What Does It Mean to be the Best in the Format?

With Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath Banned in Standard… What’s the Best in the Format?

Hmmm…

Easy pick

“I’d play it in every format.”

-Patrick

Even with Uro banned, the card is already invading other archetypes!

Check out this PTQ winning “Temur” Adventures deck by Michael Bonde:

“Temur” … But with White.

“Adventures” … But with 4x Omnath (and only 2x Lovestruck Beast).

Welcome to the future, I guess.

The Mount Rushmore of Magic: The Gathering…

It’s Kai versus Jon, buuuuuut…

Once upon a time it was unbelievable for someone to go up against Jon Finkel in the category of G.O.A.T.

But Kai Budde did “enough unbelievable” to not only enter the conversation, but exceed Jon in at least some categories.

But the same token… PV has some kind of longevity and consistency! What does PV have to do more at this point than just keep playing [at the level he has been playing for the last several years]?

Give it a Listen Right Now!

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Is Omnath, Locus of Creation Next on the Chopping Block?

Omnath, Locus of Creation

Let’s Look Closely at Omnath, Locus of Creation

This is a card that is outstanding on rate.

The card is efficient on its face… It’s a 4/4 cantrip for four mana before you start considering landfall abilities.

If you think about just the first landfall ability (gaining four life), it’s already better than a Siege Rhino.

It’s really, really good… But is it going to meet the Standard executioner so soon?

Uro, or Omnath, or Uro AND Omnath?

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath is likely to be banned soon.

Reason: It has just been so warping in Standard (and other formats) essentially from the moment it appeared.

… But with Omnath join Uro?

We think so.

Among other reasons, banning Uro does very little to curb the dominance Omnath has already shown in Standard. Few decks play a full load of Cultivates and Beanstalk Giants. If all you did was cut Uro, making room for other three mana ramp cards might arguably make them more consistent at producing Omnath!

Uro might get an extra land into play, but it’s not great at fixing colors.

The Kitchen Sink

While Omnath is dominating a lot of Magic: The Gathering conversations right now, we did have a little time to go over how badly Mike missed on Sea Gate Restoration, some Pioneer talk, the newest Craterhoof Behemoth implementation, and even the hot new Modern tech!

It’s like Death’s Shadow 5-8

Check it out here!

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The Modal Double-Faced Episode!

Modal Double-Faced Topic #1: The 2020 Mythic Invitational!

Part One is a quick-ish review of the 2020 Mythic Invitational / Top 8 decks.

No doubt this tournament was stacked with DIs and absolute masters.

Spoiler! Our favorite deck from a Historic Top 8 that was largely Standard decks with one or two overpowered additions:

Mono-Black Gift played by Matt Nass

Part Two is a longer explorations of… You guessed it! Some more standouts from the still-emerging Zendikar Rising. Cards like…

The Two Sides of Valakut Exploration

Valakut Exploration can be played several different ways
  • Valakut Exploration as an Outpost Siege – In some ways, this card is a faster source of incremental card advantage. A little Outpost Siege, a wee bit Experimental Frenzy or one of the many card-drawing editions of Chandra… Valakut Exploration comes down a turn earlier and can give you some extra card oomph.
  • Valakut Exploration in Gruul Ramp – How about playing this card with Radha, Heart of Keld or Dyrad of Ilsyan Grove? The ability to draw extra cards and play extra lands — gaining extra advantages from either side — may make this three mana enchantment a main-deck option.

How to Think About Kazandu Mammoth

What a Gnarled Mass!

Kazandu Mammoth is arguably… Just a little bit better than our preview card, Murasa Brute. Sure, it’s not a Warrior, but this Elephant has options before you play it, and extra punching power after.

  • Is Kazandu Mammoth a kind of Woolly Thoctar with cycling?
  • Patrick thinks of this card, somewhat as one with Forestcycling 1? You can certainly “pay” G [by putting Kazandu Valley into play tapped] to “get” a “Forest”.
  • Michael likes it on the battlefield (unsurprising). Sometimes it dies to any old deal three; others it hits for nine.

Legitimately Exciting is… Swarm Shambler!

Swarm Shamber is great on turn one… But can go long

While this card is probably not good enough for your Gruul Ramp deck… It’s more than good enough for your Gruul beatdown deck, your Selesnya beatdown deck, or as a mirror-breaker for Mono-Green.

The synergies with Hardened Scales in larger formats are obvious. It’s going to be great with any kind of a Winding Constrictor; Standard just happens to have one, and a persistent source of +1/+1 counters to boot.

Not quite a Scavenging Ooze, maybe; but what can you really ask for from your one-drop?

What if Murasa Sproutling Were Actually Good?

… And here’s ANOTHER nice 3/3 for three

Using a Murasa Sproutling to pick up another Murasa Sproutling is kind of a chain in and of itself.

