Steve Pearlman here again, this time with an in-depth breakdown of the Indomitable Creativity deck I used to make second place at MTG Vegas. If you missed my tournament report, I highly suggest checking it out first.
Indomitable Creativity is a combo-Superfriends deck with fun and interesting decision trees. It can function as a linear combo deck or a midrange/control planeswalker deck with the threat of executing the main combo plan at any point in time. Creativity is a very scary deck to play against, but it also has some drawbacks.
Modern Four Color Creativity by Steve Pearlman
The Combo Plan
Indomitable Creativity is essentially a one-card combo. All Creativity needs is a Dwarven Mine token, a Treasure token from Prismari Command or either the Crab or Clue token from Hard Evidence. Depending on the matchup, casting Creativity for X=1 to fetch either Serra’s Emissary or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn could be sufficient to just end the game right there. In other matchups, both Serra’s Emissary and Emrakul are ideal.
The Superfriends Plan
This version of Indomitable Creativity features 11 planeswalkers, which all support the combo plan as well as provide alternate win conditions and value engines. Between the planeswalkers and Dwarven Mine tokens, it’s not as hard as you may think to just play a midrange/control game and win. Wrenn and Six’s ultimate turns Lightning Bolts and other damage spells into win conditions. Nahiri’s ultimate is essentially another Creativity with the upside of being able to filter through your deck, shuffle your Emrakul back in or exile key permanents. While Jace’s Brainstorm effect tends to be the most used ability in this deck, its ultimate is still a threat.
It may seem odd to win a game on the back of Dwarven Mine tokens, but it happens more often than you would think. The Dwarves are good at pressuring opposing planeswalkers, blocking key creatures – including trading with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer – or even as fodder to Archon of Cruelty. If the tokens can’t end the game themselves, there’s also a surprising amount of direct damage in Lightning Bolt, Fire and Prismari Command to help close the game out. Additionally, it’s very reasonable to hardcast Serra’s Emissary to deal a fatal blow, or just lock opponents out of the game.
Frankly, the deck can look and feel a bit clunky. While Dwarven Mine is fantastic, it puts a serious constraint on the mana. It’s the reason that all 12 fetchlands are red-based, and there are only two non-red mana sources. Luckily, Ketria Triome and Raugrin Triome help smooth out the color requirements, so they’re often fetched relatively early in the game. Unfortunately, Dwarven Mine sometimes makes otherwise decent hands unkeepable, since it can come into play tapped and only produces red mana. The good news is that Creativity mulligans really well. There are plenty of great five and six-card hands, mainly due to Wrenn and Six’s ability to allow for continuous land drops when combined with a fetchland.
Hard Evidence, in a vacuum, looks like something that would likely only see play in Limited, but it’s actually great in this deck. Generating two tokens off a single blue mana is great value. The Crab can block Ragavan, Goblin Guide and other pesky creatures. The Clue can draw a card, which is essential for digging purposes. Remand is another card that often comes into question. I’ve tried cutting it, but it just makes the deck feel so much more consistent. It only requires a single blue mana to cast, and it replaces itself. I can’t overstate how important it is that Remand draws another card after it resolves. While Creativity can play the control game, digging through the deck to find more cards to get to the combo is important in many matchups. Control wants to answer threats, whereas Creativity wants to slow down opposing plans in an effort to allow it to get to its own endgame plans.
One of the most awkward parts of the deck is drawing Serra’s Emissary or Emrakul. Even worse is getting either of them exiled from Ragavan or a similar effect. Drawing them isn’t as horrible as it sounds, though. With access to Prismari Command, Faithful Mending and some planeswalkers, it’s relatively easy to shuffle creatures (and Dwarven Mines) back into the deck. Additionally, drawing an Emissary or Emrakul can be valuable in guaranteeing you’ll hit a certain Creativity target. This information could allow the pilot to more easily navigate to a game winning plan.
