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In Development – Iona, I Choose You

 

I use the word ‘orthogonal’ a lot.

The strictest definition of orthogonal is “perpendicular,” followed closely by “statistically unrelated” and “extraneous.” When I use it in the context of Magic, however, I typically mean a path to victory that differs qualitatively from another path to victory under consideration. For example, decking someone for the win is orthogonal to beating them down with creatures. The two paths to victory largely don’t overlap, and, as a consequence, the opponent is significantly less likely to have defenses against both.

Keep this thought in mind as we go along.

I’ve been a little displeased with control decks in the new Standard. The Ascension Pulse build I was running earlier was not nearly as successful as the Nayamorphic build, and, after due consideration, I’ve binned it. There are some successful control builds out there, but playing [card]Earthquake[/card]s and mono-blue Sphinxes is not exactly the direction I want to take in playing control.

This is, perhaps, a good time to mention that I also don’t generally play combo decks that go “all in” on their combo. Although I appreciate the power of a resilient combo deck such as Desire or Elves in the right hands, I generally prefer a deck that has more options for interacting with the opponent’s game plan, if necessary.

How does this all come together?

Trap Combo in Standard
While I was out scouting deck lists over the course of last week, I ran into this design at the top of a Magic League trial:

Summoning Trap Combo (by Lat)

This deck is heavily dedicated to the Summoning Trap combo. Briefly, this means getting to six mana, casting a Summoning Trap, and hoping you have at least one Sphinx or Iona in your top seven cards. If you hit an Iona, you lock out the opponent’s key color. If it’s a Sphinx, you probably go on to win against most decks you’re going to be playing against, as the combination of abilities on the Sphinx simply can’t be dealt with by Jund and Boros. The deck packs four copies of the Trap, as well as three more ways to get it, along with a whopping fifteen mana-ramping cards to try and get to six mana as soon as possible.

I overcame the initial temptation to launch right into tinkering and ran Lat’s version of his deck as written. It’s incredibly tough for Jund to deal with, assuming a [card]Blightning[/card] doesn’t decimate its hand right away. Things get a little harder if the Jund player knows to kill your Hierarchs as soon as they land, but if you stick either one of your combo fatties, the game is pretty much over. Consider that an Iona naming “black” turns off something like two thirds of the spells in a typical Jund deck – and those that are left over are hardly relevant to dealing with a 7/7.

This is a fun deck, but as I said, I’m not too excited about being all in on a combo, especially one that folds to Cancel. So what could I do?

Adopting an orthogonal approach

As I’ve mentioned before, I like decks that pack orthogonal approaches. The “reach” package in Nayamorphic, comprising two Naya Charms and two Elspeths, represents one form of orthogonality. Rather than testing the opponent with burn spells and creatures, you add in the challenge of a couple of planeswalkers. This is a sort of minor orthogonality, in that it doesn’t significantly deviate from the default beatdown path to victory, but it differs enough that the opponent needs to consider when and how to spend their limited removal that can deal with planeswalkers.

This is my all-time favorite orthogonal deck:

Rock and Nail (by Zac Hill)

This deck, which helped Zac Hill and Marijn Lybaert day two at Pro Tour: Valencia, operates much like a normal control-oriented Rock build. It has some disruption to help deal with combo, and Pernicious Deed and Collective Restraint to slow down aggro decks. However, instead of a more conventional finisher, this deck uses the Cabal Coffers and Urborg combination to generate a pile of mana and power out a Tooth and Nail for some combination of Platinum Angels and Sundering Titans. At Valencia, this was often a devastating, game-ending move.

Rather like locking your opponent out of an entire color with Iona.

This is the inspiration that struck me when I happened to be looking for new control decks while reading the Summoning Trap Combo deck. Instead of running a dedicated combo deck, why not use the combo as a finisher in a control decks?

Snare Control?

My first clever thought here was to start from the basis of the Combo version and to parlay the Trapmaker’s Snares into a sort of Mystical Teachings deck that tutors up not only the combo, but also silver bullets. Unfortunately, the selection of Traps that are useful in Constructed is pretty limited. At best, we might want to run Pitfall Trap, Mindbreak Trap, Lethargy Trap, and from the sideboard under very special circumstances, Ravenous Trap.

It turns out that this is a terrible idea. Much like the temptation to screw up a deck featuring Trinket Mage by adding in subpar one-mana artifacts, the desire to extend the usefulness of the Snares beyond simply digging for combo pieces led to a suboptimal deck. I tossed this idea and moved on.

