Starting Points

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At the time of this writing I’m only hours away from boarding a plane to the Bahamas. My sister is having a destination wedding and I couldn't be more excited for her or to be leaving the cold weather behind for a week.

What’s more, it will also be a very exciting time for Magic when I return. While I’ve expressed that I don’t disagree with the recent ban list updates, it does mean that there are three “new” formats to explore currently. Post-Gatecrash Standard and post-banning Modern and Pauper.

Where Do We Begin?

I’ll just say it outright; I’m not the guy that comes up with the new general strategies. My skillset lies more in building on established lists and making changes to hedge against expected metagames. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to be doing in each format, but any list I put out now is going to be subject to change as soon as results start to poor in. I do have some thoughts though.

On Standard

There has been a lot of buzz about Mono-red lately, and I’m not about to go against the grain on this one. I’ve been messing around with a lot of different options for aggressive decks and can’t really make up my mind on what I think the best build is. One card that is on my radar that I haven’t really seen discussed anywhere else is Kessig Malcontents. It’s a solid fit in a RW human shell and is somewhat redundant with Hellrider, if not as powerful. Worth nothing is that on an empty (post-Wrath) board a Lightning Mauler into Kessig Malcontents is good for seven points of damage. Just some food for thought.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about Rakdos's Return, and I’m still thinking that a control deck that exploits this card is somewhere on the horizon. One card that I missed for that article was Jace, Architect of Thought. Seeing as Grixis doesn’t have access to Sphinx's Revelation Jace is a pretty solid include. Jace is also at his best against aggressive decks, so if mono-red is popular then I imagine Jace will be well positioned.

On Modern

So, for starters, let’s make it perfectly clear that rumors of Jund’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. It will continue to be one of, if not the most popular deck in the metagame. The only question in my mind is what changes are made to the list to fill the void that Bloodbraid Elf left behind. I would imagine that a lot of players are going to try the “just jam four Huntmaster” plan and I think this is probably good enough. If that’s the case, then their matchup against the deck that I intend to play, burn, improves by some non-insignificant margin. Of course, [card]Skullcrack[/card is a card now, so the lifegain from Huntmaster isn’t a major concern of mine.

I don’t have my list 100% ironed out, but so far I do know a couple things. I will play four Skullcrack and I will play four Ash Zealot. Ash Zealot may not look like a Modern card, but it doesn’t take many games to see that it fits. It is phenomenal in games where you have a turn one Goblin Guide and can attack into the majority of creatures that are played in the format. Another interesting factor for Ash Zealot is that with Snapcaster Mage gaining some power in a Bloodbraid Elf free world Ash Zealot’s extra text lines start to be more relevant.

One card that I’m still trying to figure out in the context of Burn is Deathrite Shaman. While the card is clearly very powerful in the format and a solid fit for the deck, Burn is the deck that exploits having multiples worse than any other deck in the format. I believe that somewhere between two and three Deathrites is the correct number, but I might be horribly off here. Perhaps I should just run better and only draw the one that I need every game.

Lastly, the Seething Song ban is just fantastic for Burn. I really don’t think Burn had any sideboard options against Storm that were good enough and now the Geist deck is the only deck that I’m worried about losing races to, but I believe that tight play and timely Skullcracks will be good enough to give Burn an edge in that matchup.

On Pauper

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Pauper format is that while it has been heavily explored, I don’t see very consistent beliefs about matchups from player to player. A large part of this is that some of the decks have quite a bit of customizability to them that can rather dramatically impact their matchups.

I’ve heard a number of people claiming to the contrary, but I believe that some manner of Mono-blue deck will benefit the most from the Pauper bannings. While Storm was a major reason to play Mono-blue, Infect with two distinct free spells was a reasonable incentive not to play the deck. Some have contended that Delver struggles with Post, but this is indicative of whatever build that player is playing and the manner in which they play it. I have a great deal of experience with MUC and I have had a great deal of success beating Post decks in the past with Mono-blue. There is no doubt in my mind that Delver can be made to crush this matchup, and the extra space freed up from no longer needing Echoing Truth will go a long way in reaching this end.

The Temporal Fissure combo decks are troubling, but I think that given sufficient time the matchup can be cracked. Delver of Secrets went a long way in improving the affinity matchup and I feel that the fast clock that Delver decks are capable of presenting will prove very relevant in combatting Fissure Storm.

Looking Forward

With these general notes in mind I intend to dissect Daily, SCG and PTQ results upon my return to see if I can’t wreck some metagames. Best of luck to everybody else as we explore these new formats. This truly is an exciting window of opportunity for all manners of players.

Take care everybody.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

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