We’re entering a new dawn of Standard following Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, and it’s an aggressive one. Aggro was the most widely played strategy, had the best winrates and filled the entire Top 8. The centrepiece of this metagame shift was of course red, brought to life by Ramunap Ruins and Earthshaker Khenra, whilst mono-black Zombies and B/G Constrictor decks also dominated the 24+ points Standard finishes.
(Sidenote: It’s amusing to me that after players were bemoaning the fact that Ramunaps Ruins’ art was not used for a Standard playable Lightning Bolt effect, it ended up being the primary reason why red aggro is good.)
So what does this mean for deckbuilding? You need to have a good plan for beating aggro and be able to close out games quickly enough to render the red deck’s reach a nonfactor. Resolving an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is of course a convenient solution provided you can reach 10 mana quickly enough, but you do need to be in a stable board position for that to work. Personally, I like to be proactive, so I had a look at the other well-performing strategies that fit the bill.
Zombies was the second-best performing deck and had powerful, consistent draws, but facing Ramunap Red looked like it could be challenging, between a comparative lack of reach, pressure upon its life total and more limited removal options. Kalitas is a fine threat, but costing four and being susceptible to cards like Ahn-Crop Crasher and Chandra can leave it in an awkward spot. However, a new card from Hour of Devastation got me thinking whether it was time to resurrect an old Zombies build from early Amonkhet Standard.
Sunscourge Champion is a card we’ve already seen in various U/W decks since its release. The Wizard provides a passable Kitchen Finks impression and can be rebought into a significant threat further into the midgame, as a threat you can rebuy gaining 6+ life over the two iterations. But there are a few reasons why it could be a great fit into Zombies strategies, on top of the fact that it is a solid creature at face value.
Cryptbreaker is great friends with Sunscourge Champion. If you find yourself without white mana early on or simply have other ways to use your mana. it can discard the Champion for you to eternalize later. As well as this, the Champion’s ETB ability provides a great chunk of life for you to spend with Cryptbreaker to draw cards.
Another synergy that makes Sunscourge Champion even more attractive is eternalize. Something that will come up occasionally is the ability to discard a Dread Wanderer to pay for the eternalize ability, but the big deal is that just like embalm, the creature token created is a Zombie, which means it will trigger Wayward Servant and get pumped by Liliana’s Mastery and Lord of the Accursed. Of course, if you have any of these lord effects on the battlefield when it enters, you’ll gain even more life because Champion’s ETB scales off of power.
Speaking of Wayward Servant, this two-drop Zombie can also provide a source of both reach and lifegain, which is an added tool in aggressive mirrors. B/W also adds Shambling Vent into the equation, a potent creature-land threat against both aggressive and controlling decks.
When we put this all together, we get something like this:
4 Dread Wanderer
4 Wayward Servant
3 Metallic Mimic
4 Diregraf Colossus
2 Lord of the Accursed
3 Sunscourge Champion
4 Dark Salvation
3 Fatal Push
2 Grasp of Darkness
3 Liliana’s Mastery
4 Concealed Courtyard
4 Shambling Vent
1 Sunscourge Champion
2 Declaration in Stone
3 Transgress the Mind
1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
1 Aethersphere Harvester
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Collective Brutality
1 Anguished Unmaking
1 Never // Return
1 Grind // Dust
The sideboard features the ability to modify your threat base against sweepers, supplemental removal for various creature and planeswalker matchups, and interaction for control decks. The most experimental card in this board is the new aftermath spell Grind // Dust, which can be great in aggro mirrors and also provide a two-for-one opportunity against bigger creatures. It’s possibly not good enough though as Constrictor decks will rarely have -1/-1 counters on their creatures, even if Constrictor itself does mean that Grind puts extra counters on the creatures you target. But, if Ammit Eternal does see a spike in popularity, this card does have bonus upside against it.
What are your thoughts on the post-PT Standard metagame and are you a fan of the resurgence? I’ll be back later this week for a look at Modern heading into GP Birmingham, and some Hobo technology.
@fullofgravy on Twitter