Bringing the Beatdown to Amonkhet
In the last few weeks, Standard has been shrouded in mystery due to the possibility of bans. Yesterday, WotC elected to not ban any cards in Standard, leaving the Saheeli combo as part of the format. At first glance, it is the best deck. I am not excited by that, but I am excited to play some new Magic cards. It’s time to quit complaining and start brewing.
One of my favorite parts of playing Standard is finding the synergy between blocks and trying to build decks around these synergies. These synergies can be especially powerful in an aggressive shell, which are inherently more powerful in the first weeks of the format.
The overlap of madness from Shadows over Innistrad block and the new discard payoffs in Amonkhet is an example of a cross-block synergy that has caught my eye. I have been thinking about what a shell combining all of these things would look like and this is where I am at currently.
Jund Discard Aggro
Shadow of the Grave is a powerful payoff card from Amonkhet and when combined with Flameblade Adept and Noose Constrictor can deal 20 damage by turn 3. The combo is curving Flameblade Adept into Noose Constrictor and attacking for 1. On turn 3, you will have 5 cards in hand if you were on the play. Discard 4 cards to Noose Constrictor pumping both creatures each by 4. Cast Shadow of the Grave and buyback the cards you discarded. Now discard those 4 cards again and pump each of your creatures by another 4. Now Noose Constrictor is a 10/10 and Flameblade Adept is a 9/2 Menace. Those dorks plus the one damage from turn 2 add up to 20. What a coincidence? Now while that is a dream draw, it illustrates some of the power of Noose Constrictor and Flameblade Adept as huge beaters early in the game. Ghirapur Orrery is a forgotten card from Kaladesh but another payoff for not having any cards in hand and can let the deck keep chugging along after it has discarded most of its hand. Combining these cards with the pair of Haunted Dead and Prized Amalgam gives you cards that liked to be discarded and are resilient to spot removal. Scrapheap Scrounger joins the squad as another card you want in your graveyard and can help bring back Prized Amalgam. Lightning Axe and Fiery Temper are the spot removal of choice and help keep the engine of the deck rolling. Horror of the Broken Lands looks dopey but it is mostly here to be cycled and can be played later in the game when Ghirapur Orrery gets rolling. It can also get pretty large when combined with Noose Constrictor. Cathartic Reunion is here to tie the room together and let us churn through our deck.
I am not sure on this configuration. There are a lot of clusters of cards that make sense in this style deck. It could become more of a Voldaren Pariah deck. It could move more towards a true RB aggro deck with Key to the City and Bloodhall Priest. The Haunted Dead- Prized Amalgam is still powerful but may not be good enough without Cryptbreaker and the rest of the Zombie synergies. This deck could also support Traverse the Ulvenwald to help increase consistency. There is a lot of powerful things going on in this part of the format and finding the best combination could be the first break of the format.
Another powerful cross block synergy is Always Watching with the exert mechanic. Exerting a creature with vigilance means you get the effect but your creature doesn’t tap. It is basically free to exert, which is pretty gross. The white Humans shell still seems very powerful and is a good place to start.
A deck this aggressive is a good place to start in a new format and the deck should be solid against 4 color Saheeli with its fast clock. The fast clock means they can’t run out an unprotected Saheeli without it dying which slows down the combo by a turn. This deck isn’t as powerful as Mardu Vehicles but will dodge artifact destruction and has a more consistent mana base. Maindeck Reckless Bushwacker is not traditional for these decks but I think the deck wants to be as explosive as possible and Bushwacker is a good way to break through a board stall. This shell is powerful and has some flexibility postboard as well. I could see a sideboard configuration with an additional land or two and some Glorybringers. Always Watching and Glorybringer seems pretty unbeatable in any creature mirror. Ahn Crop-Crasher also seems like a powerful sideboard option against the creature mirror.
The synergy in this deck that excites me is between all of the one drop creatures, Trial of Solidarity and Always Watching. Trial of Solidarity is an impressive anthem with exert creatures and can add a ton of power to the board. Cartouche of Solidarity acts as a buff and token maker and can also bounce the Trial of Solidarity to get another bite of the apple. I am not sure if this is the best aggro deck but it seems good against removal spells and slow midrange decks. If the format becomes about beating 4 Color Saheeli and everyone is packing a lot of removal and clunky planeswalkers, I could see this strategy being a good place to go.
When considering what to play Week 1 in Standard, never forget the old adage: There are plenty of wrong answers, but no wrong threats.
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