New Rotations and Block Stucture, Khans, and Working Through Slumps

I spent last week moving and packing as I shift from summer housing to my dorm for the upcoming school year, but I am back and boy did I miss a big week.

First things first, the rotation and block schedules have been completely rewritten. Previously and currently each year saw one three set block and a core set this meant four new sets a year, one block with a unified theme and a core set with varying coherence. The new way sets will come out though is two blocks a year with two sets each or in other words two blocks internally coherent with two sets each. Rotation because of this will now go Block A, Block B, Block C, then when block D is printed, Block A rotates out making the new standard Blocks B, C, and D. The easiest way to give my thoughts on this is bullet points, so bullet points it will be:

  • THIS IS AWESOME
  • Cards on average rotate quicker, cards from the first set of each block last a year and a half and cards from the smaller set are legal for a year and a quarter. Later block cards are legal for roughly the same amount of time, but cards from first sets are legal for an entire 6 months less. This is both good and bad, if you play standard on a tight budget this may be bad news your cards will be legal for less time on average, however standard will in theory be stale and solved for much less time each time as well. To give you an idea of first set cards that dominated or oppressed the format for their entire stint in standard:
    • [c]Thoughtseize[/c]
    • [c]Sphinx’s Revelation[/c]
    • [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c]
    • [c]Geist of Saint Traft[/c]
    • [c]Tempered Steel[/c]
    • [c]Lotus Cobra[/c]
    • [c]Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle[/c]
    • you get the idea.
  • This explains what will happen with Khans far quicker and better than I can
    en_schedule (Rosewater, Mark. Metamorphosis. http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mm/metamorphosis)
  • THIS IS AWESOME
  • Two blocks means more flavorful sets a year.
  • No more core set drafting
  • Imagine life without having to have drafted Avacyn Restored.
  • Imagine that last one again
  • Nice ain’t it?
  • More aggressive reprinting of key words.
  • Standard will become less stale
  • THIS……IS……AWESOME

A slight complaint though about this awesomeness: the timing. At Pro Tour M15 Wizards announced that Modern would not be a format at the upcoming year’s Pro Tours. This lead to a huge backlash from the community, particularly those who had invested time and money in Modern and now had to worry about the format not longer being supported. Wizards reacted swiftly and brought back the Modern pro tour and an additional Modern GP. While this was a great response and timely by Wizards, my grievance is the order of these announcements.

1. No more Modern pro tour

2. We are changing Standard

Why on earth would you announce these in this order? What if instead you announced at Pro Tour M15 that Standard was going to change and here is how and that is why we are having no Modern pro tours next year, as a send off to the old Standard format. This would have at least provided reason to a seemingly reasonless decision most likely mitigating at least some of the backlash of the community. It is PR mistakes like this that Wizards needs to learn how to deal with better and prevent going forward. We love Magic, but Wizards often proves itself to be aggressively incompetent with basic PR.

Khans of Tarkir Standard

Fetchlands are back. While this means a lot for MTG Finance, I know little to nothing about speculating on prices and the lot and will not do that. Instead let’s talk about what that means for the upcoming Standard format. Mana now looks like this:

  • Basics
  • Temples in all colors
  • Pain lands in enemy colors
  • Wedge Colored Trilands
  • Mana Confluence
  • Evolving Wilds
  • Sliver Hive

While some of these lands are obviously more important than others, I wish to pinpoint the two new ones and why they matter. Wedge tapped lands are surprisingly not that great for a lot of the decks we saw to do well at the block pro tour. The Sultai (formerly BUG) and Abzan (formerly Junk) decks were arguably along with Naya the top three decks of the format; one of those decks does not get a wedge and two seemingly may not want them. The question that must be asked of wedges is, “Is the third color > than scry 1?” Decks can only play so many tapped lands and 12 is a number that pushes that upper limit. Playing 16 is out of the question, so decks with three color decks like Sultai and Abzan cannot run 12 temples and 4 wedge tri-lands, so there is tension between the two. While I would not be surprised to see the tri-lands be very powerful, the mana in Standard is so good that tapped tri-lands might just not cut it even in three color decks.

Onslaught fetches mean that two color aggro decks are open to being played in any color combination. Pain lands and fetches are functionally very similar and have some minor differences between them in operation, however Enemy Pains + Ally Fetches mean that any two color combination has at minimum 8 untapped duals and up to 4 more reasonable duals in the Temples. Also, three color aggro is not out of the question with the combination of pain and fetch lands as well as wedge tri-lands.

