Today I’m going to examine some interesting new innovations to see if they’re great tech, or just one-hit wonders.
Deathmist Raptor in RG Devotion
A while ago, Brad Nelson won the Standard Super League with a slightly different take on RG Devotion. This past weekend, Chris Fennel won the TCG Invitational with the same list:
The main difference between this build and the previous builds of RG Devotion is that it includes three Deathmist Raptors, which you can return with other Raptors, Rattleclaw Mystic, and with manifests from Whisperwood Elemental (as well as the one Den Protector from the board).
Deathmist Raptor is never going to be a bad card, especially since it adds two devotion for 3 mana, but it’s also almost never exactly what you want, and that’s a big problem for this deck. The way I see it, this deck is split in two categories: mana and threats. Some cards can be both, like Xenagos, but it’s mostly mana and expensive things to do with the mana. Raptor is in some kind of limbo where he’s neither.
Don’t get me wrong—Raptor is a threat—but it’s just not a threat in the context of this deck. If I start with Elvish Mystic into morphed Rattleclaw Mystic, do I really want to follow it up with Deathmist Raptor? At this point, what is it doing for me? I want a card that does something massive because I am investing massive resources into getting it into play early, and Raptor is not that card. If Raptor attacks for 9 before I play Genesis Hydra into Atarka, did I really need those 9 points of damage, or would I have won the game regardless?
You could argue that Raptor is a way to hedge your bets, to make sure you can play a game of Magic when you don’t have the perfect hands, to make sure you can block and stay alive for a while. But I don’t like it very much. I think if you’re planning on not having mana or threats, then you just shouldn’t play this deck, because Raptor is not going to make you win those games. Raptor is a card that doesn’t seem like it belongs in this deck’s game plan and I would expect most RG Devotion decks to not play it.
Hornet Queen in RG Devotion
Hornet Queen, however, is a change I wholeheartedly like. Hornet Queen was the finisher of choice before being replaced by the arguably more powerful Atarka, but there’s no reason you can’t play both and that’s exactly what Brad and Fennel did. There are a lot of single-target removal spells nowadays—Abzan Charms, Hero’s Downfalls, Murderous Cuts—and Hornet Queen matches up much better against those than Atarka. She also helps solve one of the deck’s biggest issues: fliers like Mantis Rider and Wingmate Roc. I still think Atarka is the more powerful card, but I like having access to two Hornet Queens, especially when you can always search for them with Genesis Hydras. I’d expect most RG Devotion decks to play Hornet Queens.
Maindeck Fulminator Mage in Modern Jund
Brad Nelson’s been playing a lot of Jund lately, and his latest builds include maindeck Fulminator Mages, which I think is a great addition right now that should become standard in all Jund builds. Jund has historically been a deck that has a lot of 55/45 matchups and a few horrible matchups, and Fulminator happens to be great against your worst matchups while not being that bad against your good ones. It’s a card you’re very happy to have against Tron and happy to have against Affinity, Infect, and UW-based decks (though those are rare now), and it works especially well with Kolaghan’s Command, because not only can you bring him back, but you also make sure that people can’t just discard excess lands.
In a deck with both Command and Liliana, the ability to make a discarded land a dangerous proposition for an opponent is very valuable, and Fulminator gives you that. Given that the cost is so low (as there are very few matches where Fulminator is very bad, and you always have four Lilianas to discard it yourself if you happen to be paired against the one person in the room playing mono-white), I think the upside is clearly worth it and I’d expect most Jund decks to go in this direction.
Pharika, God of Affliction in the Sideboard of Abzan Megamorph
Simon Harnden Top 8’d the TCG Invitational with this Abzan Megamorph build:
The main deck is identical to that of GP Shanghai, but the sideboard contains a card that I believe has been very underplayed in the current Standard: Pharika, God of Affliction. I’ve seen plenty in Sultai decks, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in Abzan Megamorph.
Pharika does a lot for you right now. First of all, she stops any Deathmist Raptor shenanigans, as well as any Den Protectors that would target creatures. Giving your opponent a 1/1 deathtouch is much better than giving them a 3/3 deathtouch repeatedly. Then, she completely dominates ground matchups by ensuring you have basically infinite blockers that will trade up. It’s not very hard to activate her, either, and her body is big enough to kill almost everything, so she has to be chump-blocked. You don’t want to exile your own Raptors, of course, but you have plenty of other creatures in your deck, including the ones Satyr Wayfinder throws in the graveyard. As a bonus, she doubles up as one of the best cards you can have against Whip decks.
Pharika matches up poorly against some cards in the mirror—namely Elspeth and Abzan Charm when she’s a creature—but she’s still a very powerful card in the right situation and I think we’re going to see more of her.
Wingmate Roc in Abzan Megamorph
Both Owen and Mike Sigrist played two copies of Wingmate Roc in their Abzan Megamorph decks (roughly the same main deck as the one above), and I think they’re quite good right now. Roc is nothing super innovative, and it has certainly been played in this type of deck before, but there are still players (like Simon) who don’t have them and I think that’s a mistake—many decks in this format are particularly vulnerable to fliers and having 6 power worth of them that do not die to a single removal spell is very valuable. Owen even sided them in against me (I was playing Esper), though I’m sure that’s not the main reason they are there.
See you next week,