Finally, it can be a bit difficult to determine what a good opening hand looks like. Again, the deck does get some clunky looking draws. This could be another article entirely, but my suggestion is to watch some VODs and just jam a bunch of games to see how they play out. Perhaps I’ll have another article down the road with sample hands or gameplay.
Hate to Navigate
While anything that can remove a token that’s being targeted by Indomitable Creativity disrupts the combo, in practice, you’re often able to sneak a Creativity in at a time where it can’t be disrupted. Additionally, you can play around removal by targeting an excess number of tokens relative to the number of threats in the deck. Teferi, Time Raveler plays a key role in allowing Creativity to successfully resolve, but it’s not required. Engineered Explosives is a good card against Creativity; however, it requires the opponent to constantly leave up two mana, which can hinder their game plan. Luckily, Prismatic Ending, Teferi and Prismari Command are all answers to Explosives.
Solitude is certainly one of the scariest cards for Creativity. It’s especially potent when played in conjunction with planeswalkers or other card types that can interact with an on-board Emrakul/Emissary. That being said, Creativity has the tools to combat it as well. Again, Teferi plays a crucial role here. If Teferi isn’t answered, you can just cast Creativity at the end of the opponent’s turn to likely end the game. With Teferi, everything is easy. Without it, things get complicated. I try to ride planeswalkers to victory against Solitude Superfriends decks, but at times that’s easier said than done.
As mentioned earlier, Blood Moon is another card that can be good against Creativity. You really needs experience with the deck to know if/when you can play around it. This could be an article in and of itself, but suffice to say that if you can play around it without sacrificing too much, it’s probably a good idea against a deck that likely has it. That being said, I’ve won plenty of games against a resolved Blood Moon (more games that I’ve lost to it, actually).
Finally, discard, combined with other forms of interaction, and a fast clock is scary. Creativity can top-deck its way out of most situations, but time is typically required. BR Lurrus employs this sort of strategy, and it’s not a great matchup. Creativity can easily beat these sorts of decks, but it can also easily lose.
Some cards are easier to explore in the context of specific matchups: For example, Serra’s Emissary and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. For these cards, a more in-depth analysis will appear later in the article.
Wrenn may be the most important card in the deck. Creativity has some pretty strict mana and color requirements, along with needing to mulligan a bit more than other decks. Wrenn helps supply Creativity with all the lands that it needs as long there’s a fetchland. Additionally, Wrenn’s ultimate is extremely powerful.
If Wrenn isn’t the most important card, Teferi is. It delays the game and draws cards by bouncing threats, but more importantly allows Creativity to go off with impunity at instant speed.
Jace’s Brainstorm allows you to put Emrakul, Emissary or Dwarven Mines back into the deck, or simply filter through the deck to find whatever it currently needs. Jace’s ultimate is also a game-winning plan, though it doesn’t come up that often.
Nahiri allows you to dig, put Emrakul back into the deck, remove key permanents and its ultimate is usually a game-ending move.
Not much to say on Lightning Bolt except that it’s cheap, efficient removal and combined with Wrenn’s ultimate is a win condition.
People often question the inclusion of Faithful Mending, but it’s been absolutely fantastic. Creativity deals a lot of damage to itself because of its mana base, so being able to gain some life and find important cards is vital. That being said, unless Burn is running rampant, one is sufficient.
This is the best shell for Prismari Command that I’ve come across. Every single mode is good in this deck. The Treasures aren’t just useful for comboing, but they can also be used for mana fixing and ramp. I almost ran four Commands, but the single Faithful Mending was just too good.
Ice fits into the plan of slowing down your enemy on key turns to allow for Creativity’s plan to evolve, in addition to allowing Creativity resolve key threats by tapping down the opponent’s counterspell/interaction mana. Fire isn’t quite as good as Ice, but comes up often against decks like BG Yawgmoth or Hammertime, or in the early game against Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Ragavan.
Generic catch-all removal spell. It’s even better in Creativity than most other decks since it can easily be cast for four colors, or even five colors with Treasure tokens from Prismari Command.
