The 2-deck Standard metagame of G/B Delirium and U/W Flash has been evolving. R/W Dwarves or Mardu Vehicles are excellent decks, but if you are the kind of player who enjoys playing online, you’ve been facing lots of R/G Aetherworks Marvel.
Control seems to be held down pretty well, but still sees a small amount of play. While Marvel hasn’t completely taken off in bigger paper tournaments, its large presence online means that you have to be aware of it. Know what it does, and know what your game plan is against it if you’re planning on attending Grand Prix Denver, the Invitational, or playing on MTGO any time soon.
The evolution of Marvel has been an interesting one. This is the list that took Matthew Nass to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Kaladesh:
Matthew Nass, Top 8 at PT Kaladesh
This is very much a combo deck with no other reasonable path to victory. Emrakul, the Promised End can be hard cast, but it would likely take a Contingency Plan to help load up the graveyard enough to ever cast it. You can expect Emrakul, the Promised End to cost you 8 mana, and there’s no way to ramp yourself. This also means that Ulamog is essentially a complete blank in your hand except in the most extreme circumstances.
Instead, this deck uses plenty of cards that naturally result in card disadvantage. Contingency Plan is the type of card that novices are told is completely unplayable. You’re spending mana and a card for simply setting up your library—it’s a rare circumstance where this is an acceptable condition, but it’s excellent in this deck.
Glint-Nest Crane is another example. The creature itself isn’t big enough to block many things reliably and matches up quite poorly, except as a chump blocker against format all-star Smuggler’s Copter. There are only 12 total artifacts in the deck, so the likelihood of hitting isn’t even particularly high. And hitting either Puzzleknot, neither of which offers any sort of card advantage, isn’t generally what I’d consider exciting.
The reason why all of this works is that Aetherworks Marvel is effectively a 1-card combo. An artifact combo piece that costs 4 mana makes it easy to construct a framework.
You’re completely okay having a hand of “bad” or “uncastable” cards if you have a Marvel in play that has a high likelihood of hitting an Eldrazi and taking over the game. The risk is worth the reward.
With Glassblower’s Puzzleknots, Contingency Plans, and Glint-Nest Cranes, finding an Aetherworks Marvel is easy. With tons of cards that create far more energy than you’ll ever actually need, along with 8 massive Eldrazi to win the game, this deck has the ability to win on the spot. This is a great place to be in a format where nobody is able to disrupt your Marvels.
Now, that isn’t exactly the format we have. If you’re going to play against only B/G Delirium and white creature decks, going all-in on your combo is completely reasonable. But that doesn’t play well against blue cards.
There isn’t a single good way to kill a Spell Queller in this deck. You can make it smaller with an Aether Meltdown, but that won’t do the trick. A pair of Kozilek’s Return could get the job done, but that isn’t entirely realistic (and doesn’t work against Selfless Spirit or Archangel Avacyn or another counter). Returning a Kozilek’s Return would help, but how are you resolving an Eldrazi if they stop your Marvel?
The sideboard was built knowing that countermagic was going to be a major problem. There’s a full playset of Dispels to go along with a Negate. There are also Ceremonious Rejections to deal with the mirror and get an edge there. None of these are effective tools against U/W Flash. If U/W Flash continues to be a major player in the metagame, the Temur Marvel deck really has no game against it.
The most recent evolution of Marvel has come by combining B/G Delirium with the Marvel deck. I broke down that deck in a previous article.
That deck hasn’t picked up any steam since its first performance in a Standard Open. The results weren’t blowing anyone away, but it has potential for someone to dig into deeper.
The R/G Marvel deck, spearheaded by MTGO Superstar Jaberwocki, a.k.a. Logan Nettles, continues to see a ton of play. For every 5 matches I play on Magic Online, I face this deck twice. You should be acutely aware of its existence and what it’s capable of.
Here’s the list Nettles used to Top 4 the Magic Online PTQ last weekend:
JABERWOCKI, Top 4 in the MTGO Standard PTQ
This list is a result of meticulous tuning and tons of matches played. With his pile of MTGO Standard League trophies climbing steadily, you know that Jaberwocki knows what he’s doing.
This main deck is excellent and there are few changes I would even consider.
The Aetherworks Marvels are what make the deck work. This is your entire engine and your continued fuel to cast powerful spells for free.
Emrakul, the Promised End is the best free spell you can cast. You’re going to decimate your opponent’s board and hand regularly, and you get a 13/13 flying trampler to boot.
Ishkanah, Grafwidow is format defining. This is the way that you buy enough time to find your Marvels. This deck isn’t filled with nearly as many options to dig deep, losing cards like Crane, Contingency Plan, and Glassblower’s Puzzleknot. Ishkanah is your dig card. This will keep you alive, and you have enough black sources in your deck that you can finish someone off if need be.
