With Dragons of Tarkir right around the corner, everyone is pouring over the spoilers and trying to figure out what the next big thing in Standard is going to be. I’ve been on a Modern focus as of late, so I feel like I’m viewing the potential Standard with a fresh set of eyes. I have been devouring content left, right and center over the last two weeks, and the number of brews that are coming around are amazing. The current metagame is being dominated by the GW Devotion menace, as its resilience and sheer power cannot be disputed. I feel like there are some very important card coming down the pipe for us however, that will radically alter the shape of the meta even on day 1 of DTK’s legality.
I feel like the most impact will be felt by the introduction of Roast. Roast is an extremely powerful card with a significantly lower converted mana cost than expected. Traditionally, Red aggressive strategies are the frontrunners in a new metagame, but they inevitably get stonewalled by the midrange decks. The potential for this is exacerbated by the presence of [card]Siege Rhino[/card] in Abzan, which not only gains life when it enters the battlefield, but Rhinos are notoriously stubborn and often are not easily removed from the battlefield by red removal. Polukranos and [card]Whisperwood Elemental[/card] in the devotion strategies also present similar roadblocks. Perhaps the biggest offender of them all is [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], who not only comes down early enough to start blocking effectively, but the velocity gained through consistent land drops and incidental life gain make this hardy centaur a real pain in the haunches.
One thing that ties them all together though (in addition to the fact that they are all green creatures) is that they all die to Roast. For 2 mana, any of the traditionally powerful roadblocks for an aggressive red strategy are reduced to burnt ash. One of the other amazing considerations of this card is that until now, there has not been an efficient red removal spell which successfully deals with the above threats and still be good enough to deal with cards like [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card], [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card], and [card]Seeker of the Way[/card]. Heck, this card deals with all of them PLUS [card]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/card]. It is 100% fair to say that the presence of this card will have a huge impact on deck building and the metagame at large. If you are not ready for this card, then please, get prepared.
The other card I’ve been playing around with lately is the new Sarkhan Unbroken. Upon release, I feel like this card was severely underrated. He was released in the wake of Narset Transcendent, and at first glance, it seemed as though he did not measure up in comparison. It was after notable Pros such as Owen Turtenwald and Brian Kibler wrote some articles about the card that I personally really stood up and took notice. I respect Brian as an excellent midrange deck designer, so I expected as much out of him, but when Owen, more often known to play the best cards in a format than what he “likes” to play was similarly high on it, I got right on board the train. I took a look at both of their articles on their respective websites and started to play with and tune both of the preliminary lists.
Owen took the deck into a more controlling route, opting for more copies of countermagic and planeswalkers in the list, and including copies of Anticipate to ensure that the proper threats are found for the appropriate time. Brian opted for a more traditionally midrange approach, relying on tough resilient threats at undercosted casting costs along an aggressive curve. There were a lot of cards that overlapped in the decks (most notably 4 copies of Roast in each one), and after playing with both lists I came to the same conclusion as they had; Sarkhan is definitely not UNbroken. He is one of the most versatile and powerful cards that exist in the Temur color set today, and potentially one of the best reasons to play those colors in the future. We all remember this card, right?
What if you got that card for 1 less mana, and tacked on some free activations of this card:
Are you interested? I know that to many this seems like an episode of Evan Erwin’s AdventuresiIn Magical Christmasland, but let’s stop and understand something about the metagame; [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] is on the decline in the overall metagame. Look at the top 8 in GP Miami: 2x GW Devotion, 1x Abzan Reanimator, 2x Abzan Aggro, 2x Mono Red Aggro, and 1x Naya Aggro. There were an average of 3 copies each in all of the Abzan lists, but the rest of them had ZERO. Going out to the top 16 showed only 2 more decks containing the card, despite it being a 4 of in those lists. The reality is that, Planeswalkers are living much longer than expected, especially if you are presenting a high volume of threat density around them. Consider this: Xenagos, The Reveler is traditionally one of the most fragile Planeswalkers and he is sticking around long enough to do work. He makes ground based 2/2s! Sarkhan makes 4/4 flying Dragons man!! Get with the program!
