof where it’s at.

Subtly, if you’re a discard deck with Disinformation Campaign or Thought Erasure, The Eldest Reborn — even if it’s not hitting Carnage Tyrant on turn five — can nab one from the bin [even] later in the game.

Unmoored Ego Can Hangle a Carnage Tyrant (or four)

And if you really, really, need to take care of a 7/6 Dinosaur that you can’t counter, and you can’t target later… You might want to consider Unmoored Ego. Largely a Grixis card due to its color constraints, Unmoored Ego may offer some defense to other hard-to-answer cards, like Banefire.

This week on the Top Level Podcast, we discuss these details and many more. The MOCS was full effect, so there is further discussion of Boros Weenie, tons of Jeskai, and many other looks at Control as well as this Golgari-centric threat talk. Give it a listen:

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Niv-Mizzet, Parun in Jeskai Control

Niv-Mizzet, Parun
Niv-Mizzet, Parun

Playing Four Copies of Niv-Mizzet, Parun changes just about everything

Adrian Sullivan, one of the true godfathers of Magic strategy, took down Grand Prix Milwaukee last weekend. And in true Adrian style, he did so with a unique deck… This time, a “Jeskai Control” with four copies of Niv-Mizzet, Parun.

Playing four copies of that big threat (when most Jeskai play as few as zero main deck) changes the deck and its matchups at a fundamental level. Here are some of the meaningful ways how…

Dive Down becomes a plausible Magic: The Gathering card – Adrian played only seven creatures! Yet, two copies of Dive Down make sense… Relative to just a couple more Ionizes. Dive Down simply protects Niv-Mizzet when you’re on seven or more mana. You’re getting paid on multiple fronts, then hopefully untap with Niv-Mizzet in play.

Adrian’s deck plays a truly elegant mana base – Sullivan actually went down on lands relative to some other Jeskai decks… But it made more sense. There is not a single basic Plains. Why? Plains doesn’t cast Niv-Mizzet. Adrian still needed white for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or the odd Settle the Wreckage, but had the discipline to bias his mana base in favor of his unique creature decision.

Other Jeskai Decks quake in fear of main-deck Niv-Mizzet – Most of Adrian’s cards actually line up worse, card-for-card against other Jeskai decks. He can plausibly lose a lot of one-for-one battles. Unfortunately for the opponent, Adrian could win only one fight (say, over Niv-Mizzet, who can’t be countered) and with it, the game.

Adrian chose Treasure Map over Azor’s Gateway

We recently saw Elis Kassis play Azor’s Gateway to go alongside Expansion // Explosion and Banefire.

Adrian did something similar… He just played Treasure Map in that four-of slot. Treasure Map is less powerful for casting x-spells than Azor’s Gateway, but much more reliable. For Azor’s Gateway, you need to go to the well five times; not only that, but you have to hit five times. Conversely, Treasure Map will flip with three activations, every time.

The potential card advantage of Treasure Map lets it take up the Chemister’s Insight slot, but going much faster.

Big congrats to Adrian and his Jeskai deck.

Michael and Patrick take a nice long look at that deck, but also hit on the other main archetypes in Standard, including innovations for Golgari, Grixis, and Selesnya Tokens!

Check it all out now:

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