Another week of Magic has been kind enough to grace us with its presence! Except this time around, it brought over 200 new guests with it to the party and I think it's about time we introduced ourselves! Hour of Devastation had its paper prerelease this past weekend and released on Magic Online yesterday (although acquiring cards at this stage is still difficult). With Standard on display at SCG Cincinnati this coming weekend, let's see what we can come up with for a fresh new format!
Last week, I managed to acquaint myself with a freshly previewed set, but my brewing was still very early on and most of my focus had gone toward Intruder Alarm combo in Modern (which we will revisit in its entirety soon!). Over the course of this week, however, I found time to do some Standard brewing with Magic's latest set, which I am finding to be a lot of fun. Hour of Devastation lacks some of the in-your-face power that other sets have, but it has a lot of interesting fodder for those of us who appreciate subtlety.
Not every card is going to loudly make its purpose known. Sometimes, you need to just begin exploring an idea and see what develops out of that process. This is actually where I began brewing with Hour of Devastation. I am positive that a Dreamstealer is a powerful tool, but outside of increasing its power, I had nothing more in mind, so that is exactly where I began.
Doing a simple Gatherer search for "target creature" is a rather broad and messy way to kick things off, but at least it kicks things off. If you ever talk to a professional writer or comedian, they will usually tell you that writing is not difficult, but rather that the act of sitting down to write is the difficult part. Once you have entered writer mode, or brew mode, things begin to fall into place. Just put yourself into the position to allow that to happen.
As I went through and began isolating cards that gave a stat boost to improve Dreamstealer, I expected the results to push us into G/B where Giant Growth and its kin would be waiting for us. To my surprise, however, many of the most efficient one- and two-cost pump spells in the format were red and black! Ultimately, this pushed my brewing from being around just a single card to now having a latticework of synergy to work with.
Your ideal opener with this deck is something along the lines of Bomat Courier into Collective Brutality. This provides you with a threat that needs to be answered within a few turns, but also some disruption and knowledge of what the opponent is doing. From here, if they have no answers, you can cast Dreamstealer and finish off their hand. If they do have an answer to Dreamstealer, you can bait out the removal via other threats or just try to jam your three-drop anyway.
Lupine Prototype is pretty interesting in that we can enable it via Dreamstealer, but we can also just empty our own hand and turn it sideways. Our combat tricks can be played on it at sorcery speed to allow it to attack for a ton of damage, usually with trample. Built to Smash does have some awkward interactions with Lupine Prototype, since you cannot attack and then cast the spell, but hopefully discard outlets like Key to the City and Collective Brutality give us an outlet.
Of course, any other attacking creature also functions as an outlet in this case. Uncaged Fury makes sense in larger numbers due to its synergy with Dreamstealer, but usually you only need to steal four cards for a full Mind Twist, so the double strike tends to be flashier than we need. We also have a natural double striker in Scourge Wolf already, which dampens Uncaged Fury a bit.
As I worked on this list, the overlap with what I wanted to be doing and what Claim // Fame wanted to be doing seemed to be growing. Claiming back a 5/5 or a 2/2 double striker is pretty good and granting a power boost plus haste is right up our alley. I settled on two in the main and two in the sideboard due to a low creature count, but it is possible we want to move things around to where four copies and a higher creature count is correct.
Hour of Devastation brings with it some really interesting new stuff, but it also does a great job of revitalizing some older archetypes that have been floating around Standard (or my head) for a while now. Perhaps most notably among them are the Eldrazi, which acquire brand new lands to help support colored/colorless manabases. Seeing as Eldrazi and I have been around the block a time or two, I figured I would start with new Standard right where I left off at old Standard: staring straight into that beautiful eye.
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Bearer of Silence
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 3 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Wasteland Strangler
Essentially any deck looking to support colorless spells in a traditional shell is going to appreciate the new pain-Deserts, but black does appear to be the biggest winner with the most playable effect. If Ifnir Deadlands only produced black and colorless mana, we would still run it, but turning into removal is quite the extra bonus. Those two -1/-1 counters actually matter a lot more often in our shell, as we can combine them with a Wasteland Strangler, Warping Wail, or Bearer of Silence to take down larger creatures. Of course, we aren't expecting to activate Deadlands all the time, but even just once every few games is a ton of utility to gain from your manabase.
