Stormwing Entity Art by Caroline Gariba

Core Set 2021 Theorycraft Decks: Part Three – Reinventing Archetypes for BO3

Hello Planeswalkers from across the globe! Magic Core Set 2021 was just released on Magic Arena, and we are all hoping that it will be enough to create a new Standard environment. Since the last bannings and rules change for the Companions, the format has essentially devolved into an old structure, and we have been seeing the same decks dominate over and over. It is time to test if this new expansion has what it takes to gives us all that much needed breath of fresh air.

One interesting aspect of this new set is that, not only includes many powerful and build-around cards that can potentially inspire new strategies, but it also has a decent amount of utility spells (specially at the uncommon rarity) that might help some tier 2 archetypes of today to get that extra power boost and compete in the big leagues.

Today we are going to explore some new decks for BO3 Standard that include some of the sweetest cards from the set. Keep in mind that most of this decks could be playable in BO1, with some small optimizations to be better suit for the fast and aggressive pace of the format. Let’s begin:

Izzet Phoenix

An archetype that has been around for ages, that never got the chance to be as competitive in Standard as many people wanted. “Arclight Phoenix” is a card that started its life as an overlooked Mythic, but someone realized its potential across many formats very fast, and its prize spiralled out of control. That hype did not last for too long though, as a couple of months later its win rate proved to be not so high, and the Izzet frenzy decreased – it became a fun, solid tier 2 strategy that you could try to win some games with, knowing that you should be playing something else. Core Set 2021 brings some interesting tools for this deck, that could help push its power just enough to be competitive once again.

[sd_deck deck=”FHR6EgPyE”]

In this build, “Stormwing Entity” represents another threat, that in conjunction with the Phoenix can pressure our opponent’s life total through the air. The elemental can easily be played for just two mana on turn three in this deck, and is able to put a fast clock on the other player. With a “Goblin Electromancer” in play, this list should be able to easily play at least three or four instant or sorceries in a single turn, drawing cards and killing creatures at the same time, which would make our flyer attack for six or seven in the air in one swing!

The most exciting inclusion in this list has to be “See the Truth”: essentially being a sorcery speed “Anticipate” in its normal mode, the idea is to either play it or get it into the graveyard with one of our discard tools, and then choosing it as one of our targets for “Finale of Glory”, which will net us three cards. Even though the first mode of the card can be very underwhelming, I think the potential for such card advantage makes it worth playing, since we can reduce its cost with Electromancer to make it just a one mana spell, or we can discard it and get it ready for later.

“Teferi, Master of Time” is the other big addition from Core Set 2021. His abilities are solid here for obvious reasons, as he makes sure you keep the flow of cards going, while helping to get those phoenixes into the bin, and being a win condition by itself. Its “removal” option might be decent here as well, since this deck is not trying to solve every problem our opponent presents, but just trying to get it out of the way for our flyers to finish things off. Overall this deck seems sweet and I can’t wait to try it (unless of course, an army of Scavenging Ooze dominate the format!).

Selesnya Counters

What a noble color combination Selesnya is, always doing fair things: Playing creatures, creating some tokens, putting some counters, getting some damage, gaining some life. One simply does not have the rights to say anything when getting beaten by a green white player. It’s been a while since we had a competitive deck with this characteristics, but some new toys from this new Core Set could change that:

[sd_deck deck=”eaXG-DeHO”]

All the Basri’s theme cards care do add counters or care about them (or both), and in conjunction with “Conclave Mentor” this deck might be capable of generating some crazy board states very fast. The main gameplan is to overload the table with as many creatures as possible early on, and then make our team grow quickly and big to smash for tons of damage. This new Centaur will essentially double in value all of our +1+1 shenanigans (since we are adding one counter at a time), ability that works extremely well with cards like “Venerated Loxodon” or “Basri’s Solidarity”. It even lets us attack for three damage on turn two with a presiously played “Pelt Colletor”. “Huatli’s Raptor” will help the team increase its size and also works extremely well with the centaur. The brand new white planeswalker should also be at its best here, since both of its main abilities are at its full potential. Overall it appears to be a deck that has powerful starts and can generate enough strength fast given that you get good openers. Having said all this, there are two clear downsides to it that we need to consider when testing it.

The first one is the fact that there is nothing to draw extra cards (previous Selesnya weenie decks used to have “Edgewall Inkeeper” as a card draw engine). This means that we will be playing the game with what we get in our opening hand and a few extras, which also means that it has to be efficient and that aggressive mulligans will be required. The other issue this list might face is the mana base: it really hurts not having another untapped dual land for this aggressive multi-color decks, and since we need to apply pressure as fast as possible, tapped mana sources are not a great idea. We will need a white source on turn one, or green source on turn one for “Pelt Collector”, both colors of mana for turn two, and double white for turn three for the planeswalker, and with only basics it might be a bit hard to hit this requirement consistently enough. A couple of “Flower // Flourish” are included to try mitigate this aspect, while also serving as a potential tool to close out some games.

Time and testing will tell if a build like this can compete in a harsh Standard environment as the one we are experimenting today, but the amazing synergies combined a very good looking deck (and the fact that I miss Selesnya so much) makes it impossible to resist at least trying.

Mardu BOOM!

Being a huge fan of “Command the Dreadhorde” decks since its debut in War of the Spark, I cannot resist the idea of killing our opponent with one single big resurrection, and this new expansion includes not one, but two tools that can help us do that. Why not just try to make them both cooperate? Unless “Scavenging Ooze” is running rampage in every Standard decklists from now on, we will assume that our graveyards will still be a place we count on for value, and can play decklists like this sweet Mardu deck – which we covered in the previous article, but a more refined version:

[sd_deck deck=”aF–zWE2O”]

So many things going on here. The dream scenario is to use the power of “Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose” and/or “Terror of the Peaks”, that in conjunction with all the other creatures, can generate enough damage to kill our opponent with a single reanimation spell. The challenge is trying to get there while developing our graveyard and interacting with the opponent at the same time. There is a mix of early creatures that can block, gain life or pressure a planeswalker, and a mix of permanent based removal spells and card draw, that ensure we play a good game until we get to the climax. How are we planning to close things out once everything is in position?

The Vampire role here is easy to understand: any creature we revive that give us life when they hit the battlefield will also trigger the life loss ability. This can escalate very quickly when adding “Yorion, Sky Nomad” to the mix, since it will double every trigger, and even lets us use things like “Oath of Kaya” to deal as much as six damage. As long as we have a high enough life total to pay for what we want to bring back, most of our targets will give heal us automatically, while killing our opponent in the process.

But what “Terror of the Peaks” can potentially do is what gets me more excited. It is true that hardcasting it for five mana is not a fantastic deal here, since we are not aggressive enough to make good use of a flyer with stats. It might be better to get it straight into the graveyard with “Cathartic Reunion” if we get the change. If we manage to make the dragon participate in a “Command the Dreadhorde” reviving team, the amount of damage that this mythic can generate is absurd. To give you a simple example: “Terror of the Peaks” + “Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger” + “Charming Prince” requires you to pay nine life, and will generate 14 damage that can target anything! And hopefully the opponent had cards in hand, because if that’s not the case, the discard triggers will add enough to the mix to generate… 20 points of damage. With a three creature command. Can’t wait to do this on stream!

Have you started brewing with Core Set 2021? Which cards have caught your attention more? Hopefully we can start developing a new Standard format with all this new tools. Thank you very much for reading! I will be streaming this decks in my Twitch channel, and you can also find me on social media on Twitter, see you guys in the next one.

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