Standard Is Fun Again // Making Mythic with Golgari Legends
- Tobi Henke
It only took three more cards getting banned from Standard. Making a lot of three-for-one trades and the occasional five-for-one was getting old fast. Now we're back to comparatively fair Magic, trading cards with our opponents two for one at a time, and that's a much more enjoyable experience.
The Ghost of Standard Past
Granted, when I first saw Omnath, Locus of Creation I didn't realize what a powerhouse it would prove to be either. When my dear writer colleague Marin Magda first asked me what I thought of the card, my reply was just: "Too much text to parse for me." Back in my day, it was safe to assume that a card with more than eight lines of text could at best be some janky buildaround, safe to ignore. You know, I'm old school like that.
I didn't realize the power of Omnath either, meaning that, presumably, neither did Wizards. It's easy to assume ill intent. The problem is, an evil corporation pushing the power level beyond reason on purpose doesn't explain Omnath. Omnath was so strong that they had to ban it two weeks after release. Sure, the quest to acquire Omnath may have driven sales of Zendikar Rising in the meantime. But try to imagine a different timeline, one in which Omnath was still strong, but strong within reason, and didn't require a ban. Imagine how many more packs a fairer Omnath could have sold, would still sell.
It's better to blame Wizards for an obvious mistake. That much is hard to argue away. After all, I may not have realized Omnath's power when I first saw the card, but I surely did when I first saw it in action. It was messed up, and I'm happy it's gone.
The saddest aspect of it all is how this mistake taints what could have been an almost perfect set. Yes, they could have pushed party a little more, instead of shoving all the available power points into the ramp department yet again. But the Pathway cycle — let's agree to call them "moduals" — is super neat, and the other modal double-faced cards are everything companions wanted to be: they break a core principle of Magic, they predictably stir the pot in larger formats, but they don't break the whole game.
The Reality of Standard Present
Omnath had taken me all the way to Diamond 3 on MTG Arena. (If you literally can't beat 'em, you really do have to join 'em.) Though I hadn't even played much before the bannings. (Because doing broken stuff isn't all that funny when everyone is doing the same broken stuff.)
Now I needed a deck for the actual actual post-rotation format. I tried out various things, including Rogues/Mill, the remnants of ramp, and Monored. Needless to say, everything felt a bit underpowered compared to the before-times. Whereas Lucky Clover had turned many Adventures into three spells and Escape to the Wilds often turned into five cards, it took a while to get used to the new old standard of Standard. Eventually, though, I came to the realization that a two-for-one is in fact the ideal form of Magic. Making trades like that leads to enjoyable games with a lot of replay value. More than that and games spiral out of control too quickly, often leaving the player who has the first turn to have the last turn as well.
I was just about to settle for boring old Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, which was touted as the new metagame's designated frontrunner, when I stumbled across something cooler. Specifically, I found a deck idea that had me thinking: "Wait a minute, I might actually be able to contribute something useful here." Felix Sloo had built a black-green midrange deck, as he does, and this one featured Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse along with eleven cards to trigger Jolrael's ability …
I figured we should probably do a little better than that. And it was painfully easy too. Here's what I ended up with:
Compared to the original, this has The Henge, Profane Insight, and Rankle as additional ways to trigger Jolrael, not to mention Edgewall Innkeeper. Innkeeper, of course, generates the requisite extra draw off of any Adventure creature, while The Henge works with any creature, and Chevill, Bane of Monsters can do the same for any removal spell. I have won a ton of games with Jolrael's Cats and activated ability, but for all that awesomeness, it's important to note that Jolrael is just one piece within a larger picture puzzle. Luckily, extra cards have their own application, even when they don't come with a 2/2 token attached and/or build toward a more massive mass pump.
And Jolrael isn't always best on turn two, particularly in matchups where there's Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp. A better sequence is to start with Chevill and cast Jolrael plus Primal Might on turn three. Or play Jolrael before attacking with Elder Gargaroth so you get a token and a card. Or follow up a Lovestruck Beast/Kazandu Mammoth with the brutal turn four play of The Great Henge plus Jolrael … plus counter … plus token. You may notice that the deck isn't built to maximize the incidence of any of these sequences, but they do add up.
Kazandu Mammoth // Kazandu Valley, by the way, has outperformed my expectations, although I played the Valley more often than the Mammoth. Or it may be because I did. In any case, I was happy to see it in Rodrigo's recent article on cards to buy. It's become such a Standard staple already, even pushing the mighty Questing Beast all but out of the format. It displaced the Beast not just in Gruul Landfall back at the Season Grand Finals — despite Embercleave! — but also in a number of high-ranking Monogreen decks as well as other Golgari Adventure lists seen since.
Speaking of which, a bunch of people have posted their own takes on Adventures last week. I can't claim with any degree of confidence that my version is superior to theirs. Though the above is better at drawing cards whenever you don't have Innkeeper.
And I do know that you'd much rather have Chevill on turn two than Order of Midnight, especially when you run into Monored or Monogreen. In fact, more or less by accident, the deck ended up somewhat optimized for best-of-one play where aggro matchups are anecdotally more common. My initial plan was to try out the concept first and to build a sideboard later, but progress went so well that I never got around to the second step.
I made it from Diamond 3 to Mythic with a win rate of 64%, which may not sound impressive. Though a game win percentage of 64% translates into a match win percentage of 70%. (That's why it's usually akin to shooting yourself in the foot when you limit yourself to best-of-one.) In the heavily contested ranks of high Diamond, possibly the most cutthroat environment on Arena, either constitutes a reasonable stamp of approval. However, the main reason why I stuck with the deck is how much fun I had navigating it through a Standard format that finally looks healthy again. You should try it.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.