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Storrev, Devkarin Lich

Storrev, Devkarin Lich is Close on the Body

“There was a time when a four casting cost 5/5 cost you a life a turn and everyone was signing up for that.”

Storrev is “only” 5/4 Trample… But on the other hand it doesn’t cost you a life per turn. Furthermore, being Legendary is actually an upside in a world where Cast Down is one of the most common removal cards.

Point being, this Legendary Zombie Elf Wizard is close on the stats… Not close enough without its abilities maybe, but…

You’re Really Going to Want Storrev for the Hit Trigger, Though

Storrev is essentially a 5/4 trampling Ophidian.

For a card of this type — which often come out at 1/3 for three or even four mana in the case of Thieving Magpie — Storrev has outstanding power and toughness.

But that’s not all!

Trample is really meaningful here!

The opponent can’t just throw chump blockers or small token creatures in front of Storrev in order to prevent the card advantage trigger. Hand in hand, the ability to attack opposing Planeswalkers (and not just opponents themselves) makes Storrev a highly flexible attacker and source of card advantage.

What Might You Want to Get with Storrev, Devkarin Lich?

Storrev is fine as an attrition / grinding tool. Or as the realization of the old Jamie Wakefield “it’s the last fatty that kills you” theory. Storrev can clean up after you’ve traded a bunch and that’s great.

However, you can also do some aiming with this card. Here are some ideas (that, admittedly, transcend just Standard).

  • Sakura-Tribe Elder – You can play the Rampant Growth-like Staple Snake to get Storrev out on turn three… And then get it back with your first attack!
  • Cycling creatures – One of Storrev’s strengths is the ability to “aim” its card drawing, rather than just drawing whatever is on top of your deck. But if you want that kind of ability, creatures with cycling or landcycling work great. Engine!
  • Plaguecrafter – Sacrifice this to itself and you can clear a path for your Legendary Zombie Elf Wizard… And have fuel to clear a path again next turn.
  • Explore creatures – Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger can put random creatures into your graveyard… Right where Storrev can get them back for value!
  • Planeswalkers – Especially some of the new War of the Spark ones that only have “minus” abilities. Reload!

We’ll be back tomorrow!

But first, give our Free Preview Podcast a listen:

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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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Izzet Phoenix in Modern… And Legacy?

Arclight Phoenix
Izzet Phoenix won a[nother] Modern Grand Prix, in Los Angeles


Izzet Phoenix in Modern

We saw Arclight Phoenix jump back into Top 8 action just last week… Standard’s Mythic Championship Cleveland was the stage. The player in question, none other than the legendary Luis Scott-Vargas.

But it’s not clear that Arclight Phoenix even belongs in the best Standard U/R deck! The same is not true of Izzet Phoenix in Modern. If anything, this is considered the strongest current deck in Modern… And it’s not hard to see why.

Izzet Phoenix has some stoopid stupid draws.

Here’s one:

  • Mountain, Fathless Looting; discard two copies of Arclight Phoenix.
  • Gut Shot you. Gut Shot you again!
  • That’s eight! Your go.
  • Is that the most common first turn? Obviously not. But it’s certainly an available one. Izzet Phoenix has a ton of perfectly fine regular draws that are super aggressive while remaining card advantageous.

    Cantrips, Cantrips, Everywhere

    Mike and Patrick discuss the various cheap card drawing spells in Modern.

    Most important might be Faithless Looting. Mike doesn’t think this one is long for the format. It’s certainly been a problem child in a variety of decks before!

    Patrick thinks that Manamorphose might be the most broken of the cheap card drawers; but Mike draws a distinction at the one-versus-two-casting cost line.

    This dovetails into Patrick wondering how Grixis players pick which cantips they play in Modern, and how many!

    Why isn’t Arclight Phoenix a Bigger Deal in Legacy?

    A different Izzet deck won last weekend’s Legacy Open — a Delver of Secrets deck!

    Izzet is a great strategy in Legacy, due to the strength of cards like Brainstorm, Ponder, Preordain… and now Light Up the Stage! Light Up the Stage is very Treasure Cruise-ish, and easily catalyzed by Pteramander or Delver of Secrets on turn one.

