The holidays are a perfect time for getting together with family and friends, sharing meals and stories, catching up on the events of the past year, and thinking about the year to come. Traditions abound, some depending on your faith or background and others based on your own family. Maybe it's a certain dish that always shows up on the Thanksgiving table, or perhaps it's a ritual that, while strange out of context, brings your family closer together. In short, the holidays of remembrance, giving, and unity.
It's appropriate, then, that today's deck is the complete opposite of that.
Hijack is an interesting take on Act of Treason that's totally appropriate given its place in Kaladesh. Besides its great flavor, the cards in our format have been perfectly aligned to leverage this kind of effect, and we didn't even know it!
Combinations like this have been common in Limited play as a way to leverage synergy into true removal as well as in Standard for that one player who just loves to watch the world burn. It messes up combat math, takes your opponent by surprise, and can often create difficult scenarios if your opponent fears you have Act of Treason in hand. This little sorcery and its ilk have done a lot over the years. Stealing and sacrificing after using the creature is a legitimate strategy.
Free sacrifice outlets are rare these days, but we do have lots of sacrifice outlets thanks to Eldritch Moon. One in particular stands out.
Vexing Scuttler, while not a sacrifice outlet in the traditional sense, still allows you to slaughter a creature you control to drastically reduce its cost. Here, though, you have a bizarre synergy: cast Hijack, steal your opponent's creature, attack or use the stolen creature as you see fit, and then emerge Vexing Scuttler and get your Hijack back. Act of Treason and friends have always been about tempo, not card advantage, and always having a temporary removal spell in hand makes things murky for your opponent.
Archaeomancer has always been a great combo piece for aspiring deckbuilders; Vexing Scuttler has a similar plan that we can build around today. In searching for flesh to fill out the rest of the deck, the ringers kept coming until I finally landed on this list.
Hedron Crawler and Herald of Kozilek are featured here as playsets, and admittedly, they are two sides of the same coin. Both reduce emerge costs by one more than their mana cost, either because of true reduction or because they can provide the mana themselves.
This means that a Vexing Scuttler or Elder Deep-Fiend on turn 4 is perfectly possible with either option. Speaking of which, these two Eldrazi monsters provide the top-end of this deck, and either one is a perfectly impressive fighter. If you're stealing your opponent's creatures, either to deprive them of a blocker or to have another bruiser on your side, your own creatures have to be substantial enough to make the tempo swing worth it. Getting Elder Deep-Fiend online can either clear a path to make your Hijacked creature more relevant or it can be an actual Time Walk in the very early-game. Either way, Elder Deep-Fiend continues to be insane. The last creature, Eldrazi Obligator, is Act of Treason on a stick. It mandates an inclusion of colorless mana a bit more than any other creature, but either Hedron Crawler or any of the colorless-producing lands in the deck can support it. Even without it, it's a hasty 3/1 with potential cost reduction.
Vexing Scuttler has fifteen targets in the deck, and the other three artifacts play a situational but pivotal role. The most utilitarian spell, Harnessed Lightning, works with the energy subtheme in the deck to either drain energy on the cheap to kill a big target or fill my energy pool to power my Aether Hub in the event of a color desert in my manabase.
The inclusion of a set of this instant gives us a bit more depth in the deck, but it's not essential enough that it could not be replaced from the sideboard. Unsubstantiate is the definition of a tempo card in this Standard, and its stock has gone up considerably with the way it stacks up against removal right now. Targeted removal is lost when you return your own target, and sweepers lose all their tempo. Five mana for two mana? I'll take that trade for a card in tempo. In today's world of W/U Flash, this stifles their ability to interact as freely as they need to, so Unsubstantiate is right where I want to be. As a side note, you can bounce Vexing Scuttler and recast it to get it back, if that happens to be relevant.
Hijack is not a four-of kind of card, even in a deck designed around it. It's just not. Especially with Vexing Scuttler rebuys, you'll always have one when you need it, but never too many. The double red is a lot, especially in a deck without a dedicated red manabase, so you'll almost never cast two in a turn. Confiscation Coup is a more permanent Hijack, and the energy production you've been building over the game can be used here. Five mana's a lot, though, so there will be some games where this will be priced out of contention.
Turn Against combines a synergy with the colorless theme of the deck with a lower color requirement and instant speed to provide a specific, albeit expensive option to take your opponent's creature. In testing, this card came out and then back in as I realized that mana was more plentiful than I thought and that the instant speed really mattered. Finally, Warping Wail and Spatial Contortion fill in the curve a bit and provide some flexibility. Vexing Scuttler can get either one back if that's relevant, so I don't see a need for more than one.
The two artifacts are particularly fun. Decoction Module produces energy, sure, but it lets you stay relevant in a game of attrition. It's an expensive but functional Crystal Shard, a card that has seen lots of play in more casual formats like Commander where getting enters-the-battlefield effects is relevant. This lets you get those emerge cast triggers, too.
This is the cute one. Stitcher's Graft has been an enticing Equipment since its printing in Eldritch Moon, but I've had lots of trouble making the immensely undercosted boost worth it when there's so many ways it can go wrong. Here, though, we don't have to worry. Use it on your opponent's stuff!
If you steal a creature and equip Stitcher's Graft to it, you can re-equip on your turn after attacking (for a lot more than normal) and sacrifice the creature like normal. If you steal and equip and let the Hijack end at the end of your turn, the opponent will gain control of their creature again. The Stitcher's Graft will still be on there, but, if I understand it correctly, the creature will not untap, as the controller of that creature at the beginning of your opponent's turn will indeed be the opponent. Even if this isn't the case, you will untap, have enough to re-equip the Stitcher's Graft (which you still control) and let the creature die then.
