U/W Drake Haven

I’ve got an awesome new deck that satisfies both the brewing half of my brain, and the half that’s looking for the next great card to hit Standard. It’s perfect timing too, what with Felidar Guardian’s departure from the format. Before, deck builders were left to wonder what could have been without 4c Saheeli’s dominance. Now’s the opportunity to build new decks and find something exciting before the metagame solidifies. Amonkhet has a world of cool new cards worth building around. This deck falls in that category. World, meet U/W Drake Haven:

U/W Drake Haven

Zvi Mowshowitz recently wrote about a U/R Drake Haven deck here, but I was thinking up this U/W version before reading Zvi’s article. I like a lot of what he’s doing, but his deck is somewhat of a spell-based combo deck that utilizes both Drake Haven and Enigma Drake as the engines. This U/W list also uses Drake Haven, but it has more of a controlling plan. Specifically, the deck isn’t as tied to spells without Enigma Drake, and can be more flexible with the cards it includes, such as Curator of Mysteries, which ends up being a great cycler early or with Haven, but is also just a good creature on its own that you will end up casting a decent amount of the time.

The 3 cards that really push this deck more into the control realm are Corrupted Grafstone, Engulf the Shore, and Torrential Gearhulk. Grafstone is awesome with all the 1-mana cyclers. With 15 in the deck, you’ll almost always have an active Grafstone to power out a 4-drop on turn 3. This lets you play catch-up by sweeping small creatures with Engulf, managing the board with a Cast Out, or just drawing a couple cards with Hieroglyphic Illumination.

That’s not the exciting part, though. The whole goal of Grafstone is to let you ramp to 5 mana. That’s the key turn, because you can land a Drake Haven and make a Drake in the same turn with a 1-mana cycler. This sequence is important because it ensures you get your engine online without losing too much tempo. Standard is blisteringly fast, so finding an opening to play a set-up card like Drake Haven can be difficult. I also like that you get to leave up 2 mana that turn for Censor. Some games you’ll just counter Gideon, Ally of Zendikar instead of making a Drake, and that sounds pretty all right to me.

Engulf the Shore saw some love from the Martin Müller Prism Ring deck in the dark ages of Bant Company mirrors, but hasn’t seen much success since then. I’m hopeful that it can do some work here, since the deck mostly operates at instant speed. It’s nice that the battlelands and bicycle lands have basic land types that ensure a turbo charged Engulf every time.

One neat interaction is with Torrential Gearhulk. The deck contains exactly 4 non-Islands—Port Town. In some games you will have the flexibility to decide whether or not you want 5 or 6 Islands in play when you Gearhulk back Engulf. Sometimes you’ll want to bounce back the Gearhulk as well to set up more instant speed shenanigans, and other times you’ll just want a big 5/6 in play ready to rumble. With Grafstone ramping a turn, you’ll also have more opportunities to cast Gearhulk on 5 Islands.

Torrential Gearhulk has ended games ever since its introduction to Standard, but it also has added power when combined with cycling instants. First off, it becomes easier to flood your graveyard with a wide variety of spells the Gearhulk can flashback because they’re so cheap. Additionally, you don’t actually have to cast the spell the first time, and can just reap the rewards when Torrential Gearhulk comes down. When I was playing Temur Tower, I’d end up in situations where I’d want to cast a Glimmer of Genius, but I’d be super behind on the board and had to just keep casting removal spells to stay in the game. Then, when I’d cast Gearhulk, my Glimmer would still be in hand. With Hieroglyphic Illumination, I can just cycle for U and let Gearhulk do the card drawing later on.

Finally, this deck is awesome because it gets to capitalize on cycling. You’re going to hit your land drops, you aren’t going to flood as much thanks to the cycling lands, and you’ll often have a diversity of spells at your disposal. When those spells aren’t good, just throw them away for a new card! This is especially useful when it comes to narrow effects. I’m pretty happy to start the first 2 Forsake the Worldly in the main because a lot of times I’ll want to kill off a Heart of Kiran. But a good rest of the time I can just cycle for 2 mana, sometimes with the chance to add a Drake to the board. If I were playing a U/B version, the same would be true for a narrow cycling card like Scarab Feast.

Last but not least, I want to discuss the tentative sideboard. Most of it is made up of a few upgrades here or there for the Mardu matchup, but there is a bit of a transformational plan as well. Compelling Argument almost made the cut in the main, but unfortunately it just doesn’t actually do anything other than cycle for a U. When you pair that with Cryptic Serpent though, you have a nice little combo. The main deck already has a ton of spells, so Cryptic Serpent is on the verge of being great anyway, but you can push that angle more from the board in matchups where you just want a bit more beef. Surely your opponent will keep in some removal if you’ve shown your big creatures in game 1, but how many 5/6s can they really handle? My guess is not all of them!

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