    But look at those cantrips: They’re great, but they don’t put creatures into the graveyard! There are no Faithless Lootings or Thought Scours in the Legacy builds. Therefore getting the Phoenix into the graveyard (where it can work its proper mischief) is a little more challenging than in Modern.

    But!

    There are some emerging Grixis deck lists that are looking to solve the Arclight Phoenix problem. And because it’s Legacy… The solution is pretty a good one.

    Learn how they’re doing it in this week’s podcast:

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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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    Skewer the Critics (and other spectacular Spectacles)

    Skewer the Critics
    Get ready to Skewer the Critics

    Krark-Clan Ironworks… We Hardly Knew Ya!

    Or, we’ve known you for seventeen years. Either or.

    The King is Dead! Long live Ravnica Allegiance.

    Skewer the Critics and Light Up the Stage Are Already Making Waves in Standard

    Skewer the Critics is like “Rift Bolt 2K19” according to Mike. Along with Light Up the Stage (aka “Red draw-two”), these Spectacles are driving success for initial builds of Mono-Red.

    Patrick and Michael agree that the initial Mono-Red decks in Standard are going to be balls to the wall aggressive. This is a move away from the Arch of Orazca / Treasure Map Red Decks; or even the Experimental Frenzy builds that have been such important pillars of Standard for the last few months. This is because they believe in the importance of racing Wilderness Reclamation decks. If you let one of these upcoming Rampers get going, no midrange deck will be able to keep pace.

    Skewer the Critics and Light Up the Stage in Modern

    Michael argues that these same Spectacle cards will be outstanding in Modern. Skewer the Critics does basically the same thing as every non-creature card in a Modern Red Deck… And it does so for only one mana, assuming Spectacle. Mike’s thinking is that moving down casting costs is the most important thing a Red Deck can be doing right now; plus, the ability to cut a land lets you increase spell and threat density.

    WATCH THIS SPACE for a Modern recap (assuming Mike kicks butt and takes names this weekend in New Jersey).

    Make Mine Rakdos: The Black Spectacles

    • Drill Bit – Patrick points out how this can pay off a player for running aggressive one drops. Mike sees it as a supplement to Duress (probably out of the sideboard) but is a little skeptical of the Spectacle.
    • Spawn of Mayhem – Awesome in part because it so easily enables future Spectacles.

    … Plus a Top-Five card that is sure to make your Wilderness Reclamation even more broken. All in:

    “Skewer the Critics (and more spectacular Spectacles)”

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    Wild About Wilderness Reclamation

    Wilderness Reclamation
    “[Wilderness Reclamation] is not an okay card.” -Patrick

    Wilderness Reclamation “doesn’t seem close”

    The task seems to be figuring out cards that are good with Wilderness Reclamation. The card looks to be a slam dunk. We’ll walk through some basics on this card, then get to some of the historical comparisons.

    Let’s start with Growth Spiral. Growth Spiral allows you to play Wilderness Reclamation on turn three. That’s great by itself.

    You can’t normally just tap out for a four mana do-nothing and expect to live through the next few turns, but Wilderness Reclamation will untap your lands on your own end step. Depending on your other colors, you will be able to defend yourself with anything from Fog variants to Settle the Wreckage for the turn.

    Turn five (or turn four with Growth Spiral) starts getting really interesting.

    You can open up by playing Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. You do the whole “draw a card” thing with Teferi, then move to your end step. Teferi will untap two lands. Wilderness Reclamation will tap all five. Put one effect on the stack, tap Teferi’s bounty in response, and you’ll have access to seven.

    You know: For Nexus of Fate.

    “Let me get this right,” says the babe in the woods. “It’s turn four and I have both this and Teferi in play… Plus I’ve just hit a recurring Time Walk?”

    “Yes,” replies the Hand of Fate.

    “How quickly can I sign up for your Bant Newsletter?”

    You don’t even have to play Teferi, or white at all. This card works just fine and dandy with Nexus of Fate with or without Teferi, and untapping all your lands every turn is hyper synergistic with Search for Azcanta.

    How Might We Properly Gauge Wilderness Reclamation?

    One of the things that’s great about this card is that, in addition to being able to spitball a cool two-three-four sequence with Teferis and Time Walks… We can just compare it to things we know have already performed.

    Compare it to Thran Dynamo.