Even without this cute interaction, Stitcher's Graft gives Hedron Crawler, a dead card late in the game, teeth in combat. The +3/+3 is a huge swing, so even if the interaction above doesn't work like I think, I'm still happy to include a pair.
The standouts from the manabase are the colorless lands. Sanctum of Ugin has a unique role in this deck. It provides colorless mana when needed and it can be sacrificed when casting your emerge creatures to get any creature in the deck. Sanctum of Ugin only cares that the creature you search for is colorless, and between the truly non-hued Eldrazi and the devoid creatures in the deck, any target is legitimate. While I imagine you'll want to emerge for an emerge, there are niches where Eldrazi Obligator may be the perfect tool.
Mirrorpool has been a singleton in a lot of my decks, but here, you can copy spells like Hijack. From an empty battlefield, you can copy a Hijack and crash back for lethal. Copy an energy producer to charge up, even if you're only using a small amount at that moment. While you don't get triggers from copying cards like Elder Deep-Fiend, sometimes a 5/6 is all you need.
The sideboard helps change our plan around a bit.
These two cards should come in together. Harnessed Lightning gets way worse if they don't have lots of three-toughness creatures to kill, so upgrading to a version that goes to the face while also applying more pressure to your opponent's life total will help change your plan too much for your opponent to effectively counter. Fevered Visions is already good against the control and midrange matchups we're strong against, but it really puts the nail in the coffin, especially as they sideboard to counter your plan.
This narrow counterspell has been mostly ignored, but sometimes you just need to counter that Spell Queller, Woodland Wanderer, or Depala, Pilot Exemplar cold. With Herald of Kozilek, you can stuff any of these cards or their brethren for one blue mana. It's not great every matchup, but when you need to stop it, it's in there.
If you find that your opponent has few targets for your tempo spells, a planeswalker route is a strong alternative. Saheeli Rai works alongside the Hijack path, stealing a card and copying that creature with her -2, or she can apply slow pressure through card advantage and damage with her +1. Chandra, Flamecaller is a stronger Chandra choice in today's format for the grind. She can sweep away low-toughness creatures or she can apply immense pressure on a very short clock. Chandra, Torch of Defiance is a great value engine, but I'm fairly certain that just smashing you for six a turn is going to be better in a lot of situations.
I got to test this deck out only a little bit, given the hectic holiday season, but what I have played of this deck is promising. The deck wasn't so great in those faster matchups, but it excelled in B/G Delirium games where stealing Mindwrack Demon and, on one occasion, Emrakul, the Promised End, proved to be fun and awesome. W/U Flash, which really seems to be gaining traction, proved to be a challenge, so coming up with a better solution against that deck will probably help.
Where I do think this deck would excel is in Two-Headed Giant, if that ever becomes a real thing in Standard. It is great for messing up your opponents while your other head does the heavy lifting. The deck was excellent at support, but it did have difficulty closing games. Less dedication to the theme might help, but that's not really the reason for the treason, is it?
Would adding another color help this treasonous brew? Is there something I'm missing that would take this deck over the top? As we move into the holiday season, what will you give, and what will you take?
Comments from Last Week
I am definitely gonna have to sleeve this up and give it a try. I attempted to build a similar deck back in Oath of the Gatewatch Standard, but it came up short. I really like where you are going with this. One question though... why no Stasis Snares? Or Quarantine Field in the side?
- Matthew Fry
Matthew, I hadn't considered Quarantine Field; I assumed Stasis Snares would be too tough on the mana, and Anguished Unmakings do basically the same thing without the nasty Dromoka's-Command-esque surprises. I'd pay three life to dodge that nonsesnse. Quarantine Field, though, is much more powerful, and I think there's tons of situations where something like Quarantine Field is very in-line with our plan.
This time around the card you are missing is Scrapheap Scrounger! They curve perfectly into Eternal Scourge and conveniently exile those Eternal Scourges right out of your graveyard, thereby creating a loop that can grind out a win. With all your colorless creatures running around, I wonder if one or two Swarm Surge could be utilized as a finisher? If you already have a battlefield of Scroungers and Scourges that are being stonewalled, making them all five-power first strikers could be devastating.
– Walter McManigal
Walter, I like where your head's at. Scrapheap Scrounger completely slipped my mind. I've tested in other builds and have not been very impressed with it, but with the synergy loop and the fact that you're basically paying 4B for two unkillable three-power creatures is highly impactful in certain matchups.
Wow, Matt, I often look to you for exciting brews and crazy, wonky ideas that just might work. You are like the master of disguise for Star City Games®, and today, my friend, you did not disappoint. This brew is fantastic; not only are you using your cards in a multitude of ways, you are trendsetting your way into a new realm of cool. I come here daily looking for ideas and something to muse myself in my brewing ability. I'm often left disappointed with rerun articles on how to sideboard your W/U Flash deck and what to remove in your mirror of B/G Delirium. Ugh, it's so refreshing to come here on a thirsty Thursday and read an article of someone who actually plays Magic and doesn't scroll over the Top 8 lists and mail in their writing pieces. So I must commend you on your shining ability to create something new on a weekly / biweekly schedule. Keep it up, good sir.
– Kyle T. Murphy
Kyle, you've said some very kind things in your comment, and I appreciate them greatly. My goal is always is to provide content that helps you see cards in new ways and provide inspiration for your own brewing ambitions. What I will say is that each of us here at Star City Games® loves our work and the perspective we bring is honed from years of practice, study, and experimentation. The content we provide is helpful to players across a broad spectrum, from competitive, to casual, to Commander, and I hope that, at least in some small measure, I help fill the gap.