Core Set 2021 Theorycraft Decks: Part Two
Hello Planeswalkers from across the globe! As I am writing this, all the Magic 2021 cards have just been revealed. This Core Set is looking to be one of, if not the most, powerful and impactful of its kind in recent history, and I cannot be more excited to try out some of the new tools it will provide. You can find the previous articles in these links:
- Exploring M21 Spoilers: Part One
- Exploring M21 Spoilers: Part Two
- Exploring M21 Spoilers: Part Three
- Exploring M21 Spoilers: Part Four
Today we will be doing something different: Together with a discussion about each card and its possible applications, I will give you a deck list along with it as a starting point of where do I think we should commence investigating. I will also probably be playing some of this decks during the Core Set 2021 Early Access Streamer event in my Twitch channel on Wednesday, with a stocked account #sponsored by Wizards of the Coast! Let’s get started:
Deck 3 Sanctum of Calm Waters 3 Sanctum of Tranquil Light 3 Sanctum of Fruitful Harvest 3 Sanctum of Shattered Heights 3 Sanctum of Stone Fangs 2 Calix, Destiny's Hand 4 Thirst for Meaning 2 Arboreal Grazer 4 Teferi, Time Raveler 4 Growth Spiral 2 Shatter the Sky 4 Breeding Pool 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Temple Garden 4 Fabled Passage 1 Mountain 1 Swamp 1 Island 1 Forest 1 Plains 2 Ketria Triome 2 Zagoth Triome 2 Raugrin Triome
The shrine concept was originally introduced in “Champions of Kamiwaga”, as an enchantment type that had one of each color, with the idea of encouraging a specific deck centered around them, as basically all increase in power level the more shrines you control (in fact, if you do not have multiples in play, they are very underwhelming). Wizards brought the original ones back to life in the last “Historic Anthologies III”, and now that we see the cycle continue in Core Set 2021 it becomes clear why they did it. Can this be really playable? Is it a meme concept? I honestly think that the new ones might have a fringe chance in constructed.
The premise behind this assumption is based on the ability of “Sanctum of Shattered Heights”: before, the red option available was capable of killing only one permanent at a time, and you would have to wait until your next turn to start doing it. The new version not only lets you kill multiple things per turn (as long as you have the mana and right cards to discard), but also has the potential to do it right away, as soon as it hits play, and it can even be activated at instant speed. This is definitely a powerful effect. It even lets you use your redundant legendary copies and transform them into removal. The blue one can keep the flow of cards going, for you to keep discarding and killing whatever threat you face; the green one provides the mana and fixing to do multiple things per turn; the black one can help stabilize while working as a potential win condition given enough time. As for the multi-color sanctum, I would not include it in the deck, as it might be more of a win more one, costing five mana and not having an effect on the game right away.
Now, it’s completely fine if you don’t feel like this could be a thing, as there are many arguments anyone can come up with against it: for it to work consistently, you need to be playing multiple copies of legendary permanents that do not affect the board right away, and this could mean not only awkward hands that do nothing, but also being not fast enough to keep up with the strength of what everyone else is doing. You also need to build a five color mana base that can cast all this shrines on curve. Add the fact that nowadays there are many more playable ways to interact with enchantments that some time ago, and that means they are not necessarily going to stick into play. Having said all this, it might not be completely impossible once rotation happens in September, and the power level of the format decreases a bit.
Deck 4 Growth Spiral 4 Breeding Pool 3 Temple of Mystery 4 Nightpack Ambusher 3 Nissa, Who Shakes the World 2 Frilled Mystic 4 Shark Typhoon 2 Mystical Dispute 2 Negate 4 Fabled Passage 2 Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath 2 Castle Vantress 8 Forest 6 Island 2 Brazen Borrower 2 Discontinuity 2 Rewind 2 Quench 2 Chemister's Insight
If you are reading the words “End the Turn” for the first time in a Magic card, you might be a little frightened and need clarification of what actually means. If you have already played while cards like “Day’s Undoing”, “Glorious End” or “Sundial of the Infinite” where around, you know that they haven’t been really important during their Standard periods and it is not something to lose our minds… but reviewing how this works might still be a good idea.
