When I first saw the full spoiler of Hour of Devastion I was honestly a little disappointed with the power level. None of the cards really stood out to me as format defining archetype all stars and I was hard pressed to even find very many archetype roleplayers. It wasn’t until I actually started to build and play decks that I saw the unassuming power level of some of the cards.
Let’s go through a couple of those cards and where I think they’ll end up - this also isn’t all inclusive and are just a few cards that stand out to me:
It’s pretty easy to imagine Hour of Promise fetching up a couple Shrine of the Forsaken Gods or even two Deserts. I’m leaning a bit towards the former paired with World Breaker and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. A desert package is interesting though, in that it simultaneously ramps your mana and gives you some board presence, possibly shoring up aggro matchups.
Here’s a rough list of a deck that utilizes Hour of Promise.
[d title=”GR Ramp, HOU Standard Testing”] Lands 10 Forest 4 Game Trail 4 Mountain 2 Sanctum of Ugin 4 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Creatures 4 Walking Ballista 4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger 4 World Breaker
Sorceries 4 Hour of Promise 4 Beneath the Sands
Enchantments 4 Oath of Nissa
Instants 4 Kozilek’s Return 3 Natural Connection
Planeswalker 2 Chandra, Flamecaller 3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance [/d]
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The idea here is pretty simple and I’m sure you’ve seen a ramp deck before. I really like [mtg_card]Walking Ballista[/mtg_card] as a flexible spell here, coming down on turn 2, or a turn 5 play off of Hour of Promise fetching double [mtg_card]Shrine of the Forsaken Gods[/mtg_card], which work really well for casting Ballistas.
Next up for discussion…
Riddleform is extremely similar to [mtg_card]Smuggler’s Copter[/mtg_card], a card currently banned in Standard. It shares a few keys attributes with Copter that I think will make it an archtype defining card. Most importantly, it’s immune to sorcery speed creature removal. It’s also a 3/3 flier for two mana with upside. Finally, and most importantly, it fits very naturally into an already existing, though somewhat forgotten archetype.
[d title=”UR Burn, HOU Standard Testing”] Lands 1 Highland Lake 4 Island 4 Mountain 4 Ramunap Ruins 4 Spirebluff Canal 3 Sunschored Desert 4 Wandering Fumarole
Instants 4 Shock
Sorceries 4 Collective Defiance 4 Crash Through 4 Incendiary Flow
Enchantments 4 Fevered Visions 4 Riddleform
Creature 4 Firebrand Archer 4 Soul-Scar Mage
Planeswalkers 4 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Sideboard 3 Abrade 2 Dispel 2 Essence Scatter 2 Hour of Devastation 2 Negate 2 Refuse 2 Sweltering Suns [/d]
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The other huge additions to this deck is the desert package - 4 Ramanup Ruins and 3 [mtg_card]Sunscorched Desert[/mtg_card]. These give the deck extra reach at very little cost in a way that other decks can’t really interact with. One of the hardest decisions for me is if I want the 25th land and the 4th [mtg_card]Sunscorched Desert[/mtg_card].
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We’re also playing 4 copies of Firebrand Archer. In a deck that’s interested in more than just instants and sorceries, Firebrand Archer is just an upgraded [mtg_card]Thermo-Alechmist[/mtg_card].
Thermo-Alchemist was always a bit awkward with Fevered Visions, and now we can safely add 4 copies of the powerful [mtg_card]Chandra, Torch of Defiance[/mtg_card] as well. This is especially good considering Riddleform also likes noncreature spells in general, not just instants and sorceries. There’s also the other mode on Firebrand Archer where it just attacks for two after you use a removal spell.
The last addition from Hour of Devastation, and one that might seem a bit innocuous, are the four copies of Crash Through. Now, Crash Through isn’t a particularly powerful spell on the surface, but we are so interested in cheap instants and sorceries that I would probably play 8 if I could. Triggering Riddleform and Firebrand Archer is reason enough for me to want this effect, but sometimes trample is relevant on a [mtg_card]Soul-Scar Mage[/mtg_card]. The biggest reason to play it over a different cantrip is that it doesn’t need to target and therefore you can’t be blown out by removal, compared to something like [mtg_card]Slip Through Space[/mtg_card].
