With Ixalan here, it means that we have finally seen the blocks of Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad rotate out of Standard. For good or bad, these blocks were heavily influential to the format, right up to their very end, and Standard with these blocks proved to be especially odd.
The mess of multiple bannings required to keep the format fun and diverse was very unexpected, and put a damper on deck innovation. As early as Reflector Mage causing trouble with Collected Company, though well past the days of Emrakul, the Promised End arriving via Aetherworks Marvel, there always seemed to be one deck threatening to overshadow everything. It was disheartening, and didn’t really encourage inventing new decks unless they could deal with the threat of the day.
That said, I enjoyed tinkering with my Awaken Control deck quite a bit, and spent most of my time tweaking it instead of trying to come up with something new. In hindsight, now that we have planeswalked far away from Zendikar and Innistrad, I regret that I didn’t try brewing other decks. There were a lot of cards that would have been sweet to explore, and it would have been fun to create decks to work around them.
With that in mind, here are four decks that I never found time to build for Standard:
1) THE HARNESSED STORM
I’m honestly not sure what this deck would look like, but the enchantment Harness the Storm could potentially have been at the centre of a cool Pyromancer Ascension-style deck using a lot of 1-mana red draw spells to fuel it. Casting cantrips like Expedite, Renegade Tactics, Crash Through, and even Slip Through Space could draw a lot of extra cards for very little mana. Then being able to cast them all again from the graveyard with Harness the Storm would add layers of value.
Including other spells like Take Inventory or Shreds of Sanity could have generated even more card advantage for the deck. With enough burn spells, and maybe a card like Imminent Doom or Geistblast to push it over the top, this would have had the potential to do some interesting things.
The deck would likely use prowess creatures like Stormchaser Mage, Soul-Scar Mage, and Bloodwater Entity to finish things off, though Mercurial Geists could be a powerful top-end finisher as well. With all of the cheap spells the deck would pump out, these creatures would have gotten very large.
2) DISCOUNT ROBOTS
Herald of Kozilek made colourless spells cost 1 less, and while it was handy to make Devoid spells easier to cast, it would have made the artifacts from Kaladesh cheaper, too. Playing this Eldrazi in the same deck as a Foundry Inspector would provide redundancy, and because the effects would stack, they would provide an even bigger discount together.
It’s hard to say whether this deck would want to ‘go wide’ with Servos and ways to buff them, like Ruination Guide and Metallic Mimic, or if the deck would rather just try to jam a string of discounted Self-Assemblers. The second option seems better; not only would it provide a bigger threat more easily, but it would allow the deck to run a card like Titan’s Presence to greater effect.
Honestly, this might make for an interesting Modern deck sometime. Herald of Kozilek would probably be replaced by Etherium Sculptor or Cloud Key in a Modern version, but a couple copies of the Eldrazi might go into that deck too.
3) FULLY EQUIPPED
Ever since Battle for Zendikar, it looked like there was going to be an equipment deck in Standard. Each set we saw more and more cards that fit the equipment theme, including creatures like Stone Haven Outfitter, Kazuul’s Toll Collector and Avacynian Missionaries, and spells like Open the Armory and Sigarda’s Aid. Together, they seemed like they should make SOME sort of deck. Since it didn’t come together by the time Eldritch Moon came around, it looked like Sram, Senior Edificer must have been the piece of the puzzle that was missing.
As it turns out, what was missing was the equipment itself. While Standard did have 25 different pieces of equipment, none of them were especially good. Honed Khopesh, Neglected Heirloom and Bone Saw were all cheap to cast, but never seemed powerful enough. Meanwhile, Thirsting Axe, Stitcher’s Graft and Stoneforge Masterwork could pack a punch, but were a bit too situational.
That said, it would have been worth trying to see if these cards could work together in Standard. Perhaps this deck would also work better in Modern, where Bonesplitter and the various Swords (of War and Peace, of Body and Mind, of So On and So Forth) are available.
Or, for a spicier option, the deck could always use Bludgeon Brawl…
4) WHARF DRAKES
Wharf Infiltrator looked like such a neat card, but it sadly never really saw any play. Because of its similarity to Drake Haven, it looked like the two cards could form the core of a blue discard deck.
Cycling creatures like Curator of Mysteries, Striped Riverwinder, and River Serpent could all work in this game plan, considering that they cost very little mana to cycle. Depending on which other colour was included, Archfiend of Ifnir could be a powerful addition for control, while Oketra’s Attendant would be both a creature to discard and one that could be brought back with Embalm.
It’s hard to say what the rest of the deck would include, but it would probably want some ways to interact with the opponent. That said, some manaless ways to discard, like Forgotten Creation, could be an excellent way to generate a lot of Drakes and Eldrazi in a single turn.
There were several other cards I really wanted to build into Standard decks, like Displace, Lunar Force, Permeating Mass and Topplegeist, but there never seemed to appear the right cards to support them. It shouldn’t have stopped me from trying, though.
Moving forward with Ixalan, I hope to have time to put more of my ideas into practise. Despite the nonsense of the bannings, Standard had, and still does have, a lot of potential for diversity and for some unique decks. I may have missed my chance with these ones, but there will undoubtedly be more opportunities to brew something exciting moving forward.
How about you? Any cards you wish you’d tinkered with a little longer?
Let us know your grand designs in the comments.
Come to think of it, I really ought to have done something with Tyrant of Valakut, shouldn’t I?