Standard is starting to coalesce into a somewhat stable metagame of Sultai Midrange, Mono-Red Aggro, Izzet Drakes, Azorius Aggro, Mono-Blue Aggro, Esper Control, and various takes on Nexus of Fate, but I'm not ready to stop brewing and learn a stock deck. I probably should – those decks are great and there's room in all of them to learn them well and tune them – but there's still so much more to explore. I just loved brewing before a Pro Tour, and I expect to continue to love brewing before a Mythic Championship, so I'd like to share some of the ideas I've been thinking about.
I like Dovin, Grand Arbiter in creature decks that attack well. I started by exploring with using it with Hero of Precinct One, but I wasn't really that impressed with the Hero. It was just too likely to die and the 1/1s didn't matter unless you were working pretty hard to find a way to use them productively since they don't attack especially well. I wanted to find a deck that was better at using Dovin, so I'm currently thinking about Azorius Skies.
- 3 Faerie Duelist
- 4 Healer's Hawk
- 4 Rustwing Falcon
- 4 Siren Stormtamer
- 4 Sphinx of Foresight
- 4 Venerated Loxodon
The idea here is that evasive attackers line up well against green creatures and cheap creatures backed by planeswalkers with access to counterspells line up well against control decks. However, you can't expect to win a game with a bunch of 1/1s, so the deck focuses on playing lots of different ways to make them matter.
One problem with a deck like this is that, with only 22 lands and only eight multicolor lands, it can be hard to make the mana work in a balanced two-color aggro deck, but Sphinx of Foresight actually does a lot of heavy lifting in smoothing out your draws.
Faerie Duelist started as kind of a joke. I wanted another cheap flier and didn't feel like I had enough spells for Pteramander – although it's possible I should play it anyway because it can get a lot better after sideboarding – and I figured I'd try it, but it really impressed me against Mono-Red and Mono-Blue, so I think it might actually be good enough. It's much easier to cast than Merfolk Trickster, and if Favorable Winds is on the battlefield, it's bigger. I considered Warkite Marauder in this slot, but with all the pump effects, the toughness might actually be more valuable than the power just to make sure it stays on the battlefield for me to make it bigger rather than getting taken down by a Goblin Chainwhirler or Fanatical Firebrand.
I like the spells here, but I could definitely imagine trimming a Sphinx or something else more expensive for a Pteramander or two just to maximize the frequency that you can play a one-drop and follow it up with two more one-drops, since following that with any payoff is the ideal start.
The sideboard is pretty basic. You're playing a bunch of cheap creatures with evasion, so you'll either want to back those with counterspells against decks that are playing spells or Settle the Wreckage against decks that are trying to race you with large ground creatures. Entrancing Melody is mostly for Hydroid Krasis and Lyra Dawnbringer is for red decks.
The other Azorius card I'm hung up on is Dovin's Acuity. The card really seems powerful to me. I like that gaining life buys time to gain more life and draw more cards, and I like that there are so many more cards that trigger it beyond Disinformation Campaign.
The question is what third color to pair it with. Green offers Growth Spiral, which is fantastic, since more mana is a great thing to pair with more cards, and you can also use Wilderness Reclamation, since you want to fill your deck with instants, but the slow, grindy nature of Dovin's Acuity just isn't what Bant Wilderness Reclamation decks are looking for.
Black offers Cast Down, Mortify, and Vraska's Contempt, as well as a lot of other possible removal spells. That deck ends up looking like a very familiar Esper Control deck, though I'm interested in the idea of playing only two to three copies of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria; zero to one of Chemister's Insight; one Search for Azcanta; and one to two copies of Precognitive Perception plus 25 lands, using the extra space that would be more copies of those for Opts and Dovin's Acuity. The result would be something like this:
The last option is to splash red, which results in a Jeskai deck. The issue with Jeskai is that Niv-Mizzet, Parun and Explosion are the big payoffs for that deck and both of those benefit from having extra mana, which they use to go way over the top. That means Treasure Map is a much better fit that Dovin's Acuity for performing a similar function, so I think Esper Control is really the best chance for Dovin's Acuity as a maindeck card.
The core, as I see it, is Growth Spiral, Wayward Swordtooth, Experimental Frenzy, Incubation Druid, and Hydroid Krasis. I think this is probably a good shell for Nexus of Fate, but as far as big mana payoffs, I could believe that Expansion is a better use of that slot. I imagine this deck wants Llanowar Elves, but I also see an argument that you just want a high land count and Llanowar Elves isn't reliable enough for casting big things.
The question is how to round out the deck. Removal might be necessary, but I hate playing one-for-one removal spells in a deck full of mana because it's a great way to flood out. Siege-Gang Commander; Rekindling Phoenix; Ravager Wurm; Niv-Mizzet, Parun; and Skarrgan Hellkite all seem like better ways answer opposing threats. Maybe even Haphazard Bombardment or Star of Extinction.
Another option is to play Wilderness Reclamation, but then you need more instants. Maybe you could do it with just Nexus of Fate and Expansion, and I'd ideally like Frilled Mystic or something at least, but that's getting a little close to being a one-for-one for comfort.
I think this archetype can do a good job of going over the top of a deck like Sultai, but what I'm really excited about is actually transforming against control decks by cutting the top-end cards and bringing in Growth-Chamber Guardian, Rhythm of the Wild, and Treasure Map, playing an unexpected small game with Experimental Frenzy as the big payoff. The ability of the deck to transition between incremental card advantage and huge bombs leaves it in an interesting place.
- 4 Hydroid Krasis
- 4 Incubation Druid
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 1 Ravager Wurm
- 1 Siege-Gang Commander
- 1 Skarrgan Hellkite
- 4 Wayward Swordtooth
- 1 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
It's unusual to see a red deck with no maindeck removal or a blue deck with no sideboard counterspells, but I think this deck just must commit to the expectation that doing its own thing is better than interacting with the opponent's things. Even after sideboarding, this deck needs to stay proactive, because around two-thirds of this deck is dedicated to making mana, so the risk of flooding out any time you try to trade resources on a one-for-one basis needs to be treated with utmost respect.
This is why Llanowar Elves and its place in the deck is in question, it just makes it so easy for the opponent to interact with you, which is exactly what you don't want. I could see cutting it for Treasure Map maindeck or adding a land and three random four- to six-mana threats to taste. Biogenic Ooze is certainly an option here. It would even be possible to play Carnage Tyrant and Regisaur Alpha, and then consider Thunderhead Migration over Incubation Druid.
Getting the right threats in the middle of the curve of this deck is a big deal. You'll certainly win a lot more if the things you spend four to six mana on line up properly, but the central idea of the deck is the idea that Growth Spiral, Incubation Druid, and Wayward Swordtooth are great enablers for both Experimental Frenzy and Hydroid Krasis, and while there's a small non-bo between those two cards, they both do what the rest of the shell requires, and you need access to more than just four payoffs for making all that mana.
Nexus of Fate might be a key piece of this deck that turns out to be important to racing opponents when you're ignoring everything they're doing, or it may just be worse than something else you could be doing with that much mana, but that's the kind of thing that really needs testing.
I like the planeswalkers in the sideboard enough that I could see playing some of those maindeck, even Karn. Karn is great at filling your hand with lands, which this deck can use well, although Karn is relatively bad with Experimental Frenzy, as are the digging modes of Vivien Reid and Domri, Chaos Bringer. Maybe another way to approach this would be to play a lot of planeswalkers instead of Experimental Frenzy, but I worry a little about protecting them. Maybe if you focus on Rekindling Phoenix to block?
In the past, these decks focused on Banefire and Fight with Fire. I don't think Banefire is the right approach at this point, but Fight with Fire might be the right way to include removal if it turns out to be necessary, either in the maindeck or sideboard.
Hostage Taker makes playing Hydroid Krasis pretty scary, since getting it stolen is so bad, but with a deck like this, the goal is to make your Krasises enough better than theirs that you can win even if that happens.