orn of the Gods has descended into the hands of mere mortals (also known as the Magic-playing populace), and we actually got to see the cards in play last weekend. In particular, the Sunday Super Series Finals happened, and although the field was small, there was plenty of interesting stuff to look at. I don't want to overstate the impact of these decklists, seeing as how there were only three rounds of Standard, but it's a good place to start. Plus, when Makihito Mihara and Owen Turtenwald give you a sneak preview of the upcoming Standard season, you'd be foolish not to pay heed.
Owen won the whole shebang (thanks to an awesome Modern Masters draft deck plus some timely Take Possessions), and it's no surprise that he sleeved up Mono-Black for the Standard portion. He played exactly six cards from Born of the Gods, which happen to be four Bile Blight in the main deck and two Drown in Sorrow in the sideboard.
Owen Turtenwald (12) – Mono-Black Devotion
Super Sunday Series Standard Decklist
I mentioned that as the most likely plan a couple weeks ago, an article Owen clearly read (that, or the swaps are about the most obvious imaginable). Besides checking to see that Mono-Black is still good and wants Bile Blight, there's not much to cover here. Cast Thoughtseize, follow it up with Pack Rat or Underworld Connections, and profit.
Makihito Mihara brought a bunch of friends to this event, as his deck featured multiple Gods, lots of Soldiers, and a King to lead them all. It looks like a very similar core to the Esper Humans deck that Shota Takao played at Grand Prix Shizuoka:
GP Shizuoka 2013 Top 8 Decklists
I find myself referring to this deck frequently because it's so awesome, and seeing the additions Mihara made is very exciting. Unsurprisingly, the way to sell me on the deck was to add a card-drawing combo engine, which in this case is Ephara, God of the Polis, plus Brimaz, King of Oreskos.
With Brimaz out, it's impossible to run out of creatures to trigger Ephara, and if your opponent is foolish enough to attack you, you get a bonus card out of it. Brimaz even adds two to devotion counts, making attacking with Ephara a legitimate possibility. There's a lot more going on than just that interaction, but it's cool seeing two new cards headlining a new take on an already-sweet deck:
Makihito Mihara (13) – Ephara & Friends
Super Sunday Series Standard Decklist
It's interesting that a deck with Soldier of the Pantheon, Precinct Captain, Imposing Sovereign, Brimaz, and Lyev Skyknight can lay claim to the mid- and late game, but I believe that this deck can. Ephara is the biggest part of that, but she's not the only card that gives this deck staying power. Spear of Heliod makes all the creatures tougher and more threatening, and the man himself can give you an infinite army of 2/1s if you are flooded. Mihara even has a Whip of Erebos to continue the theme of gods and their weapons, which segues nicely into his last big threat, Obzedat, Ghost Council. Obzedat, Ghost Council is a super combo with Whip, as it comes back after exiling itself, and it also gives you a creature every turn for Ephara.
Of course, the Sunday Super Series Finals wasn't the only event happening last weekend. There was a StarCityGames Open in Nashville, which had some interesting results of its own. Once again, this is just the beginning of the format, and the first weekend of play often results in conservative decklists. I say that because this Top 8 looks like it could have stepped out of last month:
The Devotion to Blue lists look exactly the same as pre-Born Standard, eschewing Thassa's generous bounty of counterspells. That isn't too surprising, although it's definitely not in Blue's favor that it didn't pick up anything. Any time a new set comes out and a deck changes zero cards, it almost by definition has gotten worse. Overall metagame shifts can make this not true, as other decks could now be worse against this deck, but in general it is not a good sign when your deck doesn't pick up any new weapons. Granted, Mono-Blue is still an awesome deck, and I don't expect it to leave the limelight anytime soon, but the door is more open for competition than it was before.
The two Orzhov Control lists and the Devotion to Black list went down the same path as Owen did, and Bile Blight plus Drown in Sorrow were the only major changes. The last time I saw Orzhov Control was when Marlon Gutierrez won Grand Prix Dallas (beating Hall of Famer William Jensen in the finals), so it's good to see that there's variation even among the Thoughtseize-Pack Rat decks. Also, since two of these lists play fewer than four Pack Rats: don't play fewer than four Pack Rats. There's a reason the card has won Owen more trophies than he can carry.
