This weekend, the nation's best took up the Modern mantle in Syracuse and played crafted lists with Tarmogoyf, Snapcaster Mage, and, yeah, Insolent Neonate. Lots of innovation, a paradigm shift to different kinds of decks and playstyles, and the upheaval of old juggernauts. After a Standard-warping Pro Tour, the pros moved their eyes off Magic's most-played format to Modern, giving us Standard players a precious window to venture into the unknown for Eldritch Moon's Game Day and make something happen.
At our local Game Day, I set out to do just that.
I love the joy and excitement of creating a new deck using a high-potential new card, but the supporting cards, the mana base, and the power level are often in question, and even against lower-tier decks, I find myself struggling once it's time to shuffle up against an in-person or online opponent. Many brewers take the lessons they learn from this testing to improve their deck more and more, while I opt to set it aside as "maybe later" or "never again" and try something new. Honing, tuning, and tweaking are really not my forte. Maybe you can relate to that. You love the new cards, and it's not so much that you give up easily if one you like doesn't work; you're just excited to try something else and baffle your next opponent with your strategy.
For me, though, one card has been pulling on my heart strings and in a somewhat unprecedented move, takes over a third piece of mine here on StarCityGames.com®.
That's right. My fever's getting hotter.
From my experience with this card and the playgroups I encounter in Louisville, you either love, hate, or are grudgingly fascinated with this red and blue enchantment. Fevered Visions stands alone not only in Standard but in Eternal formats. This bizarre enchantment roughly combines two colorless cards, Howling Mine and Skullcage, with the added bonus of allowing you to draw first and providing lots of synergy opportunities to force your opponent to take damage.
This list saw a fair amount of play and was exceptionally cheap, providing a decent framework for which cards were strong and which were lackluster. It didn't take long to realize that the Island-heavy manabase, while both easy and cheap, was holding the deck back, making it a bit too one-note and not flexible enough to handle the format's diverse threat base. Bounce and counters only went so far, and the deck leaned almost entirely on Fevered Visions, which is a lot of pressure in a format where Dromoka's Command is still a real problem.
We needed to divest from the Izzet plan and embrace a third color. The Grixis list I shared a few months ago was where I leaned first, but it didn't get much help from the color combinations it created, so I shelved that. Green didn't make much sense either.
White, on the other hand, offered a critical ally in defense of Fevered Visions.
Well, not an Ally, per se, though it probably would be if it weren't ripe for a future reprint.
Reflector Mage has plagued the format thanks to the one-two punch of Collected Company and instant-speed threats. Here, though, it provides critical time to get your engine going while also putting a card in your opponent's hand that must stay there for at least a turn, making the lines of play much harder for an opponent attempting to dodge the Fevered Visions damage condition. Reflector Mage, and the relative ease of including it, seemed to provide a perfect pairing.
From there, adding other white cards could help not only buffer you from damage, but it could allow you to escape certain conditions that might otherwise be beneficial in most scenarios, like Declaration in Stone.
Declaration in Stone is a great tempo play, and in a Fevered Visions deck, it gets rid of almost any creature (or, in some cases, creatures) in a neat and tidy fashion. Moreover, the Clue it leaves behind is harmful to your opponent. If they decide to waste precious time and mana to fill their hand with more cards, you're totally okay with that. Also, if they're playing a fast deck that plays four-ofs and can otherwise attempt to turn Fevered Visions against you, there's a better chance that you'll X-for-1 your opponent.
Curious Homunculus was one of the better cards in the original Blue Oyster Bolt decklist, and its flipside allows you to heavily leverage many spells in your deck, one of which is Blessed Alliance. Whether you're gaining four life on demand, untapping a Voracious Reader, or casting an easier Celestial Flare, Blessed Alliance can buy you the time you need to close the door.
White adds plenty to the deck, and the departure from such a heavy blue base allows more creature lands, providing additional pressure if the Fevered Visions can't do the job in time.
With a few critical revisions and an overhaul of the manabase, you have an all-new deck that leverages one of my favorite cards from Shadows over Innistrad. While it was in development for several weeks, it finally came to a head this weekend, with only a couple of test matches before our Game Day's first match fired.
Round 1 - Jund Delirium
Clearly fighting a skilled player, I set up shop with an early Fevered Visions while my opponent struggled to find a relevant battlefield presence. Double Fevered Visions is an immense amount of pressure, and after my opponent made little more than a Sylvan Advocate, I claimed Game 1. In Game 2, I made a critical error after stabilizing by not countering his Traverse the Ulvenwald with my in-hand Negate, allowing him to find Emrakul, the Promised End to my empty battlefield and pointless hand. He had already started to search before I realized my mistake and I scooped on the spot.
Our Game 3 was long and arduous. He managed to get beneath the hand size limit, so Fevered Visions was just a Howling Mine now, and his card-for-card parity was much higher, which made me terribly nervous. Still, the time wound down on the clock until time was called, with me taking turn zero. On his first extra turn, I returned Emrakul, the Promised End during his attack step, assuming he would immediately recast it, which he didn't. I decided to play defense; at over twenty life, I could afford to wait out the clock and take the draw. While not ideal, I wasn't sure how I was going to close the gap and take him from ten to zero in such a short time.
