We've seen almost half of what Amonkhet has to offer so far, so we finally have enough information to start brewing!
Obviously the “Saheeli/Mardu” test has to be administered for new brews, but we're not at that point yet. I highly recommend building the best versions of the decks you're interested in before attempting to stress-test them. While I'm going to pay the format a casual nod with things like maindeck Manglehorns, I'm not too concerned about finding the perfect deck for the metagame quite yet. I want to get used to the power level and interactions before even thinking about that stuff.
With Gideon of the Trials and an improved counterspell suite, it's entirely possible that control decks are now on equal footing with the rest of the field and don't need to play the Felidar Guardian / Saheeli Rai combo to compete. Having access to Cast Out solves a host of other problematic issues, while Renewed Faith gives you a valuable tool for fully stabilizing in the late-game.
Four Anticipate and four Renewed Faith might be too much air. Cycling on the cheap is acceptable, but multiple two-mana cyclers tend to clog up your draws quite a bit. Cyclers like Censor aren't exactly free to play, but a spare one mana is much easier to find than two.
It's possible that 25 land is too low. Anticipate and Renewed Faith will help you find your land drops, but with decks like these, you'd much prefer to use those cards to dig for action, as you need your mana to be spent in the early turns reacting to what your opponent is doing. Taking a turn off to find a land, especially when your answers are typically less mana-efficient, could spell immediate doom. There's also Cast Out to potentially cycle on the cheap, but I'm guessing you would prefer to save those for things like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar more often than not.
Maybe the mana is "too good" for four Prairie Stream. I worry that our color requirements are already checked and Prairie Stream will enter the battlefield tapped too often to warrant its inclusion as a four-of. I wouldn't be surprised if shaving one or two for basics was a good idea.
The other option is to cut Anticipate entirely and play more cyclers. In order to make that swap, you basically have to be confident that cycling is as effective for what you're trying to accomplish as casting Anticipate. Historically, Anticipate has been overrated, but its effect is clearly more powerful than simply cycling. Still, the mana inefficiency might not be worth it. Other decks played Anticipate because they have nothing better to do at that spot in the curve, but now that's all changed.
Gideon of the Trials might be the most hotly debated card in all of Amonkhet. As a straight comparison to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, it a pretty clear loser. Many have mentioned the lack of an incremental advantage which makes Gideon, Ally of Zendikar so strong. However, I see the incremental advantage of "bubbling" your opponent's best threat.
A Prison Term isn't making anyone excited, but when it forces them to overcommit into a sweeper and then provides a clock, I think it looks pretty good. Even in Mardu Vehicles, many matchups were battles for position, and Gideon of the Trials helps in those battles. The emblem does not seem very good, at least in Standard. Modern is another story, though.
At the end of the day, I think Gideon of the Trials is good and potentially great. What's mostly holding it back right now is that there's no obvious good home for him. The answer is to try it in a bunch of spaces and see how it goes from there.
Depending on whom you ask, Renewed Faith is probably over- or underrated. It's not a card you jam into everything, nor is it unplayable garbage, although at times it can certainly be either.
If your deck is probably not going to be using its mana every turn, or you want to hold open counterspells while still having something relevant to do if they don't offer up anything important, Renewed Faith is there for you. It's also a nice buffer against aggressive decks and can fully stabilize you in the mid- or late-game with Torrential Gearhulk.
It's worth noting how well Essence Scatter insulates you from all sorts of problems, including the Saheeli Rai / Felidar Guardian combo, Torrential and Verdurous Gearhulk, and Archangel Avacyn, all on the cheap. While control got some new tools with Renewed Faith, Cast Out, and potentially Gideon of the Trials, Essence Scatter is going to be what actually makes it a contender.
Boring, yet effective.
Channeler Initiate seems strong in the various G/B builds, but keep in mind that it is absolutely not a combo with your Winding Constrictors. That, combined with the fact that this version is more aggressive, means I'm less interested in having a mana creature.
The new cards I'm looking at are Manglehorn and Rhonas the Indomitable. Manglehorn beats up on Mardu and Saheeli while providing a reasonable body on its own. Having interaction with a body in your Verdurous Gearhulk deck is incredibly useful, so it's an easy conclusion. The real question: how many? The answer depends on the metagame.
Rhonas the Indomitable has a condition that is met rather easily with this deck, so I expect it to be quite good. It's going to hit hard and its ability is going to make it rather easy for you to get through for more damage. If this card doesn't see play, I'd be shocked.
While Liliana, Death's Majesty didn't make the maindeck, it will likely show up in the sideboard, so it's worth talking about.
A potential six loyalty and two good ways to protect herself make Liliana, Death's Majesty look appealing. As a build-around, G/B Aggro isn't the place for her. With this archetype in mind, would you rather have her or Ob Nixilis Reignited the majority of the time? I think Liliana wins out, and that's impressive on its own.