Some possible aggro lists:
[d title=”BR Aggro Khans of Tarkir (Standard)”]
Creatures
4 Tormented Hero
4 Gnarled Scarhide
4 Pain Seer
4 Spiteful Returned
4 Herald of Torment
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Firedrinker Satyr
2 Mogis’s Warhound
Spells
4 Stoke the Flames
2 Bile Blight
2 Boon of Erebos
Land
8 Swamp
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Mountain
2 Temple of Malice
4 Mana Confluence
[/d]

[d title=”RW Heroic Khans of Tarkir (Standard)”]
Land
4 Mountain
4 Mana Confluence
3 Temple of Triumph
4 Plains
4 Battlefield Forge
Creatures
2 Mogis’s Warhound
4 Akroan Crusader
4 Satyr Hoplite
4 Favored Hoplite
4 Phalanx Leader
Spells
4 Launch the Fleet
4 Gods Willing
4 Dragon Mantle
2 Coordinated Assault
2 Inferno Fist
2 Crowd’s Favor
2 Ephemeral Shields
3 Stoke the Flames
[/d]

Thoughts on Slumps

My performance the past couple weeks has been less than stellar. My Standard record was something like 5-17, my Pauper record on the first inaugural weekend was 6-6, and my attempts at playing other formats to break out of it were lackluster. There were times when I was getting really frustrated. I could hear it in the videos I was recording and I did not want to publish them because of this. I was losing my calm. I was never angry, just really sad at times, as I said things like “Well most lists don’t run [c]Drown in Sorrow[/c] so I feel like we just have to play into it, opponent casts [c]Drown in Sorrow[/c]. Well, that’s game.”

I stepped back and took a break for a few days; focused on my schoolwork more and spent time playing some other games and moving. When I was bottoming out I saw that Modern’s third birthday was that coming Sunday. Modern is my happy place format. I know the format like the back of my hand and have had my most success playing it.

I looked through what my friends and I had for card pool and realized my normal deck Jund/Ajundi was not doable so I went to my next stand-by, UWR Control. We had all the cards and after thinking about what I expected I shifted some cards around and came to this list:

[d title=”UWR Control (Modern)”]
Land
4 Arid Mesa
4 Celestial Colonnade
1 Celestial Flare
2 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
1 Plains
2 Steam Vents
3 Sulfur Falls
1 Mountain
3 Tectonic Edge
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn

Creatures
4 Snapcaster Mage

Spells
4 Cryptic Command
2 Anger of the Gods
3 Electrolyze
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Mana Leak
3 Path to Exile
2 Remand
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Supreme Verdict
4 Think Twice

Sideboard
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Detention Sphere
1 Disenchant
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Negate
2 Pithing Needle
2 Rest for the Weary
2 Spreading Seas
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Vandalblast
1 Wrath of God
[/d]

The deck performed great and I ended up taking fourth place, losing to Burn in the top 4 because I missed the fact that [c]Rest for the Weary[/c] is target player. I could have EoT 2x Rest for the Wearyied my opponent who had a [c]Rain of Gore[/c] out for 16 damage, then untapped and Snapcastered one back for the win. However the win made me realize again after numerous tight games that I am a good Magic player, that good Magic players make mistakes and lose matches on occasion, that variance is a thing, and that when I am playing a deck that I like and think is well-positioned I can do well.

I chained this win to 3-1 and 4-0 five more Modern dailies that week, and with my confidence high I entered a sealed PTQ prelim where I got the worst pool of my life: 5x Dual land, 4x [c]Tormod’s Crypt[/c], and zero [c]Triplicate Spirits[/c]. I also entered an M15 Championship Qualifier which I 4-1ed, qualifying for the championship. In essence, I have found that you beat slumps and get out of them by taking breaks and going back to your roots. Play what you know and enjoy it, remember that Magic is a game that we play for fun, not for glory.

