Split cards are always difficult to evaluate because they are too versatile for anyone to completely understand how they will play out. The new aftermath cards from Amonkhet are particularly difficult because the two halves of each card are specifically designed to play off one another to create an effect that is more powerful than the sum of its parts.
In the case of Dusk you have a wrath effect, which is typically found in control decks, stapled to a card that obviously wants to be played near a bunch of cheap creatures. Of course, you can get around this by playing it in a creature deck that wants to trade off its early plays, clear off any big creatures remaining in the mid-game, and then gas back up with Dawn and bury the opponent in card advantage, but you have to find small creatures that let you trade, which is no easy task.
This deck offers an impressive solution to this problem: employing Thraben Inspector, Walking Ballista, and the easy-to-forget Gifted Aetherborn as creatures that either trade efficiently or leave behind some value when they die. Gonti, Lord of Aetherborn is the crown jewel on the small creature package, and I'm a little surprised to see two copies of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet slotted over it, although having your Dusk leave behind a horde of Zombie tokens is nice.
The supporting cast here is typical powerful midrange cards with planeswalkers and good removal, but I want to particularly call out Aethersphere Harvester and Liliana, the Last Hope. Both cards help you get more value from your small creatures, either by turning them into a more substantial threat, shrinking opposing creatures so they dominate the battlefield, or recurring them when the battlefield is clear. These choices aren't obvious and really serve to maximize the potential of the theme.
Standard formats are designed to give us difficult deckbuilding decisions between many powerful options and while it may seem as though there are no wrong answers, it's important to find the right ones, which seems to be the case here. And Chris was duly rewarded with a solid finish. All is well in the universe.
- 3 Walking Ballista
- 3 Gifted Aetherborn
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 2 Archangel Avacyn
- 1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
- 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet