You probably won't be surprised that a cheap black creature that draws cards is something I'm interested in.
The big question you must be asking yourself when building around Soul Diviner is whether or not going through the work of getting counters on something is worth the payoff of drawing a card. If you had to jump through hoops in order to do so, I say no, but Standard makes it relatively easy. So many cards make it easy enough to accrue counters that Soul Diviner can turn into a rather potent engine, with the only drawback being that it needs you to play certain cards in order for it to be powerful.
Given that Soul Diviner works with almost every mechanic we've gotten recently (riot, undergrowth, mentor, amass, explore, adapt, etc.), we should be able to find a good home for it. Aside from creature-based strategies, you can use Soul Diviner with planeswalkers if you want to. Plus, a two-mana 2/3 isn't the worst statline. Soul Diviner also has two relevant creature types in Wizard and Zombie.
We have a few different, obvious engines with Soul Diviner.
Benthic Biomancer might not be doing much attacking in this Standard format, but alongside Soul Diviner, you'll have an incredible draw engine that puts things like Mystic Archaeologist to shame. Having some early pressure can allow this engine to be built into more of a tempo shell. To top it off, both are Wizards, which enable Wizard's Retort's Counterspell mode.
Overall, that's an exciting core to build around, but where do we go from here? While I can't relive my Cryptbreaker Zombie days, we can mix Soul Diviner in with some new Zombies and go harder on the amass mechanic.
If you start the game with Benthic Biomancer into Soul Diviner, your opponent will be very far behind unless they're the fastest of aggro decks. Given that previous Dimir Midrange decks were a little clunky and certainly threat-light, this combination could be a game-changer. Picking up the amass package of Dreadhorde Invasion, Enter the God-Eternals, and Commence the Endgame adds another package that's incredible in the mid-game and beyond.
I could also see a version of this deck that's lower to the ground with Thief of Sanity and cards like Duress and Spell Pierce, but the late-game Dimir cards are too appealing. The combination of Dreadhorde Invasion, Enter the God-Eternals, and now Commence the Endgame is exactly what I want to be exploring in new Standard, and this deck is a great first step toward seeing what that package is capable of.
The second place I went to was the Simic +1/+1 counters theme.
- 1 Evolution Sage
- 3 Hydroid Krasis
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 4 Pelt Collector
- 4 Soul Diviner
- 2 Roalesk, Apex Hybrid
Have you ever been upset that your Merfolk Branchwalker never hits a land, giving you a crappy 3/2? Soul Diviner is there to help you out. We could potentially maindeck Wildgrowth Walker, but it will never trigger Pelt Collector, which is a rather large downside. Our Wildgrowth Walkers will almost certainly be in our sideboard but didn't seem maindeckable for this experiment.
Pelt Collector into Soul Diviner is kind of incredible, even if the mana necessary for that sequence is a tad ambitious. But hey, there were people trying to play Llanowar Elves into Thief of Sanity last season, so it's not completely crazy. Pelt Collector also headlines the more aggressive nature of this Sultai deck.
Cards like Hadana's Climb; Roalesk, Apex Hybrid; and even Evolution Sage can grow your creatures immensely. In the meantime, Soul Diviner is there to keep the gas flowing. Evolution Sage, like some of the weaker planeswalkers, seems good in small numbers. You don't necessarily want a ton of them but having access to one is probably worth it.
Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner serves as a ramp spell and card drawing engine, even though it only triggers off certain things. Since her loyalty is so high, opponents probably won't bother trying to attack her at all, leaving you to reap the benefits. Given that she won't be dying anytime soon, she makes a fine one-of to include. If we were abusing the static ability more, I could see building a deck with more than one copy, but that's not really the case here.
On the other hand, Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter is the opposite. He's powerful and has a low loyalty count, and so most likely won't last very long. Regardless, it's another card that has relevant abilities for this deck but not something you want to draw multiple copies of.
Here's another take, this time utilizing Soul Diviner's Zombie creature type.