When a spell or ability that ends the turn resolves, everything that was happening and was going to happen vanishes. This means that the stack is emptied, damage disappears, but most importantly, that rest of the turn’s phases are not played at all. Let’s say we cast this on our first main phase: every instance of the turn that comes after that will not ever happen (“Beginning of Combat”, “Second Main Phases”, neither “End of Turn”). This means that thing supposedly triggering in those moments won’t happen. This effect can be abused in many different ways, and the fact that we can do it at instant speed means we can use it in either player’s turn. The issue is that neither of those ways of using it is very good.
At two mana, we could try to “counter” negative effects like “Chance for Glory” trigger, basically working as a “Tale’s End”, but other than that, it is probably never going to be a satisfactory plan to reduce our own turn. At six mana, trying to make our opponent skip their hole turn (essentially like taking an extra turn ourselves) could be a possibility except for a little problem: our opponent will have their mana untapped and ready to be used, and that means they can either do something with it like casting an instant or creating a Shark token, or worst of all, they can counter our Discontinuity. This almost discards the chances of counting on the card to work as a free turn most of the time, and we should see it more as a tool that can maybe negate the opponent a combat step, or as a counter spell. But the flexibility is high enough that it will still be interesting to explore.
Deck 3 Garruk, Unleashed 4 Rotting Regisaur 3 Questing Beast 4 Scavenging Ooze 3 The Great Henge 4 Edgewall Innkeeper 4 Lovestruck Beast 4 Foulmire Knight 4 Murderous Rider 2 Eliminate 4 Temple of Malady 4 Overgrown Tomb 2 Castle Locthwain 3 Fabled Passage 7 Forest 5 Swamp
What a moment to have this creature back. The green two drop has been played across different formats and decks in Magic history, like many midrange decks in Modern such as classic “Jund” or “Birthing Pod”/Kiki decks, Pioneer strategies like Ramp or Devotion, and even in Legacy in “Natural Order” or” Maverick” archetypes. Returning to Standard after seven years, this might easily be one of the most important cards from Core Set 2021 in the long run.
A cheap, effective threat that can completely shut down a player’s ability to get any value out of their graveyard, that can be played early in the game to start blocking against aggressive decks and gain life to help stabilize, while still being a decent top deck in the mid/late game, increasing in size very fast and gaining life in the process. Against non-agro strategies, it’s a body that can pressure planes walkers, but most importantly, completely shut down our opponent’s graveyard by itself. “Scavenging Ooze” can nullify any escape cards with minimum effort, stop “Elspeth Conquers Death” to bring back anything, and even make cards like “Command the Dread horde” unplayable if its presence is big enough. I think the chances that this card makes an appearance in most decks that can cast it is very high.
Terror of the Peaks
Deck 3 Yorion, Sky Nomad 4 Charming Prince 4 Mire Triton 4 Tymaret Calls the Dead 4 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger 2 Liliana, Waker of the Dead 2 Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose 2 Terror of the Peaks 4 Oath of Kaya 2 Elspeth Conquers Death 4 Command the Dreadhorde 4 Cathartic Reunion 4 Basilica Bell-Haunt 2 Kaya, Orzhov Usurper 4 Sacred Foundry 4 Blood Crypt 4 Godless Shrine 3 Castle Locthwain 4 Fabled Passage 2 Mountain 4 Swamp 2 Plains 2 Temple of Silence 2 Temple of Triumph 4 Savai Triome
Mythic dragons should always be instantly playable in Constructed because of how cool they are, right? Well, as a five drop that does not affect the board the comes into play, and that not has haste to at least get in for some points of damage, it might a bit difficult to justify this one. In term of stats it’s not that bad, as a five power flyer can end the game pretty quickly, and the fact that forces the opponent to sometimes pay three life to deal with it suggests that it might belong in an aggressive shell, but “spells your opponents cast” means that things like “Elspeth Conquers Death” exiling it, or even Teferi putting it back into our hand won’t make that trigger happen. The full potential of this dragon has to be in its last ability, and finding how better to abuse it.
