Insider: Looking for Spikey Specs in New Standard

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We are on the brink of full-fledged Hour of Devastation spoiler season madness. Seriously, it's coming and it's going to be great. I've enjoyed Amonkhet more than most of the recent releases and I have high hopes that HOD will continue the parade of good feelings and fun. I mean, mummies and gods, and cats, oh my!

Today I'd like to take a look at a few of the Standard cards that could easily be poised to be big winners in the new Standard metagame with Hour of Devastation looming large on the horizon. The recent banning of Aetherworks Marvel has drastically shaken up the landscape of the metagame and this transition will be speedily thrown into hyperdrive with the release of the new set.

A few things to keep in mind: for the first time in a long time Standard will not be dominated by the prevalence of an absurd combo deck (at least in theory). Aetherworks Marvel and Felidar Guardian have gone bye-bye and I expect we will transition back into a world where various flavors of midrange and aggressive decks reclaim the throne. Which is a big part of my strategy for investing in the format.

Now that I've said Standard will likely be all about creatures let's get to my first speculation target, and all-out combo card!

If there is going to be a combo deck in Standard my thought is that it will be this deck. As far as combo decks go, it's obviously worse than Marvel or Guardian. However, there is a lot of room for a deck to be good even if it is worse than what came before. Keep in mind the other two decks needed to be banned for power level—being worse than those two combos still leaves a lot of room for competitive viability.

It is very possible that in a predominantly midrangey format a combo deck like New Perspectives could actually be well positioned. There is also a chance that it gains some nice new pieces in Hour of Devastation.

The thing that I like about these cards as speculation targets is that they are literally dirt-cheap. Not only that, but the rest of the deck is also dirt-cheap which makes it a nice deck for players looking to buy into Standard (assuming it is good).

One reason I think it might be good is that the deck performed reasonably well at Pro Tour Amonkhet. Obviously, the format warped around beating combo decks like Marvel after the PT. However, with Marvel out of the picture it could be a great time to play a combo deck like New Perspectives. In theory, people will be less inclined to play counterspells, which are the natural predator of a deck like Perspectives.

The high ceiling and low buy-in price make these combo cogs a very spicy place to get some dollars in.

In a world potentially dominated by creature matches and board position, Fatal Push will continue to be a hot commodity. The card has single-handedly reshaped Modern according to its will, and is positioned to become an even bigger player in Standard with the release of Hour of Devastation.

I don't think we've seen the ceiling for Fatal Push yet. The card is expensive for an uncommon, but it's one of the great uncommons. It's good enough to see play in every format where it is currently legal, and will do so until they print a better version (which seems highly unlikely).

I can't even imagine a deck that plays Swamp in Standard that won't be packing four copies of this card in the 75. It is especially useful to note that two-drop creatures are likely to define Standard. Zombies, BG, Temur Energy, RG Beats—most of these decks live and die by their two-drops and blasting one away for one mana on the draw is backbreaking.

I've been stocking up on these and expect to get a profitable return in the coming weeks.

Speaking of two drops...

Another spicy uncommon, the Longtusk Cub, is another place where I expect to gain some value. The card is pure gasoline in Standard. An unanswered Cub quickly takes over a game and brings the beatdown like few others can.

The Temur Energy shell has long been one of the most powerful options available in Standard. One of the weird things about Energy was that there were always better or alternative ways to build the deck in the past. Copy Cat, Marvel, etc.

Now, I have a strong inclination to believe that the deck will be an aggressive/midrange deck that brings early pressure. Regardless of whether you are playing RUG Energy or Golgari Energy, four copies of Longtusk Cub are bound to be a staple. It also helps that since the Marvel decks didn't play Cub that there will be a lot of people looking to pick up Cubs who don't own them already. Cub is cheap now, but will likely become more expensive as the format takes shape during spoiler season.

Another wicked two-drop, the Grim Flayer. One of the biggest obstacles that held BG in check was the dominance of combo decks. Those obstacles have largely been removed. I think there is a pretty good chance that BG Delirium makes a surge back in the coming weeks.

The deck is powerful and quite effective at countering opposing aggressive decks such as Zombies or Mardu Vehicles. It could be a powerful player in the new metagame. I like Flayer as an investment because it has already proven itself as a Modern-worthy playable staple.

I know that Jund and Abzan Midrange have fallen out of favor with the rise of Death's Shadow. But I'd also like to keep in mind that decks like Grixis Shadow are beginning to push the limit of what constitutes an acceptable win percentage in Modern. We are clearly not there yet, but there is the possibility that new printings or bannings could push the reset button on Modern at some point in the not-so-distant future, and return BGx decks to the top of the heap.

Ultimately, my pick is rooted in the fact that Grim Flayer appears positioned to become better in Standard, but the Modern angle plays as well. Lastly, Grim Flayer is cheaper than it has ever been. Obviously, this is part of the natural life cycle of a Standard card, but they are cheap and could spike at the Pro Tour. Something to think about.

Speaking of delirium...

The delirium shell could be well primed for a comeback and the other pieces could stand to gain as well. Ishkanah is very cheap right now and could be a serious player in Standard moving forward. Copy Cat and Marvel were always the obstacle standing in its way and those barriers are down now. You can't tap out for a spider guy against a deck with a win-the-game combo!

Now, grinding people out with an endless swarm of spiders could be a serious thing.

The +1/+1 counters theme is also an interesting place to be in Standard. Verdurous Gearhulk and Winding Constrictor have very little value but could be extremely ubiquitous cards in the format. Both are extremely powerful and the BG Counters deck has undeniable synergy power to run people over. It could get more pieces as well. As far as Standard cards go, these are easily in the top crust of cards that I'd like to own right now because they have room to grow.

Last but not least, here's my slam-dunk pick:

Mardu Vehicles is going to be great. I mean, seriously, how could it not be? It's been one of the best decks all along on power level alone. I see no reason why it wouldn't continue to be insane.

Toolcraft is one of the best cards in Standard. It hits hard. It crews like a boss. It avalanches games out of control in the decks where it fits. It's also extremely cheap right now. If Mardu Vehicles is a good deck in Standard (duh, obv) the card should continue to creep up in price and make us money. I've been pulling these out of $0.50 and "three for a dollar" boxes at Grand Prix like crazy. What kind of a fool would give this up for 33 cents when they are so obviously going to be great for the next year!?


I'm seriously getting excited about new Standard. The Aetherworks Marvel experience is over. No more spinning the wheel to determine the outcome of matches. I love the Egyptian theme and can't wait for the prerelease and the Pro Tour. Also, I can't wait to hopefully cash in on some of these Standard picks!

Enjoy the spoilers, folks!

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