I just finished going over the Standard format as it looked at Regionals. This format however is as good as gone though. By the time the next large Standard tournament comes around 9th Edition will have rotated in and 8th will be gone. This week I'm going to look at what will leave and how that affects the decks out there then look at what new cards are coming in then I'm going to build a new deck using 9th Edition (I wont make any promises as to whether is is good or not).
What is leaving Standard?
I'll really only be looking at cards that are currently seeing tournament play. Sure things like Ensnaring Bridge will also be leaving but since that isn't in any decks right now it wont effect the environment.
It isn't really seeing play but black is and this leaving will make things much safer for that approach.
This is a significant thing to notice because it seems Wizards has decided even instant speed card drawing this bad is too good for blue.
Birds of Paradise
This is the big one. While it will be in Ravinca it will have rotated out of the environment for a few months first. Mono Green decks would be just as happy if not even more so with Llanowar Elves (much better with Umezawa's Jitte) but the multicolor decks will really miss the Birds. With the amount of good color fixing cards in the environment and the addition of the pain lands I think 5-color green decks can survive until Ranvinca just fine though. Also there always is Utopia Tree but I doubt it'll be necessary.
Boil / Choke
While Boil just becomes the sorcery speed Boiling Seas Choke is replaced with the completely ignorable River Bear. Being an instant is a very significant part of Boil. One of the more common uses for it wasn't just to blow up islands but to tap out the blue mage. Boil is a must-counter spell (obviously) so casting it at the end of your opponent's turn can give you the time you need to force a spell through on your turn. Will the lacking color hosers make blue too good? Likely not as long as Boseiju is around.
This is probably the biggest effect 9th will have on existing decks. Green is by far the most played color and every deck that has access to green generally wants 4 of these. It is absolutely essential in fighting against Tooth. Losing one of the best anti-Tooth weapons out there will not be a good thing. At least Ravinca will make Tooth and Nail leave so it will only be for a few months.
That isn't a whole lot of important cards. The only ones that are even really all that important are Plow Under and Birds of Paradise. I am a little worried that Tooth will be a problem without Plow Under, especially since adding Kodama's Reach made the deck much more resilient to Sowing Salt.
What New Cards are Entering Standard?
Now I'll take a look at cards that 9th will bring that might see play.
It isn't exactly as powerful as is once was but this time around it has one very large bonus. Look at that creature type. I wonder if there could be anything out there that would benefit from a Spirit you could cast over and over.
I don't think this will see play but in combination with Reverence it could make beatdown decks of all sizes have problems. Then again Ghostly Prison is better against practically everything.
Could be a very solid addition to White Weenie. This wouldn't magically make the archetype better though. WW's problems are not from a lack of good creatures.
White can now dig out the Urzatron or just have access to a good card advantage engine. This might even be enough to make Mono White Control viable.
Sea's Claim / Annex
Anti-Boseiju tech. You heard it here first. If Shifting Borders is seeing play for this reason these are certainly better. Plus how awesome would it be to see Sea's Claim seeing tournament play?
Very solid one drop. Something black doesn't have at the moment.
I think it is a bit too fragile and expensive to see play but who knows. Recurring Nightmare showed this to be a very powerful ability. Do you know what this can do with Kokusho, the Evening Star?
I think it should be pretty obvious by now that there is likely going to be some sort of mono black aggro or aggro control deck around. There is almost no way this wont see play.
Likely wont see play as all it does is block. However with equipment this can be a bit more scary.
This dude is pretty good. a 5/5 flyer for 4 is always worth a look.
Now is the time to find out if this is really a great card or if was just the existence of Forbid that made this see play. In my times using it I've often been a bit disappointed so I'd actually fall more towards the latter. I do still love the card and am glad to see it here. It will probably just sit there like Hammer of Bogardan did though.
This card falls into the same boat. It was amazing in Urza block but saw no play in 7th. Likely this was due to the fact that the deck that ran it in Urza block also had 4 Grim Monoliths, 4 Thran Dynamo, 4 Voltaic Keys, and a few Fire Diamonds as well as Temporal Aperture to cast it for free. It does however blow up weenies as well as Tooth's precious lands so maybe it will see play.
Let's Make a Deck:
While some cards like Paladin en-Vec and Cruel Edict can be quite good they would likely just go into an existing deck (like WW and MBC respectively). I'm looking for something that would either inspire a completely new deck or at least cause some drastic changes to an existing one. I can see a couple of options.
Option 1: Mono Black Aggro-Control
This is almost entirely made possible by Hypnotic Specter. It would essentially be a bunch of creatures, discard, and removal. Actually now that I think about it the Ninja Rats deck is essentially just that. The Specter is certainly good enough to work his way into that deck. I guess this isn't really an option after all.
Option 2: Form of the Dragon.dec
This one is likely a bit more tournament viable. However I'm not sure how successful this would be either. Onslaught block didn't have Lantern Kamis / Suntail Hawks and Leonin Skyhunters beating down at the low end and a bunch of Dragons and Meloku the Clouded Mirror at the high end. There was pretty much just Akroma and Rorix at that time period. It would however pwn green decks without Naturalize or Viridian Zealot.
Option 3: Wildfire.dec
This one I like. What does Tooth hate to see most? Land Destruction. What do aggro green and WW hate to see most? Mass creature removal. This is both in one. It does cost 6 mana though so it may be too slow. Shard Phoenix.dec is another option but it would likely just be easier to drop a copy or two into a Big Red deck.
Option 4: Mono White Control
With Weathered Wayfarer and Gift of Estates white actually has access to a card advantage engine. Is this enough to make a white control deck possible? Possibly. Would it need a second color? I'm not sure without a bit of testing.
