As always, for every great deck we come up with during Pro Tour testing, we have to discard quite a few. For Amonkhet, there were 3 big reasons decks were discarded:
- They were bad.
- They couldn’t beat Mardu.
- They couldn’t beat Marvel.
There was a lot of overlap between groups 1 and 2 (meaning that bad decks couldn’t beat Mardu), but not a lot of overlap between decks 1 and 3—most of the decks that couldn’t beat Marvel were actually decent, and just couldn’t beat Marvel. This bodes well for them if Marvel gets pushed out of the metagame, either by an increase in hate (which is looking unlikely, given that Marvel keeps doing well even though it’s a known fact that it’s the most popular deck in the format at this point) or by a decrease in the legality of Marvel cards in the next ban announcement.
Today I want to highlight some of the decks that we ultimately discarded but that I thought were interesting or had potential:
Steve Rubin declared on day 1 that he was going to play Temur Emerge. Though he ultimately caved and decided to play Marvel, we worked on this deck, and I’m sure we have a good version:
Originally I was skeptical—the deck had lost two of its most important cards: Jace and Emrakul. But in practice the deck played out well. Manglehorn gave the deck another 3-drop that you could use for emerge and that happened to be quite good against two of the most popular decks in the format—Mardu and Marvel. The deck was remarkably consistent.
The biggest draw to it was the number of Kozilek’s Returns. Kozilek’s Return is the type of card that when it’s good, it’s really good, and this deck can almost always find one and then flash it back, since it has some card draw, Vessel, and Grapple. Tribal decks like Zombies and Humans just aren’t equipped to deal with instant-speed 5 damage to everything, and even Mardu doesn’t have an easy time. We found this deck to be great against Mardu and other creature decks. On top of that, it was challenging and fun to play, and always gave you tons of options, which also meant it was hard to play against.
It only had two problems: Marvel and control. Marvel was hard, but beatable. You had Manglehorns, some semblance of pressure, and you could sideboard some counterspells (or even maindeck one). You could also sideboard a Swamp and Dispossess—between Hubs, Traverses, Vessels, and Grapples, you can board in cards from any color even when you take out Primal Druid.
Control, on the other hand, was almost impossible. The Marvel decks have a high natural fail-rate, but the control decks do not, and they could easily execute the game plan of dealing with all your threats every single time. At one point I had a main deck Sphinx of the Final Word to Traverse for, and even that wasn’t enough. Torrential Gearhulk was also a major problem, as it’s able to survive combat with anything in your deck on top of being immune to a single Kozilek’s Return.
Right now, the two best decks are Zombies and Marvel. You’re good versus the former, and bad versus the latter. If the balance ever changes too much to the side of Zombies, however, then this is a deck I can easily see myself playing.
I don’t know exactly what I would sideboard, but I would try to have a plan for when Zombies casts Lost Legacy for your Kozilek’s Returns or Deep-Fiends (even if I expect most people to have Dispossess, which does nothing against you). I think a couple of Radiant Flames are good, and you can also just board a second Mountain and have Chandra, Flamecaller.
At some point throughout testing, a Sultai Marvel deck list appeared on Magic Online. It was less Ulamog-centric than normal Marvel lists, and more of a B/G Delirium/Marvel hybrid. Upon further analysis, we decided that the blue cards were just worse than the red cards we could play (Harnessed Lightning is just too good at playing double-duty of removal plus energy provider, and even more so when you’re trying to win some of your games the fair way), and we came up with a rudimentary deck list:
I thought this deck was interesting. It could play a real game with Fatal Pushes, Harnessed Lightnings, Ishkanahs, Noxious Gearhulks, and Lilianas, but it could also play the “turn-4 Ulamog you” game with Aetherworks Marvel. It felt like a B/G Delirium deck that had some dead cards, but would never lose the mirror match because you had access to Ulamogs. As it turns out, the B/G Delirium mirror wasn’t really very important, but the sentiment that you’re a midrange-control deck that can go over the top of everybody remains.
To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure why we dismissed this deck. I think we just stopped working on it. We just found that R/U/G was a better version of it. The best thing to do in a Marvel deck is get Marvel and find Ulamog, and it was just better at doing that.
I’d like to revisit this deck at some point, though, because I think your sideboard plan for the mirror is better (and because I think Demon of Dark Schemes is good and we didn’t have that in our lists). Game 1 you will be a dog to Temur Marvel since they have more Ulamogs and whatnot, and that’s what the game is about, but in game 2 things change.
The key to the post-sideboard Marvel mirror is the ability to add to the board without falling prey to Aetherworks Marvel. In R/U/G, you can do this by being on the play—you can play Rogue Refiner, Whirler Virtuoso, or Tireless Tracker on turn 3 and if they match you, you cast Marvel. If they don’t, you simply pass the turn and react to their Marvel.
If you’re on the draw, however, you’re in a tough spot. The black versions of Marvel bypass that in two ways. The first way is that your sideboard threat, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, costs only 2 mana, and as a result, you can get on the board without fearing a Marvel on the following turn. Of course this is more relevant if you can actually counter a Marvel with your open mana, which this particular version cannot do (but Sultai can).
