This week I’ll be going over some of the less refined decks and brews I’ve been working on for the past week. These are not quite at the level they need to be to sleeve up and battle with, but each one explores an idea that just needed one or two additions before Origins, or fell out of favor when the metagame became hostile.
First up, a focus on Kytheon—without any weird bells, whistles, or second colors.
As usual, Craig Wescoe provided some of the missing pieces, and he’s a treasure trove if you ever want to try building a base-white deck. In this case the build still feels underpowered, but that’s purely because we’re at the end of Standard and every deck has hit its final form. In this case the white devotion deck always had two major problems:
- There was no payoff for heavy devotion or a ton of mana
- It couldn’t beat sweepers
The answer to the first of these was to jam Mastery of the Unseen with Secure the Wastes to hedge against Dromoka’s Command. Being able to generate a ton of tokens or manifests is by no means a guaranteed victory, but the deck is pretty good at setting up situations where you can just start alpha striking, and even losing 2-3 creatures per attack still means you win the game. As for Mastery being soft to Dromoka’s Command, both Eidolon of Countless Battles and Spear of Heliod take some heat off of it. Eidolon in particular does a good job of helping to power Kytheon through and provides a respectable 3-drop when you don’t have a Brimaz.
Unfortunately, the sweeper problem has never really been solved. Languish destroys the deck, and while I considered splashing Collected Company, the deck wasn’t creature-heavy enough to get the payoff needed. Blue is the obvious next step, though I think not having a good 2-mana counter is rough. Negate is reasonable against sweepers in general, but this deck does not have enough raw power to afford potentially dead draws.
While searching for a tool that would let me outlast or ignore Languish, I returned to an old favorite—Whip of Erebos. Whip builds have been some of my favorite decks to brew over the past year. A big reason why I wanted to return to it is the interaction with flip planeswalkers. One easy way to net both sides off a Nissa is to cast her early, have her die, and Whip her into play and play your 7th land. Since she heads off to exile before she comes back, Erebos says, “yep, my work is done here” and leaves to get a coffee. Meanwhile you get back a Sage Animist or a Defiant Necromancer to do battle with.
Nissa works best for this purpose just because she can easily meet her own trigger condition. Meanwhile, in a world without Viscera Seer, Cabal Therapy, Cartel Aristocrat, or similar mechanisms, Liliana a lot harder to abuse. Fleshbag Marauder is by no means a great card, but should be respectable now that many decks will adapt to or use Languish. There’s also nothing that says you have to use Liliana in such a deck either, it’s possible her time simply hasn’t come yet.
This was my functional baseline and while it lacked the raw power of older Whip decks, it could grind out the green devotion decks and hold its own against Abzan. I found that Abzan Megamorph was incredibly hard to put away, and if Abzan Control ever saw their Ugin you couldn’t win. In fact the only reason any Whip deck is viable at the moment is because Ugin decks have been suppressed to a large degree. After looking at this situation, my next task was to return to older Ugin ramp decks:
At its heart, Frontier Siege is both a way to ramp out faster than opposing decks trying to go big and a way to duck Languish. Yeah it still sucks getting your board nuked, but at least Siege still means you can cast your Whisperwood Elemental or Genesis Hydra for 3-4 the turn after. Ugin also trumps any clunky setup deck that may become good in the future such as Constellation or Whip, and ends the Abzan Megamorph chain. Leaning on Frontier Siege is a lot better if Abzan Control sees a downturn post-Origins, since the number of Dromoka’s Commands running around should drop off.
I’m very interested to see what people cook up this weekend—whether we just see the old guard, or if the new players from Magic Origins immediately find homes. C’mon Pyromancer’s Goggles…