Hi everyone, after another shorter hiatus I am back with a two part article for y’all. Battle for Zendikar has just been released and with it a new standard format to have a look at. This week I’m going to be going over decks that should survive rotation, and next week once we have some results in I’ll be checking out the new kids on the block.


So then what makes it through the change over? There are three big decks that look like favourites to transition well into the new format: Esper Dragons, Abzan Aggro, and Atarka Red. While there are others that could make it, these are definitely the big three decks to look out for. Lets take a look at them and see what they lose and what they’ve gained.


Esper Dragons


Esper is a deck that came out strong at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir but went a bit off the radar for a while, showing up every now and then but not being a mainstay of the format. It reappeared somewhat when Magic Origins came out but now it seems set up to have a real resurgence. Esper loses the scry lands and Urborg, which get replaced by the new ‘Tango’ lands (synergizing incredibly well with the Fetches we have) and it can also run some number of Shambling Vent the new BW manland plus we still have Caves of Koilos. It remains to be seen how good the new mana is, it looks very good but tricky to build right.


Esper also loses a couple of key removal spells in Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow. Blight is fairly replaceable, we have Ultimate Price already and also cards like Reave Soul could take its place. Its worth noting that the removal in white has also got a lot better with cards like Swift Reckoning and Gideons Reproach. Drown was necessary last format because the red decks were so so fast and deadly, they should be a fair amount slower now which leaves Esper Mages open to relying on Languish, Crux of Fate, or End Hostilities. Another card that drops out is Heros Downfall, the most important removal spell in standard for most of its time. We have a replacement, at sorcery speed whether you like it or not in Ruinous Path. It has a little upside when you’re in the late game or flooded with the awakening ability, but sorcery speed is a downgrade. Too big of a downgrade, some say. We’ll definitely see in the next week or so if it will live up to its predecessor.


The coutermagic we have access also change a little, we still have Silumgars Scorn, one of  the best cards in the deck as a force spike or as actual Counterspell  if you have a dragon in hand or in play. While that remains though we do lose Dissolve which was a mainstay of more traditional control decks and most Esper decks played at least a couple of copies. Again we have a replacement in Scatter to the Winds a new three mana counterspell but again like Ruinous Path has an awakening ability that can come into play in the late game. Every Blue player will tell you the worst part about playing control is having to play win conditions, so why not have one stapled to a counterspell!



Abzan Aggro

rhnohangarback walker

Lets talk Abzan. I said these three decks are the ones to look out for and this is the one with the big TARGET on its head. Yup, Siege Rhino and friends don’t seem to be going anywhere. Abzan Control used to be the top dog but more recently (and certainly with the loss of Elspeth Suns Champion) we have seen the Abzan Aggro decks absolutely crushing, utilising a new card from Magic Origins in Hangarback Walker. Walker itself might be the Big Bad Wolf in new Standard but more on that later. I mentioned mana bases earlier with the loss of the scry lands and Urborg, but once again we get new Tangos (though only 4 fetches fro them instead of the 8 Esper gets) and Abzan can use Shambling Vent too.



As far as creatures go there are a decent number of options available. While Fleecemane Lion has bitten the dust we still have Rakshasa Deathdealer and Warden of the First Tree which saw play last format. Other occasional sights were Kytheon Hero of Akros and Heir of the Wilds which cropped up here and there. We also have some sweet new additions to go in this deck the most hyped of which is Drana Liberator of Malakir, another three drop for the deck to go along with Anafenza the Foremost and Den Protector. She’s pretty sweet and if you can get a swing in while you have another creature or two on board you can put a very fast clock on your opponents, and its another card that synergizes really well with Hangarback Walker (did I mention that card before).



