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NQTY: Lupine Prototype, Madcap Experiment, and Rashmi, Eternities Crafter

Welcome to the last installment in this round of Not Quite There Yet (NQTY) where I’ll look at Standard cards that haven’t quite made the cut, and still need to prove their cardboard chops. Differing circumstances might let them do that in the future, and I’m here today to discuss what some of those circumstances might be.

Lupine Prototype

2-mana 5/5. What is this, Tarmogoyf? Okay, so Lupine Prototype takes a bit more work than Tarmogoyf to get going, but that comparison does show the type of payoff you get when you’re working around this card. Unfortunately, when it doesn’t work, you get a card that does absolutely nothing, and that’s pretty brutal. But there’s still hope! There are ways to get around the Prototype’s downside—check out this experimental deck I tried earlier this season:

Black-Red Aggro

I thought the nombo of Orrery + Prototype would be manageable through a bunch of discard, but that ended up just being bad deckbuilding. This deck aimed to dump its hand as quickly as possible, all while burning the opponent out and then attacking for 5 with the Prototype, sometimes with evasion via Key to the City. When it worked, it really was something, and with tuning and the right ways to dump its hand I could see some potential.

One option you don’t see here but that combines particularly well with Prototype is Noose Constrictor. Cards that let you completely dump your hand are very powerful, but Olivia’s Dragoon is just a little too weak and probably not worth playing in black Lupine Prototype decks. With enough 1-shot discard effects, you can still effectively turn on the Prototype, but that’s a lot more work. If you do pair such cards with a bunch of cheap spells, it shouldn’t be hard to start attacking for 5 quickly.

One problem was that I was getting run over by faster decks since they could goldfish me before I got my synergy online. In games that went longer and actually let me start attacking with the Prototype, I could often find a way to get in enough damage for a win. If only something existed that could buy me time but also help me dump my hand…

Aether Revolt helps breathe new life into the Prototype thanks to this new cycle. Sram’s Expertise has also been previewed and might be a great fit for a white Prototype deck as long as there’s other support, though that does seem like it will be harder since white isn’t a discard and madness color. If nothing else, there might be a few different ways to build aggressive decks besides Mardu Vehicles with the new set.

Recipe for Lupine Prototype’s success:

  • A synergy-driven aggressive deck.
  • Enough cheap spells worth running or way to discard cards for enough value.
  • A powerful enough shell that the downside of Prototype is worth working around instead of playing a generically good aggressive deck.

Madcap Experiment

There’s no real way to cheat on taking damage from Madcap Experiment in Standard besides Consulate Surveillance, but that requires a large setup cost before you can even cast the Experiment, and also requires you to care about energy. Dan Ward did take on this challenge at PT Kaladesh:

Madcap Experiment

As you can see here, the deck is trying to enact a bunch of different cool plan, and can occasionally combo with Madcap Experiment and Consulate Surveillance. This is one way to approach Madcap Experiment as a 2-card combo, though it’s a tough puzzle to crack because there are so many parameters you have to build around. Since the PT, this plan has fallen out of favor, and Madcap Experiment hasn’t seen any additional play.

Another route is to just play a ton of artifacts and hope to take as little damage as possible with Madcap Experiment while cheating a game dominating artifact into play. Currently there’s only the Gearhulk cycle and perhaps Skysovereign that are worth looking at, but what if another great haymaker or two get printed in Aether Revolt? One problem with this style of deck is that you’ll end up drawing uncastable artifacts, but you do have Tormenting Voice and Cathartic Reunion at your disposal. At that point, Refurbish becomes a legitimate option and the deck would have eight 4-mana ways to cheat giant artifacts into play. It might just be crazy enough to work.

There are two ways to approach building a combo deck. You can create an all-in version where you’ll often win if you find your key card. This would be the Consulate Surveillance version, which would ensure you hit your game-winning artifact every time. The second is when there are a bunch of different combos and key cards you can draw, each less powerful than an all-in combo, but consistent enough that they all play into a reasonable game plan. The early Temur versions of Marvel versus the later Ishkanah versions are a good way to think of this divide. Either avenue could work for Madcap Experiment in Standard, but I think the latter is more likely.

Recipe for Madcap Experiment’s success:

  • A couple more good artifacts that are worth cheating into play.
  • A network of synergies and combos, since Madcap Experiment doesn’t have enough support as an all-in card in Standard.

Rashmi, Eternities Crafter

Cascade was a pretty absurd mechanic, and while Rashmi doesn’t actually let you cascade, she does offer hope of repeated effects. Worst case, she ends up drawing a bunch of cards over time. She has seen zero Standard play, though, and that’s due to a combination of two factors. The first is that she doesn’t impact the board the turn she is cast. A 4-mana do nearly nothing spell is a pretty tough sell, so she better offer some insane upside. The other problem is that Rashmi incentivizes you to cast spells on your opponent’s turn in addition to your own turn. One of the best things to do on your opponent’s turn is counter their spells, but that doesn’t work well with Rashmi because you “cascade” into counters, which is not particularly exciting.

There are two ways to get around this problem. The first is to include a bunch of cheap spells, many of which are instants. This lets you trigger Rashmi on your turn and your opponent’s, even though you won’t get all that many free spells off her ability. But with enough cheap cards that all end up cantripping, you might be able to simply out-card your opponent. The second is to have a go-big approach. Untapping, casting a 5-drop and hitting a 3- or 4-drop is a pretty good deal. But you have to do more than that, because you skipped your turn 4, while your opponent kept developing and playing powerful haymakers like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. In all likelihood, a successful Rashmi shell will probably need to have components of both deckbuilding approaches to succeed.

Cheap spells that let you interact on your opponent’s turn while building up card advantage, and big spells cascading into others on your turn, could carve out some space in Standard for this underutilized legend. Whatever the shell, I can almost guarantee it will play Unsubstantiate. A Remand/Repulse split card when Rashmi is in play is pretty nice and it’s cheap enough you can often play a threat on your turn while holding up Unsubstantiate on your opponent’s.

The third avenue that could open up in future sets is a way to manipulate the top of your deck. I find this unlikely, as WotC has shied away from printing these types of effects in Standard, and something safe like a Crystal Ball reprint wouldn’t really be worth running anyway. Rashmi is worth remembering though if these effects do get printed.

Rashmi’s recipe for success:

  • Good instants like Unsubstantiate that you can hold up on your opponent’s turn.
  • A combination of cheap and expensive spells that let you trigger Rashmi a lot while casting free spells from time to time.
  • An environment in which casting a 4-mana do-nothing card isn’t a game-losing play.

I’ll be back next time to talk about new cards and then get back to brewing once Aether Revolt hits the shelves. Let me know if you enjoyed this and would like to see more NQTY in a few months when we await Amonkhet’s arrival.

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