"I have never once misbuilt a deck so badly and still had as good of a finish."
This was the story of my Standard Open in New Jersey this past weekend. The odds were stacked against me, and I knew it by round 3. Much like a tournament on Magic Online, I wish I could simply just switch a few cards and start another event. However, that wasn't going to be the case, and I was forced to accept the fact that I wasn't going to cash. I just knew I wasn't going to be able to fight through that many rounds with a slightly misbuilt deck.
But I did.
I ended up winning eight out of the ten rounds. It wasn't because I was being hard on myself as a deck builder. There were things I missed in the deck and needed to be fixed. I just didn't know how busted some of these cards would be even if the deck was off by a half a dozen cards.
Here's the list I played:
- 3 Necropolis Fiend
- 2 Rakshasa Deathdealer
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 1 Soul of Innistrad
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
The idea behind this deck was that Todd and I wanted to prey on any deck trying to be aggressive. The deck has ten removal spells backed up by Sidisi, Brood Tyrant and Necropolis Fiend. Just kill anything that would be a nuisance and build an overwhelming board position.
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is an interesting card. It acts as an enabler for delve, but it's also a pay-off spell in the fact that it creates zombie tokens. Being able to fuel a deck while also killing an opponent is an amazing combo and why we gravitated towards the card. The only problem is that you need to be able to get her through, which is why we ran so many removal spells.
Therein lies the problem. We had no good strategy against decks with removal spells and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. You know the card that decimated Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx and has been a mainstay in Standard for an entire year? Yeah, that's the card we didn't have a plan for!
My second loss came in round five when all my opponent had to do was interact with a couple of my creatures, Thoughtseize my Empty the Pits, and activate Elspeth, and I was dead. I had no way out. This round taught me something very important about the format. You have to be proactive. Reactive strategies just don't do well in this format. There are simply too many good ways to attack and things that can go wrong. Instead of running more ways to kill creatures, why not play cards that allow my Sidisi, Brood Tyrant to ignore them?
- 3 Elvish Mystic
- 2 Necropolis Fiend
- 2 Rakshasa Deathdealer
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 2 Soul of Innistrad
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Courser of Kruphix
- 3 Herald of Torment
- 4 Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
Since this is a brand new format, I'm going to go over each card individually and talk about why those are the numbers I currently think are correct.
Three Elvish Mystic might seem like an out of place number, but there's a great reason for only wanting three: it only produces green mana. This means that having multiples of them and a Forest means that you will not be able to cast all of your important spells. This deck isn't filled with Polukranos, World Eaters and Nissa, Worldwakers. Sultai Delve has multiple cards that cost double black which means that extra Elvish Mystics will only be around to help cast Commune With The Gods, Courser of Kruphix, and Satyr Wayfinder. This deck just isn't as fast at slamming all of its spells as the devotion based decks due to the mana requirements.
Having access to Elvish Mystic is great though. Not only is it a creature to help trigger Sidisi's ability, but it helps power out impressive turns. This deck loves casting spells, is mana hungry, and always has something to do thanks to Soul of Innistrad.
This might be the best card in the deck solely due to the fact of how happy I am when I see any number of them in my opening hand. Just being able to present an early body while also finding lands and setting up later delves is perfect. Even though the deck is designed around Sidisi, I consider this little guy the heart and soul of the deck.
If you don't understand why this is in the deck, just play against it once. Just once and you will realize how amazing this little thing can actually be. It attacks for free in the early turns of a game without any fear since the threat of pumping would invalidate an opponent's last turn. In the midgame, it can play a defensive role by keeping big scary monsters from attacking. And in the late game, it can get the wings of the tormented and fly high in the sky to rain death on all of your foes. Really, Rakshasa Deathdealer does it all. The only reason it's a two of is because of its diminishing returns in multiples.
By round three of New Jersey, I was venting to all of my friends that I missed this card, and I was an idiot for doing so. Herald of Torment fits this strategy perfectly! It's a great threat on its own as well as a road block for Mantis Rider, but most importantly it kills planeswalkers. I guess you could also say it gives Sidisi, Brood Tyrant the +3/+3 it needs to be an actual Grave Titan. But with wings!
This card is perfect for this deck. The other bestow creature is not.
So many people have said that this card is extremely powerful, and I always have the same response.
"Why would I want my big dumb idiots becoming even bigger, dumber idiots?"
Nighthowler doesn't help you beat Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Xenegos, the Reveler, or any other ground pounding planeswalkers. It just doesn't get your creature through unless it has trample. The other big problem is that you want to be able to delve your whole yard if need be. Delve and Nighthowler are not the best of buddies, and I'm pretty sure we all know delve is a more powerful mechanic than the bestow creature.