How much combo do we need?

If I wasn’t planning on going all-in on the combo, I had to look very carefully at the component pieces. If we examine decks that pack orthogonal win conditions, we see that they don’t bleed away too much space to their combo. The Rock and Nail deck devotes just seven “hard” slots to the combo, and four of these can be used on their own (the Sundering Titans and Platinum Angels). Similarly, the Project X combo deck operates as a midrange deck that devotes from seven to nine hard slots to that combo. In either case, we’re not crippling the deck’s ability to operate on its “Plan A” mode (being a controlling or midrange deck) by devoting too much space to “Plan B.”

The Summoning Trap Combo build runs fifteen “hard” slots, with four Traps, three Snares, four Ionas, and four Sphinxes. This is a cripplingly large amount of deck real estate to devote to an alternate win condition, so we clearly need to start pruning. If we’re not going to repeat the failed Snare Control experiment, the Snares can go. This leaves twelve cards, eight of which are almost always dead without the other four. I’d like to cut out some of these Summoning Trap targets to get the combo portion of the deck down to a more manageable size, but how many can I cut and still expect effective Summoning Traps?

Here’s the quick hack I use in situations like this. It’s not statistically correct, but it’s good enough to guide my decisions. I apply a binomial distribution function, treating each card draw involved as a separate trial. For example, when considering a turn six Summoning Trap with eight targets in the deck, I might treat the event as seven trials (since Summoning Trap looks at your top seven cards) with an 8/47 chance of a successful hit on each trial (since you have eight targets you’d like to hit, and I’m assuming that you have not already drawn one). In this case, I then ask for the likelihood that I will have no successful hits – that is, that I won’t be able to Summoning Trap into one of my win conditions.

It’s a hack, and the numbers aren’t quite correct, but it has the substantial upside that you can quickly and easily calculate these likelihoods using the binomial distribution function in Excel or another spreadsheet application.

In this case, I asked what I could expect my failure rate to be as I brought my number of targets down from eight. Here’s what I found:

8 cards yields a miss rate of roughly 27%
7 cards yields a miss rate of roughly 32%
6 cards yields a miss rate of roughly 38%

Keep in mind that a “miss” here doesn’t mean I don’t get anything, it just means that I don’t get one of my finishers (Iona or a Sphinx). And once again, yes, the math is not precise, so please don’t write to me about it. Looking at these ballpark percentages, I decided that I was okay with about a 60% hit rate, and that having six otherwise dead combo-oriented cards in the deck was reasonable.

Which combo targets?

The original Summoning Trap Combo deck uses four copies each of Iona and Sphinx of the Steel Wind as targets. I spent a fair amount of time perusing Gatherer in search of creatures that might be either better or, in the manner of the targets in Rock and Nail, somewhat more compatible with the core deck. My eventual conclusion was that the original target selection is the best choice for the current Standard environment. Consider the targets that exist in both the main and sideboards.

Iona, Shield of Emeria is the most obvious of the targets. When she comes down, she can largely turn off an opposing deck’s game plan. You do need to be very careful in your choice of colors – for example, against Boros, it’s often best to name “white” despite the temptation to name “red,” as “white” cuts out a significant fraction of their deck, including the only single-card solution to Iona in Path to Exile. As long as you pause and make a conscious choice with Iona rather than simply going on autopilot, she’s probably the best possible hit with Summoning Trap. Also note Iona’s hilarious effect on the new Eldrazi Green deck.

Sphinx of the Steel Wind is a powerful, if more metagame-dependent, choice. Being a black creature with protection from red, it dodges a lot of removal, including every single option that a typical Jund deck has. The combination of vigilance, first strike, and lifelink also means that it can immediately serve as a wall that digs you out of a hole and turns the game around in short order. You do need to be wary of having your Sphinx Pathed in the Boros matchup, but the card is otherwise very, very strong.

Progenitus shows up in the sideboard as an option against control decks. It’s not a main deck choice because it doesn’t do as much to turn the game around if you’re already on the back foot. However, in control matchups where your life total is likely to be safe, but there may be a number of annoying defensive options that can trip up a Sphinx, Progenitus offers up a finisher that dodges everything except Day of Judgment. Note that Progenitus is the only Trap target in the original deck that can’t be hard cast if need be, which is one more reason to have it in the sideboard.

Making Summoner decks

Having decided on a default “Summoner” package of four Traps and six targets, we are left with fifty other cards to make a deck. As I spent so much time trying to decide how best to deploy the Summoner package in the first place, I haven’t had that much time to test the designs below, and I don’t know that one of them is clearly best. Of course, the natural upside of changing from being all-in on the combo to simply pushing it in as a finishing package is that we have a lot more freedom to work with in our design space.

