After my string of hot takes last week, I want to start today with an ice cold take: brewing with new cards is great. When a new set enters the format, you can have a lot of fun revamping old decks and brewing up new ones. War of the Spark joins Standard this weekend at SCG Richmond, so we get to see everyone’s new ideas put to the test immediately.

When preparing for a week one Standard event, I have a few steps to narrow down the possibilities. Identify the good new cards, see what helps existing strategies, and then look for any cards that spawn totally new decks.

Identify the Good Cards

Spoiler season is always an exciting time to peruse the new cards for potential powerhouses. With an explosive set like War of the Spark, almost every card is exciting; but only a few will have the biggest impact on Standard. Being able to differentiate between cards that seem great versus cards that actually are great.

For example, Finale of Devastation looks very powerful and feels like it should slot easily into many green decks. The effect is good, but we shall see whether it actually performs. I am much more excited about Enter the God-Eternals, however. That card is so flexible—it fits both midrange and control archetypes. For five mana you get massive value, and the combination of effects could fill holes in various decks.

Help for Existing Decks

After identifying the good cards of the set, look for cards that improve existing decks. This can get tricky, because it is not enough to find cards that improve existing archetypes. For a card to improve a deck, there has to be room to add it. You have to look for direct upgrades, or easy swaps that can be made without disrupting the strategy of the deck.

For example, let’s look at the old Sultai midrange deck. War of the Spark includes many powerful gold cards, but not all of them take the deck in a good direction. Casualties of War comes to mind here. This card murders everything, yet Sultai and Golgari may not rush to add it. The older cards are already more efficient on the mana for what they do. Assassin’s Trophy hits every permanent for two mana. Vivien Reid answers fliers, enchantments, and artifacts while still sticking around. There may not be room to fit Casualties of War as well.

One particulary promising card is Finale of Promise. It looks like a strict upgrade for the Izzet Phoenix deck that hovers around Standard. Cheating on mana for your spells is great. It also allows you to bring back Phoenixes all by itself. You can pair Finale of Promise with Goblin Electromancer for explosive new lines of attack.

Brewing New Decks

When new cards are added to the Standard card pool, a good place to start brewing is by creating new archetypes or powering up ones that were previously lacking. The thirty-seven new planeswalkers in War of the Spark provide plenty of opportunities to do that. There are two cards in this set that come to mind: Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God and God-Eternal Bontu.

Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God is exactly what Grixis control and midrange decks needed as a finisher. The deck approached viability prior to War of the Spark, but now evolves with Nicol Bolas plus the flexible removal spell Angrath’s Rampage and value bomb Enter the God-Eternals.

On the other side, God-Eternal Bontu catapults the deck called Mardivas into Mardu Aristocrats. The god-eternal provides a top-end beater that can also finish games as a sacrifice outlet, which bodes well for the deck.

Sneak Peak

With all the talk of what a new set can bring, I figured should share what I am playing in Standard for week one. After identifying the good cards in the set and seeing which playstyle fits me best, I came up with Grixis Midrange.

Grixis Midrange

Creatures (8)
Thief of Sanity
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager

Spells (26)
Angrath's Rampage
Cast Down
Moment of Craving
Thought Erasure
Vraska's Contempt
Enter the God-Eternals
Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God
Liliana, Dreadhorde General
Lands (26)
Blood Crypt
Dragonskull Summit
Drowned Catacomb
Steam Vents
Sulfur Falls
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
Disdainful Stroke
Dreadhorde Invasion
Moment of Craving
Ritual of Soot
Enter the God-Eternals
Commence the Endgame

The deck was originally submitted by a Twitch viewer who used more planeswalkers and a lot of removal spells. I decided to transform the shell into this deck. Grixis Midrange is full of two-for-ones and value cards that can help you pivot from control to aggressor pretty fast. It fits my style and I’m excited to see how it does.

Let me know which decks you play for week one Standard!

Zack is a SCG grinder with one ultimate goal: getting to the Players Championship. Based out of NYC, you can find him in other cities every weekend trying to hit that goal. When he isn’t traveling he streams. Follow his journey on Twitter!

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