Rattlechains and the Future of Standard in Eldrich Moon

KevinJones

This past weekend I set out to nearby Worcester, MA with the intention of battling some legacy and gaining some more points for this season two points races on the SCG Tour. I definitely played some legacy. Unfortunately I can’t say I played well or very long. I ended up 5-4 with two byes as two of my wins. I would guess that being relatively out of touch with legacy contributed to some poor play on my part and gave me a few losses that better pilots might’ve been able to pull out. Also, the legacy iteration of Grixis Delver is incredibly powerful and incredibly hard to play. I played two leagues online to prepare and it wasn’t close to enough. The tournament was won by upstate New York legacy ringer, Ed Demicco. His Grixis Delver deck relegated Gurmag Angler and Cabal Therapy to the board favor of some main deck Stifles. I have no idea if that’s the optimal configuration going forward but I do know that Ed always plays Grixis Delver, and always does well, so I’m hesitant to question his deck choices.

On a side note, I’m pretty glad the SCG Tour is moving away from legacy as a focal format on the circuit. It’s tough to keep up with the pace of two dynamic constructed formats on a week to week basis. Three is just impossible I think. Also, legacy is hard, and the cards are expensive, so casual legacy testing isn’t something that happens very often. I have never owned a legacy deck, but I do own most, if not all, of my standard and modern decks. I’m not saying this matters too much, my teammates and I obviously have the resources to get whatever cards we need for tournaments, but I enjoy keeping up with formats and being able to battle decks against my friends locally. Round 3 at Worcester was my first sanctioned legacy match since the last legacy open. Also, if you play legacy you might have to play against Lands, Daddy hates lands. Lands is stupid. This rant is over.

One upside of our dreadful performance in Worcester (the first time since Team MGG started working together that we didn’t put a single player into day two) was that my teammates and I were free to grab some of the points offered to us by the standard and modern Classic events. Jim and Pete opted to play modern with Jeskai, a decision I can’t fault them for. Andrew decided to play modern Infect. Again, pretty tough to argue with that decision. Dan and I decided to battle in the standard Classic. He went with a relatively unchanged version of the 4c Rites deck he piloted to a top 8 in Orlando. I decided to hit up my ghostly buddy, Rattlechains, and join up with the chain gang for the day. Don’t call my deck a pile because A; scoreboard! and B; it’s actually very good. This deck is incredibly synergistic. Even simple things like mana sinks and what turns you tap out seem to gel together very well. For example, you might be on the draw with a Knight of the White Orchid and no other two drop. Well, Thraben Inspector lets you sink that two mana into a clue so you didn’t waste the turn and can still get value out of your Knight. Along the same lines you might’ve had a Rattlechains to play turn two. In that case your third turn can be Knight, get a land, play a land, crack a clue. So before you get too lost in the random situational analysis I’m all too likely to drop into, check out the deck I played.

I managed a record of 6-0 which let me draw twice into the top 8. Once there I faced Bant Humans and Tom Ross’ WR Humans before falling to Pro Tour standout Mike Sigrist and his GW Tokens deck. GW is normally the best matchup for this WU deck, but my draws were fairly lackluster and his were great. I might’ve also side boarded wrong. I didn’t have enough answers to the card that single handedly won him game two, Evolutionary Leap. Also, Mike is great and just played extremely well in both games. Much of this is moot because we really want to discuss the future. This deck is a harbinger of things to come. And, believe me, things will be spooky! Let’s talk upgrades to WU Aggro from Eldritch Moon. I’m pretty sure the deck will look completely different but several of the cards will stay in the list.

Spell Queller: This card is broken as hell. It allows you to have a potent answer to most of the threats your opponents can muster in the early turns. Also, it counters most removal and every Counterspell except Silumgar’s Command. This card is especially efficient at countering your opponents’ Counterspells because it’s not guaranteed that they’ll be able to counter something when your Queller dies. Also, even if your opponent does kill this creature, all they’ve done is spent a card to get the spell they should’ve had in the first place, likely 1-2 turns later. UW isn’t looking to answer things forever. We have an evasive clock and a variety of tough to answer mid-range threats as well (namely Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Archangel Avacyn/Avacyn, the Purifier). We often just need to put something away to make sure we can set up. Spell Queller fits beautifully in this role. Especially because this format, while not especially fast, is extremely tempo based. Their turn 4 Languish might not matter on turn 5 or 6 because you’ve got a Gideon down or you can follow their Languish up with an Avacyn or an Elder Deep-Fiend. The built in protection that a UW Spirits shell provides in Mausoleum Wanderer, Essence Flux, and Rattlechains is enough to push this card to the top of my list, sitting right next to this guy…..