Play Magic and Have Fun!
-Zach Raph

Standard Tune-Ups: Mono Green Devotion

This week I went back to an old comfort zone for me, Mono Green Devotion. I did not start from someone else’s list nor did I actually change the deck much after jamming it through 5 dailies. The list I ended up with was this:

[d title=”Mono Green Devotion”]
Creatures:
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Voyaging Satyr
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Courser of Kruphix
4 Eidolon of Blossoms
2 Polukranos, World Eater
1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
1 Nylea’s Disciple
1 Soul of New Phyrexia
1 Hornet Queen
3 Genesis Hydra
Spells
3 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
2 Chord of Calling
Land
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
18 Forest

Sideboard:
1 Arbor Colossus
3 Nylea’s Disciple
2 Reclamation Sage
1 Polukranos, World Eater
4 Mistcutter Hydra
1 Phytotitan
2 Peregrination
1 Hunter’s Prowess
[/d]

As I brought up last week, one should always ask, “Why play X deck?” The answer to the question cannot just be, “Well [c]Polukranos, World Eater[/c] is good.” In this case, Mono Green Devotion has a number of strengths:

  • *The most powerful deck in Standard: The deck plays out like a combo deck trying to draw 6+ cards a turn and making giant monsters all the way
  • *The deck has some of the most powerful top decks: In a field full of [c]Thoughtseize[/c]s you want the top of your deck to have powerful cards (however you also have many duds, mana dorks, land, etc.)
  • *Powerful card advantage engines versus control: [c]Eidolon of Blossoms[/c] and [c]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/c] both provide incredible amounts of card advantage allowing you to commit to the board while still continuing to draw cards
  • *[c]Soul of New Phyrexia[/c]: UW Planar Cleansing, Ivan Floch’s deck, cannot beat a resolved copy of this card if you can keep 5 mana up, 10 mana ideally.
  • *Deceptively solid sideboard cards: [c]Nylea’s Disciple[/c] gains a solid chunk of life versus burn, [c]Mistcutter Hydra[/c] stomps Mono Blue devotion, in addition to one-of bullets and a [c]Pereigrination[/c] plan versus Bx decks.

These are good answers to the questions of why, and should be what you are looking for when not playing a tier one deck.

WALKTHROUGH

The deck’s plan is deceptively simple.

Step One: Cast mana dorks. (Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid and Voyaging Satyr)

Step Two: Cast a card advantage generator using either normal mana or Nykthos mana (Courser of Kruphix, Eidolon of Blossoms, Garruk Caller of Beasts)
*A note on Courser, in general wait until you can actually play a land off of courser. In other words don’t play a land drop then cast Courser that defeats the purpose of generating advantage*

Step Three: Slam a threat. (Polukranos, Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt, Hornet Queen, Soul of New Phyrexia, or Large Genesis Hydras)

Step Four: Win.

However Magic is rarely that simple and the skill and fun of the deck is winning from situations which are not the easy four step game-plan.

Take for instance a situation which came up in a daily where I won on a mull to 5 and got 3 for 1ed on turn 4:

It is game two of the MGD (Mono Green Devotion) mirror. I am on the draw, and my 7 card hand was 2 Garruk, 2 Genesis Hydra, and 3 land. A hand obviously too slow to keep. My 6 card hand was 4 forests, Poly-K, and an Eidolon. The mirror is defined by speed and turn 4 poly-k isn’t going to cut it. My 5 card hand was forest, 2 Elvish Mysics, Garruk, and an Eidolon of Blossoms. I snap kept this hand and was happy with it considering it was a mull to five.

I will now go through the game log essentially:

Op-T1: Forest, Elvish Mystic

My-T1: Forest, Elvish Mystic (Draw step Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt)

Op-T2: Forest, Courser of Kruphix (Reveals a forest)

My-T2: Forest, Elvish Mystic x 2 (Draw step forest)

Op-T3: Forest, Voyaging Satyr, Attack for 2 (Reveals [c]Setessan Tactics[/c])

It is at this point I am clearly in trouble. I drew for the turn an Elvish Mystic. I resign myself to the three for one and think how best can I recover from this. I determine I need to hit my land drop and that if I play Eidolon he will fight it, effectively gaining me a land because a Mystic will live.

My-T3: Eidolon of Blossoms, Forest, Elvish Mystic

Op-T4: Draw Tactics, play forest off the drop reveal another land, cast tactics for 3, fight my Eidolon and two mystics.

My-T4: Draw Courser of Kruphix, Cast Courser, Reveal Nykthos, play Nykthos, cast caryatid.

