At the end of my last article, I was left unsure what deck I was going to play for the Standard Super League. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the Super League is a series of streamed invitation-only tournaments that Randy Buehler has been organizing and broadcasting on twitch.tv/magic. It started out as a Vintage tournament between several pros, but it has now expanded to include Modern and Standard seasons as well. The most recent iteration of the tournament series started on August 11th with twelve new players competing for their chance to make the end-of-the-year Super League Playoffs. If you're interested in watching past weeks' broadcasts or finding out more, you can read about it here.
Two weeks ago one of my readers, Beth Riley, wrote in the comments section that she wanted me to come back with a Sultai Control list.
I'm not one to disappoint my readers and I'm also not one to turn down a chance to play Sultai when the deck is powerful enough. This is the decklist that I submitted to Randy last week that I've now played over two weeks of Standard Super League competition:
- 1 Den Protector
- 4 Erebos's Titan
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- 2 Liliana, Heretical Healer
- 2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
I think that this deck is a solid choice for the current Standard metagame. Erebos's Titan may seem like a surprising inclusion, especially at four copies, but it functions very well in the classic role that Juzam Djinn once filled. Besides Tasigur, the average Sultai deck doesn't really have any powerful finishers that can take over and deal lethal once we gain control of the board. The smaller creatures like Satyr Wayfinder and Jace perform their roles admirably, but it is difficult to actually deal twenty with them. Erebos's Titan fills that win condition role very well, and between almost all of our lands tapping for black (a whopping twenty, to be exact) and the copy of Urborg, it's actually not difficult at all to cast. The 5/5 body is also very convenient for threatening to block opposing Siege Rhinos and Tasigurs, the former of which remains extremely popular the moment. The two most-played decks on Magic Online right now are Abzan Midrange and Abzan Aggro, and together they make up close to 25% of the metagame. Erebos's Titan is an insanely good blocker against almost all of the creature threats in those decks. Even though those decks play a large number of creatures, there are often situations where you can threaten to blank their removal spell by using your own on their last creature. This ability to instantly gain indestructible presents interesting decisions for your opponent where they could find themselves blown out if they choose incorrectly.
Thoughtseize and Sultai Charm are two of the other four-ofs in the deck, and their presence is largely due to the versatility they provide. Thoughtseize has historically been played due to its powerful ability to answer one card for an extremely cheap cost. In the Sultai deck, Thoughtseize allows us take care of cards that we might not have an answer for later while also giving us a ton of information about our opponent's plans over the next few turns. Immediately after the Pro Tour the metagame was flush with Mono-Red decks, but since then G/W decks have taken over. The two life lost may be too steep of a cost against decks with burn, but against G/W the discard functions as a cheap answer to any of their cards without any real penalty. Sultai Charm, on the other hand, is another one of the Commands / Charms that I've been trying to play in my deck whenever possible.
As I've said in the past, these types of spells are much more powerful as role-players than they would be if they only had one of the abilities. I'm only playing two copies of Ultimate Price in the deck, but I'm able to play four copies of Sultai Charm since it also has two other modes in addition to destroying a mono-colored creature. The draw mode on Sultai Charm is our useful go-to mode when our opponent doesn't have any creature targets that we can hit, but the Naturalize effect is actually quite powerful against a few decks right now. U/R Thopters did very well at the Pro Tour, and as a result is the third most-played deck on Magic Online right now. That deck is full of targets for the Naturalize mode on our Charm, including Ensoul Artifact itself. The G/W Constellation deck is also full of enchantment targets that we can use that mode against. The presence of those decks in the metagame means Sultai Charm is just that much more versatile in our list.
Jace has quickly become the chase card of Magic Origins and for good reason. At just two mana it is the second cheapest of the new cycle after Kytheon, which makes it likely to be able to flip very early in the game. In addition to four copies of Jace, Vryn's Prodigy I am also running four copies of Satyr Wayfinder which can be combined with Jace and a fetchland to immediately flip Jace on turn three. The main purpose of Satyr Wayfinder is to smooth draws and fuel Delve, but the synergy with Jace is just icing on the cake. Once Jace becomes the Telepath Unbound, it can quickly be used to flashback essential spells in our graveyard such as Thoughtseize or removal spells. On top of all that, the ultimate ability serves to offer us inevitability against some of the slower control decks. By itself, Jace is still fine as a Merfolk Looter effect that can help our draws. The deck is playing a few spells with just one or two copies that are especially good in certain matchups, and Jace allows us to loot for what we need while discarding less powerful spells or getting rid of narrow cards in the wrong matchup.