    Thran Dynamo cost four mana and gave you three back immediately. Presuming your mana is all coming from lands, Wilderness Reclamation is generally — and immediately — just better. Rather than colorless mana, you get colored mana back. Rather than just three, you get four (or more). Even better, you get more and more mana over time assuming you hit your land drops.

    Ditto on Gilded Lotus. Rather than paying five up front, you only have to pay four. Again, Wilderness Reclamation will generally give you more mana than the celebrated Lotus; and pay you more and more mana over time.

    The Best of the Rest

    • Theater of Horrors – Looking for an alternate engine? As long as you’re aggressive, this card is generally better than Phyrexian Arena
    • Basilica Bell-Haunt – Mike comes completely around on this card. Patrick has him comparing it to Loxodon Hierarch and Siege Rhino. Synergies with The Eldest Reborn push the Bell-Haunt over the finish line.
    • Shimmer of Possibility – Impulse at sorcery speed… Not great but good at finding Wilderness Reclamation!
    • Pteramander – Solid deal for one mana.

    Lots more in the podcast proper. Give it a listen!

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    The Beginning and End of Angel of Grace

    Angel of Grace
    Angel of Grace is the Beginning… But Will Often be THE END

    Angel of Grace is card #1 for Ravnica Allegiance; so… The Beginning. But it will often be the end (of the game). This Angel is an extremely powerful threat creature. Let’s check out how:

    Angel of Grace has both Flash and Flying

    A 5/4 flyer with flash for 3WW is no joke. With no other abilities, it would still be a consideration to play. Having flash gives this creature some important tactical advantages. Here are some examples:

    • You can double up big threats against a permission deck. Test spell them with Angel of Grace; waltz it into an Essence Scatter, but then resolve your Lyra Dawnbringer the next turn.
    • Take advantage of your opponent’s Teferi window: A common play pattern will be to tap out for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and then draw a card. U/W players will have at least two open lands for your next turn. Usually this will mean some amount of defense, especially if they just drew Essence Scatter with their Teferi. But with this flashy Angel, you can resolve a big 5/4 before their two lands untap. Even better, you’ll be able to attack with it, not just resolve it!
    • In general, any “threat” deck can put pressure on the opponent — whether it’s with Knights, tokens, or whatever — forcing them to cast Cleansing Nova. With Angel of Grace, you just have an instant speed window to resolve a big beater, to keep on the pressure the next turn, while the opponent is tapped out for their sweeper.

    Did you say “Angel’s Grace”?

    “When Angel of Grace enters the battlefield, until end of turn, damage that would reduce your life total to less than 1 reduces it to 1 instead.”

    This card is obviously a little punny.

    It doesn’t have Split Second (or some of the other clauses of the original instant) but this middle ability will certainly come up. It can undo a lethal attack, many combo kills, etc.

    Oh, and the opponent still has to deal with your 5/4.

    4WW, Exile Angel of Grace from your graveyard: Your life total becomes 10.

    Like we said, we’d consider Angel of Grace without these last two abilities. This one is in particular free. You can dump the Angel for free with Search for Azcanta, or get some free value from Explore guys like Jadelight Ranger or Merfolk Branchwalker.

    Regardless of how you get your Angel into the graveyard, this last clause can make your opponent miserable. You can activate the ability at instant speed. It’s not a spell so your opponent can’t Negate it. On top of all that… The card itself is on the bonus; you’re not using a card in hand or creature in play to adjust your life total.

    Least important block of text? Maybe. But it’s still there, and will contribute to the success that this card can help contribute, from tournament number one.

    Check out even more Ravnica Allegiance discussion here:

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    Exclusive Preview: Zhur-Taa Goblin

    Zhur-Taa Goblin
    Zhur-Taa Goblin is kind of a Rip-Clan Crasher // Watchwolf split card.

    Zhur-Taa Goblin is strictly superior to Rip-Clan Crasher

    Rip-Clan Crasher
    Rip-Clan Crasher

    Rip-Clan Crasher was never a super successful Constructed card. It was fringe in Alara Block Constructed. Playable, sure; but fringe. However Rip-Clan Crasher shared not only a Block, but a color combination, with Bloodbraid Elf.

