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Attacking Kaladesh Standard

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About Julian Felix Flury

Julian Felix Flury
Julian Felix Flury

Julian Felix Flury is a competitive Magic player from Switzerland. He has been a fixture of the European GP circuit for a few years, accumulating many decent finishes. This culminated in the captaincy of the 2015 Swiss National Team. He enjoys brewing and thinking outside the box, and will routinely play his own decks if he thinks they're good enough. Also known by his Magic: The Gathering Online nickname "CharlieTheBananaKing" he regularly streams his matches on his Twitch channel.

Brewing For Kaladesh Standard

It’s my favorite time of the year again, the brief period between the end of the spoiler season and the Pro Tour where Standard is entirely undefined. It's like the day after Christmas, you finally get to play with all the precious toys you've just unwrapped. Figuring out Standard at this time is an incredibly complex puzzle which most of the time won't even be fully solved at the Pro Tour. I enjoy a good challenge.

The Mission

Everybody talks about "breaking the format" but what exactly are we trying to do? Whenever we reach this point of a new set, whether I'm attending a Pro Tour or not I try to do one thing: Prepare as though I'd be playing in it myself. I'm not qualified for Pro Tour Kaladesh, so I have the luxury of sharing some of my insights from testing. In general, there are two major objectives we're trying to achieve:

- It is of important to find a deck that is individually powerful and can win games proactively, no matter what the opponent is doing. Whenever you're playing in an unknown metagame (and the past two Pro Tours have hopefully illustrated that Standard Pro Tours are always to be considered a mostly unknown metagame) you always want your deck to have a consistently powerful game plan, no matter what you’re facing.

A consequence of this is the statement that “control decks are often bad early in the format because you don’t know what you’re controlling” I don’t think that statement is entirely true, as control decks can have generic enough answers to be good no matter what they’re playing against. A good example of this would be the UW Control Deck from Return to Ravnica Standard. Decks like that usually become oppressive relatively quickly and therefore we have not seen good, generic removal printed in a long time. This is the main cause why we haven’t seen a classic true draw-go control deck in recent times.

- The other important goal is to predict and prepare for what other players are playing. This can be very challenging, but in my experience is more doable than it sounds. Some pieces of information are relatively easy to come by. The primary source of information before the Pro Tour is always the first SCG Open, like the one that took place in Indianapolis. Some cards are so obviously powerful that people are certainly going to try and break them (Emrakul, the Promised End is a good example of this). The rest of the information is puzzled together from various bits and pieces gathered here and there. Articles from other players, rumours and most importantly test results. One very interesting pattern I’ve noted is that all the main story protagonist cards from the last sets were very obviously pushed and all saw a large amount of play (Emrakul, the Promised End, Liliana, the Last Hope, Archangel Avacyn, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar,…) I fully expect this trend to continue.

If we can come up with decks that concurrently achieve both objectives, we’re going to be happy to play them at the Pro Tour. The only Pro Tour I ever played myself was Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir. While I was very disappointed with my play on Day 2 and with the fine-tuning of our deck, the deck choice was the only reason I ever made it to 8-4 at some point in the tournament. We played Abzan Megamorph, which was great exactly because of the two criteria above, it was individually powerful and it completely destroyed blue based control decks which we correctly predicted large quantities of Pros to be playing. It also had a good game plan versus Atarka Red, a previously known deck we also predicted a lot of people to be playing.

For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to use an example from the last Pro Tour to explain my next point. Team Channel Fireball/UltraPro came up with two decks they wanted to play: Bant Company a very powerful deck on everybody’s radar and apart from being tuned for the mirror not a great metagame deck, and UB Zombies a deck that crushed Bant Company but is very easy to disrupt with the correct cards (Kozilek's Return). Some of the team opted to play the Zombies deck and did not do incredibly well because Bant Company was only 20% of the metagame, less than they predicted. If we look back at the past couple of Standard seasons, Wizards has been doing an amazing job of making a lot of different strategies viable. There is also no reason to believe that this trend is changing. This means I would never expect a specific deck to be represented more than 30% at the Pro Tour. In other words, if I were given the choice above I would always go with the individually powerful deck.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Versions:
Kaladesh (Foil)

Power in Kaladesh

As our primary goal is to construct individually powerful decks and decks usually start to be built around single cards or combination of cards, let’s have a look at a couple of the cards I find show the most promise in Kaladesh:

Smuggler’s Copter

By now this should need very little explanation. It smooths out your draws while being an undercosted, resilient threat. Let me just mention that you do need to be playing a bunch of cheap creatures to fully utilize this card and it is definitively not an auto include in just any deck.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Let us start with the elephant in the room. In all my five years of competitive Magic play I have never seen a card spoiled that was as consistently lauded by everybody. This card is incredibly powerful and will definitely see a lot of play. Basically every red deck that can reliably produce RR is going to want to play this, from aggro to midrange to control and beating Chandra decks is also going to be one of our primary metagame goals.