The combo aspect of Indomitable Creativity is pretty clear; however, it can also be used as a removal spell. It can deal with large Murktide Regents or even something like Yawgmoth. With Teferi, in play, it can even be used as a combat trick. Let’s say both Emissary and Emrakul are unfortunately in hand with no way to get them back into the deck, and the opponent is on Hammertime. With Teferi in play and a Creativity in hand, you can Creativity the opponent’s Hammers and/or Puresteel Paladins to try and delay until the bombs can be shuffled back in or an Emissary can be hardcast. This sounds contrived, and it is, but I have definitely profitably used Creativity as a removal spell.
Land sequencing in Creativity is very important. It’s easy to accidentally end up in a situation where there are multiple spells that need to be cast in a turn, and the mana sources just don’t line up. Thinking several turns in advance is often required, but a lot of this sequencing is learned by getting in reps with the deck.
One thing in particular to note is that most lists are on two Steam Vents, one Sacred Foundry, whereas my list is two Sacred Foundry, one Steam Vents. I’ve often found myself wanting more white mana sources even pre-boarding, and on top of that, my sideboard is heavily skewed white. Additionally, the second Foundry is a bit of a hedge against Spreading Seas-like effects. That being said, there will be situations where the other Steam Vents is desirable. Being consistently short on blue mana likely means that you need to more proactively fetch out the Triomes, even if that means delaying a turn one Hard Evidence – it’s very context dependent. There may be something to be said about running 25 lands, but I’m not there just yet.
I usually decide if I want to board differently on the play/draw during the match depending on what I see from my opponent’s deck and what the game count is; hence, here’s a more high level set of boarding strategies. In a deck with a reasonable amount of card draw and filtering, I tend to employ more one-ofs in my sideboard. The way I approach sideboarding is less about the specific number of particular cards and much more about how many cards I’ll be bringing in against specific decks and how they fit into my overall game plan.
Post-board, I think Creativity is actually favored on the play, but being on the draw can really be rough. Drawing two or more pieces of life gain makes this matchup significantly easier. A single Serra’s Emissary doesn’t do much, since ideally one would name both instant and sorcery. Two Emissaries may be good, but it may be difficult to Creativity for two.
Hard Evidence is amazing, since it negates attacks from all of Burn’s creatures. Wrenn and Six is far from ideal here since sacrificing fetchlands causes life loss, which is undesirable in this matchup. Additionally, it doesn’t interact with Burn’s creatures very well. Jace is just too slow. Teferi, Time Raveler on the other hand is quite good. It forces opponents to play at sorcery speed, which allows Creativity to safely make plays. Prismari Command may not seem good, but it is. Creativity needs to get the cards that are important for the matchup as fast as possible and combo as quickly as possible. Dovin’s Veto may appear a bit odd, but anything that stops life loss is likely valuable. I only board in one Veto due to its color requirements.
BR Lurrus: Unfavored to Slightly Unfavored
Creativity either needs a decent hand and draw to combat BR or for BR to stumble. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by a quick clock combined with a lot of discard. I certainly don’t want to play against this deck, but I’m also not terrified of it.
Creativity can top deck its way out of most situations, and the same is true for this matchup. The removal suite and Veil of Summer is fairly self explanatory, but I now believe that one Blossoming Calm may be important to help with BR’s targeted discard and to give a bit of a life total boost. It’s possible that Leyline of Sanctity may even be required to combat this beast and help with the Burn matchup. Teferi is good, but not required.
Against most aggressive decks, Remand isn’t ideal; however, Remanding a kicked Tourach or an escaped Kroxa can be really valuable. I initially boarded out a single Jace, but I’m no longer certain that’s correct. Being able to Brainstorm to hide important cards on top of the library may be too valuable, despite it being very slow. I am experimenting with cutting an additional Teferi over the Jace.
