Wizard Variants in Old and New Standard

by Simon Nielsen on 05 September 2018, Wednesday

Simon Nielsen

Wizard Variants in Old and New Standard

We’re coming to a close on this format, and while it has been widely criticized for bans, Kaladesh’s dominance and being a one-deck format here in the last stretch, I think it’s really not that bad. Games are interesting, and there are still other competitive deck options available for those who do not want to follow the masses.

Recently I 5-0’ed Standard leagues with two Wizard tribal variants, and I think both decks are competitive. They also both happen to not lose a lot from rotation, so it’s likely that this can be a sort of preview article for Guilds of Ravnica Standard.


Mono Red Wizards… and Pirates!

Wizard Red is not exactly an unknown quantity, and neither is Flame of Keld Red. It won Grand Prix Providence very recently, after all.

Yet this version takes things to another level. I actually ended up playing this at Danish Nationals. After not knowing what to play, I went 10-0 on Magic Online the day before the tournament and locked it in.

People would ask me how many copies of Hazoret the Fervent I ran. I would answer with an arrogant laugh and tell them: “My deck is way too fast for 4-drops! And 3-drops…and 2-drops.”

Simon Nielsen's One-Drop Red (Standard (M2019) - 1st)

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I had tried other versions of The Flame of Keld decks, and I honestly didn’t like the card. However, I thought this version fixed the problems, as it’s a lot easier to both empty your hand and have a board presence of small red dudes once we reach the third chapter. If you rely too much on burn spells, you are essentially gambling that the top 4 cards of your library after you cast The Flame of Keld will yield what you need.

Nationals didn’t go as planned for me. I did end up in the top 16, largely on the back of my Limited record. I do think that the Viashino Pyromancer version that won GP Providence is a better approach to Flame of Keld currently.

But I do think it’s very much worthwhile to keep the Pirate package in mind as we start building red decks after rotation. After all, the big red cards such as Chandra, Torch of DefianceHazoret the Fervent and Glorybringer will all rotate, which gives more incentive for red decks to be small and based around The Flame of Keld.

And since both Soul-Scar Mage and Bomat Courier will also be gone, we can fill that void with Pirates!

Can we pleeeease have a 1-mana Pirate Wizard like blue gets in Siren Stormtamer? If we get a suitable 1-drop, we can replace the Bomat Couriers and Soul-Scar Mages with that and 4 copies of Viashino Pyromancer, then replace Kari Zev and Insult/Injury for whatever other fitting card they print. At that point, this maindeck will once again be fully Standard-legal!


Blue Wizards

This deck is a weird one, but I honestly think it’s at least decent if not straight up good. I was winning 75% of my matches online, but a poor Red-Black matchup kept me from pulling the trigger. I’ll show you the decklist first, because it’s not easy to explain.

Simon Nielsen's Wizard Blue (Standard (M2019) - 1st)

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I 5-0’ed with a list I copied straight from the Internet, then made some changes such as shaving the Commits and fixing up the terrible-looking sideboard.

The basic idea of this deck is to play a Delver-style game where you deploy cheap threats and protect them with countermagic. The best threat you can produce is Slither Blade enchanted with Curious Obsession, as this will keep the cards flowing so you always have access to answers.

This deck mostly acquires its wins by attacking from multiple different angles and having the ability to play actual Counterspell in the form of Wizard’s Retort, which is honestly just huge. What this deck lacks in power it gains in flexibility. And Tempest Djinn is a card to just win games by itself!

I’m very happy to run this deck into blue decks (except for Grixis!) and Mono-Green. Somehow it just wins against Flame of Keld decks, and I suspect this is because both of us play underpowered cards, but they don’t get to go under us and as such we can level the playing field.

New versions of this deck even play 4 Thriving Turtles in the 75, which to me is an exciting way to create a big body for Curious Obsession against red.They also run multiple copies of Chart a Course maindeck, and I can certainly subscribe to that!

After rotation, we will need to replace Slither Blade with Mist-Cloaked Herald, but as I suspect fewer Goblin Chainwhirlers around with the rotation of so many red cards, I am honestly not too unhappy about that. Unsummon will also have to go, but Exclusion Mage is a decent placeholder. I’ve also seen people play a couple of Departed Deckhands, which might not be horrible. If we get our Pirate count high enough, maybe we can even run Dreamcaller Siren or Lookout’s Dispersal. A lot of lists are already cutting Aethersphere Harvester anyway, so it seems like it will be very easy to port this deck into new Standard. And it’s such an affordable option!

The shape-up of a new format

Without many Guilds of Ravnica cards revealed, it is hard to give a qualified guess to the post-rotation meta. I think the big thing is that the number of Goblin Chainwhirlers should (hopefully) decrease, which opens up the opportunity to play tribal centric decks. And not just Wizards; you also get to try Merfolk, Vampires, Goblins, Knights, and even Angels! All the cards that make up the core of the current Mono-White midrange deck will stay around: Resplendent Angel, Shalai, Voice of Plenty, Lyra Dawnbringer, Benalish Marshal, History of Benalia, and Knight of Grace. I am pretty certain that something exists within this space, as the deck is already doing quite fine right now.

We will also see Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Search for Azcanta, and Nexus of Fate stay around for another year. I wonder if somebody could produce something broken with these cards…

And obviously I have to be excited that I’m still allowed to cast Llanowar Elves into Steel Leaf Champion. A lot of cards from the current make-up of Mono-Green Stompy will rotate, but I wonder if I’m supposed to cast turn 2 Thunderherd Migration revealing Gigantosaurus

But besides all of these monocolored shenanigans, I am looking forward to February when we get the full ten shocklands and get to build manabases like we did in Return to Ravnica standard. Tricolored aggro decks with twelve of each dual land - and everything coming into play untapped!

And with both Steam Vents and Watery Grave, it should be rather easy to cast Nicol Bolas, the Ravager

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