Valuable Lessons – Ascending the Mardu Way

Welcome back to Valuable Lessons. Earlier this week, I had a dream about playing at the Modern Pro Tour. I regularly dream about playing Magic, but there was an exciting plot twist this time; I was playing with Mardu Ascendancy. I liked Mardu Ascendancy when I first saw it. It’s a good way to flood the board. The creatures it makes are goblins. It randomly combos with a lot of grindy cards that I enjoy. What really got my juices flowing was the idea to include Doran, the Siege Tower in a deck with Mardu Ascendancy. Today, we’ll be talking about Mardu Ascendancy and its application in both Standard and Modern.

Mardu Ascendancy rewards us for having a low curve. We want to be playing one drops, two drops, and creatures with haste if we’re going to absolutely maximize the value of the card. In Standard, we could pair it with Goblin Rabblemaster. Sure, the tokens don’t trigger the ascendancy, but it makes tons of Goblins and protects our team from Anger of the Gods or Drown in Sorrow, so it seems like a reasonable inclusion there. We could also take a more aggressive route and play it in an aggressive mono-black shell.

Brimaz, King of Oreskos is a lot better than it used to be in the new Standard too. Sure, it breaks even when attacking into Courser of Kruphix, but in a world of Lightning Strike and Ulcerate, the four toughness on Brimaz will rarely be dealt with for less than four mana. Brimaz and Courser will likely be responsible for making a card like Suspension Field much better than it might have been otherwise.

Soldier of the Pantheon is already one of the best one drops in Standard, but the card could become even better once we’re introduced to more card from the new block. There are a lot of exciting cards from the new set and most of them are multicolored. I absolutely adore the fact that my Soldier of the Pantheon can live and fight through a card like Zurgo Helmsmasher.

We want to be playing cheap cards because of Mardu Ascendancy, but we’ll also need to play a lot of lands that enter the battlefield tapped while scrying a bit to set up our big turn fives or turn threes. The other strong one drops in the format are Tormented Hero and Gnarled Scarhide, both of which seem incredibly well positioned for this type of deck.

Zurgo Helmsmasher is a card that I can really get behind. I always love big hasty monsters that end the game unless the opponent deals with them. It’s like having a trump card in a suite game, we get to apply pressure and take life from the opponent and then we get to be the aggressor again if they happen to have the card that prevents them from outright losing.

We’ll need to play some removal here. I want a healthy number of ways to deal with Courser of Kruphix. I want to try playing with four copies of Suspension Field. Brimaz, Courser, Polukranos, and the majority of the format’s most important cards are dealt with easily for two mana via this card, and we do actually need to get rid of the Courser of Kruphix if we want this deck to have a fighting shot. We’ll also play two copies of Banishing Light as catch alls.

Spear of Heliod and Dictate of Heliod both seem great with the token production from Mardu Ascendancy, Brimaz, and Rabbler.

Lightning Strike gives the deck the final push of reach it needs while also being removal.

Here’s the list:

Standard Mardu (Standard)
by Jacob Van Lunen

In Modern, Mardu Ascendancy is much better than it ever will be in Standard. Our Modern deck can play around twenty one-mana creatures and reliably cast any of them on the first turn the game. There will be a lot of games where we’ll be attacking with three creatures on the third turn when we cast Mardu Ascendancy, thus giving us three hasty power, potentially more power later, and protection from Pyroclasm, Firespout, and Anger of the Gods. Doran, the Siege Tower is a reasonably powerful card on its own, but the card becomes very impressive when we’re playing it in a deck with Loam Lion, Kird Ape, and Steppe Lynx, essentially being a 5/5 for three mana that acts as an anthem for the majority of our creatures. Conveniently, if we ever have Doran, the Siege Tower and one other creature in play, Mardu Ascendancy represents an attack for over twenty damage. Simply attack with Doran and the other guy, make two tokens, and sacrifice the enchantment for a twelve damage boost to our attack. Let’s talk about the cards we’ll be playing in post-Khans of Tarkir Modern Zoo.

Modern has a ton of spot removal right now, and not much in the way of board sweeping effects. This means one drops should be well-positioned. Unfortunately, the aggressive Zoo decks of recent months have often lost races to decks like Splinter Twin, especially when on the draw. Playing Mardu Ascendancy and Doran, the Siege Tower gives us a combo kill of our own to race with. Playing Abrupt Decay gives us a nice answer to cards like Tarmogoyf, Scavenging Ooze, Splinter Twin targets, and even Pyromancer Ascension. Suddenly, it looks like the Zoo decks should crush everything that isn’t a burn deck.

We want to play as many one mana creatures as possible to maximize the effect of our Mardu Ascendancy.

Goblin Guide’s hastiness is extremely synergistic here. We’re an aggressive deck and a two power creature for one mana that starts attacking and potentially making tokens immediately is extremely strong. We can have an opponent at 22 with a Doran and no other creatures in play, cast Goblin Guide and Mardu Ascendancy, and attack for 22 on turn four. Goblin Guide provides longevity in a deck like this, which is pretty absurd considering how strong it is simply as a one drop.

Steppe Lynx has been overlooked, but it’s often a 4/5 for one mana and it’s hard to contend with that kind of power. The major problem with Steppe Lynx is that it gets useless as we get late in the game. Fortunately, we have Doran, the Siege Tower to give it a bit of power and Mardu Ascendancy to make it into even more power.

Wild Nacatl is a 3/3 for one mana, we’d be crazy not to play the full four copies here.

Kird Ape and Loam Lion are both incredible one drops for their costs. With Doran, the Siege Tower in the mix, these card essentially become Wild Nacatls, and that seems pretty sweet.

I thought about playing Tarmogoyf here, but I feel like Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, and Abrupt Decay are all much better at accomplishing this deck’s goals. Tarmogoyf gives our opponent a way to win with Threads of Disloyalty and Spell Snare. Currently, our deck has zero Spell Snare targets and only lackluster Threads of Disloyalty targets.

Here’s the decklist:

Mardu Zoo (Modern)
by Jacob Van Lunen

Both of these decks are quite powerful and I’ll be putting together the Modern Zoo deck on Magic Online as soon as Khans of Tarkir is released. In Standard, I still expect a world dominated by Courser of Kruphix, but that could change in the coming weeks. We’ll keep our fingers on the pulse of the metagames as the secrets of Khans of Tarkir continue to be unveiled!

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