On his turn 3, he cast Emrakul, the Promised End and taught me an important lesson about tournament magic: when you're in turns at the end of the round, extra turns count when considering the five turns both players share…so he had inadvertently given me turns 4 and 5. He took control of me on turn 4, forcing me to discard the Fevered Visions I'd just drawn thanks to Geier Reach Sanitarium and then casting a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and using his ultimate immediately, which seemed pretty innocuous on my creatureless battlefield. I drew a Declaration in Stone off my Fevered Visions draw and took turn 5.
I had a Needle Spires and a Wandering Fumarole which, thanks to Gideon's Emblem, meant lethal together. I had a Declaration in Stone and a land in my hand, and my opponent had Emrakul, the Promised End and a second blocker. With something that could hit both, I could win the game. I decided to activate Geier Reach Sanitarium, which did hit a second copy of Declaration in Stone. However, I no longer had enough mana to cast both copies of Declaration in Stone, activate both creature-lands, and attack, so we drew.
Whew! What a nail-biter!
Round 2 - U/W Spirits
This was a matchup I'd been scared of, mostly thanks to the Spell Quellers and other flash nonsense. After losing Game 1, I sided in Radiant Flames, replacing the very mediocre Unsubstantiate, and took both sideboarded games on the back of that sweeper. Chandra, Flamecaller and Voracious Reader did the majority of the heavy lifting; in fact, I sided out all but one Fevered Visions, as allowing my opponent to draw extra cards gave them more ways to stop what I was doing.
Round 3 - G/W Enchantments
My opponent was excited to try out a brew worthy of Game Day: a deck brimming with enchantments like Myth Realized, Starfield of Nyx, and Always Watching, an interaction I'd been testing myself, though using Swamps instead of Forests. Unfortunately, his removal-heavy mainboard didn't line up well with me, and my barrage of counters and bounce foiled his carefully laid-out plans in Game 2, leaving both of us without much of a match.
I drew with my opponent for Round 4, earning me and my opponent a Top 8 berth. I had the championship playmat in my sights.
Quarterfinals - G/B Delirium
Considerably different than the first deck I played that day, this deck featured Grim Flayer; Liliana, the Last Hope; and Mindwrack Demon. My quarterfinals opponent would have actually been my Round 4 opponent had we not drawn. We played three games during Round 4, in which I lost a couple of close ones. I learned and adapted, pressuring him with so many Fevered Visions in both games after two rough mulligans on his side. Off to the semifinals!
Semifinals - Temur Emerge
My opponent, a shop regular with a penchant for solid Standard decks, brought a newly ubiquitous archetype to Game Day. Unfortunately for him, Unsubstantiate, Declaration in Stone, and Fevered Visions are all exceptional against him, as were Summary Dismissal and Ojutai's Command out of the sideboard. After a couple of games with lots of end-step Shocks, I was off to the finals.
Finals - Sultai Delirium
In the interest of time, we drew. I got a larger portion of the cash prize, while he got the playmat.
So after six rounds of Magic, this deck was 4-0-2, a respectable finish against real decks where I couldn't really afford to be cute. The deck felt extremely solid, with the spell choices being mostly correct and the actual card balance being pretty close, too. The sideboard was also pretty close, with Summary Dismissal and Radiant Flames being the all-stars. Summary Dismissal is powerful these days; I'm amazed it hasn't started sneaking into maindecks, even as a single copy.
Fevered Visions was a nightmare for most opponents, especially in multiples, and the deck was prepared to deal with answers to the Visions, too. Curious Homunculus and its flipside Voracious Reader turned out to be great roleplayers on either side, and Declaration in Stone was a huge punisher. Blessed Alliance did an exceptional job of controlling the game, and every mode was relevant during the day.
The numbers were greedy in some places, and the manabase needed considerable work. Moreover, Crush of Tentacles turned out to be too clunky. I still needed some cheap spells and hard answers, and a revisit of the deck provides some updates.
I missed Clutch of Currents, and I found I sided out Incendiary Flow in more games than I didn't. Spell Queller in the maindeck, while solid, was a pretty big liability, and in general I find that fewer creatures gives fewer targets (and more dead cards) in Game 1; thanks to my opponents on Game Day for that revelation! I always wanted more creature-lands and I gained plenty of life, meaning I could support eight painlands without much trouble to make up for the bevy of tapped lands that change would create.
With some adjustments, I would feel not only comfortable, but confident taking this to a SCG Tour® event. Splitting a Game Day isn't exactly winning a Pro Tour, but it's a good first step.
Fevered Visions has flowed from my fingers a lot since its release four months ago. Have you paired it successfully with green or black? Maybe you took a whole different approach on Fevered Visions and white? How do you keep the fever going?
As an alternate question and as a small teaser for next week, what cards are you most excited about from Conspiracy: Take the Crown? As an avid Cuber, I'm thrilled with any draft-friendly set, and I'll share my favorites with you next Thursday so you can take the crown that weekend!