Deck Tech: Heartless Summoning with Joe Bernal and Donnie Noland
Joe Bernal has a miracle manabase.
If you were paying attention to SCGLive in Round 2, you still might have missed how quickly Joe Bernal took game 1 in his match against U/W Tokens. A pair of Heartless Summonings preceded a Rune-Scarred Demon chain that ended in Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite on turn 4! If that’s not one of the most powerful things you could be doing in Standard, I don’t know what is.
We’ve examined a number of different Heartless Summoning archetypes over the past month, and with good reason. Combining control and combo elements into a shell that fixes draws with Faithless Looting, this is an archetype truly made possible by Dark Ascension. Joe Bernal’s take is yet another look at the deck, from the eye of another seasoned deckbuilder. The appeal is obvious: “It has nut-draws and it just goes over-the-top of every other deck,” Joe said. “It is the biggest deck, with the biggest monsters. Going Whipflare, Liliana is one of the fairest draws you can have… and it’s still devastating against most of the decks.”
Rebuilding the sideboard and moving Liliana of the Veil into the deck over Day of Judgment, Joe’s deck is a lot more aggressive than the list we saw Ali AIntrazi take to the Top 16 of Charlotte last weekend. “I’ve never played Day main or anything like that; I was actually playing this deck before Ali, but his list is way different than mine,” Joe explained. “For example, he plays only three Elesh Norn, which is the best card at all times.” He’s loved the deck for weeks, testing it thoroughly, and found Ali’s list surprisingly close—but sans cigar.
He also revised the spell base; with Liliana enabling more discard sequences for Unburial Rites, Joe saw fit to trim out Desperate Raving and the like in favor of an age-old favorite: Ponder. “The deck is a combo deck—you can’t afford to play big, clunky spells like Forbidden Alchemy and Desperate Raving. Ponder costs one mana and digs you into the best cards in your deck—plus you have a number of shuffle effects.”
Donnie Noland's Summonings are most Heartless.
As a bonus, I’ve also included a similar but slightly different list from tournament organizer Donnie Noland, also slugging it out in the trenches here today. Donnie’s list shares some elements with both Ali Aintrazi and Joe Bernal’s, but he has avoided white and Elesh Norn in favor of a stronger manabase… and an infinite combo! Havengul Lich can combine with Priest of Urabrask, Perilous Myr, and Heartless Summoning to blast any opponent to death, offering Donnie a combo finish off the mythic five-drop.
Donnie likes the way Summoning can present powerful early plays and powerful late ones. “You’re never out of a game,” he said. “Even a game that I was flooded on—nine mana, no Heartless—I can draw Massacre Wurm and be right back in the game.” Plus, as Donnie put it, “Faithless Looting is just too good.”
Sacrificing white did bring Donnie gains, however. “I looked at Ali’s white list, and the manabase for four colors seemed too bad.” The loss of Unburial Rites is a real blow for Donnie, but his Wurmcoil Engines can generate card advantage and board advantage in different ways. At a minimum, they’re more powerful than usual with Oblivion Ring and Revoke Existence often finding their mark on Heartless Summoning rather than a fatty… and then there’s the Lich.