The one thing you do want to keep in mind when inserting the Summoner package into a deck is that it’s useful to be able to actually cast the Trap targets, should you hit the right mana count. This converts the targets from strict combo components into powerful late-game plays. The Sphinx in particular can come down on a relevant turn in many of the decks one might want to put together with this build, and is a solid finisher.

With that said, let’s take a look at three possible Summoner designs.

Summoner Control

 

This very control-oriented build is the first direction I tried to take the design. There are a few relevant inclusions here. First, Wall of Denial is excellent here, and along with Ranger serves as the first line of defense against aggressive deck. Second, after considering the full range of sideboard options, I ended up simply maindecking the Celestial Purges. Finally, although this deck has no strict card draw, it has many card advantage tools. This is intentional, as I want to maximize card advantage and deck thinning to simultaneously avoid drawing Trap targets early while maximizing my likelihood of hitting them with a Summoning Trap.

The Empyrial Archangel is an experimental sideboard card that might come in for aggro matchups where the Sphinx is slightly less effective, such as Eldrazi Green.

Notice the single Swamp, there to let you actually cast your Sphinxes if you need to.

Summoner Midrange

 

This midrange variant drops the combo into a mix of disruption and threats. There are a couple nice interactions in this deck that the control version lacks. Both [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] and Garruk Wildspeaker are simultaneously threats and mana accelerators, allowing Traps to be cast one turn earlier, and the hardcasting of Sphinx and Iona one, two, or even three turns ahead of schedule.

Once again, notice the single “off color” land, this time an Island. The midrange deck has more access to this land than the control variation, via both Harrow and Knight of the Reliquary.

Naya Summoner

This final Summoner variation offers some fun adjustments to the core Summoner game plan. Notice that I’ve added in two copies of Mayael in the main deck. In this deck, Mayael is a mini-Summoning Trap. She has the substantial downsides of being slow and highly killable, with the upside of being repeatable, letting you dig for finishers turn after turn. Given her fragility, I wasn’t willing to go above two copies, but she does offer two more ways to access your game-ending play. Over in the sideboard, I’ve also taken the opportunity to hack in some powerful finishers that we could imagine using in place of the Sphinxes in, again, the Eldrazi Green matchup. The Hellkites also have the advantage of being castable in this deck, especially with the assistance of Garruk and the Knights.

Playing Summoner decks

It’s still early days for this concept. As I mentioned, I spent a lot of time just figuring out the basic requirements for porting the Summoning Trap combo into other decks. As a consequence, my playtesting has been limited, so I have no specific matchup advice I want to offer. The core thing to keep in mind, however, is that these are not combo decks. Rather, they are control or midrange decks that should operate very much on their normal game plans until they happen to draw a Summoning Trap, at which point you can cast your Trap and hope to immediately win the game right then and there.

There’s more to it than that, of course. There’s thinking about whether to main phase the Trap or do it during your opponent’s turn. There’s mulliganing. There’s sideboarding. I’ll be testing these builds and expect to have more to say about all these options going forward.

In the meantime, I’ll hope for Summoning Trap into Iona, for the win.

39 thoughts on “In Development – Iona, I Choose You”

  1. Quick bonus note: In the time since I finished this article, I’ve been favoring a Summoner Control build featuring three Iona and three Empyrial Archangel as the finisher package; the Archangel is a house against so many decks right now (biggest Wall of Denial ever), and has the bonus that you don’t even need to splash a Swamp to simply hard cast it.

    I’m finding myself more dissatisfied with Day of Judgment in this deck in the current environment, and wish I could just magically run eight copies of Wall of Denial.

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  3. Nice article Alex, looking forward to see how these decks test. I think I like the first one the best. Boros seems like it could be a problem based on speed, how has that match been going?

  4. I don’t know that I would go that far. A friend of mine is currently testing this deck. If I can ever get some decent matches in, I’ll have to report back with a bit of feedback, but I do like the deck quite a bit. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for midrange or controlling decks that can literally win out of nowhere.

  5. I had done some thinking about a BGW rock-type deck running Summoning Traps with a singleton Iona, and an Empyreal Archangel sideboard for things that weren’t Vampires. It ran Liliana Vess out of the sideboard to tutor up Summoning Trap on turn 4/5, then tutor up the desired target next turn.

