It's a new format, and there are two ways to attack deckbuilding after a rotation:
-Build something totally from scratch.
-Build off a shell that has already seen success.
While option A is the most fun as you get to delve into all of the new cards, typically option B is both easier and will yield quicker results. Sometimes it's upgrading decks that didn't really lose a whole lot to rotation, and sometimes it's filling in the holes of decks that got gutted with spicy new pieces.
We aren't doing either of those.
Today we get to do the most fun option, which is taking a fringe deck that just didn't have enough support in the old format into a new format where it's themes are no longer fringe. This happens a lot, as WOTC tends to "seed" sets with the themes from upcoming sets, so you end up with decks that are almost there that end up getting some serious help from future sets.
- 2 Deathrite Shaman
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 2 Lifebane Zombie
- 2 Nemesis of Mortals
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 4 Shadowborn Demon
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 2 Herald of Torment
- 4 Nighthowler
- 1 Nyx Weaver
- 1 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
It's almost like Max knew the Sultai were coming!
Decks that want to use the graveyard as a resource have almost always done well at various times in all formats, as the graveyard is one of the most important zones in the game. While most of the deck's core is from Theros, Max's deck did get some help from Return to Ravnica block and M14 which we will be losing.
Shadowborn Demon is a pretty big loss, as it provided a removal effect and a large evasive body to help close out games. Shadowborn Demon was also a fantastic Whip of Erebos target. Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord was another good finisher as well as a large body and one of the few ways we could use our graveyard as card advantage, as well as a power boost. Grisly Salvage was also a nice enabler, but there are other options.
While these losses hurt, we gain the power of an entire clan bent on using the power of the graveyard. While the Sultai mechanic, delve, is not really going to be helping us a ton--it prefers to kill the sheep rather than sheer it--the other Sultai cards still have a lot of graveyard synergies that can help us out a bunch. We also gain a legendary leader that couldn't be a better fit for our deck.
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Nemesis of Mortals
- 4 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 2 Sagu Mauler
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 4 Nighthowler
- 2 Nyx Weaver
- 4 Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
We've taken Max's shell and added some of the most powerful cards in Khans of Tarkir to the mix, including what might be the perfect card for our deck in Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Mana accelerants are very important in this deck because they do three important things:
- They let you cast your spells faster.
- They provide creatures that can go in the graveyard and up your creature density by lowering your land count.
- They give you bodies to put Nighthowler on.
Elvish Mystic is likely going to be one of the best cards in the new format, as without a four mana Supreme Verdict to punish it, it allows for the fastest starts in the format. While we would much prefer Birds of Paradise in this slot, we've gotta make do with what we've got.
Rattleclaw Mystic is a new addition that begs the question, "You're not playing Sylvan Caryatid?!" That is correct, and there are two major reasons. Yes, Sylvan Caryatid is very good, and we do lose some minor value because Rattleclaw Mystic can't tap for black mana, but Rattleclaw Mystic has two major things going for it.
Most importantly, it can attack. While getting in for two here or there is nice, this factor is most important because we want to have as many targets for Nighthowler as possible, and our mana creatures are some of the best targets. Secondly is the synergy with his best buddy Sagu Mauler, which will be discussed momentarily.
Satyr Wayfinder is a pretty simple card but fits the mold very well. Like our mana accelerants, it allows us to lower our land count while upping our creature count and does a minor bit of mana fixing while giving us a body for Nighthowler.
Commune with the Gods is one of the best cards in the deck, as not only does it drop four cards into the graveyard, but it also allows us to find one of our haymakers like Nighthowler or even Whip of Erebos. This is exactly the kind of graveyard enabler you want, as its Impulse effect is already powerful, and the four cards that go to the graveyard is almost just a bonus.
Nyx Weaver is not as direct, but it is much better in a long game as it does two important things for us. Its upkeep trigger will keep putting cards in our yard which is great, but in the late game, if we are having trouble getting through and have a fully stocked graveyard, Nyx Weaver can bring back whatever card we need to break through. We can even do this off of a Whip of Erebos activation, meaning in any lategame, we will have access to basically anything we need in our deck.
At last we come to our newest addition, who gets a section all to herself.
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is awesome.
Essentially a four-mana Grave Titan, Sidisi does everything you could ever want in this deck. She...
- Helps to fill up the graveyard.
- Provides card advantage in the form of a never-ending string of 2/2 zombies.
- Triggers off all the other mill effects in the deck like Commune with the Gods and Satyr Wayfinder.
- Is an amazing Whip of Erebos target.
- Provides enough fodder for a one mana Murderous Cut the turn she attacks.
