Omnath Ban Reaction

I woke up Monday morning eagerly awaiting the next ban and restricted announcement…

…and what a ban announcement it was. Honestly, for the first time in a while I’m optimistic about Standard. Back during spoiler season I pointed to Uro and Lucky Clover being toxic to the format, and I’m ecstatic that finally both are gone, along with Omnath. We can talk all day about WOTC’s approach to designing cards and the numerous amounts of bans that have taken place (and might continue to take place in other formats), but let’s focus on some new Standard decks instead. The one thing I want to give credit to WOTC for is that they’ve banned four cards in about a month’s time. It’s crazy to think about how many cards are banned in Standard at the moment, but at least the bans have been quick and without remorse. Wizards was committed to ban Omnath and Lucky Clover if the Uro ban wasn’t enough to make a dent. Now I’m more confident in a Standard where a vast variety of decks are viable. There are still cards in the format that are incredibly powerful, but I don’t think there remains a card as dominating as Uro, Clover, or Omnath. 

It’s no surprise that Omnath and Clover needed to go. This past weekend’s event, The Grand Finals featured a Standard metagame where 78% of decks included Omnath or Lucky Clover. The remaining decks were four Rakdos Midrange, three Gruul Adventures, and one U/B Rogues. Interestingly enough, two of the Gruul Adventures players, Emma Handy and Autumn Burchett both made Top 8, along with Seth Manfield on U/B Rogues making it in as well. All three players were incredibly prepared and played exceptionally well in the face of the Omnath menace to lock in their Top 8 finishes. First, let’s take a look at these decks and talk about how they might adapt to Omnath and Clover’s banning. 

Gruul Adventures – Emma Handy/Autumn Burchett

Decklist: http://deck.tk/3GlY14dX

Gruul Adventures has always been a strong player in the Standard field even since before Zendikar Rising was released. The deck packs powerful creatures and a mini-engine in the form of Edgewall Innkeeper. I think it’ll be interesting to see how this deck matches up against Winota decks in the new format. I actually don’t think many cards in this list need to change to adapt to the new meta. If anything Embereth Shieldbreaker can probably go, with the only big artifact to target being Embercleave. I love Chainweb Aracnir for the U/B Rogues matchup and Thundering Rebuke for Winota. Vivien and Great Henge also are great threats to bring in against any potential control decks that pop up. 

U/B Rogues – Seth Manfield 

Decklist: http://deck.tk/8Xgl7cFK

One thing that really impressed me while I watched Seth play this weekend was the utility of Lurrus as the deck’s companion. I remember watching a deck vs Omnath Adventures where the opponent had brought in Chainweb Aracnir as a hefty blocker, but Seth was able to continuously cast Thieves’ Guild Enforcers from his graveyard to “out-card” his opponent, even in the face of their sideboard “silver bullet” card. This deck definitely feels less like an aggro or mill Rogues deck and more like a control deck, with all of the removal, maindeck Mystical Disputes, and four copies of Into the Story. Depending on how the format settles I could see the counterspells making their way into the sideboard for more maindeck removal. I definitely think this deck will have a hard time keeping up with a resolved Winota trigger or a resolved Great Henge, however. 

U/B Rogues still seems incredibly powerful and consistent, but there’s one deck I have in mind if Rogues remains a major-player in the new format.

Enter Flourishing Fox. 

R/W Cycling has always been a pet deck of mine since its Ikoria release. I love playing Burn in Modern, it’s a deck that rewards patience and correct sequencing. R/W Cycling feels similar in a way, the sequencing being incredibly important based on how you utilize your cycling creatures and when to cast your Zenith Flares. In the face of Soaring Thought-Thiefs and Ruin Crabs, I can definitely see R/W as a major Standard player in the weeks to come. 

R/W Cycling 

Decklist: http://deck.tk/3W7n6CIE

This list is pretty stock, you usually don’t want to sideboard much to protect the integrity of your Zenith Flares, but Shredded Sails is a nice card vs Rogues and Embercleaves. Redcap Melee is another nice option vs Winota and potential Mono Red decks. I’m not sure how good Roiling Vortex might be, it’s an option vs potential control strategies. I could also see it being good against U/B mill decks that aren’t beating down as hard as U/B Rogues. There might be a better option out there, but I do want an alternate win condition if my opponent decides to sideboard four copies of Negate for my Zenith Flares. Valiant Rescuer and Drannith Stinger might be good enough on their own though. 

Next up, some other decks that were mildly popular during Omnath’s reign that could see a resurgence:

Grixis Control 

Decklist: http://deck.tk/1hb89sVd

This is a list that English streamer Crokeyz was playing a week or so ago. Kroxa is the big selling point for this deck, the only remaining titan in Standard. This is pretty standard control deck shenanigans, we have some early spot removal, counterspells, and some finishers in Shark Typhoon and Ashiok. Kroxa plays a really nice role in this deck of acting as both an early discard spell, which will be fantastic vs non-aggressive decks and as a late game threat. I probably don’t need to sell the power level of titans to you though. I think cards like Spikefield Hazard and the counterspells are less valuable now if the format shifts to more aggressive strategies. There are only six removal spells maindeck that interact with a Winota, three being Hagra Mauling (which you might need to play as a land in some scenarios) so I’d be interested in more Heartless Acts or maybe some Murderous Riders.

