Fournier’s Goblin Guide: Week 1 of Throne of Eldraine Standard

So, just as I predicted, Storm absolutely killed it last weekend at GP Atlanta with Cyrus Corman-Gill, the deck’s patron saint, winning the whole event. That means that if you’re playing Legacy this weekend– oh wait, what? It’s Throne of Eldraine pre-release weekend, and that means there’s absolutely no constructed Magic to be found anywhere in the world? Why am I even writing this column? I suck at Limited! Alas, the show must go on, so let’s riff on Eldraine a bit then talk about the first new Standard tournament, yesterday’s Fandom Legends event.

A lot of people — ok, just some loud people on Reddit — are giving Eldraine a hard time, calling it a Commander set, and just generally being obnoxious, as one does online. Even if we assume that their incoherent screaming is correct, who cares? Commander is the most popular Magic format for a reason, and including content for them has been a hallmark of Magic for years. Dominaria was all legends, War of the Spark was all planeswalkers and you weren’t whining about EDH when those sets came out, so settle down and enjoy the angry anthropomorphic gingerbread. There’s tons of cool stuff for the spikes among us in this set anyways, from [Card]Murderous Rider[/Card] and [Card]Brazen Borrower[/Card] to the set’s “good praxis” card, [Card]Robber of the Rich[/Card]. The triple-coloured legends are obviously plants for Return to Theros Unshackled or whatever it’s called, and the legendary artifacts are so powerful that they’re definitely going to see Standard play. Even the set’s nonsense cards like [Card]Dance of the Manse[/Card] are suspiciously powerful. Speaking of which, that card already won a tournament.

I don’t watch much Arena on Twitch, but when I do, I trend towards following cool Standard tournaments like Fandom Legends or Twitch Rivals. The semi-casual setup encourages the creative players invited to try out new strategies or riff on existing decks in ways that drive a lot of innovation. I watched some of Brad Nelson’s stream yesterday, where he was crushing everyone with a Simic Ramp deck. It’s a classic Brad deck — clean, powerful and exploiting the format’s most consistent and effective cards.

[Deck Title= Simic Ramp, by Brad Nelson – 3rd place, Fandom Legends September 26th]
4 Gilded Goose
4 Leafkin Druid
4 Paradise Druid
3 Brazen Borrower
4 Wicked Wolf
4 Hydroid Krasis
4 Voracious Hydra
4 Oko, Thief of Crowns
4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World
4 Breeding Pool
3 Castle Garenbrig
10 Forest
4 Island
4 Temple of Mystery
3 Veil of Summer
2 Aether Gust
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Brazen Borrower
3 Lovestruck Beast
2 Shifting Ceratops
2 Agent of Treachery

This deck rocks. It takes the fundamentals of last format’s Bant Ramp deck, acknowledges that the format has bad mana, then replaces one busted three-mana planeswalker (Teferi) with another one (Oko). It’s a very elegant change, and one that paid off for Brad, as he lost only a single match in the semifinals to the eventual champion, the noble Bryan Gottlieb. There are a few weak points in the deck, however. [Card]Gilded Goose[/Card] is not a consistent or reliable card, and is certainly no [Card]Llanowar Elves[/Card]. That said, the mild Food synergy with Oko and [Card]Wicked Wolf[/Card] might push it into playable territory, but I certainly wouldn’t be happy to play it in a deck that doesn’t use the token or generate additional ones in other ways. I’m also a little concerned with the deck’s mana. Twelve blue sources is a little light to cast [Card]Brazen Borrower[/Card] without the assistance of the eight mana dorks that can help, and if the format leans heavily on mass removal to beat up on decks like this, it could be a real problem. Luckily, the [Card]Disperse mode[/Card] on the card is available regardless, so it might not be an issue.

Anyways, back to Bryan Gottlieb, he won the event with a real doozy of a deck, apparently inspired by an Andrew Cuneo (of course) shell:

[Deck Title= Esper Dance, by Bryan Gottlieb – 1st place, Fandom Legends September 26th]
2 Murderous Rider
4 Teferi, Time Raveler
3 Dance of the Manse
1 Dovin’s Veto
1 Legion’s End
3 Thought Erasure
4 Kaya’s Wrath
1 Planar Cleansing
4 Golden Egg
4 Guild Glove
1 Wishclaw Talisman
4 Oath of Kaya
3 Doom Foretold
1 Castle Vantress
3 Fabled Passage
4 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
2 Plains
2 Swamp
4 Temple of Silence
4 Watery Grave
1 Disfigure
2 Duress
2 Disenchant
2 Dovin’s Veto
1 Legion’s End
2 The Elderspell
2 Ashiok, Dream Render
1 Cry of the Carnarium
1 Unmoored Ego
1 Realm-Cloaked Giant

Wow. If I could afford to, I’d be speechless. Unfortunately, I have to write something, otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a point in writing this column. When I first looked over the full set spoiler, I wrote off [Card]Doom Foretold[/Card] as probably too slow to have an impact, and actually stopped reading [Card]Dance of the Manse[/Card] halfway through. As usual, I have been punished for my indiscretions, and this extremely cool deck has won the first Standard tournament. I had also assumed that the format’s mana simply could not support Teferi and [Card]Kaya’s Wrath[/Card], let alone [Card]Planar Cleansing[/Card], but I hadn’t accounted for an Esper deck playing… mana rocks. Sure, the Stax element of the deck requires the eggs, or at least [Card]Oath of Kaya[/Card], to operate at maximum efficiency, but they can still easily fuel [Card]Kaya’s Wrath[/Card], the most difficult-to-cast card, in a pinch. I am truly impressed by this deck. I don’t think I could ever have come up with this one, but I’m thrilled that someone figured out how to keep my beloved Esper nonsense around after rotation.

Bryan tweeted, after winning, that the [Card]Disenchant[/Card]s in the sideboard should definitely be [Card]Despark[/Card]s, and I can’t agree more. [Card]Despark[/Card] has always been a bit of an underrated card, given its high power level. I’m sure this deck will be a powerhouse with some more tuning, and I can’t wait to play it.

Good luck at your pre-releases this weekend, I’ll see you at Face to Face Games Toronto for the Showdown on Sunday and always remember: white tends to be unplayable in Sealed!