I was interested in three decks for the Pro Tour. One of them was Landfall, which I ended up playing. I am confident that Landfall is a superior Atarka Red. The second deck was a Gather-the-Pack-based Abzan deck that I believe is a superior version of Abzan—built to handle the onslaught of Become Immense-based strategies I expected. The third deck was TurboLand.
I wanted this deck to work so badly, and not only for the style points. When it works, it crushes opponents like they’re non-existent, rendering their strategies hopelessly irrelevant. I had many test sessions where I finished without losing a game. In the end, I could not get the matchup against Landfall to be non-disastrous, and I had to abandon the plan for fear of repeating my previous Pro Tour experience.
But if you are up for dodging the red matchup, or think you can improve it enough to live with it, check this out:
The plan is straightforward. Starting on turn 2, almost everything you do provides additional mana. Once you have enough of it, you can cast Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, or take extra turns via Part the Waterveil for the win.
The beauty of the deck is that so many of the cards serve multiple purposes. Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Kiora, the Crashing Wave, and Part the Waterveil all help set up your mana, and they all serve as powerful late-game threats or bridges to other threats. It is easy to look at the list, see only 7 big haymakers and think that won’t be enough. But in a deck that thins out up to 10 lands regularly and can aggressively find the win condition, 7 feels like a much larger number.
Jake Mondello played an interesting list at Grand Prix Quebec City. He relies on the Sanctum of Ugin engine to maintain threat density—using Hangarback Walker to ensure that it’s always fueled. The biggest difference between his build and mine is that his relies on Jaddi Offshoot to allow his acceleration to begin on turn 3, and he is willing to wait until turn 6 to play an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. I don’t believe this is sufficient, but if his deck is good then this build should be even better.
Your game 1 against control decks is strong, because opponents can’t afford to allow you to develop your mana base, but they can’t really stop that from happening. You will get to cast Ulamog, and even if they counter or remove it, they lose their two best permanents—often their blue mana sources. Your ability to test them with cards like Kiora and Nissa gives them fits. And then, after sideboarding, you have two trump cards to play.
The first and less exciting is Sanctum of Ugin. Sanctum operates on a simple principle that if one Ulamog is great, but survivable, why not cast two or three instead? Sanctum of Ugin turns into a backup Ulamog, and the Hangarback Walker is there to ensure you can trigger Sanctum. This gives you an even more overpowering late game at a small cost to your colored mana.
The second plan is even harder to deal with for your opponent, and makes any waiting game hopeless from the start. Dragonlord Dromoka prevents them from casting spells on your turn, so if you build 10 mana, which you are already in the habit of doing, you can follow it up with Part the Waterveil. Then you get to untap and they can’t interfere.
Against decks like Jeskai Black, you are in a great position. Your opponent has no chance of going over the top, so they are forced to attempt a quick kill, and their kill is not all that quick. Some versions will even have outright dead cards like Dispel, and they never have the quantity of counters it would take to stop your game plan. GW Megamorph is in a similar position. It has to go on full offense as quickly as possible. Abzan lists can try to disrupt you with Duress and Transgress the Mind, but they are rather slow and effectively count on you not being able to get there.
If your opponent is doing something strange and midrange, chances are that strange thing is even less threatening than the usual suspects.
Problems arise from decks sporting Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage. Jaddi Offshoot helps with early defense to buy you time. But if they draw their damage engine, there is little you can do, and the speed bumps you put in their way will not matter. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon will not be on time, and Seismic Rupture will not be enough.
If you can dodge that deck, however, you seem to have clear sailing—I would be happy to face any of the Top 8 decks from Quebec.