Do you like one-mana 5/5s?
Killing a creature for one mana and not having your opponent gain life or get a basic land?
Returning an army of 3/3s from your graveyard at instant speed?
Playing Wrath of God and watching your opponent's creatures die while yours live?
Flipping Jace, Vryn's Prodigy every single time you activate it?
Being able to Demonic Tutor whatever you need to out of your graveyard?
Playing cantripping Dark Rituals?
Ignoring your opponent's creatures in the mid- to late-game as you blow right by them?
And, most importantly, doing all of this not with a Legacy or Modern deck but with a legal Standard deck?
Well have I got the deck for you:
- 4 Deathmist Raptor
- 4 Den Protector
- 3 Gurmag Angler
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 1 Torrent Elemental
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- 3 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
This deck has a lot going on, and is based off of Luke Mulcahy's Jund Delve deck from Pro Tour Magic Origins with which he went 7-3 in Constructed.
- 4 Flamewake Phoenix
- 4 Gurmag Angler
- 4 Reaper of the Wilds
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 1 Herald of Torment
- 1 Dragonlord Kolaghan
- 1 Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury
- 4 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
When I saw the list I was immediately intrigued, but the deck seemed very rough. Eight Delve creatures? Almost zero ways to actually cast Flamewake Phoenix or get one from your hand into the graveyard? Dragonlord Kolaghan?
Despite my misgivings, the deck had obviously performed well at the highest level and I was in love with the core of the deck. Gather the Pack is a very underrated Magic card; cards like Commune with the Gods and Grisly Salvage are already very playable, and tacking on the ability to draw a second card off your two-mana enabler is bonkers. I also really liked the idea of being able to play Languish in your creature deck to great effect.
Red, however, was not the path I was looking for. While Flamewake Phoenix is definitely an awesome and underappreciated card that has never really found a good home, Luke's deck actually has only three red sources total in it. Flamewake Phoenix is amazing if you only ever mill it with Commune with the Gods and Gather the Pack, but any one you draw is an almost automatic mulligan. Even if you can cobble together the two red mana necessary to cast it, a lot of tempo is lost doing so.
The immediately obvious options were either blue for Stubborn Denial and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, or white for Siege Rhino as a Reaper of the Wilds replacement. While Siege Rhino is great, the blue cards seemed much more synergistic with the deck. Moving into blue gives me great reason to move into the Den Protector + Deathmist Raptor package as well, as being able to discard Deathmist Raptor to Jace is awesome.
Stubborn Denial seemed like it would be amazing with all the huge Delve creatures, but it slowly made its way out of the deck. Without Modern or Legacy-level card manipulation the Delve creatures weren't always guaranteed to be on the battlefield, and the card was just too high maintenance. There is also a tension in the amount of spells you can actually play, as removal is necessary and you need to keep up a high creature count.
The core of the deck is your three self-mill effects, and they are all quite good. Very often you will be casting one of these on turn two, and then another on turn three alongside a one-mana Gurmag Angler or Tasigur. They dump Deathmist Raptors to the yard to be picked up by Den Protector later, and they also ensure that your Jace, Vryn's Prodigy will flip on turn three 90% of the time.
Your absolute best starts are something like turn-two Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, turn-three Commune with the Gods for a Den Protector, discard Deathmist Raptor to Jace to flip him, and then cast a one-mana Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Considering we have seven Impulse effects and six Delve creatures, starts like this are extremely common.
It's also important to state how powerful Gather the Pack really is. Commune with the Gods is already a great card, but when you draw two cards off Gather the Pack it feels like you are actually cheating. At any point past turn three it really isn't that hard to trigger Spell Mastery, and you will have turns later in the game where you cast Gather the Pack, get a Tasigur and a Gurmag Angler, and cast both that turn.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Gurmag Angler have both made their mark known on Modern and Legacy, and it's only fitting they finally get to have their time in Standard. Both are huge, come down fast, and can tussle with most creatures in the format while avoiding much of the size- and damage-based removal. Gurmag Angler is better at battling through Siege Rhino and Polukranos, World Eater while Tasigur's ability will often come up in the late game as you do a great job of controlling what is in your graveyard.
