Innistrad won’t be legal online for a little longer, but it’s really the only interesting thing going on right now, so instead of doing a set of videos this week, I’ll be giving you my thoughts on the two frontrunners on the set and some opinion on the new format. Please note that part of this article I’d written prior to this last weekend’s Star City Games event in Indianapolis, and part of the article constitutes a reflection on that tournament, and what I think of the best Solar Flare list there.
Regarding price: Snapcaster Mage didn’t take long to rise from $6 presale to a $30 card. My instincts are telling me that Snapcaster Mage is going to drop significantly because of the large quantity of Innistrad that will be opened (over time) and because rares now tend to stay within a certain price range, but Snapcaster Mage is a fairly unique case that’s worth analyzing. Let’s see…
It’s a versatile 2-drop creature that will be good in every format it’s legal in, and by “good,” I mean heavily played, possibly format-defining. It seems that Snapcaster Mage shares a many traits with Stoneforge Mystic (which once also commanded a $30 price tag), but there are a few key differences. The first is that Stoneforge Mystic wasn’t good upon its release, while Snapcaster Mage is/will be. This means that, in comparison to Stoneforge Mystic, Snapcaster Mage has very little room to gain value.
The second difference is that Innistrad will be opened in far greater quantities than Worldwake was. This should cause the price to drop over time despite the card being good enough to warrant such a high price now.
So, it seems as though Snapcaster Mage doesn’t have a choice but to drop in price, making it a bad investment currently.
Regarding playability: Oh, it will see play. It fits well into existing formats (I would list them, but it includes every format that the card is legal in) and will of course be a great card in Standard. There aren’t really any secrets about this card, and pretty much everything has already been said, so I’ll just say this: it is bound to get better as more sets are released, just like Stoneforge Mystic, so make sure you get your playset eventually!
Regarding price: As of writing, Liliana of the Veil is a stable $35. As a Mythic rare, she still has potential to grow in price based on either cross-format play or being really good in Standard.
And guess what! I think she is capable of doing both of those.
So, let me say that I would be happy to pick her up at any less than $35. Let’s move on to the playability section…
Regarding playability: Liliana of the Veil is sweet! In the face of one or fewer creatures she can threaten to take over the game, a trait that most planeswalkers share. In the face of multiple creatures, she is rather weak, another trait most planeswalkers share.
But the difference between most planeswalkers and Liliana is that she costs 3 mana and promotes being built around, yet can still function wonderfully by herself. Few other planeswalkers boast these traits together, and unlike a card like Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, Liliana can find a home in a variety of different decks and archetypes. I’m not sure exactly where she fits in other formats yet, so for now I’d like to focus on simply using her to bring back an old favorite in Standard:
Solar Flare for New Standard by _ShipItHolla
Note that the above version is completely untested, but it’s a good starting point for the archetype. If you’d like to see the original Solar Flare deck, click here and look at LSV’s deck.
Liliana especially shines when you’re using her discard ability to your advantage, and she’s naturally good when accompanied by additional removal (and with Divine Reckoning). This is just one of many decks that I see her doing well in for many months to come.
I guess I’ll talk about the deck now that I’ve shown it to you. The idea is very similar to that of Solar Flare from years back; you put a monster into your graveyard and reanimate it while still controlling the board.
Sun Titan is our first monster of choice because it is castable (an important trait) and still makes an impact on the board. It’s also very versatile and goes well with the theme of putting cards into your graveyard. Grave Titan is another option if you’re trying to play around expected graveyard hate and/or Doom Blade, but for the initial list I wanted to favor versatility.
Then we’ve got two Rune-Scarred Demon and an Elesh Norn, which are also castable, but make a more dramatic impact on the game when reanimated early. The demon is another versatility choice, and the miser’s Elesh Norn is there to shut out aggro decks.
It’s no coincidence that all of our targets survive Dismember. There’s nothing worse than going through the trouble of reanimating a 10-drop and having it killed for 1 mana before even getting to use it.
Finally, there are two Phantasmal Images which serve as reanimation targets for Sun Titan, copies of Rune-Scarred Demon, or whatever is on the opposing side of the board (cards of note include Geist of Saint Traft and Snapcaster Mage).
Snapcaster Mage could make its own appearance in this deck as it evolves, but in this version it doesn’t do very much.
I was running one Jace, Memory Adept instead of the Dream Twist, but I decided that having one more card to put into the graveyard would be better than a singleton 5-drop that can’t be reanimated. That doesn’t mean I’m completely sold on Dream Twist, but it deserves a shot.
The singleton Divine Reckoning is another card that doesn’t mind being added to the graveyard, and for that reason it takes the place of the third Day of Judgment. It’s possible that Divine Reckoning deserves more slots in this deck, but I wanted to be on the safe side for an unknown format.
At first, I didn’t want to play Sphere of the Suns because it opens the deck up to artifact removal, but I would like to see just how good it is. The mana base isn’t very good, and there are a lot of expensive cards that we wouldn’t mind ramping into on occasion.
The remaining cards include our removal package that has been diversified for Rune-Scarred Demon, with Oblivion Ring being favored for Sun Titan, and a Timely Reinforcements to be tutored for (I have to give some respect to mono red).
