Goodbye Theros and hello Battle for Zendikar! Week one is in the bag and the format is shaping up to be a really interesting one.
Last weekend’s SCG Open in Indianapolis showcased lots of great new decks and tech, giving us insight into what the format will look like moving forward. Personally, I have really enjoyed playing the new format, but I guess that is pretty easy to say considering I won the entire event…
In today’s article I’ll take a look at the top decks and suggest cards from each that I think are undervalued and primed for picking up.
The deck I played, a unique take on Atarka Red, was completely fantastic.
The big innovation was a combo finish in the form of pump spells like Titan's Strength and Become Immense plus Temur Battle Rage. The combo generates an insane amount of damage via a gigantic, double-striking, trampling creature. The deck also has a “go wide” combo in the form of tokens, prowess creatures, and Atarka's Command.
The deck is actually the brain-child of another RIW Hobbies guy named Devon Paynter. The deck has been his baby for the past few weeks, and he put in a lot of work developing it. I actually built a four-color morph deck that I was planning to play until he gave me a pretty thorough thrashing in a playtesting session.
The power of the deck was too strong to ignore and I jumped on board the night before the event. I made a few tweaks and tune-ups to the manabase and the sideboard, but for for the most part I was lucky to be gifted such a tremendous deck week one.
The best and most important card in the deck is pretty clearly the namesake:
Unfortunately, Atarka’s Command has already spiked really hard so if you haven’t picked them up it’s too late to jump in now. Honestly, I didn’t think of the green-red command as a $15 card and I think it’s likely to come down a little bit.
The card from my deck I really like as a speculation target is actually an uncommon.
The card is completely insane. It’s often one mana for six damage and when paired up with Berserk in Legacy or Temur Battle Rage in Standard or Modern it can get out of hand quickly. I see Become Immense becoming a $3 uncommon very shortly down the road. I strongly recommend double-checking your Khans bulk for these gems.
Come to think of it, Temur Battle Rage is a common that's also worth setting aside.
The other card in the red deck that I think is criminally underpriced is:
It’s a dragon, which is great because Dragons of Tarkir has a dragon sub-theme with powerful spells like Draconic Roar. It’s also just an amazing card. Four mana for a 4/4 flier with a strong ability is a great value.
Another thing that I noticed after playing 18 rounds of Standard is that Hangarback Walker is literally everywhere. The Walkers really clog up the ground and make attacking a pain in the butt--any great creature that can take to the skies is at a huge premium. Thunderbreak was a crucial part of my sideboard and I will probably just move them to the maindeck moving forward.
I’m hesitant to say this card “overperformed” because I think it's just insanely powerful. It's trivial to flip in a deck full of cheap red spells and when it does flips it deals a ton of damage. It’s essentially a three-mana Lava Axe that continues to deal two damage every turn until your opponent kills it. At $7 I’m pretty happy picking this card up in trades.
Abzanesque & G/W Aggro
The most popular week one deck were the many, many flavors of Siege Rhino. Abzan with red, Abzan with blue, Abzan with both--at the end of the day these are all Siege Rhino midrange decks.
Since I started this finance column, I’ve written the phrase, "Rhino is not a $3 card," about a dozen times and I stand by that statement. It's Modern-playable and the format-defining card in Standard. It’s only a matter of time before we see a spike. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not the next day, but eventually Siege Rhino will gain in value.
The tango lands have opened up a lot of space to play four- and five-color decks, and Siege Rhino benefits from the wide-open mana bases. Chances are, if you're playing four or five colors, three of those colors will be Abzan and one of the biggest incentives is that you get the great privilege of casting the Rhino.
I expect it to creep up as the format wears on. Don't forget new players start playing every day and they all need Rhinos...
If Atarka’s Command is a $15 card then how can this card be $4? It gets played way more in Standard than the green-red command. Dromoka’s Command was also a key card in Michael Majors G/W Aggro deck that made it to the finals of the SCG Open. The fact that it combos with Hangarback Walker by adding a counter to the pesky little robot is icing on the cake.