Very often your “bad” draw is just casting one of these monsters on turn three for three mana, which is Anafenza, the Foremost-level efficiency.
Torrent Elemental was a late addition to the deck, but an extremely valuable one that swings entire matchups just by its presence. This deck plows through a ton of cards in a game, and in any long game you have a very good chance of having put a Torrent Elemental into your graveyard. It can then be delved away without a second thought... that is, until you need it later in the game to push though basically anything. Torrent Elemental is almost impossible to get rid of, and it single-handedly beats Elspeth, Sun's Champion and other board stallers like big Hangarback Walkers or Whisperwood Elemental.
When I say this is the best Jace, Vryn's Prodigy deck in the format, I am not hyperbolizing. Jace is bananas in this deck, despite not quite seeming so at first glance. At first I was happy that Jace could loot away my Deathmist Raptors and figured it would be a reasonable turn-two play, but after playing with it, Jace's true power became clear.
Jace flips on turn three about 90% of the time in this deck.
Once flipped, Jace gives us whatever we need. Flashing back a Gather the Pack keeps our engine rolling right along, allowing Jace to draw us creatures and keep filling our graveyard. But even better is how Jace gives us access to more copies of our removal spells. It is hard to have enough slots for removal in such a synergistic deck, but Jace lets us double up or even just play any of our removal spells that were milled rather than drawn. Having this sort of access to Languish and Murderous Cut over the course of a game is fantastic, and that on top of being able to replay Gather the Pack effects over and over again makes Jace a lynchpin of the deck. Jace is also amazing with the variety of sideboard spells that we bring in for key matchups, making sure we can always find what we need even if we mill it.
This is also an excellent Den Protector/Deathmist Raptor deck as well. Aside from the obvious synergy of dumping a bunch of Deathmist Raptors into the graveyard, Den Protector does some heavy lifting in this deck as well. Being able to bring back a Murderous Cut and cast it for one mana is great, and Den Protector basically ensures you never run out of gas.
This is also perhaps one of the best Languish decks in the format as well. While there is some tension between the Den Protector/Deathmist Raptor package and Languish, the former will have done their work while the latter will always be coming back. Languish also plays so well with Gurmag Angler and Tasigur, as you will usually be casting one of those on turn three, forcing your opponent to commit more creatures to the board – which you can then Languish away as your creature lives. Languish also makes sure you don't get run over by aggressive decks that might be able to go under you.
Murderous Cut is one of the biggest reasons to play the deck, as there is no removal spell in the format that is as efficient and unconditional. As mentioned, Murderous Cut does some serious work with both Jace and Den Protector, and having an answer to anything that troubles you – be it Siege Rhino, Jace, Mantis Rider, or whatever – is great.
The deck has some powerful sideboard options, and I was very happy with my plan against G/R Devotion and very aggressive red or Jeskai decks.
Against decks that can go over the top of you where Deathmist Raptor isn't effective, you sideboard into a sort of aggro-control deck and just drop big Delve creature after big Delve creature while you disrupt them with Thoughtseize and Disdainful Stroke – and in the case of G/R Devotion, Languish, which feels almost unbeatable.
Against Mono-Red Aggro and aggressive builds of Jeskai, we sideboard in Feed the Clans, which is often good for ten life and gives you the time to need to pull ahead with your powerful engines.
Otherwise the sideboard is full of high-impact singletons that have a big impact in their particular matchups. This deck sees a ton of cards every game, and between Den Protector, Jace Vryn's Prodigy, and the Gather the Pack effects, it is very likely you will find whatever you need. For example, just one Back to Nature in your 75 improves your matchup against any Constellation deck by at least 15%. You will eventually find it and you will eventually cast it. These sorts of powerful, silver bullet-type sideboard cards are perfect for the deck.
