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Luck, Skill, Victory – Entreating the Angels

Today’s a bad day to be a [card]Mana Leak[/card]. Granted, I’ve never liked the card, and if you watch me play decks with Mana Leaks, I invariably side some or all of them out at every opportunity. In fact, the Delver Spirits deck that Finkel and Jelger played to a Top 8 in Hawaii only had two Leaks in the maindeck, so it isn’t even just me that hates the card.

It looks like Wizards shares this view, since we recently got to see the following gem:

Image and text courtesy MTGsalvation.com

For those of you who don’t read Spanish, or Magic-Spanish, as the case may be (since much like in English, Magic in Spanish has a ton of made-up words involved), here is the text:

This is quite the card. Not only is it an untapped land that potentially taps for multiple colors, it also completely trumps counterspells for one or more of your important creatures. Naming “Giant” in a Ramp deck with Inferno and [card]Primeval Titan[/card]s is absurd, and single-handedly changes the matchup dynamic against Delver or Control. No longer can those decks load up on [card]Flashfreeze[/card]s, [card]Mana Leak[/card]s, and [card]Dissipate[/card]s and expect that to work.

I really like what Cavern of Souls does for the format, since I was just looking for an excuse to scale back on Leaks anyway. Blue-black took a huge hit, Delver took a reasonable hit, and Esper honestly didn’t get all that much worse. It was already a tapout deck, and I already liked it, and the main change brought by the Cavern is to weaken decks you had trouble with, at the cost of being slightly worse against RG Ramp specifically. Even if RG Beats plays some of these, which it likely will, I sided out Mana Leak there already.

I’m certainly not saying that Mana Leak is unplayable, but it unquestionably got worse, which isn’t a bad thing. It is unfortunate that this is now very obvious, since I enjoyed being one of the few people who sided out Leaks whenever possible, which is now going to be much more standard.

So, Cavern of Souls (in general) makes blue-based control and Delver worse, while strengthening Ramp, RG Beats, and Zombies even (since it does tap for colorless for the few non-Zombie spells in the deck). It provides incentive to tighten up your creature types, and makes resolving key creatures much more of a sure thing. The possibilities are actually fairly numerous here.

Consider a control deck that plays or boards multiple Caverns, just for the express purpose of forcing [card elesh norn, grand cenobite]Elesh Norn[/card] or [card]Grave Titan[/card] through against Delver. That’s pretty sweet, and even the threat of Cavern really forces Mana Leak decks to significantly adapt their plan. I know the Spirit Delver list was already trimming Leaks, but “normal” Delver now has some pretty big problems if they think they can rely on Leaking big spells, even out of decks that don’t look like they normally would play Cavern.

The implications of this card are wide-ranging, and it will take some time before everybody goes back and re-evaluates the many worthy cards that Mana Leak was pushing out of the format. That might even make Mana Leak better again, and the cycle will continue.

Enough about Cavern: what else is going on with the new cards?

We certainly don’t have all the information about the upcoming Standard format, but we have enough that we can make some educated guesses, or at least guesses. By looking at the cards spoiled thus far, speculating on places to start come Avacyn Restored is somewhat useful, and at the very least fun to do. Unsurprisingly, I’m going to take a somewhat Esper-centric view of things, both because it’s the deck I’ve been playing the most and because I legitimately think it’s a big winner with what we’ve seen so far.

Another relevant card is Entreat the Angels:

On Magic TV, I discussed this card at length with TSG and Tom Martell, and I have to admit that I love it. If you are looking for things to tap out for, you can’t do much better than this, and if counterspells in general start getting played less, this could be a huge card in the upcoming format. Hardcasting it isn’t exciting, but you still get two 4/4 Angels for seven mana, which is bad but passable. It is more than worth risking that to have this in your deck, since when it is Miraculous, it really is miraculous. At any point from four mana onwards, this is huge, and once you start talking about getting 4+ Angels from it, I don’t see how creature decks deal very easily. [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] is really the only thing they can trump you with, and even then you need to be pretty low for that to be game-ending. Worst comes to worst, you can even cast this on three mana for a single Angel, which is still a solid deal. Cards that scale this dangerously are worth considering, and a control deck with white that likes to tap out a lot and hit land drops is exactly where this belongs. I can only imagine how good this will be in Block. I think this is going to be a great card, one of the best we’ve seen so far.

Using what we know today, here is something like what I’d start with. Obviously this will change once the full spoiler is released, but probably not by all that much:

[deck]2 Island
3 Plains
4 Swamp
4 Seachrome Coast
3 Evolving Wilds
3 Drowned Catacomb
3 Glacial Fortress
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Tragic Slip
1 Doom Blade
2 Go for the Throat
3 Mana Leak
3 Think Twice
2 Forbidden Alchemy
2 Liliana of the Veil
4 Lingering Souls
2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
3 Day of Judgment
1 Batterskull
2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
2 Gideon Jura
2 Curse of Death’s Hold
3 Entreat the Angels[/deck]

I really like this approach, and think the format is moving towards being more permanent-based, thanks to Cavern of Souls. This Esper deck has a ton of ways to interact with the board, a whole bunch of awesome things to tap out for, and I doubt it’s far behind any deck in the format on raw power. As good as [card]Primeval Titan[/card] is, making four or five (or more) Angels is certainly better, and getting to play the best card in the format on the way is a nice bonus. By the way, if you are wondering which card I’m referring to, just ask Tom Martell why he has over 40 Pro Points.

Another pretty sweet addition is Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. As many have noticed, she plays extremely well with [card]Gideon Jura[/card]. He protects her effectively, lures in attackers to make use of her -2, and is one of the best ways to convert a ton of excess cards into time. Even if he dies immediately, he’s a [card]Time Walk[/card] at worst, and when you’ve drawn 4-6 extra cards, that’s likely all you need. Besides Gideon, this deck also plays [card]Day of Judgment[/card] and [card]Lingering Souls[/card], both of which also combo with Tamiyo. I wouldn’t rule out playing more of her, most likely cutting the Batterskull for a third.

I’m not even going to speculate on what the sideboard would look like, especially since that maindeck is highly unlikely to remain the same throughout the release of the last cards in the set.

Even though I would start by building this deck, it by no means is the only place to look. Updates to previous decks are going to make up most of the format, though there are a few cards good enough to spawn new ones. Desolate Lighthouse (the Loothouse) is one, and if anything has the hope of keeping draw-go alive, it’s that. There are a few nice role-players, and as we see the full set, there may be another card or two worth building around. The powerhouse cards of the format haven’t changed all that much, even if [card]Mana Leak[/card] took a huge hit. [card]Lingering Souls[/card] is still awesome, [card]Drogskol Captain[/card] is still a threat, and various aggressive decks are still out to get you. There will be an uptick in Titans, since Ramp was always decent against aggro, but overall you can pretty much build whatever strikes your fancy.

As dangerous as Cavern of the Lost is, I like what it does to the format, and the format was already quite good. No matter what archetype you enjoy playing, there are multiple decks of that archetype available, unless you really love combo for some reason.

That’s all I have for today, since I’m conserving my writing energies for my full set review, which I’ll be starting next week! Thinking of puns for the Constructed unplayables is, well, not that hard for me actually, but it’s still a bit of work.

LSV

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