September 22, 2015

Fore!

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Ah, autumn. Can you smell that? Is it that faint scent of wilting leaves? The beckoning smell of pumpkin pie? The petrichor signaling a turn in the weather?

Oh, right. No. It's the smell of fumes and carnage as the Eldrazi invade and rip Zendikar apart.

Gruesome Slaughter | Art by Aleksi Briclot

But perhaps, the most important smell in the air is actually that of hope. Of refreshment. Of . . . new deck building!

Yes, that's right: The rotation is here. Goodbye, Sylvan Caryatid! Goodbye, Thoughtseize! And welcome to a deck builder's paradise!

The first few weeks after the fall rotation (and soon to be the spring rotation too!) are always an incredible time to be a deck builder. Everything is fresh and new; the old standbys are gone and a brand new set is here just asking for us to build around it.

And build around it we will.

Which side should we take first in this war? The lovable Allies, fighting to save Zendikar and everything it stands for, banding together as the scrappy underdog to fight back against the extraplanar horrors?

. . . Nah. Let's go for the Eldrazi!

I received several great Battle for Zendikar Standard decklists in my inbox this week from readers around the world, and you can check many more out in McArtor's Mentions toward the end of this article. But the one deck I want to cover today is quick and brutal—and just the deck to try and build up if you're looking to trade for cards and make an easy-to-build deck at the Prerelease this weekend.

Check out what Asada Masayuki sent in:

Asada Masayuki's Forerunner of Eldrazi

The Battle Plan

Red and black decks tend to be aggressive. That's no surprise here. However, the Eldrazi certainly have their own spin on things: colorlessness.

Colorless-matters is the Eldrazi's thing this time around, and you will want to jam-pack your deck with qualifying creatures to receive the myriad benefits that they have to offer.

One of the big cards, for example, is Ghostfire Blade.

This was a cute card back in Khans of Tarkir. It could equip to face-down creatures for one mana. Oh, how adorable!

Well, with the release of Battle for Zendikar it becomes a real force to be reckoned with.

An Equipment that costs one to cast and one to equip and gives +2/+2 is brutally powerful. The only catch? Having enough colorless creatures to equip it to.

A similar card might be this one:

Playing Tomb before BFZ wasn't really possible. But now that it can potentially read "2, T: Gain life equal to the number of creatures you control," it can be quite the powerhouse. No other aggressive deck can effectively race your Tombs.

Between cards like Ghostfire Blade, Tomb of the Spirit Dragon, and Forerunner of Slaughter, being colorless can provide a huge advantage. The keys are going to be making this deck as quick and as brutal as possible, while also upping the theming: It can likely include even more in the way of Eldrazi and colorless-matters cards.

Like what kind of cards, you ask? Let's take a look at the Card Image Gallery to see some of the new goodies found in deck lists below, and start brewing!

Deck Breakdown

Which cards fit right into our Eldrazi army and which are too off-putting even for them? Let's go through the deck card-by-card and see what we find!

One of the most notorious cards in Standard also happens to be colorless! And while it isn't an Eldrazi, it certainly masquerades as one for the purpose of looking at colorless cards. You can equip a Ghostfire blade to it just fine!

While Hangarback Walker isn't the fastest card for a beatdown deck, it's powerful enough and boasts enough long-game strength that it certainly has a home here. However, I wouldn't want to play the full four copies; an opening hand with two or three could be slow coming out of the gates. I'm going to knock it down to three copies, but make no mistake—it's still plenty strong here.

Speaking of colorless creatures with X in their cost, there's a similar card which happens to be a lot more aggressive and fits this deck nicely. And this one certainly is an Eldrazi:

This spot fits exactly on the curve wherever you need it. Want to play something on turn one so you can Ghostfire Blade it up and attack for 3 next turn? Perfect! Flood out and need a six-drop? Bingo! The massive flexibility this card offers on top of its colorless synergy makes it a nice fit for this deck. I want the full four.

When it comes to being aggressive, two very valuable elements are a good rate on your creatures—a high power and toughness-to-mana cost ratio—and abilities that let you push damage through faster. Forerunner of Slaughter deals in both! A 3/2 for two mana that grants haste to your creatures? Sign me up for all four!

While not colorless itself, it manifests upon death—meaning it creates a colorless creature! It's a neat trick to block and buy some time while generating a perfectly colorless creature in its stead.

However, I think we can do even better. There's a great option for a naturally colorless creature that hits much harder and still blocks pretty well. (And I imagine it was just omitted because it wasn't previewed when Asada sent in this decklist.) That card is Kozilek's Sentinel.

