Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Making Magic in the Arena - Jund Sacrifice (Ikoria)

There's been a series of much needed shakeups in Standard as of late, and the dust appears to be finally settling. This isn't the first we've experienced bans on this channel, and we'll be able to adjust as we always do.

Thankfully for us, the field is wide open, and we'll be able to see new decks, and a few old ones that were forced out, take the stage. It's time to throw that Cat in the Oven, because Jund Sacrifice is back baby.

While we didn't pick up any new pieces in Ikoria, Woe Strider from Theros makes it's way into our deck. Not only is the extra sacrifice outlet valuable, but that extra token makes the difference more often than I expected. Very often, it means that we play Priest of Forgotten Gods on turn 2 and use her ability to start chipping away at our opponent with her ability on turn 3.

As for the rest of the deck, from the Cat/Oven combo, Gilded Goose, and Claim the Firstborn to generate fodder for our sacrifices, to cards like Mayhem Devil, Trail of Crumbs, and Korvold to capitalize on them, isn't anything new. The ratios may be different, but the core deck and strategy is much the same.

The reason we can play this deck has less to do with what entered Standard and more to do with what left: Specifically Fires of Invention and Agent of Treachery. As I explained in the video, both of these cards were such several payoffs for control decks that they were becoming oppressive powerhouses in the format.
  • Agent of Treachery was being so consistently cheated out by both Winota Ryder and Lukka that, combined with it's ability to steal anything, even lands, meant that it was almost impossible for an opponent to make up for the loss in tempo and value.
  • Not only was Fires of Invention making it far too easy to cheat out absurd play-lines of several high mana cost spells in a row, but it was becoming a problem to design around when it came to future sets in this next year's worth of Standard. With more cards, it was only set to get stronger, and it already took up over half of the meta.
Additionally, both of these cards were also strong payoffs for control decks hoping to play the long game. With both of them removed, midrange magic becomes much more viable. Decks like this, which hover between aggro and control, are now much easier to pilot since they no longer have to compete with the sheer value Fires decks accrue once they reach a certain point in the game.

Companion as a mechanic has also underground a huge change to combat how ever-present and dominating it's been both in Standard and other formats, as I talked about over a month ago. Now, instead of being able to cast it directly from the Sideboard, players must first pay 3 mana to move it from the sideboard to their hand.

This will have a profound affect on the playability of low-cost companions like Lurrus are going to severely hit by this new tax, but are still available to play in formats where they're legal. Others, like Yorion, that already anticipate a long game, aren't as affected, but may still see an impact. Already, we're seeing fewer companions, but time will tell what the long-term impacts will be.

Between this, and the Oko bans of last year with Eldraine, we're definitely in a tumultuous and experimental time with Magic: The Gathering. Among other scandals like the War of the Spark novel and... overt systemic racism in Wizards of the Coast, I can only hope that this turns into a time of grown and learning for the company. Otherwise, things are likely only going to get worse.

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