Hi and welcome back. This week I have been working on Standard. In particular, I’ve been trying to find a home for a certain uncommon from Amonkhet.
Shefet Monitor‘s ability is awfully close to Solemn Simulacrum, Yavimaya Elder and its progenitor Krosan Tusker. Of the three, it’s closest to Solemn Simulacrum due to its 4-mana cost although it has a few notable differences: it doesn’t provide a body, the land comes into play untapped, and you draw a card immediately. An ability this powerful surely has some potential in Standard.
So far, the only real attempts to make use of Shefet Monitor outside the draft tables has been in New Perspectives combo decks. In that deck Shefet Monitor can both ramp to the namesake combo piece and act as can cantripping Lotus Petal when going off. New Perspectives is pretty sweet, but when you don’t affect the board for the most part and die to any counterspells, it really puts a damper on your chances of winning any games. With such a powerful ability we can surely find a better home for the lizard.
The first idea I had was to combine it with other instant-speed ramp and counterspells and top out at Ulamog.
RUG Shefet Ramp
Natural Connection and Shefet Monitor mean you never need to tap out on your own turn to advance your board. Any time your opponent doesn’t play something worth, countering you can still use your mana proactively. Eventually you can use your mana advantage cast a counterspell and draw spell in the same turn which really gets the ball rolling towards the end game Ulamog.
The deck looks a lot like UR Control but we are missing some key components like Magma Spray. To be able to fit in the ramp spells, we needed to cut down on interaction somewhere and that leaves us vulnerable to the more aggressive decks and just more likely to have the wrong answers at the wrong time.
The impact on the manabase is nontrivial too. Sweltering Suns must be swapped for Radiant Flames and more games will be lost to the mana not lining up perfectly. Overcoming these problems was a little too much so I looked at other approaches.
Shefet Monitor’s cycling is kind of like a spell and also puts a creature into the graveyard without having to cast it. Traverse the Ulvenwald works great with both those properties. Cycling Shefet Monitor works towards Delirium without costing a card, ramps to your larger threats and is tutorable with the Traverse itself.
RUG Traverse Shefet
Censor cycling for cheap also helps Traverse while the other counterspells are designed to hold things at bay until we get to Ulamog. By switching the focus to more creatures like Tireless Tracker we can cut the draw spells for more interaction like Magma Spray. Tireless Tracker also plays great with counterspells, allowing you to leave mana open to crack clues or interact. Grapple with the Past is another card that helps guarantee you can use all your mana every turn.
This list also had some big issues. When you cycle Shefet Monitor, the land comes into play untapped, but with this list that is rarely going to be relevant. Harnessed Lightning is also much worse without other energy generators in the deck and the counterspells weren’t always going to catch every threat.
The biggest problem by far is the manabase. If you are playing a ‘wedge’ like RUG, the primary color has to have 2 enemy colors to make the manabase work. For RUG manabases we have Botanical Sanctum/Lumbering Falls and Spirebluff Canal/Wandering Fumarole – lots of lands that produce Blue but not the other colors. This list has only 10 Red sources but wants to somehow be casting Magma Spray on turn 1 and 2. It’s just not going to happen with the lands we have access to. Wedge manabases are even rockier without relying on Aether Hubs.
Shard manabases are another story. Smoldering Marsh and Cinder Glade lets Jund be base green while still being able to cast Black and Red spells within reason. We have to ditch the counterspells, but we’ll make that up in other ways.
Shefet Jund by Justin Robb
This list has 16 Green sources, 13 Red and 12 Black even before counting Traverse or Shefet Monitor. That’s more like it!
Fatal Push is a no-brainer replacement to Magma Spray. It’s one of the best spells in Standard (and Modern and Legacy), deals with the small annoying creatures and potential scales up to killing 4-mana threats with the help of Clues or Vessel of Nascency.
I mentioned that Harnessed Lightning is pretty poor when it only ever does 3 damage. Now that we are playing Black, it’s tempting to play Grasp of Darkness instead, but turn-two double black is a pipe dream. Cut // Ribbons is much more realistic spell and will kill most things, up to and including Glorybringer. Ribbons shouldn’t be underestimated in a deck with Shefet Monitors and I have been winning plenty of games by fireballing out my opponents with Ribbons.
Vessel of Nascency and Grapple with the Past are Delirium enablers and card selection that also ensure you are using all your mana every turn. We should always have something to do with our mana at the end of the opponent’s turn, whether that be kill a creature or cylcing through our deck. More 1-drops increases the chance that we can make full use of the land from Shefet Monitor coming into play untapped as well.
On to the threats of the deck. Removal is quite good now so I don’t want to be playing a card like Grim Flayer that will just die and get no value. Instead, Tireless Tracker is the main threat in the deck. It will be a 4-drop most games but we have a lot to do with our mana in the early turns anyway. Clues are great for this deck as it’s looking to both keep drawing cards and using its mana every turn.
Shefet Monitor plays out great with Tireless Tracker too. You can often pass with all your mana open and put the opponent in such a tough spot. Use a kill spell on the Tracker? Ok cycle in response and get more card advantage. Play a threat instead? Ok kill it and crack a Clue. Perhaps you’ll even get to live the dream of creating a Clue at instant speed to pump and save a Tracker from a damage-based removal spell.
Ishkanah seems fantastically positioned now and the perfect thing to tap out for on turn 5. Against removal, it’s 4 bodies; against Zombies, it blocks everything; against energy decks, it stops Glorybringer and Thopter tokens. Half the format lacks clean answers to this spider giving you time to generate extra value and take over the game.
Traverse the Ulvenwald becomes even more important in this build. In this deck, Delirium is trivial to get so we can add in a tutor package. Ulamog is still the best late game creatures and now we can just tutor it up when we need to. Noxious Gearhulk turns Traverse into an expensive kill spell, Ishkanah blocks everything forever and Goblin Dark-Dwellers lets you chain Traverses or Grapples into more and more threats.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance is Jace, the Mind Sculptor level power. It just hasn’t found the perfect home yet. In this deck, the removal mode is the primary draw card along with getting a planeswalker into the graveyard for Delirum. Some games it will just trade for their 3- or 4-mana threat and an attack and that’s fine. Other games it ramps to Ulamog or enables two spells in a turn earlier than you should be allowed to. Of course, if you ever have Chandra on a stable board for more than a turn or two you’ll likely just win anyway. She is just that strong.
Unlicensed Disintegraton rounds out the removal as an easier-to-cast Murder. While the 3 damage comes up occasionally, it’s unreliable with Clues and Noxious Gearhulk as the only artifacts. The deck is a little weaker to Planeswalkers than I’d like so there is an argument to make this slot Never // Return instead, but double black was going to be tough. In the end Goblin Dark-Dwellers not being able to cast Never was enough of a tiebreaker for me to go with Unlicensed Disintegration instead.
The 24 lands could be incorrect but I need to test more to know for sure. On one hand, there is a lot of card draw and selection. On the other hand, we are playing a 10 mana 10/10, Tireless Tracker, and other mana sinks. I still want to naturally hit my lands drops out to turn 5, so 24 is good enough for the time being.
This deck has been performing great. If you do intend to take it for a spin I recommend paying a lot of attention to how you sequence you early plays and especially the land drops. If you aren’t careful it’s easy to end up wasting mana or not have the right colors at the right time.
That’s all for this week. I intend to keep tuning this deck and making it the home Shefet Monitor is worthy of. This weekend I will be playing in Team Limited GP in Sydney with my teammates Jason “Amaz” Chan and Ipank Aziz Riphat. Good luck if you are playing in Sydney or Cleveland this weekend and if not give Shefet Jund a try.