I didn’t want to use the word “brew” in this title because it carries some strange connotations. People expect something wild or crazy to be going on, almost to the point where it’s valued over competitiveness.
Well, that’s not really what I’m doing here. Most of the time, and especially with Standard, my primary goal is to design decks that win. If I’m using a card or strategy that appears janky or strange, it’s because I want to learn something specific. If the collective mind discarded an idea, I want to know why. If it turns out that they simply overlooked it, well that’s useful too.
A few people asked me for updates, so I figured I’d share a few words.
The main concept for this deck was, “Hey, almost no one in this format can beat a Hornet Nest, why not play four of them?” which worked out spectacularly well.
It’s still solid, too. Recently, Sam 4-0’d Dailies on three consecutive days, which is some kind of good sign.
We differ on a couple of slots. He doesn’t like Mana Confluence because he’s wrong, but these are quibbles and the core of the deck remains unchanged. The biggest difference to BEES from when I played it in the TCGChamps is where it sits in the metagame.
For a few weeks, this was one of the best positioned decks despite having an atrocious Ascendancy combo matchup. The good news is, Ascendancy is now running a bunch of very burnable heroic dorks instead of Sylvan Caryatids and needs to win by attacking on the ground. Our worst matchup morphed into another deck that can’t beat a Hornet Nest.
That said, the deck’s absolute best matchup in Temur Aggro has fallen off.
Mardu midrange is another deck that has picked up steam over the past month. Like Jeskai midrange, it can beat BEES by tempo’ing out removal into fast fliers. Post-board, they have more draw and sweepers to become a sort of control deck that applies faster pressure, which is kind of a nightmare for the BEES deck.
The reason Junk is a good matchup is because most of them win so slowly that you have time to accrue value and grind them down. If they overload on sweepers, they’ll be weak to planeswalkers because they lack the burn and hasty flier aspect of Jeskai and Mardu. That said, the Junk players are getting more and more experience and are way less likely to sabotage their deck after misconstruing their role in the matchup, which used to be common.
All said and done the deck is still profitable, and better than most of the things you could be doing, though I’ve been burning out on it. The deck does the same thing every game, and a lot comes down to whether or not your opponent has a hand that can beat your game plan or not.
Sometimes I switch decks to react to meta shifts, but more often than not it’s to keep my brain engaged. I like puzzle solving so I can feel clever, and that feeling is more common when learning a new deck.
Getting something new to work is a puzzle in its own right, and I’ve always thought that building a good deck was more rewarding than cashing in on it.
Inspiration comes to everyone differently. Some deckbuilders like to read through lists of cards, hoping to notice some obscure interaction. Others specialize in one archetype and focus on making it viable in whatever format they’re playing. Others still take cards or decks they like in one format and try porting them to another.
It doesn’t matter what your method is so long as the end result has merit. Personally, I like looking over lists until I find some strange interaction I hadn’t noticed before, which sends me on a crazy journey of discarded shells before I finally end up somewhere completely different from where I started.
In this case, I was looking at Ali Aintrazi’s control deck:
UB Delve Control, by Ali Aintrazi
Ali has a long pedigree of original control lists, and this is one of my favorites. To fuel the eight Delve draw spells, he maximizes on efficient disruption, and because his disruption curve is so low that means that Ashiok is more likely to go nuts.
Another neat thing about this list is all of the off-color fetches. This thins the deck, and in the late game his Cruises are much more likely to draw gas, and the rest of his deck is designed to ensure he reaches the late game. More importantly, it takes off some of the casting cost of all his delve spells.
So the deck is well constructed, with the right disruption and the right removal and the right threats all supported by a sweet draw engine, but that wasn’t what caught my eye. Rather, I saw the two Grindclocks in the sideboard. Now, I know they’re just there for the UB control matchup, but I had to wonder how often one might use it to self-mill in order to fuel Delve.
That got me wondering if a deck could be built to take advantage of that interaction, and I started looking at other ways to self-mill.
Satyr Wayfinder has been the delve enabler of choice for a lot of decks, to the point that Ascendancy combo plays it over more combo pieces.