The question is if Standard will be a place where 3/3 creatures for three are good enough; or certainly 3/3 creatures for five (no matter what advantages they generate).

There are certainly kicker-matters things that we want to try. Roost of Drakes is up there. Tajuru Paragon even more. Though Patrick really has to explain Sea Gate Stormcaller to his co-host.

This plus Into the Roil now? If you’ve got nine mana to burn, the other player is in trouble!

Just imagine all that were going to be good enough!

Or imagine with us:

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Taking a Look at the Full Zendikar Rising Spoiler

Is Maddening Cacophony from Zendikar Rising even good? How about great?

Maddening Cacophony

Maddening Cacophony is definitely not Mike’s favorite blue card from Zendikar Rising.

But is it good? Great? Archetype defining even?

Things to note:

  • Maddening Cacophony doesn’t target. Good in group games, sure; but it can also anchor a Mill deck against an opponent with Leyline of Sanctity on the battlefield.
  • Eight cards for two mana isn’t that bad.
  • You can Mill out an opponent using only Maddening Cacophonies. The card rounds up; so it can take out the last card.

While Mike isn’t excited by this one, Patrick points out that there might be a critical mass of Mill in Modern that is too fast for interaction. This card can be helpful, with or without being kicked.

How interested are you in Ondu Inversion from Zendikar Rising?

Front side
Back side

On the one hand… Mike doesn’t want to play either side.

On the other hand… He could see this being a four-of in Standard.

Macro / interesting discussion: Will modal double-faced cards change how mana bases have been built for the past twenty-plus years?

Is Nighthawk Scavenger the best card in Zendikar Rising?

Nighthawk Scavenger

Nighthawk Scavenger is only smaller than Vampire Nighthawk if they have nothing in their graveyard at all.

Sometimes people put cards in their graveyards for you (e.g. Fabled Passage).

But if you actually try? A little hand destruction and creature removal? Nighthawk Scavenger can easily jump to 3-5 power… The true, evasive, racing love child of Vampire Nighthawk and Tarmogoyf.

Prediction: This will get played even in Legacy! Standard and Pioneer for sure.

Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats is just Questing Beast

Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats

I mean… Look at it!

Listen to our first drive bty the full Zendikar spoiler now!

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Zendikar Rising Exclusive Preview – Murasa Brute!

Thanks to Wizards for letting us preview
Murasa Brute!

Murasa Brute – More Than Meets the Immediate Eye

Is Murasa Brute “just” a 3/3 vanilla for three mana? With no rules text?

Patrick argues that that doesn’t just cover what’s really going on with this card… There is actually some hidden rules text!

First off, Murasa Brute is a little bit better than onetime tournament Role Player Gnarled Mass (a card Mike was once famous for advocating). But unlike Gnarled Mass at 1GG… Murasa Brute is a little less restrictive to cast.

But besides that, it’s also a Troll Warrior.

With Zendikar Rising, being a Warrior can help you out in building your Party. So you might just have a little more incentive to consider a creature like this one.

Now that said…

Tajuru Paragon can Help You Fill Your Party

Tajuru Paragon is also a Warrior
(as well as a Cleric, Rogue, Wizard… and Elf)

Tajuru Paragon is a three power creature for only two mana. A 3/2 for two (with a lot of potential types), this card has a heck of a fail state.

It can help get your beat on early… While filling any slot in your Party. In addition, a late game Paragon can dig up other Clerics, Rogues, Warriors… Or Wizards.

What about nabbing a Fae of Wishes or Gadwick, the Wizened?

Snowballing card advantage is quite a possibility!

Maybe he’s friends with Red Decks; enabling Wizard’s Lightning or buddying up with a Rogue like Robber of the Rich.

A Rollicking Discussion of Legion Angel

… And all our initial thoughts on Zendikar Rising

Check it all out now:

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Sneaking in Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow

Have You Met Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow yet?

Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow
from Commander 2018

If you’re saying to yourself anything from…

“Wait a minute… Wasn’t Shadowmage Infiltrator already a tournament quality card?”

to:

“I really hope I flip over Force of Will… More than usual, I mean.”

to:

“Baleful Strix is getting in unblocked for Ninjutsu most of the time, am I right?”

… You may have just read Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow.

This card is just one of the many “fan fictional” Commander tools that have muscled their way, all linking arms, into this sweet Legacy deck:

Have you read Retrofitter Foundry?

Retrofitter Foundry
also from Commander 2018

Pretty nice Kjeldoran Outpost, right?

You’re probably making 1/1 Servos most of the time; but don’t be surprised if you cash in an Ornithopter for a 4/4 — on turn one — some of the time. Ornithopter costs 0, the Foundry costs 1, the activation costs no mana to tap, etc. etc.