I also noticed that all of the local card shops around me in Michigan are always completely sold out of this card, which is typically a strong indicator of a popular and undervalued card.
Another card to keep an eye on is Warden of the First Tree, a mythic that will see play in G/W and Abzan Aggro decks. Depending what happens at the Pro Tour, tons of Magic players could end up clamoring all at once to acquire this card after the results are in.
It can't really go lower and there is significant upside--this is one of the prime targets I'm looking to acquire right now.
Jeskaiesque & Other Blue Decks
Jeskai put up an excellent showing in Indianapolis. It's the next deck I intend to work on moving forward.
I played against Adam Varner's Jeskai-splash-black deck in the Top 8 of the tournament and felt very fortunate to get past him. He was one of my losses in the Swiss and his deck was well constructed to take advantage of Atarka Red's weaknesses. We played a close match and I ended up edging him out, but it is worth noting that he had mana issues in game three that caused him to fall behind.
Obviously, mana issues are something that are going to happen in a four-color aggro deck, but the fact of the matter is Mantis Rider is a scary card when you're playing red aggro.
In fact, I think it might secretly be the best card in the format...
Mantis Rider has undergone an up-and-down ride on the price front, and is currently sitting at a pretty stable spot. However, I could certainly see the card gaining some ground again. There's a chance Jeskai is actually the best deck in the format after the PT, and if this is the case I expect a lot of people to buy in. People seem to love playing Jeskai decks.
Well, if you haven't picked them up yet you are late to the party. The card has skyrocketed and may actually surpass the Mind Sculptor in price in the near future. I'm pretty surprised the card reached these heights so fast but it's undeniably completely insane across multiple formats. Not to mention, well, it is a Jace...
My advice on this card is that if you are going to play it, bite the bullet and buy in--but I sense the card doesn't have much room to grow.
Standard demand is what has driven the price through the roof, but it will surely return to earth once it rotates out. I don't think it's a great long-term speculation target and in the short term it's risky at best.
Bring to Light was one of the breakout decks of the event but I'm a sell on the card at $9. It's the kind of card that I think will seriously tank in value once more packs get opened. It only goes into one deck, and isn't clear yet if that version is even the best multi-color control deck.
I love this card as a buy right now. If the G/R Aggro deck hadn't fallen right into my lap I would have played a Bant/Abzan four-color control deck featuring this card. Control Magic effects are no joke...
One of my friends ended up playing the deck and said that Exert Influence was one of its most impressive elements. Keep in mind that you can Exert Influence, flip Jace, and then steal another creature two turns in a row! Take your Rhino, and just for fun, let's go ahead and take your other Rhino.
The last "good blue deck" that I'd like to hit on is Esper Dragons. Dragons did really well this weekend and I think it will be a major player at the Pro Tour. It is super powerful and takes full advantage of Dig Through Time.
Dig seems like a weak spec target because it recently got banned and restricted in both eternal formats but there are other cards in the deck I could see ticking up.
I like this card right now because it goes into a lot of different blue decks. If you're playing Jace then you're playing blue, and if you're playing Jace chances are you want some number of the good dragon's command. The card is also really good against red decks because of the lifegain option.
I like this card a lot as a spec target. I think there's strong chance of various dragon-related decks breaking out at the PT. Dragons are powerful and this land lets you play lots of different ones.
The card also shines in multiple different archetypes. There are green-based and Esper-based dragon decks which gives the card a lot of crossover applications.
Week one is in the bag and the format is shaping up to be pretty sweet. I had a blast in Indianapolis and look forward to playing even more Standard in the coming weeks.
The key is to keep an eye on cards you anticipate doing well at the PT. There's always something that jumps significantly both during and immediately after the event. Right now you should be looking at the results from the Open and thinking about what you think the pros will be playing.
It seems pretty clear that red aggro, green-based midrange, and blue tempo and control decks are the clear front runners with regard to archetype, but figuring out the undervalued cards is where the real money is.