Options 3 and 4 are the ones that interest me the most but I'm not really sure which one I like more. I'll just cheat and build both.
Normally I would look at past decks that have used the card and see if a similar approach is necessary. With Wildfire however this isn't going to be very helpful. Wildfire was first printed during Urza Block. As I'm sure you are all aware of by now this wasn't exactly the time of balanced cards. Well lets just look at the Tempest/Urza block Standard Wildfire decks. Rather than listing a bunch I'll go straight to the top. Here is the deck Kai Budde played during Worlds 1999) (which he won).
Looking at this list really drives home how crazy the environment was at this time. Lets look at nothing but the mana acceleration in the deck.
4 City of Traitors
3 Ancient Tomb
4 Fire Diamond
4 Grim Monolith
4 Thran Dynamo
2 Worn Powerstone
4 Voltaic Key (untaps artifact mana for even more mana acceleration)
You can try all you want to blame the broken environment on the expensive broken cards in the environment but this isn't the real reason for the craziness. Sure of course powerful 5-6 mana cards are going to be broken when you can cast them on turn 2-3 practically every game. This is roughly twice the amount of mana acceleration that a Tooth and Nail deck runs and they want to cast a 9 mana sorcery.
Wizards has since learned the lesson about cards that produce more mana than they cost. You wont see more Grim Monoliths and lands like Ancient Tomb nowadays. Even our Voltaic Key replacement, Galvanic Key is the suck. Clearly we aren't going to make the deck work like this. So how can we get access to lots of mana?
Though artifact mana certainly combos much better with blowing up lands all we really have is the Talismans, Gilded Lotus and a bunch of mediocre crap. What we do have though is green land search. And boy do we have that.
Actually before I went through any of this thinking process I first tried to add Wildfire to some Big Red type deck. While that worked out okay I think this make for a more interesting article and likely a better deck (if not I'll just go back to mono-red).
I didn't worry about the mana curve or color distribution or how many legends to run or anything like that at this point. I just wanted to see if I could cast quick Wildfires and that they would do anything.
After a few goldfishes and test matches against existing deck I noticed a few big problems with it.
First Molder Slug and Sensei's Divining Top are not a combo and feel stupid not noticing before I tested. I didn't even notice until they were both in play and I was all like Crap! Not quite as bad as putting man-lands and Chimeric Idol in the same deck, which I've done more than once and have seen Dustin do as well (We suck at Magic) but still pretty stupid. Also the deck has a lot of expensive spells and not enough to help it live through the early game.
I'm not sure if the deck likes the Top or the Slug more. The Top is great and there are a decent amount of shuffle effects but Molder Slug is very helpful against practically everyone and also survives Wildfire. In the end I went with the Top because if I need artifact removal I can just add something different and the Top adds something you can't really get elsewhere. To fill in the holes I added 4 Pyroclasm to help with the early game. I also pulled 2 Iwamori for 2 Crucible of Worlds mostly because it looked fun and would let me recover from Wildfire faster. 4 copies of a single legend were too many anyway. This lowers the mana curve of the deck by quite a bit and hopefully fixes some of the problems.
After testing it again it ran a lot more smoothly. It was pretty good against creature based decks like MGA and WW and about even with MUC. It had some issues with Tooth but what deck doesn't. I threw a bunch of land destruction in the sideboard and which made that matchup a lot easier (but still about even). One problem with my testing is that the test decks are all pre 9th rotation and many times the Wildfire deck lost due to multiple Plow Unders which wont even be legal post rotation. I'd have to update the test decks and make a complete sideboard to really test the deck but I really just wanted something rough to think about at this point.
The final (at least for now) version of the deck looks like this:
Building Mono White Control:
Likely it will be pretty good against aggro decks like Beacon Green and White Weenie but I doubt it stands even a remote chance against Tooth and will have problems with any of the other control decks in the environment.
After testing it a bit I found most of my predictions to be quite accurate. It just plain cannot win against Tooth. It doesn't have any way to either prevent the Tooth deck from getting to 9 mana or from finding and resolving Tooth and Nail. The Tooth deck basically gets to goldfish while you sit there and do a bunch of nothing. Its only hope is a lucky Mindslaver.
Unfortunately the deck isn't as good against aggro as I had hoped either. Often against WW Wrath of God was too slow and the amount of damage you would take before you could cast it was more than you can handle. Something like Chrome Mox or Wayfarer's Bauble would likely fix this as casting Wrath on turn 3 is much better.
With this in mind I worked on coming up with ways to solve these problems. Some Wayfarer's Baubles would fix the White Weenie problem but the only way I can think of to fix the control matchup is to splash another color for disruption. The most obvious choice would be to splash black for Cranial Extraction. This alone wont be enough to fix the Tooth matchup but it hopefully will buy enough time to activate a Mindslaver.
The new version looks like this:
The Urzatron proved to be a bit easier to handle than Cloudpost. While the deck never had a problem assembling 3+ Cloudposts it often had problems using the mana. It was quite often that the deck had to either take mana burn or tap mostly Plains to cast its spells. This also prompted me to add more artifacts and less white cards to
Now that the deck has enough shuffle effects Sensei's Divining Top is an obvious inclusion. I went for the Bringer of the White Dawn / Mindslaver lock over beating with a large creature because it proved to be more reliable.
Overall the deck is still not very good. While it isn't terrible it just seems to be inferior to a mono black control deck in almost every way. White has Wrath of God and Final Judgment to clear the board but black has Hideous Laughter, Night of Souls' Betrayal and Kagemaro, First to Suffer which aren't really any worse. It as much better spot creature removal, has actual card drawing, and has disruption for control decks. The only thing it doesn't have is a good mana engine but Wayfarer's Bauble + Solemn Simulacrum is probably enough anyway.