    The rest of the deck was pretty straightforward good-stuff; Pulse, Path, Knight of the Reliquary, Garruk, Baneslayer (also quite a reasonable creature to Trap into), as well as a mini-landfall theme with Cobra, Ob Nixilis and Harrow to complement the Knight and fetches.

    Worked pretty nicely, and was occasionally able to actually hardcast the Iona when I drew it thanks to Cobra/Harrow and Garruk.

    Cobra is really nice when you’re playing turn 3 Baneslayers, but even if it gets killed ASAP (as it is wont to do), you can often land a Knight/Harrow for turn 3 to get Baneslayer/Ob Nixilis down on turn 4 anyway.

  6. Can’t see why Empyrial Archangel is better than a vigilant, first striking 6/6 with lifelink and protection from green against a mono green deck…

  7. “…I decided that I was okay with about a 60% hit rate…”

    Ba- ba- ba- ba- ba- ba- ba- wha- wha- WUT?

    A 60% hit rate is not all that much better than a coinflip, ferchristsake. Six mana, flip a coin, heads you maybe win, tails your six mana looks stupid.

    I’m not sure I want the Magics I put in my 60 to work only a little over half the time.

  8. Why not run Rise from the Grave in the board? This would allow you to maul decks running bligthning or esper mind rot. Turn their strongest cards into liabilities!

  9. I agree with Zadok001. I like your Nayamorph thing, but this…

    I have tested against this, and admittedly if you slow roll or get a slow aggro start this deck crushes you. Iona is really good if you can land her off of a trap.

    However if it fizzles or gets an inappropriate creature that is kold to any spell in my hand, the deck just caves.

    I have, admittedly, limited experience playing (against) this deck, but it seems to be, theroetically, meh.

  10. I’m afraid that this deck just isn’t that good.

    Sure it will do some crazy things like Summoning Trap into Artifact Akroma or Empyrial Archangel, but it just can’t do it efficiently or consistently. You’ll get stuck with awkward mana draws with too many ramp spells and nothing to do, or it will get too many heavy costed spells and nothing to ramp with.

    Without some form of card draw, such as GR Ramp a few seasons ago when it had Harmonize, Ramp decks or even decks that do flashy expensive things just can’t survive. That goes doubly so when there is a Turn 4 kill deck in the format, or Path wrecks you (At the Nashville 5k I beat this deck playing Boros when he was low on life and named Red with Iona and I pathed it. Awk.).

    That being said, I don’t believe this deck has nowhere to go to become a contender, just that the current itenerations aren’t the way to explore. I would try to go a little more broken ; )

    CSB

  11. @ Billy Hahn: The fact that it has shroud helps the Empyrial Archangel against all other decks. After all, it is not just Jund and Eldrazi. There is also the Boros deck to worry about, and Cascade.

    I have been thinking up a deck to use Summoning Trap in for some time. My build was more aggressive, but I think I like this more controlling build. What is exchanged for the Traumatic Visions, if anything? Another counter spell. I ask because if we are using the angel we don’t necessarily need to be able to land cycle. Also as per your comment about Walls 5-8, could’t you use Wall of Reverence in this slot? I am going to try with Wall of Reverence main and put the 3 Day of Judgment in the Board, also I am going to try 3 Bant Charm over Celestial Purge (the other Purge coming out for Wall of Reverence) as it gives me an instant out to Eldrazi Monument.

  12. @CSB – Naming red is the obvious and, as you saw, totally wrong choice there. I fairly consistently name white when I hit Iona in the Boros matchup, as that turns off Path and /so/ many of the deck’s creatures. The only thing you need to watch out for after that is blocking some red critter with Iona and losing her to burn. This is one reason I favor the control version, as you already have Wall of Denial and Ranger, along with Path and Purge, to mitigate the impact of early Boros beats so that you aren’t stuck in a place where you absolutely must name red and pray they don’t have Path.

    Incidentally, the presence of Path in Boros is also a reason why Sphinx of the Steel Wind ended up losing out to Archangel. Sphinx is an utter, game-winning beating…unless they have Path.

    @Zadok – I’m was saying that I’m okay with a 60% hit rate on my “I win now” cards, yeah. Recall that we’re still pulling down a creature much of the time, and that creature is still usually powerful in the matchup (e.g. a bonus Wall of Denial versus Jund). In my fantasy land, the format would have a Kitchen Finks or Loxodon Hierarch so I could have real fun in flipping a non-insta-win creature off the top.

