You can talk all you want about decreased power level, higher mana costs, and a general mediocre feeling with this set. I am beyond excited to get some of these brews into sleeves and into action. There are so many unusual and powerful effects in Hour of Devastation that I am sure I have missed something, but there are only so many weeks to play these decks. Let's quit with the preamble and dive right in with the Brew Blitz!
I had been working on an Approach Ramp deck before the previews for Hour of Devastation started, and it worked surprisingly well.
The cycling and card draw in the deck combine with the extra copies of Approach of the Second Sun to really reduce the wait time to just win the game. The two huge upgrades to the maindeck are both ramp spells, Hour of Promise and Beneath the Sands. Hour of Promise's power in the deck should not be any type of surprise; it ramps, it takes us to as much as ten mana next turn, it finds us utility lands, and it even sometimes makes us a pair of blockers. It might look like a bad Explosive Vegetation, but I assure you it is anything but that. The impact of Beneath the Sands is more subtle but should not be understated; either we ramp with it slightly above market price, or we cycle it because we have enough lands.
The Desert count might be a little low and I am not sold on this being the correct assortment, but it's close. Neither uncommon Desert in these colors has an effect that we want, but Hostile Sands might attack at some point due to the cycling lands we have. I went with the Painted Bluffs because I am a little worried about being able to get enough colored mana, but I can see changing that.
Primal Druid is a defensive option and a very good stop sign. The problem is that it is just dead against some decks, which of course is only an issue in Game 1. That said, we do have a fair number of cards that are dead in Game 1 against those decks, so this is a candidate for replacement. Some more flexible removal (Forsake the Worldly is one option) or even a strange ramp payoff like Sandwurm Convergence or Overwhelming Splendor could fit in here.
The deck is somewhat weak to Negates, so our sideboard plan is designed to bring in threats that cannot be Negated but can win the game on their own. Most people will sideboard out any sweepers they may be running against us, so Oketra the True becomes a real house. Beware, though, that they will be bringing in some removal that exiles to deal with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, making Oketra less of an instant game-winner. That alone may be enough to make me want Sandwurm Convergence here.
Tireless Tracker and Ulvenwald Hydra are both solid options and won't be changing. Another possibility is From Beyond, giving us a free chump blocker each turn and occasionally some ramp. It might be better as a sideboard option alongside Oketra, but ultimately I dismissed it as too slow.
I never really got behind the Sphinx's Tutelage deck. It was incredibly weak to planeswalkers and playing against it was so frustrating that I didn't want to subject anyone else to that. I don't know if Fraying Sanity will be quite so annoying; it does have a snowball effect like Sphinx's Tutelage, but it is based on what the opponent does more than just random chance. The difference here is that, instead of just drawing cards to speed the mill plan, we need to mill the opponent to mill them more. The milled get…milleder? Sure, let's go with that.
Aside from having one of the coolest names in the game, Seer of the Last Tomorrow is an interesting fit here. Having a larger rear end can help suppress the aggressive decks, and the ability won't need too many activations to make a huge dent in the library. It stacks well with Fraying Sanity, as does Winds of Rebuke, which I really like in this deck.
I think black is a better partner for blue right now because of Bontu's Last Reckoning and the unconditional spot removal at instant speed. Because Fraying Sanity doesn't care where the cards began, removing creatures will still count. Similarly, discard spells can be tremendously useful here…if we had any good ones right now.
I really like the sideboard plan here, and in fact would love to go heavier on the Processor plan with Ulamog's Nullifier, but that's probably greedy. Our gameplan shifts to creature combat with the potential to mill as a backup, relying on our opponent to sideboard out removal. Seven life-loss Deserts might be too many; testing will determine that.
- 2 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Champion of Wits
- 4 Combat Celebrant
- 3 Naga Vitalist
- 2 Trophy Mage
- 4 Vizier of Tumbling Sands
- 2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
I first had this deck come across my radar when my friend Charlotte sent me a U/R list featuring Slither Blade, Benthic Infiltrator and Ulamog. I really liked the concept but I was not sure why we wanted red, as filling the graveyard seems to be in four colors right now. I've seen a few other people building this as U/R, so there must be something to it, but I really want the power of Kiora, Master of the Depths and Vessel of Nascency in my list.
With that said, there is definitely some upside to at least one red card: Combat Celebrant. I have seen firsthand just how silly your turn can be when you use God-Pharaoh's Gift to bring back a Combat Celebrant, and I want it. I want it so bad. It quite literally enables you to go from nothing on the battlefield to a win in one turn.
