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Little Changes, Big Results

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The letter W!hat a great time to be playing tournament Magic!


Standard right now is a great format where you can make seemingly small changes to an established archetype and come out the other side with arms wrapped around wild success. A great example is Mythic Conscription.


We started with this:

Zvi Mowshowitz's Mythic
Standard - Pro Tour–San Diego


Good deck, great mana, triumphant return of one of Magic's most celebrated designers, sure ...

But come the German Nationals Qualifer, the world changed.

Today, this is the baseline for the Mythic Conscription deck:

Patrick Dickmann's Mythic Conscription
Standard - 1st Place - 2010 Nationals Qualifier in Germany


As it is Aura Week, it is most appropriate that we begin with the Aura that legitimately changed the face of Standard. Can you believe that a scant month ago, we were even having a debate about this? Regular Mythic was a superb deck, sure, but was it really such a hard sell when the addition of Sovereigns of Lost Alara allowed Dickmann (and the innumerable Mythic players afterward) to search up an Eldrazi Conscription to, you know, kill the opponent out of nowhere?

Welcome to Aura Week!


That selfsame Aura is "infecting" the ivory towers of the White-Blue Control deck!

After your initial "what the!?!" shifting to "that's actually pretty cool", it probably makes sense to you that Tasaki Ryo might migrate the Mythic favorite to White-Blue—more sense even than the Aura's original addition to the Bant standout Mythic deck. After all, the better portion of modern White-Blue "Control" decks are really efficient Tap-Out decks ... almost like The Rock, but playing the opposite colors—the same colors, in this case, as Sovereigns of Lost Alara.

The best White-Blue decks were already tapping down on their own turns. The difference that the inclusion of Eldrazi Conscription makes is that instead of just claiming a small amount of incremental card advantage with Knight of the White Orchid or Sea Gate Oracle, the White-Blue deck can actually go out and wreck you; it's like comparing an Opt to a Fireball ... or more accurately, transforming an Opt into a Fireball!

So how does this combination work?

The White-Blue deck (like the Bant equivalent before it) has at least one creature on the battlefield; come around turn six, the deck can play the once reviled (or at least controversial) Sovereigns of Lost Alara. Now when the White-Blue strikes (with one exalted creature, of course) it can look for that prince of Auras, Eldrazi Conscription, staple it on top of the attacker (conveniently for free), and hit for more than half the opponent's life total. If it comes to a second attack, you even get to kick in—and kick butt—with the annihilator angle.

Brian Kibler's Next Level Bant
Standard - 1st Place - Grand Prix–Sendai


It seems that only a couple of weeks ago Next Level Bant was the hot new deck; in the hands of Kibler, Next Level Bant is already waving around its own hot new tech.


One of the defining elements of Next Level Bant is its desire to give the opponent nothing good to kill; Sphinx of Lost Truths—at five or at seven—continues with this somewhat depressing philosophy (depressing for the opponent, anyway.) Baneslayer Angel? Nope—this isn't Mythic. No Baneslayer Angel for you to kill. If you want to plug up a five mana creature, it is a Sphinx for you. No Knight of the Reliquary either, thanks for asking; no satisfaction for you. If you are so jones-ing to spend a card on a three drop ... have you met Sea Gate Oracle? How much are you hating these trades?

Notice the pattern here? The Next Level Bant deck is built to grind out the opponent with incrementally advantageous moves, turn after turn after turn. While the deck has some high quality cards, the mechanics of the deck stifle the opponent's ability to catch up or get ahead. For example, if you want to take out a big threat—say the Scute Mob (now all by itself)—you can, but the Scute Mob was probably just an incremental card. Ranger of Eos? You might as well try Terminating a Divination.

Almost the only creature you want to spend cards killing is the deck-defining Vengevine itself. If your removal spell is Path to Exile (or to a lesser extent Bant Charm or Oust), Vengevine is a threat you really want to sign up to kill. The rest of the time? These are not the droids you're looking for. Next Level Bant may give you something to kill, but not necessarily something you want to kill. It will largely be an unsatisfying process, and if you are forced to kill the Vengevines conventionally, you are just going to be ground out after a few turns of two-for-ones (or more accurately, one-for-nones.)

So, Sphinx of Lost Truths is the hot new card in this archetype. How good was it exactly?