I'm currently playing a total of four Delve spells between two Tasigur and two Treasure Cruise. With four copies of Satyr Wayfinder, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, and Polluted Delta, it is never hard to cast these Delve spells at a heavily discounted price. By only running four in total, it makes it much less likely that we get stuck with uncastable Delve spells later in the game. There is also a lot of synergy between both sides of Jace and Tasigur. The synergies between the individual cards are what allow the deck to have an additional boost of power that might not immediately be evident on paper.
Rounding out the deck are a few copies of cards like Negate and Duress that are fantastic in some matchups and not as great in others. I started with a few copies of Negate in the sideboard before moving them to the maindeck when I realized how good they are against a wide variety of decks. Having a two-mana counterspell also allows us to deploy some of our better threats while still leaving protection up. I've also included two copies of Ashiok, which has been a staple of my U/B decks over the whole time Theros has been in Standard. As a cheap threat, Ashiok has been good against both my slow control opponents as well as my midrange opponents. When you can start taking control of your opponent's creatures against G/W/x, the game quickly turns in your favor. Against control decks, Ashiok will often win the game by itself.
The sideboard is full of role-player cards for certain matchups. Annul is great against both U/R Thopters and G/W Constellation. At just one mana it's a great answer to many of their spells without slowing you down. Feed the Clan has been a great inclusion in my past sideboards and I wasn't going to forget about it now. Sidisi's Faithful is another card I mentioned a few weeks ago that is great against anything that already has an Ensoul Artifact on it; something to note is that this can actually bounce a land with Ensoul on it. Sidisi's Faithful also comes in against the Mono-Red Aggro since four toughness provides a good blocker. I had Languish in the maindeck at one point, but after a few switches it ended up in my sideboard. However, after the results of GP London, fitting in two copies of Languish in the maindeck might be correct. You can fit these in by trimming some numbers or moving the Negates back to the sideboard.
The first week of the Standard Super League I played against Andew Cuneo's Pyromancer's Goggles brew. In that matchup a lot of my anti-control cards really shined and Ashiok was able to help me win the match. This past week, I played a close match against Josh Utter-Leyton's Jeskai deck. I was up a game and slightly ahead in the second, but Josh managed to battle his way back to win the match. It was a great match and Josh is an excellent player. I like his deck a lot and will be bringing it to an IQ and possibly the WMCQ this coming weekend. As of now I am registered for the Legacy Championship, which is the same day as the WMCQ, but I might switch.
What's interesting about the twelve competitors in the Standard Super League is that there's eleven different archetypes represented. That's great to see amongst a group of competitive players and it shows how great Standard has been in recent years.
With Eternal Weekend coming up and the Season Three Invitational in New Jersey the following weekend, I've mainly been focusing on Standard and Legacy. I think that if I feel good about my Sultai Control list I'll play it, but if not, I'm likely going to give Jeskai a shot. For reference, here is Josh's deck and the only thing I'd be likely to change is a few sideboard slots and perhaps adding one copy of Gods Willing to the maindeck:
For Legacy I've been working on a deck that is similar to Miracles but doesn't use its core components:
This deck plays out a lot like Miracles, but without Counterbalance or any of the Miracle cards. As a result, the deck also doesn't have to play as many copies of Sensei's Diving Top since it is essentially a three-color Standstill deck. More recent Legacy players may not recognize Standstill as much, but the card was once a staple of the format and used in countless different control shells. As of right now this is the list I'm looking at for the Legacy Championships and the legacy rounds of the Season Three Invitational. I'm also planning on playing the in the Vintage Championships where I'm looking to play this deck:
- 1 Black Lotus
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Brainstorm
- 4 Dig Through Time
- 1 Flusterstorm
- 4 Force of Will
- 2 Gush
- 1 Mana Drain
- 3 Mental Misstep
- 1 Pyroblast
- 3 Swords to Plowshares
- 2 Gitaxian Probe
- 1 Ponder
- 3 Preordain
- 1 Time Walk
- 1 Treasure Cruise
I don't play too much Vintage, so I've been talking a lot with my friends that are more familiar with the format and just using a lot of theorycrafting. I think that Monastery Mentor is a powerful card and likely where I want to be right now. Overall, my main focus has been on Legacy and Standard so I plan on using this next week to finalize my choices for the Season Three Invitational. Between the Standard Super League and Eternal Weekend, I think I will be able to get a better idea of my final lists for New Jersey.
So what do you guys think? Should I stick with Sultai and this Jeskai Landstill deck, or should I brew up totally new lists? Am I missing anything in my Vintage list?