I've gotten quite the reputation for playing a different deck every week and have even written a handful of articles furthering this stigma. Even though this is completely true, there's still one strategy in Standard that's been near and dear to my heart that I'll quite often gravitate to.
Simply put, energy may well go down as my all-time favorite mechanic.
It's helped me win #GPOMAHA and #GPDEN while also getting my brother the trophy at #GPNJ. It even changed colors to get me a respectable 8-2 finish at #PTAER in the form of B/G Energy. The conduit has served me well thus far, and my gut says that's not going to change anytime soon.
This is fairly common knowledge by now, but energy's biggest strength lies in its ability to dodge most common forms of interaction. Each time cards trade with one another, energy may stay around to provide further support to your next spells. Outside of Solemnity and the new Ixalan card Tocatli Honor Guard, there isn't a great way to stop an opponent from stockpiling energy for future exchanges, and free ones at that, since activating abilities with energy doesn't usually cost any other resources like mana. Given this mechanic's high level of efficiency, and the fact that it continues to do well even after a banning, I believe energy isn't going anywhere.
The biggest key for energy's past successes and most likely continued dominance is Rogue Refiner.
This seemingly innocuous creature is why the deck functions at a consistently high level. The 3/2 body matches up just well enough against the rest of Standard to almost always have value on the battlefield. The energy gained off Rogue Refiner can be utilized in many different ways, but the creature also replaces itself right away. This extra card allows any energy deck to more consistently get to five mana and have something powerful to do with it.
This specific mixture of power, toughness, and abilities creates one of the best cards in Standard without seeming like it. Without Rogue Refiner, I'm very confident that Four-Color Saheeli, Temur Marvel, and even Temur Energy wouldn't be fit to compete in Standard. Given that Rogue Refiner is so vital, energy-based decks will almost always need to be designed around it. Since it's not a powerful creature by itself, yet replaces itself right away, the best home for energy will almost always be in a midrange or combo deck. Since there doesn't seem to be a degenerate combo in Standard, it seems that the best home for energy will most likely be Temur Energy.
Now, Temur Energy isn't the be-all, end-all deck I may be making it out to look like. The creatures in the deck aren't that big or powerful relative to the rest of the format. This makes it difficult to consistently "clock" an opponent, and also sometimes difficult to fend off bigger strategies in general. It's possible for decks to go over the top of Temur Energy with more powerful cards that invalidate the small bodies on most of Temur Energy's creatures. The Eldrazi Ramp decks were a prime example of this, and soon Dinosaurs may end up replacing them...
Another way Temur Energy has been exploited in the past was by going wide with value creatures and bad removal targets…pretty much any deck that could deal damage without having to get through Bristling Hydra. U/W Monument did that for a limited amount of time, and Pirates may have what it takes to bring that strategy back. They won't have Dusk // Dawn, so that may prove more difficult.
Now, I can't be for sure just yet if these new tribal strategies have what it takes to stand up to Temur Energy, but I don't even know if that matters yet. Odds are there will be strategies found to combat Temur Energy, no matter if we know what they are yet or not. Given that Temur Energy is in fact a midrange deck and has access to so many unique effects, I truly believe the deck will be able to adapt to its environment with ease. This, of course, is an oversimplification of what's bound to happen, but predicting this is a pretty safe assumption.
I'm currently under the impression that Temur Energy will be the best deck once the dust has settled and we look back at this format. It will no longer be a deck that dominates the format like variants we've seen banned in recent memory, but it still will be the best.
Given that it's not broken, it's very likely that the deck will be a great choice one week and then bad the next. On weeks where the deck's being extremely hated out, it's hard to believe there won't be something that exploits the decks completely skewed to beat it.
As the format adapts to one variant of the deck, another will quickly take its place. The format tries to go over it, but fails due to the deck playing cheap counterspells and more aggressive creatures. The format tries to go under it, and fails once cards like Aethersphere Harvester and Whirler Virtuoso go up in numbers. They try to go through it, but find a splash of black bringing The Scarab God and Vraska, Relic Seeker turns the odds against them. There are just too many different spells this deck can have access to!
Finding what to exactly play in a Temur Energy deck can be difficult, especially Week 1 when everything's going to be at its most random. #SCGDFW is right around the corner, so we will use that event for come context.
