It's a whole new Standard, folks. Gone are creatures that invalidate midrange decks in general. Gone is an inevitable end-game. The world is truly our oyster, and we can play anything we want. We have nothing to fear anymore!
Well, except for dying on turn 4. That's a thing now. Although the expected dominance did not really show itself at #SCGCOL (just three people playing it in the Top 8, and two different builds at that), it's dangerous to brew decks that completely ignore the possibility that you could just die on turn 4. Fortunately, I don't intend to do that at all!
Make Planeswalkers Awesome
Of all the people trying to make an unbounded number of Cat Beasts this weekend, I was most interested in the sideboard plan that Todd Stevens had: go for the planeswalkers and have the combo as a secondary win condition. Jeskai colors lend themselves to a controlling build, but that's not really my style. I would rather try to shoehorn the combo into something else...like this Naya Planeswalkers deck.
- 1 Ajani Unyielding
- 1 Arlinn Kord
- 3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
- 2 Nahiri, the Harbinger
- 3 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
- 4 Saheeli Rai
The manabase is almost entirely guesswork, so don't be too hard on me there. Naya Planeswalkers is something I wanted to do this Standard before seeing anything but Oath of Ajani, and once Smuggler's Copter and Reflector Mage went away (thereby making planeswalkers easier to defend), I was even more interested in trying to do something with Magic's most powerful card type. This deck is far from all-in on the combo, and Felidar Guardian is good with planeswalkers in general, so sliding Saheeli Rai into the deck is not too much of a stretch. Getting two activations of any planeswalker in one turn is powerful, though it won't win the game on the spot like Saheeli Rai does.
One concern with this build is that we don't have much in the way of card draw or card selection to get us to the combo. Nahiri, the Harbinger and Oath of Nissa are really the only ways we have to filter through the deck. That said, the Nissa, Voice of Zendikar / Gideon, Ally of Zendikar combo has been proven to be a game-winning one multiple times, and Arlinn Kord helps that plan significantly.
The sideboard is also a guess. As we're pretty well set up to handle the combo deck in the format, I skewed the sideboard to deal with aggressive decks and to give us a better angle against decks that sideboard to beat the combo. I'm actually pretty excited to throw this together.
More Cat Beasts Please
The combo that many thought would define Standard after Aether Revolt hit the tournament tables may not have been as dominant as many feared, but it surely deserves more than one deck idea, right? I'll pretend you said yes; after all, this section would be pretty short if you didn't.
While at the Prerelease, I was impressed with the power of Baral's Expertise.
I talked last week about how powerful the card is when you remove three of the opponent's threats and then drop a planeswalker for free. Sounds great, right? When I sketched out the frame of that deck, it had Oath of Nissa, a little ramp, and the best “stay alive” cards I could find. Yes, Reflector Mage was in there because we could bounce it and then replay it for free to put some more permanence behind one of the bounce effects. We do lose that option, but it seems to me that we can slot Saheeli Rai in that position and make the best of the situation:
- 1 Dovin Baan
- 3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
- 3 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
- 3 Saheeli Rai
- 2 Tamiyo, Field Researcher
I have not come up with a sideboard here yet but I think it wants to eschew the combo for an even heavier control shell. Moving to something like Authority of the Consuls and more countermagic can protect your planeswalkers, and perhaps even one of my pet cards in Adverse Conditions could help out.
The Bant version is meant to be more controlling, but it can allow you to do things like freeze two creatures with Tamiyo, bounce three more with Expertise, put a free Felidar Guardian onto the battlefield, and blink Tamiyo to use her +1 ability on two of your own creatures. It's pretty best-case, but the potential power is there.
Remember the (Eldrazi) Titans
With Emrakul languishing on Banned-ai Beach with Reflector Mage peeling her grapes, Eldrazi as a creature type are largely unseen. The first sighting of them from the Top 64 in Columbus is in 30th place. What happened? It's not like Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher stopped being good cards all of a sudden, and with Reflector Mage gone, the disincentive is actually lessened. Heck, Warping Wail is even a two-mana answer to the Saheeli Combo!
