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The Ins and Outs of Scars Standard

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The letter S!cars of Mirrodin is sure to spawn all new strategies and anti-strategies. Artifacts weren't very important in pre-Scars Standard. You had the odd Everflowing Chalice or Basilisk Collar, but they weren't really something that most players prepared for (that's why Howling Mine decks could perform so well, sometimes). Conversely, last time we had any kind of "Mirrodin" in Standard, one of the best decks was a Mono-White Control deck that splashed green for just one card main deck ... Oxidize!

Brian Kibler's Green-White Control
Top 8 - 2004 U.S. Nationals Championship


Sure, Kibler had a transformative sideboard that brushed the white deck up against Tooth and Nail, but that door would never have even been opened if not for the burning desire to blow up a first-turn Seat of the Synod.


So there will probably be an epic battle between artifacts and not artifacts. But that is not what this article is about, and might not be meaningful for some weeks, anyway.

One of the topics that always comes up with a new large set rotation is how we can look at the pre-existing decks in a new light. For example, some of us had been playing Jund all the way back to States, when Shards of Alara was first released. But it wasn't until the rotation of Lorwyn block and the Standard extinction of Faeries that Jund took off to become the scourge of Standard that it was for all last year.

Can some other decks "graduate" the same way?

How about just modifying and bringing up the existing good decks?

We might as well start at the top.

Bant

Josh Utter-Leyton's Mythic Conscription
Standard - 1st Place - 2010 U.S. Nationals Championship


Joshua Utter-Leyton's build of Mythic Conscription is generally considered to be the best deck in Standard. More streamlined than previous versions, there are no silly "this"es or silly "that"s bogging down this deck; it just plays four copies of all the best cards, three Elspeths, and two Explores. The Explores are so cool—they were previously unheard of in this archetype, but have become more or less the constant fixture.

What's out?

The genesis of the Mythic archetype by Zvi Mowshowitz last year was based in the strategy's awesome mana. Not just from the standpoint of having the most mana acceleration creatures in the format, but a land base that worked with the expensive requirements of the deck. That mana is compromised with the rotation of the Shards of Alara block; Mythic loses Knight of the Reliquary and Noble Hierarch. Knight of the Reliquary was not just a three-mana "mana elf," but worked alongside Lotus Cobra to produce Mythic's most absurd threat draws ... like a lightning-quick Sovereigns of Lost Alara.

The Mythic "engine"—lots of mana acceleration creatures, some gigantic high-end threats—can and will survive, but obviously not in its present form (how can it, with no Sovereigns of Lost Alara?).


Sovereigns itself, the "Finest Hour" slot, might be filled with True Conviction. If so, I would be skeptical about Mythic continuing life as a three-color deck. My guess is that we see two-color (green-blue or green-white) variants, with the former more along the lines of the Utter-Leyton deck. And the green-white version all creatures and lots of lands with, perhaps, Summoning Trap—more along the lines of the Team Mythic-2 Amsterdam deck. In that case, Primeval Titan would be a nearly automatic "in." Fatty support from Scars of Mirrodin might come from Wurmcoil Engine, the so-called "sixth Titan." Wurmcoil Engine is a fine foil to another Titan, after all.

If you want to bias towards the blue side instead, your "Mythic" deck might have an interesting three-mana answer to Knight of the Reliquary. Remember, Jace, the Mind Sculptor had already been printed (and Zvi had that storied planeswalker in his sideboard) when he declared Knight of the Reliquary the strongest card in Standard. While it might not have quite the same synergy with Lotus Cobra, Scars of Mirrodin has quite the three-drop: Trinket Mage.

What are some things you can play with a Trinket Mage?


Mythic variants have long been characterized as mono-permanents, and therefore typically lacked in creature removal. What about using Trinket Mage—along with the ample mana of the Mythic strategy—to find and power up Brittle Effigy?

With Joshua Utter-Leyton opening the door for Explore, what about the similar, but potentially more powerful, accelerator Everflowing Chalice? That is a potential target for Trinket Mage, too.

