Eldritch Moon is here, and with it comes a ton of awesome new cards for Standard! There are all these new sweet themes to build around and new ideas to try.
How about Grim Flayer to power up a delirium deck?
"Dromoka's Command, fight your Grim Flayer."
"Reflector Mage your Mindwrack Demon."
Okay, how about a an emerge deck?
"Spell Queller your Matter Reshaper."
Hmm... That sucks.
How about a tricky flash Spirits deck?
"Play Lambolt Pacifist, flip it when you pass on turn 3 and attack for four."
"Aerial Volley your life away."
!$&@ Bant Company!
This is a brief look into what testing for #SCGCOL was like with Team MGG. Andrew Jessup brewed up a very tempo-heavy version of Bant Company and just beat us over the head with it over and over again. No matter what we brewed or how well it was doing against other decks, eventually it was time to play against Andrew and get crushed.
Demoralizing beating after demoralizing beating followed, until it was Friday afternoon and we conceded the point; Team MGG was just gonna bring Bant Company to battle at #SCGCOL. Kevin Jones deviated slightly, choosing to play a Bant Spirit Company deck, but we were all battling with Collected Company, Reflector Mage, and Spell Queller.
- 4 Bounding Krasis
- 4 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 4 Lambholt Pacifist
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Spell Queller
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
I would falter after my 9-0 start and fail to make Top 8, but thankfully Dan Jessup was able to convert and come in fifth.
But this is not an article about Bant Company, as there are plenty of those to go around. This is an article about the decks that came up short in testing, and with more time and work could perhaps overcome the opposition. Eldritch Moon is one of the most interesting sets in a long time, but also one of the most perplexing. Most of the cards (aside from Spell Queller) are far from obvious in their application, and figuring out how to properly use them is going to take time.
The only way to find out is to do.
Local player Hunter Cochran helped me with the first deck I put together, providing a shell for a G/B Delirium Aggro deck.
Autumnal Gloom is a card I've always felt was very strong but has not found a home yet. It asks a lot, but a three-mana 4/4 hexproof is quite a deal. Once you throw in Gnarlwood Dryad and Grim Flayer, an aggressive delirium deck starts to look very appealing. Gnarlwood Dryad in particular is a fantastic rate, and even before you get delirium can trade off very cost effectively while putting a creature in your graveyard. It is also very effective against Dromoka's Command.
Grim Flayer is the true workhorse in the deck, however, as it provided you an enabler and a payoff all in one sleek package. If you can get that first Grim Flayer hit in, you are in very good shape for the game to quickly spiral out of control. The deck has both Dead Weight and Grasp of Darkness to clear the path, but Liliana, the Last Hope also provides a way to break through early drops like Sylvan Advocate for that first trigger. Liliana is much better than she looked at first glance, and she fits the deck perfectly.
The issue with the deck is having the balance the enablers with the payoffs. Cards like Autumnal Gloom and Obsessive Skinner are fantastic when you have delirium (especially together), but pretty anemic when you don't. Your good hands are very good but your bad hands are very bad, and fast tempo decks like Bant Company pounce all over your bad draws.
This is a deck that certainly has promise, but needs some work.
- 1 Decimator of the Provinces
- 4 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 4 Elder Deep-Fiend
- 3 Eldrazi Skyspawner
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 3 Foul Emissary
- 1 It of the Horrid Swarm
- 4 Loam Dryad
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 1 Reality Smasher
- 3 Sylvan Advocate
Dan is no stranger to Crypolith Rite decks, having made the Top 8 of #SCGORL with a four-color version of the deck, and brewed up this U/G list which pushes the emerge theme.
The deck is a hybrid of the Cryptolith Rite decks with the power of the new emerge cards from Eldritch Moon. Emerge cards like Elder Deep-Fiend and Decimator of the Provinces were very hyped going into #SCGCOL, and this deck looked to take full advantage of them. The early game Cryptolith Rite package transitioned nicely into providing fodder for the emerge creatures and eventually would top off in a tutored up Decimator of the Provinces for a huge lethal attack.
