Posts Tagged ‘sultai’

This week in Magic: Happy New Year!

2015 Happy New Year Strands Line Glow Dark Background

Welcome to the first “This week in Magic” of the new year. Now that we’re in 2015, we can finally look forward to the PPTQ being held at the Abington store on January 11. Hopefully you and your friends have been practicing and feel ready to go. If not let me offer some advice and insight as to what you may see at the PPTQ.


Since the introduction of Khans into the Standard format, we’ve been lucky to have a healthy dosage of variety. No longer are the days of Mono Black dominating the format. You can have your choice of any of the five clans.



This is probably the clan I am most familiar with. I started the new Standard format playing Jeskai Tempo. This was the most popular deck at the time. It packed some of the most mana efficient creatures in the format with Goblin Rabblemaster and Mantis Rider making the cut. However, the deck would see some changes over time trying to find its true identity. Soon, combo versions would make their way into the format via the first Pro Tour bearing the name Khans of Tarkir. There we would finally see the Jeskai Ascendancy deck people had been murmuring about. It was a slightly crazy concept, but proved to be powerful nonetheless.


That leads us to the latest version of the deck. I remember when I first played the Jeskai Tokens deck. Everything about the deck felt so right. In a way, it made perfect sense why certain cards were designed. The amazing synergy between Hordeling Outburst, Jeskai Ascendancy, and Stoke the Flames is one of the most powerful interactions in the game I’ve ever seen.


Thanks to the extreme popularity of “Whip” decks, Jeskai Token players have had to restructure their plans. How have they done this? MTGO results have shown that players have reverted back to the original Jeskai Tempo build which contains more midrange and control elements.



The emergence of “Whip” decks have seemed to taken over the format. However, this is a little different from when Mono Black dominated the format. Mono Black dominated the format due to the overall strength of the deck. “Whip” decks have taken over due to their overall popularity. The deck is just fun to play.


The Sultai version of the deck utilizes the Sultai leader, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. As a 3/3 for four mana, it’s okay. However, it’s abilities to mill your deck and make a zombie token are great bonuses. More milling means more problems for your opponent. You want to see things like Doomwake Giant and Hornet Queen make their way into the bin. When the Whip does make it’s way out, things become a lot more difficult for your opponent.


If Sultai is not your thing, you can always look at the Golgari version of “Whip” decks. In this version of the deck, Sidisi is replaced for a much more stable mana base as well as Pharika. Although, I have seen some versions pack both Pharika and Sidisi into the deck. It may be a little greedy, but with their powers combined, anything is possible.



There are two directions you can go with Abzan. You can either go the aggro route, or you can go the midrange path. However, looking at most of the lists, there is very little difference between the two. The standout card is Heir of the Wilds. The two drop is there to help get the party started a little bit earlier than expected. The midrange tactic, though, is the most popular and, in my opinion, the better option of the two.


Let me start by saying that Anafenza is one of those creatures that, when she hits the table, make you say, “Ugh.” Sitting at 4/4 for three mana, she is out of Lightning Strike range. So now we have to look to hard creature destruction to take care of her. Also, as a 4/4 she’s a lot larger than most creatures and can definitely take care of herself. Things get even worse if you were able to land a Fleecemane Lion or Rakshasa Deathdealer on the board before she came down onto the battlefield.


Of course, we can’t forget everyone’s favorite rhino, Sige Rhino. This guy is such a beast that he’s even making his way into the Modern format and even redefining on the most powerful decks in the format, Birthing Pod. It’s a 4/5 for four mana and casting it alone causes a six point life swing. Did I mention that it has trample? That is something you don’t want to forget, especially if you through a goblin token in front of it hoping to “chump” block it.


With some of the best removal spells at it’s disposal, there is no wonder why this deck is at the top of the game right now.



Some people call it control and others like to call it midrange. Either way you see it, Mardu competes just like the rest of the field. This is the only deck in the format that is able to utilize, what I think, is one of the best removal spells right now. Crackling Doom is probably your best bet and answer to deal with Sylvan Caryatid. A turn two Caryatid typically means your opponent is setting up for something, and if they’re not, they at least have a solid defense blocking your way. Crackling Doom not only deals your opponent two damage, but it gets rid of that pesky 0/3.


I think Butcher of the Horde doesn’t get enough credit in the format. I mean, it is a 5/4 for four mana. If you’ve got a token or two free, you can make your Butcher gain haste, lifelink, or vigilance. Obviously, swinging for five damage of turn four is pretty nice, but the possibility of gaining life at the same time can be devastating.


Mardu is also one of the only decks in the format that uses multiple planeswalkers. What’s so important about this? Consdering that most of the other “top tier” decks in the format either use one or no planeswalkers, Heroic Downfall has been on the decline. That means that it’s a lot safer to play your Sarkhans or Sorins with little fear that they’ll fall victim to this one-for-one.



