This weekend is the Starcitygames.com Open in Baltimore, which will be the second large Standard tournament since Eldritch Moon was released. Even though there has only been one tournament, we have a pretty good idea of what decks we will be seeing in Baltimore. More specifically, we know what Eldritch Moon card will show up in force: Spell Queller.
As many predicted, Spell Queller occupies the space found in between “insane” and “busted”. All parts of Spell Queller are positioned well in this format. Both flash and flying are very well positioned in this Standard format, when there are not a ton of either. The enters the battlefield ability is just as good as people expected. Even if its value has a drawback, this type of massive upside with a small downside later has been proven to be extremely powerful in the near past (see: Thought-Knot Seer). Especially when the format contains Collected Company, this type of powerful enters the battlefield ability becomes a lot better when it costs 4 mana and you get another creature along with it (see: Reflector Mage).
Last weekend in Columbus, 34 of the top 64 decks contained Spell Queller. As was already shown in pre-Eldritch Moon Standard, blue and white are pretty well supported, and it’s clear now that Spell Queller took it over the top. The decks that had it were as follows
- Bant Company
- U/W Spirits
- Bant Humans
- Bant Spirits
- U/W Humans
Don’t get me wrong, I love these sorts of decks. But, there is a problem with Spell Queller, specifically, being such a popular card.
Spell Queller is a format-warping card. As long as it is in Standard, the following cards, among many others, get significantly worse towards to point of not being viable:
- Eldritch Evolution
- Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
- ANYTHING that costs 4 or less, at sorcery speed, does not impact the board if it gets Spell Queller’d, and exists in a deck that will not have a board presence by the time it is cast.
That last one is the thing that makes me feel that Wizards of the Coast made a mistake printing Spell Queller. It warps the format. Saying that a card warps the format generally has the wrong connotation around it. And, in certain cases, is just used incorrectly. For example, Sphinx’s Revelation was undoubtedly the best card in both of the Standard formats in which it was legal. However, it didn’t necessarily invalidate any strategies (although if you were playing something else you were crazy). Spell Queller’s warping ability can truly be seen when looking at Eldritch Evolution. Eldritch Evolution is certainly a powerful card. We’ve seen cards like Birthing Pod, Green Sun’s Zenith, and Chord of Calling have a really positive effect on deckbuilding in Standard. It would certainly not be outrageous to assume that Eldritch Evolution would do something similar. However, it will never see the light of day in Standard, because it will never be in Standard without Spell Queller being present. Now, it is possible that once Kaladesh hits and cards like Collected Company rotates, blue and white may not have enough support on its own. However, this seems unlikely, because the U/W Spirits deck that put up some solid finishes in Columbus this past weekend has mostly Shadows Over Innistrad-block cards. This is just one of those cases where we’ll have to wait and see if Spell Queller’s effect on the format continues for its entire time in Standard.
But I want to play Standard this week and don’t want to play Spell Queller! Fear not. Even though the top 64 was dominated by Spell Queller decks, the top 8 was not (even though it did end up winning the Open). Sultai Control, G/W Tokens, G/R Goggles, B/G Seasons Past, and B/W Angels all made the top 8, which shows that they were successful throughout the swiss rounds versus Spell Queller.
I would not recommend playing Sultai Control in Standard until the format settles down a little more. Ali Aintrazi is an anomaly. He shows up to events with his own decks, does well with them, and they never see the light of day again. Without a lot of testing versus all of the matchups you expect to see, choosing this deck can spell a quick end to your tournament.
This deck was arguably the best deck in Standard before Eldritch Moon, but it gained nothing outside of Ishkanah, Grafwidow. Eric Rill is a very talented Magic player, and his familiarity with the deck shone threw. If you want to play this deck, I would recommend playing enough of it versus Spell Queller to better understand how to position yourself against that card. After all, playing a Gideon or Nissa on an empty board versus a Spell Queller deck can be disastrous for you.
Now we’re talking! This deck had zero (yes, zero) new cards from Eldritch Moon. However, Matthew Voltz’s success shows that the way to beat Spell Queller is to just not play meaningful cards that cost 4 or less. If you can do that, Spell Queller becomes a simple 2/3 flash flying for 3 mana (which isn’t bad, don’t get me wrong). If you are feeling lost in a Spell Queller world, this could be the deck for you.
B/G Seasons Past
I would not recommend this deck to anyone. It struggled mightily against the decks of the previous Standard format, and I don’t believe that we will be seeing much of this deck. It is very draw-dependent and can fold to the silliest of cards.
This is probably the most interesting deck we saw over the weekend. The strategy that Ronnie Ritner took to try to combat Spell Queller was similar to the G/R Goggles deck. If you look through this decklist, you see that Thalia’s Lancers, Archangel Avacyn, Bruna, the Fading Light, Linvala, the Preserver, Ob Nixilis Reignited, and Sorin, Grim Nemesis all cost more that 4 mana and are incredibly impactful on a board that has Spell Queller. I love this deck. The small and efficient removal spells are great against Spell Queller decks, and the high-end cards are great against Spell Queller itself. I highly recommend this deck and I expect to see a lot more of it this weekend in Baltimore.
Until next time.
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