The second way is to proactively play something like Dispossess, Lost Legacy, or Transgress. Dispossess is the best for this particular role, but you can diversify a little bit. If your opponent taps out on turn 3 to play a creature, then you can Dispossess them and now you have a huge edge because they have to live in mortal fear of Aetherworks Marvel and you do not. Even if they manage to counter all your Marvels, the rest of your deck is just better set up for the fair fight since you have cards like Ishkanah and Liliana.
This is the list I’d try:
Some brews show potential and have you invested for a while before you discard them, and some take 5 games to dismiss. Miracle Gro was one of the latter:
In my mind, this deck worked wonderfully. You’d spend the early turns cycling and finding your land drops, you had cheap interactive spells, and then eventually you’d play some big, undercosted creatures and win in 2 turns. Drake ended up being a little vulnerable to both Push and Grasp, but Serpent is actually very hard to kill. You also had Radiant Flames to clear the way and to help you beat Zombies.
In practice, almost nothing worked the way I expected. The mana base was weird since you needed green on turn 1, then red and blue blue immediately, which was very hard to achieve. Aether Hub was perfect if you drew Attune, but didn’t work at all if you didn’t, since most of the costs in the deck were colored.
I wanted to play the green land searchers since they were basically lands that made Serpent cheaper and Drake bigger, but I couldn’t very well play 12 lands in my deck, so the deck ended up flooding a lot. In many of the games, I’d just cycle cycle cycle until eventually I hit a wall of air and lost from there. I assumed Traverse would mitigate it, but getting delirium was actually very hard.
In the end, there were just too many things that were wrong with it and it didn’t seem like it was worth trying to fix them (or even possible), so I abandoned it.
Delirium decks historically have had problems with permanents such as Aetherworks Marvel, so we turned to white to fix that. Cast Out and Angel of Sanctions were two new cards from Amonkhet that solved some of your problems and also happened to work well with the main core of your deck. Angel of Sanctions can be cast from the graveyard for only a single white, so it’s like you’re drawing a card if you ever mill it, and Cast Out can put an enchantment in the graveyard for only 1 mana, which helps delirium. The list we tested was similar to this:
This deck was decent versus creature decks, but still had problems with control decks and with Marvel. Angel and Cast Out certainly made it better, but the main issue was that you still had almost no pressure. Sure, you could Cast Out their first Marvel, but eventually they’d find a second one and you’d die, or they’d simply hit Ulamog on their first try, or hardcast it, and you’d be in trouble anyway. You can beat an Ulamog with exile effects, but then you also have to deal with the Marvel or they’ll simply find another one.
With Zombies being much more popular than we imagined, and control not being popular at all, I think there are probably ways to tune this deck so that it’s at least playable in the current metagame since Marvel is the one deck you can get better against post-board. Still, Marvel has a sideboard of its own too, with alternate plans that take into account the Dispossesses and Lost Legacys you’ll bring, so it’s no guarantee that you’ll win post-board, and having a bad game 1 versus the most popular deck in the format isn’t appealing to me even when you can bring the post-board matchup to around even.
I laughed at this deck for a while, until I played against it and realized it was actually quite good (though it might have been Matt Nass’s insane draws that made it look good). Everything in your deck is mana, New Perspectives, or cycling—sometimes both—so it’s easy to assemble a turn-5 win that’s very hard to interact with aside from counterspells. This was our list:
For those who don’t know, the combo consists of casting New Perspectives and getting to 7 cards in hand, at which point all your cyclers are free. Shefet Monitor and Vizier of Tumbling Sands both add mana when you cycle them, so you eventually cast a Shadows of the Past to bring all your cyclers back and generate even more mana (Weirding Wood plus Vizier is also a good combo). You end up drawing your entire deck, casting Approach, cycling into it, and casting it again.
The combo is surprisingly good at interacting, since you have Censor, Dissenter’s Deliverance, and Haze of Pollen, which means you can usually stall them to the point where you can land New Perspectives.
In practice, the deck had two problems: one small, one big. The small problem is that other than having to find New Perspectives every single game (which is not hard but also not trivial), the deck also needs 7 cards in hand when you go off. Mulliganing is punishing and if you interact too much, then you won’t be able to do it. They can, for example, Cast Out New Perspectives with the trigger on the stack, at which point you’ll draw 3 but won’t be able to kill them that turn.
The big problem is that you cannot beat a series of sideboard cards. Lost Legacy, for example, is game over. Negate is also quite hard. Transgress is great even when it doesn’t snatch New Perspectives because it brings you to fewer than 7 cards in hand. Any single piece of interaction just makes your life much tougher.
If people adopt Ceremonious Rejections and Dispossesses in their sideboard, then I think this deck can actually be good, as it’s strong against Mardu, Marvel, and Zombies game 1—basically the full spectrum. If people play Transgress, Lost Legacy, and Negate though, then you’re probably never going to win a game.
In the end, if the metagame doesn’t change, I can’t really recommend you play anything other than a Marvel deck. The strategy is just too good right now. Whether it’s better to play Temur, Sultai, Jund, or another combination, I’m not so sure, but I think this is where you should spend your time—find the best version of Marvel. If the metagame does change, either because people figured out a way to beat it or WOTC bans something, or if you simply don’t want to play Marvel, then I’d explore some of the decks here.