The last thing I wanted to discuss about Abzan is the planeswalkers. Elspeth Suns Champion has been a defining card of Standard since she came in back in Theros, while she was primarily used in the control variants of Abzan she often cropped up as a one of in the maindeck or a pair in the sideboard of Abzan Aggro. Sadly/Gladly she is now gone but we still have Planeswalkers to spare between Sorin Solemn Visitor and the brand new Gideon Ally of Zendikar. Gideons looks to be a staple of the Abzan Aggro decks we’ll see with rotation. His ability to come down on T4, and make a dude to protect himself is excellent, and he can either just keep churning out guys or come in for a smackdown himself. Of course we still have the flip Planeswalkers from Origins to complement these two in the aforementioned Kytheon and Nissa Vastwood Seer.






Atarka Red


While mono red and red based aggro decks are traditionally underplayed at the Pro Tour, Atarka Red is the deck that won Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir and Mono Red won Pro Tour Magic Origins. It might not surprise you then that Red decks are still going to be good after rotation. The card quality drops for mono colour decks with rotation and with the new fixing we have Atarka Red seems like the best way to build an aggressive red deck. The cards we lose though are very significant. Eidolon of the Great Revel was a pillar in the red decks seeing play pre-rotation, and we also lose a couple of one drops in Foundry Street Denizen and Firedrinker Satyr. Eidolon is a super powerful effect we’re unlikely to see a good replacement for and we haven’t really got any new playable one drops, Goblin Glory Chaser doesn’t quite get there. With the Green splash we see the possibilities of a RG landfall deck which might give us Scythe Leopard if the card is good enough to warrant a slot along with Makindi Sliderunner which looks like a good two drop. We do still have options like Monastery Swiftspear, Zurgo Bellstriker, and Lightning Berserker to fall back on if need be.

Scythe Leopardsli

Burn spell wise we lose Lightning Strike and Stoke the Flames, two huge cards in red decks recently. Red got given Exquisite Firecraft when Origins came out as another quality burn spell and we still retain Wild Slash along with Atarkas Command; the big reason to play RG. We didn’t really get any quality burn spells from Battle for Zendikar though, instead we may have to run more of a prowess game with pump spells like Titans Strength which got reprinted in Origins and possibly even a Become Immense or two. Removal was great before and you couldn’t really afford to get two-for-one’d early, now its a bit less likely and does let you put a lot of damage through very quickly.


One big card that stays around is Chandra Fire of Kaladesh, which saw a little play in Origins standard but looks likely to see a bit of an up-tick here with the format slowing down a little. Abbot of Keral Keep is another Excellent card from Origins that has even made its way over into Modern, in standard it is still a powerhouse in red decks letting you play further into the late game and just giving you card advantage. Overall the deck looks really solid and I would be very surprised if it didn’t turn out to be a real player in new Standard.


So thats what I believe the ‘big 3′ decks from old Standard that will transition well into the new format: Atarka Red, Abzan Aggro and Esper Dragons. There will be other carry overs I’m sure, decks like Jeskai and UB Control or Bant/GW Megamorph coming back. We might even see a return of the Five Colour Dragons deck Michael Flores used to win his PT Invite earlier this year. And its not just old decks rotating as there will be plenty of new ones coming out with Battle for Zendikar. There are loads of cards to brew around like Part the Waterveil or Bring to Light,  and I’d love to see a big Eldrazi ramp deck too. The format seems to be wide open at the moment but with the SCG Open this weekend and with a Grand Prix and the Pro Tour coming up we’ll surely see the new format take shape. As I said before this is the first part of a two-piece article on New Standard. This time I’ve covered old decks making their way across, and next time I’m going to be looking at all the shiny new stuff once we’ve had some results in.

Thanks for reading, Alastair

Share on Facebook

Posted In: Uncategorized

Share on Facebook

Tags:, ,

Posted In: Events, News

Whats that? Two articles in two weeks?!?! Yup, after a fairly long haiatus I should be writing content regularly again. Last week the My Magic Origins article I posted up was more of a story with no real strategy content, so I’m going to try and focus on that today. A reasonable amount of ‘stuff’ has happened since I last wrote RPTQs, Magic Origins came out, we had a Pro Tour and Hall of Fame Inductions, and as I write the World Championship is in full swing. So then, lets see where we stand at the minute.