I don't know that most Mythic decks will be interested in finding a Memnite with Big Trinks, but if you go with a Fauna Shaman / Vengevine hybrid, Trinket Mage for Memnite can represent a Vengevine trigger; for that matter, in another hybrid (specifically one with Cunning Sparkmage), Trinket Mage can act as a Stoneforge Mystic to gather your Basilisk Collar.


White-Blue

There were all kinds of White-Blue Control decks coming into Scars of Mirrodin.

Some of them had no creatures.

Some of them had Baneslayer Angels.

Some of them had no countermagic.

Some of them had lots of countermagic.

All of them will be affected by the Scars of Mirrodin transition. For example, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, one of the strongest threats in pre-Scars Standard, will be disappearing. Even more important, the spot removal all-stars—Path to Exile and Oblivion Ring—will be going the same way.

We might want to consider starting with control master Guillaume Wafo-Tapa's take on White-Blue from the Top 8 of France Nationals:

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa's White-Blue Control
Standard - Top 8 - 2010 France Nationals Championship


Guillaume already plays Sun Titan.

Why does this matter?


With the loss of Oblivion Ring and Path to Exile, an option for point removal replacement might be Journey to Nowhere. Ta da! Natural synergy (being a two-mana enchantment/permanent) with Sun Titan, even if it doesn't come up all too often.

White-Blue actually has more coming in than is necessarily going out.

Two thirds of the Planeswalkers in Scars of Mirrodin go right in. Elspeth Tirel, in particular, is an awesome, relentless threat.

Venser gives the white-blue mage a lot of potential play. You can reset a Sejiri Refuge, which not only grows Venser's loyalty, but also gives you a point of life. Wall of Omens is an annoying companion ... as might be the Trinket Mage we described, above.

Finally, white-blue mages looking to tap out might want to consider Wurmcoil Engine. It is very similar to a Baneslayer Angel, but unlike Angel, if someone points a removal spell (or two), you still walk away with something, instead of just putting your expensive finisher into the bin.

Dredge-uh-Vine

Brad Nelson's Dredge-uh-Vine
Standard - Top 8 - 2010 U.S. Nationals Championship


Dredge-uh-Vine is in an interesting position. It improved significantly with the move towards green (for Fauna Shaman), which will help it to recover from the loss of the premiere non-Vengevine graveyard mechanic in Standard: unearth.

Principal loss here is Extractor Demon, which was one of the most important ways to break Renegade Doppelganger ... It is probable that there is nothing that will truly make up for so catastrophic a loss, but Bloodghast probably goes a long way. Bloodghast was a stalwart of the pre-green version, and hit the sidelines with the coming of Magic 2011.

Noble Hierarch is a difficult loss, certainly, but Dredge-uh-Vine can start by adding the fourth Birds of Paradise to help out.

A totally new functionality that Scars of Mirrodin might offer this deck is Trinket Mage (see how arguably the best blue card in the set can go into many different decks?). Trinket Mage can fetch Memnite to trigger Vengevine, but interestingly, can add layers to the Dredge-uh-Vine game play, instead of moving in only one direction. Dredge-uh-Vine can add singletons like Brittle Effigy for spot removal, or Nihil Spellbomb for the mirror match.

Red Deck Wins

Anthony Eason's Red Deck Wins
Standard - Top 8 - 2010 U.S. Nationals Championship


RDW is a deck that will survive at an extraordinary level of potency. But at the same time, battle in the Scars of Mirrodin Standard in a completely different form.

Gone will be Ball Lightning, Hell's Thunder, Hellspark Elemental, and Earthquake ... almost half the deck's spells!

What is really important is that RDW keeps Searing Blaze, which should be one of the most powerful cards in the upcoming format (Precursor Golem, anyone?). But what about the threats proper?


Losing three different hasty beaters is significant, but RDW can get back the Devastating Red combo pieces. Devastating Summons and Goblin Bushwhacker should move back to the main deck, and RDW will have its choice of two-drops. Both Kiln Fiend and Kargan Dragonlord may be appropriate—maybe a mix of both!

