Welcome to 2020! After a break i’m back to talk about standard in all of its highs and (many) lows. I’ve kindly been invited by Wizards of the Coast to take part in the Theros Beyond Death Early Access event and with prereleases coming up this weekend, let’s take a look at some of the upcoming cards that will be making a splash in Standard.

Zombie as creature type, Zombie by nature, Gary is back in standard! Gray Merchant of Asphodel was the finisher for Mono Black Devotion in Theros Standard and Mono Black Control in Pauper, and Gary has returned and looks to play a similar role today. What made the deck resilient back in Standard was its card advantage engine, using Underworld Connections and Nightveil Specter to ensure you would never run out of resources while also increasing our devotion profoundly. In our current Standard however, these options do not exist.

What we can do however, is make our deck as difficult to interact with as possible. By taking the Witch’s Oven and Cauldron Familiar combo, we can drain our opponent’s life total to get them into range of a lethal Gray Merchant of Asphodel trigger. If we then combine this with Ayara, First of Locthwain, Castle Locthwain, Witch’s Cottage, and Nightmare Shepherd, we get multiple uses from our Gray Merchant of Asphodel.

Here is a shell to start brewing:

Mono Black Devotion

Creatures (26)
Cauldron Familiar
Knight of the Ebon Legion
Ayara, First of Locthwain
Murderous Rider
Erebos, Bleak-Hearted
Nightmare Shepherd
Gray Merchant of Asphodel

Spells (10)
Witch’s Oven
Agonizing Remorse
Bolas’s Citadel
Lands (24)
18 Swamp
Castle Locthwain
Witch’s Cottage

While I haven’t included a sideboard, there are some potential powerful options that help our devotion—cards like Leyline of the Void to beat any cat recursion deck or Underworld Dreams against potential control decks.

When Tectonic Giant was revealed, it received a mixed reception. It has a powerful set of abilities that will almost assuredly win you the game if it attacks, but doesn’t do anything when it enters play. Many compared it to Thunderbreak Regent, but with no evasion it is looked upon less kindly. This is unfair to Tectonic Giant in my view—the card will close out games in any midrange shell either by burying your opponent in card advantage or just dealing the extra points of damage.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at a Rakdos shell:

Rakdos Midrange

Creatures (24)
Knight of the Ebon Legion
Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger
Bonecrusher Giant
Murderous Rider
Legion Warboss
Tectonic Giant

Spells (12)
Liliana, Dreadhorde General
Angrath’s Rampage
Agonizing Remorse
Storm's Wrath
Lands (24)
Blood Crypt
Temple of Malice
Castle Locthwain
Fabled Passage

Our aim is to drain our opponent of resources, either by hand disruption or by having high-value creatures that need to be removed on sight. As we are aiming to tap out fairly regularly, this should give enough fuel to be able to repeatedly bring back Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger. Speaking of which:

The new titans, Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath are incredible, both in power and flavor. Unlike the gods, they do not have indestructible, which shows they can be defeated. Escape in turn displays their will to break free from their bonds and return to the battlefield.

Both of these cards combine incredibly well with Lazav, the Multifarious. Getting either of these titans into the graveyard by casting them or by using Lazav’s ETB, we can use their low casting cost to turn Lazav into a copy of them the following turn and gain its attack trigger. Once we get one attack with the “titan”, we should be incredibly favoured to win the game going forward, even potentially being able to escape the same titan from the graveyard. Remember, Lazav keeps his name using his ability, so you won’t lose the titan to the legend rule!

While I don’t have a deck for this interaction so far, i think this will be a key interaction in standard going forward and will be worth testing.

Hello, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove. This card was unexpected! Ramp strategies have been powerful in Standard, with Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Hydroid Krasis providing incredible payoffs. Both this Dryad and Uro fit nicely into this shell.

If we play Dryad of the Ilysian Grove on Turn 3, we are able to follow up with a Turn 4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World with six lands in play and activating its ability to have four available mana remaining. Guaranteeing that all of our lands are Forests allows us to have lands such as Castle Vantress be able to generate extra mana and swamp our opponent with value.

Let’s take a look at how ramp will look:

Simic Ramp

Creatures (26)
Arboreal Grazer
Leafkin Druid
Risen Reef
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
Cavalier of Thorns
Hydroid Krasis
Agent of Treachery

Spells (7)
Nissa, Who Shakes the World
Growth Spiral
Finale of Devastation
Lands (28)
Breeding Pool
Temple of Mystery
Castle Vantress
Castle Garenbrig
11 Forest

All we want to do is make as much mana as possible, cast many a huge Hydroid Krasis, steal permanents with Agent of Treachery, or Overrun the game with Finale of Devastation.

I was able to play in the early access stream event, and I’ll be giving these decks a whirl to see how they perform on my stream. Will the Titans be as powerful as they look? Will Gray Merchant of Asphodel again reign supreme? Time will tell, but one thing is for certain is that the underworld is leaking, monsters are escaping, and Elspeth is back!

Daniel Roberts (@Razoack) is a UK based player writing about all things Standard. Playing since the release of Gatecrash, he loves nothing better than travelling to European GPs with friends and losing in the feature match area. His best record is 12-3 at GP Barcelona 2017, but he’s aiming for that one more win.

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