Deep Analysis – To Boldly Go

Welcome back to Deep Analysis!

This week we are heading to the Final Frontier, the Frontier format.

So what is the Frontier format?

The Frontier format is a relatively new format using cards print from Magic 2015 forward.  Each of these sets have the updated border (similar to the change from the original border to the Modern border)

Why was it created?

This format was created in Japan on September 26, 2016 when Japanese card game stores Hareruya and BigMagic announced that they would each be holding weekly tournaments.

There was a huge influx of players (and thus cards) during these sets in Japan, so these stores came up with this format as an alternative to Modern due to card availability and cost.

What decks are available for this format?

These first 3 decks were mainstays in Standard not to long ago:

Rally the Ancestors

1 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
2 Catacomb Sifter
1 Elvish Visionary
3 Zulaport Cutthroat
4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
4 Nantuko Husk
4 Reflector Mage
4 Satyr Wayfinder
1 Selfless Spirit
3 Spell Queller

2 Sorin, Solemn Visitor

3 Rally the Ancestors
4 Collected Company

2 Sunken Hollow
2 Evolving Wilds
4 Flooded Strand
1 Forest
1 Island
1 Swamp
4 Windswept Heath
1 Plains
4 Polluted Delta
2 Prairie Stream
2 Canopy Vista

The ban of standards past, the Rally deck does exist here.  Its mana can still be a mess at times but the combo is still quite powerful.

Atarka Red

3 Zurgo Bellstriker
1 Lightning Berserker
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Abbot of Keral Keep
4 Reckless Bushwhacker
3 Hooting Mandrills

4 Fiery Impulse
3 Wild Slash
4 Dragon Fodder
4 Atarka’s Command
3 Hordeling Outburst

10 Mountain
1 Forest
2 Cinder Glade
2 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Bloodstained Mire

The going wide deck of the recent formats was Atarka Red.  It still holds a great amount of power from its former days in Standard.


4 Hangarback Walker
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
2 Anafenza, the Foremost
2 Archangel Avacyn
4 Siege Rhino
4 Sylvan Advocate

1 Painful Truths
3 Abzan Charm
2 Declaration in Stone
3 Dromoka’s Command
1 Valorous Stance

3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Liliana, the Last Hope
2 Sorin, Solemn Visitor

2 Blooming Marsh
2 Canopy Vista
1 Concealed Courtyard
2 Forest
2 Plains
4 Sandsteppe Citadel
3 Shambling Vent
1 Swamp
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Windswept Heath
2 Wooded Foothills

If you liked playing Siege Rhino, Abzan is still a force in Frontier.

It’s the next group that is much more interesting:

Elvish Frontier

4 Dwynen’s Elite
1 Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Elvish Visionary
2 Gnarlroot Trapper
1 Hornet Queen
2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
1 Reclamation Sage
3 Servant of the Conduit
4 Shaman of the Pack
2 Sylvan Messenger
1 Thought-Knot Seer
1 Woodland Bellower

3 Eldritch Evolution
2 Chord of Calling

4 Panharmonicon

5 Forest
4 Aether Hub
4 Blooming Marsh
2 Westvale Abbey
2 Swamp
4 Llanowar Wastes

Thanks to a few cards from Magic 2015 and Kaladesh being in this format helped the deck a bit.  Elvish Mystic was a great ramp card for the elf deck and was sorely needed.  Chord was its search card of choice but the deck also gains Evolution.  The deck gets a larger target again in Hornet Queen but the card that does the work in this deck was from Kaladesh and that is Panharmonicon.  There are so many juicy triggers that you get to double up on here, including the finish Shaman of the Pack.

Bant Starfield

3 Elvish Mystic
4 Herald of the Pantheon

1 Isolation Zone
2 Lunar Force
3 Myth Realized
3 Oath of Jace
3 Oppressive Rays
1 Quarantine Field
3 Sigil of the Empty Throne
3 Silkwrap
3 Starfield of Nyx
3 Stasis Snare
2 Suspension Field
4 Vessel of Nascency

4 Windswept Heath
3 Canopy Vista
6 Plains
3 Prairie Stream
2 Island
4 Forest

This deck got very little love in Standard but the pieces are here to be quite a control piece in Frontier.  Vessel of Nascency allows for us to dig for the cards we need throughout the game and allows us to recur an enchantment that we mill via Starfield.