Although normally I wouldn't be looking to put 1/4 in a beatdown deck, the fact that it pumps for the turn with every colorless spell you cast makes it likely to hit for 2 or 3. Additionally, it dodges a lot of spot removal because of its high toughness, and even blocks well. I'll switch the Emissaries out for Sentinels straight across.

While its stats are about average, it's that ability to hit your opponent for 2 when it enters the battlefield that gives this a bit of pseudo-haste, which pushes it over the top! Having enough ways to finish off the game is crucial for any aggressive deck, and this gets damage through even if your opponent has a wall of blockers. I'm happy to keep all four of them.

The Abomination is certainly an exciting card in Battle for Zendikar. It will find a home—but is this the right place?

Decks with more Spawn or dies-trigger creatures will be right at home with the Abomination. However, this deck wants to preserve its board presence and not trade it for cards. Additionally, there are only so many four-mana cards an aggressive deck wants to play—and I have another one on my mind!

Check out Dust Stalker:

Now here's a card for your black-red colorless beatdown deck! A four-mana 5/3 with haste that (essentially) sticks around as long as you control another creature.

This is far more in-line with what the deck wants to do. Abomination is out—say hello to the full four copies of Dust Stalker!

A three-mana 2/2 flying haste is good, but it's hard to get ferocious active in this deck unless you draw Ghostfire Blade. Without being colorless, and as some of the sacrifice synergies go away, this is a card I'd like to take out to make room for other action.

Liliana on the side of the Eldrazi? That's one powerful team-up!

Flavor aside though, how well does Liliana fit into this deck? Her stats aren't as aggressively oriented as this deck is really looking for. On her planeswalker side, the +1 discard—but returning creatures isn't as strong here as it is in other decks, especially since this deck is sporting Endless One and Hangarback Walker now.

Liliana is a great card, but she doesn't have a ton of synergy in this deck. She isn't colorless, and I'd rather make room for more ample threats. Plus, as cards like Smothering Abomination and Sultai Emissary have been taken out, Liliana's power has diminished more and more.

Sorry Liliana! Please don't kill me.

This is one of the pinnacle cards for this archetype, and one of the primary reasons to play so many colorless creatures. An Equipment that costs one and equips for one to give +2/+2 turns any creature you cast into a sizable threat. Drawing Blades in multiples is especially powerful and game-ending.

I wouldn't play this deck without four copies of these.

If you're red, black, and aggressive, those are all signs that Kolaghan's Command might be for you! Dealing damage and returning dead creatures back to your hand are both common modes you might cast on this, and the discard mode to take away a player's last card (or steal their draw step if they have no cards) is plenty powerful.

However, there is only room for so many three-drops. The form of burn I really want here is Exquisite Firecraft. Dealing 4 damage for three mana is a great rate of return, and often I'd rather have that than the frills of Kolaghan's Command.

With that said, I still like the Command—but again, there's only so much room for them. Let's go with four Firecrafts and two Commands.

With fewer sacrifice rewards, I'd far rather play a burn spell that is nearly efficient but doesn't require a sacrifice. Enter Wild Slash.

Wild Slash fills the one-mana burn spell range, and will kill off a lot of the same problematic cards that Collateral Damage does. And while it goes to the face for less, I'd rather keep my board presence most of the time.

I'll take the full four Slashes.

There's a huge dream to be realized here with something like Dust Stalker, attacking for half of your opponent's life total in a single go. However, while the upside is great, Temur Battle Rage only really tends to help when you're winning. There are only so many slots in this deck, and I'd rather have a card that can be used to push forward or stop what the opponent is doing as the case might be. Goodbye, Battle Rage!

Sometimes creatures need to die. Exquisite Firecraft, Wild Slash, and the like mostly take care of this early on. However, one Murderous Cut is pretty low-risk to play and helps deal with longer game creatures (like enemy Eldrazi!) that may hit the board. I'm going to move down to one, but I'm happy to keep that one copy.

With all of those changes in mind, that brings the final decklist to:

Gavin Verhey's Fore!

Sorcery (4)
4 Exquisite Firecraft
Artifact (4)
4 Ghostfire Blade
Other (16)
4 Smoldering Marsh 4 Endless One 4 Kozilek's Sentinel 4 Dust Stalker
60 Cards

If you like attacking, this deck is for you! Aggressive decks featuring fast creatures and burn spells to finish the opponent are always a staple, and I wouldn't be surprised if this kind of deck ended up appearing across the table frequently over the next few months.

If you're looking to go even more aggressive, you can cut cards like Hangarback Walker and make the curve really low with cards like Zurgo Bellstriker—but then you lose out on some of the colorless synergies. Alternatively, if you're more in the mood to ingest and process, you could play some cards like Sludge Strider and Transgress the Mind, which would help you lead into Wasteland Strangler.

Whichever path you choose, have fun battling for Zendikar—and devouring all enemies in your path!