As for the sideboard I still really like Shredded Sails. Even though part of the reason to be playing this card revolved around destroying Lucky Clovers, Soaring Thought Thief and Embercleave will still be around. And who knows, maybe you’ll end up destroying a Glass Casket that stole your Kroxa!

Speaking of Glass Casket…

U/W Control (Yorion)

Decklist: http://deck.tk/3TuD65eg

One card that I think hasn’t it’s time to shine that was in the last decklist is Mazemind Tome. Tome reminds me in part of Treasure Map, and while it won’t flip into some Lotus Petals, Tome at least lets you gain some advantage for no extra mana in scrying and an eventual four life. With Yorion, however, you can set up turns where you can activate it and reset it with Yorion. I also really love Tome in combination with Jace, allowing you to safely use Jace’s 0 activation to draw an extra land or cheap spell. There are also other fringe benefits such as drawing a card in combat to pump a Dream Trawler, or getting an extra scry before you cycle or cast an Omen of the Sea.

 I think U/W control has both strengths and weaknesses coming into this new format. I really like having access to Shatter the Sky if we see a resurgence in aggro decks. Most aggro decks in this format revolve around playing usually one creature a turn, so you can get a 1-2 punch by casting a shatter on turn four and following it up with an Elspeth Conquers Death to remove a Winota, Questing Beast, or Torbran. Lastly, with 80 cards in your deck you won’t get milled out (hopefully) by Ruin Crab or Teferi’s Tutelage. 

The one thing I don’t particularly like about UW is that the spot removal is pretty poor. The only real way to remove a Winota to prevent the triggers from happening is to either counter it or Petty Theft it back to your opponent’s hand. Additionally, if U/B, Grixis, and U/B Rogues are all popular decks, U/W might struggle with opposing discard backed up by Mystical Dispute. I’m curious to see if Elspeth Conquers Death and Dream Trawler will be enough to beat Kroxa. 

Alright enough control decks, I get it. Let’s check out some more aggro decks.

Mono Red

Decklist: http://deck.tk/2Pj1954l

I basically just copy and pasted this from SandydogMTG’s twitter from a month ago (I made some changes, I promise!) but I think this is definitely a good starting point. I feel like there’s some for more copies of Phoenix of Ash and maybe Ox of Agonas. They might seem like weird to have in as a one or two of, but I like the versatility of having a spell to cast from the graveyard with Ruin Crabs and Thieves’ Guild Enforcers running amock. The Mazemind Tome was an idea I got from Mike Flores, back from when we used to pay Treasures Map galore in our Mono Red sideboards, coupled with Experimental Frenzy of course. I feel like Tome could be really valuable in the mirror where you’re bringing in a lot of removal spells already. Seems like a great way to not only catch up on cards, but gain some extra life as well. 

Lastly, I’ve talked about Winota all article so I’ll do her some service and put up a list. 

Boros Winota

Decklist: http://deck.tk/7cLx1jF2

This list actually comes from this past weekend’s Standard challenge. I really like Boros as opposed to Mardu just to have a better mana base. This list is everything I want to be doing with Winota: It has access to Bonecrusher Giant, Embercleave, Skyclave Apparition as a nice removal spell to Winota-in, and Archon of Emeria to constrict your opponents’ play after a big Winota attack. I think Drannit Magistrate and Embereth Shiieldbreaker can go from the sideboard, now that Lucky Clover is banned. I could see adding more Redcap Melees depending on how popular Winota and Mono Red are. Although I’m sure this deck doesn’t want to sideboard too many spells over creature cards. 

Standard seems to be in a fairly healthy spot now. There aren’t any glaring cards that seem format-warping. Winota and Embercleave definitely stand out as very powerful and format-defining, but I think there are enough diverse strategies that will even out the playing field. The essential design problem with recent Standard cards was that there were too many cards that “doubled” your mana. Cards like, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Fires of Invention, and Omnath are all examples of this. They’re cards that easily replace themselves and quickly snowball an advantage in your favor. The other side of this coin is that the removal spells are so lacking compared to threats. I’m a little worried about a card like Winota or Embercleave running away with the format, but I think things will be fine for the time being and I’m hopeful the next few Standard sets won’t have cards as problematic as Omnath. While Throne of Eldraine had multiple problem cards like Oko, Once Upon a Time, Fires of Invention, and Escape to the Wilds, at least Zendikar Rising only had Omnath. I’m hopeful that this Standard format and theStandard formats to come will be balanced. 

What are you excited to play in new Standard? Let me know! As always, thanks for reading. 

Email: Romanfusco95@gmail.com

Twitter: @Roman_fusco 

The Actual Best Deck in Standard

I’m sure it’s no big surprise, but it’s Omnath Adventures. The deck is putting up the wildest numbers and has a huge skill component. The format is warping around it enough that people are entertaining main deck ways to kill artifacts.

The saddest part is the deck is so powerful with Omnath that it functions well even without a Lucky Clover. Using either Innkeeper to draw lots of cards while landing haymakers or ramping with Omnath and slamming very large Beanstalk Giants. My favorite part of this deck is how I tend to win by using Fling. A lot of nostalgia comes to mind when reprints go that far back.

