Perhaps never in the illustrious history of PDC has a Standard rotation been anticipated so eagerly by so many Paupers. True, this is only our third such rotation – but it is a critical and historical one. The pendulum of power is swinging – quite rapidly, in fact – from a world populated by hugely swingy control cards like Aven Riftwatcher, Mystical Teachings, and Tendrils of Corruption. When [i]Time Spiral[/i] and [i]Coldsnap[/i] fade into our memory (and the newly whole PDC Extended format), what we’ll be left with is a fast-paced, aggressive format dominated by – are you ready for this? – auras.
Venerable Paupers of my readership no doubt remember my endless complaining about Blind Hunter, a card which rendered red-based aggro ineffective in Standards past (and still makes his mark in Classic and Extended). His power was enhanced by Momentary Blink and doubled by Aven Riftwatcher in subsequent sets and formats. Tendrils of Corruption provided black with another hugely swingy lifegain card. Things were looking bad for those who aimed to deal a quick twenty.
As if that weren’t enough to kill aggro’s spark, the influence of [i]Coldsnap[/i] and [i]Time Spiral[/i] added insult to injury. Anti-aggro hard hitters like Skred and Martyr of Ashes, both red, put that formerly aggressive color firmly in the control camp. Red-based aggro was dead. Nor could green match the raw card advantage provided by three key flashback spells: Momentary Blink, Mystical Teachings, and Strangling Soot. For quite some time in the history of Standard, aggro basically fell down and died (a few solid builds of White Weenie notwithstanding).
Thankfully, [i]Lorwyn[/i] and [i]Shadowmoor[/i] brought aggro some new toys, including a respectable number of highly playable and aggressive red commons. Still, the power of control dominated the format, relegating those commons to a training camp in Block PDC. Their time had not yet come in Standard.
But all that is about to change because the format is being flushed of its toxins.
In fact, red aggro will be the format’s first dominant deck.
[b]Dominus Deck Wins[/b] (or Clout Sligh) is a red deck centered around the aura Clout of the Dominus which grants +2/+2, haste, and shroud to a blue/red hybrid creature. It just so happens that [i]Eventide[/i] also provided a number of playable blue/red hybrid creatures to the format, including Riverfall Mimic who becomes an unblockable 3/3 (or, on a lucky draw, a hasty unblockable 5/5 with shroud) whenever a blue/red hybrid is cast.
The deck is strong. The deck is fast. The deck is backed by some great burn. And there’s no great lifegain to make it go away.
If you don’t relish the thought of grappling with an aura that grants shroud, then you’re really going to hate Slippery Bogle, a green/blue guy who for one mana of either color gives you a great half-shrouded target for Favor of the Overbeing, another superpowered aura which grants vigilance, flying, and +2/+2. If enough of those guys start popping up, the skies will fill with impenetrable clouds of beef, making the attack phase look pretty dismal for the opponent. Of course, green/blue gets its own (trampling) Mimic to boot.
Our last aura-based aggro deck is white/black. Unlike the relatively slow and controlling Orzhov Blink we’ve all grown to know (and hate), this incarnation of white/black can beat down with a 4/4 lifelinker on turn two. Its Mimic becomes a 4/4 flier which couples nicely with the aforementioned lifelinker. Add the crazy strong removal spell Unmake and a few other removal spells and those guys can beat for the win on their own.
These decks will be the hot items on Standard PDC circuits for a few weeks, but as soon as the optimal builds have been found, aggro-control will inevitably make inroads against the field. I’m expecting a few versions of aggro-control to show up. White/blue tempo is a good candidate. (I’m hoping [b]SpikeBoyM[/b] comes up with a list, as I know he shares my affinity for Unsummon). We know that blue/black Faeries has made an impact on Block PDC, and could do the same in a field of aggro. Lastly, green-based midrange decks making use of the surprisingly efficient Treefolk beatsticks (and perhaps even some of the new cards from the shard of Naya) should help to slow down aura-based aggro. The all-out control deck [b]Legend of Scuzzback Hollow[/b] designed by [b]khirareq[/b] and made famous by [b]hurriboy[/b] is another potential contender, helped out by the broader cardpool of Standard.
[b]Morselhoarder Combo[/b] may also be a solid metagame choice, especially early if the aura-based aggro decks are putting all their eggs in one basket.
I doubt we’ll hear much from black/green or red/white, as their hybrid cards are sadly lacking in comparison to the more favored enemy pairs. Black/red seems to have gotten a few new goodies in [i]Shards of Alara[/i], though [i]Shadowmoor[/i]‘s lack of Goblin synergy in the color pair may throw a monkey wrench in that archetype’s plans. It seems near impossible to talk about monocolor in a strict sense in this new format with all the hybrids running around. Different players and playstyles will accommodate varying degrees of second color splash in the dominant mostly-mono aggro decks.
Also, at least at first, I highly doubt we’ll see any true “shard” decks. The format is simply going to be too fast to allow players the luxury of time to establish a solid three-color manabase.
There’s plenty more to write about and debate about, and the [b]Polyjak[/b] of old would have hungrily tackled some of those issues. For now I’ll leave it at this brief overview, based on my occasional observations of the last Standard format and my experience as host of [i]Lorwyn-Shadowmoor[/i] BPDC.
I hope this gives PDC newcomers an idea of what to expect as they enter a new season and a new format of Standard PDC. I hope it gives my detractors some ammo to further tear me down. And I hope it gives Joe Six-Drop something about which to start a conversation in the comments below. Thanks for reading, gentle Paupers. See you in [b]/join PDC[/b].