After seeing the new standard format, a few questions remain for the deck. First, what creature should replace Luminarch Aspirant? Second, what cards should make up the sideboard? The first question remains unanswered. I have tried Guardian of New Benalia, but it was underwhelming in the matches I played. Then I turned to Radha’s Firebrand. This card is OK, but I don’t see it as the best answer yet. Another option is including more removal in the main deck. Kami’s Flare might be the right choice if additional removal makes the most sense. I expect these four card spots will be in flux for a little while.
I found that the sideboard needed an adjustment based on what I have seen over the first weekend of Dominaria United standard season. The primary change is replacing Valorous Stance with Destroy Evil. For the same cost you get a little more flexibility.
Destroy Evil can destroy a creature with toughness 4 or greater and can destroy a target enchantment. The ability to destroy an enchantment makes this a better choice than giving a creature indestructible.
The next change is bringing three copies of Abrade, two copies of Fateful Absence, and two Cathar Commandos to the sideboard. Abrade destroys an artifact. Fateful Absence kills a planeswalker. Cather Commando has flash and can destroy either an artifact or enchantment. I have found that these cards work well to deal with the diverse threats decks currently present.
We will see how the deck adjusts to the evolving format over the next few weeks to know exactly what the deck needs to remain a top-standard deck.
Next, we have Rakdos Anvil or Rakdos Sacrifice. You will see the deck called both depending on the website you look at for information. The core of the deck developed during Streets of New Capenna season. The deck is built around Oni-Cult Anvil.
This artifact costs one black and one red mana. It has two important abilities. First on your turn, when an artifact leaves the battlefield on your turn you create a 1/1 colorless Construct token. This happens only once each turn but getting to replace an artifact when you sacrifice one on your turn builds momentum for the deck. The second ability allows you to sacrifice an artifact to deal one damage to your opponent and you gain one life. This chip damage does not seem like a lot but adds up over the course of a game.
To provide Oni-Anvil with sacrifice targets, the deck employs Bloodtithe Harvester and Voldaren Epicure. When these creatures enter the battlefield, each creates a blood token. This token is sacrificed to draw a card or to Oni-Cult Anvil’s ability to create value for the deck.
Planeswalkers play a key role in the deck. Anvil employs Liliana of the Veil and Ob Nixilis, the Adversary. Liliana can cause an opponent to sacrifice a creature or discard a card. When you can keep Liliana in play for several turns her abilities make it difficult for your opponent to establish a board presence. Ob Nixilis is a chip damage engine. Your opponent loses two life unless they discard a card when his plus loyalty ability is activated. With Liliana forcing your opponent to discard each turn, your opponent will not have cards to discard to Ob Nixilis. How many of each card fits in the deck is a work in progress, but I expect at least two of each card and likely a full set of four in some versions of the deck.
Since this is a red deck, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker fills four spots in the deck. This all-star from Kamigawa; Neon Dynasty makes a 2/2 Goblin token that creates a treasure when it attacks, gives you card filtering, and can copy a non-legendary creature when it transforms into Reflection of Kiki-Jiki. The value from Fable makes it a must in red decks.
Finally, the deck has a strong removal package with Cut Down, Voltage Surge, and The Meathook Massacre. Cut Down kills any creature with total power and toughness of 5 or less. Voltage Surge does two damage to a creature or planeswalker and when you sacrifice an artifact it does a total of four damage. The Meathook Massacre is the best removal card in standard. For two black mana and X mana, you can give each creature -1/-1 for each additional mana spent to cast the spell. Typically, Meathook kills all your opponents’ creatures when it is cast. Then you get to add one life for each of your opponents’ creatures that die and do one point of damage to your opponent for each creature you controlled that died. Plus the sideboard offers additional removal in Infernal Grasp.
Except for Liliana of the Veil, all the non-land cards in the deck come from sets before Dominaria United, so enfranchised plays will have the cards needed to take the deck out week one. Plus, many older players have Liliana from previous printing of the card, so you can expect them to have access to her right away.
As Dominaria United season begins, it is important to understand that the version of the deck you find on-line or see on Arena will most likely not be the version of the deck you face at a Friday Night Magic or other events because most players will not have all the cards from the new set that they would like to use this Friday. Usually, it takes several weeks for players to acquire all the cards needed for their deck, so do not worry if you want to play a deck and you are short a few of the cards. Given time, you will get them in packs, through trades, and purchase them from your local game store like Caffeinated Gamers.
That’s it for this week. I’ll see you next time!