    With all that in mind, it’s possible that the deck is resilient enough to just go up to a full 4-4 of Archangels and Ionas. Rather than presume that this is a bad idea, I’m going to go ahead and test it and see. It’s possible that I’m being too cautious about avoiding having a full eight-pack of finishers, or that I’m missing some other good, lower cost creatures that would be nice flips off the top, or that would play well being hard cast (Archangel is already quite nice there, honestly).

    I just wish there were more creatures with useful “enters the battlefield” abilities of note in the current Standard.

  13. I ran a deck similar to this for awhile when Zendikar 1st came out. I ran 3 sphinxes, and 4 Ionas. Used cobras, knights, harrows, 2 khalnis, baneslayers, and fetch lands galore. I’ve lost games doing a summoning trap into nothing.. absolutely nothing, not even a creature. I’ve won many many games getting Iona out turn 3 or 4.

    I played it in 4 tourneys including Zendikar game day. It was either a blow out, or it would do literally nothing. Overall, it did better than 50%, but when I had results like I did on zen game day where I went 2-0 vs. MWC, 2-0 vs. Jund, 0-2 vs. Jund, and 0-2 vs. MWC, I just felt that deck wasn’t consistent enough and finally dismantled it.

  14. @Raleldor – That’s why I ended up eschewing the pure combo version, and prefer to try and use this as a finishing tool in a deck that otherwise has a game plan. If you delete the Summoning Traps from the control build, for example, you’re left with a control deck that has some ramping and attempts to live through the early game and then drop a hard-to-deal-with fattie. I feel like this works as its own plan. The ability to randomly Trap into one on, say, turn five is meant to be icing, rather than the only way to win. That’s the lesson I tried to take from Rock and Nail, a deck that has a powerful way to win, but which can also just follow a more conventional game plan and do just fine.

  15. I got to use summoner’s trap into iona in a draft last week, it was unfairly wonderful. Did it game 1 and game 3 in a match that I might’ve otherwise lost. I also nabbed a lotus cobra and scute mob for that draft, so I was all set. Utterly ridiculous.

    Interesting article! Let’s hope that these approaches give us more variety in the standard meta.

  16. “In my fantasy land, the format would have a Kitchen Finks or Loxodon Hierarch so I could have real fun in flipping a non-insta-win creature off the top.”

    What happened to the Mycoid Shepards from the original build?

  17. Math nit. Put your chances of a hit on Summoning Trap at 8/47 is wrong. Why are you assuming you wouldn’t ever draw one of your fatties, but yet one will automagically show up in the top 7 cards of your library? Your cards are randomly distributed, both in the cards you’ve drawn, and the remainder in your library, barring shenanigans like Brainstorm, Ponder, etc. So, you can (and will) easily have 1 or 2 dead cards in hand, lowering the probability of a hit.

    For ease of calculation, you need to use your whole deck. That is, your chances are 8/60.

    This gives failure rates of:
    8 fatties -> 35%
    7 fatties -> 40%
    6 fatties -> 46%

  18. Also,I don’t know if I’m allowed to link to “competing” sites, but I have a blog post complete with failure rates for Summoning Trap, from 1 all the way up to 25 fatties. Hopefully that can save everyone some math, and shed some light on how densely to pack your deck with otherwise uncastable behemoths.

    http://forum.tcgplayer.com/blog.php?b=1520

  19. @Platypus — Fair nit. 🙂 I think it’s actually closer to right to assume you’ve drawn one fatty and go from there with the remaining 47 or so cards.

  20. Yeah, the proper way to calculate it is to use conditional probability – that is, “What are my chances of hitting a fattie _right now_, given that I’ve drawn X cards, of which Y are fatties?” So your actual chances of a hit at any moment will differ from your chances next turn, next game, and so on.

    That said, it’s much easier to calculate the probability from a pure deck construction point of view – “In my 60 cards, assuming I shuffle them and then lay out the top 7, what are the chances I’ll hit a fattie?” This simulates the event of casting a Summoning Trap, and while it obviously can’t take into account in-game situations, it’s still a valid mental model to observe approximate failure ratios, given no starting conditions.

  21. Alex, I like the article, particularly because I’ve been looking at Ionamorph decks for awhile now and this deck has a similar “cheat in fatties” feel. So my question is, have you considered Polymorph in any of these builds, or is it just too off?

    PS – I’ve recently been trying to see if Mayael the Anima had a home in competitive standard somewhere, so I’m glad to see her in one build.

