/ Standard

M19: Putting Your Pants on One Leg at a Time

Hello everyone! My name is Ethan, or LordTupperware if we’re on Twitch or MTGO, and I am a limited fiend. I draft over 200 times per format, and if there’s one thing I’m known for it’s greedy decks and splashy mana bases.

In Amonkhet, while everyone was going aggro with two drops and cartouches, I was running three Gift of Paradise and splashing Glorybringer. Once Hour of Devastation rolled around, I kept the multicolor dream alive with Oasis Ritualist. I was on the Sailor of Means train before Rivals of Ixalan came out, and by the time the format was over, I had drafted over 300 of them in my collection. I firmly believe Skittering Surveyor to be the best common to pack 1 pick 1 in Dominaria. The point is, I love mana fixing and I love trying to play the most powerful cards I draft and the M19 spoiler made me very excited.

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There’s a full cycle of come-into-play-tapped dual lands at common! There’s Manalith, a colorless mana fixer at common as well. Even the aforementioned Gift of Paradise is back, though rightly upgraded to uncommon this time. And if that weren't enough, there's Rupture Spires at uncommon to help those 4 - 5 color decks. There looks to be a lot of fixing in this format, which is a shame.

Because I think durdle decks are going to get stomped in this format.

Now, let’s for a moment acknowledge that predicting a format’s speed off of the spoilers is folly. I thought Sailor of Means was going to get worse once Rivals of Ixalan came out and boy was I wrong. I saw Arcane Flight in Dominaria and was worried we were entering One With the Wind 2.0. I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again. And I sure hope that I’m wrong about this.

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There were two major reasons why suiting up your creature with an aura (or pants) and going to town on your opponent was great in Ixalan but not in Rivals of Ixalan:

1) Removal Got Cheaper

Contract Killing became Impale. Pious Interdiction became Luminous Bonds. Unfriendly Fire became Bombard. Even blue got a removal spell in Waterknot (something we’ll discuss later as it’s reprinted in M19.) You could react a turn sooner to your opponent’s enchanted creature thus lessening its impact on the game and securing yourself a two-for-one.

2) Auras Got Worse

The most popular ways to suit up your creatures were One With the Wind, Mark of the Vampire, and Pirate’s Cutlass. All at common, all increasing power by 2, and the two former, toughness by 2. One granting evasion, the other granting lifelink which is incredible in racing situations. The only aura that came close to doing something similar in RIX was Squire’s Devotion, which was a fantastic card but didn’t really lead to such one sided games of magic as it only buffed the creatures P/T by 1.

And let’s not forgot Jade Guardian, the 3/3 hexproof that wore those auras oh so well.

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So, using the past to predict the future, let’s explore the two point above in M19. First, we’ll look at the removal.
Here are the “clean” answers to creatures (I am using clean here to mean a card that will deal with a creature regardless of its power and toughness since that’s quite important when talking about auras.)

  • White has Take Vengeance at 2 CMC Luminous Bonds at 3 CMC at common and Hieromancer’s Cage at 4 CMC at uncommon.
  • Blue has Disperse at 2 CMC at Common, Waterknot at 3 CMC at common, Dwindle at 3 CMC at common, Totally Lost at 5 CMC at common, Exclusion Mage at 3 CMC at uncommon, and Switcheroo at 5 CMC at uncommon.
  • Black has Lich’s Caress at 5 CMC at common and Murder at 3 CMC at uncommon
  • Red’s best burn for suited up creatures is either Electrify, which deals 4 at 4 CMC at common and Fiery Finish, which deals 7 for a whopping 6 CMC at uncommon.
  • Green has Rabid Bite, which is a one sided fight spell at 2 CMC at common, which requires some set-up, but could be used to take down an enchanted creatures.

For our purposes, we’ll focus on the common removal as it’s the most impactful. There was Walk the Plank in XLN and that didn’t stop the aura strategies (perhaps because of the merfolk clause, but my point still stands.) White has two answers to this strategy in Luminous Bonds and Take Vengeance. Blue has a respectable answer in Waterknot and a few bounce spells, though I’m wary to call bounce spells answers because there was plenty of that in XLN as well and it wasn’t always successful at stopping this strategy. Luminous Bonds and Waterknot were great in RIX, but a non-zero percentage of why they were great was that not only were they removal spells, but they were removal spells that counted as permanents towards The City’s Blessing, a mechanic that gave your spells bonuses once you had 10 or more permanents on the battlefield. I’m going to consider these great but slightly less great than they were before.