Attune with Aether is your way to get going, allowing you to trim on lands, get a sorcery into the graveyard, find red mana, and gain energy.
Vessel of Nascency is your card selection. It gets the nod over Grapple with the Past because it can find Aetherworks Marvel. It’s also an enchantment going to the graveyard, along with other types, to fuel Ishkanah or reduce the cost of Emrakul, the Promised End.
Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot is the one “bad” card in the deck. It doesn’t really do anything on its own, while every other card does, but it’s necessary. The Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot turn 2 into Marvel turn 4 is a 2-card combo that sets you off to the races, with 6 extra life to work with. Odds are you’ll find exactly what you need before an opponent can beat this draw.
Kozilek’s Return isn’t outstanding, but it can definitely buy you a little bit of time. The big issue with Return right now is that it doesn’t kill much against either B/G Delirium or U/W Flash. Throw in the fact that the aggro decks can have draws where Kozilek’s Return doesn’t do much, and it can be a liability until it’s flashed back. You essentially never want to draw two, even in the matchups where it’s excellent, so you can’t afford to play too many.
Tormenting Voice is candidate number 1 for the chopping block. It does help fuel delirium and dig you deeper, but it’s a big liability against countermagic. The discard is part of the cost, so you’ll lose what you discard if it’s countered. Not the biggest deal, but it’s not like you’re getting a ton of value here either. It’s interesting that Nettles prefers Tormenting Voice over Cathartic Reunion, which you wouldn’t expect without actually playing the deck. I’m inclined to trust his expertise here.
Servant of the Conduit was a card I tested extensively for the all-in Marvel deck. It turned out you didn’t have time to mess around with it. You can’t activate a Marvel on turn 3 even with a Servant as there’s no way to get up to 6 energy that quickly. If the acceleration isn’t worth it, you might as well play cards that are better at digging or creating energy.
That’s not the case here. You have other cards you want to accelerate into besides just Aetherworks Marvel. You have ways to win with damage, so the 2/2 body isn’t dead. We also live in a world of Spell Queller. Servant of the Conduit can change the way your opponents play because you can get Marvel onto the battlefield a turn sooner. If they can’t Queller it because you’re on the play, it doesn’t matter that you can’t activate it on turn 3. You’ll still win the game on turn 4.
This can be a real liability on the draw, however, as Reflector Mage can really set you back. Luckily, the way the games play out, they can’t really cast Reflector Mage with the threat of Marvel resolving, and turn 3 when U/W is on the play is the only real opportunity.
Speaking of Spell Queller, R/G Marvel has plenty of answers. Harnessed Lightning is the best of them. This is an energy “ritual,” in that you can cast it without killing anything when you need a boost of energy. You also tend to stockpile energy, which lets Harnessed Lightning kill even large creatures. The instant speed is another bonus that can allow you to kill Spell Queller during their end step before untapping and resolving either another Marvel or kill spell to get your Marvel back and win the game.
The real difference that sets this deck apart is Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Needless to say, if you paid any attention to the internet when Chandra was first spoiled, Chandra was expected to completely take over Standard.
It turns out that Chandra hasn’t been format defining. In fact, she hasn’t even been excellent. This deck finally gives her that chance.
Chandra allows you to keep digging to find the actual cards you need, whether that’s Marvel to go off, Ishkanah to stay alive, or Puzzleknot for energy. While doing so, she deals damage to your opponent or their planeswalkers.
The minus is really important. It can kill Grim Flayer, Tireless Tracker, Spell Queller, Archangel Avacyn, and many more important creatures in the format.
The “forgotten” ability is that Chandra can add 2 red mana to your mana pool. This ends up being the ability that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to use a ton, but is extremely common in a deck like this. Hard casting Emrakul, the Promised End isn’t easy, but Chandra makes it possible. After sideboard, you can plus a Chandra to hard cast a turn-5 World Breaker and do some serious damage.
Chandra is a huge draw to R/G Marvel for me and I would try to fit the fourth copy into the main deck.
If I were playing R/G Marvel in a tournament tomorrow, here’s the list I would use:
These are small changes, but I think they move in the right direction.
Chandra isn’t excellent against U/W Flash, but it’s still much better than Kozilek’s Return. With Kozilek’s Return also being a poor card against B/G Delirium and in the mirror, I would prefer to go down to a single copy. It’s there when you need it some percentage of the time, especially if you discard it with Tormenting Voice or mill it with a Vessel of Nascency, but you’ll never draw two.