There’s a lot of changes from list to list, I’ve been running it a particular way that I prefer for several reasons. The early stages of the game are where the most crucial turns lie with Adventures. Granted allows for favorable late stage positions. Also, to combat decks like Rogues that are difficult matchups I’ve added main deck cards like Thundering Rebuke and Mystical Dispute. Both of which are solid against many of the top decks at the moment.

Here’s my take:

Decklist: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/3463509

I’m thankful for the digital age of copy and paste because registering a 15-card sideboard with every card being a singleton was a nightmare. There are hilarious games where you will grab every available option out of your sideboard. No, not out of necessity of course. The flexibility of your targets and the cheap casting cost all make Granted a more potent weapon.

One of the surprising strengths of a deck like Omnath Adventures, is that with open decklists people have to play around cards you’re not even playing in the main deck. This allows you to gain leverage without using up space. Post board configurations get trickier though as we don’t have a lot of room to make sideboard adjustments. Meanwhile our opponents are almost certainly preparing for the matchup.

Strangely enough the Standard format may just be in disarray enough that prepare as much as they like, we may still be favored in all matchups. At least until someone comes up with a new tactic that works in Standard. With the Grand Prix Finals around the corner some of the best minds in the world are set to tackle just that.

If things don’t change and we see 50%+ numbers of participants playing this deck it’s important to get the mechanics down so you can win the mirrors. Also, so that we play optimally of course in our other matchups. First thing is mana sequencing. It’s important to be able to cast Omnath, Locus of Creation. As early as possible is preferred. To that end we do not want to play out a second copy of Forest or Island in the first four land drops. It’s ideal to be able to add one of each of the four colors by turn four.

Next is card utility. Whenever possible we want to conserve Fabled Passage for a turn following Omnath. This is of course to gain the benefit of the ramp part of Omanth. Beanstalk Giant is another way to make this happen and important to hold back if your plays line up correctly. If you have a Lucky Clover on turn two and a Beanstalk Giant on turn three, then fire away. There’s almost never a good enough reason not to get a turn three double ramp spell.

Sometimes I’ll ramp on turn three with Beanstalk Giant just so I can cast a turn four Escape to the Wilds. This lets us gain a double ramp for subsequent turns in addition to giving us a maximum look at cards with which to craft a game plan against whatever we are facing.

Granted is perhaps the most complex spell in the deck. Knowing what to grab and how best to utilize it will be the difference between winning and losing. Generally speaking, it’s a better strategy to be proactive instead of reactive, but there will always be circumstances where you are forced to be on the back foot. Cards like Stern Dismissal can protect you from an Ember Cleave and force your opponent to take alternative lines which is important to making it to the later stages of the game.

Playing Innkeeper on turn one or not is a crazily complex decision that’s hard to map. With open decklists it gets a lot easier but I generally assess if I can afford to blow it or if it makes more sense to conserve it (which I usually do end up conserving). Sometimes it’s nice to force the opponent to play their spells out of order needing to answer it, so keep that in mind.

Only playing two copies of Brazen Borrower and Lovestruck Beast feels kind of strange, but I am convinced it’s right. Brazen Borrower is more situationally good and most solid when facing a Rogues opponent. Lovestruck Beast dominates on defense against ground aggro decks. These decks are in short supply because of Omnath’s prodigious life-gain ability. Still it’s important to have a few copies to capitalize on Lucky Clover and Edgewall Innkeeper.

Some interesting things to note are I do not play Ugin. Every other list plays Ugin. I have played what I feel is a sufficient number of matches in which Ugin was never Granted for. So, I decided to make additional space and not run the powerhouse card. Sometimes I found trying to force Ugin was incorrect and cost me a game. I’m definitely not saying this is 100% correct and the implied value of open decklists makes you want the card there more, not less. I am going to continue running without however for the short term.

With a Clover out and a Granted spell resolved, my favorite combination of cards to grab is Fling and Primal Might. This forces our opponent to either leave up reaction mana or to have to arrange blocks such that they don’t just die out of nowhere. Frequently you’ll tutor these up and then ignore them for a few turns while the opponent is hyper focused on them. Then you’ll go another route and take full advantage before coming around back to them and pushing through a victory.

Having a land in the sideboard to grab with Granted can come in very handy. Not getting the fourth Fabled Passage in the main deck can be a little rough, but I’ve tried replacing it with alternatives and found them all wanting. Evolving Wilds set you back a mana the turn you go to grab it and sometimes that can be the difference between winning and losing.

The sideboard guide part of this deck is the funniest part. You’re pretty much not going to sideboard! Mystical Dispute and Thundering Rebuke are the main deck flex cards. Which is only four cards of course. In the sideboard if something is doubly redundant. Such as Wilt and Shredded Sails against a deck that you’re only interested in killing an artifact. Then you can bring in one copy. A Thundering Rebuke could come in if you know that Redcap Melee is an even better Granted target. Most of the time you just won’t be making any sideboard changes however.

There are cards like Embereth Shieldbreaker that would be good to have for mirrors, but cutting Granted targets is so hard and costly. Sometimes you just won’t draw the Shieldbreaker because you cannot fit in enough copies and sometimes they won’t have a Lucky Clover anyway to take advantage of the ability. I’ve found it’s best to just focus on being proactive yet again. Last note I’ll make is many people are running a singleton or even two copies of Giant Killer in their list. It’s a nice effect with Edgewall Innkeeper, but I’ve found it poor against the Rogues lists and sometimes a little too mana inefficient to be very effective. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone trying to fit them in, but I didn’t feel it belonged in an ideal list.

