This is long overdue. I should have written something about my initial impressions of Scryings after the entire set was released, including some notes on the Limited format as I participated in the release draft event, but I got a bit busy with other things and also didn’t really know what to focus on. Instead, now I will share my thought on the set after having played with it a little bit, and seen the first report of a tournament, and started thinking about the format a bit more. On Feb 22nd, I’m playing a Scryings tournament in Arvika, Sweden, and after that we will revisit this subject and see more how well my predictions stand. I am not sharing what I’m planning to be playing, nor any real lists. This article is kept on a more general level, trying to understand what Scryings is about and putting words on some thoughts on the format as well as single cards which intrigue me. I have also not played more than 10-15 games in total in the format, so it’s not like I have any real data to write about anyway. So theory it is.
One final note before we begin. I want to stress that none of this is disinformation in any shape or form. Everything I write is something I believe to be true. I do not tell you which three decks I believe are the best — that will have likely have to wait until after n00bcon — but nothing I write contradicts what I believe in any way. I want this to be very clear. You can always trust me. I might hold something back, but when I write something, I believe in it.
One of the most impactful features of Scryings are the disruptive creatures: Goblin Vandal, Goblin Tinkerer, Dwarven Miner, Uktabi Orangutan, and I suppose Man-o’-War could belong to this group as well. They are very good, very efficient, and heavily punish slower and artifact-focused decks. They mean cheap creature removal are almost mandatory unless you put out fast big creatures yourself. Cards like Icy Manipulator, Nevinyrral’s Disk and Serra Angel suffer tremendously from this. (But, take it with a grain of sand. I do claim Erhnam Djinn is basically unplayable in normal 93/94 formats, and not everybody agree with me there.)
Some obvious decks
Reanimator will be good. It gains Deep Spawn, Buried Alive, Ashen Ghoul and probably Krovikan Horror. In Sweden, it might somewhat be kept in check by the fact that few people who don’t play Vintage own 4 Bazaars of Baghdad, which are necessary if you want the full power of the deck. Against any kind of slower midrange or control, the engine here should just win out, and it also has a strong early game with reanimating a Deep Spawn.
Goblins gains a lot: the above-mentioned disruptive creatures, Goblin Elite Infantry and of course the Goblin Grenade which was previously missing in the Swedish format. Having actual good goblins to play is a huge deal, and I can see it being one of the better aggro decks.
Because of what I’ve written above, I’m not high on cards which are slow or reactive although powerful. This includes Hammer of Bogardan, Autumn Willow, Sacred Mesa and Thawing Glaciers. They are not exactly bad but don’t seem well-positioned in the metagame I predict.
Atog and other burn
It seems like Atog would get punished by the slew of new artifact removal, not only the creatures above but also things like Primitive Justice and Seeds of Innocence. Also, if people are busy playing fast creatures, Ankh and Vise aren’t really where you want to be. On the other hand, you get better artifact removal yourself, making those two cards better. A card that would push aggro towards creatures more than burn is Zuran Orb. That card is scary.
The state of control
Control has to face many new threats: Kjeldoran Outpost, Wildfire Emissary, Ishan’s Shade, Autumn Willow, Deadly Insect, all of the artifact removal already mentioned, Primal Order, Stupor, Choking Sands, Pox, Hammer of Bogardan, the recursive Reanimator creatures, Jokulhaups, more Chains of Mephistopheles. It’s almost like The Deck would deserve to be put down a notch. None of these things are unanswerable, of course, and a surprising number of them are weak to Moat, but it doesn’t look great for classic The Deck. It does gain some cards, like potentially Lat-Nam’s Legacy or Tithe, or its own Kjeldoran Outposts, but it’s not obvious how these fit in. Land Tax-based control gain more, in Zuran Orb and Undiscovered Paradise. The only real issue here is that there’s so much hate for the crucial Ivory Tower, but Argivian Restoration could help.
The state of combo
Combo gets a lot of new tools. Lat-Nam’s Legacy should go into many builds, as should City of Solitude. Power Monolith gains Magma Mine which is huge, shaving a red mana from the combo and allowing for a transmutable wincon that’s much better than Rocket Launcher at the small cost of not being able to use Channel as a secondary plan anymore. Twiddlevault gains Emerald Charm as extra Twiddles and free enchantment defense. Land Tax combo gains maybe even more than control-centered builds from Zuran Orb and Undiscovered Paradise as that deck is even more reliant on having Land Tax turned on every single time. Chains of Mephistopheles combo gains Anvil of Bogardan, which might almost make it viable, whereas Lich benefits a lot from Zuran Orb, letting it play a mana base without lots of Forests for Dark Heart of the Wood, and can also run Infernal Contract. Dreams combo gets Teferi’s Puzzle Box. The problem with a lot of these decks is that they get hated out by the small disruptive creatures a lot. Either combo wants to use artifact mana to set up, or they want to utilize synergies with expensive artifacts, or enchantments hit by Emerald Charm. But if the disruptive creatures gets outclassed by bigger guys, and thus are played less, and the format moves into a more midrange direction, combo might get its chance to shine.
Some random cards I like
- Sewer Rats is cool. It’s the good 1-drop black has been missing: trades up, attacks into factories, and hits hard lategame.
- Funeral Charm is a lot better than Stupor and will see play in a bunch of different decks, I think.
- Waterspout Djinn might be better than I initially thought. 4/4 fliers are nothing to laugh at, especially not in the best color.
- Pox. A deck could focus on land destruction with Sinkhole, Icy and possibly Choking Sands, or discard with The Rack, and otherwise mostly good non-creature permanents like Underworld Dreams and Jade Statue. Somewhat weak to Uktabi and friends, but a unique and powerful effect anyway.
- Jokulhaups is another very powerful effect that can go into a number of different shells: Land Tax/other RWG enchantments, Ivory Gargoyle/Rukh Egg, Underworld Dreams, Hurkyl’s Recall/Mana Vault, Orcish Lumberjack, and probably hybrids of those. I don’t like the Gargoyle path (remember, kids, Don’t Play Bad Cards), but the others all seem promising to me.
- Nature’s Lore. Makes my favorite Sylvan Library so much better. Goes into a number of different builds, although most of them in the midrange space I somewhat dislike.
My Arvika deck
So what am I playing in Arvika in a week or two? Something spicy? An insane new combo deck? A fine-tuned control deck handling everything? A boring dib/bolt deck with all the new good cards? Stay tuned!