UR Murktide: Even-ish
This matchup is traditionally relatively draw-dependent, which is another one of the reasons I like four looting spells. The inclusion of Supreme Verdict in the sideboard makes it easier to steal post-board games. While Fire // Ice somewhat delays Murktide Regent, I found it to not be required post-board. Murktide may try to cheese Creativity by boarding in Blood Moon, so I wouldn’t want to cut more than one Hard Evidence (since Dwarven Mine may not provide any utility).
Keeping Murktide’s board clear is important, which is why I also wouldn’t want to cut more than one Prismatic Ending, which is conveniently also an answer to Blood Moon. Getting either of the bombs on board usually ends the game, where Emissary typically names instant; however, Jace, the Mind Sculptor can bounce the payoffs, so it’s not always lights out.
Hammertime: Heavily Favored
This matchup is a bit of a nightmare for Hammertime. Creativity plays the control game, which is already great against Hammer, but also backs it up with a relatively fast clock.
Be judicious with removal, and this matchup should be fairly straightforward. Serra’s Emissary pre-board naming creature usually leaves Hammer with no outs. An Emrakul can also end the game quite easily so long as Creativity isn’t already significantly behind. Remand doesn’t do too much in this matchup. Jace is a bit slow, and while Teferi is good, I don’t think four of them are required.
RUG Rhinos/Four Color Rhinos: Favored
The Cascade matchups in general revolve more around locking the opponents out of the game rather than trying to combo as quickly as possible. Patience is key against Cascade and luckily this version of Creativity has a ton of tools against Rhinos.
Teferi shuts down the cascade mechanic, Remand is fantastic and Fire // Ice can play a role here. Post-board Flusterstorm, Dovin’s Veto and Veil of Summer make it difficult for Rhinos to resolve Crashing Footfalls or answer Creativity, itself. Additionally, so long as Creativity navigates around opposing Blood Moons, Supreme Verdict can put in a lot of work against Rhinos.
Four Color Rhinos:
Living End: Slightly Unfavored
This matchup is extremely draw dependent. It’s actually relatively easy to lock Living End out of the game with a combination of Teferi, Time Raveler and an insurmountable amount of counterspells. That being said, it’s also relatively easy to just lose. Resolving the combo doesn’t do all that much if Living End resolves, so navigating this matchup can be a bit tricky. Blossoming Calm looks a bit peculiar, but one of the easiest ways to lose this matchup is for an opposing Grief to hit the table; therefore, having as much early-game interaction as possible is highly desirable.
Jund Sagavan: Favored
This matchup is similar to BR Lurrus; however, Sagavan’s best draws are more similar to BR’s above average draws. It’s relatively easy to lose a game here and there, but the matchup is certainly favored. As with BR, or really any discard deck, try not to mulligan too much. The Wrenn and Six and Urza’s Saga plan isn’t terribly scary, since it’s so slow, and while Tarmogoyf can get large quickly, Sagavan typically doesn’t draw enough discard to foil Creativity’s plans. As with BR, landing either Emissary or Emrakul usually ends the game, where Emissary typically names instant.
Green Tron: Unclear, certainly not an ideal matchup
I have somehow never run into this deck despite playing many matchups with Creativity. That being said, I imagine one needs to combo as quickly as possible. Both Emissary and Emrakul can be dealt with via Oblivion Stone, Karn Liberated and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Teferi can likely play a crucial role, but that’s normally the case. Flusterstorm looks a bit odd, but I imagine being able to counter Ancient Stirrings and Sylvan Scrying is important.
UW Control: Favored
On paper, it may look like this is a scary matchup, but it doesn’t play out that way if navigated properly. All of Creativity’s planeswalker must be dealt with, which is really problematic for UW. Riding a planeswalker to victory here is how you tend to win the matchup. While opposing Teferi’s are problematic, between the Dwarves, Prismatic Endings and direct damage spells, Teferi can be dealt with.