- 4 Death Baron
- 4 Diregraf Ghoul
- 3 Graveyard Marshal
- 4 Soul Diviner
- 4 Stitcher's Supplier
- 4 Venerated Loxodon
- 4 Vizier of the Scorpion
Yes, this one is kind of silly. Outside of the few playable amass cards, there aren't many things in the Zombie tribe that allow you to abuse Soul Diviner, so I had to improvise. Splashing for Venerated Loxodon and Unbreakable Formation isn't something I'm proud of, but there don't seem to be many aggro enablers in black at the moment (and certainly none that deal in counters). Without the nonsense white splash, aggro Zombies doesn't have much going for it.
Instead, we have to scrap for one-mana 1/1s that maybe give us some value down the line with Graveyard Marshal or Liliana, Untouched by Death. Realistically though, Stitcher's Supplier is basically without text here. Maybe one day Death Baron will allow it to trade with something.
Next up, we have a SuperFriends variant. With how many planeswalkers we have access to, decks like these will likely be a popular choice going forward.
- 3 Karn, Scion of Urza
- 2 Kaya, Orzhov Usurper
- 1 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner
- 2 Liliana, Dreadhorde General
- 2 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
- 3 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
- 2 Teferi, Time Raveler
Oath of Kaya, Dreadhorde Invasion, Thought Erasure, and even Soul Diviner will hold off the early aggression while your planeswalkers hopefully stick around to start taking over. Once there's a planeswalker or two on the battlefield, things will start getting out of control quickly, and there are even cards like Flux Channeler and The Elderspell to ultimate your planeswalkers faster.
I've included a wide mix of planeswalkers because you want to be spending your mana each turn deploying additional 'walkers without running afoul of the legend rule. It's better to draw a one-to-one ratio of any planeswalker pair than it is to draw multiples of the same one. Thankfully, we have plenty of viable options.
Mox Amber gets a powerful boost from this set, but we'll see if it actually makes an impact or not. Regardless, I think it's a fine value add to a deck like this that happens to contain several legendary permanents already.
And, just in case you were concerned I wasn't going deep enough…
- 4 Ajani's Pridemate
- 4 Benthic Biomancer
- 4 Healer's Hawk
- 1 Impassioned Orator
- 4 Soul Diviner
- 4 Venerated Loxodon
What better to abuse removing counters from things than Ajani's Pridemate? I'll admit that this one is very deep and likely just a meme, but it honestly has some good things going for it.
For starters, you have some Mono-White Aggro draws that include an out-of-control Ajani's Pridemate or a horde of creatures backed up by Venerated Loxodon and Unbreakable Formation. There are also draws that involve Dreadhorde Invasion, Benthic Biomancer, Soul Diviner, and planeswalkers that make it nearly impossible to run out of gas. In the meantime, you get to gain some life. Conveniently, Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants can return Soul Diviner should it happen to die.
And before you ask, yes, I did try to build a deck that included Soul Diviner and Ajani, the Greathearted. It wasn't pretty. However, the shell for that deck led me to build this bonus decklist that, while it doesn't contain Soul Diviner, is too cool not to share. Plus, it's probably quite good.
Aside from Hero of Precinct One, each card in your deck is multicolored. We're stretching a bit by including Carnival as a Shock wannabe, but I've been satisfied with it playing that role in other decks.
The massive amount of token output from Hero and Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, capped off by the potential finishing power of Heroic Reinforcements, seems powerful to me. Meanwhile, Goblin Electromancer can supercharge your slightly overpriced multicolored cantrips, giving you a solid engine to work with. Ionize and Ral's Outburst contribute additional chip damage, which should help your tokens close games easily. If you get to untap with Saheeli, you can produce some truly broken turns by copying either Hero of Precinct One or Goblin Electromancer.
In the end, the deckbuilding process didn't necessarily lead to breaking Soul Diviner (even though I like the first decklist quite a bit), but it did bring me to a final product that I'm very happy with.