With rotation right around the corner, let’s just say now isn’t the time to hold anything back. When a Pro Tour is approaching, I open a new Google Doc to take notes and jot down ideas. I do all of my brewing for the Pro Tour on this single doc as it grows in size.
Sometimes this gets a bit chaotic. There will be lists of one archetype or idea in the middle of a group of another idea, breaking the flow should you read it top to bottom. I could probably organize it a bit better, but part of the benefit is that it is an open forum for a flow of ideas. I don’t want to be neat and tidy, I just want to put down what I am thinking and what I am brewing.
Needless to say though, there are a lot of ideas and decks that I don’t play or even consider for the Pro Tour. These ideas float on for another time when some new card is printed or the meta shifts enough to consider it again. I revisit that doc throughout the Standard format every week or so just to see if anything slipped through the cracks.
A very similar thing happened for Pro Tour Portland. I jotted down all of my ideas and many of them are still sitting on that doc, untouched for months. However, I figured that rotation was just around the corner and holding on to a bunch of ideas that would soon be obsolete helps basically no one. Instead, I figured I would go over some of these brews as well as bring you some updates on brews from the past.
If anyone has taken the time to examine the various five-drop creatures that would benefit most from haste, you have probably run across a few cards and just thought, “Man that would be good…” Unfortunately, the idea of building your entire deck around a 2/1 is pretty scary and leads to some fragile shells, so nothing has really stuck. One of these cards I am talking about is Master of Cruelties, which is featured in a few decks I have written about recently. Another one of these cards is Kalonian Hydra, which comes down essentially as an 8/8 trampler with haste that also can anthem your team under the right conditions. What might those conditions be though?
This list might very well need some additional mana sources as it is tough to balance a deck that sort of has 8 extra mana sources floating around but also sort of doesn’t. This deck can open up on some of the most aggressive lines of any deck in the format. And although those lines do involve one of your mana-producing 2/1s to live, the deck plays a pretty solid aggressive game even without any of them sticking. Just to give you some examples of the lines this deck has:
All of these scenarios can be done with either mana producer for the most part (with some exceptions), although obviously haste might be lost. Even with that being the case, producing this much pressure and board presence that early into the game is huge. In the Exava line, for example, you are threatening a hasty turn with access to 4 mana, that could be game-ending! Or in the Genesis Hydra example, you are untapping with 11 power in play and 4 direct damage.
Generating Aggressive Mining
Generator Servant is one of those cards that will continue to capture my imagination as we move through the next year of its legality and the following shell is something that mostly sticks around through rotation.
The rough idea here is to generate a strong turn-3 play off of a Generator Servant or Satyr Hedonist. It might be the case that we actually just want more Hedonists in this list due to our mana concerns, especially with cards like Mizzium Mortars in our deck, so for now, I have the numbers in favor of the one that does not grant haste. That said, unless our board is stacked, our five-drops do not really benefit from haste anyway.
We basically just want to get a Karametra down early and begin abusing its triggered ability, something that most decks simply cannot do. At some point, we hit Aggressive Mining during all of this. Our life total should be pretty well preserved due to Courser of Kruphix, Primeval Bounty, Bow of Nylea, and even Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. Once we find Aggressive Mining, we get to turn into a deck with a ton of inevitability thanks to Bow of Nylea and the ability to constantly put lands and key spells back in our deck. A second Bow in the board is needed for decks with access to artifact/enchantment removal, but I have found 1 to be enough main as they cannot hold their removal in the face of Mining, Karametra, and Primeval Bounty all going off.
You can use all of this inevitability and time to make a ton of 3/3s with Hammer of Purphoros, go nuts with Primeval Bounty, or just gain hundreds of life with Ajani, but ultimately the game is pretty well wrapped. Many times, just attacking with an active Karametra turn after turn will even be enough.
While exploring various graveyard decks for the Pro Tour, it was hard to ignore an archetype that I thought was quite good just a few months prior, but never really saw the play I thought it deserved. Jund Dredge was pretty interesting as it got to close games out much faster in exchange for some worse mana. The addition of painlands and the strength of the Temples makes me think this still has some raw power behind it.
I am experimenting with the Stockpiles for now to give the deck a more consistent late game, but the environment might just make that a bad move. You definitely want access to cards like Gift of Orzhova and probably Scavenging Ooze in the sideboard as the aggressive, burn-heavy decks can be a real problem otherwise.
Naya Ranks n’ Chord
Two of my favorite cards to come out of M15 both have convoke and both allow a player to develop a really strong toolbox engine and with only slight concession in terms of deck restrictions. Both cards very much enjoy being in creature-heavy decks and if you were to examine all of the 2-drops and less of the format, green/white is already a natural home for Return to the Ranks.
There is a pretty good chance that this deck just wants a card like Elvish Mystic as one of its 4-ofs in order to have more consistent early Domri Rades and the like, but one of the benefits of playing expensive cards with convoke is that our Soldier of the Pantheons and Voices of Resurgence just get to be Elvish Mystic some amount of the time anyway.
The toolbox package is a little extensive here and it is probably likely that Soul of Theros is just too far out of the question. Tutoring up an Aegis of the Gods in response to Thoughtseize or Imposing Sovereign in response to an Elspeth activation that they thought would win them the game just feels pretty dang good. And Return to the Ranks gives you a lot of resilience to sweepers, as does Voice of Resurgence, so you even match up well against control.
The Motion of the Notion
I have been experimenting with the following shell for quite a while. While I have never gotten this to the point where I would be comfortable showing up to a Grand Prix with the list in tow, I definitely think it is competitive and a lot of fun, it just has a few very bad matchups.
I have included the sideboard with this one to address the weak matchup against aggressive decks. If you wanted to, you could even make the Mutavaults in the main deck into Radiant Fountain, which is a strategy I have tried before. You end up drawing and seeing a lot of cards, so gaining 2-4 life is not uncommon in a normal game. That is a full card against burn or a full turn against creature based aggro at times. Mutavault proved to be more useful in more matchups, but both colorless lands are an option. If you wanted to go far off the deep end, Encroaching Wastes could play a role.
Ashiok is an experimental option as it puts a lot of pressure on the opponent fast and rewards us for the meddling we do in the meantime. Winning with Notion Thieves is doable, but not the fastest thing in the world, and one awkward top deck from the opponent can turn things around. Pack Rat is another option in this Ashiok slot.
Third Threat Stockpile
As I mentioned at the start, I wanted to bring you a few updates for some of the other decks I have worked on recently. Here is the Stockpile shell I played at the Pro Tour with Pack Rat as an additional 2-mana engine to give you a full twelve.
Lastly I wanted to document the latest tweaks to the Esper Ghast list I wrote about for a few weeks back. The deck needed another land, possibly even one more beyond that, so I added a Temple of Deceit to hedge a little in that direction. I also cut the most expensive card—In Garruk’s Wake—which helped things out a bit. An Elspeth gives you another pseudo sweeper and board presence that can transition you from the early to late game. It also curves out nicely from Liliana.
Well that is it for today! Hopefully there are enough cool toys here to play with while we wait for Khans to come out. As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you later this week!