Standards a pretty cool place to hang write now. Pro Tour Magic Origins happened and some new decks emerged, but the story is far from over. We’ve now had a bunch more GPs and other big events, and the formats really shaping up. Lets go over the big hitters:

Abzan – Good black green and white cards, still good cards it turns out. In any flavor you want: control, aggro and even rally for all you combo lovers. The new innovations in the aggro and control decks seem to be Hangarback Walker. The card saw a little play opening weekend but since has been cropping up all over the place. The power of the card in control to work as an excellent counter early game to red decks while still being a relevant late game play as you can just dump all your mana into it. In aggro it also has some great synergies with Dromokas Command and Anafenza to the make the card even better. Origins added a couple of key pieces to the rally decks, the most important I feel though is Nantuko Husk which gives you a better win condition in conjunction with Mogis’ Marauder. It also utilizes the new version of Liliana along with Gather the Pack as an extra way to find the creatures you need and fill up your graveyard. Abzan: Still Good.

hangarback walker

GW – While it didn’t really show up in coverage due to his sub-par draft performance Brian Kibler managed to go x-1 in constructed with a Green White Megamorph deck. Its a deck taking advantage of the Deathmist Raptor + Den protector engine, but adding Hidden Dragonslayers along with a few more aggressive creatures like Fleecemane Lion and Warden of the First Tree. This deck is really trying to take advantage of Dromokas command again as its the decks primary removal spell along with Valorous Stance to deal with bigger creatures. In the sideboard we see 4x Hangarback Walker pop up along with another new card Evolutionary Leap (the combo is real) to help fight control decks. Following the PT the deck saw loads of play at Grand Prix San Diego even though only one player made Top 8 with the deck.

UB Control – It turns out that for the past year Blue Back is the deck with the best win percentage on the Pro Tour, quite an amazing statistic. The deck is still alive and kicking after Origins though it wasn’t represented well at the PT this time round. We’ve seen a couple of iterations pop appear most recently with Jace Vryn’s Prodigy. As it turns out Jace is an insanely powerful card seeing play in a number of different decks, here it basically acts as a Snapcaster Mage with upside. The lists vary in terms of number and where they are in the 75 too, with Mono Red being very prevalent at the minute he is a risky card to have main deck. Turning on a searing blood in your opponents hand which would have been dead is often fatal game 1, and this has lead to many people leaving them in the board to bring in games two and three. Another variant we’ve had on both UW and UB control decks is Thopter Spy Network along with Hangarback Walker and Darksteel Citadels plus Artificer’s Epiphany for card advantage. This variant has fallen out of favour recently and really requires you to take up a bunch of slots in your deck, once the engine’s rolling though its pretty powerful.


Devotion – Woo, yay! Yup Devotion is still here and will continue to be a deck until Theros rotates out of standard, at which point we’ll just find another name for it. Not much to see here.

Mono Red –  Its been around the block and twice, but Red decks got some sweet cards in Origins. While Goblin Piledriver has fallen off a cliff and isn’t seeing much play there are a few treasures that went under the radar. The prime example of this is Abbot of Keral Keep. Its a threat that gives you a little card advantage and allows you to go a little late and keep up into the midgame and even gives you a chance of staying in the game late. A 2/1 body isn’t stelar but prowess really turns it into a good threat and has seen him translate elsewhere into decks like Jeskai. Another excellent card for Red is Exquisite Firecraft. It gives you a second 4 damage burn spell, and against the control decks this helps you push damage through their counterspells with it’s Spell Mastery ability.


UR Ensoul – The best performing deck on Day 1 at Pro Tour Origins was a Blue Red deck with a heavy artifact theme and Ensoul Artifact. A few different teams came to slightly different versions of the deck but all of them tended to feature the same cards. One of the new Origins cards that featured heavily was Whirler Rogue. I’m sure many people just dismissed this as an excellent limited card and nothing more but it’s shown up here. A 4 mana 2/2 that brings with it two flying thopters is decent, and helps build up a flying airforce but the ability to tap two artifacts to give a creature unblockable is awesome. Wether it’s an Ensouled Darksteel Citadel you’re pushing through or a Rogue with a Ghostfire blade the cards been really good.