Thanks for tuning in as always, jump on the wagon quick before the banhammer talks resume. This deck will get you to Mythic and fast.

Drafting Zendikar 101

If you’re reading this and you don’t play a lot of Limited, every pro will tell you that it’s an important landscape to grasp if you want to up your game in any other format. Take my word for it, they’re all right.

Learning how to maximize your resources by using the least and also developing a knack for finding small niche plays is extremely useful. Plus, it’s one of the most fun ways to play the game. You’re here for the strategy though, let’s dive in.

There are a bunch of overpowered uncommons that if you manage to start off the draft on, you can build your deck around. Relic Amulet and Roost of Drakes are two such uncommons. With Relic you can purposefully draft a heavy number of spells like removal or draw spells. Normally this strategy is quite effective anyway, but Relic Amulet gives it that extra boost to really ensure you win the card advantage game.

With Roost of Drakes of course the cards that say kicker are mostly overpowered anyway. When you start adding on additional 2/2 flyers with each cast, your opponent will be overwhelmed fairly quickly. This strategy works well if you can make it into the late game.

There are a few trap uncommons that appear powerful on the surface. However, they require a great many things to go right that seldom will in a draft. Soaring Thought Thief and Ruin Crab spring to mind. Who doesn’t want to mill out the opponent? It’s hilariously good fun, but not as competitive as we would like. Still if you manage to snag these cards later and it happens to fit into the deck, they are great pickups.

Obviously a great many of the rares and mythics in this set are broken, but you certainly don’t need my help to take and abuse those cards. There are a lot of little things you will need to know if you want to capitalize on the other percentage points to Zendikar Limited. One of which is that double-sided cards are all solid pickups, but very few of them are slam dunk picks.

It’s awesome when you can get away with running 12, 13, or even 14 lands. If you have too many and every land is coming into play tapped you may just get run over. Still I am happy with 5 double-sided cards and 14 lands quite often. This is assuming a normal curve of course. If you build a Red White warriors theme, then you certainly want to avoid coming into play tapped lands as part of your consistency. You certainly won’t turn away from some of the good ones like Akoum Warrior and Kabira Takedown.

If you’re going to draft Red White be careful not to get split on the creature theme. Some cards want a spread of your party. That’s Cleric, Rogue, Warrior, and Wizards for those unfamiliar with the new mechanic. Other cards reward you for having a warrior heavy threat density. Try and stick with one side to maximize your deck’s synergy if you can.

In older draft formats it\s easy to point to the weak link color. After doing enough drafts to go from Bronze to Mythic I can safely tell you that I feel like they are pretty well balanced. The WOTC design team did a great job with this set and word on the street is everyone’s enjoying it. I’m going to keep jumping around to important information so forgive my clustered thoughts as I write through a stream of consciousness.

While drafting you generally want to pick cards according to a hierarchy. This starts out with your bomb rares/mythics of course because its unlikely you’ll get a second chance at them. Then removal spells generally follow. Next up are good creatures and while you’re selecting these you want to perform double duty and find the right mix of creatures to complete a good curve. Lastly, we look for tricks to assist in battle or winning via alternative strategies (like mill).

This hierarchy can be changed in an instant if you manage to build a non-traditional draft deck. This can be done with some of the methods listed above or by taking cards of more than two colors and focusing on mana fixing to assist in utilizing the best cards across colors to overpower an opposing deck. There is an abundance of cantrips in this set if one wants to cycle through later picks and try to find the card they build their deck around.

Broken Wings and even Disenchant are fine singletons in many draft decks. There tends to be enough targets to validate an inclusion and can typically hit a very important target for the opponent. Tangled Florahedron and Lotus Cobra are amongst the best ramp spells you can draft in green as the best creatures are in the four-drop column.

Relic Vial is a solid card but typically best used while paired with Black and especially best in a Black White Clerics shell. This shell typically utilizes life gain to give certain creatures a buff to their stats, outpacing opposing aggressive strategies.

Some cards that were surprisingly bad;

-Relic Golem
-Lithoform Engine
-Akoum Hellhound
-Expedition Healer
-Archpriest of iona
-Seafloor Stalker
-Silundi Vision

Some cards that were surprisingly good;
-Skyclave Sentinel
-Cliffhaven Kitesail
-Tajuru Blightblade
-Hagra Constrictor
-Bubble Snare
-Sea Gate Banneret
-Skycleave Squid

As always try to remain open in a draft. Commit to colors as late as possible so you can stay flexible. Try to observe the power level of certain cards being passed and utilize those as signs of what that person may or may not be taking. It’s important to be able to play spells on turn two on if you’re on the draw, but typically okay to start on turn three if you’re on the play.

Utilize the London Mulligan to the fullest extent whenever possible. There are very few reasons you should be keeping a bad seven card hand. Luckily with the double-sided cards in Zendikar you’ll be mulliganing less than ever.

