5 Exciting Build-Arounds from War of the Spark
Standard has been experiencing a renaissance the past few sets, and War of the Spark looks to continue that trend. One of the most exciting aspects of Standard is that it has been a brewer's paradise, with off-meta decks such as Chromatic Black, Bant Vannifar, Five-Color Guildgates, and more proving the existence of creative deckbuilding in the format. Looking through the spoilers for WAR has shown that this set, more than any other in recent memory, is chock-full of build-arounds that could provide the building blocks for new archetypes. Let's jump right in and look at the five most exciting build-arounds I've found from the new set!
The history of Magic: The Gathering is filled with cards that allow players to play cards without paying for their actual mana costs. In many cases, these cards were development mistakes that have gone on to warp formats, as was the case with cards like Gitaxian Probe and Treasure Cruise. While I don't see Bolas's Citadel joining those aforementioned cards in the hallowed echelons of banlists, the precedent set by these cards shows that you should never underestimate cards that can cheat mana costs. Citadel has already caught the attention of pros who have jumped into WAR Standard with GB midrange lists. Here's one such list from Magic Pro League member and Mythic Championship winner Seth Manfield:
BG Citadel by Seth Manfield
|8Forest||1Doom Whisperer||4Bolas's Citadel|
|4Overgrown Tomb||1Golgari Findbroker||1Vivien Reid|
|7Swamp||4Jadelight Ranger||1Vraska, Golgari Queen|
|4Woodland Cemetery||4Llanowar Elves||4Bond of Flourishing|
|4Merfolk Branchwalker||4Path of Discovery|
|1Assassin's Trophy||3Cast Down||1Cry of the Carnarium|
|4Duress||2Find // Finality||1Kitesail Freebooter|
|1Kraul Harpooner||1Return to Nature||1Vivien Reid|
The obvious synergy of Wildgrowth Walkers and explore allows the deck to keep playing cards without worrying about its life total becoming too low and flooding the board with permanents makes the activated ability of Bolas's Citadel that much more potent.
Feather, the Redeemed
Boros Angels was a deck for a hot second in GRNStandard, but RNA shifted the metagame landscape to the point that the deck no longer saw real competitive play. We shouldn't expect some sort of redemption arc for the archetype with the printing of Feather, the Redeemed, but there's hope that Boros as a color-pair will reenter the metagame with Feather at the helm.
Feather's ability to rebuy spells that target your creatures pushes the deck towards a "Heroic" build (named after the heroic ability from Theros block) but playing pump-spells that aren't good on their own isn't the only way to best utilize Feather. In case the card's ability has you mesmerized, Feather herself is a 3/4 flier for three mana, and that's one heck of pressure that the card can apply in an aggressive deck. The card is immune to the format's most popular removal such as Lightning Strike and Cast Down (which would both be mana-efficient answers), and she shrugs off aggro-stopping sweepers such as Cry of the Carnarium. If brewers are considering playing white and red in their midrange or aggro decks, Feather is probably one of the first cards that spring into their minds of cards that could make the cut.
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
Sneak Attack and Through the Breach, welcome Ilharg, The Raze-Boar. This pseudo-unkillable creature comes into Standard at a time when Gruul has all sorts of ways of ramping and giving its creatures haste. Domri, Chaos Bringer can ramp you into Ilharg mana, and Rhythm of the Wild allows Ilharg to immediately attack the turn it comes into play. Even the cards to cheat into play are conveniently in Gruul colors – Carnage Tyrant and Ghalta, Primal Hunger come to mind. If you go into Naya colors, Gishath, Sun's Avatar becomes a sweet card to get into play tapped and attacking. Here's a list that Twitch streamer Caleb Durward played:
RG Raze-Boar Monsters by Caleb Durwald
|9Forest||2Demanding Dragon||4Rhythm of the Wild|
|6Mountain||4Ghalta, Primal Hunger|
|4Rootbound Crag||1God-Eternal Rhonas|
|4Stomping Ground||4Gruul Spellbreaker|
|4Ilharg, the Raze Boar|
|4Cindervines||2Fiery Cannonade||2Ghalta, Primal Hunger|
|1God-Eternal Rhonas||4Lava Coil||2Pelakka Wurm|
While Caleb stuck to two colors, there's nothing stopping players from going three colors due to the easy fixing that the current format provides. The Boar God is definitely a card to keep an eye on.
I'm biased when it comes to my love for Prime Speaker Vannifar in Standard, so it's no surprise that Neoform was one of the more exciting cards to come out of WAR for me. Vannifar decks were fringe decks in RNA Standard, and part of the reason was the deck's reliance on Vannifar making the deck cohesive. Without Vannifar, the deck was an inconsistent creature-based midrange deck that sometimes drew the wrong creatures for the matchup. Neoform changes this completely, as it serves as copies 5 – 8 of pseudo-Vannifar. Just like how Chord of Calling decks in Modern also play Collected Company, redundancy is important in any strategy, and Neoform possibly provides the needed consistency to make Vannifar strategies in Standard something to be scared of.
Mobilized District might be considered the strangest inclusion on this list, since its ability doesn't pop out quite like the other four cards. Four mana for a 3/3 vigilance creature-land doesn't compare to similar cards that we've seen in the past, such as Treetop Village and Celestial Colonnade. However, creature lands in Standard have almost always seen play because of their utility and being the lone creature land in all of Standard gives Mobilized District a unique distinction. Furthermore, the presence of control decks in the early metagame makes Mobilized District a key player for aggro decks that would like something to dump their mana into in the late game to keep applying pressure.
Mobilized District isn't a card that someone can jam into an already-built deck and have it function, which is why I consider it a "build-around" card. The colorless mana it produces isn't something that many mana bases can support, especially the greedier, three-color decks that take full advantage of shock lands. Mobilized District also incentivizes players to up their count of legendary creatures and planeswalkers in their deck – while this isn't a deck-building necessity, it rewards decks that can squeeze in an extra bit of value by playing legendaries and allowing Mobilized District to be activated at a discount. All in all, I think Mobilized District may be the biggest sleeper of the set, and I'm looking forward to what players come up with.
Anyway, that's all for this week – are there any cards you're looking forward to brewing with in Standard? Let me know what spicy list you've got cooking in the comment section below!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.
Check out our War of the Spark page if you're interested in picking these up before everyone else catches on!