Zurgo, the Emasculated. New Red Deck Wins!
...Ironic that he will see infinitely more play after his demotion.
New standard formats are always one of my favourite times to play Magic because it's typically when I win most. Everyone else is still trying to figure out which cards are good and what decks they fit in. This is the time to play something fast and brutal that punishes their every misstep. It's time to play Red Deck Wins. I think that RDW is one of the few existing Tier 1 decks that really aren't hurt from the printing of new cards (too much). I initially wanted to keep playing R/W Midrange, updated with Thunderbreak Regent and Draconic Roar, but Dromoka's Command kind of ruins that because Chained to the Rocks becomes basically unplayable. That leads me back to the only other deck that really interests me in the format. I also think with UB/w Control getting so many goodies it will be back in full force. That makes it a reasonable meta choice.
First things first for the TL;DR crowd, here's what I'll be playing week one of Dragons of Tarkir standard:
Red Deck Wins by Keith Ambrose
Oh how the mighty have fallen...
First off is Zurgo Bellstriker. I can't say enough about this card and how good I think it is, despite making me feel a little bad for little Zurgo.
On that topic:
But alas, I digress. Zurgo is good. Very good. I think it might actually see modern play good. A 2/2 for R with a drawback you don't care about and the ability to gain haste reminds me most closely of Goblin Guide. I remember how good that card was, and while I don't think Zurgo is quite there, he is still very, very good. I was luck enough to trade a Tasigur and a Snickers for three copies at the pre-release. Time will tell, but I think I'm going to come out ahead on that trade. I am extremely excited about playing this card. I also traded for a Foil for my Alesha Tiny Leader's deck (read about it here if you missed it) so all is right with the world.
Remember Stonewright? 'Cause I do!
I remember how good Stonewright was in RDW during Ravnica Returns standard and I think this card might actually be better. The ability to just dump all your mana into this card as a quasi-Fireball when your opponents are tapped out is just ridiculous to me. Even if you just hardcast the card, you still get to dump all your excess mana into it. Mana-sum Theory tells us that is good. One of my good friends also thinks this has a place in Modern in the Norin the Wary deck alongside Impact Tremors. I am not really a fan of that deck, but I have to admit that it looks like it picked up a lot from this set.
Premium removal? In Red?
This card is nuts. It kills Tasigur, it kills Siege Rhino, it kills Courser of Kruphix, it kills Polukranos, World Eater, it kills Goblin Rabblemaster...yup, that's pretty much all the pillars of the format. It's nuts. It basically replaces Chained to the Rocks (taking away the incentive to splash white in most red decks), which as covered above suffers a lot from the printing of Dromoka's Command. It may actually be correct to main board these over the maindeck Searing Bloods, but I like to keep the main as lean as possible. I do see myself siding this in a lot.
Other Cards Impacted by Dragon's of Tarkir:
Unfortunately the printing of Virulent Plague makes Goblin Rabblemaster and his Goblin Tokens worse. That in turn makes Stoke the Flames generally cost more / net you less tempo, but I still think they're playable. Plague will see play in sideboards as a 3 of at most and it only really shuts off four cards and makes eight a little worse. Your opponent will also look a little silly if you board out your Outbursts. I don't play Drown in Sorrow often, but I imagine it's probably still better.
Not too much to say about this guy. Still good on turn one, still a bad top deck. However, I do think he gets better with the printing of Zurgo Bellstriker and Lightning Berserker. I still can't get enough of curving this into 2x Monestary Swiftspear, into Hordeling Outburst on turn three. Obviously Magical Christmas Land, but 13 damage on turn three with six creatures in play that demands either Drown in Sorrow or Anger of the Gods feels good.
I imagine that Peak Eruption loses some potency as Chained to the Rocks disappears due to Dromoka's Command. I'll still play it until people figure it out, because it's still a good tempo play and a two for one. I'm not sure if it will still have a place in the deck after Chained to the Rocks disappears. Time will tell.
It's hard to come up with an exact guide to sideboarding, since we're not exactly sure what decks will show up week one. Instead I'll give a bit of a loose guide with why I put certain cards in the board and where I imagine them coming in. Hall of Triumph will come in against the decks with Scouring Sands and / or Arc Lightning. Roast, Harness by Force and Goblin Heelcutter are basically for the green decks. Roast will also come in against decks with Siege Rhino and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Peak Eruption and Arc Lightning are more or less for the mirror, but are also good against R/x Midrange decks and token decks respectively. Outpost Siege is for control and really grindy matchups.
So basically, that's what I'll be doing for FNM this week. I don't think I'll catch many people off guard, since I have a reputation as a red player and I played a similar list last week, but I still think some people will be playing with shakey and / or untested decks and I'll be able to exploit that. I hope you all had a great time at the pre-release and didn't get Atarka'd too many times. Good luck at the first FNMs of the new standard!