Take Vengeance is probably the biggest argument against the aggro decks trying to land an aura because it’s so cheap, but it’s a sorcery so you’ll still take at least one hit from the creature. Dwindle is difficult to evaluate, but seems like it should basically take care of a creature that’s been augmented. Black has Lich’s Caress, which does gain you a little life, but 5 mana is a lot to rely on removing a creature that’s already attacked you two or three times. Electrify in red is hard to measure because depending on how the creatures get buffed it may be out of 4 toughness range.

Are there answers in this format to creatures that have been augmented by an aura? Absolutely. BUT they are all answers at sorcery speed (except Murder at uncommon in Black), which makes aura strategies a bit better I think. It’s so hard to actually get two-for-one’d at instant speed, so you can almost always guarantee you’ll get at least one attack. And if there are ways to protect creatures, like Dive Down in XLN, then we’re really in trouble.

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Let’s take a look at the auras we may want to land in the format.

  • Knight’s Pledge: a pretty unexciting aura, but +2/+2 for 2 may be strong enough on an evasive creature. Can interest you in a one mana flyer curving into this? Rustwing Falcon has you covered.
  • Knightly Valor: a very powerful card from my experience in the past, but at 5 CMC is not exactly the kind of aura I’m thinking about
  • Aether Tunnel: Cheap, increases power, and grants the ultimate form of evasion: unblockable. Thankfully it’s at uncommon, but this card terrifies me.
  • Infernal Scarring: this is cheap, but it doesn’t boost toughness. It replaces itself if the creature dies, so you’re not really getting 2 for 1’d. I think if this strategy is good in the format, this card will be underrated and definitely one to look out for.
  • Blanchwood Armor: another uncommon, and fluctuates wildly from backbreaking to underwhelming depending on how many forests you have in play.
  • Oakenform: 3 mana for +3/+3 at common. If your opponent curves two drop into this card and you don’t have an answer for it right away, you are going to die pretty quickly or enter The Abyss. I believe this will be the One With the Wind of this format. The extra power and toughness is green’s form of evasion. It simply puts that creature too far out of reach.
  • Talons of Wildwood: This will depend a lot more on what creature you stick this on as it only grants +1/+1, so you want to put it on something where the trample is going to be relevant, making this a later play and therefore not really a great aggressive aura.
  • Marauder’s Axe: 2 mana to cast and 2 to equip is borderline. Dagger of the Worthy was pretty terrible in HOU, but Pirate’s Cutlass was fantastic in XLN. These kinds of cards are very format dependent, but I’m going to guess this one will do just fine in M19.

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The standouts here are Aether Tunnel and Oakenform: two evasion granting auras (yes, I’m really counting the beef from Oakenform as evasion and you should too.) And beyond those hard hitters are a number of very viable auras to pair with the countless aggressive cards this set seems to offer. White looks to have the ability to curve out very effectively. Take, for example, these 5 turns:

  1. Rustwing Falcon
  2. Cavalry Drillmaster or Knight’s Pledge
  3. Pegasus Courser or Loxodon Line Breaker
  4. Star-Crowned Stag
  5. Angel of the Dawn

Everything on that list is at common! This kind of steamrolling is definitely going to happen, the tools are there in each color to be aggressive. Blue has Departed Deckhand and Aven Wind Mage. Black has Diregraf Ghoul and Skymarch Bloodletter. Red has Viashino Pyromancer and Boggart Brute. And Green has Oakenform and Oakenform!

These cards merely scratch the surface of the depth of aggressive cards available in this format. Evasive creatures, auras, and combat tricks look like they will be king, and the removal will oftentimes be struggling to keep up. I’m not even sure the lifegain that White and Black have to offer will be enough to stop these aggressive strategies from mowing you down. I hope that the durdle decks are real and I certainly will be drafting them before M19 is over, but I am looking to steal some free wins in the early part of this format and you should be too. M19 is out in a couple weeks, and even with the summer heat, my plan is to start out winning by putting on some PANTS.

Ethan Saks

Ethan Saks

Ethan, AKA LordTupperware, is a magic streamer on twitch and co-host of the magic strategy podcast "Lords of Limited."

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