Personally (and I know we just discussed how Scavenging Ooze will make life difficult for this type of strategies) I would try to make it work as a combo enabler, and finish people of with a big “Command the Dreadhorde” that triggers the damage effect of the dragon all at once, although you would have to accompany the dragon with many life gain creatures to pull this off. The fact that it’s not legendary might means it might have a chance, as it will trigger off of other copies of itself too!
Radha, Heart of Keld
Deck 4 Radha, Heart of Keld 2 Garruk, Unleashed 3 Vivien, Monsters' Advocate 4 Arboreal Grazer 4 Migratory Greathorn 2 Gemrazer 2 Stonecoil Serpent 3 Embercleave 4 Bonecrusher Giant 4 Paradise Druid 3 Questing Beast 4 Stomping Ground 2 Fabled Passage 11 Forest 6 Mountain 2 Temple of Abandon
This new legend is being compared to “Courser of Kruphix” and for good reason, as it is another green creature that lets you play lands from the top of your deck. But its characteristics are quite different, and assuming your deck can pay for both colors of mana, you might want to consider playing it, as I think she fits in aggressive strategies and slower ones alike.
Having first strike during your turn and three power instead of two makes this a much better attacker, although one less toughness means its fragile against spells like “Scorching Dragonfire” or “Deafening Clarion” that would otherwise not kill the Theros centaur. Its second ability it’s the most important of all, as you will be essentially drawing free cards every time you play an extra land from the top of your deck, and probably any deck can benefit from an ability like that. It is also worth noting that, in contrast with Courser, you don’t have to reveal the top of your library to your opponent.
It might be a good idea to test and see if this legend is better than the other three drops that see play now in decks like Gruul Aggro, as those tend to have Haste and bigger bodies, and help you close out the game faster, but the consistency and value this brings to the table, with the upside of an activated ability that can represent tons of damage in the late game, might make Radha a considerable option.
Deck 2 Stonecoil Serpent 4 Venerated Loxodon 4 Faerie Guidemother 4 Giant Killer 4 Temple Garden 6 Forest 10 Plains 3 Flower // Flourish 4 Glorious Anthem 4 Raise the Alarm 3 March of the Multitudes 1 Castle Ardenvale 4 Edgewall Innkeeper 4 Lovestruck Beast 2 Shepherd of the Flock 1 Conclave Tribunal
An iconic card of Magic’s past that makes an appearance in this Core Set. This has a decent, linear, self-explanatory effect in the game that needs no explanation. What needs to be discussed here is: is an enchantment like this still good enough for competitive play? As much as I love drafting those sweet White Weenie or Selesnya Token decks in Cube Draft, the power level here might be too low here to justify its inclusion in a Standard build, as the competence in the three drop slot is though.
This fights for a chance in aggressive white decks against “Gideon Blackblade”, and even though we are talking about different cards, I don’t see a world where you leave out the legendary planeswalker, even if you are playing with a million one drops that can benefit from the anthem effect. It even competes against the new “Basri Ket” also from Core Set 2021, that costs exactly the same and it appears to be created for the same type of decks. Where the enchantment might have a chance to be a better alternative is in a Green White tokens strategy, that can generate a big amount of bodies for this to be extremely good, but those decks haven’t been to competitive recently.
Which cards have you excited to start brewing with? Do you think this Core Set will change the Standard metagame, or just improve some of the already existing archetypes? Thank you very much for reading, we will finish our analysis very soon in part 6! If you want, you can follow me on Twitch and Twitter in this links.