I started working on this deck when I first saw the new cards. It's a bit different from the Grixis and RUG lists that did well at last week's StarCityGames.com Open Series event. While it lacks the disruption of the Grixis version and the flexibility of the RUG version, this straight U/R has a different degree of consistency and some unique functionality that I find compelling.
Honestly, we don't know what the best version of Deceiver Twin is yet—Grixis, RUG, straight U/R, or something else—that remains to be seen.
One thing that you might notice by its absence is Spellskite. Spellskite seems like quite a good card (I don't know-know, having not played it yet), but running it maindeck seems a bit over the top at this stage. I mean, if the format is mono–Splinter Twin, then Spellskite maindeck is certainly worth playing, but for now, I have it in the sideboard only. Anyway, this is where I started brewing, and I think that what I found out could be interesting and profitable.
Okay... So what's different (because that's what defines being a deck)?
Splinter Twin combinations:
For my initial foray into this emerging county of the comboNation, I decided to import something that was successful for me previously (I know, surprise, surprise), namely 187 redundancies with Splinter Twin. Around the time of the World Championships, I did nothing but grind Extended queues, and after numerous inevitable failed attempts, I found a deck I liked.
As part of our continuing discussion of "how to playtest," I focused on my primary in-tournament season technique, of grind-and-record. Using this technique, you basically play DI queues with the various decks (usually established, or established-ish decks, given that it is done during a live season) and just try to field the deck that gives you the best tournament EV.
During the week of the World Championships, this was my best bullet:
I was a bit worried about this one being "my best" because of some of the decks I had beaten. What I didn't realize until later intelligence was that the “Esper artifact attack" deck was not in fact some joke deck but a deck that would gain popularity during at least the initial part of the PTQ season, that I would lose my last pilot to the "B/G Fauna Shaman / Grim Poppet" deck, and that one of the Merfolk decks was in fact piloted by a two-time Pro Tour winner.
You know how StarCityGames.com has, via their Open Series, made Legacy all cool and spit? Versus how "no one" plays Extended? Except during a PTQ season (and Worlds was before the onset of such a season)? What I didn't realize was that all my opponents, therefore, were actually in Japan, and trying to figure out what to field, too (except they were actually qualified) :)
Anyway, the Grixis did much better for me than all the -EV decks I tried, viz. Mythic, G/W Trap, etc... My only possible conclusion was that this was the best deck I could recommend at the time.
So obviously in hindsight, I am embarrassed by the lack of Preordain, but the Sea Gate Oracle tech (generously provided by a Mr. Chapin of Wisconsin and Michigan), was a definingly valuable, and in-deck synergistic, addition.
So bringing it back to the deck at hand, I figured that if we were going to center (rather than "splash") the Splinter Twin combo, thereby necessitating the addition of even more Splinter Twins, we might as well find something to do with extras; hence, the reintroduction of Sea Gate Oracle and new buddies Inferno Titan and (ahem) Pilgrim's Eye.
Inferno Titan, aka "Plan B"
How do you win when, say, your Deceiver Exarchs all go to the exiled zone? How about when you just need some beatdown defense from being beaten down by those nefarious beatdowns? Sign up an Inferno Titan!
The beatdown mommies have a word (nine words, actually) that they use to refer to an Inferno Titan wearing a Splinter Twin across its broad 6/6 back, which they whisper into the ears of little beatdowns at night, to ensure the bad dreams that will shape them into the bad attitude terrors that they can someday become, and that's "the worst thing that can ever happen to you" (natch). I mean this is true on so many levels. From a practical standpoint, you are talking about double Arc Lightning pre-combats, and that is before we consider six-plus damage rumbling via the Red Zone. You have 1) "enters the battlefield" Arc Lightning and 2) "combat trigger" Arc Lightning, each time the Splinter Twin gets all uppity. But more than that, it really is the worst thing ever. Can you imagine the indignity of being the chump who loses to Inferno Titan + Splinter Twin?
(Thing that can ever happen to you.)
Pilgrim's Eye (another non-zero-effectiveness but embarrassing Splinter Twin target) is just a symptom of my mad desire to have mana that works. Given its curve point, I can see this being Prophetic Prism or a lone Gitaxian Probe in the alternative (or maybe Mana Leak nmero quarto). I have not been unhappy with the Pilgrim's Eye, though, which I am sure warms Brian David-Marshall's cold, cold heart.
So how does the deck work?
Basically you have a Splinter Twin + Deceiver Exarch deck with greater focus and man consistency with a powerful side plan and concerted resistance to one-for-one disruption. Just playing more Jaces and Sea Gate Oracles can draw you out of Duresses, and you have the Counterspell suite to force interaction at unattractive mana points or battlefields.
The choice to go with Into the Roil for primary battlefield interaction is simple: you can interact with most mana-producing creatures in non-embarrassing fashion (especially Joraga Treespeaker); you can hit either a Sword or a swordsman (-Mystic, -Hawk); and it can hit either an Exarch or Spellskite, or even a Splinter Twin, depending on need. We are sorely short a four-plus damage instant in these colors, saving the generally maindeck-inflexible Combust.
Now I'd like to talk about fields of battle... Where are they, and who does what / wants to do what? What can you afford to move?
This matchup is one about mana, threats, and relevance. You really don't want to be hit by a Sword of Feast and Famine. On balance, they really want to hit you with one. If, because of this, they go for the proscribed turn 4 sequence (plop Equipment into play + attach it), you have a huge opening to stick Deceiver Exarch while they are tapped, prevent the hit, and maybe even set up the kill, all at once.
This is a battle over your hand and continued ability to stay relevant in the game. Let's begin with a general assumption that they get everything they want, and disrupt you. What now? There is another question, being are they clocking you or do you have time? Often, you will have time.
