The emergency banning of Felidar Guardian messed with me pretty bad. While I am happy that it happened, its timing was atrocious. I spent a lot of time, money and effort into building and tuning 4-Color Saheeli and was really happy with my results with the deck. When the integral feline got banned I spent even more time, money and effort looking into new decks.
Well, what’s done is done. Before I talk about what I ultimately ended up playing at this weekend’s tournament, the first to feature Amonkhet, I want to showcase some of the decks I built in preparation for the Open in the span of a day and a half. I played 2-3 Magic Online Leagues with each and numerous matches against friends. This isn’t enough testing to make any real decisions but I was working with a short amount of time.
Naya Midrange by Rudy Briksza
This deck was a nice pile of midrange cards. All of its threats were uniquely powerful which tended to result in some great top decks.
Unfortunately, it felt pretty lacking against a variety of control decks and occassionally didn’t apply a lot of pressure. I didn’t want to play very few 3CMC cards and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar since I felt comfortable beating other Gideons and didn’t want to have a horrendous curve. While the deck had some powerful draws and made a lot of good use out of Glorybringer, I felt like it was not quite built correctly. It could certainly use more Tireless Tracker and better ways to fight Heart of Kiran. As such, I shelved it to try some other options.
Mardu Not Vehicles by Rudy Briksza
This was the deck I was working a ton on before the emergency banning. I built it to beat Mardu Vehicles while maintaining some game against GB, but trying to beat cat combo at the same time was difficult and I didn’t want to spread the deck too thin trying and fight through all of it.
When Felidar Guardian got banned I was eager to jump back in and get to work. What I liked most about the deck was its ability to crush control and Mardu Vehicles. The planeswalker suite is great at being able to take over the game and help tear through your deck to find all your answers. This made me feel great about the deck… until I started doing some testing with Brennan DeCandio on GB Delirium. He crushed me in most of the games that we played, completely changing my outlook on the deck. Since I fully expected GB to be one of the most popular archetypes after the ban I decided to shelve Vehicleless Mardu since I didn’t think I’d have enough time to fix its shortcomings.
I went through my bread and butter of three color midrange-ish decks. What was left after that?? Nothing, I feared.
Then, I remembered that there was another two-card combo that had been lying dormant for quite some time:
Without having to worry about Felidar ending your day, now you get to worry about Aetherworks Marvel into Ulamog. Moving forward, I think this is going to be one of the stronger things you can be doing until players start picking up on a ton of hate for the deck.
Here’s where I started:
Temur Marvel by Rudy Briksza
This deck was a ton of fun to play. Surprisingly, Combustible Gearhulk was actually pretty solid. If it didn’t draw you cards it was great at taking out planeswalkers or crushing face. Flipping over Spring // Mind also deals nine damage which is no small piece of anyone’s life total. Regardless, a 6/6 first-striker is quite a large body which ends up being great at both attacking and blocking. Being able to tap out now is great since you won’t just lose to the cat combo and Combustible Gearhulk gained a lot of value as one of the creatures that can make an impact.
I liked this version against the mirror and also how it could play an aggressive game against control decks with a barrage of Thopters and a Combustible Gearhulk. Rogue Refiner is a little worse in the deck than it used to be and you always want to be able to use Marvel when you draw it or be able to activate Whirler Virtuoso. Having Spring // Mind in your deck offers you a way to ramp to Combustible or Ulamog a lot quicker while also allowing you some redraws post board.
While I only got one league in with it, the power level of the deck seemed really high. It also seemed like it was kind of everywhere though, and I felt it needed to be cleaned up a bunch to be competitive.
At this point however I was running short on time and still wasn’t set on anything. I didn’t have any practice with Mardu Vehicles or GB but I was resigned to play one of them at this point. That was until Daniel Fournier, Canadian Superstar, told me about his deck that he was testing. While the final version went through some changes, I was really sold on this deck and it’s what I ended up playing in the Open.
Bant Aetherworks by Rudy Briksza
50th Place at SCG Atlanta Standard Open
Essentially, this is a Bant control deck with Marvel shoved in. The four-mana artifact is oftentimes a free win and, even when it isn’t, it nets you value anytime you cast a spell out of your deck. The list has a nice Plan B with Nissa’s Renewal, as casting Ulamog from hand happens a reasonable percentage of games. There’s a lot of times when your opponent can’t beat Ulamog on turn four or turn ten and that isn’t going to change in this format anytime soon. Those times you can’t get an early Ulamog, you spend your set up turns gaining life and drawing cards and keeping the board clear of any major threat. I spent a lot of time this past weekend going from single digit life to over 30 in multiple games.
Post board this deck benefits from only having Ulamog in the main deck. It plays into your opponent having to get rid of all their removal and allows you to leverage Tireless Tracker post board as a way to defend yourself, gain an advantage, or even flat out kill your opponent.
What made this deck good though against its bad match ups?
Wait, what? How did Cast Out (which is good against Marvel AND Ulamog) make this deck better?
Similarly to how Fatal Push made Death’s Shadow better in Modern, Cast Out is a great way to deal with troublesome permanents. Opposing Torrential Gearhulk and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar rank among some of the bigger problems for the Marvel decks in the format and Cast Out deals with them along with everything else. It gives you a ton of time and removes a lot of pressure from any large, singular threat.
Censor is perhaps one of the most unassuming and devastating cards from the new set. The format is built in such a way that every person is trying to play their powerful cards on curve and Censor forces them to play differently. All it takes is one Force Spike to cause an opponent to play awkwardly for the rest of the match. When you’re playing a control deck this gives you all the time in the world to set up your Marvel or use Fumigate to clear the board. And in those cases when Censor might be bad, it’s easy to cycle making this card great at every point in the game.
Other cards also paired well against the format. Playing something like Aether Meltdown gives you great game against Mardu Vehicles and GB. Not having to eat into your energy to use Harnessed Lightning and being able to pacify any creature from zero energy is also a big bonus here.
Pull From Tomorrow ended up significantly better than expected. Even at minimal value of drawing two or three cards, being able to fix your hand is worthwhile. The card gets even better as time drags on and you’re able to cast it for upwards of six cards. I fully expect Pull to show up in a ton of different blue decks as a way to tear through grindy matchups. At a minimum, it’s the control card blue decks have been looking for.
While I did only end up 10-5 at the Open I gave the list to a few friends and they all performed pretty well with it. Zan Syed also went 10-5 with the list and Sam Lowe made a couple changes and won the Standard classic with it the next day.
If I had to make any changes, I like some that Sam made such as running main deck Negates and a Sphinx of the Final word in the sideboard. However Void Winnower straight wins the mirror and crushes control so I’m less sold on cutting it.
The deck is fairly powerful as a control deck with an Ulamog end game and I am a big fan of this version. There is another version that I think, when tuned, will also dominate the format. Mike Segal lost playing for top 8 in the last round and I really liked his chances if he had made the elimination rounds.
Temur Aetherworks by Mike Segal
While I think this deck could use some work I really appreciate the mastery here. Being able to shift post board between a Marvel deck and a control deck allows Segal a lot of flexibility post board, forcing his opponent to content with multiple threats. While the answers for Dynavolt Tower and Marvel are similar, playing both does stress those types answers for those cards. Post board I’d really love to see cards like Whirler Virtuoso as another way to pressure or protect yourself against Vehicles and the mirror.
At the Pro Tour, I fully expect a Marvel deck to over perform and place a copy in top 8. I’m not sold on it dominating the field as there is a lot of room to explore still in Standard but the deck is so powerful in most forms that I wouldn’t be surprised.
Good luck if you play the deck!