Mental Misstep serves as a way to counter opposing hate cards such as Nihil Spellbomb, Surgical Extraction, and Purify the Grave. Okay, so it’s not that good against that last one, but it still happens to counter it.
The deck can still function as a normal control deck in the face of graveyard hate, so having the full set of Mental Missteps might be worse than just sidestepping the hate and playing good cards for each matchup.
Speaking of Purify the Grave, it’s our best option for mirror matches or other decks that want to abuse the graveyard, so yes, we’ve got the whole set.
Vengeful Pharaoh is experimental. It probably won’t work well without either a full set of Dream Twist or Merfolk Looters.
That’s the deck I’ll be giving some attention to when the set is released. The deck definitely has a long way to go, but I think it can be good.
I’d just like to talk about one more thing. What the new Standard environment will look like is fairly unpredictable, but there’s one deck that I want to give my thoughts on: Tempered Steel. As the scourge of the previous block, people have assumed that Tempered Steel will continue to be good, possibly a deck to beat, but I think differently.
The decks in Scars Block were confined by their mana requirements, which made a powerful “white weenie” deck very good. Artifact removal was harmful to the deck, but unless you could deal with Hero of Bladehold, too, you would still probably lose.
Well, Standard is a lot different than Block. We’ve got mana bases that actually work, we’ve got actual Wrath effects, we’ve got reasonable answers to Tempered Steel and Hero (the good cards), and now we have Ancient Grudge.
And what did Tempered Steel gain?: A resounding “nothing.”
Still, you have to be prepared for such a deck, but my point is that Tempered Steel will not be a frontrunner of the format, and I’d advise against playing it. Just be prepared for it.
I wrote the above portion of this article last Thursday. By now it doesn’t make a great prediction article, but I can at least take the opportunity to see where I was right/wrong and further my analyses.
In the case of Snapcaster Mage, we’re still seeing a price near $25, which is a little higher than I thought it would be at this point. Still, I expect it to drop as time passes and as more Innistrad boosters are opened. I would put it under $15 by the time Dark Ascension is released, maybe sooner.
As for Liliana of the Veil, we’re seeing a price jump sooner than I anticipated. She saw plenty of play at this past week’s SCG Open and was also hyped up a lot during the event, making her a $55 card. The question is, “Where is she going from here?”
At their height, planeswalkers of the past have had a hard time exceeding $50 and maintaining that price (Jace, the Mind Sculptor being a notable exception). I can think of a few that were worth around that much upon release but dropped in price shortly afterwards. And being from the first set of a block that is going to be very popular doesn’t help her case.
I don’t see Liliana going any higher than she already has unless she starts seeing legitimate play in Legacy and/or Modern. Other than that, I see her dropping slightly and stabilizing in the $45-$50 range.
Now, let’s move on to Solar Flare. The highest placing Solar Flare deck from this past weekend’s SCG Open looked like this:
Solar Flare for New Standard by William Allman
Besides being more streamlined, the most notable differences between our two lists are Snapcaster Mage, Think Twice, the sideboard, and the amount of preparation for the Mono-Red matchup (and a missing copy of Liliana of the Veil– what’s that about?).
I’m okay with a few Snapcaster Mage (two) but even in his version, there aren’t that many worthwhile cards to flashback. If you don’t count the cards that have flashback already, there are only ten, three of which are Timely Reinforcements (not good in multiples). Having a few Snapcaster Mages does give you a healthy amount of versatility, but I’d opt for two.
Think Twice gives the deck more cards to put into the graveyard and helps the deck function as more of a control deck, something that Dream Twist does not do, though I’d like Think Twice more if he also had Mana Leak, which is something that many of the Solar Flare players did have. It makes the Snapcaster Mages much better and completes the transition to a control deck.
I talked about sidestepping the hate previously, and that’s what Will chose to do by forgoing all copies of Mental Misstep in the board. Instead, he relied on his deck functioning as a control deck and gained the use of a few more sideboard cards for each matchup (notably Wurmcoil Engine and Dissipate).
I would’ve much rather seen Divine Offering than Revoke Existence when in conjunction with Snapcaster Mage, but I guess he either wanted an answer to Oblivion Ring, Wurmcoil Engine, or Tempered Steel itself.
Stony Silence is an interesting choice. I don’t think that would get boarded in against anything except Puresteel, but when the format is undefined, it helps to be prepared for everything.
I wouldn’t have expected the top placing Solar Flare list to be running three maindeck Timely Reinforcements. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a very good card, but it’s also very situational. There are a number of matchups where it does nothing, and the only time it really shines is against Mono-Red. But I suppose that when you’re just trying to survive until the late game, it can be a helpful tool.
If you’re working on your own Solar Flare list, it would be wise of you to take a look at some of the other lists floating around. There are tons of ways to build the deck without any one way being correct (yet), so learning from others should prove helpful to get to that point. Let me know in the comments below how you would build it.
That’s all I’ve got for you today. Feel free to message me on MTGO or Twitter to talk about anything related to Magic or MTGO Academy. Thanks for reading!
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