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Dawn Before The Tour

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Jasper Grimmer
Jasper Grimmer

About Jasper Grimmer

Jasper is a player from Germany who can be found at almost every European Grand Prix and prepares a lot for them. Being on the GP circuit since 2011, he has had a number of good finishes: 

  • Top 8 GP Malmö 2012
  • Top 8 GP Paris 2015 
  • Top 4 Team GP Florence 2015 (with Amit Cohen & Robin Steinborn)

Dawn Before The Tour

Aloha!

„The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it.“

The format once more has rotated and therefore all that we knew went overboard and we have to learn everything from the start.

Or so it was most of the time. Many players predicted that the powerful multicolored spells from Khans of Tarkir would prevail and still dictate what the dominant decks would and could play. In some cases this would hold true. Jeskai as well as Abzan and Selesnya still see play, with Esper emerging from the old Dragons list with a much better mana base - a concept which we will see over and over again, a testament to how good duals and fetch lands work together. Also Atarka Red winning the Open means the Red Menace around Atarka's Command and Taylor Swiftspear still is a force to be reckoned with and mages should bring either Arashin Cleric or Jaddi Offshoot en masse.

On that note, I’d like to point out that by the time I am writing this, there is still only one SCG Open in the books and so I can only analyze the first one. I don’t even think the second one is really that important, as it is that close to the Pro Tour and nobody expects to see something new or techy there.

Also, there is system in this madness. I did not start with a direct quote just as a fluke. I am currently in Sydney waiting for my flight to Hobbingen. Naturally, I am very tired. Funnily enough, between being tired and flying to the Shire lies a Grand Prix…

Anyway, let’s get to it and see, what different tools BFZ brings for the existing archetypes:

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in G/W Megamorph

Ah, the hero everyone seems to deserve! Michael Majors went with a very clean option for the first Standard tournament of the season. Instead of going fancy like all the Jeskai or Abzan players tried to, or just going berserk like the MonoRed pilots, Majors took Brian Kiblers surprise deck from Pro Tour Origins and put in Gideon, four times no less!

This is exactly supporting the deck’s gameplay in creating an efficient and resilient threat that puts the opponent on a serious clock. I like the swap of Hangarback Walker to the main deck. First, it just belongs there. It is such a good card, and the format seems to be soft to it once more. Also, the Walker synergizes with Gideon in an amazing fashion. If there is nothing to fear, he can attack and after that gets untapped (or just gets activated twice). After that, the tokens really need a Glorious Anthem effect.

Blighted Fen / Complete Disregard / Horribly Awry / Scatter to the Winds in Esper Dragons

Alright, there is a deck that needed some new cards to replace the role-player which got lost. Hero's Downfall as well as Dissolve and Thoughtseize were important pieces to a deck, which needs a fine balance between counterspells, removal and finishers. Complete Disregard is an interesting choice in that it does not hit Anafenza, the Foremost, Thunderbreak Regent, opposing Ojutais or other Dragonlords, Tasigur and most importantly Siege Rhino. This goes hand in hand with Horribly Awry in that it does only hit early drops. The problem I have with it is the mana cost. With a converted cost of three it sits in the slot of Foul-Tongue Invocation and Scatter to the Winds and does not fuel Dig through Time very well.

The thing I find more interesting is the choice Kruchkow made with his replacements of Hero's Downfall and Thoughtseize. Most people thought that Ruinous Path would be an auto-include after the rotation and that Thoughtseize would be replaced by Clash of Wills. But it seems Despise and the splashed Utter End were more popular. With 8 counterspells total, as well as Complete Disregard, Invocation and Dig through Time as instants, I can see the argument made for Utter End. Still I feel that one or two Ruinous Path would do no harm. Most of the time you take a break from your instant-game when casting Ojutai anyway and need an efficient answer for their follow-up the next turn, at best with keeping mana open at the same time. When it comes to Despise, only time and therefore the metagame can tell if it’s the real deal. If you can’t take these Bring to Lights and if they are getting more popular, it seems Despise’s fate is sealed.

Oh, did I mention that I love the Blighted Fens! I am not even sure if they are worse than the Haven of the Spirit Dragon. They are probably better than their blue counterpart and that says a lot. Can’t we just cut all the creatures and play a full set of these?

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar / Crackling Doom / Dragonmaster Outcast in Jeskai

And again it is the great hero of Zendikar who strikes and wins the decklist slot. This time it does not really complement the strategy of the deck, but Jeskai still can support him. It seems that this means games can go in two different directions. Either the Jeskai player has any number of Gideons and tries to protect them as long as they take over the game, or they don't have a Gideon and it will be a common Jace + Mantis Rider game. Crackling Doom seems like the better Jeskai Charm, especially if you consider flashing it back with Jace. With the new manabase there is little sacrifice to be made when adding one color, because of how the allied fetches work with the allied duals.

