March 27, 2015

New Blue Brews

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My normal strategy when a new set comes out is two-pronged: First, look at the decks I liked before the set release, and see what they gained, either in cards or positioning. Second, see what cards opened the door to completely new archetypes, and try and figure those out. Today I'm going to do a bit of both, taking a look at something old and something new (neither are borrowed, but both are blue).


When deciding which existing deck to update, it didn't take me long to settle on Jeskai Ascendancy Tokens. This was my favorite deck pre-Dragons of Tarkir, and it picked up a couple very interesting additions.


First, the decklist before adding any new cards:





Jeskai Ascendancy Tokens

































There are many reasons I liked this deck, and knowing those reasons will help evaluate which new cards I'm looking to add:



  1. The deck is extremely powerful. By combining Jeskai Ascendancy or Monastery Mentor with cheap spells, you get to attack for tons of damage in a turn very easily.

  2. The deck has a lot of good interactive spells. Gods Willing, removal, and cards that make multiple blockers give the deck ways to survive and trade cards with the opponent.

  3. The deck is resilient. Treasure Cruise, Outpost Siege, and Jeskai Ascendancy let the deck look at tons of cards and it rarely runs out of gas as a result.


Which cards help work toward these goals? Note that new cards don't necessarily have to make tokens or even play into the tokens theme, as this is a classic midrange combo deck. The tokens name tends to make people (usually the opponent) overvalue cards that kill tokens, which then sets them up to lose to Treasure Cruise and Ascendancy. You are allowed to play one token-making card at a time, and there's absolutely no reason to let Drown in Sorrow kill 10 of your tokens. Now that we are looking at cards in these colors, only some of which make tokens, which look interesting?



Playing a card-filtering spell on turn two instead of a threat may seem strange for a deck capable of aggressive starts, but I like what this card can do. It triggers Mentor and Ascendancy at instant speed, it looks for whatever kind of card you are missing (this is a synergy deck, after all), and it both finds and enables Treasure Cruise. Plus, one of the easiest ways for this deck to win is to draw 2-3 Stoke the Flames, and Anticipate helps with that. I don't think this is a 4 Anticipate deck, as it really does want to cast two-drop creatures on turn two at least some amount of the time, but a couple Anticipates do sound good.



Speaking of token-making, here's the biggest token card in all of Standard, and right after I just talked about how this deck isn't solely focused on tokens. Secure the Wastes is powerful enough to warrant testing, and has a lot of good things going for it. It scales, so you can cast it for anywhere from three to ten mana and be happy, with some situations even calling for X to be one or zero. Zero sounds strange, but sometimes all you want to do is trigger your three-mana permanents, and I guarantee that it will come up occasionally. Besides the fact that it provides good value at almost every X, this being an instant is huge. Now you are threatening lethal at almost any point after turn five. If you pass with all your mana up, your opponent always has to fear you casting a big Secure the Wastes and untapping and going off with Ascendancy, even if you don't have an Ascendancy in play before all this. That's a big upgrade to just being able to cast Raise the Alarm at end of turn, and I look forward to seeing how much Secure the Wastes adds to the reach of this deck.



While Dragon Fodder is a huge addition to aggressive red decks, I don't know how much it changes this particular deck. It may be worth swapping some number of Raise the Alarm and Outburst for Fodder, which seems odd but has a reason. Raise being an instant is important, but Fodder makes tokens that cast Stoke the Flames much more effectively, and that's huge. Hordeling Outburst is a more powerful card, but the three-drop spot in this deck has fierce competition, and it is likely right to play a mix of two- and three-cost token-making cards rather than four of either. I don't think you want 12 of these three cards, but the 7-9 you want is going to be tricky to figure out.



Roast gives this deck another way to kill large ground creatures, namely Siege Rhino. It directly competes with Valorous Stance, with the protection ability of Stance going up against the ability to cast Roast on turn two to kill cards like Seeker of the Way. As with many such conflicts, a mix of the two may end up being the best plan.



Lightning Strike, Wild Slash, and now Twin Bolt are also competitors, though Twin Bolt may be better suited for the sideboard (at which point it goes up against Arc Lightning). I like when there are this many close decisions, as it makes deck building much more interesting.


After looking at the new cards and the prior decklist, here's what I'm going to start with.





Dragons Ascendency Tokens

































Despite the awesome Soulfire Grandmaster plus Roast combo, I think I want to just play one Grandmaster. Dragon Fodder and Secure the Wastes offer good new threats, and room must be made. I chose this mix to enable Stoke the Flames, though it's far from being set in stone, and I expect the number of token-makers to fluctuate wildly through testing.


The removal suite is similarly expected to change after testing, and in particular is very soft to Mantis Rider right now. If that isn't acceptable, Lightning Strike can certainly find its way back in.


I still think the combination of power and resiliency that Jeskai Tokens offers makes it a great deck in this format, even if I haven't nailed down all the exact numbers. This is a good place to start, and I will be casting Treasure Cruises until I have determined which other cards to play alongside them.





Mono-Blue Devotion disappeared without a trace when Ravnica block rotated out, but the printing of Shorecrasher Elemental (plus a couple other goodies) may have changed that. This initial sketch is looking to harness the power of Master of Waves and Thassa by using cards like Shorecrasher and Silumgar Sorcerer to provide the blue pips necessary to secure devotion.




The idea here is simple: cast blue cards, cast Bident, cast Thassa, cast Master, and profit. Gudul Lurker and Stratus Dancer are good cheap evasion creatures that double as late-game threats due to megamorph, and both combine quite well with Bident. The fact that Silumgar Sorcerer doubles as an evasive threat and a counterspell is very good for this deck, and the deck has plenty of chumps to sacrifice.


Shorecrasher is one of the driving forces of the deck, and the triple-blue cost plus the innate power level is really the incentive to play a mana base of 25 (Beta) Islands.


Icefall Regent is one of the other finishers, and I think its power level justifies playing three copies of a five-drop. I could see cutting a Regent and a land for two cheaper cards, but I like to start by erring on the side of power level.


The deck doesn't have a ton of interaction. Sorcerer and Dancer offer countermagic, but the only way to mess with a creature in play is Sidisi's Faithful, which I think edges out the other bounce spells available. It can up your devotion by one if you sacrifice a Master of Waves token, and that makes up for it being a sorcery.


This is a good place to start, and I hope Mono-Blue comes back. It's a fun deck and ended up being interesting to play with or against.


LSV






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