McArtor's Mentions

Each week on McArtor's Mentions I show off many of the other great decks that were sent in. And for a brand new Standard format, this is going to be some of the first glimpses you have into what new archetypes might exist.

Take a look!

Qoarl's Five-Color Midrange

Other (6)
1 Kiora, Master of the Depths 1 Prairie Stream 1 Sunken Hollow 1 Smoldering Marsh 1 Cinder Glade 1 Canopy Vista
60 Cards

 

Masato Kobayashi's Eldrazi Control

Creature (4)
4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Enchantment (2)
2 Suspension Field
Other (28)
4 Prairie Stream 4 Sunken Hollow 4 Fathom Feeder 4 Blight Herder 2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger 2 Titan's Presence 4 Planar Outburst 4 Stasis Snare
60 Cards

 

Frogue's Kiora the Willbreaker

Instant (2)
2 Glint
Enchantment (3)
3 Evolutionary Leap
Other (11)
2 Kiora, Master of the Depths 1 Guardian of Tazeem 4 Undergrowth Champion 4 Lumbering Falls
60 Cards

 

Carl Christopherson's Noyan Dar Cantrips

Sorcery (3)
3 Treasure Cruise
Land (18)
4 Flooded Strand 8 Island 6 Plains
Other (21)
4 Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper 4 Stasis Snare 3 Roil Spout 3 Coastal Discovery 4 Prairie Stream 3 Ally Encampment
60 Cards

 

Shohei Hashimoto's Bant Scales

Enchantment (6)
4 Hardened Scales 2 Retreat to Kazandu
Other (11)
4 Skyrider Elf 1 Undergrowth Champion 4 Canopy Vista 2 Prairie Stream
60 Cards

 

Jonah's Sultai Superfriends Control

Sorcery (3)
2 Languish 1 Crux of Fate
Other (17)
2 Ob Nixilis Reignited 3 Kiora, Master of the Depths 4 Ulamog's Nullifier 4 Sunken Hollow 4 Lumbering Falls
60 Cards

 

DeElgathor's Naya Goblins

Creature (4)
4 Goblin Piledriver
Other (9)
4 Zada, Hedron Grinder 2 Canopy Vista 3 Cinder Glade
60 Cards

 

Bryan's Gideon, Ally of Elves

 

Jay Fox's Smothering Leap

Enchantment (3)
3 Evolutionary Leap
Other (8)
4 Catacomb Sifter 4 Smothering Abomination
60 Cards

 

Fingal letki's Tentacles: The Rise of Cthulhu

Sorcery (5)
3 Languish 2 Treasure Cruise
Other (27)
1 Akoum Firebird 3 Mist Intruder 1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger 3 Ulamog's Nullifier 3 Transgress the Mind 3 Brutal Expulsion 2 Titan's Prescence 2 From Beyond 2 Cinder Glade 3 Smoldering Marsh 3 Sunken Hollow 1 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
60 Cards

 

Andrew Weisel's Bringing XXy Back

Enchantment (4)
4 Hardened Scales
Other (12)
4 Endless One 4 Undergrowth Champion 4 Canopy Vista
60 Cards

 

Mark Ian Alloso's Black-Red Tokens

Into the Woods

Two weeks from now, we'll be heading right into the lands of Zendikar—or specifically, into Land Week! I'm going to want an on-theme deck to talk about. With the Standard rotation about to happen, now is the perfect time to brew; so whether you feel like a magician or the magician's apprentice, I'd love to see your ideas!

Curious about what to submit? Here are the rules this time around:

Format: Battle for Zendikar Standard

Restrictions: Your deck must be focused on lands in some way

Deadline: Monday, September 28, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

Submit all decklists by emailing me at reconstructeddecks@gmail.com.

Decklists should be submitted with YOURNAME's DECKNAME at the top. Underneath should be one card per line, with just a leading number. For example:

12 Mountain

4 Makindi Sliderunner

3 Valakut Predator

4 Wild Slash

. . . and so on. Please don't use anything but a space to separate the card numbers and names—don't write "4x Lightning Bolt," for example. Well-formatted decklists have a much better chance of being read and making it into the column. Poorly formatted decklists are more likely to be ignored. If I can't read your decklist, I certainly can't talk about it!

What should you do for Land Week? Well, it could be landfall! It could be ramp! It could be something else entirely. That's for you to discern. But no matter how you take it, I'm excited to see the results!

In the meantime, if you have any questions or thoughts at all, feel free to send me a tweet or ask a question on my Tumblr and I'll be sure to check out what you have to say.

I'll be back next week with a look through Standard. If you enjoyed this article, you definitely won't want to miss that one.

Talk with you again then!

Gavin

@GavinVerhey

GavInsight



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