Saying that I only want three copies of Courser of Kruphix is pretty much me saying "I don't think Courser of Kruphix belongs in this deck but have no idea what to replace it with yet." Courser of Kruphix has been an absolute all-star in green decks for the past year, but its days of dominance are coming to an end. This centaur will have to accept that it's just another powerful Magic card and not the king of the format.
Mantis Rider-based strategies are going to become popular and your deck can't be based around too many Courser of Kruphix, Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid draws. The mini Lightning Angel will just kill you. Courser is, of course, a card I want access too, but I rarely want to ever draw two of them.
This deck theoretically plays more copies Courser of Kruphix than other decks do due to the fact that it also runs Commune with the Gods. Since I don't always want to draw a Courser of Kruphix and multiples are bad, I think three copies of this card makes sense.
This card is so good! I knew it was good when I started working on the deck, but I didn't know how backbreaking it was going to be every time I got to untap with it. Sidisi, Brood Tyrant overpreformed in the list that wasn't even that good. This is one of the most real cards I have seen in a long time, and the sky is the limit with what we can do with this strategy thanks to the powerhouse that is the delve mechanic.
I got a lot of slack for playing this card, and I don't really know why. Sure it costs one more mana than Tombstalker, but it's a different format with way more cards hitting the graveyard. Personally I think this card is exactly what this type of strategy wants. It can come down as early as turn 4 and completely take over a game. Being a 4/5 flyer allows it to take over the air and not be shot down by Stoke the Flames. It also attacks planeswalkers! I'm in love with this card in this deck and think that others should give it a chance before dismissing it.
It has delve. Delve is busted. It is busted!
What a sleeper card! I threw one in the deck expecting it to be decent. It plays similarly to Unburial Rites in the sense that it has value when it is milled over but also can be decent when drawn. I didn't expect it to be the type of card I always wanted access to. Whenever you mill this thing in the early game, you get to start playing towards it instead of being a safety net in the lategame you hope to find. If Soul of Innistrad hits the bin in the early turns, you and your opponent now know the game is going to take a drastic turn. They will no longer be able to win the late game making it important for them to start getting in early chunks of damage and being forced to ignore some of your creatures since if they invest all their time into killing them, you will eventually just get them back.
This is so important because we have access to Murderous Cut. This one mana removal spell allows us to have unbelievably powerful turns by playing out multiple spells as well as killing an important creature on our opponent's side of the board. There will come a time in each game that an opponent will not be able to play around Murderous Cut and get completely and utterly blown out by it due to the fact that they had to take an aggressive role in a game they don't feel comfortable taking.
It's a removal spell that has delve. Enough said! Play four. Delve four. It's good.
Now that we know why each card is in the deck, let's talk about how the deck should be played. This is an aggressive deck and should be played in such a way. Don't try to preserve your creatures. If you can trade, do so. This is the benefit of being a deck based around Soul of Innistrad and delve. Opposing strategies will have to rely on the top of their deck more often than Sultai Delve, allowing you to have a better midgame if you constantly force an opponent to interact with you. Having more cards in your graveyard allow you to have more powerful turns where you present multiple threats as well as having access to Murderous Cut.
One of the greatest things about this deck is how aggressive you can get with Herald of Torment. Bestowing it onto a Sidisi, Brood Tyrant will allow you to keep attacking while using the Zombie tokens she creates to be the defensive walls you need to stay alive. It will be impossible for most decks relying on ground creatures to keep the pressure on you while you play Commune of the Gods and activate Soul of Innistrad while they also have to deal with flying Grave Titans.
Don't be afraid to race. This format is all about getting the damage in, and the longer you wait to get yours, the higher the possibility that an opponent can simply burn you out with Jeskai Charm and Stoke the Flames.
The hyper-aggressive matchups play out much differently. You are forced to take a defensive role due to the volatile nature of Goblin Rabblemaster. This isn't a bad thing though. Our deck has a high density of cheap spells that generate extra value. As long as you keep the board from getting out of control, any opposing aggressive strategy should run out of cards much faster than they expected due to the power of Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, Satyr Wayfinder, and Necropolis Fiend. Just interact as much as possible and hope they run out of steam like they should.
Control is a question for another day. We have yet to see how they are truly built, but my gut tells me that a well-timed Disdainful Stroke should end the game. I originally was playing with Thoughtseize, but I don't think that is the kind of spell this deck wants. Tempo is going to be a highly utilized resource in Standard, and I would much rather counter a spell they want to resolve then never make them pay mana for one. Other decks will gladly play Thoughtseize, but this just isn't one of them.
I hope you guys have fun with Sultai Delve. I think that something along these lines will end up being a powerhouse strategy in Standard, but I can't put all my eggs in this basket. It is time for me to pack up all of my cards and head to Hawaii where I will be trying to be the first Platinum player of the year. Let's hope the rest of Team Revolution and I can break this format like we did in Portland with Rabble Red.
Catch you guys on the flip side!