Dragons – A few different versions of this archetype have shown themselves throughout Kahns Block standard, and there are three that still see a fair amount of play. Esper dragons, the control deck we saw during Dragons, Mardu which emerged a little later, and most recently Black Red. The decks are pretty similar in the way they work. You have Dragons like Ojutai or Thunderbreak Regent or Stormbreath Dragon, plus Dragons Matter Cards like Silumgar’s Scorn or Draconic Roar or Foul Tongue Renewal, and then a generic list of good cards in the colour combination you’ve chosen. Occasionally even all five colours.

There are plenty of other decks in standard worth taking a look at but I haven’t the time here. Notably Jeskai has seen some play, a Blue Red Sphinx’ Tutelage deck which Michael Majors won a Grand Prix with, Turbo Fog, Mono White Devotion, along with variants of archetypes I’ve already mentioned among the ones to look out for.

While we’ve yet to see loads of Modern play with the new set yet, we’ve had an Open and Worlds so theres a few tid bits to look at. Im not going to go into as much detail as I did with standard, but we’ll have a look.  The SCG Open in Charlotte did an excellent job at showing off a few cards from Origins, and some new strategies. Firstly the deck I immediately thought that sounds awesome I really want to play this was Michael Majors’ Grixis Control deck. It looks lime a fairly standard Grixis list until you see the creatures he’s working with. Two Tasigurs, 4 Snapcasters and a full FOUR Jace Vryn’s Progidgy. We knew the card was powerful, even though it was one of the planeswalkers the least hyped going into release. While there is a plethora of cards Jace dies to, you have Kolaghans Command to buy him back. Card seems really sweet here, even if I managed to go 0-1-2 with the deck when I tried it out.


I’d also like to highlight the UW control deck that made top 8, which was fairly non standard. It played a late game package of Emeria the Sky Ruin, along with Sun Titans, Court Hussars, Lone Missionaries and Wall of Omens. This deck looks super fun to play and super boring to play against. You have all these cheap creatures like Missionaries and Wall of Omens to help get you through to late game, and then you get to take over with Sun Titans and Emeria. Slow and durdly, just the way I like my magic.


Another awesome innovation we’ve seen is Ghirapur Aether Grid, firstly in the Lantern control deck Ali Antrazi played in the … Open where he had a top 16 finish. Lantern control is typically a very slow deck that really struggles to kill your opponent in anything close to a timely fashion, and can also randomly lose games to a Noble Hierarch attacking through Ensnaring Bridge. This helps solve both of those problems giving you an extra way to kill your opponent and dealing with any problematic creature threat. It has also popped up recently out of the Affinity sideboard at the World Championship in the hands of Sam Black as a counter to cards like lingering souls. It lets you deal with almost any troublesome creature as long as you have a decent number of artifacts in play. It’s also immune to stony silence which helps a lot against some of the white decks, and gives you some reach or an alternate win condition.


I’ll finish up with a quick meta break down from the Magic World Championships. The tournament is twenty four of the best players from all over the world, and they had to play Modern Masters 2015 draft, Modern, Magic Origins Draft and finally Standard for the swiss followed by a Standard Top 8. Here is the breakdown for what everyone played:

Modern – 6 Affinity, 4 Living End, 3 Boggles, 2 BW Tokens, 1 Abzan, 1 UR Pyromancer, 1 UR Twin, 1 Grixis Twin, 1 Jund, 1 Merfolk, 1 Temur Twin, 1 UW control, 1 RW Burn

Standard – 7 Jeskai, 5 Abzan Control, 5 Esper Dragons, 3 Hangarback Walker, 2 Atarka Red, 1 RG Dragons, 1 White Devotion

You can see there’s a bunch of different decks played, but also where some of the teams settled on some of the same decks. Its worth noting that this style of tournament isn’t a great representation of the overall meta as it stands at the minute, as the nature of this competition changes the way people choose their decks.

