The Standard metagame at #GPMemphis had plenty of awesome different decks to choose from, no matter what you're interested in doing. I've had my eye on Modern lately, but there was one new Standard deck cool enough that I couldn't resist trying out. That's what I'll be discussing today, starting with the first version:
Ali Aintrazi's version placed third in the Indianapolis Classic, and boy does this deck look strange and cool.
The core of the deck is green and black. It's packed full of removal and ramp with some card draw and Mastermind's Acquisition to find your win conditions. It's essentially a G/B Control deck, but there are plenty of interesting things going on with what the deck wants to do.
Let's start by going over some of the key cards, core strengths, and interesting lines of play involving how the deck can perform.
Hour of Promise is a really powerful card. You're almost always searching up any missing Deserts to get to three on the battlefield so you get the Zombie tokens, usually starting with Ifnir Deadlands and Scavenger Grounds. Once you have three Deserts you probably want Arch of Orazca to make sure you don't run out of cards in the late game, with Field of Ruin and Cascading Cataracts as considerations as the situation warrants.
With Mono-Red Aggro and G/R Monsters being so powerful right now and a large emphasis on creatures in the format, it's nice to have a deck packed full of removal. That also means it's nice dodging creature removal as well, since other than the tokens from Hour of Promise, you're not playing many creatures.
Mastermind's Acquisition is what allows you to get a leg up over the non-aggro part of the format by allowing you to play a powerful toolbox of cards to tutor for in your sideboard. While Mastermind's Acquisition may be slow, it's incredibly versatile. It acts as a way to find the best card for any given situation and is your win condition (or at least allows you find your win condition).
Mastermind's Acquisition is unique in that it allows you to search for a card from your library or for one outside the game (also known as your sideboard). The especially nice thing about the Mastermind's Acquisition is that those toolbox cards don't have to stay in your sideboard in games 2 and 3 like they would if you were tutoring them up with Glittering Wish or Cunning Wish. You can just bring in your good cards and then tutor through your deck to find them. For example, against an Approach of the Second Sun deck, you'd bring in Lost Legacy and be happy to draw it naturally or search your deck to find it with Mastermind's Acquisition
Here's another take on Mastermind's Acquisition from Chris Botelho from Grand Prix Memphis:
Adding white as a main color in the deck unlocks some great cards. Approach of the Second Sun is a great creatureless win condition and white gives you access to the most powerful mass removal in the format as well.
Spring is essentially Gift of Paradise but instead of gaining three life immediately, you can draw cards later. The way the format looks right now, the three life from Gift of Paradise is important, but Spring can supplement when you want more ramp. Just don't enchant the same land with two copies of Gift of Paradise since its effect doesn't stack.
Finally, here's my take on the deck:
I'm trying to keep the manabase simple by focusing on the green and black in the maindeck. Even though you can splash for pretty much anything, the green and black cards you have access to cover almost everything you want to be doing and keep your mana smooth. Cascading Cataracts and Gift of Paradise should fix your mana by the time you're ready to start casting some of the more interesting sideboard cards.
Since the deck has so many silver bullets to tutor for, I'll go over some of the individual card choices and how they fit into the deck:
Vraska, Relic Seeker is one of the ways you can win without Mastermind's Acquisition involved. It's easy to ramp into and acts as excellent removal, a win condition, and even mana fixing. Vraska can ultimate quickly once you've cleared out your opponent's threats.
Moment of Craving isn't the most exciting removal spell, but it trades with most of the early drops in the format of equal mana cost you'll encounter and even gains you some life. At instant speed that's a bargain. Moment of Craving even pairs up with Yahenni's Expertise to take down a Hazoret the Fervent or Rhonas the Indomitable.
Battle at the Bridge is similar to Moment of Craving, just a little bit slower and sorcery speed. The upside being it can take down much bigger creatures and gain you a lot more life as the game progresses. It's especially nice getting an extra bonus thanks to improvise with Treasure Map, Azor's Gateway, and Thaumatic Compass. You can also improvise with Treasure tokens from Treasure Map and Vraska, Relic Seeker.
Doomfall bridges the gap between aggro and control. Exiling creatures is great right now, but it can be inconsistent for hitting what you want. The nice thing is you have plenty of cheap spot removal so you can usually set it up to exile something juicy with Doomfall.
Arch of Orazca is great and is one of the keys to winning long and grindy games. My list runs a second copy because drawing cards for free is fun. It might be overkill against aggro decks, but it's nice to have the second copy to draw naturally in case you don't resolve Hour of Promise against a control deck or your opponent has a Field of Ruin.
A powerful card that's easy to transform, thanks to Hour of Promise, with a unique defensive ability. It can help your slower draws without ramp, allowing you to hit lands drops while still occasionally leaving some mana left over for casting removal. Then once Thaumatic Compass transforms into Maze of Ith… I mean Spires of Orazca… you have a permanent answer to pesky threats like Rekindling Phoenix. The biggest problem I have with Thaumatic Compass is that you have to transform it once you hit seven lands, which means you can't just find all the basic lands in your deck against control decks first.
It's not that difficult to transform Azor's Gateway, thanks to the deck having plenty of different mana costs, but it does take some time. The looting effect is great in the deck though, since sometimes your removal is dead and you don't want to be stuck drawing ramp or lands in the late game.
Treasure Map is just good clean card selection to start out with and eventually turns into ramp and card draw. It fits the deck's curve nicely and allows you to draw what you need while transitioning to the late game.
Torment of Hailfire acts at a tutorable mana sink and ridiculously satisfying win condition. It might sometimes take X to equal ten or more to outright win the game, but it isn't that hard to get to that point in long, drawn out games.
Great against control decks and often what you want to find with Mastermind's Acquisition if you're out of cards but have a decent amount of mana against a control deck but not enough to just win with Torment of Hailfire. I found Wildest Dreams to be a little underwhelming, since when you have enough mana to make it good, you can just cast Torment of Hailfire or get Arguel's Blood Fast to draw a bunch of cards anyways or just put in another copy of Arguel's Blood Fast over it instead.
You might not be tutoring up Zacama, Primal Calamity that often, but the times you do are incredibly satisfying. Zacama, Primal Calamity basically just wins the game on the spot against red aggro decks since it's difficult for them to remove and gains you a ton of line.
Zacama is especially nasty with Sanctum of the Sun since it untaps all your lands and allows you to generate a ridiculous amount of mana while conveniently giving you a mana sink as well.
Sometimes you need a card to exile your opponent's creatures while also dodging removal and giving you an eventual win condition. Profane Procession has you covered. A great card to find against a creature deck when you've stopped their initial onslaught and you don't want them grinding you out.
Nezahal, Primal Tide slips past a counter wall and is hard to kill once it hits the battlefield. Perhaps a little too narrow and underpowered compared to just jamming more copies of Arguel's Blood Fast, but not that difficult to cast at only seven mana.
There's plenty of mass removal you could put in this slot, but I like the fact that Hour of Devastation hits planeswalkers and makes creatures lose indestructible. The alternatives like Bontu's Last Reckoning, Fumigate, Yaheeni's Expertise, and Star of Extinction all have merits as well though.
So is the deck good?
I think it has the tools necessary to tackle the aggro and control decks of the format. The deck does suffer a little from having clunky draws where you draw your ramp and removal at the wrong times. I'm also afraid of the resilience of G/R Monsters, especially the cards with eternalize. Overall I think the deck's consistency might be the biggest issue that keeps it from being a top contender, but it sure is fun to play.