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Since the last time this archetype was played seriously, it’s gone through a few changes. The addition of [mtg_card]Soul-Scar Mage[/mtg_card] serves two purposes. First, it’s a one-mana prowess creature in a spell heavy deck. Second, the ability to shrink creatures with burn makes it possible to beat larger creature decks. The other addition is Shock. Shock is self-explanatory, if not a little under-powered. Really, we’re hurting for one mana plays, and for the sake un-clunking a clunky deck, we need spells that we can play in a variety of situations.
UR Burn is my frontrunner for decks to play in this upcoming format, but I wanted to show you an evolution on the popular white based Oketra’s Monument decks. The addition of [mtg_card]Shefet Dunes[/mtg_card] gives the deck a potent and low cost overrun effect. I’ve also been experimenting with making the deck look a little like traditional tokens with more go-wide elements.
[d title=”Mono White Monument, HOU Standard Testing”] Creatures 4 Angel of Invention 4 Aviary Mechanic 3 Bygone Bishop 4 Hanweir Militia Captain 4 Selfless Spirit 4 Thraben Inspector 4 Visionary Augmenter
Lands 2 Blighted Steppe 4 Desert of the True 2 Hostile Desert 10 Plains 4 Shefet Dunes 2 Westvale Abbey
Sorcery 2 Declaration in Stone 3 Dusk
Artifacts 4 Oketra’s Monument [/d]
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This deck on raw power level is significantly weaker than the UW Monument deck that has been cropping up on the MTGO 5-0 Competitive Leagues. Instead it’s a bit more synergy based and resilient.
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As a mono colored deck it gets access to a ton of utility lands. [mtg_card]Shefet Dunes[/mtg_card] is a mirror shatterer, and when paired with a good curve into Angel of Invention, it can overwhelm any board very quickly.
Then there is the “combo” of Oketra’s Monument and two [mtg_card]Aviary Mechanics[/mtg_card]. Mechanic now costs W and can bounce anther mechanic to make a vigilance token for just one W mana. Eat that Thopter Sword! Throw in a Bygone Bishop and we got ourselves a stew.
The real MVP in this deck though, as well as in the other monument decks, is [mtg_card]Dusk // Dawn[/mtg_card]. It gives the deck a sort of [mtg_card]Rally the Ancestors[/mtg_card] feel where you almost don’t care what happens to your board because you can just buy it all back for 5 mana. If you have a Monument out, not only is this process cheap but also comes with a ton of 1/1 tokens. Dusk also gives the deck a favorable matchup against GB, which otherwise would be mostly unwinnable.
The other variant I wanted to talk about is Standard Soul Sisters. Soul Sisters is originally a joke of a modern deck that gains a ton of life and makes Serra Ascendant a sweet threat. In Standard we have another card that can reward you for having a big life total, [mtg_card]Felidar Sovereign[/mtg_card]. Just gain 20 life and you can win the game! Easy right?
Well, maybe. Standard has a ton of great life-gain effects and access to two “Soul Sisters” (cards that gain you life when a creature enters the battlefield) in [mtg_card]Anointer Priest[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Pious Evangel[/mtg_card]. Let’s look at what a a Standard Soul Sisters deck might look like.
[d title=”Soul Sisters, HOU Standard Testing”] Creatures 4 Angel of Invention 4 Anointer Priest 3 Felidar Sovereign 4 Aviary Mechanic 4 Pious Evangel 3 Sacred Cat 3 Sunscourge Champion 4 Visionary Augmenter
Lands 4 Blighted Fen 2 Desert of the True 12 Plains 4 Shefet Dunes 2 Westvale Abbey
Sorceries 3 Dusk // Dawn
Artifacts 4 Oketra’s Monument [/d]
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Pretty much every creature is capable of gaining tons of life once we have a sister in play. Oketra’s Monument hypercharges this deck and help Annointer Priest and Pious Evangel to just go-off. Again, we have the combo of two Aviary Mechanics, along with the monument to gain a ton of life and produce an army of tokens. From there we can win through damage with a superb ability to race, or we can gain enough life to have [mtg_card]Felidar Sovereign[/mtg_card] give us the win.
I’ve tested both versions of Monument decks and it might surprise you that unless the meta is heavily control oriented, the Soul Sisters deck is testing a bit better than the Mono White version. If nothing else, both these decks are incredibly fun to play and I recommend both of them to anyone who likes cats, tokens, or both.
There are so many other strategies that we could look at today but I think that’s enough to get started with. Hope you enjoyed reading and see you back next week! We would love to hear your thoughts, and as always, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
[Hour of Promise art by Jonas De Ro, (c)WotC]