Speaking of Ornithopter…

Can you imagine playing that turn one, alongside Changeling Outcast maybe?

Changeling Countcast
from Modern Horizons

As a Changeling, Changeling Outcast is also a Ninja.

That means that if you play it and Ornithopter on turn one, you can swing with both on turn two, pick up the Ornithopter only, and hit with both the Outcast — again, a Ninja — and the Ninja you just played.

Which might be Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow; and might be Ingenious Infiltrator… Either way, you’re drawing two and smashing face.

So Many Sweet Decks…

  • A 5-0 Niv-Mizzet deck that sometimes just whiffs
  • Removal for days!
  • The return of Pteramander to Standard
  • … And new life breathed into a twenty-year-old two-card combo, at eighty cards!

Oh Yeah, Field of the Dead got banned again.

Hour of Promise
But at least we have Hour of Promise in Historic

Field of the Dead was probably too good anyway. The card has insane rate and represents inevitability against most midrange and control decks.

Hour of Promise might have just accelerated a ban in Historic. Either way, it happed this week.

More, much more in this week’s podcast!

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Shark Typhoon in StoneBlade (and much more Modern)

Shark Typhoon is everything to everyone (well, lots of decks)

Shark Typhoon in Modern StoneBlade

Check out Kogamo’s build of StoneBlade; a recent 5-0 deck list:

“The kind of deck Kenji would play,” according to Patrick (and, let’s be honest, Kenji himself), this deck combines the original core strategy of Azorius StoneBlade with recent standout Shark Typhoon.

If you think back to the original Caw-Blade days, that deck ran four copies of Stoneforge Mystic and four copies of Squadron Hawk… And kind of called it a day on creatures. Shark Typhoon isn’t quite Squadron Hawk — meaning it can’t un-mulligan you early — but the Typhoon does a great impression of “flying threat + card advantage” … and can be much bigger than 1/1.

Michael thinks this deck could do with a certain better-than-all Planeswalker (and would probably add a little more Mystic Sanctuary action)… But all agree this is an interesting direction to take a long-standing archetype.

A Surprising Amount of Time Spent on Red Decks

We spent an unusual amount of time on Red Decks (and in fact various black discard and Death’s Shadow builds) this episode. Some assorted thoughts from the podcast:

  • Mike disapproves of splashing for Wild Nacatl. That just turns on their removal, according to the Red Deck aficionado.
  • Instead of Skullcrack, try Bonecrusher Giant. Bonecrusher Giant can do the same kind of work against Kor Firewalker, but leaves a 4/3 body that can matter. Anyway, Mike hates Skullcrack.
  • Think carefully about Shard Volley versus Lava Dart. For the same mana — and additional Mountain sacrifice — Shard Volley does one more point of damage, but can be very awkward to cast. Lava Dart does two instead of three, but is great at turning on Skewer the Critics, pumping Prowess creatures, and sandbagging resources for long-term play. Unlike Shard Volley, it is never really “awkward” to cast.

So Many More Modern Decks!

  • Do black discard decks want to kill opponents with creatures or The Rack?
  • What colors should you supplement your Death’s Shadow strategy? Who might you want to Unearth?
  • How do “Utopia Sprawl” people do it?
  • New(er) set evolutions in Transmogrify and Elementals deck lists! Spoiler: “Voice of Resurgence is a surprisingly powerful Elemental”
  • … and (believe it or not), much more!

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Let’s Talk About Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath is dominating new Standard

The Best Card in… the Best Deck?

Last week, Michael and Patrick made their predictions on what might be the best deck once the bans of Wilderness Reclamation and Teferi, Time Raveler settled.

Would it be Temur Adventures?

Mono-Black Beatdown?

It turns out “the best deck” wasn’t just neither of those… It wasn’t particularly close.

Sultai Ramp (really a big Sultai Midrange deck) took five — count ’em five — of the Top 8 slots in last weekend’s huge 1,000+ player Red Bull tournament. In fact, it took all four slots in the Top 4; and obviously with all those accolades, the title.

One of the biggest reasons?

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath might be the best card [left] in Standard, and Sultai probably breaks that card the most. Not only can it go straight to five for Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Sultai has a powerful end game table-snapper in Casualties of War.

Extinction Event

Extinction Event is one of the cards that makes the Sultai archetype. Unlike some other black-splashed sweepers, Extinction Event 1) costs only a single black mana, and 2) can deal with creatures larger than two toughness or three casting cost.

Subtly, because it is an “exile” rather than “destroy” effect, this sweeper can sweep away an opposing Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath… Permanently.

Finally, Sultai is one of the best possible choices in a world where Mono-Green is a top deck. With Casualties of War capable of destroying a big creature, a Vivien or Nissa, and The Great Henge all in one big move… The deck is also super capable of defending itself early with Aether Gust, Noxious Grasp, or any number of less fancy answers.