Out of all the clans, I feel that Temur is the weakest one. However, that means it has the most potential to grow. While the addition of Blue hasn’t caught on to many players, there are those who have just stuck to playing Red/Green. Keep in mind, I talked about Anafenza being a problem when she hits the board as a 4/4 for only three mana. A similar creature is Savage Knuckleblade. However, this creature is a lot more nimble than Anafenza. In fact, Savage Knuckleblade is so versatile that it has even snuck it’s way into Modern.


In a format that is being dominated by creature based decks, Temur still stands a chance in the format. With this deck, you just want to land the biggest and baddest creatures onto the battlefield. Don’t worry if your opponent has creatures too. Your team is poised to be superior in the long run. Also, don’t forget about the Ferocious mechanic. This mechanic rewards you for controlling some of the biggest monsters in the game. So look to cards like Crater’s Claws and Stubborn Denial to give you a sleight advantage.


It may not be the top dog right now, but we have Fate Reforged to look forward to. Some of the preview cards have already shown the emergence of the dragons we knew were going to be in the set. It shouldn’t be long until one of those dragons is the right fit for this clan. That’s when we can stop calling it R/G Monsters and start calling it Temur Monsters.


About the author

Simeon is now the Community Manager for Battleground Games & Hobbies. If you have any questions or inquiries, then you can reach him at He is also an avid gamer who loves to play board games and video games. He graduated college with a degree in Political Science, and now serves the public by writing about games. You can check that out here. Don’t forget to “like” him on Facebook as well. It’ll update you on all of his newest content. Best of all, you can follow Simeon on Twitter (@SimeonCortezano) for some real time hilarity. Thanks for reading!

Join the Battleground Games & Hobbies community forums!

Please don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @battleground_gh!




Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog, Card Games, Featured Author, Featured Post, Magic: The Gathering, Popular Posts | No Comments »

This week in Magic: Aftermath of PT Khans of Tarkir

dig through time

Just like that, another Pro Tour has come and gone, and did it ever leave an impression on the the current Standard Format. There were several things you can take away from the Pro Tour. First, Standard has never looked more fun in a long time. Secondly, it feels like there is no clear dominant deck.


In the numerous rounds leading up to the Top 8, viewers saw decks like Temur Midrange, variants on Jeskai aggro/burn, Abzan Midrange, Abzan Reanimator, Jeskai combo, and UB Control. Unfortunately, there could only be one winner and that deck was Abzan Midrange.


This week we’re going to go over some of the decks that made Top 8. We’ll discuss their strengths, weaknesses, and how they did in the Top 8.


UB Control

Leading up to the Pro Tour, many people thought that control decks were dead. It was weird seeing friends that I know, who are so passionate about Blue, pick up decks with no Islands. In the Top 8, UB Control was piloted by one of the best control players in the game right now, Ivan Floch. If you remember, Floch won the last Pro Tour (M15) by piloting UW Control.


The obvious strength with UB Control is being able to yes or no to certain spells. However, you have a limit to your permission spells, so you have to choose wisely. Before Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, Mono Green decks were gaining strength in popularity. These decks were somewhat slow, and rather clunky with creatures like Arbor Colossus and Genesis Hydra. By piloting UB Control, all you had to do was destroy the creatures that hit the board and counter those you couldn’t deal with.


For a win condition, you could use Ashiok, but the card of choice was Prognostic Sphinx. It was slow, but it’s abilities to scry and become hexproof proved to become worth running.


The downfall of the deck is the fact that control had lost cards like Sphinx’s Revelation and Supreme Verdict. Due to this, control became extremely vulnerable to fast aggro decks. This was the main reason it lost in the quarterfinals of the Top 8. It was matched up against the worst deck, Abzan Aggro by Mike Sigrist. If Floch had been matched up against an Abzan Midrange deck, he may have had a better chance. However it wasn’t, and thus was the end of UB Control in the Top 8.


Abzan Aggro

The New Englander, Mike Sigrist, put up an impressive run with his Abzan Aggro Deck. During an interview, Sigrist talked about the importance of 2-drops in the deck. Creatures like Rakshasa Deathdealer and Fleecemane Lion are such huge threats early on that they can win the game alone. He further emphasized the importance of the 2-drop by including Heir of the Wilds in the deck.


The great upside to the deck is that if your early game plan fails, you can fall back on the fatties such as Siege Rhino and Anafenza, the Foremost.


So how do you beat such a formidable deck? As the saying goes, sometimes you are your own worst enemy. Without the proper fixing, running three colors in a deck can be a bit troublesome. Take a look at the deck’s early threats. Rakshasa Deathdealer needs BG to cast while Fleecemane needs GW. The worst case scenario is having one creature, but having only the mana to cast the other.


In addition to itself being it’s worst enemy, one of the best ways to beat the deck is to fight fire with fire, and in this case it would be another Abzan deck. Had Sigrist been matched up against another Abzan Midrange deck, it could have gone either way. The aggro version may have the slight advantage due to its early threats, but if they don’t live long enough, the Midrange deck could outweigh it’s aggressor.