Beyond our mana, Hour of Devastation gives Mono-Black Eldrazi an absolute gem in Doomfall. Doomfall allows us to play more than four Transgress the Mind while playing less than four Transgress the Mind. I know that sounds weird, but in essence we gain another exile effect that can attack an opposing hand, but it can also impact the battlefield now. This means more versatility overall while also gaining more enablers for Wasteland Strangler and Blight Herder. Hour of Glory makes for another solid addition to this aspect of the deck as well.
While Edict effects can be a little dicey at times, we have seven of them, which begins to tip things in our favor; we can afford to miss our target a few times and will still have ammunition in reserve. Combine those Edicts with four Wasteland Strangler, four Walking Ballista, four Ifnir Deadlands, and three more pieces of spot removal, and it isn't too hard to imagine us running most creature-based decks out of creatures.
While Ifnir Deadlands is arguably the best of the new pain-Deserts for Constructed, as I mentioned, we would be interested even if it did not have an ability other than to make mana. To prove just that, let's move from the grindy ways of black to the more tempo-oriented ways of Mono-Blue Eldrazi.
- 4 Metallic Mimic
- 4 Dimensional Infiltrator
- 2 Elder Deep-Fiend
- 4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 3 Nimble Obstructionist
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
This was a concept I was having a lot of success just before Hour of Devastation's release. Playing some disruptive yet aggressive creatures alongside annoying cards like Censor and Warping Wail makes for a reasonable strategy. With Hour of Devastation, the deck gains better mana, thanks to Ipnu Rivulet, but also gains the nifty Nimble Obstructionist. As we have already mentioned, Rivulet is almost exclusively here for the mana, but don't forget about that mill option, as it can disrupt the opponent on occasion by denying a scry or the like.
Nimble Obstructionist replaces Ruination Guide in our list, which does weaken both Metallic Mimic and Ruins of Oran-Rief, but I think the utility gained is worth it. First, a 3/1 with flash is pretty strong in a deck already using both flying and instant speed to great effect. This is yet another instant-speed way to crew up Aethersphere Harvester or surprise an unknowing planeswalker. But what about that cycling clause?
This is something that I love having access to, but it should be noted that I expect us to cycle this card much less often than we cast it. Our deck is a tempo deck, so the damage we gain from casting a 3/1 flier is relevant, whereas taking a turn off to draw a card is less desirable. Of course, there will be certain triggers or activations that make it worth our while, and I love that we have the option, but just know that we want to be tighter with when we pull the trigger here. Flash allows us another means to represent Censor or Warping Wail as well, so just the threat of these cards alone provides us with a lot.
Before I began messing with Mono-Blue Eldrazi and before a certain four-cost legendary artifact was banned, I was heavily invested in a G/R Planeswalker deck that used Indomitable Creativity to win the game. The deck had evolved specifically with Aetherworks Marvel in mind, so when that deck left and the metagame shifted, I found myself moving onto other things. The reality, however, is that with Marvel gone, Indomitable Creativity no longer needs to compete with another way of cheating things onto the battlefield.
While our primary enemy has disappeared and we need to reconfigure and adapt, we are also the only deck in town cheating out creatures. This might mean we should once again explore the Samut, Voice of Dissent builds with Eldrazi, but for now I want to stick with the five-drop package that was working so well and then to update the rest of the shell.
Our maindeck picked up the much-desired and much-appreciated Abrade, which gives us versatility and some instant-speed interaction without having to go the energy route. Abrade is a card that many decks will enjoy adding to their 75, but our deck in particular loves the ability to interact with such a wide range of cards that early on. I still think we want Magma Spray and other exiling effects for things like Zombies, but Abrade probably lets us get away without any Sweltering Suns in our maindeck.
Hour of Devastation is a powerful new card we gain access to out of our sideboard, but that also highlights one of the strongest new cards against our deck. Because we tend to pile up tokens on the battlefield and also play out a couple of different planeswalkers at once, we are extremely susceptible to Hour of Devastation ourselves. This is especially true when you consider that it also kills all of our Glorybringers and Reality Smashers, even after we cast Indomitable Creativity. Warping Wail is a key card for fighting red's newest sweeper, which is why we have access to up to three copies after sideboarding. There are other means to minimize damage, such as using your Nissa to beef up Reality Smashers, and we can snag Hour of Devastation via Thought-Knot Seer, but it is still a key card to keep in mind.
