The first week of Aether Revolt results are in and the changes have shaken Standard up in a big way. “The Combo” had a decisive impact right away…
How many Cats are too many Cats?
Whether you love or hate 2-card “win the game” combos, Copy Cat will be a force moving forward. The combo is effective at ending the game, but also adds a lot of value in that the opponent has to go to great lengths to respect and play around it every turn.
Learn. Apply it.
I knew the combo was on everyone’s mind and I didn’t want to play the deck with a bull’s-eye painted on it. I worked on a U/R Dynavolt Tower deck with Team Ann Arbor members Andrew Elenbogen and Kyle Boggemes for the Open.
I lost a close win-and-in for Day 2, but despite the disappointing result, I felt real potential in certain aspects of my deck. My losses were all by a razor’s edge and I knew my build was sub-optimal after a few rounds were under my belt.
Hindsight is 20/20, but learning from an experience and applying it to future experiences is the path to wonderfulness. Do you know what else is wonderful? Flipping Thing in the Ice…
Not even Kurt Russell could stop The Thing once it got out of the ice. Just saying…
One last-minute change to the deck was the addition of Thing in the Ice. Our original list included multiple copies of Baral, Chief of Compliance, which all three of us separately grew to believe was an underachiever as time wore on.
We needed a cheap spell to replace Baral, Chief of Incompetence and the Thing in the Ice seemed like a suitable replacement in our U/R Spells deck. In retrospect, I wish I had another day or two to work on the deck because I would have quickly learned I wasn’t pushing the Thing in the Ice angle enough.
I ended up playing a version of the deck with Dynavolt Towers and Thing in the Ice, and the lesson was that trying to do both was too unfocused. Here is the version of the deck I would consider playing moving forward.
U/R Thing Control
It is too easy to say I should have played a different deck instead after a tournament, and doing so misses the point of how Magic works. We do the best we can with the information we have at the time and there are so many unknown variables (for instance, what matchups we will play against).
After an event, I like to take time to think about the deck list I submitted and what I liked or didn’t like about it. It’s a perfect opportunity to exercise and hone those critical thinking skills that are so important in MTG.
It also just gives you a better deck in your gauntlet of decks to choose from for next time. I may decide I want to try something else, but at least I have a tuned-up deck on the back-burner while my teammates and I work on new brews.
Moral of the story: Rebuild your decks after an event! Even if you never intend to play a deck again after a tournament, take some time and think about how it could have been built better, what worked and what didn’t work, and how the sideboard plans could have been better. The devil is in the details and learning how to sort through this information will help you make better card choices in the future.
Here We Draw-Go Again!
U/R Thing Control is just a “draw-go” counterspell-based control deck. The objective is to make land drops, draw extra cards, and minimize the opponent’s board presence until you can stabilize by flipping Thing or deploying blue Gearhulk.
“The Gatewatch is in big trouble once I break outta this ice…”
One of the biggest problems facing a counterspell deck is a problematic planeswalker slipping through the cracks and generating too much value over the course of several turns. A permission-based control deck just doesn’t have enough cheap creatures to reliably pressure these kinds of threats.
Thing changes this dynamic, because once it flips, it bounces all potential blockers and can directly attack and kill a planeswalker. Assuming, of course, that the Thing can survive long enough to flip…
The major change I made to the main deck was to cut Dynavolt Towers in favor of more Negates and Dispels, which not only makes the deck more nimble but has the added bonus of protecting and flipping Thing in the Ice.
Trying to “Go wide?” How about “Go Away?”
Flipping a Thing is also a fantastic answer to token decks that try to go wide. Traditionally, a deck full of cards that make two creatures are great against a deck with 1-for-1 removal, but bouncing a bunch of tokens often translates into hard removal, which is great!
Just say no.
6 hard counters, 4 Negates, and 4 Torrential Gearhulks to buy them back is a lot of “No,” and the basic premise of what the deck does. Stop the things that matter and turn the corner with Thing or Gearhulk (two cards that are perfect for turning the corner).
Gearhulk is obviously great because it can counter their threat the turn it comes into play, which never requires you to take the shields down. Thing in the Ice is also a perfect threat because it is so cheap, meaning it can come down early and block while it ticks down or can come down on a later turn allowing you to still have counterspell mana up.
Scatter to the Winds wover-performed for me. It was kind of like the world’s worst Torrential Gearhul, which is still pretty decent. I was able to awaken a few times and the 3/3 body was a big deal in a couple of games.
Control Sideboard Gems
The biggest problem with my 75 at the Open was that my sideboard was virtually unplayable and gave me very little help against the field. It was funny that the best thing I could do in most matchups was to board out my Dynavolt Towers for Negate and Dispel, which meant that I was sideboarding into my current main deck most games!
Bizarro-world Kibler where he’s an outcast instead of TCG Tom Brady.
I only had 1 copy of Dragonmaster Outcast, but it over-performed and I wished I had a second copy.
I really enjoy having super cheap threats like Thing in the Ice and Dragonmaster Outcast in a control mirror. You can play them out for very little investment while also leaving mana up to play counterspells or interact, and it will quickly dominate a game.
For 5 mana you get Gremlins X=2: The New Batch. Hilarious and underrated film.
I had 0 copies of Release the Gremlins in my 75, but realized a few rounds in that it would have been an amazing sideboard card in my deck.
In a format full of artifacts, Manic Vandal is solid—Manic Vandal that can also be multiple Manic Vandals borders on nutty. It is a clean answer to Vehicles like Heart of Kiran or Aethersphere Harvester, random aggro critters like Metallic Mimic, and is a house against Metalwork Colossus decks.
I also have an angle where I can board out Thing in the Ice and win with Metallurgic Summonings and Confiscation Coup instead. I like this angle against grindy decks that are going to prepare for Thing in the Ice after sideboard—it completely blanks efficient removal spells by providing no good targets.
I haven’t gotten to play an actual draw-go counterspell-based control deck in a long time and it really took me back in time. I had almost forgotten the look of dejected frustration that comes across a midrange player’s face when you counter a fifth consecutive spell in a row.