Jund Aetherworks

4 Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot
4 Aetherworks Marvel

4 Vessel of Nascency

4 Attune with Aether
4 Harnessed Lightning
2 Live Fast

2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
4 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

4 Emrakul, the Promised End
1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
4 Servant of the Conduit

1 Hornet Queen

4 Wooded Foothills
4 Aether Hub
1 Bloodstained Mire
4 Blooming Marsh
1 Smoldering Marsh
1 Swamp
1 Mountain
1 Sanctum of Ugin
3 Forest
Cinder Glade

So if you like Aetherworks Marvel, you get it in Frontier too except you get Ugin to join in and that is a huge bonus here.

Ensoul Blast

4 Hangarback Walker
4 Ornithopter
4 Bomat Courier
4 Scrapheap Scrounger
4 Smuggler’s Copter
4 Chief of the Foundry

4 Thopter Engineer

4 Ensoul Artifact
4 Shrapnel Blast

4 Ghostfire Blade

4 Polluted Delta
4 Shivan Reef
1 Smoldering Marsh
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Spirebluff Canal
1 Swamp
2 Island

Remember some deck that used Shrapnel Blast and Ensoul Artifact?   There is some fun to be had here.  Not as explosive as Modern Affinity but still quite fun.

UR Prowess

1 Zurgo Bellstriker
2 Bedlam Reveler
4 Thermo-Alchemist
4 Stormchaser Mage
4 Monastery Swiftspear

2 Expedite
1 Incendiary Flow
2 Lightning Axe
4 Lightning Strike
2 Painful Truths
2 Pieces of the Puzzle
4 Slip Through Space
3 Treasure Cruise
4 Wild Slash

1 Sunken Hollow
1 Smoldering Marsh
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Island
5 Mountain
4 Polluted Delta

OH yeah, there is no banned list for this format, so you get to play Treasure Cruise here (along with Dig Through Time).  Speaking of Dig, here is some control for you:

Esper Dragons

2 Anguished Unmaking
1 Crux of Fate
4 Dig Through Time
1 Dissipate
2 Foul-Tongue Invocation
3 Grasp of Darkness
2 Murderous Cut
1 Painful Truths
4 Silumgar’s Scorn
1 Void Shatter

4 Dragonlord Ojutai
1 Dragonlord Silumgar
4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
1 Silumgar, the Drifting Death
2 Torrential Gearhulk

1 Sorin, Grim Nemesis
1 Ob Nixilis Reignited

3 Bloodstained Mire
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
3 Sunken Hollow
1 Swamp
3 Island
4 Flooded Strand
4 Polluted Delta
3 Prairie Stream
3 Shambling Vent

If control decks are your thing, Frontier has those too.  Dig Through Time gives control cards it needs to answer your opponent.

During my research for this column, I decided to try and come up with my own little spicy number.  Here is what I came up with:

Molten Metal
A Frontier Deck by Brad “Nicol Bolas” Reeves

4 Hangerback Walker
Inventor’s Apprentice
4 Bomat Courier
Scrapheap Scrounger
4 Smuggler’s Copter
Thopter Engineer
3 Pia and Kiran Nalaar

4 Fiery Impulse
Stoke the Flames
Shrapnel Blast
Unlicensed Disintegration

4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Smoldering Marsh
9 Mountain

This deck combines the best cards from the past few Standard formats with the wonderful cards from Kaladesh to drop a heavy hitting R/b aggro deck.  Getting to have Shrapnel Blast and Stoke the Flames as finishers in a deck that can go wide too really pushes it forward.  Declaration in Stone can be a problem card for the deck but Pia and Kiran Nalaar and Shrapnel Blast.

To Boldly Go

Now that you have seen what the Frontier format looks like, why don’t you experiment with the format in your area.  I know that Standard hasn’t been what it has in the past and this is a great format that is still affordable and gives your players more options.


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