Dwarf tokens put in a ton of work since they can handle all of UW’s planeswalkers in addition to dealing player damage here and there. With Teferi in play, it’s easy to just win the game by resolving a Creativity at the end of UW’s turn, but it’s more common to ultimate Wrenn, Nahiri or Jace. On that note, I always leave a single Lightning Bolt in the deck against control opponents to combo with Wrenn’s ultimate.
Four Color Omnath Control: Even-ish
This matchup is relatively similar to UW, but it’s more difficult. Their best draws are difficult to beat, but the game plan is similar to the one against UW with the caveat that Omnath is very good against Creativity’s planeswalkers. I’ve won many games by Remanding Omnath or slowing them down with Ice/Remand so that I can stick a Teferi and resolve an instant speed Creativity.
Grixis Death Shadow: Favored
Old school GDS would likely not be a favorable matchup, but I’ve found that the new version of GDS is surprisingly easy to beat. The matchup feels oddly comparable to the Jund Sagavan matchup. Play around Drown in the Loch when possible, and this matchup pre-board is fairly straightforward. Post-board GDS has more tools against Creativity, but Creativity’s hate is even better.
Amulet Titan: Favored
While Amulet Titan’s goldfish is faster than Creativity’s, this matchup is certainly in Creativity’s favor. Remand, Fire // Ice and Teferi are fantastic at slowing down Amulet. Additionally, Creativity has many answers to an on-board Amulet of Vigor. While Amulet doesn’t really have a great way of dealing with Emrakul or Emissary, which typically names land for Valakut.
I’ve only played one to two matches against Belcher and they were very close. Like against Living End, being able to interact with Belcher early in the game is really important. Most Belcher lists play Blood Moon main, so it’s often important to account for that. A resolved Serra’s Emissary naming artifact usually ends the game, but Pyromancer Ascension combined with Shatterskull Smashing can deal with it.
BG Yawgmoth: Favored
Yawgmoth is an interesting matchup. Creativity needs to manage Yawg’s mana dorks and account for Grist, the Hunger Tide, which is why Emissary typically names planeswalker. I try to play the control game, then Creativity for both Emissary and Emrakul to lock the game up.
That being said, depending on the Yawg list/board state, sometimes Yawg can beat an Emrakul and an Emissary that names planeswalker. The ideal state is to have a castable Veil of Summer in handto stop a Grist from killing one of the bombs and name creature with Serra’s Emissary to prevent Yawgmoth from executing their combo.
In: 2 Veil of Summer 1 Supreme Verdict 1 Rest in Peace
Out: 1 Faithful Mending 1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 1 Teferi, Time Raveler 1 Hard Evidence
I believe that Indomitable Creativity is here to stay. While it certainly can be disrupted, it’s also pretty difficult to hate out of the metagame.
I’d like to make the Omnath Control matchup a bit better. My current idea is to play an Iona, Shield of Emeria in the sideboard. Iona, combined with Serra’s Emissary, is a hard lock for most builds of Omnath Control, while also having significant utility against monocolored decks. There’s something to be said about boarding a second Emissary, but I think Iona is better. Alternatively, throwing in an Aether Gust or two would help with Omnath and Burn amongst a handful of other decks. I’m also testing to see if Leyline of Sanctity is a good choice for the sideboard. There’s a local store championship on December 4, where I’ll likely be playing this list or something very close to it:
Modern Four Color Creativity (Iona Build) by Steve Pearlman
If you like playing a combo deck that can actually win with its alternate game plan, Creativity may be the deck for you. There are definitely some awkward moments, so if you’re the type of player that starts to get into a negative mindset when things go wrong, Creativity may be tough to stomach. While its primary game plan is fairly linear, navigating to winning lines is often non-linear and non-trivial. Creativity top decks like no other deck that I’ve seen in Modern, which enables it to get out of seemingly unwinnable situations. I’ve had a blast playing Creativity and will certainly continue to play it. Good luck and have fun!
PS: I got bullied into creating a Twitter account, so if y’all have any questions about Creativity, feel free to hit me up @TheReaperMTG.