Beware the fixing in Zendikar is very limited and if you want to do a strategy incorporating more than two colors, you’ll find difficulty if you don’t see important cards. Skyclave Relic, Vastwood Surge, Roiling Regrowth, and Reclaim the Wastes are your fixing spells.  One is a rare, two are uncommons, and only Reclaim the Wastes is actually common and can be counted on to appear most consistently.

Always be prepared for the game within a game when it comes to Limited. Lead with weaker creatures early to eat up answers. Try and conserve your answers for the really big threats. Try to be on defense whenever you’re in an attrition stage of the game so you can control the outcomes. Card advantage is extremely important. Try and anticipate your opponent’s actions before they’re done so as to not fall into any traps. Last of all, beware the single untapped island in Zendikar. Chilling Trap and Zulaport Cutthroat are both solid spells and included in many decks.

Thanks for stopping by and see you next time as we return to writing about Standard in time for the Grand Prix Finals!

Uro Ban Announcement Reaction

I went to bed Sunday night hopeful the morning’s ban announcement would provide a new and exciting Standard format to play. “Maybe UW control will be playable again,” I thought to myself as I drifted off into a deep slumber. However, Monday’s ban announcement shattered any hope I had. 

Okay I’m only slightly joking. Uro was a dominating force in Standard ever since its printing and desperately needed to go. However, Uro was not a driving force in the Omnath ramp decks. Uro is a great tool however it’s easily replaced by a number of three mana ramp cards including, Dryad of the Illysian Grove, Scale the Heights, Roiling Regrowth, Beanstalk Giant, and Cultivate. Uro did provide resilience against the control decks of the format, however, such as Sultai, and provided nice lifegain alongside Omnath versus Mono Green and Mono Red aggro. However, I’m not sure if banning Uro makes a real dent in the Omnath ramp decks. While I highly suspect another ban and restricted announcement will arrive soon, the fact of the matter is that Uro is banned. So where does that leave Standard?

The Omnath Menace

We don’t need to pretend that Omnath is not one of the best, if not still the best deck of the Standard format. This past weekend’s SCG and MTGO events provided a bevy of Omnath lists, with Omnath clocking in a 55.12% of the SCG Qualifier #6 metagame, and 67.09% of the SCG Season Two Championship metagame. 

Decklist: https://mtgmelee.com/Decklist/View/54093

Tangram’s list is pretty stock, with a few removal spells aimed at taking out some of the problematic cards in the mirror. I actually like dividing up the interaction spells to include Spikefield Hazard, Mystical Dispute, and Thundering Rebuke as opposed to going all in on Negates and Disputes. Mazemind Tome is a card I’ve seen pop up in a variety of these lists and I think it’s a great way at attacking the control strategies post board. 

Losing access to Uro makes the lists with multiple copies of Terror of the Peaks a little worse, but I’m sure the Omnath decks will rely more heavily on Beanstalk Giant now, if they weren’t playing four copies already. 

Decklist: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mtgo-standings/standard-challenge-2020-09-28 (1st place list)

Looking at the Standard Challenge from this past weekend, SunofNothing’s winning decklist has a couple of cards that stand out to me from the “traditional” Omnath list. This list has a nice combo built into it for the mirror match: Ruin Crab and Glasspool Mimic. This version abandons the Kenrith, Terror of the Peaks, Ugin, or Felidar Retreat package for one tuned specifically for the mirror, focusing on casting a Genesis Ultimatum and milling the opponent out. Results speak for themselves and this seems like a great way of attacking the mirror since so much of the game is spent taking lands out of your deck, drawing cards, and flipping over cards from the top of your deck. I feel like a lot of games come down to the Omnath player having sometimes less than 20 cards in their library – which only equates to six or seven Ruin Crab triggers. What excites me the most about this decklist and particular build of the Omnath deck is that it only utilizes one Uro (which is easily replaceable) and with Uro now gone from the format you don’t have to worry about your Ruin Crab binning an opposing titan (unless they are of course playing Kroxa). 

Decklist: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mtgo-standings/standard-champ-qual-2020-09-28 (1st place deck)

Michael Bonde (Lampalot) took down the Standard Zendikar Rising Championship Qualifier this past weekend with another Omnath, and surprisingly Uro-less, deck. Temur Adventures with Omnath is not anything new, I spotted Emma Handy piloting a similar decklist for the VML tournament. In my Zendikar Rising spoiler article I talked about Uro and Lucky Clover being defining cards of the new Standard format, and while Uro may be out Lucky Clover is still dominating tournaments. This is a pretty stock list of Temur Adventures, that has trimmed some cards around the edges to make room for four Omnath. The Giant Killer is a pretty interesting choice, it’s a solid answer to opposing Omnaths and a way to also remove Beanstalk Giants (which is a nice flavor win as well). 

Now if you aren’t interested in joining the cult of Omnath, there are some other ways to attack the metagame that are benefited from Uro’s timely demise. 

Decklist: https://mtgmelee.com/Decklist/View/54090

Despite this also being an Uro deck, the shell of Corey’s deck is essentially just U/B. The green cards can easily be swapped out, although I do like the sideboard Gargaroths. Corey did lose to a mono-green aggro deck in the last round playing for top 16. Heartless Act did not look so hot against Yorvo, Garruk’s Harbinger, and Stonecoil Serpent. If there is a rise in aggressive decks following the Uro ban I could definitely see copies of Shadow’s Verdict making it into the maindeck of this list. 