Op-T5: Draw land reveal Genesis Hydra on top, cast two more satyrs

My-T5: Draw a land off the top reveal a Poly-K, cast Garruk, Hit 3 creatures.

I am going to stop here because after this Garruk draws about 10 cards and hit Genesis Hydra only hits another Courser. Now obviously I got a little lucky and my opponent unlucky, but it shows the importance of knowing what is important to your decks gameplan. MGD does not work without mana, period. Value developing your mana above all else in most games. Another note about Garruk, his minus three is a trap. Don’t do it. Unless it is the only way to survive the coming turn; the draw will be worth far more in the long run than cheating some mana here or there.

Sideboarding Guide:
UW Planar Control
-1 Sylvan Caryatid
-4 Burning Tree Emmissary
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
+4 Mistcutter Hydra
+1 Phytotitan
+1 Hunter’s Prowess

Explanation:
Burning-tree is just a 2/2 devotion bear that forces us into over committing to the board. We want a tad less mana so we Caryatid. We cut the Caryatid because UW lacks spot removal so Voyaging Satyr does the same thing while being able to attack and untap Nykthos, and keeping forests allows us to be more wrath resilient. Mistcutter’s are green fireballs that are uncounterable and can attack twice, Phytotitan provides constant pressure when they lack D-Sphere or Elspeth, and Hunter’s Prowess is a one time shot in the arm.

UW Dsphere-Control
-1 Sylvan Caryatid
-4 Burning Tree Emmissary
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
+4 Mistcutter
+2 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
Same as above except we optimize versus sphere by having the two sages.

Mono Black
+2 Peregrination
+1 Arbor Collosus
+1 Hunter’s Prowess
+1 Poly-K
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-2 Chord of Calling
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt
-1 Forest

B/W Midrange
+2 Peregrination
+1 Arbor Collosus
+1 Hunter’s Prowess
+1 Poly-K
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-2 Chord of Calling
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
-1 Forest

Explanation:
Gerry T designed the Peregrination plan which basically hopes to be able to cast it and ramp to a fatty in one spell through the two lands and the scry. We cut Soul and Chord for being too clunky. Poly-K, Arbor Colossus and Hunter’s Prowess come in to increase threat density. We keep in Nylea’s Disciple vs Mono Black because of Grey Merchant and we leave in Nylea Goddess of the Hunt vs BW because of Elspeth’s tokens.

Rabblered
-3 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt
+3 Nylea’s Disciple
+1 Polukranos
+1 Reclemation Sage

Explanation:
We need a lower curve. Hence cutting big things and bringing in small things. We leave Hornet Queen because it was one of our few top end cards that can actually win the game.

Burn
-3 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt
-1 Hornet Queen
-1 Eidolon of Blossoms
+1 Arbor Colossus
+3 Nylea’s Disciple
+1 Polukranos
+2 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
Garruk, Soul, and Hornet Queen are too slow. Nylea’s Goddess of the Hunts abilities are irrelevant. Arbor Colossus and Poly-K are hard to kill and big, Nylea’s Disciple gains life, and Reclamation Sage hits [c]Satyr Firedancer[/c], [c]Eidolon of the Burning Revel[/c], [c]Chain to the Rocks[/c] and [c]Banishing Light[/c].

Mono Blue Devotion
-3 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the hunt
-2 Voyaging Satyr
+4 Mistcutter Hydra
+1 Poly-K
+2 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
Garruk and Soul are too slow, Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt doesn’t do much, and Voyaging Satyr can’t trade with [c]Tidebinder Mage[/c] and gets tapped by Tidebinger. Mistcutter Hydra is pro their deck, Reclamation Sage hits [c]Domestication[/c], trades well, and hits [c]Bident of Thasa[/c].

Jund Walkers
-2 Chord of Calling
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
+1 Poly-K
+1 Hunter’s Prowess/Arbor Colossus
+1 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
We cut awkward cards like Disciple and Chord for more singly powerful cards like Poly-K, Hunter’s Prowess/Arbor Colossus and Reclamation Sage.

Mirror
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
+1 Poly-K
+2 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
Disciple does nothing relevant, Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt is also irrelevant, and Soul of New Phyrexia is irrelevant. We swap them for Poly-K and Reclamation Sage which interact with dorks and Courser/Eidolon respectively.

