I spent last week trying to find any way not to register Aetherworks Marvel at Grand Prix Montreal. Let me tell you how.
Chandra, Flamecaller is a piece of technology that almost everyone missed at the Pro Tour, aside from Team Genesis. Chandra is the reason why Temur Marvel is now the uncontested best deck in the format—it can now beat Zombies. At the Pro Tour, that wasn’t quite the case as Zombies could go wide enough to ignore Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.
So there was no way I was going to register Zombies again, and even more so because one of Zombies’s worst matchups is Blue-Red Control, and I expected that to pick up in popularity, considering it has a decent Marvel matchup in addition to a great Zombies matchup.
Initially, I was going to give up and play Temur Marvel with Chandra no questions asked.
Then this little guy came to mind.
If I had it main deck alongside a few other counterspells and a good creature base, I’m sure it would be good against Marvel and Blue-Red.
These 8 cards were in every blue-white deck that I tried throughout the week.
Glory-Bound Initiate is one of the best 2-drops available in those colors, and a 2-drop is necessary if I’m going to hold up counterspells later.
In my first sketch I had Spell Shrivel, but quickly realized that if I’m going to have Thraben Inspector and maybe other artifacts, I might as well run Metallic Rebuke since, if it ever costs 2 mana, it’ll be way better than Spell Shrivel. If not, then it’s not that far off.
The fact that white doesn’t have great removal is an issue—I went for Declaration in Stone since having removal against Marvel and Blue-Red Control is not that important. I figured that I might as well have one that’s great against Zombies.
It turns out that those core cards were very good against the field, but, despite not facing Zombies during my few days of testing on Magic Online, I imagined that matchup to be atrocious since my deck was so skewed toward beating the two decks I most expected.
I eventually got to test the Zombies matchup more thoroughly with a friend, and my conclusions got me to this list.
The takeaway was that Zombies was just a horrendous matchup no matter how I built my deck. The better I made my deck in that matchup, the more my Marvel and Blue-Red matchup took a hit, and I didn’t want that.
I decided to move every card that was good in that matchup to the sideboard. Hence the maniacal sideboard plan. You’re still not favored overall, as things need to go right for you immediately after you lose game 1, but the rest of the sideboard slots didn’t feel necessary for the rest of the field.
Aethersphere Harvester had to go entirely since it didn’t fit well with the control plan—it was only good because it helped race pre-board.
For a long time I had Anguished Unmaking over Cast Out and a couple of Fatal Push in the sideboard, but eventually decided those were not necessary and that I should make my mana a little better by running slightly worse cards (Cast Out and Stasis Snare). That’s when I went from 4 Aether Hub to 2 and added 2 Island.
Eldrazi Skyspawner was originally Aethersphere Harvester, but the consistent issue I had with the expensive sideboard plan was not having enough mana. Skyspawner lets you cast Fumigate and Skysovereign a turn earlier and incidentally works well with the main deck. It crews Heart of Kiran, protects Gideon, and the Scion token can flip Archangel Avacyn effortlessly.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the guts to register the deck because I thought people would still play a ton of Zombies. I regret that decision deeply, since it was nowhere to be seen in the top tables.
If I had a tournament to play in the next few weeks, I would sleeve this up, and I encourage you to do so as well.
Here’s a quick sideboard plan that you should use loosely. Consider play/draw as a factor in your decision whether to keep or cut a few counterspells and Gideon in matchups where I side some out.