The main culprit could well be the lack of easily obtained colorless mana sources since painlands rotated. That's completely reasonable; unlike most new mechanics, colorless mana affects how you actually cast the cards that use it, and that's an entirely new puzzle. It's not like Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher suddenly stopped being good cards, though!
Similarly, Eldrazi Skyspawner has been sitting on (or hovering over) the bench, waiting for someone to call its number ever since Collected Company got consigned to Modern. It wasn't looking good for ol' Spawny (that's what his friends from the Blind Eternities call him, I'm told) until Metallic Mimic came along. Then he got excited.
Three mana for three power, two of which is in the air, was considered a good deal. When you get five power with three in the air, it's obviously a lot better. With the Oath of the Gatewatch Eldrazi generally being underpriced for their stats, Metallic Mimic on Eldrazi makes them even scarier even when they aren't played on curve. A mostly colorless Eldrazi deck in Standard did not have a really strong turn 2 play until now, but the Mimic might make the deck a force again. Here's one shell that takes advantage of both Mimic and an arbitrarily large combo:
- 4 Metallic Mimic
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 3 Dimensional Infiltrator
- 3 Drowner of Hope
- 4 Eldrazi Displacer
- 4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
The deck is capable of some very fast starts, but I wish we had a decent mana rock in the format to really kick this up another notch (Emeril-drazi anyone?) and get some early Reality Smashers. Come on, would Mind Stone really break the format?
There's not much to talk about here: cast creatures, turn sideways, smash face. Occasionally we will win by comboing out with Panharmonicon and Drowner of Hope. Unlike the old U/W Panharmonicon deck, we are less reliant on the combo and can win just as easily by beating down. I like beating down. The biggest problem I can see is that two of our best cards are completely useless at shutting down the Saheeli combo. We do have Walking Ballista and Stasis Snare to stop it, but otherwise our gameplan is to beat them before they draw it. Possible, but slightly worrying.
What if we love Eldrazi, but want to go with a slightly bigger method? Metallic Mimic making bigger Eldrazi is powerful when we are casting them, but wouldn't it be more powerful if we got them for free every turn?
This card got some hype when it was printed, but never really did anything. Making 1/1s every turn would be okay if it started earlier, but four mana makes it a little slow. Upgrading those 1/1s to 2/2s will help a lot, and getting them down a turn earlier also won't hurt things. The deck I'm envisioning here would be a good old-fashioned ramp deck with the Metallic Mimic making our Scions into actual possible threats:
- 4 Hedron Crawler
- 4 Metallic Mimic
- 3 Walking Ballista
- 2 Conduit of Ruin
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 3 World Breaker
- 3 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
I don't know if this is fast enough, but I like the fact that we avoid the possibility of the old “ramping to nothing” problem that many ramp decks have suffered. An army of free 2/2s is an actual threat, and we can always sacrifice From Beyond to find a game-winner when appropriate. Conduit of Ruin can do some heavy lifting as well if we're lucky. It might not be a world-beater but it's a starting point.
Blue, Clues, and You
I am not going to give up on Mechanized Production until I win with it in Constructed. I'm just not. Sorry (not sorry).
There are two particularly easy ways to accomplish that feat in Standard. The first is with Servo tokens, which unfortunately are vulnerable to a wide swath of removal. The other is of course to make use of all those Max McVety tokens you have lying around and do it with Clues.
The U/G Clues deck has been close to my heart since Shadows over Innistrad was printed, but I never pulled the trigger on it because…well, it just didn't seem good enough. Heck, it still might not be. However, Aether Revolt offers a lot more to the deck than just Mechanized Production:
There are some cards missing from this list, I think, like some more rewards for being able to improvise a ridiculous amount. I do have that in the sideboard here, but maybe it should be a maindeck thing as a backup to the Production plan. Either way, this might be my favorite brew so far and is almost certainly the most fun. What's that? No, we probably can't beat Saheeli Combo without our counterspells. We're going to have fun trying, though!