Aetherworks Marvel

This is obviously a very powerful engine if you can consistently activate it. The main problem with it is that in order to fuel it you will need to play cards around it that work with the Energy mechanic. At the same time, you’d rather have more fatties to cheat into play with this. Furthermore, the best large creature in Standard is likely Emrakul, the Promised End and is actually cheap enough to cast in a dedicated shell that requires less mediocre cards that something like this likely doesn’t lead anywhere. Still the power is there and I’d definitively not be surprised to see some kind of Energy ramp or combo deck built around it.

Fumigate

The best straight up sweeper we have seen in a long time, it should see a fair amount of play. With the absence of Dromoka's Command, enchantment based removal gets much better. These two things combined may make white one of the best control colors in Standard again and we’re definitively going to see some sort of White/Black or White/Blue control deck.

Nissa, Vital Force

As it got spoiled shortly after Chandra, this card was largely overshadowed by her cheaper friend. I think this is an excellent Planeswalker, it protects itself, provides five power of haste out of nowhere, ultimates very quickly and has a -3 ability that combines really well with the green Delirium/self-mill plan that is commonly used to enable Emrakul. Its +1 also matches incredibly well versus Chandra.

Verdurous Gearhulk

8 power is a lot of power for 5 mana, especially as you can divide half of it at will among all the creatures you control. The closest comparison to this would be Wolfir Silverheart, which saw some amount of constructed play. This is much better than Silverheart, being able to stand as an 8/8 on its own and is also resilient to removal. My prediction is it will see a lot of play in large aggro decks and creature based midrange decks.

Information From the First SCG Open

Well if you’ve not heard about the Smuggler's Copter weekend, let’s just say almost everybody played the card. I’ve outlined why the card is great above. Apparently the Red/White Vehicles shell piloted by several people was great to win Smuggler's Copter mirrors. This seems like a more beatable deck than the last two “best decks” from the SCG opens (both versions of Bant Company) so I’d not be surprised if the Standard format changed significantly once people start adapting to Smuggler's Copter in all their decks. Speaking of adapting to Copter, how would we go about that?

Beating Smuggler's Copter

While Smuggler’s Copter is an amazing Magic card, it is by no means oppressive. There are many ways to interact with it and we would ideally want to build a deck that interacts with it.

So now we’ve narrowed the parameters of our puzzle down: We’re trying to find the most individually powerful deck that contains the most of those cards.

Building a First Deck

To me the most obviously powerful deck one can build with those cards is this:

RW Kaladesh Control

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This is your run-of-the-mill Planeswalker and removal control deck. The deck contains 12 cards that can kill Smuggler's Copter on turn 3 (though Galvanic Bombardement needs a second copy). All the instant speed removal helps enormously with protecting the Planeswalkers and making sure they provide enough value to win the game. This deck also utilizes Chandra well; the card definitively is insanely powerful and fits a deck like this perfectly as a card advantage engine. On another note, I find white Enchantment based removal to be very well positioned. Stasis Snare handles everything, no matter the size and kills vehicles well. Furthermore, it helps fighting Emrakul, the Promised End as it cannot be wasted unless they have a second creature in play. Quarantine Field also becomes insanely powerful if the games drag out.

The deck also has a strong proactive plan of just playing powerful Planeswalkers and protecting them until you win. This should be powerful enough to win against any kind of deck. The biggest worry is clearly Emrakul, the promised End. However, at the StarCityGames Open there were almost none present. In such a metagame a deck like this could be the best. The main Smuggling operation we’re trying to beat is also Red/White Vehicles and this checks the very important “slightly bigger” rule versus that. The rule basically states that you want to being doing something similar but with slightly more powerful and expensive cards to beat something. Very generally speaking I’ve mostly found that rule to hold true.

As always, take everything I have said with a grain of salt. These are my opinions on things and I take care to think carefully about everything I say before writing it down. Nonetheless it’s a very hard task to try and understand a game as complicated as Magic. I hope you learned something useful from my article and see you next time.

Julian

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