The deck still lacks consistency, but finally has reliable win conditions. The deck folds to itself more often than to its opponents deck, however with all this in mind if you want to win, look elsewhere. I try to avoid being one of those people who just say “Standard sucks, don’t play it,” but honestly when decks that aren’t UWx Control, Bx devotion, Jund Midrange, W/R/U aggro or Burn win or do well it is a fluke. Those four or five decks are absurdly powerful, consistent enough, and attack from so many different angles that anything that is not those decks will simply be annihilated by one, two or all of those decks. While it is great that these archetypes are distinct unique and separate there is very little room for tuning them due to Pro Tour M15 they have reached their refined point. The tuning is one or two cards and meta predictions. Due to this it is not economical right now for me to play Standard. While I know this is only the second week of the article, I need a break from Standard. You can hear it in my voice round after round as my excitement to play Magic decreases.

Standard is an oppressive environment that is just diverse enough to appear healthy, but you are often doing little more than rolling dice to see what your match up is. I may pick a deck that is very well positioned versus 75% of the field and play the 25% of the field I am terrible against. The terribleness though does not feel like Modern or other formats where you are at least playing Magic still but you simply get annihilated with very little interaction. You could play a sweet aggro deck but run in to UWx Control with 8+ wraths, or maybe you have a cool green-based blue well good luck versus 2/2s that kill one of your guys for 2/2 mana which curves into a 5/5 that makes their team unblockable ruining the point of running your own creatures. In essence I need a break from Standard. I have been grinding the format since GP Chicago in the early summer and the format has changed little since then. Occasionally I have had fun playing Standard, but this season and last is simply not worth my time and effort. Due to this until set rotation in Fall expect some awesome Modern, Pauper and other format decks from me! /end rant

For a hint of what is to come and because I am excited about the return of Pauper I will share a couple of the decks I have been working on.

[d title=”BG Deaddog”]
Creatures
4 Satyr Wayfinder
4 Grave Scrabbler
4 Stinkweed Imp
1 Golgari Brownscale
2 Pit Keeper
2 Tilling Treefolk
1 Battlefield Scrounger
1 Krosan Tusker
4 Werebear
2 Crypt Rats
4 Tortured Existence
4 Commune with the Gods
1 Raven’s Crime
1 Gnaw to the Bone

Land
1 Haunted Fengraf
2 Evolving Wilds
3 Terramorphic Expanse
3 Tranquil Thicket
3 Barren Moor
5 Swamp
7 Forest
Sideboard
3 Spore Frog
3 Augur of Skulls
3 Festercreep
1 Battlefield Scrounger
2 Sylvok Replica
1 Brindle Boar
2 Gnaw to the Bone
[/d]

[d title=UB Teachings]
Creatures
2 Prescient Chimera
1 Trapjaw Kelpie

Spells
3 Mystical Teachings
4 Counterspell
1 Logic Knot
3 Exclude
1 Crypt Incursion
3 Diabolic Edict
1 Doom Blade
4 Accumulated Knowledge
2 Capsize
1 Repeal
2 Recoil
1 Wail of the Nim
2 Miscalculation
1 Agony Warp
1 Trapjaw Kelpie
2 Memory Lapse
1 Disrupt

Land
2 Lonely Sandbar
2 Barren Moor
5 Swamp
7 Island
4 Dimir Aqueduct
4 Dimir Guildgate

Sideboard
2 Wail of the Nim
1 Oona’s Grace
2 Think Twice
3 Dispel
3 Hydroblast
3 Curse of the Bloody Tome
1 Disrupt
[/d]

[d title=BUG Formerly Songs now Deaddog]
Creatures
4 Pit Keeper
2 Crypt Rats
4 Mulldrifter
1 Krosan Tusker
4 Street Wraith
4 Architects of Will
4 Stinkweed Imp
1 Golgari Brownscale
1 Brindle Boar
1 Battlefield Scrounger

Spells
4 Strategic Planning
2 Gnaw to the Bone
4 Tortured Existence
4 Commune with the Gods
2 Careful Study

Land
4 Golgari Guildgate
4 Dimir Guildgate
4 Simic Guildgate
2 Swamp
3 Island
1 Forest

Sideboard
2 Gnaw to the Bone
1 Brindle Boar
2 Crypt Rats
4 Augur of Skulls
1 Battlefield Scrounger
3 Stealer of Secrets
2 Fume Spitter
[/d]

Play Magic and Have Fun.
-Zach Raph aka ZTRMAN

Standard Tune Ups: Bant Chord of Calling

I perform a nightly ritual of checking through Magic: the Gathering websites for the updates of pros and semi-pros; what they are playing and why. Sometimes I find decks I end up playing for a whole season like B/U Kamikaze back in Scars-AVR Standard (Jessie Smith at SCG); or decks that I play for one daily and never touch again like UWR [c]Lightning Mauler[/c]/[c]Geist of Saint Traft[/c] (Craig Wescoe at TCGPlayer).