As it turns out, quite good! Not only was Kibler successful as a Day 1 undefeated player who won the tournament, the Sphinx of Lost Truths tech produced three of the four Day 1 undefeated decks, including a World Champion, plus fellow Top 8 competitor Yuuya Watanabe.

Yuuya Watanabe's Next Level Bant
Standard - Top 8 - Grand Prix–Sendai



In addition to giving the deck a large flyer capable of blocking Malakir Bloodwitch—one that at seven mana doubles as a fair Mind Spring—the low end Sphinx of Lost Truths has some play as well. Triple Looter ability? What about discarding a couple of Vengevines? Let's see what happens next, shall we?


If we jump halfway around the world to last weekend's Star City Games Open in Philadelphia, we get to see something truly new. Mythic Conscription won the Philadelphia Standard portion, but in terms of pure fun? What can you say about this deck but "Bwahahahaha"?

Ali Aintrazi's Turboland
Standard - 5th Place - Star City Open – Philadelphia


Ali's "Turboland" deck is chock full of great, different, new cards. Eldrazi giants ... Overgrown Battlement ... Wall of Frost? Does anyone else like the look of those Time Warps? Ali's deck even has the one card Doom Blade Guy is afraid of, Oracle of Mul Daya.


Okay, how does Turboland work?


At a baseline, this is a mana ramp deck. Overgrown Battlement is a defensive creature that can tap for mana. Explore is a take on Rampant Growth that can help set up either Oracle of Mul Daya or one of the planeswalkers on the third turn. As for the rest of the deck? Most of it is land. Twenty-nine lands in a sixty card deck? Not only does that make for the rare—if ever—mana-screw, the fact that five of the lands in this deck either tap for two mana (Eldrazi Temple) or kind of taps for two mana (Eye of Ugin), the Eldrazi Cthulhus start looking like reasonable plays, even at retail.

The other big spells include Mind Spring, Avenger of Zendikar, and Time Warp (and All Is Dust, sure). As with many decks that can put out a fair amount of mana before closing out a game, "Mind Spring is your Cruel Ultimatum." This is your big sorcery that might not win the game by itself, but theoretically puts you in a great position to win the game. Especially for a deck that is more than half mana when you start counting cards like Overgrown Battlement and Expedition Map (implying that it may be prone to mana flood), Mind Spring can turn your excess resource into more possibilities.

Avenger of Zendikar is just a big threat that doesn't cost ten to eleven mana. At a mere seven mana, Avenger of Zendikar is not only much faster, but the 0/1 Plant token half is also quite relevant (and don't forget the bodies provided by Khalni Garden) Once you put out say, seven or eight Plants, it is fun to start dropping them all over the place; especially when the little guys start "leveling up" to actual offenders.


In this deck, Time Warp sits at a crossroads of cool and functional. Cool because, hey—Time Warp is cool. Functional in two ways: You can power up your planeswalkers with Time Warp, pulling them out of easy beat-down (at least for a turn or two); or you can Time Warp your Eldrazi giants into a winning spot. It's one thing to have an Eldrazi, utilizing its ability to get slightly ahead on the 'field or hand, and it's quite another thing to make it to the next attack phase with a bona fide annihilator.


Finally, there is something special going on with this deck. Yes, yes—it is a direct result of playing with Oracle of Mul Daya; even Doom Blade Guy is terrified of the four mana 2/2. The ability to play two lands per turn is obviously—That. Damn. Good.—in a deck that is twenty-nine out of sixty land. Check. More than that, much of the time your top card will be a land: Free card advantage. Double check. But what about the ability to stack lands on top of your deck? All of a sudden you are in "wow factor"-ville. "Welcome home," says Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

In theory the Brainstorm ability on Jace, the Mind Sculptor puts you ahead by one card in hand. If you can toss away a card you don't love, you can start counting cards in fancy fashion ... maybe you are net up a little bit more than the one card. But with Oracle of Mul Daya on the battlefield? You draw three cards, put back two lands ... and play both lands? That is basically a combination of mana acceleration and going up circa five cards per turn.


How many turns do you have to be able to pull that off before it is just a stone cold blowout?

Winning is winning ... but can you imagine having more fun while you do it?

Neither can I.

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