WAR, What is it Good For?

Welcome back to Strictly Standard, friends.  It has been a hot minute. Sorry for leaving everyone in the lurch there; I went AFK without notice. Life got busy and threw me a curveball, and I just couldn’t keep up with the weekly column on top of family and work obligations. My full apologies, and as I reboot the series, I hope to be able to keep a consistent cadence of releases for you.

With that said, I wanted to briefly touch on what we’ve missed. Autumn Burchett won the inaugural Mythic Championship in Cleveland, Ohio with Mono Blue Tempo. A phenomenal victory, not only for Autumn, but for the LGBTQ community as well. Magic’s first ever non-male “Pro Tour” (or equivalent) champion. All of the congratulations goes to Autumn for this monumental achievement.  Autumn has also been invited to join the MPL, a curated group of streamers and content producers. And in unconfirmed but seemingly related news (at least the timing of things would corroborate), Owen Turtenwald has completely disappeared from the face of the Earth… Also, The Mythic Invitational at PAX East crowned Andrea Mengucci as the winner of the largest single prize in Magic history. Even though the “best-of-3-with-two-potentially-different-decks-selected-at-random” format wasn’t a huge success, the promotion behind the tournament and the subsequent record smashing peak of approximately 149,000 viewers would suggest that Arena is a massive success.

Moving to the meat of this article, I would like to kick off the rebranding of the Strictly Standard series with a Top-10 countdown of the cards I predict will impact Standard over the next 3 months.

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But what is a top-10 list without an honorable mention section? Nothing!

Honorable Mention:

There are many cards that demand attention, but I’ll give the honor to a card that brings with it a turn 3 combo kill!  Meet Dreadhorde Butcher. Drop this guy on turn 2, swing for 1 and get a +1/+1 counter. Untap on turn 3, cast Collision // Colossus giving him +4/+2, then swing in for 6 damage and get another counter. Then cast Thud sacrificing the Butcher, dealing 7 damage from Thud plus another 7 from the Dreadhorde Butcher‘s death trigger.

10: God-Eternal Oketra

Possibly beginning a completely new archetype, God-Eternal Oketra has the potential to fuel an unstoppable value engine of snowballing tokens. This deck will operate differently than the current Selesnya builds in that you probably don’t want to be casting many March of the Multitude‘s or History of Benalia‘s, but who’s gonna argue with a free 4/4 coming along for the ride with your mana dorks?

9: Ral, Storm Conduit

Ral, Storm Conduit slots right in to an existing deck. And he brings along with him an infinite damage loop with cards that are already being played in that deck (I’m looking at you, Expansion). This fact alone is what propelled an otherwise underwhelming although reasonably costed Planeswalker into the #9 slot.

8: Finale of Promise

It doesn’t take much for Finale of Promise to start gaining rate. At X=3 you’re spending 5 Mana to get 6 Mana worth of effect. Getting a second use from Bedevil/Mortify + Beacon Bolt/Unmoored Ego (or first use if you happened to discard/mill them) in a control deck seems like the exact thing you want to be doing.

7: Chandra, Fire Artisan

Chandra, Fire Artisan screams auto-include in the Mono-Red deck. But where I think she will really shine is as a card draw and inevitability engine for tap-out style Jeskai Control decks. The ability to draw extra cards each turn while also building a clock that’s just waiting to explode means this version of everyone’s favorite Torch Mage is one of the strongest yet.

6: Commence the Endgame

Uncounterable card draw plus an instant speed threat to close out the game mean that classic control decks like UW and Esper now have the finisher that they lacked.

5: Teferi, Time Raveler

Teferi is in a weird place. There’s already a 5-mana version of him that is the lynchpin of an existing archetype. Now we get a 3-mana version that can break the timing rules of the game TWO DIFFERENT WAYS. The abilities here are kind of at odds with each other, but in the most beautiful way possible. Thanks to the new focus on modal design for Arena Bo1 formats, his static ability is great in control matchups, the +1 is good in aggro/midrange matchups and the -3 is just there in case you don’t have anything else to do. I think both Jeskai and Esper want this card, and there’s potential for a new Bant deck to pop up with this as the centerpiece.

4: Angrath’s Rampage

Modality is also the name of the game here. Angrath’s Rampage provides options to which permanent type you need answered. And it comes at a price that is a clean early answer to a threat as your opponent begins building their board state, or in the late game as a way of whittling down their resources so you can use precision to pick off their remaining threats with your more powerful (and more expensive) removal suite.

3: Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God

Probably single handedly reviving an archetype that has struggled to find it’s identity, Nicol Bolas, Dragon God will make Grixis Control the absolute deck to beat this Standard season. So why the #3 spot? Because of the restrictive mana cost, I don’t think it will be a 4-of in it’s own deck. That’s it, really. I mean this card says “win the game” on it (technically it’s “opponent loses the game” but we’ve only got one opponent, so…)

2: Mobilized District

If Celestial Colonnade has taught us anything, it’s never underestimate the power of a man-land. Especially in a control deck. And especially one with vigilance. And this one is potentially FREE TO ACTIVATE??? Sign. Me. Up.

And the #1 most impactful card is…

Narset, Parter of Veils.

This is a control deck’s dream card. It restricts the opponent’s access to cards while also providing you with access to extra cards. This seems like a narrow sideboard-style card; however once you think of it in terms of known quantities, you realize it provides effects that control decks have mained since the beginning. It slows down two of the top strategies from RNA standard in Esper Control and Hydroid Krasis-based decks with its static ability, while also providing multiple Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin activations a few turns earlier than you would normally have access to flipping a Search for Azcanta. I think Narset will be an auto-include in any deck that plays Blue, and will be the ubiquitous top performing card once the dust has settled on this new WAR Standard format.

Please join me in the next article as I  break down three archetypes that I think are going to come out on top this Standard season (hint: it’s not Mono-Red).

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