However if this process has taught me one thing it is never doubt the power of a deck that takes a different approach to the meta if the reasons behind the deck make sense. Further, it helped me realize my niche in Magic is tuning decks to their most optimal state. I am not a brewer at heart like Travis Woo and his ilk. I tune the base ideas of other peoples’ brews if I see promise in them. Sometimes I tune a tier one deck and try to gain the edges against the meta needed to win.

Today though, I am tuning a brew posted by none other than Reid, the Duke, Duke. Reid posted this list awhile back that featured some exciting new cards from M15, namely [c]Yisan, the Wandering Bard[/c] and [c]Chord of Calling[/c].

Duke's Version

[d title=”Reid’s Starting Point (Standard)”]
Lands
2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Temple of Enlightenment
4 Temple of Mystery
4 Temple Garden
4 Breeding Pool
1 Yavimaya Coast
2 Island
4 Forest

Creatures
3 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Kiora’s Follower
1 Scavenging Ooze
2 Courser of Kruphix
2 Yisan, the Wanderer Bard
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Ephara, God of the Polis
2 Fathom Mage
2 Horizon Chimera
3 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Prophet of Kruphix
2 Archangel of Thune
1 Prime Speaker Zegana
1 AEtherling

Spells
3 Chord of Calling
1 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
[/d]

Now Reid made a compelling reason why this sort of deck could be a powerful choice which boiled down essentially to “tutors are powerful.” When you look at the banned and restricted list of eternal formats you see tutor after tutor on the list and they are on there for a reason. The ability to turn a card in your hand into many different choices from your deck is powerful, especially in a format with [c]Goblin Rabblemaster[/c] Red and UW Elixir Control. In other words, polar opposite decks. [c]Banisher Priest[/c] is a three mana bear vs UW, but it may be the single best card in your deck against Rabble Red.

However, this is where we see another clause to the power of the deck and tutors in general: mana cost matters. There is a reason that [c]Demonic Tutor[/c] is banned in Legacy and [c]Diabolic Tutor[/c] never sees any play in Standard, let alone Legacy. There is a huge difference between paying two mana to make a card in your hand any card in your deck and spending four mana to do the same thing. The question then is this: are Yisan and Chord of Calling correctly costed or under-costed so as to make them viable? My answer? Maybe.

Not as powerful a recommendation as I would have hoped, but first let me take you through how I got from Reid’s 60 to my current 75. Here is my current 75:

My Bant

[d title=”Ztrman’s Bant Chord (Standard)”]
Lands
4 Temple of Enlightenment
4 Temple of Mystery
4 Temple Garden
4 Breeding Pool
4 Yavimaya Coast
4 Mana Confluence
1 Forest

Creatures
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Kiora’s Follower
1 Scavenging Ooze
2 Courser of Kruphix
3 Yisan, the Wanderer Bard
1 Phrexian Revoker
1 Fathom Mage
1 Polukranos, World Eater
3 Prophet of Kruphix
2 Archangel of Thune
1 Prime Speaker Zegana
1 Progenitor Mimic
1 Banisher Priest
1 Clone
1 Angel of Serenity
1 Horizon Chimera

Spells
4 Chord of Calling

Sideboard
1 Banisher Priest
1 Angel of Serenity
1 Garruk Caller of Beasts
1 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Courser of Kruphix
3 Centaur Healer
2 Nyx-Fleece Ram
3 Notion Thief
1 Lavinia of the Tenth
[/d]

The Main Deck Differences

Additions
+4 [c]Mana Confluence[/c]
+3 [c]Yavimaya Coast[/c]
+1 [c]Elvish Mystic[/c]
+1 [c]Phyrexian Revoker[/c]
+1 [c]Yisan, the Wandering Bard[/c]
+1 [c]Chord of Calling[/c]
+1 [c]Clone[/c]
+1 [c]Progenitor Mimic[/c]
+1 [c]Angel of Serenity[/c]