Decklist: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mtgo-standings/standard-challenge-2020-09-28 (second place decklist)

Alfredo Torres’ Gruul Adventures is another great place to start after the Uro ban. This deck puts on a lot of pressure and has some easy ways to remove Cobra and Omnath in the form of Spikefield Hazard, Bonecrusher Giant, and Primal Might. I think a test of this deck will be how good it stacks up against new UB control decks, or potentially UW control decks. Edgewall Innkeeper is a nice way to have some resilience against these decks. 

Speaking of control decks…

It wouldn’t be a Roman Fusco standard article if I didn’t include a UW control list:

Not sure if this is even remotely good in the face of Omnath. It honestly might be a lot worse than UB since this list has less targeted removal. I do like having access to Shatter the Sky if we see a rise in Mono Green and Gruul Adventures. I also like having access to Dream Trawler as a way to close out games vs Temur Adventures. Overall, I’m not sure if this can compete with the new best decks of the format, but I’ll be giving it a go.

Overall the Uro ban was a much-needed change to Standard, but it doesn’t solve some of the underlying issues of the format. We’re still subject to not only Omnath ramp strategies, but other oppressive cards such as Lucky Clover and Embercleave. While I do think more bans will probably be needed, with Uro being gone it’ll be interesting to see how the Omnath decks adapt and if other decks will have their time to shine. 

What do you think about the Uro ban? Will it really have a major impact on the Standard metagame? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

Twitter: @roman_fusco

Email: RomanFusco95@gmail.com

It’s an Omnath World and We’re Living in It

After my article on control decks in Zendikar Rising Standard was published last week I reflected a bit on modal double-faced cards. While I was satisfied with my analysis I underestimated just how powerful MDFC cards were and immediately started working on some new decklists. I was daydreaming about a 4x Emeria’s Call, 4x Sea Gate Restoration, 4x Ondu Inversion control decks up until the point Zendikar Rising went live on MTG Arena. Then I played against Omnath, Locus of Creation and my world changed. 

After both playing with and against Omnath I’m still trying to wrap my head around how this card is even real. Omnath immediately reminds me of Uro in the sense that it does so much for such a small mana investment, can be game ending, and is great against pretty much everything. It immediately replaces itself, giving you some insurance if it’s met with a wrath or removal spell. Against aggro decks it’s a 4/4 that must be dealt with, otherwise they run the risk of having their opponent gain life and potentially make a ton of mana the following turn. Omnath does it all. While Omnath is incredibly powerful, a lot of its power comes from the cards that help support it, both in and out of standard. Before we explore Omnath in all of its constructed forms let’s focus on standard for now. 

Lotus Cobra is Omnath’s evil henchman. With Lotus Cobra you can easily ramp out an Omnath turn 3. Additionally, it’s awkward to have a basic plains in play when you’re trying to cast a Genesis Ultimatum on your seventh land drop, so Lotus Cobra can solve the issue of not having to fetch up a plains early on in the game. 

The real crazy thing you can do with Omnath is play it and Escape to the Wilds together on your turn 4. Wild right? Let’s pause for a minute and look at Inspired Ultimatum. 

Now for seven mana, which you have to have exactly the right colors of, you get to draw five cards, deal five damage, and gain five life. Not bad right? Now let’s compare that to a turn four Omnath in addition to cracking a Fabled Passage with Escape to the Wilds in hand. So instead of turn seven, on turn four you: get a 4/4 body, gain four life, “draw” six cards, get to play an additional land, and deal four damage to the opponent and their planeswalkers. Siege Rhino, we’ve come a loooooooooong way.

I remember the day Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath was spoiled. I was at a cube draft in NYC on a chilly winter evening. In the office space we were playing in, three-time Pro Tour Champion Chris Pikula sat in his chair dumbfounded as he read Uro’s spoiler. “Why wouldn’t you play this card??” he exclaimed. That quote rings in my head everytime I look at Omnath. Why wouldn’t you play it? On its own Omnath does so much. But when you add Lotus Cobra, Escape to the Wilds, and fetchlands into the mix, Omnath skyrockets in value. It’s no surprise to me that Omnath inevitably won this past weekend’s Standard Challenge. 

I’m really in love with a lot of Telsacow’s card choices. 

I’m not a fan of Dryad of the Ilysian Grove in these lists for a number of reasons. Dryad is a pretty lame find off of a Genesis Ultimatum and it neither draws a card or searches for a land. It permits you to play extra lands, but I think having your lands tap for any color is a fringe benefit. Beanstalk Giant on the other hand is such a powerhouse. It reminds me of Rampant Growth in that you get a mana back when you cast it, and it can add potential landfall triggers for your Omnath or Lotus Cobras. Beanstalk is an incredible find off of Genesis Ultimatum, especially in mirror matches. How does your Omnath opponent even deal with one of these guys? The only option is to overwhelm them in time or Ugin -7. Beanstalk also just might win you the game if you have Terror of the Peaks already in play. 

Kenrith is another all-star that I think should be a one-of in every Omnath deck. There aren’t many mana sinks in the deck and Kenrith fills the void of having something to do if you flood out and can’t seem to draw an Ultimatum or Escape to the Wilds. I usually like Kenrith paired with Felidar Retreat since if you have a big Ultimatum turn and put a lot of tokens into play, it’s nice to haste them all and go wide. Even on his own Kenrith can be a huge roadblock for an aggro deck with 5 life a turn buying you some time. 