And once again that’s it for today, like I said I’ll hopefully be back writing articles much more often so look forward to a Battle for Zendikar flavored spoiler coming soooon.


Thanks for reading as always, Alastair.




Share on Facebook

Posted In: Uncategorized

Hi everyone! I’m still Alastair, but it’s been a (long) while since I’ve  written anything or posted an article but today I’m going to start at the beginning. This article will be me talking about my Magic Origins. Prepare for a long winded account of how I got to where I am today as a Magic Player, along with plenty of rambling and drivel along the way. And so our story begins…

The first time I ever heard about Magic: the Gathering was back around 1999/2000. I’d started collecting Pokemon cards and one of my neighbours mentioned that they had played this other card game called Magic while they were in high school and that they had a collection in storage. Sad to say, I never got a chance to see the collection (probably worth a pretty penny now) and didn’t end up diving into Magic for nearly a decade. To give some context, I was born in 1993 in Birmingham, UK and in 1998 my parents brother and I moved to  Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA.


As I said I ended up getting into a couple of different card games over in the states. Primarily Pokemon and Yugioh but that was more collecting than playing. The card game that really got me into playing with the cards was the Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game which came out along with the films and it was also my first real experience going to a shop to play games. In our town there was one dedicated wargame store: Ivory and Steel. They did all kinds of Warhammer type stuff along with the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, which is what got me into Wargaming. But they also ran game nights for a few different card games, and so it was that I went down there every now again to play games of the Lord of the Rings TCG.


Skipping ahead a little we see me moving back to the UK in 2003 and settling down in the Loughborough area of the Midlands. Coming back across the pond I’d managed to pick up a second wargame: Warhammer 40k and there happened to be a local Games Workshop near me, something I wouldn’t have dreamed of in Stillwater. At this point I had just turned 10 and was going into Year 6 of primary school, and a bit too young to really go into the store and play games ad take part in events.

GW Loughborough


At school though, there were plenty of people who collected Pokemon and Yugioh (the Lord of the Rings TCG never caught on over here), along with some ridiculous things called football stickers which I’ll never understand. This led me to dig out the cards I already had and eventually start playing Yugioh as a game as I moved up to years 7 and 8 of school. Here though our card game journey ends temporarily. I’d gotten to the kind of age where card games weren’t that cool anymore and had fallen out of fashion with my peers. This also coincided with me being able to start going into the local GW to play, and get heavier into the Wargame side of things. And so, my cards were left abandoned for a few years while I fought on the battlefields of the 41st Millennium.



A few years later though a new Game shop opened up in town, Wargames Inc. And along with 40k and some other wargames they also sold and provided player space for Yugioh. As it turns out a bunch of my wargaming friends also played Yugioh from time to time and I started to slowly get back into it. First digging out all my old cards and trying to scrape together a deck to battle, and then later looking for cool and awesome cards I could pick up on the internet. I soon found out that I’m quite competitive and do like to win games, so I started looking at Youtube for deck techs and the like and trying to brew sweet decks to play with.

Dark Magician

All this while, there were two boxes of Magic: the Gathering cards on the shelf in Wargames Inc just gathering dust. I’d ended up picking up a few other card games casually: VS System, UFS, and a bit of Pokemon again but I always looked at the Magic stuff and remembered about my old Neighbours collection. And so one day a friend and I decided to try it out, Wargames only had a couple of fat pack type boxes so I ended up going to a local comic book store to pick up a couple of intro decks. We played a bit and learned how the game worked, and eventually got to the point when we were building reasonable decks and a local Magic community started building.

the combo

As with Yugioh eventually I hit the internet in search for awesome cards and deck building inspiration. I was still on a Paper Round budget at this point though and couldn’t afford any of the big expensive cards and only ended up with those if I opened well out of boosters. This did though, lead me to see the Magic Pro Tour and start looking at the game from a competitive stand point. I was like: that sounds awesome I’d love to do that one day. Unfortunately Wargames didn’t run Friday Night Magic or anything like that, and I couldn’t really travel to go to other towns easily so I contented myself with going back through old coverage, watching Pros play and started reading/watching their strategy articles and videos.