I think that the second point about having a reasonable mass of creatures around your planeswalkers is what drove me closer to Brian’s list as my preferred jumping off point. Here is my latest list:
DTK Temur – MrScottyMac
4 Frontier Bivouac
2 Shivan Reef
2 Temple of Abandon
2 Temple of Mystery
4 Wooded Foothills
2 Yavimaya Coast
1 Crater’s Claws
3 Sarkhan Unbroken
2 Stubborn Denial
2 Wild Slash
3 Xenagos, the Reveler
4 Courser of Kruphix
2 Dragonlord Atarka
4 Rattleclaw Mystic
4 Savage Knuckleblade
1 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Sylvan Caryatid
2 Thunderbreak Regent
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Reclamation Sage
1 Stormbreath Dragon
2 Dig Through Time
4 Anger of the Gods
After realizing that Roast was everywhere, I determined quickly that Polukranos is just not good enough to see play outside of Devotion in the new Standard. Seeing as how I was playing multiple copies of Dragons anyway, I quickly upgraded the green hydra to a resilient and synergistic threat; Thunderbreak Regent.
The Regent works with all of the other Dragons in the list, and can come down a turn early to present a resilient flying threat that will guarantee at least a Bolt to the opponent if it eats a spot removal spell. Note that this also works on abilities and sends the damage to the player, making this also a great card vs opposing planeswalkers. I’m still doing more testing with this, and it’s entirely possible that I head deeper on these, but for now, 2 is fine. I was considering the use of [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] over Rattleclaw, in order to enable the potential for a turn 2 [card]Savage Knuckleblade[/card], but a turn 3 one with haste seems like it has been fine, and I’m not killing myself with my own lads like I was traditionally with more aggressive Temur decks.
The reason to play this Regent over [card]Ashcloud Phoenix[/card] aside from some of the innate synergies, is the presence of [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] in the sideboard. Anger does a great job of cleaning up the mess that [card]Mastery of the Unseen[/card] can make, and also can be used to great effect to impede the mana production of Devotion, forcing them to play a fairer game. Jeskai Aggro can also prove to be somewhat of an issue with multiple copies of [card]Mantis Rider[/card], but Anger cleans them and the Rabblemasters both with no issue, leaving the Regent to continue to control the skies… Until Atarka shows up to rule the world. Ramping into Dragonlord Atarka is an amazing thing. It feels almost the same as ramping up to an Ugin, but you’re left with an absurd 8/8 flier with trample to kill your opponent with instead of a slow stream of [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]s. The chance to turn 4 her is yet another reason that the Mystic debate of Elvish vs Rattleclaw continues to rage on.
The sideboard contains a bunch of cards which I expect to be good in the upcoming field. Counterspell access is one of the benefits of playing Temur over straight GR, and a healthy mix allows you to keep the opponents guessing. One of the most important cards in the board is [card]Plummet[/card]. With all of the Dragons running around, we will want a replacement for Roast in those matches. If the metagame shifts, I could see it become correct to increase this number to 3. [card]Dig Through Time[/card] is a powerful spell in its own right, but when all of our cards are game ending bombs, it becomes even more powerful. Access to this effect vs Control or grinding Abzan decks is important.
I encourage you to try the deck out and tell me what you think. I have also been playing with Shaheen Soorani’s Esper deck for the new Standard, and I can tell you that [card]Ultimate Price[/card] has far more targets today than one might think. A lot of the things which I said to be true about Roast apply to [card]Ultimate Price[/card] as well, so make sure that you aren’t sleeping on that one either. Perhaps I’ll write about that one later….
I’ll be at the Face to Face Games Toronto Prerelease event all day Saturday, so make sure you come on out and support! Come at 9am for Pancakes!!
See you guys on stream!!