Who’s excited for the new Standard season? The banning will apply on the 19th of January and we will see a lot less energy and maybe a toned down Ramunap Red list in your local gaming shop every night.
With standard going a ‘forced’ rotation we can expect a different feel with how decks will operate without some of their key cards. Energy players losing Attune will make their mana base less greedy while Ramunap players losing their trophy land and life gain police means they need to deal more damage through combat and pack more spells. to get their opponent from 20 to 0. Then come those decks that fell outside the spotlight because their viability in an Energy/Ramunap-world was too low to see competitive play.
I am personally excited. People are generally excited. But how will standard look like now you ask? Here’s my top 10 predictions :
- UB Scarab/Torrential decks and even UR decks will become viable again.
- UW Approach/Azcanta will hold a lot of top tables thanks to Azor.
- BG counters/snake will rise again utilizing explore mechanics to their advantage.
- GPG and reanimator strategies will now be more viable with bigger creatures to reanimate.
- Ramunap Red will splash White for Path to Mettle.
- Merfolk and Vampires will take a slice of the aggro pie.
- Vehicles will come back, and will have a Green-based variant that plays Ghalta.
- Token decks will be a common sighting in FNMs and large tournaments
- Nicol Bolas might see more play now, giving Grixis control players more room to breath.
- Pummeler decks will now replace Temur/Sultai as the energy-go-to deck.
With these considerations in mind, what can you expect from The Forbidden Alchemy? Rogue decks of course, and I have a Mono-black control/midrange deck that looks quite promising and has a good match up to most of the speculated gauntlets I mentioned above. The centerpiece of this deck is:
Primal Amulet was once featured in an SCG Open match which used a Grixis shell that played tons of instants and sorcery to flip Primal Amulet and start going crazy. That deck got a lot of attention and the decklist was toyed around in Reddit but didn’t really show top finishes. I wanted to streamline the strategy a bit and forgo witth Red/Blue and focused only in black, investing on spells that attack the hand to make sure Amulet resolves and remove the cards that can destroy the Amulet.
Hand disruption is a strategy that control players like to play. By attacking the hand you essentially remove threats before the opponent can get the chance to play them. Most of the time, discard spells are cheaper than removal spells but timing when to discard your opponent is hard to predict. The key? Disrupt them at every turn if possible.
We’re lucky we have very good 1-drop discard spells in Harsh Scrutiny and Duress. With the new standard meta still in development, majority of people will try to salvage their crippled decks and reduce their colors and streamline them to adopt the change. Decks will remain heavy with creatures though because Tribal themes are now better supported with Rivals hitting the shelves. That’s why Harsh Scrutiny almost always hits something and for 1 mana, if you can remove a huge threat like a God or a Dinosaur, that’s 1 mana well spent.
Duress may not always hit something but if it does, it usually hits a game breaking card like a Planeswalker, a Sweeper, a win condition like Approach, a counter spell, or a removal spell. You don’t get to scry like Harsh does but it’s still worth the investment if you can remove something that’s going to be trouble for you in the next few turns.
Since Amulet needs a lot of spells to flip it constantly, we can’t play so many creatures. However a constant source of discard effects is way better than a one-time deal and Kitesail Freebooter and Dreamstealer are the only creatures that will make the cut. Freebooter does not necessarily discards a card but it can sit on a very important card for a while until the opponent invests a removal on it – in the same way he had to cast a card to get back the other card feels like you’ve discarded your opponent anyway. Dreamstealer hasn’t received the love it deserves but being able to pry 1 card each attack phase is awesome. Thanks to Menace, he’s not afraid of swinging in and even if it dies, he comes back bigger and discards 4 cards instead of 1.
We also pack some bigger spells that strips the hand faster. Heartless Pillage is generally a Mindrot with an upside of getting a free Treasure token if you trigger Raid that turn. The Treasure doesn’t look much but can ramp you faster if needed, gives you free mana to cast a Fatal Push with Revolt, or lets you draw an extra card with Treasure Map which we also play in the deck.
Torment of Hailfire is a great finisher but needs the game to go long to really pack a punch. However if the opponent doesn’t have cards to pitch or permanents to sac to cushion the blow, each mana you pay for X is technically a bolt to the face. With a flipped Amulet, it’s game over.
In the event the opponent gets to play something, our job is not to let it stay alive for long. Fatal Push is still the best 1-drop removal spell even if Longtusk Cubs are now less threatening. I chose Never//Return over Walk the Plank because we can cast both sides to put 2 counters on Amulet. Essentially 4 Never//Return presents 8 spells which increases our spell density even while playing creatures in the mainboard. Vraska’s Contempt is becoming more and more useful since a lot of decks will not bank on Scarab Gods. If you noticed, there are really very few cheap clean removal apart from Walk the Plank but Primal Amulet doesn’t discount Walk the Plank so I opted to play a more expensive spell and left the 2-drop slot to Kitesail Freebooter (and Gifted Aetherborn from the sideboard).
In case we can’t one-for-one the threats that come into play, I always like to have a Panic Button ready to press so we’re playing 2 copies of Bontu’s Reckoning. Anotther thing worth mentioning is that Hexproof creatures might become a nuisance so packing some copies of Doomfall will also help take them out. It’s also not a bad top deck since it can still hit your opponent’s hand.
The other 2-drop we’ll be playing is Treasure Map. It provides the much needed card filter to make sure we make our land drop, have removal when we need it, have the discard spells, and provides card advantage after flipping it.
So here’s my Mono Black Amulet decklist.
4 Primal Amulet
2 Treasure Map
4 Kitesail Freebooter
4 Fatal Push
3 Harsh Scrutiny
2 Never // Return
2 Bontu’s Last Reckoning
4 Heartless Pillage
3 Vraska’s Contempt
2 Torment of Hailfire
4 Ifnir Deadlands
2 Scavenger Grounds
2 Field of Ruin
4 Gifted Aetherborn
3 Lost Legacy
1 Vraska’s Contempt
3 Trespasser’s Curse
Going mono black provides us the consistency in colors in exchange for having less flexibility and sideboard options particularly for artifact and enchantment hate. Since we can look at our opponent’s hand in game 1, we can maneuver the deck’s sideboard to combat the decks I mentioned in my predictions.
Without Rampaging Ferocidon, Gifted Aetherborn went from good to great again. No wonder it jumped from $1 to $2 after the banning.
Lost Legacy will help take down combo decks like Anointed Procession, Approach of the Second Suns and strip opposing decks of almost any card in their deck – with Primal Amulet flipped, casting Lost Legacy will hit 4-8 cards which reduces the opponent’s chances of getting their win conditions. Dispossess is primarily for GPG decks which will rise to the top tables now – as seen in MTGO results.
Trespasser’s Curse looks narrow but it not only hoses token decks but it’s actually a black-version of Authority of the Consul. Though it doesn’t stop haste creatures from attacking but the life gain can be relevant when you’re stumbling early trying to find the removal spells you need. In multiples, the opponent may not have enough life totals to cast creatures anymore locking them out of the game.
This is going to be my pet deck for now while I observe how standard evolves after the banning. I am still hopeful that my dinosaurs will get to see more play but I think this deck is great in an unknown meta.
That’s it for now, talk to you guys tomorrow!