Chaos Maw is a new addition to the sideboard that I figured I would give a shot. Theoretically, it plus Glorybringers should be your four-creature package against aggro, allowing most Indomitable Creativity piles to turn around a losing game.
Indomitable Creativity is not the only method to cheat out gigantic creatures in Standard, though. A couple of months ago, I was looking into a list that would tutor up Inspiring Statuary and then turn that mana production into an Ulamog or Kozilek. The deck was decent but lacked the ability to approach the game from any angle other than all-in combo. After that experimentation, I tried blending my concept with Metalwork Colossus, as the two ideas had so much overlap, but ultimately I could not arrive at a place I was happy with. Hour of Devastation brings about new tools, though, and I think we have enough to get back under the hood.
Sunset Pyramid and Traveler's Amulet both give this deck some new life despite looking rather mundane at first sight. The key to both of these is that they are useful early-game artifacts that are also noncreatures. This means they assist Metalwork Colossus, they can be tapped for the improvise mechanic, and they give us something relevant to do with our mana early.
We did shave down our Eldrazi options to just a single copy of both overlords, as we now very much look to chain Sanctum of Ugin into the Eldrazi when they matter and into other Metalwork Colossuses when they don't. This line amounts to playing a lot of artifacts, casting Colossus for cheap, which triggers the Sanctum anyway. If Inspiring Statuary is on the battlefield, we can turn our last Sanctum of Ugin into an Eldrazi and then cast it via our battlefield of artifacts. For every Sanctum beyond one that we have, we can first make more Metalwork Colossuses.
The deck is rather straightforward, but we do have both Whir of Invention and Paradoxical Outcome to give us some wiggle room into different angles. Previously we had four copies of Paradoxical Outcome with double the number of zero-cost cards, but with a shift to Metalwork Colossus, that needed to change. While we cut our draw engine in half, we gained Prophetic Prism, Sunset Pyramid, and Hedron Archive as new ways to draw cards. This list has enough open slots and room for variation that I expect to learn more through testing and evolve the deck based on that new information!
One of the beautiful things about deckbuilding when a new set comes out is that, while you have all sorts of ideas you want to try, you never know which ones gain traction first. Going into Hour of Devastation, there were some synergies and combos that seemed like low-hanging fruit to me, but as I began to mine the set, I couldn't quite reach any of it just yet. This leads to ideas that take a little more time to iterate on before they can even look half decent.
For example, I ran across this little synergy while I brewed:
Ultimately, this is a rather open-ended synergy that leads to some expensive instant or sorcery being cast, but I have not been able to map out exactly how that goes. Am I just casting Ever After to rebuy fatties that I just discarded? Am I casting Behold the Beyond and turning that into some combo that I win with?
This feels like a deep rabbit hole that I was not willing to get lost in just yet, but the urge will almost certainly creep up on me here soon. When that happens, hopefully I can report back with something sweet.
I have been going deep on the Aristocrats archetype but have been unable to arrive at a 60-card list that I am happy testing just yet. The basic concept here is to find some way to incorporate Gate to the Afterlife into an Aristocrats shell. I think we would want to move into a more artifact-heavy version of the deck as well so that we can use Marionette Master and possibly Panharmonicon as well.
Marionette Master is really interesting in that it offers two essential elements of an Aristocrats shell: multiple bodies and a reward for ridding yourself of them. Because Marionette Master checks its power for the life loss, this even combines favorably with God-Pharaoh's Gift and/or Hour of Eternity.
For example, if I cast Hour of Eternity on Marionette Master and Razaketh, the Foulblooded, I end up with two 4/4s and three 1/1 artifacts. If I then use Razaketh to sacrifice one of those 1/1s and grab an Ornithopter up to four times, I have a total of seven sacrificed creatures, each causing four loss of life for the opponent. This can be a difficult scenario to set up, however, which is why I feel that an Aristocrats shell is probably the best place to explore. Having redundant versions of these effects in your deck makes seeking out this line so much safer.
As I have a little more time to flesh out these more complex interactions, I am sure I will run across more as well. Expect some more Standard wonkiness from Hour of Devastation in the coming weeks alongside my continued exploration into Modern Intruder Alarm combo!