The Dragonmaster seems great, considering that Jeskai lives from its tempo plays. This is a threat you can play turn four and still leave Crackling Doom or Jeskai Charm open. Even better, it is a threatening thing lying in the graveyard when the Jeskai player can just return him to play at end of turn via Ojutai's Command, untap and create a token.

Once again, I like the Hangarback Walker. It just makes the curve look so much better. So my options for turn two are either Jace, Vryn's Prodigy or Hangarback Walker? Who can trump these plays!

Bring to Light (and basically everything else) in Five-Color Control

Another Gerry Thompson special with the manabase Yuuya Watanabe tweeted minutes after the „battle-lands“ were revealed. It works just perfectly fine, the one downside to it is that you pay a lot of life for your fetch lands. For that, you almost always get to land all four Siege Rhinos in a given game. Between casting them, bringing them to light and flash backing the namesake card via Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, you get virtually twelve copies! Practically, the opponent starts at eight life, you at 32 (minus all the fetching). He even gets to play the fifth one in Clever Impersonator! Besides that, the mana curve looks horrific. We only have three e-t-b tapped lands, not counting battle-lands coming before our second Basic. I like having access to five virtual copies of Languish respectively Crux of Fate, but only having six plays costing less than three mana is madness. You will probably not lose the long game anyway. When it comes to a marathon there is always the option to Bring to Light into Ugin's Insight and just bury the opponent in card advantage. I would like to see some support for these Reave Souls.

I like the Murderous Cuts. Without any other Delve cards it just seems so easy to get a good delve discount, even if this makes Jace just a little bit worse.

It is too bad that Bring to Light does not fetch an Ob Nixilis, but what can you do. He is a powerhouse against everything but fast creature decks so he seems even maindeckable. We will see what the future holds for him.

Abbot of Keral Keep + Kolaghan's Command in Jeskai

Alright, we had this deck type before but it is significantly different that I felt the urge to separate them into two categories. This has to do mostly with Abbot demanding some changes to your deck. You cannot run any Dispels or multiple Gideons and expect to get a good flip off the little red guy. Instead we play things like Wild Slash and Draconic Roar, Soulfire Grand Master and a lone Tasigur, the Golden Fang. If our two-drop of choice dies on the spot, we can two-for-one with the Command again, bringing him back and keeping the value train going. With the Grand Master, this is complete inevitability and we can even lock the opponent from their draw step with seven mana. Ojutai's Command fits in this strategy perfectly, bringing back either the aforementioned Abbot or the Soulfire Grand Master in case he gets killed in our Command loop. And of course, Jace likes getting back to life just as well.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in Abzan Control

And the hits continue. Gideon is just unstoppable it seems. Of course he seems to fit in the Languish deck of choice, but it just feels like this deck is underpowered. Replacing Thoughtseize with Despise, Hero's Downfall with Ruinous Path and Elspeth, Sun's Champion with Gideon just makes the deck overall worse and seemingly not competitive enough compared to the other options.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in Abzan Aggro

Even more importantly..

No Sandsteppe Citadel in Abzan Aggro

This is a huge one and part of the reason I don’t like the Abzan Control deck anymore, it is the loss of the Temples which hurts the Control deck way more than this list. The creature-lands are no replacement, stop kidding me.

And looking a bit closer, the Warden of the First Tree, Anafenza into Siege Rhino deck even celebrates the loss of Temples when it can trade them for the battle-lands. Now we have absolutely zero e-t-b tapped lands, still a manabase as good as before (maybe even better) and we can play our powerful spells perfectly on curve. There are some little things that feel a bit weird like playing only three Hangarback Walker or not splitting Gideon with Sorin, Solemn Visitor to have the option to have two planeswalker on the battlefield, but overall I liked the deck before when it was the best deck of the format and I like it now. But may I suggest one or two Dranas? She synergizes perfectly with Hangarback Walker, Anafenza and Den Protector and does not need long to end the game.

The final piece which may push this list over the top is this insanely crafted sideboard. Disdainful Stroke and Dispel out of Abzan Aggro? Absolutely crushing! But the real page turner is Exert Influence. Finally, Abzan Aggro has the answer for opposing Siege Rhinos. Sure, removal gets rid of it but also of your turn and the attack merely negates the trigger. With a Control Magic, you basically cast your own Siege Rhino which does not trigger a Lightning Helix but a Murderous Cut. Seems fair!

Conclusion

Hangarback Walker still seems to rule the format. Nobody seems to find a way around it and even the Bring to Light deck could use some to have something to do in the early stages of the game before the Rhino parade starts kicking in.

Also you should have a plan for Gideon. Yes, he brings a steady stream of knights but do not forget that he knocks you out with just two or three punches.

I like the Dragonmaster Outcast in Jeskai as well as the Blighted lands in every deck that can support them. And I don’t think Abzan Control is on the power level of the format anymore.

That’s it. When we meet next time, we will see what the guys in Milwaukee thought about this first start into a brave new world. I will be there to analyze the new stars and prepare for Brussels.

Until then,

Jasper

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