‘’Pascal, Pascal! How would you build the deck with the new set/format?”
I’ve been asked this question multiple times now, and that only intensified after the bans were announced. It didn’t really cross my mind at all since the Pro Tour is Modern, and I essentially have no Standard event I planned on attending any time soon, but you guys got me curious.
Two cards caught my attention. Nothing worth changing the deck around, but one potential great sideboard card.
Zetalpa, Primal Dawn seems completely unnecessary. Sure, it’s big and scary when brought back with God-Pharaoh’s Gift, but it doesn’t help you when you’re behind and that’s what you want to be doing since making a 4/4 every turn will almost certainly win any game in which you aren’t behind.
Azor, the Lawbringer is a bit more interesting. Its enters-the-battlefield trigger can stop something like River’s Rebuke, Fumigate, or Abrade which is cool, but a little narrow. The turn you get GPG onto the battlefield you’re unlikely to be able to pay for its ability, but on future turns it’ll be just as game-breaking as attacking with Angel of Invention, if not more devastating.
I particularly like that you can easily cast it, which is relevant in post-sideboard games when your opponent has artifact removal and graveyard disruption. For those reasons I would strongly consider it in the sideboard.
As far as the deck’s prospects in a new metagame with no Rampaging Ferocidon, they look great. Ferocidon was the best card aggressive decks could have to beat you and forced you to warp your deck around it with the inclusion of Fairgrounds Warden and Angel of Sanctions. You can now lay off on those.
The bad news is that control decks got much better and they are bad matchups. Blue-Black is decent, but Approach decks are unbeatable.
Fortunately, an alternative version of God-Pharaoh’s Gift still exists.
We haven’t heard about it in a while, but it was a strong contender for me at the last Pro Tour. Now we even have new toys to work, with and from my early understanding of the format, it’s shaping up to be well positioned.
Ravenous Chupacabra seemed to be a straight upgrade over Hostage Taker until they banned Rampaging Ferocidon. Essentially, I’ve always felt like I’d win against aggressive decks if my Hostage Taker was able to reliably kill something, but the fact that it didn’t always do that was annoying.
The Hostage Taker added value was not that relevant. Depending on whether there’s another Mono-Red-like aggressive deck, it’s possible that you just want a split.
Dusk Legion Zealot competes with Seekers’ Squire. I like that Dusk Legion Zealot will draw you a card no matter what and easily dies to your own Walking Ballista (believe it or not, it’s actually very relevant). Seekers’ Squire has the upside of putting a creature right in the graveyard and being a real body.
I can’t tell for sure which one is better without trying them, but I’d be glad to have up to 6 and decide which one is the 4-of.
Tetzimoc, Primal Death is the least exciting, yet potential addition. I doubt it’s better than Noxious Gearhulk, but if gaining life isn’t relevant, I could see it doing work in midrange/mirror matches.
Here is my starting point for week 1.
Bonus: Green Gift!
It could be Sultai, Abzan, or just black-green, but here are a few cards that make me want to try a new flavor.