Elder Deep-Fiend: Can you say “pushed for constructed”?! Dear god. I was very excited to try this card out. That was back when I thought it was a “comes into play” ability and that it only tapped non-lands. This is actually disgusting. A UW or Bant deck can easily follow one of their utility 3 drops up with this guy, stealing your opponents’ turn and adding a 5/6 to your board. The best part is after you attack for a bunch you can just pass with a bunch of mana up and a wealth of threats represented. It doesn’t really cost much considering lots of your three drops have “comes into play” abilities anyway. They usually get a card’s worth of value on casting, especially when you’re getting a card out of each one with something like Bygone Bishop. You can even do some shenanigans with Samctum of Ugin to ensure that your opponent will be missing multiple untap steps essentially. Even if you don’t have another creature in play you can always sacrifice the first Fiend to play a second one for two mana, maybe with counter backup. While the spirits deck and it’s tricky flash dynamics make it a great fit for the giant octopus, it might be even better suited to replace reality smasher in the Bant Rite deck that saw some play this season. That deck seems like the best shell for Foul Emissary, a variant of utility creature particularly suited for emerge. Casting fiend on turn 4 off the Emissary leaves you with 8 power in play and them tapped out. You can attack and hold up mana for Collected Company. Lines like this seem scarily powerful in standard.

Mausoleum Wanderer: We make the shift from an 8 mana creature to a 1 mana creature. This one is really good too. However, you can’t toss this guy in any deck, like you could Thraben Inspector. But this creature has a higher ceiling. Inspector always replaces itself which is why it’s likely the best overall one mana creature in standard. Wanderer can trade for some pretty high quality spells though. Furthermore, this format was already tempo based and is shaping up to be even more tempo based. The fact that you can safely develop your board knowing this guy provides insulation against a fourth turn Languish is huge. The combination of Wanderer being a mediocre Collected Company hit and also being very good against Collected Company makes me inclined to believe that you don’t need green in the best spirits decks. I would hate to be the pilot of a conventional Bant Company deck when my opponent has this guy and other flyers. Company decks have enough trouble with untapped lands and the fact that a flashed in spirit will turn this guy from a Cursecatcher to a pseudo Spell Pierce is pretty ridiculous. You can even play some spirits out at sorcery speed and then attack for 2 or 3. That’s a ton of value for one mana.

A danger of one mana 1/1s is that they can be outclassed by conventional creature curves. Mausoleum Wanderer’s pump ability helps it scale well as the game plays out. Still, anthem effects are at a premium in decks like this because they often play bounce effects and conditional permission. The opponent will resolve their powerful spells eventually and the viability of a flashy aggro control deck like spirits hinges on its ability to shut the door inside of a reasonable time frame. There’s two obvious ways to do this. They already dominate standard and slot right in atop the curve of our UW spirits deck. Archangel Avacyn and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar are two of the most powerful threats standard has to offer. Avacyn needs no discussion here seeing as she has flash is huge and can provide a game changing ability in a pinch. The fact that Gideon is great against the removal that is normally great against the deck is important. It provides a different angle of attack if you’re battling an attrition based midrange deck. But the way Gideon really shines is with his ability to immediately provide an emblem. 3 power flyers close the game way faster than their two power counterparts, and the added toughness boost can help to dodge certain removal spells. This brings us right into the next card I want to discuss.

Collective Effort: This card wins races all by itself. Flash type decks can struggle with resolved creatures, especially larger ones. This provides some relief for Reflector Mage. Having the ability to kill big creatures and pump your team is doubly desirable because it provides redundancy in two important roles, Gideon and Refkector Mage. Removal that you can cash out for extra damage in a racing situation is unbelievably valuable in decks that switch roles in the ways I envision spirits will. Lastly, you might kill an enchantment and get some awesome value.

Selfless Spirit: A turn one Mausoleum Wanderer followed by one of these is a great opening. When you realize that your third turn Spell Queller will nab their best play on turn 3 or 4 and that it might be doubly insulated from removal by two other evasive bodies that are still providing a clock and require no additional mana investment you should get scared, boo! Faeries is back, they’re just called spirits this time around. Also, white is by far the best color in standard, and the fact that the trickiness of the archetype can be augmented by the raw power that some of the great white cards have is pretty terrifying. Oh, by the way, Ojutai’s Command will now sometimes make all your creatures indestructible and do something else. You might counter an Avacyn and make your team indestructible. So the combat blowout still happens, just for the other side. Can’t wait to start brewing with these guys.

This past Sunday was the first live testing session for Team MGG with Eldritch Moon. Hopefully the lists will start getting better. Things come together quickly when an event is looming though. 5 days before we registered the Bant Company deck that dominated SCG Baltimore we were content to play a UR Dragons deck is thrown together that actually saw some play towards the end of the format. Let that be a vote of confidence to those of you struggling to find a new list in the new format. Often we are all just as lost as you are. I hope the card evaluations discussed above helped you find some perspective. I’ll leave you off with the roughest list for a UW spirit deck. Thanks for reading as always, see you next week when someone on the Internet will have likely broken it by then!

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Kevin Jones

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