The idea in this build is that using Jace multiple times is much more powerful than one or two Duresses. You can use Jace to either reassemble one of your combos or even win with Jace, using your permission to defend your planeswalker, or you can pretend that Sea Gate Oracle (or whichever) + Splinter Twin is a planeswalker, and win with one of those.
How do you approach the mirror? There are a couple of possible answers. One is that you are just much faster. Say the opponent's land comes into play tapped, and he is caught off-curve. That's cool. In a pure Exarch v. Exarch fight, all Exarchs are equal and bound by draw dependence (you know, why everyone plays a Preordain).
But it's unlikely to be a pure fistfight. The opponent will bring Duresses if he is Grixis; this makes for an interesting cat-and-mouse... His Inquisition of Kozilek for your Deceiver Exarch (better yet, your Spell Pierce). You Jace up and try to win on cards and mana. How can you make Mana Leak good? Is there a clear open for Into the Roil?
A less interesting fight (pure speculation, as I haven't played it yet) would be RUG Splinter Twin. They have less of a Splinter Twin combo, but the speed of Lotus Cobra and the second-best established deck in the metagame as a backup plan. I think you should spend Mana Leak as early and as effectively as you can here, as they have less redundancy (any individual answer takes a leg from their sixty-card centipede), but more importantly, because Lotus Cobra will invalidate your interaction if you are too tentative.
The consensus card here is Spellskite (and who, at this point, are any of us to argue?). So... four of that Horror in the sideboard.
Swarms / Beatdown
I've played a decent amount against decks like Hawkward, and I was surprised to see how competitive they could be. The combination of super-fast clock and instant-speed removal (via Dispatch) while you are under pressure can legitimately beat this deck (I know! I already said I was surprised!) ... The question is how you approach answering them.
You can either respect their plan or respect their add-on. I think we can at least entertain the add-on first because it can give us a window to what we should be playing. If the problem is that they can stop your combo with a Dispatch, then maybe the right solution is a Dispel... Hard counter on the thing that matters. For that matter, Dispel seems to be the right way to interact with a Valakut that is now maindecking Nature's Claim, or the permission out of another Jace or Exarch Twin deck. Certainly better than Mana Leak on the draw, or Spell Pierce any time.
Of course, the other thing we can do is just kill all their dudes. I would personally be fine siding in say five Pyroclasms and Slagstorms (over the permission) to undo the notion of their effectively clocking you. Dispatch doesn't cease to be relevant, but if you have time to draw out the game with Jace, the whole equation changes (and of course we can also get more creative around this paradigm if we like).
Sideboarding with a deck where all of the cards are good at least some of the time is... different. Do you ever side out a Splinter Twin, under any foreseeable circumstances? You might have a different answer RE: Inferno Titan. We live in an age where blue decks siding out their Mana Leaks for their other color's point removal against beatdown is almost a given... but even in the Hawkward scenario, Mana Leak is very productive against, say, a relatively expensive Tempered Steel.
I've played a fair bit with the maindeck but haven't sideboarded a single game really (watch the videos, and you'll know why). So the following is all theory... but convincing theory, I think you will agree.
We don't know what even the archetype decks are going to look like, but we know that certain kinds of cards are popular and effective. For example, I've played literally dozens of queues successfully with MWC at this point, and I can tell you I prefer Kor Sanctifiers to Emeria Angel in the mirror and against Caw-Blade because it's scarier to be blown out early by a Sword than anything else in these matchups, and Emeria Angel is quite mediocre in a fight involving 6+ copies of Day of Judgment and 3+ copies of Elspeth Tirel.
So an analogue to Kor Sanctifiers (even if generally unpopular coming into the new format) might be viable. My thoughts:
Instead of looking at specifics when we have relatively little certainty about opponents and plans (at this point), we can ask ourselves who we want to be when we grow up.
Consider the following swap against MWC (I'm shocked how popular this is on MTGO):
No MWC player actually capable of winning the tournament is going to come in without a plan for our combo. Very likely, he's going to approach it from a standpoint of black Phyrexian instant-speed removal, Celestial Purge, and preexisting Memoricide: Almost textbook one-for-one overload. Now if he catches our combo version with Memoricide, we're probably kold but for Jace, and even with four Dispels, we can have problems with four Purges and four pseudo-splashed, four-mana life sinks.
How does the paradigm change when we no longer care about his instants; when we can Elixir up any number of Tectonic Edges for Emeria, the Sky Ruin (just Leak Sun Titan); when instead of giving him a combo to shoot at (and is he even going to hit a card with Memoricide?) we play...
We have just enough Twin to be annoying, to confuse him, but not enough to actually provide a bull's-eye. Is Twin still useful? Obviously! Who wants to lose to Pilgrim's Eye wearing Splinter Twin? But is it still worth a Purge? How about four?#efficiency
I'm a bit saddened by the inability to overload Pyroclasms with this sideboard, but Manic Vandal is quite the two-for-one v. Hawkward (and also hits the problematic Glint Hawk Idol), and you should have no problems swapping in or out five cards (or more if you want to get Trinket Mage fancy). On a standard permission swap (especially on the draw), you even get the Dispel we talked about.
I firmly believe Deceiver Twin is the best thing you can do with your mana right now, so finesse sideboarding will likely be the best route to cultivating and curating value and card power... The only card you absolutely need being Spellskite (because otherwise you'll be outnumbered in the mirror).
I'll rarely say something like this, but at this stage, whatever I or anyone else says probably has to be taken with a grain of salt. We know the best things to do but not the best ways to do them yet. Please accept the following semi-awkward videos as an explanation of how I got where I did (at this point):
Big thanks to Mark Young and @smi77y for their time.