Texas is known for its aggression. Now, before you think I'm getting political, I'm only referring to the tendencies of its Magic players! I've seen it enough times now to label the area and would 100% make sure I had a good plan against the format's most aggressive decks. Right now, that's clearly Ramunap Red.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 4 Rigging Runner
- 4 Soul-Scar Mage
- 4 Hazoret the Fervent
- 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
I'm not sold that either Vance's Blasting Cannon or Rampaging Ferocidon will make the cut just yet. I do believe others playing Ramunap Red will also consider the mirror match when it comes to how they design their decks, which makes me believe we will see more copies of Chandra's Defeat, Pia Nalaar, and Aethersphere Harvester in sideboards. We may even see Sweltering Suns be completely removed, given there will no longer be Mono-Black Zombies in the mix.
I will almost undoubtedly end up eating these words, but I really don't think Ramunap Red will be as good as many project. We will assuredly have to warp our decks around it, but formulas will be found to defeat it. It will be much more difficult to find them for Temur Energy, as the deck can constantly evolve, unlike Ramunap Red. I'd assume to see a lot of Ramunap Red in the early stages of the format, and then a slow decline ending in the deck being maybe the fourth-most-played deck in the metagame. There will be spikes here and there, but we won't be begging for a ban on Hazoret the Fervent.
A Temur Energy deck focused on beating Ramunap Red will most likely not be looking to splash another color. It will want to stay as similar as possible to what Brian Braun-Duin, Corey, and I played at #GPDEN.
- 4 Bristling Hydra
- 3 Glorybringer
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
This is about has committed as you can get to defeating Ramunap Red while also considering things like control and the mirror. Aethersphere Harvester isn't even that bad of a maindeck card these days, as Glorybringer is most likely going to be everywhere. It's also nice that Mono-Black Zombies isn't around, so you don't need to dedicate so many slots to Sweltering Suns and Chandra, Flamecaller. It's even the reason I've completely removed Skysovereign, Consul Flagship from the deck; it's a fine card in the mirror but seems actively bad against the rest of the field. Sweltering Suns on the other hand may end up being more useful if Pirates or Merfolk end up being real contenders.
Given where I am currently in my understanding of this format thus far, I wouldn't stray too far from this list if I were going to #SCGDFW. Like I said, it's highly likely that Ramunap Red runs rampant that weekend, not just because we are in Texas but because the format's extremely new and Ramunap Red was already an amazing deck before the rotation.
But what if you aren't playing in that specific event and there isn't much Ramunap Red in your local area? Well, let's pretend the mirror is the most important matchup on your mind. This is the way I'd build the deck in that scenario.
- 1 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Bristling Hydra
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 3 Whirler Virtuoso
- 2 The Scarab God
At first glance, it's easy to see there are no Glorybringers in this list. That's due to finding how difficult it can be to cast double green, red, and blue and still have black in your deck. It's crazy to me how many times I've had mana issues with Four-Color Energy when I rarely have issues with just three colors. It really goes to show you just how fragile these decks can be. Now, this doesn't just mean Glorybringer is bad, since it's obviously not. It's just not the card you actually want when it comes to the mirror matches.
I feel confident saying all this thanks to Shouta Yasooka not playing the card at his Nationals.
Another unique thing in this list that's seen very limited play since the banning of Aetherworks Marvel is Censor. I've actually found this card very useful, and I'm not just saying that due to teaming with Martin Muller. I played with the card a ton in preparation for the SCG Invitational this past summer. It may seem like an unusual card to play in this deck, but it's rarely played around, and the tempo lost when cycling it is negligible. I don't really know why I haven't seen anyone else play it, to be honest. It's either not been tested enough in the deck by the masses, or slots have been too tight for others to jump onboard. Whatever the reason, I'd now give the card a shot!
I don't feel confident saying all this, thanks to Shouta Yasooka not playing the card at his Nationals.
Both of these lists have had a clear respect for control out of the sideboard. Now, I haven't gotten a chance to play many games yet, thanks to a most recent move, so I don't have the foundation to speak about how the games play out. All I know is control will exist, since it always does, and I'm particularly scared of U/B Control as The Scarab God is very good against this deck. I just don't know if the loss of Tireless Tracker is big enough to shift these into actively bad matchups. Temur Energy has always had the edge in the past, and I'm expecting that won't change.
Things are still up in the air, though. Like I've said earlier, we don't know which decks that come out of Ixalan will prove to be competitive, and which ones will need another set. That's really where the advantage of Temur Energy comes from: the mechanic already has two sets to work with. This density advantage is huge, and one of the main reasons why energy should continue to dominate the format.
That's all I've got for today, but I will be back later this week, focused on the new decks that are going to exist in Standard on Ixalan releases. I'll take this extra time to throw them up against Temur Energy and Ramunap Red just to make sure they have legs. Is there anything you're interested in? Let me know in the comments, and maybe you'll end up being my inspiration later this week!