This was one of our best-performing decks early in testing, as it used an already established engine and had a very fast goldfish. The deck would routinely start chaining Elder Deep-Fiends on turn 4 and end the game with a huge Decimator of the Provinces attack on turn 5 or 6. It was powerful, fairly consistent, and by far the best emerge deck we had tried. There was just one big problem.
Playing a deck with 32 creatures and no removal is extremely bad when one of the most prevalent cards in the new format is Spell Queller. Without removal in your deck, Spell Queller has no downside or liability. This makes it exceedingly hard to beat, and once again Bant Company fun-policed another powerful and interesting deck we had been working on.
While not as good as initially predicted, the emerge creatures still are an avenue worth exploring.
Probably the most wild of all the decks we tried, this burn deck is quite surprising given the distinct lack of burn spells in the format for the last year. When the best burn spell in the format is Fiery Impulse and can't go to the face, building an aggressive red deck is going to be difficult.
Eldritch Moon gives us a few new burn spells to work with that can actually go to the face and more ways to turn Fiery Temper into a Lightning Bolt. It's hard to get too excited over a Volcanic Hammer reprint, but when it's united with other critical mass spells like Exquisite Firecraft and the easily overlooked Alms of the Vein, you start to have enough burn spells to put together a reasonable clock.
The deck also makes fantastic use of the new Bedlam Reveler, which is one of the most powerful cards in the entire set. Bedlam Reveler looks better-suited for Eternal formats but can still be a very solid threat in Standard as well. Unloading a few burn spells and reloading with Bedlam Reveler seems like a real strategy if the support for it is there.
Insolent Neonate and Heir of Falkenwrath join Bedlam Reveler as the only creatures in the deck, and both serve the similar purpose of providing a few points of chip-shot damage while providing a madness outlet for Fiery Temper and Alms of the Vein. Just like burn decks in older formats, if you can get a hit or two in with your early creatures, force your opponent to answer them, and then just start firing off burn spells to the face, you're going to be in pretty good shape.
Unfortunately this deck also has issues with Bant Company, as again Spell Queller is absurd against Tormenting Voice and Collective Brutality while Dromoka's Command is good against your many burn spells, but there is certainly something here.
Failure Begets Learning
While I would not feel comfortable taking any of these lists into an event as they are currently constructed, there are a lot of good ideas in them that can pave the way for future ideas. Testing is often constrained by time, and often we just don't have the necessary amount of time to be able to flesh out all possible concepts.
Something that people often forget is that testing is not about winning games of Magic. Testing is all about learning. You may a build a deck that is awful and doesn't win a game in ten playtesting games, but it shows you that a certain card is actually much better than you thought and may have a home in another shell. Insolent Neonate is a card that I've played with in a number of brews, and I'd be surprised if it didn't find a home at some point during its tenure in Standard.
The Shadows over Innistrad /Eldritch Moon set pair has been a difficult one from a deckbuilding standpoint because it has so many interwoven themes that are hard to find the right balance of. There are still many ideas I want to try, and I hope one of them sticks before #SCGBALT this weekend!
And Then There Were Four
In case you missed the news over the weekend, #SCGCOL was the last event for Pete Ingram as a member of Team MGG. Pete has accepted a position to work at Wizards of the Coast, which makes him ineligible to play in any large Magic events. While we lament the loss of our teammate and friend, we at Team MGG wish Pete all the best. I've been very good friends with Pete for many years, and I'm excited for him to be taking such an awesome step in his life.
This week's Challenge Thursday will be an early edition, as my band Teach Me Human has a big show tonight in support of our new EP (which should be on iTunes very soon).
The vote ended right before publication, but you can see the winner and tune in for the show at 11:00 AM EST right on my stream!