We now have two SCG Standard Opens in the books since Theros launched. These Top 8’s have some interesting differences. Most notably, check out the lack of blue from Cleveland’s Top 8. This result really causes me to question some of last week’s hyped up buys–-Jace, Architect of Thought, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, and Sphinx's Revelation.
Of course, many have accurately pointed out that these early Standard events are likely not indicative of the metagame to come. The Pro Tour is generally our first glance into what strategies are truly strongest, and which cards will break out in the season to come. These two Star City Games tournaments are often block decks with Theros cards added or simple strategies like Mono-Green or Mono-Red. These decks may not be at all powerful enough in a month.
But it’s still interesting to look for speculation ideas using these results, especially when observing which Theros cards were first to prove themselves worthy in Standard.
It’s usually not like me to write an article strictly on speculative plays, but this is my theme this week. I’ll review the Top 8 decks from the last two SCG Opens and try to come up with some safer targets that should see some play (albeit perhaps in a different form) at the Pro Tour and beyond.
Green Is Everywhere
Fun fact: the Cleveland Top 8 had five decklists with green cards in them. Yet every deck in the Top 4 had green, with one deck mono. All three of the non-green decks lost in the quarterfinals of the Open. Red Deck Wins couldn’t get there for a repeat and the BWR/BW decks also came up short last weekend.
While I won’t be so bold as to say green will definitely remain dominant after the Pro Tour, I think it’s fairly safe to conclude there are some powerful green cards out there right now. This is especially true when paired with white.
The green and white combination allows you to play aggressively-costed creatures Fleecemane Lion, Loxodon Smiter, Voice of Resurgence, and token generator Advent of the Wurm. This is an impressive list, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see green and white paired up often moving forward. The inclusion of red to make Naya or black to make Junk can add some additional powerful cards while risking land robustness.
From a speculation standpoint, I am wondering if Advent of the Wurm is now strong enough for Standard. The card’s been around for a while now, but it never really got traction price-wise. Maybe with a smaller card pool in Standard, and the combination of many powerful G/W creatures, the instant token generator now has a shot. I’ve purchased myself a set and I’ve got my eye on this one.
Loxodon Smiter has already been creeping higher in price, and I’m not sure what its ceiling is. But with Advent being in Dragon’s Maze vs. Smiter being in the much-more-opened Return to Ravnica, I’m inclined to put my money on Advent first. I’m avoiding Voice of Resurgence for now due to cost of entry and I feel Fleecemane Lion has been expensive since almost day one.
The other green card worth watching very closely is Boon Satyr. I know many in the QS forums have been on this card for a while now, and I’m on the verge of jumping onto the bandwagon if it isn’t too late. The commentators during the SCG Open talked nonstop about how great this creature was, especially against blue decks.
It seems having a four-power dude with flash for three mana is pretty amazing against removal like Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere. The double-green mana cost is a minor inconvenience, but I fully expect this guy to show up in any creature-based deck with sufficient green sources.
Now Let’s Get Super Speculative
Why has no one been talking about the god cards? Well for one, they saw little play (or at least camera time) at the last two SCG Opens. But I can’t help but feel these are very powerful cards worth a closer look. In fact, the entire theme around devotion seems to be underutilized completely.
Either this means Wizards made the ability too weak or such a deck strategy takes significant effort to refine sufficiently. My suspicion is the reality lies in the latter--brewing a completely new deck based on the Theros mechanic is so risky and challenging that the general player base hasn’t had enough time (or motivation) to build it.
Let’s face it--it’s much easier to build a Block deck like U/W Control and simply add in a few relevant Theros cards.
But Block decks won’t cut it at the Pro Tour. Players will be as innovative as ever, and I suspect we’ll see some gods make themselves known next weekend. The gods I’ve got my eye on: Nylea, God of the Hunt and Heliod, God of the Sun. The former was in the Top 8 Mono-Green deck of SCG Cleveland and the latter was mentioned in Gerry T’s article on SCG’s website.
These are both still under $10, which makes their upside much greater than their downside. Besides, some card in Theros has to be worth more than $30. If it’s not Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver then why not one of the gods?
In line with the gods and the devotion mechanic, what about the land that everyone went crazy over for like a day, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. This land is exceptionally powerful in the right home. I personally believe that home just hasn’t been found yet. With EDH playability and two more sets of Theros block to come, I don’t mind acquiring a couple sets of these as the price continues to drop. Once again downside is becoming much smaller than potential upside.
What About SCG Worcester?
If I had to describe the Top 8 showing at SCG Worcester with two words, they would be “conservative” and “boring”. Half the decks were U/W or Esper Control variants, and the only interesting addition was Ashiok. The rest of the deck lists were fairly predictable. Mono-Red isn’t worth talking about, and that leaves us with the two green decks.
These two green decks--one Naya and one G/R--were really just precursors to the decks of the Cleveland Standard Open. Net, I don’t really see any other Theros cards worth mentioning. Elspeth, Sun's Champion seems Standard-playable, but probably as a two-of in the right control builds. Thoughtseize is Thoughtseize--no one should be surprised that this card is seeing play.
Wrapping It Up with a Portfolio Update
I’ve sold most of my Return to Ravnica specs, for better or worse. They all paid off nicely and I’m pleased with the QS community’s ability to identify the winners so far in advance. My one regret is selling my Jaces prematurely, and this is a lesson learned for next time. No sense in ruminating over a lost opportunity, especially when profit was still made.
While I don’t like buying into cards based on pre-Pro Tour Standard results, the most profits can be had by leaning forward on at least a handful of bets. I am usually risk-averse, but this time I have decided to test out a new strategy. I’ve been buying into Theros cards showing promise. This includes Heliod and Nylea, Nykthos, and Boon Satyr. These are the cards that will be showing up in my mailbox in the coming week.
As for non-Theros cards--my buying has been tempered back significantly because most of the cards seeing play haven’t been much of a surprise. I’ll rely on the Pro Tour for opportunities here.
Mutavault was out of favor when it initially entered Standard because everyone played three-colored decks. With devotion, there’s now motivation to play decks with just one or two colors, which means there may be a home for Mutavault. The card is also strong against the aforementioned sorcery-speed removal spells. My only caution is that the cost of entry is already fairly high--these may be better to acquire in trade or by sniping eBay auctions.
This has been my strategy heading into the Pro Tour. I’ve sold the spiking cards and used the funds to make some speculative buys, based on early SCG results. If a Theros card can break into essentially what’s been a couple of Block tournaments, then it’s likely pretty powerful. And with the devotion mechanic being severely underused, the god cards and Nykthos have dropped to attractive prices. Thus, I’ve placed my bets.
Now it’s the waiting game. Hopefully I’ll get at least one of these right, justifying the strategy for the future. If not, then I may be sitting on these cards for a while hoping the next two sets bring synergies along. Fingers crossed.
All this Standard talk almost causes me to forget about Modern. No longer.
- Star City Games has exactly one copy of Chord of Calling in stock, at $34.99. Could this go even higher still?
- Not all Modern cards are immune to price drops. According to Sunday’s Interests page on mtgstocks.com, Daybreak Coronet dropped about 7%. Though Star City Games still hasn’t restocked any copies at $14.99.
- Zendikar fetchlands have appeared to stabilize in price for now. The blue ones are listed at $49.99 and the nonblue at $34.99 on SCG’s site. There may be a short-term bump during Modern season if these aren’t somehow reprinted first, but I can’t help but feel the potential on these lands is fairly minuscule versus the inherent risk of reprint.