Bringing the Party to Standard


Apparently, you have to fight … for your right to party. The brand-new mechanic is a little hard to make work in the context of 60-card decks, but the potential rewards are plentiful. Let us take a look at party and other tribal shenanigans in the updated Standard format with Zendikar Rising.

ardent electromancer

A Little Bit of Everything … Everywhere

In newly introduced Magic terminology, a party is a group of up to four creatures: one Cleric, one Warrior, one Wizard, and one Rogue. This is a way of paying homage to the mother of all role-playing games, Dungeons & Dragons, which is rather unsurprising as it and Magic are owned by the same company. A D&D-themed set is already announced for 2021, so I was somewhat let down with this taking up a mechanic slot now, but at least it will make Limited more fun, as well as maybe Standard.

tajuru paragon base camp

There are problems, however. The creature classes and their respective payoffs are divided across white, blue, black, and red, with the ideal enabler in green. Land-wise, Base Camp hints at the possibility of a five-color deck, but the mana just doesn't work out, partly because Zendikar Rising's double-faced dual lands require a choice upon playing. Whereas Temple Garden could fix colors to allow the casting of a white one-drop and a green two-drop, Branchloft Pathway // Boulderloft Pathway can do only one or the other. Triomes might help but enter the battlefield tapped, as does Base Camp, which defeats all hope of curving out. On top, the Camp refuses to chip in when it comes to paying for party spells such as Spoils of Adventure or Coveted Prize.

I tried building a "full party" deck in all five colors, using Tajuru Paragon as a flexible temp worker to support the likes of Archpriest of Iona, Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate, Squad Commander, and Tazri, Beacon of Unity. Unfortunately, it didn't take more than a few unplayable test draws to realize that no possible land base comes close to matching the requirements.

Although five colors are an obvious first thing that comes to mind, there are other interesting ideas that make use of party, or at least parts of it. None of the following decks will ever assemble a full party of four, but they are more consistent, straightforward, and stronger.

Boros Party

archpriest of iona ardent electromancer shatterskull minotaur

Felix Sloo came up with quite an unexpected beatdown build that incorporates some combo elements. The ideal opening is to cast a Rogue or Cleric on the first turn, a Warrior on the second, and then slam Ardent Electromancer plus Shatterskull Minotaur on turn three. The current creature selection maximizes the likelihood with ten appropriate one-drops and ten Warrior two-drops, although fitting in Robber of the Rich might still be better.

Then you go face with everything, and wrap everything up with Embercleave. The deck remains a veritable aggro deck with a lot of incidental payoffs. It does not have to assemble a full party at any point.

Dimir Rogues

Some great creatures already legal before Zendikar Rising are Rogues. Some great creatures from Zendikar Rising are Rogues. Why not just combine the best of both worlds and make a Dimir tempo deck? The old and new Rogues have one big thing in common: many of them become bigger when an opponent has eight or more cards in their graveyard. Thieves' Guild Enforcer is an awesome example of what such a card should look like. Its abilities are great, it has flash, and it can become terrifying if not answered fast.

thieves guild enforcer soaring thought-thief nighthawk scavenger

There weren't enough Rogues with a similar payoff until the new set, but now we got a ton of them. What's more, many have flash, so I've brought a playset of Cunning Nightbonder to fill up the space and make the deck more resilient. Other than this, I'm hoping that a deck like this can mill your opponent for eight by turn three. If you play a turn one Enforcer and follow it up with another drop on turn two, this should grow some of your Rogues, if not all of them due to Soaring Thought-Thief.

If Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath gets banned, milling your opponent shouldn't be all that bad, even though I haven't made this one with the idea of being a mill deck in mind. It's all about making a huge Nighthawk Scavenger, which I consider one of the best creatures in Standard. If all fails, you probably still have a shot at killing your opponents by removing their threats and flying over them with yours.

Orzhov Clerics

Just like Dimir has Rogues from various sets, Orzhov has Clerics in all corners of Standard. Most of them have lifelink, so there is quite a bit of room to explore here. We should give a lifelink deck a chance. It has many angles of attack and interesting interactions.

vito, thorn of the dusk rose nullpriest of oblivion angel of destiny

I've felt like bringing all black and white Clerics together, so I realized I could brew with Angel of Destiny a bit. Gaining lots of life isn't usually the best way to win a game, but perhaps this deck manages to achieve that. If the Angel, Vito, or Marauding Blight-Priest don't help, Speaker of the Heavens or Archfiend's Vessel may.

The Vessel has amazing synergy with Call of the Death-Dweller and a kicked Nullpriest of Oblivion. In the early game, it'll attack or block as necessary, giving you life in the process and becoming a Demon later on. If you manage to keep up with the lifegain plan, you'll be getting Angels too thanks to the Speaker. More importantly, both of these are Humans, so Dire Tactics becomes a card that's just too good to pass. This may not be the best implementation of Clerics, but hopefully the brew shows some of the many possibilities.

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