- Gets huge and dirty as the deck's best Nighthowler target.
The deck has eight ways to cast her on turn 3, which can lead to some amazing turn 4s:
Turn 1 - Opulent Palace.
Turn 3 - Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, mill three and make a token.
Turn 4 - Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, cast Satyr Wayfinder getting a land and making a token, cast Commune with the Gods getting Nighthowler and making a token, attack with Sidisi milling three and making a token, and before blockers, cast a one mana Murderous Cut on your opponent's blocker.
This is not really a nut draw either, as you can replace Rattleclaw Mystic with Elvish Mystic, and turn 4 you can use a few different mill effects. With no more Supreme Verdict, a board like this is going to get really ugly really fast.
Our major payoff for all this graveyard work is that we get a trio of cards that end up being very overpowered for their costs.
Nighthowler is the deck's centerpiece, and it must be dealt with twice as you will almost always be bestowing it. It's not uncommon for Nighthowler to be double digits, and in a format based around big idiots, the biggest idiot is king. Do not underestimate how powerful Nighthowler's bestow effect is.
Speaking of big idiots, Nemesis of Mortals does a perfectly passable Tarmogoyf impression in this deck, as it will often be coming down as a 5/5 in the midgame for 2-3 mana. You can also sink a few more mana into it later to make it a 10/10 for good measure. One of the things that makes Nighthowler and Nemesis of Mortals so good is how they match up with many of the best cards in the format. Most removal spells are going to max out at dealing four damage like Stoke the Flames and Mardu Charm, and many of the best creatures are 4/4s and 4/5s like Savage Knuckleblade and Siege Rhino. Both of these big boys rumble through those no problem.
Whip of Erebos is excellent in the deck because of how relevant the lifelink ability is with so many obscenely large monsters flying around. It is not uncommon to get to triple digit life totals with the deck, and the fact that Whip is so useful before you even activate it is very important.
But of course, you also get to activate it too! You will never be short for targets in the deck, and you can take huge swings with your monsters while gaining large amounts of life as well. Whip of Erebos is your lategame, and between Whip, Sidisi, and Nyx Weaver you will have access to basically your entire deck in a long game.
Murderous Cut is the best card in Khans of Tarkir and one of the best cards in Standard, and no deck in the format will be able to make better use of it than this one. Through all the milling you are going to be doing you are going to have plenty of incidental lands and spells in your graveyard that do absolutely nothing for you, and the majority of the time Murderous Cut is going to cost one mana. It's fantastic at getting Sidisi through, and not much more time needs to be spent on explaining why Swords to Plowshares with no drawback is a good Magic card.
Lastly we come to one of my favorite cards in the set, the massively underrated Sagu Mauler. While this is definitely not a Sagu Mauler deck, it does a lot of powerful incidental things in the deck and provides a very solid backup plan. Sometimes you are just going to cast him on turn 3 with an Elvish Mystic and Rattleclaw Mystic and that will be enough.
You will also be able to present your opponent with one of the most difficult conundrums in the upcoming format - "is my morph a Rattleclaw Mystic or a Sagu Mauler?" I won a pair of testing games by morphing a secret Sagu Mauler that my opponent assumed was a Rattleclaw Mystic and unmorphing for the blowout.
Sagu Mauler is also the absolutely ideal target for Nighthowler, and this is your lategame plan for overcoming a largely stalled board. Not many decks can withstand a 20/20 hexproof trampler for long, and you can use Nyx Weaver and Whip of Erebos to set it up if need be.
Sagu Mauler is just too good not to play.
Our manabase is focused on making sure we have untapped green sources early, blue mana by turn 3 for Sidisi, and double black for Nighthowler and Whip of Erebos. This leads us down the slightly more painful path of a good number of painlands and Mana Confluence, but it is necessary and not too bad given how explosive our draws can be.
Unfortunately we only had room for one fetchland in the deck, as trying to play Polluted Deltas was just too awkward- the basic Island was just too awful and it cut down on our green sources. Fetchlands plus Murderous Cut is going to be a defining aspect of the format, but considering how good Murderous Cut is in our deck anyway, it's a fine sacrifice.
The sideboard is a bit of a rough sketch, as we really don't know what the format is going to look like, but it gives you some nice tools. The deathtouch blockers are good against the Goblin Rabblemaster decks, Hunt the Hunter is solid against the green decks, and Bloodsoaked Champion seems fantastic against the creatureless control decks where your Murderous Cuts are going to be dead.
This deck is a blast to play. It is synergistic and does some very powerful things, but it also has some of the best cards in the format in it as well. Give it a go during the dual Open Series weekend in either New Jersey or Indianapolis!