Standard Brews With Shadows Over Innistrad, Part Two

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Posted March 17, 2016 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Nerdy Bits

Welcome back to the inside of my dumb head as I theorize about Magic cards! Hopefully the first installment inspired you to come back for part two – and I promise, this time I don’t spend 1000+ words talking about one deck that might not even be all that good. I’m going to try to be more concise and not ramble, so hopefully I’ll get to write about three or four decks this time around, rather than two. Although I guess technically I talked about five different decks last time?

Esper Dragons

Grasp of Darkness Dragonlord Silumgar Anguished Unmaking Silumgar's Scorn

Look, I know I’ve mentioned that I don’t feel comfortable building three color decks in this format until we know for sure that the mana to support them will exist. Here’s the thing: this deck is just going to have a splash. It’s likely going to be either a Blue/White or Blue/Black shell, splashing for the third color. I’m leaning towards Blue/Black, considering that there are both double Black (Grasp of Darkness, Ruinous Path) and double Blue (Silumgar’s Scorn, Void Shatter) cards that we want to play. The White cards are the best cards in the deck, considering that they consist of one of the best Standard control finishers we’ve ever seen and an unconditional removal spell that’s comparable to Vindicate. Pretty powerful stuff going on there. This deck is actually pretty difficult to build, since finding the perfect balance between counterspells, removal, and finishers is no easy task. We also want Silumgar’s Scorn to be turned on as often as possible, since it’s probably the best card in the deck when it’s not just a two mana Force Spike.

Icefall Regent Dragonlord Silumgar

The Dragon package is insanely important. It gives the deck an avenue to gain life back (Foul-Tongue Invocation) which is key to the deck coming back in the mid to late game. Oh, it also lets us play Counterspell in Standard. The thing is, outside of Ojutai, the second and third best Dragons in this color are subpar. Silumgar is great in the midrange matchups, but otherwise it’s pretty clunky. The same is true of Icefall Regent. Fortunately, the do put on a pretty quick clock, and Icefall Regent is at least difficult to remove. I’m not super happy running either, but they’re both necessary evils to make the deck function.

Other cards to consider are Clash of Wills, Scatter to the Winds, Ultimate Price, Painful Truths, To the Slaughter, and Declaration in Stone. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Ob Nixilis, Reignited, and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet provide further win conditions and value engines. They do encroach on slots for Dragons, so these may have difficulty getting into the maindeck. The sweepers in Standard are pretty mediocre, to the point that I would rather have a wide spot removal package and relegate sweepers (like Languish) to the sideboard. Planar Outburst and Descend Upon the Sinful are both Ok, but probably aren’t actually worth putting in the mainboard. There will definitely be more to consider come full spoilers for Shadows Over Innistrad.

Jund Planeswalkers

    Arlinn KordArlinn, Embraced by the MoonChandra, FlamecallerNissa, Voice of ZendikarOb Nixilis

Remember the deck that Yuuki Ichikawa played to a Top 8 finish at Pro Tour Magic 2015? If you don’t, I highly recommend seeking it out. The deck is sweet, and could be in for a bit of a resurgence with Shadows Over Innistrad. Planeswalkers are pretty much the most powerful type of permanents in the entire game, and it just so happens that Jund colors currently have access to four great Planeswalkers. As I’ve said, I’m not sure how the mana will work out, but there’s enough power here that I’m willing to play an overextended mana base. One of my favorite things about the Planeswalkers above is that at least two of them (Arlinn and Nissa) seem like they would only fit in a creature heavy shell. The thing is, along with Chandra, they make creatures on their own. The deck will need some actual creatures, of course, but between Arlinn’s Wolves, Chandra’s Elementals, and Nissa’s Plants, there are more than enough creatures to take advantage of the loyalty abilities that interact with them.

Furthermore, three out of the four (Nissa being the exception) come with built in removal. Ob can kill anything, Arlinn takes out smaller creatures, and Chandra can blow up an entire board on her own. Of course, the deck’s problem will be getting to these powerful Planeswalkers. The lack of solid ramp creatures like Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid means that the deck can’t rely on Walkers coming down a turn or two ahead of curve. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools in Jund colors that can help to stall until it lands one of its Planeswalkers.