  22. I’ve been experimenting a lot with summoning trap, right now I’m trying out a build with sphinx of lost truths and rise from the grave as outs if u happen to draw your hardly hardcastable guys. Sphinx has been quite awesome this far

  23. Platypus is almost right. The cards you have drawn don’t matter for the calculation of the average odds which is what we are looking for since we are constructing the deck, the drawn cards are a unrelated factor and dont influence the odds over a game in general. (if you refer to a specific case in which the contents of the drawn cards are known its different but then you are not calculating the average odds over all games but those of 1 specific game).
    Take this mind experiment for example: before revealing the top 7 cards for summoning trap you remove the BOTTOM 10 cards of your library blindly. Now among these may or may not be ‘fatties’, but obviously this action doesn’t implicate the chance of revealing one from the rest of the deck, all you did was move 10 cards. Since we are talking about the average chance Summoning trap will hit here (thus over an infinite number of games) the cards in one game itself you’ve drawn are unknown as well and thus dont influence the chance of a hit.
    Simply said (I know the author didn’t want a math discussion but i couldnt help it) the odds of hitting a fattie are almost the chances given by platypus (assuming the actual calculations were done well). The only nitpicking you could do here is that ONE drawn card IS known: the summoning trap. Thus the correct way to calcalute it is to use ‘a 59-card-deck’ for calculation.

    I wouldn’t have brought this up if it didn’t implicate the deck itself because the numbers the article uses are substantially higher. To get a feel of it you can actually use this reference: say you play 8 lands in your deck, what are the odds of drawing a 0 land hand? Fairly high right? Well those are exactly the same odds of missing a fattie here and while a 0-lander can be mulliganned a no creature hit is usually game here.
    As a result you really need to play a big number of fatties if you want to take the trap idea seriously, so the trick is finding a good combination of creatures. 8 real fatties makes the deck rely on trap too much i agree so 6 may be good. Why you are not running baneslayer completely puzzles me though, its a fine target to hit against a lot of decks and its instant speed makes it all the better because then it can kill a critter and gain 5 life alot of the time as well, for example jund will not be able to use pulse and boros might be tapped out. Also works well with mayael the anima offcourse.

    For the rest your development looks good though, especially getting rid of the creature based acceleration the original used and the trapmakers snare.
    I remember playing against the pilot of the trial win with jund the day after and after i just thought hermorrhaged the trap g3 to get the win.
    Especially the ‘naya summoner deck’ looks nice but i’d add 2 things. Baneslayer first off all because its that severely improves both maya and trap and also mycoid shepherd. The shepherd is fantastic against jund and vampires because it gives alot of extra time, often enough to hardcast sphinx. Another fun thing to add (main or board) would be brave the elements, you could use it protect any big guy in your deck and we all know when baneslayer or sphinx (and in this deck maya) survives a turn it gets nasty. Finally curve wise trace of abundance or rampant growth fit better here then harrow, by the time you go hardcasting sphinx you will have found the neccesary colors probably especially if you use some fetches.

    Rather long post but it was a nice article, though the deck idea must be tier 2 (though I’ve said that off eldrazi green as well so who knows)

  24. Tried a couple games with the Mayael version of the deck tonight. I have the cards and will try the control version also. I first match I basically got blown out due to insufficient lands, though that doesn’t indicate anything other than bad land draws. The second match I lost the first game, but won the second and third against Cruel Control. Both times the real deciding factor was Empyrial Archangel. The third game I did Trap into Archangel, and then Iona when they tapped out for Ruinblaster. The only real problem I have had, and it could be poor draws, is that I keep getting trapped with 2-3 large fatties in hand after about 4 turns. That said, the control build is probably the right way to go, but the Mayael build is definitely fun to play.

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  26. I wonder if you have tried Sphinx of Jwar Isle instead of Steel Wind – looking at the top card rules is a nice combo with the trap, and it has shroud.

  27. “I just wish there were more creatures with useful "enters the battlefield" abilities of note in the current Standard.”

    How about Acidic Slime? I’ve been toying around with a casual variation on this theme (with Lurking Predators as the way my creatures pop into play, but I want to add Summoning Traps to it), and love Acidic Slime. There’s pretty much always something to kill with it. I also have some fun with Kederekt Leviathan, Magister Sphinx, and Nulltread Gargantuan. The latter lets you keep replaying your creatures with “comes into play” effects, while also giving you a 5/6 body. And it’s wicked easy to hard cast.

  28. This deck is a little similar to the Hypergenesis Deck in extended. Only that one has loads of cool Boom Boom Creatures. Still, this seems like a viable deck in the current standard since counterspells are not so popular…

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