And then there is maybe the best card in Scars of Mirrodin ...


Koth should more than make up for any disappearances in haste creatures.

In addition, RDW should be superbly positioned as the format becomes more artifacts-centric. Manic Vandal will hook up with Scars of Mirrodin utility cards Shatter and Oxidda Scrapmelter.

Mana Ramp

John Kolos's Mono-Green Ramp
Standard - Top 8 - 2010 U.S. Nationals Championship


There are lots of different Mana Ramp decks. There are Red-Green Valakut decks, various Destructive Force decks, and there are straight green decks like the one Conrad Kolos used to make the U.S. National Team.

I chose to focus on this one because it loses so little. Even Red-Green Valakut loses Bloodbraid Elf and possibly Siege-Gang Commander. Straight green, though ... just Rampant Growth?

Compare that to what Mono-Green Mana Ramp might gain ...


Ratchet Bomb: Possibly combo with Ancient Stirrings, much faster than All Is Dust

Wurmcoil Engine: Eye of Ugin doesn't discriminate against non-Eldrazi ... until it comes time to actually cast them. But that's okay! Wurmcoil Engine actually costs less to play than Eye of Ugin asks when you go looking for one.

Molten-Tail Masticore: Another colorless creature; this is one that can actually go, theoretically, into any deck. However, it is awesome here because of all the operating mana.

White Weenie

There are all kinds of White Weenie decks—landfall-laden, tokens-based—but the most heralded, at least at the end of this summer, had to be Soul Sisters:

Conley Woods's Soul Sisters
Standard - U.S. Nationals Championship


The bad news is, Soul Sisters is probably as dead as Jund.

Half the Soul Wardens will be exiting stage left, and Ranger of Eos—the engine that laced together all the Soul's Attendants and Serra Ascendants—is disappearing, too.

But like we said at the outset, there are all kinds of White Weenie decks.

Here is what a Scars of Mirrodin one might look like:

Quest for the Holy Armor
Scars of Mirrodin Prerelease


I pulled this off of the Daily Deck List section (credit to R&D member Ken Nagle), but there was also some discussion on Facebook, instigated by Patrick Chapin.


This deck is all about playing Quest for the Holy Relic, then jamming down a hundred cheap artifacts to find Argentum Armor (look for most to run Ornithopter as well). At that point, you've got a 6/6 (or bigger) Vindicate machine. It shouldn't take very long to win from there (and the deck can theoretically be attacking with Argentum Armor on turn two).

The backup plan is to use Stoneforge Mystic to find equipment (not necessarily the super expensive set), and Kor Outfitter to save some mana on the way to taking down the battlefield.

So What About Bloodbraid Elf?

The best creature in Standard is leaving with the rest of Alara Reborn. We've hinted a couple of times that the hated Jund deck will be going along with it. But Jund was not the only Bloodbraid Elf deck.

What about Naya?


The archetype Naya deck loses Bloodbraid Elf as its more important Vengevine re-buy threat. Sadly, it also loses Qasali Pridemage at a point when artifact removal will be at a five-year-high level of importance. Like Bant, Naya will be losing Noble Hierarch and Knight of the Reliquary ... plus some versions used Ranger of Eos, too; and that isn't even counting Elspeth, Knight-Errant: So tons of important tools.

What does Naya get in return?

Unfortunately ... probably not what Naya is losing. However there are some slightly different angles that Naya can use.


Kuldotha Phoenix: The mana isn't even prohibitive! You can re-buy this big 4/4 haster for colorless mana. Caveat: the Naya deck will have to up the artifacts from the "one Basilisk Collar" level it previously played at.

Manic Vandal: The ability to search up an "enters the battlefield" card-advantage creature every turn seems like it could be super attractive if the format goes heavily artifact.

Sunblast Angel: Wow, what a bullet in creature-on-creature matches!

The day after tomorrow I will be embarking on my first adventure with Scars of Mirrodin in Standard when the TCGPlayer Championship Series comes to New York City

Check back next week for results, as we start to piece together the elements that will make up the States metagame!



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