In order for her to truly shine, you have to really appreciate the battlefield presence in your deck. The other alternative is doing cool graveyard shenanigans, which can be using her as a full-on Zombify or just a value-add.
Imagine a scenario where you go from nothing to Liliana, Death's Majesty into Tireless Tracker into Clue. You probably aren't losing many of those games.
This deck is shaping up nicely with four Bloodrage Brawler to round things out.
Right now, there isn't much in the way of synergy for Flameblade Adept, and we could go a little further and play Inventor's Apprentice, but that's a deep rabbit hole. For example, in order to pump Inventor's Apprentice, you would have to splash Scrapheap Scrounger. At that point, why not play Unlicensed Disintegration as well?
With Fiery Temper as the only card that truly takes advantage of the discard theme, it's possible the deck will run out of gas too quickly as is. That's another reason to splash Scrapheap Scrounger. Incorrigible Youths isn't out of the question, nor is something like Olivia, Mobilized for War. I have a feeling that the final version of the deck will be R/B.
Now that we more one-drops than we want to play, we could play Reckless Bushwhacker as well. Adding that card will introduce a host of variance not previously seen within this archetype, but it could potentially be worth it if you're looking strictly for damage output.
On Turn 4, you can pump Soul-Scar Mage, Flameblade Adept, and Furyblade Vampire to get in for lots of damage. You can also surge a Reckless Bushwhacker. Basically, while the card might have its issues, I'm finding it difficult to think of a situation where you untapping with it means you don't win the game immediately.
I took a slightly different approach from his list. Approach of the Second Sun provides a clean win condition. The dream scenario is activating Aetherworks Marvel in the end step, casting Approach of the Second Sun, and then using Aetherworks Marvel again in your upkeep to ensure you draw Approach of the Second and are able to cast it from your hand very soon. In order to successfully accomplish that maneuver, you'll need a lot of energy, and this deck isn't exactly capable of that, so something might have to change.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is a fine win condition for Aetherworks Marvel, but a lone Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is going to be much worse in a world of Cast Out. There's also the issue of accumulating payoff cards in your hand and not being able to function. With Approach of the Second Sun, your payoffs are mostly castable, and in this build, they even serve to buy you more time to find a way to put away your opponent.
This deck uses Aetherworks Marvel mostly as a value engine instead trying to spike a big spell and effectively win the game on turn 4. Cards like Descend Upon the Sinful and Sweltering Sun slow your opponent down in a big way and really further serve the Approach of the Second Sun win condition.
Naya Aetherworks likely needs some maindeck hate targeted at Mardu and Saheeli, but we can figure that out in time.
Overall, I'm very excited to tune this deck in the coming weeks.
This is what a midrange black Zombies deck should look like, with four of just-revealed card Miasmic Mummy added.
Cards like Gifted Aetherborn and Bontu the Glorified aren't Zombies themselves, but they fit the gameplan nicely and I'm perfectly happy to have them. Dread Wanderer and Miasmic Mummy give a reasonable boost to the Prized Amalgam / Haunted Dead engine, which is greatly needed. Without crazy Prized Amalgam starts, a deck like this will struggle to compete with Mardu and Saheeli, so making that happen more consistently should end well. Walking Ballista is a fine card that could end up making its way maindeck to help with both of those matchups.
Plague Belcher is the type of payoff card that Zombies wants. It's fast, hits hard, and has two different abilities that help close the game. Unfortunately, the rest of the Zombies cards are midrange, so it's a little out of place, but this deck does have to kill its opponent eventually.
Voldaren Pariah could have a home here if the metagame changes. If there were more midrange creature decks, Voldaren Pariah could be an absolute killer, but I think it's relegated to the sideboard for now.
Zombies is one of the big question marks going forward. While I think it has potential, I also wouldn't be surprised if it fell flat. I can't sing the praises of Plague Belcher enough, but it alone isn't enough to revitalize the archetype. Sure, there are other new cards that fit in as well, but there's nothing else in the archetype I'm super-excited to play with, at least for now.
- 3 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 3 Elder Deep-Fiend
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 4 Haunted Dead
- 3 Honored Hydra
- 1 Manglehorn
- 4 Minister of Inquiries
- 3 Noose Constrictor
- 4 Prized Amalgam
Is Honored Hydra a playable card in Standard? I think so, which is why I built this. It adds another layer to the things you can accomplish when trying to mill yourself for profit, and I'm totally happy with that.
Most of my decks haven't contained Noose Constrictor, but not for a lack of trying. With the new mechanics, Noose Constrictor continues to look better and better. In this deck, it's a great outlet for cards that you'd prefer to show up in your graveyard, such as Honored Hydra.
This definitely isn't the cleanest list it could be, and it's another one that I'm going to work on going forward.
My next project is definitely something involved with Nissa, Steward of Elements.
The card looks sweet, and has a potential home in Four-Color Saheeli and in the sideboard of decks like Sultai Graveyard, but there's also gotta be a sweet U/G deck out there. That's where my sights will be set for next week!