Chris Yarbrough's WU Control list is more appropriately RWU control, as he played Izzet Charm, Mizzium Mortars, and Counterflux, as well as Assemble the Legion.
Chris Yarbrough's RWU Control
The most notable thing about this list was the sideboard, as he chose to play three Brimaz, King of Oreskos and two Stormbreath Dragon. I think Brimaz is going to be a common (mythic rare) sideboard card going forward, for two reasons. The first, and most obvious, is that he's just really powerful. Some creature-based decks just won't have the tools to deal with him, and he locks up the ground very quickly, as well as actually just killing the opponent. The second reason is that boarding in creatures is very powerful out of a creatureless deck. Not only do you get to catch some opponents completely off guard, as they take out all their removal, it's problematic for them even if they know you have creatures in your board. Bringing in removal spells that could easily be dead is a big risk, and even if you do bring in creatures, you might not draw them. For this to work, the creatures have to be capable of winning the game by themselves, which Brimaz and Stormbreath Dragon certainly are.
It's also worth noting that Chris has access to one Fated Retribution. This is now a card you need to be aware of when playing against Sphinx's Revelation decks, and you should commit your resources accordingly. If you are winning, don't dump your hand, even if it consists of previously safe cards like Planeswalkers.
For a look at a new post-BNG archetype, we have Kent Ketter's 2nd-place list, which is titled Gruul Aggro. I would be more inclined to call this RG Monsters, since the combination of mana acceleration plus four- and five-drops isn't really aggro. Either way, this looks like Red Devotion and Green Devotion got mixed together, dropped the devotion theme, and just played all good cards instead.
Kent Ketter's RG Monsters
As with any ramp deck, this deck has cheap acceleration (Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid) plus awesome big spells (Stormbreath Dragon; Polukranos, World Eater; and Ghor-Clan Rampager), but the really interesting parts are what go in between.
The loudest of the cards that bridge the gap is Courser of Kruphix. This deck plays the full four, which is a testament to how versatile the card is. It shores up aggro matchups while still drawing extra cards against control, and any card that is that flexible while still being powerful is a rare find indeed. Comboing with Domri Rade is a big plus too, as you get perfect info as to which ability you should use, all while clearing the top of the deck of whichever type of card you don't need. Even in a deck with just twenty-four lands, Courser of Kruphix does a ton of work, and I must once again say that it's a card I expect to see a lot of.
The second part of this deck that appeals to me is the Planeswalker package. I love gaining value when I play, and Planeswalkers are the epitome of value in Magic. In fact, the way we tuned our Red Devotion deck to beat control at Pro Tour Theros was to just jam a ton of Planeswalkers, and we ended up playing the exact seven that this deck has. Domri into Xenagos into Chandra just snowballs into an unbeatable board presence, although, as I said before, you do now have to worry about Fated Retribution. It isn't really a flavor win that the deck has both Xenagos, the Reveler, and Xenagos, God of Revels, but you can make up for your disappointment by attacking for 12 with a hasted Polukranos and a Satyr token.
One neat touch is that the deck plays one Temple of Malice main, along with three Sylvan Caryatids, and that allows the deck to fuse Flesh & Blood. It's not a big deal at all, but the deck builder being aware of this and playing the one Temple to facilitate it is a sign of good testing. It's always worth looking for those little extra edges, because even if they seem inconsequential, they really add up. I don't think that this adds a new dimension to the deck or anything, just that building in small wins at low cost can lead to match wins, especially if you are always looking for such opportunities. It's like Owen always playing Temple of Deceit instead of Temple of Silence (and now possibly Temple of Malice). Because of Nightveil Specter, he wants to maximize his chances of casting blue spells, which he has judged to be the most important color to have access to, given that he's playing four Temples in his deck no matter what.
I like the look of this first crop of decklists. Mihara's is pretty wild, but looks powerful, and the Nashville lists at least show that the old standbys are going to have a place in the new format. There will certainly be more new archetypes, and as people settle in to the format and more events happen, we will undoubtedly see all sorts of interesting lists. I'm still diving into Modern, what with Pro Tour Born of the Gods being in a week, so I haven't properly had a chance to brew much with Standard. Soon that won't be the case, and I look forward to it.
Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).