I’ve never been really impressed with Radha. I feel like Radha usually gets chump-blocked a bunch so their activated ability isn’t always that useful. Radha is better than Dryad because you might get an extra land off the top of your library the turn you play her. I’d just rather have a Cultivate instead. 

While I’ve seen a lot of lists play Bonecrusher Giants in addition to Spikefield Hazards to deal with an opposing turn two Lotus Cobra, Fire Prophecy seems really exciting to me. The 4/3 body off Bonecrusher is not always relevant, especially in mirrors, so Prophecy being able to cycle away any card bad in the current matchup you’re playing seems like a win. Also as a deck playing 30 lands and other mana sources, having a way to filter later in the game to find one of your big spells is fantastic. 

Overall Telsacow’s list seems tuned for an expected meta of both Mono Red decks and Omnath mirrors. While I would prefer to play more threats main over Thundering Rebukes, Telsacow had a great read on the metagame for this event and was able to dismantle Mono Red in the finals. Going forward I wonder if it’s better to have this many answers for opposing Cobras and Omnaths or if instead Ugins should find their way into the maindeck to have more cards to find off of Ultimatum. 

I played a bunch of games over Discord with my Jedi Master Mike Flores and we noticed a couple of things from playing. The deck is extremely forgiving. I had a game where I fetched the wrong land and was a turn behind and another where I misclicked on an escaped Bonecrusher Giant to play it as a 4/3 instead of as a Stomp to let my opponent’s Lotus Cobra live another day. I easily won both games. I did lose one game to Mono Red where I sequenced incorrectly, giving me seven mana instead of eight to play an Ugin and win the game. The deck is just so streamlined that it’s hard to make huge mistakes, although you do have to be mindful of draws where you want to cast both Omnath and Genesis Ultimatum on time. 

Omnath is definitely making waves in Standard, but that’s not the only format that it’s making an impact on.

Take a look at this monstrosity:

I’ve been crushing Best of One queues with this list and I have no clue if it’s even optimal. My first thought building this list? Put all the busted mana advantage cards from the past year into this deck. Instead of having your Lotus Cobra shocked on turn two, you can easily avoid that with one of your other eight turn two plays. What’s interesting about Historic from the games I’ve played so far is that the decks aren’t too different speed-wise than standard. I’ve had some close games against Goblins and Gruul for sure, but I can’t stress how easy any matchup is that also isn’t trying to murder you by turn four. Any non-Goblins red deck can never remove an Omnath or deal enough damage to counteract an Uro or gain four life trigger. The only deck I’ve actually struggled with is Mono Blue when I lose the die roll, especially if they have an early Curious Obsession start. Omnath does not play fair and this deck can easily put together multiple triggers and give you access to a turn five Genesis Ultimatum. While I’m not set on a specific sideboard having access to four Aether Gusts and multiple Mystical Disputes seems like the place to start. I’m going to attempt to hit Mythic this month and would not be surprised if others did the same with a similar list. While you can be flexible with cards like Kenrith, Ugin, and Terror of the Peaks, the core of the deck is Omnath, Cobra, Uro, Explore, and Growth Spiral. I also feel like Craterhoof Behemoth should be in this list somewhere.

Like I mentioned earlier, this strategy is extremely forgiving. A deck that flips over cards until it wins is hard to mess up. Sure, you can fetch for the wrong land or sequence incorrectly, but for the most part you’re not making incredibly difficult decisions apart from sideboarding and playing mirrors. Permission is your worst enemy, and you can assuage that with your sideboard choices. But if you ever get matched up against a counterspell deck most of the time your goal is to just jam your powerful cards until something sticks. And when one of your big spells resolve, it’ll be (hopefully) game over.

Funny enough, while I took a break from writing this article, this tweet popped up in my timeline:

While Omnath is the real problem here I wonder if Wizards will pull the trigger and get rid of Uro as well. I think an Omnath ban would make this deck incredibly worse, but it still has legs. Removing Omnath just limits the amount of busted draws you can have. I’m interested to see what ends up getting banned and if Wizards will consider removing Omnath from Historic and Pioneer as well. For the meantime, however, I’ll be jamming Omnath until I can’t anymore. The craziest thing about this ban is that Uro isn’t even the problem card in this scenario, but maybe Uro will be met with the same fate in an attempt to balance the format. 

What are your thoughts on Omnath? Will it inevitably meet the banhammer in all of these formats? What card choices do you like to pair with it? Let me know!

Twitter: @Roman_Fusco

Email: Romanfusco95@gmail.com

Thanks for reading!

Zendikar Explored!

Welcome to my version of cherry picking the spoiler list and sharing random thoughts on Mythic level cards. I do consider myself a pretty solid deck builder and have championed some pretty sweet brews in the past that turned into format leading decks (most recently with Dimir Urza that led to a Star City Games Open victory).

But enough about me, let’s divulge. Tazri, Beacon of Unity screams partnership with Winota, Joiner of Forces. These classic Mardu builds lost some key components like Venerated Loxodon, but can make up for it by slamming haymakers and having a more flexible mana base thanks to Zendikar Rising’s fixing ability. I would look for this to be a premiere contender personally.