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath in Temur Elementals

While Uro might have been at its best last weekend in Sultai, the powerful threat / card drawing spell / accelerator / life gain engine [all-in-one], that wasn’t its only successful home.

Look for a new Temur deck topping up on Genesis Wave and Terror of the Peaks to challenge for Standard’s top spot.

You Know What’s Weird About Uro?

… That there are so many Simic decks that don’t play it!

Temur Adventures with one Cultivate?

Simic Aggro with Wolfwillow Haven instead?

Flash decks that… sideboard the mighty Titan?

Michael Flores and Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin puzzle through the emerging Standard (including all these weird omissions) in this week’s episode!

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Teferi, Time Raveler BANNED

Teferi, Time Raveler headlines a TON of surprise bans this week!

Teferi, Time Raveler Headlines an Unexpected — but not unwelcome — Series of Bans

There were kind of A LOT of cards banned — or banned and suspended — this week.

In Standard alone…

  • Growth Spiral (probably the best card in Standard) was banned.
  • Wilderness Reclamation was FINALLY banned. This was a card that has been flirting with a ban since its first Pro Tour
  • In a surprising move, Cauldron Familiar [a bookkeeping challenge] was banned as well!

But Teferi, Time Raveler found himself banned not only in Standard and Brawl… But suspended in Historic as well!

So… Cauldron Familiar… Really?

This one was less about format balance and more about player experience in a digital-first world.

Most Importantly: What’s Up Next?

What are the best cards [left] in Standard?

What are the top decks that players should consider with so many of the pillars of the format knocked on their sides?

One easy way to find out:

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Let’s Talk About the Players Tour Finals

Talk of the Players Tour Finals: Growth Spiral

Growth Spiral
Is Growth Spiral the most dominant card in Standard?

The “bad” news (if you’re a fan of metagame diversity)… Growth Spiral represented about 70% of the Players Tour Finals.

The “good” news then? It only represented 50% of the Top 8!

While Growth Spiral appeared in a variety of decks in the Swiss, including Bant Control and others; in the Top 8, it showed up in essentially two [related] archetypes:

  1. Temur Reclamation – A Wilderness Reclamation deck that starts on the aforementioned Growth Spiral and utilizes its mana engine to make a large Expansion // Explosion or Shark Typhoon. Power, speed, and card advantage… Plus a variety of generally good cards and room for tons of main deck interaction.
  2. Four-color Reclamation – A variation on the above, but adding white for particularly Teferi, Time Raveler. The while splash ups land counts to as high as 30/60 including Raugrin Triome. Those Plains give Four-color Reclamation some improved tools, for example Dovin’s Veto over Negate. Solar Blaze over Storm’s Wrath helps this deck keep its Teferi in play while defending itself.

These two decks made up about half the Players Tour Finals field, but still won over 50% of their matches, collectively.

A Hall of Fame Performance for Azorius

Yorion, Sky Nomad defines Standard U/W

Raphael Levy was one of only three Azorius competitors in the Players Tour Finals. His 80-card deck played one Yorion, Sky Nomad in the sideboard as its Companion… and two in the main deck!

A study in synergy, this deck packs a ton of enchantments that Yorion can blink — like Omen of the Sea, Omen of the Sun, or The Birth of Meletis… And crossed over with Archon of Sun’s Grace for even more flying creatures; even more enchantment synergy.

Most creature decks did not perform well at the Players Tour Finals; and they really would not want to contend with this deck’s Shatter the Sky.

Two Creature Decks That Did Perform…

… Are Mono-Black Aggro and Mardu Winota.

Only one copy of either archetype was played in the tournament; both won 77% of their matches. Both made Top 8.

Mono-Black Aggro today is extremely biased. Playing cards like Hunted Nightmare, it assumes that there won’t be many opposing creatures to interact with on the ground.

Hunted Nightmare usually has a pretty big disadvantage. Usually.

A 4/5 creature for only three mana, Hunted Nightmare is a very efficient beatdown creature if no one is getting deathtouch. Regardless, it’s got great stats-to-casting cost numbers; and is hard to block.

Mono Black is biased beyond even this card… With both main deck Duress and Kitesail Freebooter, it can be flat-out bad against opposing creature dense decks.

Example: Michael Jacobs’s Mardu Winota deck plays almost all creatures and only 4 Raise the Alarm for non-creature spells!

Among this deck’s hits are Basri’s Lieutenant, Lazotep Reaver, and Woe Strider… The coolest Woe Striders in history mind you. That 0/1 Goat is there to rumble in The Red Zone.

But which deck did we really dislike?

Pretty easy way to find out 🙂

Check out “Let’s Talk About the Players Tour Finals” here and now!

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