Avacyn, Oketra's Monument and the Ixalan Future (Videos)

Feature Article from Steve Rubin
Steve Rubin
9/7/2017 11:01:00 AM
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Grand Prix Turin and Washington D.C. represented the end of a Standard format. With only a few countries hosting National Championships this weekend before the release of Ixalan, we can more or less close the door on the previous Standard Format.

It's been a unique one. Deserts from Hour of Devastation provided a huge incentive for mono-colored decks and we've seen Ramanup Red and Zombies solidify themselves as pillars of the format. These decks have proven much less beatable than people thought and for the most part, you probably have a worse matchup against those decks than you think. Temur Energy rounds out the format as another midrange creature deck that Brad Nelson, friends and family were dominating the competition with.

The three most popular decks of Standard are all aggressive creature strategies that have a high land count and try to go a bit big. These decks are also built in such a way where they often are incentivized to tap out pre-combat and leave nothing up in combat. Temur and Red have damage-based removal, and Zombies typically utilizes only three Grasp of Darkness to destroy expensive creatures at instant speed.

With all that in mind, you may already see what I'm getting at.

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Archangel Avacyn is rotating out much the way she entered, as the best card in Standard. There was quite a while in between where she was dethroned, but all in all I'm happy to see her retire in greatness. Let's take a look at some of the Avacyn dominance in decks from the Grand Prix.

After we saw a surprise White-Blue Monument Top 8 at Grand Prix Denver two weeks ago, I was thinking about tuning a list to play in D.C. It seemed great against Temur and Zombies, but only so-so against Ramanup Red decks. Seeing as how the deck utilizes a flash game plan a decent amount of the time, Avacyn could be a potential gamebreaker. On paper, it looks awkward since flipping Avacyn will undo your work from Monument, but as it turns out, your opponent is just dead almost every time this happens anyway.

You haven't really lived until your opponent has attacked into an Avacyn they don't know about. I've been lucky enough to have this happen at a Pro Tour, and liked the idea of reliving this thrill on the Grand Prix Level. I already felt comfortable with Monument, but with the Avacyn surprise factor, I was looking forward to a legitimate powerhouse. The change made the deck more powerful, and able to win more games when Monument isn't drawn. It also allows you to win pre-board games against Red more often, which is exactly what the deck wanted. I played a list very similar to Falcioni's, and besides Avacyn the only new tech is Essence Scatter. It's strong against Temur and have found it to be important to play some over Negate especially against control decks utilizing Scarab God and Torrential Gearhulk. Dusk // Dawn is just too powerful of an engine and sweeper when you are guaranteed to be fighting Temur or Zombies for several rounds of a long tournament. It's even better against control than usual now that Blue-Black Scarab God versions have been popping up all over the place.

If you have a tournament this weekend, all the way from Friday Night Magic to Nationals, or just want to play some Standard, I would be hard pressed to play a non-Archangel Avacyn deck. It's such a headache to play against given the commonly played answers. Not to mention I'm forever itching to play Avacyn just one more time.

The Future

Let's take a look at what we can potentially do with Monument in an Ixalan world.

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Unfortunately for Monument, a major portion of the creature base will rotate with Battle For Zendikar and Shadows Over Innistrad blocks. But there is good news yet. Temur Energy seems to be sticking around for the foreseeable future, which means Dusk // Dawn and Oketra's Monument are not only the most important cards to the decks identity, but will still be potent in Ixalan Standard. While not much of the Ixalan is spoiled yet, there is potential for a revamped Oketra's Monument deck.

Let's start with Tocaf's Honor Guard. First off, Oketra's Monument is an on-cast trigger, a nice design within the confines of what we are trying to do that allows us to play the Honor Guard alongside Monument. Secondly, this card is excellent against Temur! It shuts off Rogue Refiner, and does a number on Bristling Hydra and Whirler Virtuoso. In addition, the best cards that have been spoiled have enters-the-battlefield triggers, such as Hostage Taker and Rowdy Crew. It also shuts off some raid cards, which I'm sure will be relevant as the mechanic is coming back in Ixalan. Many of the huge splashy Dinosaurs such as Verdant and Wakening Sun's Avatar have splashy ETB effects. So far, I'm liking the idea of Tocaf's Honor Guard-in Monument or otherwise.

Kinjalli's Sunwing is a potential new addition that has a few things going for it. Another hatebear along the lines of Honor Guard, but with much better stats. It plays well with both Dusk // Dawn and Monument, as it lets your Warrior Tokens attack more often. It is also, of course, quite resourceful against Glorybringer and any other haste creatures so it provides utility against Ramanup Red and other midrange Dragon decks.

Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle rounds out the white creatures that have been spoiled so far that seem interesting.. I imagine he might not make the cut, but we don't exactly know if there will be other strong white Wampires. If they do print a nice one- or two-drop Vampire, Mavren might act as a pseudo-Monument. I imagine white and black will have Vampires, so perhaps we will see some more White-Black multicolor Vampires. I don't have my hopes up for this to be good enough for Monument, but it's noteworthy that with the rotation of Spell Queller, the secondary color for Monument doesn't necessarily have to be blue. Bishop of Rebirth is interesting and is the only other Vampire currently on the table, and it can come down on the fourth turn after a Monument. Perhaps we will see more token-heavy Monument decks in the future as I believe Angel of Invention might be a future powerhouse for this archetype.

- Steve Rubin




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