Jeskai Elder is an interesting tool. As we’ve seen with Ascendancy, repeated loots are a great way to fuel delve while also filtering for the delve cards. My problem with Elder is that Grindclock’s game plan doesn’t have much synergy with pushing through small ground-pounders. Sure, we could build a different sort of deck with Swiftspears and such, but that sounds like a worse Jeskai Midrange or Heroic Ascendancy deck.
Taigam’s Scheming is on-color with both of the blue delve cards, but it’s pretty bad. I mean, it was at its best in Ascendancy combo, and even there it wasn’t good.
At this point, I was muddling around with various UG decks. I really liked how keeping it two colors let me run off-color fetchlands for delve, and I liked how Grindclock tapped to scry with a Courser in play. However, I wasn’t winning. Even if I did land a turn two Grindclock into an early delve spell, I was drawing a lot of air and flooding on draw spells was a real possibility. I lacked the heavy interaction of Aintrazi’s deck, but if I took that approach I would no longer need a dedicated delve enabler. The solution was to come up with a game plan that naturally beat whatever the opponent was doing.
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant fit the bill for everything I wanted to do, elegantly solving my need for a win condition that could take advantage of and work alongside Grindclock while generating an unbeatable board presence.
With a Grindclock in play, you can play Sidisi, get a trigger, then immediately tap Grindclock to get a second trigger. If they kill Sidisi on their turn, no matter, just find another one and start pumping out tokens again.
After moving into a three-color deck, Dig Through Time’s cost became more and more of an issue, and I still needed more cards to have an impact on the board. Fortunately, Murderous Cut is one of the best delve spells in Standard, and running the black Swords to Plowshares solved a lot of tempo problems as well as giving me enough answers to draw into with Treasure Cruise.
My initial list looked something like this:
This deck worked, and I was winning a decent amount, although drawing into Grindclock felt awful. I never had the time to get it going, and it would rot in my hand if I drew it after a certain stage in the game.
On turn two, Grindclock was sweet, turning on a chain of Cruises and Sidisi triggers. However, to get it early I had to run more of them, increasing the air for Cruise later on.
The natural solution was to cut the Grindclocks for cards that are better off the top:
“… but but Caleb!”
Yes, I realize we cut the very card we set out to build around, but sometimes that’s what it takes. Most decks only have so many slots to work with, and it’s our job as deckbuilders to trim the fat when it calls for it.
Your success as a deckbuilder isn’t reliant on whether or not one specific idea is any good, but whether you learn enough from the failed projects to eventually build winning decks. Learning why something doesn’t work isn’t as good as solving a format, but it’s still valuable information.
As far as this deck goes, it’s what I’d register if there was a Grand Prix tomorrow. There are some parallels to the BEES deck, and both are great at gumming up the ground against creature-based strategies before destroying them with a superior late game. The main difference is that this deck has more draw power and disruptive sideboard options for the more grindy and controlling matchups.
I realize that Sidisi + Whip isn’t exactly fresh technology, but Treasure Cruise fills some holes in the deck’s strategy, churning out fast card advantage and connecting all the deck’s various engines.
Looking over similar lists, most have Hornet Queens in that slot, which I don’t like at all. Queen is obviously powerful and a good one to Whip back, but in order to cast the ones you draw naturally you have to devote another 3-4 slots to mana, increasing the chances of flood while also gumming up a lot of early-to-mid-game draws.
In half the matchups, Queen is too slow to be relevant. Everyone else has adapted, and the card isn’t nearly as good as it was a month ago.
The effect simply isn’t needed. If Sidisi isn’t good enough, Sidisi + Doomwake Giant is.
I’ve been happy with the deck’s sideboard. Prognostic Sphinx has been so good at shutting down troublesome fliers that I’ve flirted with maindecking a copy or two.
Here’s a quick little guide. If you have questions about a specific matchup, feel free to ask about it in the forums.
I was listening to a Chapin & Flores podcast the other day and Chapin made an interesting point on how Sylvan Caryatid was bad in the Abzan mirror because the matchup often comes down to who milks their Coursers for more value. The early game is all about trading spells and Thoughtseizing, and whoever draws better from there is likely to win, making Caryatid a liability.
With a pile of cheap disruption coming in, that idea applies here as well.