Sadly like all good things Wargames Inc eventually closed down. This left me without a good place to play Wargames which I still dabbled in a bit but I’d mostly converted into a Card Gamer at this point. I mentioned earlier that there was a Comic book store in Loughborough that I bought my first Intro Packs off of, they’d recently moved at this point and now had more space for actual gaming so I was lucky enough to still have a place to play Magic but again they didn’t really run events or FNMs. A little while later though a few friends and I decided to knuckle down and actually pay some ‘competitive’ magic.


This was just at the start of Innistrad pretty much, and just after the retirement of Zendikar block from standard with the memory of Caw-Blade still shadowing over. The deck I chose to build at first was Tempered Steel, a very linear Artifact beat down strategy revolving around cheap artifact creatures getting buffed up to smash face. On the opposite end of the spectrum my friend Arron decided to put together Solar Flare, a control deck with a reanimation package using Unburial Rites to bring back fatties like Grave Titan and Wurmcoil Engine. And so one day we heard that a store in Leicester (about 7 miles from where I lived at the time) was running Prereleases, and other magic events. So my first real ‘Tournament’ was the Dark Ascension prerelease at Tabletop Tyrant where I now work.

Tempered SteelImage (2)

It was a great experience and everyone was really nice and friendly even  though I went somewhere along the lines of 2-4, and this led Arron and I to start coming to their Friday Night Magics. Very quickly, I’d moved on from Tempered Steel and had picked up the pieces to play ‘Hippo-blade’ a Red White Control deck heavily relying on an artifact package and the recursion of Artifacts with Razor Hippogriff. As it turned out this was a great choice for the meta at the time because there were a bunch of people playing UW Humans, and with my Whipflares and Day of Judgments that match up was very biased in my favour. So went 2-1 at my first FNM and then managed to 3-0 the next two and I was feeling really happy with myself.

Over the summer I ended up playing a lot with the Leicester crew and just after the release of M13 someone said something about going to a PTQ. What’s one of those? I asked, and was told about Pro Tour Qualifiers and the way in which you qualified for the Pro Tour. I’d watched a bunch of coverage and kept up with it, but had no idea how to actually get there and qualify to play. So I went along with the others, all also attending their first PTQ with one exception to a Pro Tour Qualifier for Pro Tour Return to Ravnica in Reading. I’d done a bit of testing and felt like I had a reasonable grasp on the format, not that you’d notice with my deck choice. I ended up on a Mono Blue Delver deck playing Grand Architects and Invisible stalkers along with a couple of a few Runechanters pikes. The deck was sweet, but not good and I ended up going 4-4 with it. But that was my first taste of ‘actual’ competetive Magic: the Gathering.



Since then I’ve been playing pretty much non-stop, hitting up a PTQ every now and again and attending the UK Grand Prix whenever we get them having moderate success depending on how you look at it highlighted with a Day 2 finish at Grand Prix Manchester 2014, a PTQ top 16 in Theros/Kahns standard last december and recently under the new system a Regional PTQ Top 16. A long ways off of doing anything real in the competitive world. However I’ve managed to pick up a job in the Card Game/Wargame Industry buying/selling/trading/event hosting and have made loads of amazing friends and awesome people along the way.

So hah, Yay Magic!

Alastair Rees


Share on Facebook

Posted In: General, Rees' Pieces

Share on Facebook

Posted In: General

Share on Facebook

Share on Facebook

Feature Match

Share on Facebook

Posted In: Events, General, News

Share on Facebook

Posted In: Uncategorized

Share on Facebook


Posted In: News, Product News