Jace, Mirror Mage while on the surface is always exciting, I expect this card to be underwhelming. In a bygone era sure it would have made the cut. We are living in a brave new world of powerful spells however and the control mirror eras seem to have passed us by.

Emeria’s Call on the other hand is so flexible that if we do have a control deck thats successful. It’s more likely to be a midrange deck that utilizes this card very nicely. I expect to see a whole lot of this card at first, then less for awhile as people normalize its role to only a few builds.

Sea Gate Restoration fits a similar role as Emeria’s Call. It being an expensive sorcery that only sets up for future plays is pretty limited, but obviously it being a come into play tapped (CIPT) Island makes it almost never bad to consider.

Agadeem’s Awakening I am kind of excited about. It makes for a Collected Company feel in black, but hinges on there being good early plays for a black style aggressive deck. This is mostly because of the triple black cost.

Shatterskull Smashing is a sweet card that will likely see play in older formats as well. The removal component or land component is the kind of flexibility that some Ponza lists or even Legacy Red Stax decks are looking for.

Turntimber Symbiosis is a dream creation for every Amulet player out there. I’m pretty sure they collectively threw a party amidst a pandemic they were so excited. For Standard it could be another cool support vehicle for finding Winota in a strange world where Lotus Cobra makes mana abundant. I have my doubts but we will certainly see.

Sea Gate Stormcaller is a surprising mythic to me. Snapcaster Mage was set at rare and this card paralells that one in many ways except it seems much worse because the presumption is you will be casting a follow up spell. Oh and it doesn’t have flash so you can’t do sweet things at the best time. So yeah pretty much not a fan unless there’s a way to abuse cheap creatures effectively and yet at the same time somehow spells. Very unlikely to me.

Scourge of the Skyclaves pairs with Agadeem’s Awakening I imagine if we have an aggressive black deck present again. The late game kicker ability is a sweet cherry on top, but with Uro not yet banned (I say this because the internet is wishing it into existence) the downside to this card may come at too great a cost. For the record I do not wish Uro banned and certainly not until we see how the format shakes up first. I am a bigger fan of creating cards to combat problems then to outright ban them unless it’s egregious.

Leyline Tyrant certainly seems like a great card for EDH decks. There exists the potential it could be good in some version of Standard, but I am skeptical again. They have given us some of the pieces to have a big red deck, but it feels like it would simply be trumped by any Ramp deck that seems to be the world as we know it nowadays.

Ancient Greenwarden also feels good for casual formats and I always like the ability to play things out of the graveyard, but without a killer abililty like Hexproof, there’s no way this card gets off the ground without it being good in a Genesis Ultimatum list. I hypothesize it would just be overkill in those decks and not stand on its own well enough however. I could easily be super wrong on this one and have that rubbed in my face down the road. I’m willing to take that chance on this guess though.

Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients seems like it was made to assist in other formats. We don’t really have great equipment to abuse, but maybe there will be a janky Colossus Hammer deck that’s fun to play with. Ultimately I do not see it being a Tier 1 deck however. It’s possible this is a second approach within a Winota list but it feels like it doesn’t line up the way you want those decks to.

Nissa of Shadowed Boughs brings the Landfall mechanic to a planeswalker for the first time. Super cool! It pressures planeswalkers well and potentionally acts as a reanimator effect. I am only uncertain on where it will find its home. We are losing some of the Rock Graveyard manipulation cards from old Standard in this rotation. Are we getting something back that’s truly backbreaking? I suppose we will find out.

Omnath, Locus of Creation is super sweet! It hinges on mana manipulation or a format in which people don’t kill the Lotus Cobra first thing. If you can make it work though and I think people will try (Mostly with Genesis Ultimatum again). I believe we will see great things from decks like this in the early weeks. Until people figure out how to combat these methods of decks, Omnath notable can be hard to kill as a 4/4 creature that dodges Eliminate.

Forsaken Monument is one of the cards I am most excited about as a long-time Artifacts player in Modern. I like to think I had a big influence on the Astrolabe and Mox Opal bans in the format. This card screams to be played in Eldrazi decks. I expect I’ll be tinkering with this card for awhile to find a home. I’m actually very excited about the gain life aspect on this one as eternal formats are littered with Mono Red strategies.

Lithoform Engine seems like a gross card if mana is Abundant, but I can see that getting harder and harder to pull off. The four-mana ability strikes me as the most abusable part, but between this being a legend and already having to have something awesome on the table that’s worth spending eight mana on the first time, I just see this as too much investment and not enough return to being consistently worth its time.

I skipped over Drana, the Last Bloodchief, Moraug, Furty of Akoum and Ashaya, Soul of the Wild. My thoughts on these three are that they were primarily created for limited. I can see Moraug being an EDH card as well I suppose, but they strike me as the most underwhelming Mythics in the set.

I’ll cap it off by saying I am excited that Expeditions are back. If we still had live Grand Prix’s and you could open and play with them in Limited. I for one would be more excited about attending an event like that. There’s no busted Sol Ring, but perhaps you could make the most out of a card like Strip Mine or Ancient Tomb.

As always thanks for stopping by, feel free to argue with me on any of my reads. That’s part of the fun!