I'm not usually too big on sideboard guides as sideboarding is certainly an art, but it is always nice to have a base guide to work off of – especially for a deck that has a synergistic core that must remain intact.
Versus G/R Devotion
Our goal against G/R Devotion is to use all the elements that make control good against G/R Devotion while also attacking them to death with one-mana monsters. Any Languish cast with a big creature on the battlefield is backbreaking, and it's very easy to cast a large threat and a Thoughtseize or Disdainful Stroke in the same turn.
Versus Abzan Aggro
Against Abzan Aggro, we bring in a few good removal spells, as killing Anafenza and Siege Rhino are very important. We can grind very well with our Deathmist Raptors, and their Abzan Charms will be rather taxed. We shave a Deathmist Raptor and a Commune with the Gods to make Anefenza a little worse against us, as we plan on casting our removal spells early anyway.
It is possible you want Silumgar, the Drifting Death if they have Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and you can trim on Languish if they are playing around them. Disdainful Stroke is also a possibility if they have a lot of Tragic Arrogances.
Jeskai is a difficult matchup, as Mantis Rider is very good against us. We move away from Jace after sideboard because they have so many ways to kill it, and Languish is also very hard to use effectively as it is so expensive and unwieldy. It is very hard to snag two creatures with it, and it is almost always more expensive than whatever it is killing.
Instead of trying to kill everything, instead we move into a much more tempo-oriented racing plan. Feed the Clan gains ten life, and Whip of Erebos also swings the game out of reach of their burn spells. Sideboarding is very fluid in this matchup, as they can either go big or stay small; it's very likely you want the second Disdainful Stroke or Silumgar if they are on a bigger Elspeth plan.
There are of course a few varieties of control, so you must adapt accordingly. Regardless, control is a very good matchup, as you present so many different threats from so many different angles it is very hard for them to keep up. Once you sideboard in even more anti-control cards, it becomes even easier.
Versus Mono-Red Aggro
Play a large thing, gain life, and then race. Mono-Red Aggro decks can't ever hope to handle your late game, so as long as you can keep gaining life and doing what you are doing you should be fine. Try to make sure you play a Delve creature and Feed the Clan on the same turn to play around Roast.
I'm not going to go over every single deck in the format, but this should give you a pretty good basis for how to sideboard with the deck. It is important not to sideboard too much, as you really can't afford to damage the core of the deck or it won't really work any more.
General Play Tips
This deck plays out more like a Modern or Legacy deck than your typical Standard deck, and you are often making a ton of small choices over the course of the match that can make big differences later in the game. Deciding what to Delve and what to leave in your graveyard for potential future Den Protectors, Jaces, Spell Mastery and so on is tough, as is managing your lands and your sequencing. It is also very important to understand when you should play naked Den Protectors (with no mana to flip), and there's a great morph subgame of morphing Raptors and bluffing them as Den Protectors.
It is also very important to mulligan aggressively, as you need to have a self-mill enabler to make your hand flow. This deck mulligans very well, and I've had games on five cards where the deck looks completely broken.
Overall the deck is one of the most fun Standard decks I've played in a very long time, and even after a month of playing it I'm still finding interesting quirks. It can be a little inconsistent at times, as you just have to accept that you will cast Commune with the Gods and occasionally whiff on a creature. But the payoff of your absurd draws is more than worth it.
Check it out!
I've had a number of people ask me about recent Cube changes, as my last Cube article talked about cards I was adding but not cards I was taking out. Well here you go:
Jim Davis (@JimDavisMTG) September 2, 2015
The Google Doc I have the Cube on will be updated constantly with each set, and it is also set to accept comments. Don't be shy! Feel free to post your thoughts on any card by just clicking the cell and right-clicking 'Comment.'
Be sure to follow me on Twitter for future updates and more as well!