I firmly believe one thing about Standard: Folks will be complaining about Aetherworks Marvel for quite some time unless something changes. While calling for a ban is easy, it’s also probably not correct at this stage. While Felidar Guardian completely invalidated archetypes, Aetherworks Marvel is just extremely powerful in its own right. Players can still play whatever they want but it is important to keep Marvel in mind. If you don’t, you will get crushed by the deck one way or another.
When did Marvel get so good again?
While Standard may look very fast, it’s mostly an illusion. Now that folks don’t have to worry about a million Felidars just ending the game, the format has slowed down a little bit. Even the Mardu Vehicles deck boards out Toolcraft Exemplar in exchange for costly planeswalkers. When you have a lot of time to deploy threats, casting a card like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger doesn’t seem out of the ordinary, and while actually casting the Eldrazi isn’t goal number one, it comes up a surprising amount
Board stalls are the king of new Standard. Without a real way to break through board stalls, the winner is usually the first person to draw something of relevance. In most cases ripping a Marvel or Ulamog off the top cleans up any troubles. Even if Marvel misses on an Ulamog there are so many powerful cards within each version of the archetype that a miss isn’t always the worst thing.
Which version of Marvel is the best?
Answering that question is actually quite tough for sure. Here’s how I feel about each version.
Bant Aetherworks by Sam Lowe
1st Place at Richmond SCG Classic
As I discussed last week, Sam Lowe took a minor variation of the deck I gave to him to a win in the SCG Classic the next day.
What’s great about the Bant version is that you’re essentially a control deck with Ulamog as a finisher. Ulamog is one of the best closers to ever exist and does a great job of winning games whether its cast on turn 4 or turn 10.
There are many things that make this version great. First and foremost, there are a ton of ways to gain life which gives you plenty of time to get to Marvel or Ulamog. The removal suite here has the added benefit of not eating any of your energy. Instead of worrying about whether to save enough energy to spin Marvel or kill a Heart of Kiran via Harnessed Lightning, you can pacify it with Aether Meltdown, actually netting energy in the process. With all the basics the deck very rarely has to worry about lands coming into play tapped. You’ll spend pretty much every turn having lands come into play untapped which gives you the added bonus of not having to worry about casting any spells or being short. While most decks in Standard play mana bases with a lot of lands which come into play tapped this one gets a step up.
Nissa’s Renewal separates this deck from the other Marvel decks as it makes casting Ulamog a more likely premise. The life gain is of course an added bonus but being able to cast Ulamog a few turns ahead of schedule is always a great plan. With a Tireless Tracker in play, Nissa’s Renewal is basically “gain seven life and draw six cards.” Now that’s what I call value (volume 8).
Because you’re a control deck, removal is horrendous against you game one which leaves your opponent wondering whether or not they want to leave in any in the hopes you have creatures after sideboarding. This gives you the benefit of having a better board plan than most of the decks in the format.
Bant boasts a great GB match up as well as a great Mardu Vehicles match up. Cast Out is a fantastic answer to everything your opponent can throw out at you and the amount of life gain pushes you way out of any lethal range. If your meta has very few Marvel and control decks I like this version a lot. Although your control matchup isn’t awful, it certainly isn’t as good as some of the other choices. Fortunately, this list gets better a lot better against control post board. Cards like Void Winnower and Sphinx of the Final Word alongside Tireless Tracker can put in some work.
There are a couple different versions of Temur Aetherworks. To me this is the most flexible of the three decks as it can make use out of either a creature, planeswalker, or straight control plan. Harnessed Lightning is one of the best removal spells currently in Standard and Whirler Virtuoso is one of the best secret offensive cards. Everyone is certainly familiar with how great Whirler is at buying time, but with the sheer amount of energy created in these decks it’s not surprising to see Whirler create three to five Thopters on an end step and change a game from parity to one where an opponent is very far behind. Another card I’m looking into with red is Kozilek’s Return. The ability to instant speed crush smaller creatures and then have the looming return of smushing even larger threats is scary for any opponent.
Temur Marvel By DaSneakyPete
One of the more innovative cards in these Temur decks is Bounty of the Luxa. Costing only four mana means this card comes down a lot earlier than Nissa’s Renewal, and since the format has slowed down, the slow card draw and mana production from the enchantment can translate to a lot of value. While it doesn’t gain you life, the deck plays enough creatures that your life total isn’t under anywhere near enough pressure like it would be in the Bant version.
This deck is also going to be better against cards like Pick the Brain, Lost Legacy, and Dispossess. Having other win conditions is going to beneficial moving forward in Standard as players start to adapt.
Temur Aetherworks by Uumbreon
Others playing Temur have elected to build into a control shell similar to the Bant deck. Although eschewing white removes Cast Out and Fumigate, the red version makes up for it with Whirler and Harnessed Lightning. Perhaps one of the most impressive cards out of the controlling version is Torrential Gearhulk. As a way to gain even more value and leverage the powerful instants in the deck Torrential Gearhulk gives you a way to gain card advantage in the late game and be able to grind through what an opponent presents. One of the best cards against control, Torrential Gearhulk gives you a great way to apply pressure and force an opponent’s hand. You can also use Gearhulk as counter bait, paving the way to resolve a Marvel or Ulamog and put the pressure on. Censor here works double duty as being a way to interact early and cycle for consistency.
In addition, there’s even the harder control version with Dynavolt Tower that Mike Segal played to a top 16 finish at the first Open in Atlanta. Out of every version Temur is the most flexible and therefore it’s most likely the best.
However I have my eyes on another three color combination which could potentially be the best one yet.
Sultai Marvel by Rudy Briksza
If there’s one thing we can agree on it’s that Ishkanah is a powerhouse. What’s better than the first giant spider? Usually the second or third. But instead of trying to get lucky and draw all your copies, Liliana, Death’s Majesty displays her royal aptitude by reviving your Ishkanah over and over again and putting any aggro opponent out of range from attacking and any midrange opponent on the back foot immediately. As an added bonus, if you mill over an Ulamog with Vessel of Nascency, Liliana enables you to put it right back into play to pressure the opponent immediately. While you lose value from not casting the Eldrazi, many decks still have a hard time beating an Ulamog in play. Liliana, Death’s Majesty also lets you build up a board presence of zombies to protect your life total while threatening a potentially one-sided Wrath. Early on Liliana can also be used to help achieve delirium for any Ishkanah’s later in the game.
What I think gives this deck an edge over the other Marvel decks is your creatures towards the top end are fully castable and impact the board. While Tireless Tracker is clearly a good card it doesn’t impact the board when you’re behind the same way Ishkanah does. Even when you’re ahead the Spider Queen dominates the board and can close games quick. Factor in a little Liliana action and an army of spiders make Ishkanah’s drain ability work that much faster.
Post board access to discard spells and Cranial Extraction effects means you’ll have an edge against control since you can be proactive. While traditionally Cranial Extraction effects are not exciting, with the rise of Marvel their stock has risen greatly. Most of the Marvel decks have very few ways to win as it is and if you can eat their Ulamogs then you’ll have a ton of time to implement your game plan. While it is possible to lose to some medium-sized creatures it is fairly unlikely in the long run. The best part about the Sultai Marvel deck is your game one plan isn’t always the best but your backup strategy of Ishkanah and Liliana are always going to be great.
No matter what deck you play, prepare for Marvel or suffer the wrath of Ulamog.