Jeskai Combo

Lee Shi Tian and Jeskai Ascendancy was the big surprise of the Top 8. In fact, you had to have been there to believe how he won. With only one life left, he was able to cast one of the most powerful spells in the format, Dig Through Time, and draw his way to victory.


Skip to the 38 minute mark.

Combo decks can be a lot of fun and a big pain at the same time, especially if you’re on the other side of things. This Jeskai combo deck has almost no interaction. So if you’re playing it, you’re literally playing solitaire until you win; it’s a personal puzzle. The scary thing about this deck is that once it begins to combo off, there is very little the opposing player can do to stop things. They can only hope you fizzle out.


If Lee Shi Tian had not hit the combo pieces with Dig Through Time, who knows what could have happened. For all we know, I wouldn’t be writing about it right now (although, I could see myself writing about it later). You might as well just flip coins your entire match instead of playing this deck. An important thing to know about this deck is that it looks hard to play. You really have to know your deck inside and out. Patience is the key. I guess a ton of luck could work too.


How did this deck fair in the Top 8? Unfortunately for Lee Shi Tian, he had some trouble putting the pieces of the combo together. He was also under an immense amount of pressure because he was matched up against Shaun McLaren playing Jeskai Aggro. This meant that Lee Shi Tian had less time than he did in the match against Abzan Midrange.


Jeskai Tempo

There are too many names for this deck. If you may have noticed, I’ve probably referred to this deck differently every time. However, it doesn’t take away from the power of this deck.


When Lightning Angel was in Standard, it was quite the creature, and while we don’t have the Angel anymore, we do have it’s little brother in Mantis Rider. A 3/3 for three mana, that flies, has haste, and vigilance is really tough to handle. Upon being cast, it can attack your opponent for three damage while flying over creatures like Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix, and then, afterwards, it can block creatures like Courser and anything else smaller.


Remember when RW Burn was a deck about a month ago? Well, it still is, but now it adds blue for some card draw and Mantis Rider. So, I guess you could say it got better. How do you take down this power house? After watching much of the Pro Tour, it can be clearly seen that if you don’t land a Mantis Rider on turn three, the deck becomes a little clunky. Of course you still have plenty to fall back on such as Goblin Rabblemaster and all of your burn spells, but let’s face it. The Mantis Rider is the star of this deck. Deal with the Mantis Rider and you deal with Jeskai Tempo.


This deck was so good that it made it to the finals. It was no surprise too since it was piloted by one of the best players in the game right now, Shaun McLaren. Sadly, though, it didn’t win the Pro Tour. It ended up losing to Abzan Midrange. Personally, I feel like this was another match where things could have done either way.


Abzan Midrange

The big difference between this deck and the aggro version is the lack of 2-drops. Instead, we have creatures like Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix. This all leads up to the real threats of the deck, Siege Rhino.


When Siege Rhino was first spoiled, I called it Thragtusk’s little brother. Some people disagreed in the fact that it didn’t make a token when it died. They were right in that point, but the Pro Tour may have proven that this guy might be better than Thragtusk. First of all, the creature is a 4/5 for only four mana. Secondly, it provides a 6-point life-swing – three points in both direction. The worst part of facing the Rhino is how hard it can be to kill the Rhino.


With so many strengths, there has to be a weak point somewhere, right? Being a midrange deck, things can feel a bit clunky. Early aggro decks such as Rabble Red, Jeskai Aggro, and White Weenie all have a good chance against this deck. The only problem is that (with the exception of Jeskai Aggro) they have problems with every other deck in the format.


As you all know by now the, Abzan Midrange won the Pro Tour. How did it get there? It did what it was supposed to do in it’s match against Jeskai Aggro. It was able to handle the early aggro by laying down it’s own blockers in Courser and Caryatid, then began to apply it’s own pressure in Siege Rhino and Wingmate Roc. The deck has amazing resilience due to the amount of life it can gain back, and that was probably the key to why the deck won the whole tournament.


Well, that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed this week’s look at the aftermath of the Pro Tour. I’d still like to hear what you have to say. Are there any points you agree or, more importantly, disagree with? If so, sound of below in the comment section. Until next time…


About the author

Simeon is now the Community Manager for Battleground Games & Hobbies. If you have any questions or inquiries, then you can reach him at He is also an avid gamer who loves to play board games and video games. He graduated college with a degree in Political Science, and now serves the public by writing about games. You can check that out here. Don’t forget to “like” him on Facebook as well. It’ll update you on all of his newest content. Best of all, you can follow Simeon on Twitter (@SimeonCortezano) for some real time hilarity. Thanks for reading!


Donate to the Extra-Life fundraiser!




Join the Battleground Games & Hobbies community forums!

Please don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @battleground_gh!




Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog, Card Games, Featured Author, Featured Post, Magic: The Gathering, Popular Posts | No Comments »