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The Standard Expectations

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The letter T!his weekend, we are getting to witness the inclusion of Theros to Standard for the first time at a Pro Tour. Hundreds of the very best and brightest Magic pros have tested and tuned their decks for the past couple of weeks, and soon it's going to be time to reveal the results of their hard work. But not quite yet. While the first three rounds of Theros Booster Draft were winding down, I got the chance to talk to some people about what cards they expect to make a big splash this weekend; what additions from Theros spawn new deck types? Which are the sleepers to watch out for? Which cards will live up to the early hype? And which cards from Return to Ravnica block will return with a vengeance and really get their chance to shine in the new environment?

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx was the first card that came to Frank Karsten's mind, though the Dutch Hall of Famer actually referred to the card as "Tolarian Academy." The comparison to one of the most unfair cards from Magic's past may not be entirely fair, but for Karsten Nykthos stood out as the foremost breakout card from the new set. "For our team at least," he said, sporting his brand-new ChannelFireball jacket. Never one to exaggerate, Karsten was quick to put the hype into perspective. "Overall, I expect a usually diverse field: Selesnya-based creature decks, red decks, control decks, the usual. But we're surely going to see some of the new mechanics from Theros as well, devotion in particular." As for older cards exerting a somewhat bigger influence than before, he lowered his voice to a whisper and offered, "Frostburn Weird?"


Devotion is expected to see some serious love in this weekend's Standard matches.

Germany's Kai Budde didn't want to point to any one single card. "Nothing really stands out. There's a good red-green deck that runs all numbera of Theros cards for example: various monsters, Sylvan Caryatid, Temple of Abandon. Then there are several devotion decks," he continued, "the blue one with Thassa, God of the Sea and Bident of Thassa for instance, and on Magic Online a mono-black deck really caught on in the last couple of days which is basically just a bunch of black permanents with Gray Merchant of Asphodel. I'm not sure what to think of that though."

Next, I ran into yet another Hall of Famer, Raphaël Lévy of France, who was discussing his draft with Pro Tour Gatecrash Top 8er Melissa DeTora. "The top ones probably are Master of Waves—that card is so good—Boon Satyr, Polukranos, World Eater ..." Lévy began listing cards, before turning to teammate DeTora: "What else?"

"There are other strong cards but nothing format-defining," said DeTora. "Xenagos, the Reveler is good for example." Meanwhile, Lévy came up with another card and an interesting one at that: Gods Willing. Gods Willing in Standard? "Sure," said Lévy with a shrug. "I like it!"

Here at the Pro Tour, one literally can't walk five meters without meeting a member of the Hall of Fame, and Sweden's Olle Råde had some ideas about the big, influential Theros cards as well. "Stormbreath Dragon, Sylvan Caryatid, Fleecemane Lion, and Soldier of the Pantheon. Yes. I would go with those four," said Råde, then added, "Oh, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion! Never forget the planeswalkers." As for older cards shining in the new Standard environment, he mused, "Well, that's a tougher one. There's Wall of Frost and there's Precinct Captain which now sees play even in control decks, thanks to devotion. Mainly Wall of Frost though. It even sold out yesterday! I'm excited to see what players are doing with that card."

And so are we. In conclusion, it seems that Theros is poised to define the format. Lots of strong standalone cards in red, white, and green, some monstrous, and a whole lot of devotion as the marquee mechanic of the set are expected to see play here this weekend. That is apparently what players should be on the lookout for over the next five rounds of Standard Constructed, but we'll see if that holds true as the weekend unfolds!

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