Subtractions
-3 [c]Forest[/c]
-2 [c]Island[/c]
-2 [c]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/c]
-1 [c]Ephara, God of the Polis[/c]
-2 [c]Polukronos, World Eater[/c]
-1 [c]Fathom Mage[/c]
-1 [c]Horizon Chimera[/c]
-1 [c]Aetherling[/c]
-1 [c]Ajani Mentor of Heroes[/c]

Mana changes:

The two islands and Nykthos were actively bad in the deck. The islands cause awkward draws leaving us unable to cast our mana dorks and the Nykthoses rarely netted mana and when they did it was unnecessary because the only spell that needs a lot of mana is [c]Chord of Calling[/c] which if we have devotion we can Convoke for anyways.

My addition of the [c]Mana Confluence[/c]s was to attempt to splash [c]Notion Thief[/c] out of the board to fix a poor UW match-up.

The addition of the 12th mana dork was just to increase the density of acceleration and maximize the ability to play turn two Yisan, almost as good as turn 2 Birthing Pod.

Additions

[c]Phyrexian Revoker[/c] – Hits [c]Pack Rat[/c] and Planeswalkers, easy to cast and easy to chord for versatile answer.

Additional [c]Yisan[/c] – The card overperformed every time I cast it. The ability to create a constant flow of chump blockers or chump sacs versus aggro and desecration demon respectively is very powerful. It is a must kill threat vs mono black variants because of the threatened card advantage and with [c]Prophet of Kruphix[/c] and [c]Kiora’s Follower[/c] it becomes live very quickly.

Additional [c]Chord of Calling[/c] – After playing with four in the deck I rarely became flooded with chords and chording for an ooze or a follower was a fine although mediocre play in games where I did.

[c]Clone[/c] – [c]Stormbreath Dragon[/c] is a beast. Clone is our easiest answer to the pro-white menace while also being able to get value off of cards like [c]Archangel of Thune[/c] or [c]Banisher Priest[/c] in our own deck. A common Yisan curve vs aggro decks is Banisher Priest into Clone into Archangel.

[c]Progenitor Mimic[/c] – The question was whether or not Progenitor Mimic was better or worse than [c]Aetherling[/c] in the black match-ups because Progenitor is obviously better when grinding out aggro decks and Aetherling is better vs UW. I found that Progenitor allowed us to win games where Aetherling would have been an overcosted dud. Copying [c]Desecration Demon[/c]s or [c]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/c]s, particularly at instant speed, gets out of hand very quickly.

[c]Angel of Serenity[/c] – Best finisher vs Aggro, best top-end vs Black decks. All around powerful value card, that with the extra in the board can set up very grindy loops of Angel of Serenity return two creatures and another Angel of Serenity.

Cuts

[c]Ephara, God of the Polis[/c] – No kind way of saying it was simply miserable. It drew cards slower than [c]Fathom Mage[/c], it never turned on. Overall four mana cycling is not impressive

[c]Polukranos[/c] – One remained as a powerful chord target, but generally we had little interest in monstrousing it in most match-ups because we had other things to do with our mana, making it just a four mana 5/5. There are times you wanted it and there are times you don’t, hence one copy remaining.

[c]Fathom Mage[/c] / [c]Horizon Chimera[/c] – The combo was not robust. It was expensive and fragile though there were times where it won games no other combination of cards could; infinite combos will do that, I suppose. (For those unaware of the combo, Fathom Mage + Horizon Chimera + [c]Archangel of Thune[/c]. If you draw a card or gain a life you begin the chain, Fathom gains a counter from Archangel and draws a card which causes Chimera to gain a life which causes Archangel to distribute counters, repeat for as many cards in your deck as you would like to draw.) While both remained decent creatures in certain match-ups, neither were absurd, hence relegated to tutor targets.

[c]Aetherling[/c] – See Progenitor Mimic notes above

[c]Ajani, Mentor of Heroes[/c] – An unmistakably powerful card, but simply did not play well into the deck’s plan most of the time on game one, hence why they are in the board.

Sideboard Rundown

2 [c]Nyx-Fleece Ram[/c]s and 3 [c]Centaur Healer[/c]s – Anti-burn and anti-aggro, not much to say. The split is because Centaur Healer attacks and trades whereas Fleece only blocks.

