UNLOCKED: BFZ’s Low Impact on Standard – Two Weeks In

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Week two of Standard is done and another SCG Standard Open is in the books. It's another week of lackluster performance from the new set. Aside from the manabases incorporating BFZ duals and the new manlands, nothing from Battle for Zendikar has made much of an impact.

It makes me wonder what R&D is thinking right now. Are they still proud of their work? Had they predicted this? Does the already-deep pool their first "new rotation" set debuted in make them feel better about its lack of play? I wish I knew.

Let's look at a few of the top decks from SCG Atlanta and chart the new set's presence.

G/W Megamorph Mirror in the Finals

If I described a big tournament ending with two green-white decks dueling each other, you'd probably ask for a two-sentence recap and move on with your day. Those colors just aren't exciting, and the matchup brings to mind those Mastery of the Unseen grindfests from last season with 400 life per side.

Green-white as a color combination typically lacks interaction, although the megamorph decks buck this trend somewhat.

The morph guessing game can be interesting, for example. The decks can also use Den Protector to keep a stream of threats going, which is a big difference from years past when green-white would stall out and have to live off the top of the deck.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is the linchpin here. The emblem is very potent, first off. The other two abilities stack up pretty well, too. Gideon can freely attack into a blocking Deathmist Raptor, for instance.

I'm quite surprised that Gideon remains at $30. He is one of the few BFZ cards seeing consistent play, and still has room to grow. This is a good time to pick up your playset for personal use, and in trade they're as good as a $30 bill for the next few weeks.

Dragonlord Dromoka is a fine mirror match trump, too. One showed up on the sideboard, but we can expect to see more from the Baneslayer Dragon.

I'll also wager that Mastery of the Unseen hasn't seen its last day. We don't have Nykthos to crank out huge turns anymore, but it gains an appreciable amount of life and sneaks in under counterspells from Esper Dragons.

The Rise of Jeskai Black

What if you added black mana to Jeskai? That has been a strong strategy since BFZ came out and this week is no different, with three copies of Jeskai Black in the Top 8.

There was an error retrieving a chart for Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

The deck makes great use of Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. The flashback effect on the planeswalker is devastating when you can buy back a Crackling Doom. For its part, the Mardu instant is still very attractively priced, and I like picking up copies right now.

Remember, however, this deck is expensive. The Jaces alone outstrip the cost of entire decks. As a result, speculation targets in this style of deck are thin because its sticker price will repel many buyers.

Life After Wasteland

Wizards R&D has this frenemy relationship with good manabases. They don't want to punish nonbasic lands (they consider Tectonic Edge too good to reprint!) but they also don't want people playing four colors easily. That's strange, because they have given us all the tools to run Mantis Rider and Crackling Doom in the same deck.

The mana in Standard is a little too good right now. There's no pressure to punish a greedy manabase, either. The tension seems to come from wanting lands in play untapped, rather than fear of an opponent cutting you off a color.

I mean, have you looked at Ali Aintrazi's Five-Color Control deck? No Bring to Light here, because why bother? Ali's deck came in 9th and if it did any better we'd all be testing Catacomb Sifter for next week. I just love the ego of Ali's deck. Jace, Siege Rhino and Hangarback Walker are the best cards in Standard, so let's jam them all together and tie it together with Radiant Flames.

If the tension comes from tapped lands, then Atarka Red is the correct way to punish slow decks. This is a strange Standard season. I am looking forward to the next set to give us different tools.

Quick Hits

  • Esper Dragons is gone this week (not even in the Top 25) but I think the deck still has a lot to it. Foul-Tongue Invocation is a great card, for example. The deck's weakest selling point right now is it can't use Jace as effectively as Jeskai.
  • Mantis Rider is a great turn three play and Thunderbreak Regent is a spectacular follow-up.
  • No Siege Rhinos in the Top 8! Can you believe it?!?!?
  • The Pro Tour is my last hope for awesome Eldrazi decks, or really, BFZ cards in general. I'm wondering how people plan to next-level G/W Megamorph.

I'll see you next week after we have a whole Pro Tour to recap! Until then,


3 thoughts on “UNLOCKED: BFZ’s Low Impact on Standard – Two Weeks In

  1. Jacob Lively (this weekend’s SCG Open winner) stated that he was 6-0 in games against Esper, and called it practically a bye for GW in his Reddit AMA this morning.

    Until the format moves away from GW, I would see no reason to sleeve up Esper unless I knew I could prey on a GW killer which would be over-represented at the top tables (and I could get to those same tables).

    Should be noted that he specifically referenced a Naya Dragons (Dragonlord Atarka/Dromoka) build which absolutely crushed GW Megamorph. Might be something to keep an eye on for this coming weekend, and Dromoka specifically may be a nice spec target at its current price of ~ $8.

    Moving from a 1-of in one SB to potential multiples in the SBs of the “best deck” and Maindeckable in a noted predator could move the needle nicely. I could easily see this come as we see a potential drop off in the value of Ojutai due to being somewhat weak against GW Megamorph.

  2. Great article, Douglas.
    “It makes me wonder what R&D is thinking right now. Are they still proud of their work? Had they predicted this? ”

    Considering they turned full Willy Wonka in order to sell the set (which, sadly, seems to be working so far), I suspect they knew the power level wasn’t quite there coming from the very strong Khan set. IIRC, MaRo even made a comment that designing BFZ had been very hard because it started as a 3-sets block before turning in a 2-sets block during development.

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