Holy price shifts, Batman!
The recent price fluctuations of cards like Dragonlord Ojutai and Den Protector got the gears turning in my head. We are moving into an era of Magic with more rotations, which means more opportunity to make money through Magic finance.
That time will be here sooner than you think. The new rotation schedule kicks in early in 2016. January will bring us Oath of the Gatewatch, the second and final set in this block. April will then bring the new rotation into full force when Khans and Fate Reforged rotate out with “Tears,” but Origins and Dragons are still legal for another six months!
The appearance of new decks like Jeskai Black and the updated G/W Megamorph cause prices to shift in response. Now we'll have the opportunities presented by a new format twice a year. That is an exciting prospect for the finance community.
The window for spikes will be shorter, but history has shown us that spikes rarely occurred during the later months anyway. That time was usually characterized by drastically dropping prices due to the imminent rotation.
Once we get closer to April, you'll see many writers discussing how to transition into the new format. Until then, enjoy your time in the world of finance.
These days, the price spikes we’re seeing remind me of 10-15 years ago before Medina’s Pack to Power escapades escalated finance and brought the topic into the forefront of the Magic community. Little surges in price like Crackling Doom and Avatar of the Resolute are accompanied by huge swings in value like Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Dragonlord Ojutai.
The point is, if you have your ear to the ground and pay attention to the metagame trends, you too can make lots of money.
The new metagame is establishing itself quite nicely. G/W Megamorph and Jeskai Black seem to have taken the top spots so far, with Atarka Red and five-color decks in the mix as well. Normally I would consider Abzan Blue a top deck, but to me, it's just another version of G/W Megamorph.
The key to both of these decks is taking advantage of the early turns of the game.
Take Jeskai Black for starters. For the first two weeks of this format, blue mages have lived a life of luxury with no fear that their turn two Jace would be eliminated. He has ample time to flip and start gathering massive amounts of card advantage.
Strangely, the decks with red mana are good against each other because they have access to Wild Slash and Fiery Impulse. With no other cheap removal in the format, if you are looking to kill creatures early, red is your only option. Running Wild Slash also allows you to play multiple spells per turn.
Let’s take a look at Todd Anderson’s version that took 3rd place this past weekend.
Instead of the second two Dragonlords, Todd put in two Monastery Mentors, which adds a lot of power to this archetype. Seeker of the Way helps out on this front as well, but I wouldn't look to him to close a game for you anytime soon. I might look to squeeze a third copy of Ojutai or Mentor into the list somewhere.
This “new” deck isn’t really new at all. We’ve all seen and played against similar decks over the past year. The main difference is Jeskai now has real removal spells. They can cast Crackling Doom or Murderous Cut to rid the board of any pesky threat.
Finally, we have my favorite removal spell in the meta right now, Silkwrap. I’ve spoken about this card in previous articles and in practice I’ve been even more impressed. Theoretically this card is great because it’s a one-card answer to Hangarback Walker. Additionally it does deal with Deathmist Raptor, although Dromoka's Command means your enchantment might not be safe the whole game.
Another potential option for answering the problematic threats from G/W Megamorph are the devoid commons from BFZ, Touch of the Void and Complete Disregard. Both can exile a Hangarback or Raptor, and are reasonably costed to kill other early threats. I would not be surprised to see these adopted in some capacity.
Speaking of G/W, that's the other deck that has established itself as an early pillar.
Brian Kibler built this deck to generate value, which is reflected in the creature base. Practically every threat is capable of generating card advantage. You don’t need much knowledge about Magic to see that getting value out of every card leads to victories.
G/W Megamorph reminds me of The Aristocrats. Both the Abzan and Mardu versions of that deck were filled with virtual card advantage. The difference is The Aristocrats had to sacrifice creatures in order to build incremental value. With this deck, the only restriction is that you probably want to unmorph something throughout the course of the game to recur Deathmist Raptor.
If you were curious, I chose the 2nd place deck over the first place version because I think its choice of two Silkwrap over a land and a Dromoka's Command is preferable. Shaving those two cards seems well worth gaining another removal spell that's so well positioned right now.
I would sideboard against this deck similarly to Abzan Midrange from last season. This deck doesn’t have as many traditional removal spells, but when Deathmist Raptor starts trading with multiple creatures, you will start to realize they don’t need as many ways to kill your guys.
The last note I wanted to make about this deck is that while it may appear aggressive, it's really more midrange. The only aggressive opening available is turn one Warden of the First Tree into Deathmist Raptor turn three.
Don’t get me wrong, if you follow that sequence up with a removal spell and Wingmate Roc, it might seem like you're applying the sick beats. But most of the time the deck will function like a slower midrange deck that's trying to get value out of their cards.
If you look at G/W Megamorph this way, the role of aggressive deck in Standard is still up in the air. I think Atarka Red will assert itself even more over the coming weeks. There’s no other deck that can win on turn three, nor is another one capable of dealing 14 damage out of nowhere.
Developing Hangarback Warriors
A couple weeks ago, I spoke on another aggro deck I've been working on, a black-white deck centered around warriors.
Now that’s an aggro deck. We have two different versions of Savannah Lions backed up by an aggressive sligh curve of creatures. I thought that adding in so many non-warriors would dilute the deck into an anti-synergistic mess, but this deck has been rocking through everything the metagame has thrown at me.
Chief of the Edge does a fine Fleecemane Lion impression and when you have multiples, it’s like you made them both monstrous. Additionally, Chief buffs your one-drops which helps increase the early pressure.
It’s the new cards that really add punch though. Drana, Liberator of Malakir instills fear in the hearts of your opponents and draws a removal spell every time they have one. If not, she takes over the game.
A lot of words have been written about Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and he lives up to the hype. He’s worth every bit of his current price tag and I doubt he'll be dropping down any time soon.
Lastly, Shambling Vent has constantly overperformed for me. Whether being the extra attacker to get those last points of damage through, or attacking after a sweeper when you topdeck a land, or getting awakened by Ruinous Path to become a 6/7 lifelinking beatstick, this manland does not disappoint.
The two cards I am uncertain of are the two warriors-matter creatures, Blood-Chin Rager and Blood-Chin Fanatic. In the FNM I won with this deck, I didn’t draw either of them much and sided them out often. That doesn’t mean they need to be cut but it does put them on the chopping block.
I think they would both shine in the G/W Megamorph matchup, which I didn’t play against. (I beat two Atarka Red decks, Esper Dragons, and Jeskai.) I think these Blood-Chin will be central to beating that deck so they’re staying in for now.
I could also see this deck moving in the direction of Knight of the White Orchid and trying to jump straight to the great four-drops. Dirt cheap and full of potential, Knight looks like a great pick up right now.
As always, the sideboard is in an ever-changing state, although I'm happy with most of it. Duress, for example, has been excellent against Atarka Red, Esper Control and Jeskai Black alike.
The additional removal spells have proved quite integral. I may switch Reave Soul over to Complete Disregard, but the two-mana cost is quite helpful against other fast decks, so I'm not certain yet. Sorin has been versatile as well, because it can gain life against aggressive decks but also provides a threat against control that's difficult to answer.
For now, this is the deck I have been having the most fun with (and winning is sweet too). Let me know what you think in the comments. Have you tried something similar?
Feel free to post general comments about the metagame heading into the Pro Tour as well. I’m sure we'll get our socks rocked off this weekend as the pros show us how it’s done.
Until next time,
Unleash the Warrior Force!
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