1 [c]Banisher Priest[/c] – Comes in versus aggro and mono black variants. Mono black variants as an answer to [c]Desecration Demon[/c] and [c]Pack Rat[/c].

1 [c]Reclamation Sage[/c] – UWx Detention Sphere lists, Burn, and Constellation Decks. There are two questions that arise here, why burn and why not mono black? Burn generally brings in 4x [c]Satyr Firedancer[/c]s and has some number of [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c]s and [c]Chained to the Rocks[/c] / [c]Banishing Light[/c], all of which are absolute beatings versus us and all of which are enchantments. They do not come in versus Mono Black Variants because [c]Underworld Connections[/c] is simply to slow versus most of our draws for us to care about it.

1 [c]Courser of Kruphix[/c] – Burn, aggro, and mono black. A wall that reduces flood is good in many match-ups but is not that inherently powerful in the deck.

4 [c]Notion Thief[/c] – Flash 3/1 with upside versus UW. One of our best possible tools in the match up. With [c]Chord of Calling[/c] we basically always threaten it and make it very hard for them to [c]Divination[/c] let alone get value out of [c]Sphinx’s Revelation[/c].

1 [c]Lavinia of the Tenth[/c] – Aggro, Mono Black, and Elspeth. Aggro is the obvious one, but against Mono Black and decks that have [c]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/c] it provides the powerful ability to fetch, basically acting as a [c]Sleep[/c] and allowing for a one time swing for the win.

1 [c]Ajani, Mentor of Heroes[/c] / 1 [c]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/c] / 1 [c]Angel of Serenity[/c] – Mono black and UW match-ups as powerful grindy threats. Ajani can also replace a Chord or a Yisan vs decks like GW aggro where they are not the most aggressive decks but demand that we lower our curve.

So that is the list and why the numbers became as they are. A couple of notes before I give my closing thoughts:

  • Yisan’s ability is worded such that putting a counter on it is a cost, in other words if you untap it with the trigger on the stack and activate it again you will fetch two creatures at the higher cost.
  • Yisan demands the exact same mana cost. After seven it does nothing.
  • The combo is not technically infinite; it can only add counters to your team equal to the number of cards in your deck. While this will often be enough, it is not infinite, so it may not be an auto-win in a grindy match-up or versus that local guy that only runs mill decks.
  • I 3-1ed the 7/31 Standard Daily Event with the deck and here was the list at the time. http://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/241686#online

Closing thoughts

The deck is certainly fun, but I would not advise it for high level competitive play in the current environment. It preys on mono black variants while maintaining decent matchups versus aggro decks. However, its UW match up is horrendous, and with UW winning the Pro Tour I would be hesitant to play the deck in a major event.

The deck though is unique in a field that before the Pro Tour was lacking new and interesting decks. It rewards skill and demands it for cards like Yisan and Chord. Further skill is demanded because the deck often is starved for mana in the early turns so each play matters even more. By the same token the deck brutally punishes mistakes. I’ve lost games because I Chorded a turn too early and didn’t wait for the better creature, or because I miscounted my damage on a critical swing, or tapped the wrong mana and couldn’t activate [c]Scavenging Ooze[/c] enough to trigger [c]Archangel of Thune[/c] enough times.

When the deck rewards you, though, it feels amazing. My favorite moment so far and my ending thought is the power of [c]Angel of Serenity[/c].

I am playing Game 1 versus a BG Devotion Deck with some number of main deck [c]Nissa, Worldwaker[/c]. I am down to 5 life and my opponent is attacking me with four [c]Nissa, Worldwaker[/c] animated lands (4/4 tramplers). I allow him to declare his attackers then before blocks I [c]Chord of Calling[/c] with x=7. I search out an Angel of Serenity which exiles three of his attackers (his lands!) and then block the fourth. [c]Angel of Serenity[/c] in effect [c]Plague Wind[/c]ed him and was a one-sided [c]Armageddon[/c].

If you have a deck you would like me to look at feel, please free to comment a list in the comments below and I will do my best to tune it over the coming weeks!

Check out the videos below of my recent run with this deck in a Daily Event, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Nah, too cheesy, Believe in the Heart of the Cards!

Nope, Play Magic and have fun.

There we go.

Play Magic and Have Fun.

-Zach Raph aka ZTRMAN