I chose Naga Vitalist over the other mana creature options, primarily because it is better to bring back as a 4/4 than Channeler Initiate and it doesn't rely on energy like Servant of the Conduit. Vizier of Tumbling Sands may be better if we had Gift of Paradise in the deck, but I like it for the cycling ability too. Everything else is there for value as a viable threat both ways.
This sideboard is likely a mess, but U/G is really low on powerful Game 2 options that I can see. It's possible we want to take a more silver bullet approach to the deck, or possibly even add black for some reanimation and The Scarab God. I like this as a starting point, though.
- 1 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 2 Ramunap Excavator
- 1 Shefet Monitor
- 3 Tireless Tracker
- 2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
- 2 The Gitrog Monster
- 1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
This is very similar to a list Shaun McLaren came up with, but obviously I am biased and think mine is a little grindier and has a few more tricks up its sleeve. I would like to get Ifnir Deadlands in the maindeck, but I am worried about losing too much life to my own manabase. If we are adding a slew of five-drops post-sideboard, we want the extra lands in there and I like the idea of those extra lands having utility.
Tireless Tracker, Ramunap Excavator, and Evolving Wilds make me giddy. It's almost enough to consider Ulvenwald Mysteries in the 75 somewhere, because Clues will be plentiful. It's possible the four Hour of Promise are not meant to be in this deck, replaced instead by grindier cards like Archfiend of Ifnir or the vastly underrated Decimator Beetle / Nest of Scarabs combo, but I am just a sucker for free Zombies.
- 3 Advanced Stitchwing
- 4 Champion of Wits
- 3 Distended Mindbender
- 3 Elder Deep-Fiend
- 4 Haunted Dead
- 4 Prized Amalgam
Once again I am at an idea that others have floated, but with different colors. I really like what black brings to this archetype, and not just because it allows me to cast Prized Amalgam sometimes. The loss of Kozilek's Return is mitigated quite easily by the addition of Bontu's Last Reckoning, and in this deck, the loss of an untap step is less important, as we can add creatures to the board without much mana investment.
Champion of Wits is a very, very good Magic card. It does things it should not be able to do. Faithless Looting on a 2/1 is decent enough, but adding the late-game card selection really pushes the card to the next level. One drawback I have heard about the card is that Magma Spray does a real number on it, which is true. People will also be reluctant to kill a 2/1, knowing that it will just get better very soon. Fortunately we don't actually care, as we have plenty of ways to just kill it ourselves for value, tapping down lands or stripping their hand in the process. Dreamstealer in the sideboard plays a similar role but has the added bonus of making life very difficult for U/W Control decks that cannot or do not want to spend an early removal spell on a one-power creature.
Advanced Stitchwing might not be the best choice for the additional recursive creature slot, but it hits hard and swiftly. Haunted Dead is a must-have. One concern here is the early enabling to get creatures in the graveyard, relying as we are on Strategic Planning, Champion of Wits, and Tragic Lesson to start the ball rolling. That is one place we miss the red, but I think the trade-off of Distended Mindbender and Bontu's Last Reckoning is well worth it.
I was very surprised in testing this deck at just how quickly it can churn out damage. You truly have not lived until you cast an Insult to flip a Thing in the Ice, I promise you. The chip damage is less of a threat in this version as opposed to the old Thermo-Alchemist decks, but you do get to chunk the opponent hard.
There's at least one other way to build this deck, using things like Accelerate and Crash Through to gain velocity through the deck and just nail the opponent for twenty out of nowhere. You could also play Thermo-Alchemist in that version for some chip damage, but it is likely it would just draw removal.
Riddleform has been impressive, but if Abrade continues to see as much play as it does now, we might want to reconsider that slot. I am also not sure on Supreme Will; on one hand, it does have the flexibility to find us a card or counter a removal spell, but it does cost three mana and cannot deal damage to the face.
And I'm Spent
Given infinite time, I could sit here and regale you with brews until my fingers bled. Alas, our benevolent but strict editor overlord has kindly requested that we turn in our articles on time (cheeky beggar), and as such, that's all we have for this week. As I write this, we have seen the first day of SCG Cincinnati wrap up with a surprisingly strong showing for Temur Energy splashing Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh. I mean, sure. Why not? Red-based aggro has also been having success, though I suspect that will not last.
As always, folks, thanks for stopping by. I will endeavor to be back next week with a look at Modern brews, but as I am heading to Toronto on vacation, I may have to take a break. Nevertheless, until next time...Brew On!