Fiery Impulse Grasp of DarknessSylvan AdvocateDuress

There are three ways for the deck to stall: removal, creatures, and hand attack. Grasp of Darkness and Fiery Impulse are efficient ways to remove early creatures, but there are plenty of other options in the format. Ruinous Path, Ultimate Price, and To the Slaughter all immediately come to mind. Sylvan Advocate brickwalls early creatures, but can also get in for a few points. Even if it gets removed, a late game Den Protector can easily buy it back. In terms of hand attack, there are only two real options: Duress and Transgress the Mind. Both are fine options, and can help protect Planeswalkers or remove threats before the opponent ever gets the chance to cast them. And as long as you can get to turn four and five and have a Planeswalker online, you should be pretty far ahead. I am hoping for one or two good ramp creatures to get Walkers out ahead of curve.

Boros Midrange

Gideon Linvala Nahirir Chandra

Despite generally being the colors of aggro, it certainly seems to me that Boros has the tools to go a bit bigger in the upcoming Standard format. Like the Jund deck, the build I have in mind would be heavy on Planeswalkers. Gideon and Chandra are auto-includes, since both are just so incredibly versatile. Nahiri is one that I’m not quite sold on, but her -2 ability seems good enough to warrant putting her in the deck. Plus, the deck could be built to take advantage of her ultimate, which is where Linvala comes in. Linvala was one of the cards from Oath of the Gatewatch that I really had my eyes on, and I’m disappointed it hasn’t seen a ton of plat yet. However, this seems like a good shell for the card, especially if you can tutor it up. Nahiri’s ultimate also lets the deck run some silver bullets, though that may be a bit ambitious.

Fiery Impusle Knight of the White Orchid Roast Declaration in Stone

The support cards in this color combination are another reason to want to be more of a midrange deck. Knight of the White Orchid helps smooths out draws, and can get the deck ahead on mana. There’s also a great removal suite. Declaration of Stone is an incredible piece of removal, and both Fiery Impulse and Roast are great ways to deal with early game threats. Of course, there are a lot of other options to fill out the rest of the deck. Hidden Dragonslayer is an interesting card for this deck, I think. It gives the deck a way to gain life, and doubles as a removal spell. It’s also not really a card on people’s radars right now, so the surprise factor could definitely be there.

Orzhov Midrange

GideonKalitasDeclaration in StoneAnguished Unmaking

There’s not a format that goes by in which I don’t try to put together an Orzhov midrange deck. Black and white are generally just such solid colors that taking the best tools from each seems to be a good formula for solid decks. Shadows Over Innistrad certainly gives the deck some new tools to play with – mostly in the form of removal. While Murderous Cut, Grasp of Darkness, Ultimate Price, Utter End, and other pieces of removal are great, none even come close to the efficiency of Declaration in Stone and Anguished Unmaking. Both are efficient ways to remove threats, with minimal downside. Anguished Unmaking’s downside is easily undone by the amount of lifegain an Orzhov deck can be packing – Kalitas being just one example. Kalitas and Gideon also help the deck close out games at a rapid pace – if you can untap with either, you’re unlikely to lose.

AyliKnight of the White OrchidDranaRelentless Dead

Another reason to play Orzhov is its versatility. You can go more aggressive, with cards like Drana and Relentless Dead. Even Ayli and Knight of the White Orchid are early beaters. The thing is, they can also play the value game. Relentless Dead and Ayli is a sweet combo. It may take time to set up the loop, but eventually, it won’t be that difficult to start using Ayli as a removal spell on a stick. Knight of the White Orchid gets you ahead on mana, and of course, Drana just does work, making your entire team massive. Of course, the deck can also go slower, adding more removal spells and closing out the game with a massive Secure the Wastes or even a copy of Archangel Avacyn. Orzhov is a deck I’ll be keeping my eyes on, and one of the first that I’ll put together a completed decklist (or three) for.

That’s all I have for now! I’ll probably be doing a third installment, since I still have a couple decks in mind that I want to write about. After that, who knows? I may do another one of these posts, but I may just wait until the set is completely spoiled and I can build decklists. That will also give me time to try and get a Limited set review done, but that seems like a bit of a daunting task right now.


About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.