    While few players would choose Rip-Clan Crasher, when you play Zhur-Taa Goblin… You kind of get the option for a Rip-Clan Crasher for free. Need a hasty creature to deal the last two points of damage? Smell the stink of a Lava Coil on your opponent and want to get some damage in before that sorcery blazes up your cardboard? Staring down a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria that’s about to hit his limit break? Zhur-Taa Goblin in Rip-Clan Crasher mode will serve you well in its smaller, faster, form. On the other hand…

    It’s ALSO generally better than Watchwolf

    Watchwolf
    Watchwolf

    Watchwolf was a tournament Staple in its [original Ravnica: City of Guilds] era.

    Likely, Watchwolf would be good enough to play today, as well!

    The “big” version of Zhur-Taa Goblin isn’t a direct translation to Watchwolf (Selesnya mana versus Gruul, straight 3/3 versus 2/2 with a +1/+1 counter)… But it’s not only close, the comparisons tend to favor the Gruul version. For one thing, red tends to get smaller creatures than white, or at least have to work a little harder for them. Consider Watchwolf’s Gruul contemporary, Scab-Clan Mauler:

    Scab-Clan Mauler
    Scab-Clan Mauler

    The Gruul Staple had to bruise the opponent some for its 3/3, instead of living the Hill Giant life on easy mode like Watchwolf. That Zhur-Taa Goblin has a 3/3 mode “for free” is a huge plus for the card. But it’s not just a 3/3… It’s a 2/2 with a +1/+1 counter. That’s generally better than a straight 3/3 due to additional synergies. We haven’t seen all the available cards from Ravnica Allegiance, but it’s not out of the question that some +1/+1 synergy along the lines of Hardened Scales might not, um, tip the scales in favor of this card.

    We guess the 3/3 mode will be more popular, but there are many cases where you’ll want to sneak in damage quickly, finish off a Planeswalker, or avoid sorcery speed removal. The hasty mode is great for all that.

    As such, we expect Zhur-Taa Goblin to be playable in Standard, and have some ideas for Goblin deck mana bases, and brew up some potential homes for hasty Rioters. Check all that out in this bonus episode!

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    Dovin, Grand Arbiter Headlines More Ravnica Allegiance

    Dovin, Grand Arbiter
    Dovin, Grand Arbiter

    [+1]: Until end of turn, whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to a player, put a loyalty counter on Dovin, Grand Arbiter.

    Imagine you open on any one mana creature; or even a creature token of some sort… Let’s say Legion’s Landing.

    And then, imagine we make two guys on turn two… In other formats there are more attractive white options; but because we’re just pretending right now, let’s say you get two bodies online with Goblin Instigator

    Now on turn three, you play Dovin and go [+1]. Dovin’s base loyalty is three. When you plus, it goes to four. Now you attack with all three guys. For one thing, yes, your Legion’s Landing will flip. But what about your Planeswalker?

    That’s right friend: 4 becomes 7, and out of nowhere, Dovin is already ready for Ultimate!

    [-1]: Create a 1/1 colorless Thopter artifact creature token with flying. You gain 1 life.

    While less synergistic than abilities one and three, this might be Dovin’s most important.

    You get a body. That means that if you didn’t have another one already, this will give you a catalyst for that lethal [+1]. It’s also a blocker. One measure of a Planeswalker is just how well it defends itself. Well, now this one can defend itself for at least a turn or so.

    The Thopters are artifacts, and therefore friendly with Karn. Likely there is a proactive control deck for Standard that will want both these Planeswalkers.

    On the simpler side, you can lead up with an AJani’s Pridemate. Now the [-1] will add two power, not one. One 1/1 flyer and one +1/+1 counter.

    [-7]: Look at the top ten cards of your library. Put three of them into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

    Okay, back to seven. How easy was that?

    The cool thing about this card is not just that it’s so easy to get to seven, but that seven doesn’t come only once. Imagine we had a more realistic mana situation and ran an Ajani’s Pridemate on turn two. You wouldn’t be able to go Ultimate on turn three. That’s okay, though. Going to 6 loyalty isn’t the worst; it implies you’ll go over seven next turn. That means getting to use this Ultimate more than once.

    Dovin’s [-7] seems great but isn’t really the kind of Ultimate that wins the game immediately. Good thing it lines up for multiple uses!

    Dovin might be first this week, but he’s not alone! Check out this week’s podcast to hear about more Planeswalkers, more gold cards, and more quick plays, generally; all from Ravnica Allegiance.

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