Chandra is a card you’re definitely boarding in for the mirror and versus B/G, however, so I would prefer that main-deck swap.
I also don’t believe I need 4 Kozilek’s Return in my deck in any matchup, so I’m keeping just 2 in the sideboard to go with the 1 main deck.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is a nice card, but you’re not realistically ever hard casting it. That means it’s a card that requires Aetherworks Marvel to help break the mirror. Granted, it’s excellent in that specific role, but that requires a lot of setup.
Instead, I’m using those extra slots for more World Breakers. It’s not quite as powerful as Ulamog, but it has a similar effect and can actually be hard cast. A turn-5 World Breaker off of a turn-4 Chandra is a very real possibility, and that can even be sped up an entire turn with a turn-2 Servant of the Conduit.
Let’s break down some of the matchups using the list I provided.
B/G Delirium is your best matchup. That is the reason to be playing this deck. If B/G Delirium ever fades from the top spot in the metagame, it’s time to re-evaluate whether Marvel is where you want to be.
Their answers aren’t quite good enough, although if they can resolve a Pick the Brain with delirium on your Marvels then things can get real tough, quickly. After sideboard, you have access to plenty of powerful cards in the matchups with Marvels, planeswalkers, Tireless Trackers, and hard cast Emrakul, the Promised Ends.
U/W Flash is your worst matchup. That said, it’s still much better than it was for the all-in R/U/G Marvel deck. It’s the matchup you least want to face as they present a solid clock with all sorts of disruption in the form of Spell Quellers and other counters.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar wasn’t really fast enough to beat the consistency of the R/U/G Marvel deck, but that isn’t the case here. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is one of your worst enemies and you have very few ways to interact with him. If you don’t have a quick Marvel draw, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar will just blow you out even without all of the extra disruption.
Your game plan after sideboarding is to have a bit more interaction, card advantage, and removal. Kozilek’s Return is just killing Selfless Spirits and Thraben Inspectors here, so that can go. Tormenting Voice can get blown out by counters, so that’s a goner, too.
World Breaker is easier to cast than Emrakul, the Promised End and can do a great job of blocking all of their threats. This isn’t going to make your matchup great, but they’re going to slow their deck down to bring in the counters, so a slower yet recursive threat can do some work.
The mirror is all about getting Marvel to go off quickly, but there isn’t really much to interact. Dueling Emrakul, the Promised Ends is a very real thing and the games will often go long.
Cards like Appetite for the Unnatural are surprisingly ineffective here. You also don’t want cards in your deck that can really hurt you when they resolve an Emrakul, the Promised End. Turns out something like Appetite can be a bigger liability than a boon. Same thing goes for Harnessed Lightning. The risk of getting Emrakul, the Promised End’d with this in your hand and a pool of 20 energy that they can now completely drain is a bigger risk than the reward of having a mediocre removal spell in your deck.
All 8 cards you’re boarding in will continue to give you a perpetual advantage and threaten to close a game out quickly. This gives you lots of great threats alongside Chandra and Marvel to win the game with.
The Mardu Vehicles matchup is the one where your removal becomes really important. You also don’t need Emrakul, the Promised End to actually win as they can get completely shut down by just one Ishkanah, assuming you can turn on delirium and stay alive.
Lowering your curve and adding all of this early interaction helps to make sure that you’ll still have life remaining when it’s Spider time.
Against control, you’re trying to make them spend their counters and tap their mana at inopportune times so that you can resolve a big spell.
You’re leaving in enough removal to deal with Gearhulks and Fumaroles, but if they also have Thing in the Ice, you should leave in the 4th Harnessed Lightning. If they have no smaller creatures, consider cutting a 2nd copy.
While R/G Energy Aggro doesn’t appear too often, it’s still a presence online. It’s cheap to build and easy to pilot, plus the matches are going to be over very quickly.
They can kill as fast as you can get a Marvel online and you don’t have much interaction. Ishkanah will slow things down if you get that far and Emrakul, the Promised End will of course win the game (wipe out their board, take away all pump spells, and drain their energy reserve)
There isn’t much in the board to fight this matchup, but at least you’ll have a decent number of removal spells and planeswalkers to fight back with. Not your best matchup, however.
R/G Marvel is a powerful and popular deck that will continue to put up amazing numbers in a field swarmed by B/G Delirium decks. If any deck with Islands in them start to become more popular, expect Marvel to start fading fast!
Jaberwocki has shown the incredible power of Chandra teaming up with Marvel in this R/G version, but there are plenty of other ways to approach Aetherworks Marvel and have a great B/G matchup. Which do you prefer personally? If you’re a B/G player, have you found any useful ways to fight the matchup? Sound off in the comments!