I love the interlocking pieces in this deck. Padeem protects our artifacts and might even draw us cards. Taking extra turns with Part the Waterveil is easier when you can power it with Inspiring Statuary and Clue tokens, and also gets you extra upkeeps in which to win. Oh, and yes, you can use improvise to pay the awaken cost on Part the Waterveil. Glad you asked. Tamiyo's Journal not only gives us Clues, it can find us the piece we need to win. Oh the synergies!
I wish we could play black in here too, because Syndicate Trafficker and Yahenni, Undying Partisan really like excessive amounts of Clues. Is U/B better than U/G? Given that no cards in black can investigate, I am unsure. That's something I plan to try at some point, though, perhaps with Tezzeret.
Emma Handy Would Be Proud
Something about Metalwork Colossus keeps me coming back for more. The Kaladesh block pushes us to play artifacts anyway, and playing cheap (or free) 10/10s is an even bigger draw to play them. Many have tried to build the deck with cards like Hedron Archive, Cultivator's Caravan, and Prophetic Prism...and they have had some small success. One new card has me thinking in a different direction:
Admit it: your mind went racing when you first saw this card. It's okay, it's okay. Mine did too. There are enough Vehicle animation effects now that I think we might be able to take the R/W Vehicles concept to its logical conclusion. They've become self-aware! The Smart Cars are coming!
This is a really loose start with no sideboard because I'm not sure what the deck would need yet. This is either crazy fast and hard to contain, or completely terrible and unplayable. The possibility of the former is what led me to include it here, along with the thought of a Metalwork Colossus crewing a Fleetwheel Cruiser. And by "crewing," we really mean "hurling it at the opponent's face."
Instant-speed artifact removal is hard to find in most sideboards, and a lot of people are skewing their removal to beat 1/4 Cat Beasts. Please, continue. Here's a 10/11 first striker on turn 3. The deck could likely benefit from Heart of Kiran in the two-drop slot, but I didn't want to leave us completely without the ability to crew things fairly. In a real pinch, Needle Spires can crew a Fleetwheel Cruiser or Aethersphere Harvester, which can start a chain. Maybe the deck needs some Freejam Regents? I also toyed with Untethered Express in the list, but something had to be cut.
So You Like Alternate Win Conditions?
Really, who doesn't? We have a Mechanized Production deck above, and that is sweet in its own right. We have another blue card in Standard that can win us the game on the spot, though. It too is an enchantment, and it's been completely ignored and/or forgotten. Friends...it's time to align some hedrons.
With all the delve cards having left the format, nobody was even thinking about this card. Well, nobody except my good friends over at The Mana Pool podcast. It's one of the few shows I refuse to miss week in and week out, and they have been at it for nine years and almost 450 episodes. Some of those episodes have even had me as a guest. The others are good though.
When Mike (one of the hosts) pointed out the interaction between Secret Salvage and Hedron Alignment, I was already on board. The fact that we really don't need much else to make the win condition work means we can pretty much slot the eight cards into any shell, but I like the idea of a U/B Control build:
I put this deck last because it is without a doubt the weirdest of the bunch. We have 52 cards that you might find in any controlling maindeck and then these eight oddball cards that are meant to win us the game. Sure, we're playing a couple of cards in Catalog and Oath of Jace that aren't typically seen, but they are not embarrassing. Secret Salvage is. And as soon as you discard a Hedron Alignment, the gig will be up.
Multiple Salvages might well be redundant, but we really need to draw one to get an Alignment into exile. Our other options to exile it are...well, countering our own spell with Void Shatter or Spell Shrivel. Not exactly appealing, is it? We could go into other colors and have Sigarda, Heron's Grace exile it to make a token, but that seems unlikely to be any better. White also gives us a few options to exile a copy from the battlefield, but the cards we would need to run to do so are not exactly tournament staples.
That's all we have for this week, folks! As with Modern, I feel like this is just the tip of the brewing iceberg with this set. There is just no way I will have enough time to play with all of these ideas before we get Amonkhet, sadly.
As always, thanks for stopping by the LAB. Next time out, I will have had the chance to play some of these brews in the wild and hopefully will have some idea of whether they are worth exploring. Until next time...Brew On!