Since writing my last article, I’d been thinking about writing an article about Surge Node. It’s not an inherently powerful card, which
makes it difficult to commit to playing in a Standard format as powerful as the one we face now, but I noticed that it allows for a uniquely powerful
Turn 1, land, Surge Node, Everflowing Chalice for zero, Mox Opal, tap Mox Opal to activate Surge Node putting a counter on Everflowing Chalice. Turn 2,
land, tap a land to activate Surge Node putting a counter on Everflowing Chalice, tap Everflowing Chalice for two mana, the other land, and Mox Opal,
and now you can play Jace, the Mind Sculptor—or Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas—on turn 2. If you need to attack, you can forgo the second counter
on Everflowing Chalice, make Surge Node a creature with Tezzeret, and attack for five on turn 2.
Moving forward from there, you very quickly threaten an enormous amount of mana with extra card draw from Jace or Tezzeret.
It’s a very unlikely nut draw, but it’s basically unbeatable unless they’re ready with a Spell Pierce or something.
I tried throwing together a list and ended up with a document with this written:
Those sketches looked miserable, so I gave up on the article.
I tested Hawkward and some RUG and Caw-Blade for a Midwest Masters Series Qualifier that would be happening in Madison on Saturday, and on Friday
night, I decided to return to a proliferate deck to see what I could come up with. I knew what I wanted to be able to do, and I knew that I wanted a
lot of different cards, so I started with the minimum number of everything that I could imagine getting away with and went from there.
After playing some games and tweaking a list some, I ended up playing the following deck on Saturday:
The result was more effective than I expected, but really, I didn’t have high hopes. Still, it was very fun to play and interesting to watch, and
a lot of people asked me about it and encouraged me to write about it, and one of my opponents said he had fun in our match after I eliminated him, so
I accomplished my goals with the first run of the deck. (I’m actually much less competitive than you might imagine.)
The deck isn’t perfect, but it has a lot of interesting things going on that are really worth looking at in understanding this format and good
ways to fight some of the better decks.
While this deck is, in many ways, too cute for its own good, it has some sweet hate cards subtly worked in.
To start with, Vedalken Certarch is actually amazing against Caw-Blade, if you can turn him on in time to stop the first hit from a sword. Many lists
have almost no long-term answer to him, and the best they can manage to get through with Equipment is bouncing him with Jace. That’s a ton of
value for a one-drop.
Torpor Orb is well known to have utility against most of the best decks, but it’s generally not good enough to play. In this deck, random
artifacts are synergistic enough that throwing one in isn’t a problem. I’m not relying on it, but it’s sometimes there to shut something
down, and against Splinter Twin Combo, you sometimes have time to dig for it with Tezzeret to make going off much harder for them.
Hex Parasite is obviously there to attack planeswalkers. It’s a little better than average in this deck because Tezzeret and Trinket Mage can find it,
and every now and then, it threatens to attack for a bunch of damage by eating a Surge Node. Also, I played one match where eating my opponent’s
Sphere of the Suns came up.
Tectonic Edge is obviously incredible, but it’s even better in a deck that can get Chalices big enough to the point where it eventually stops
needing its lands and colorless mana really isn’t an issue. Vedalken Certarch can assist Tectonic Edge in creating a minor mana denial subtheme.
Aside from hate, this deck has some nice, relatively unexplored engines.
Surge Node + Everflowing Chalice is the most powerful one, but Surge Node also powers up Chimeric Mass and Lux Cannon out of the sideboard. I was
originally playing a Culling Dais, which is awesome with Surge Node, especially when I’m also proliferating, but I decided it was too cute.
Unfortunately, this reduces the number of interactions for Surge Node enough that, I think, as much as I’d like to live the dream, making this
deck really competitive probably requires dropping Surge Node all together.
The Ichor Wellspring/Mycosynth Wellspring + Throne of Geth/Phyrexia’s Core interaction actually felt sufficiently powerful, despite being a
little clunky. It was nice to have the ability to just churn through the deck, and proliferating for free can be surprisingly awesome.
The primary ways the deck wins are by digging with Tezzeret until you have around ten random artifacts in play, which is surprisingly easy with Inkmoth
Nexus and Wellsprings, and then going ultimate; hitting once early with an Inkmoth Nexus and then proliferating them to death; or Treasure Mage-ing for
Wurmcoil Engine to attack or Spine of Ish Sah to lock them out with Phyrexia’s Core or Throne of Geth.
I’m undecided on Tezzeret’s Gambit. It fits the theme of proliferating and does what I want it to do in terms of getting through the deck,
and it fits a nice spot in the curve, but I think it’s just more mana than I want to spend on a non-artifact that doesn’t impact the board.
I think it might be better to just play another Mycosynth Wellspring and maybe another Throne of Geth to push proliferating and card advantage or, more
realistically, consider the ultimate reality of the format:
If I want to make this deck competitive, I have to add Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
Playing the deck, it felt pretty good and synergistic, but sometimes, it felt just a little shy on business. I was thinking another Treasure Mage might
do the trick, but the fact of the matter is: Jace is just what I needed.
Adding Jace to a blue deck should be pretty obvious. I didn’t do it for this tournament primarily because I was lending my Jaces to my roommate
for the tournament, and I wanted to try pushing the other themes of this deck for fun.
Adding more four-mana spells to the deck means I’d probably want another Sphere of the Suns, but that’s not a problem, since the deck would
like extra colored sources anyway because I’m playing so many colorless lands.
On that note, Tectonic Edge and Inkmoth Nexus were incredible, and the deck needs four of each. Phyrexia’s Core gave me enough value to earn its
slot, but Mystifying Maze, as usual, was just barely not good enough and has to become another colored land.
As for the sideboard, my Necropede + Contagion Clasp plan worked beautifully against Vampires, and I was satisfied with Guard Gomazoa against
Caw-Blade, but I never wanted Jace Beleren. Lux Cannon is pretty marginal and probably not worth it if I have more fours in Jace, the Mind Sculptor
anyway, and I’m undecided on Memoricide compared to something like Flashfreeze or Spreading Seas. I also might want a few Doom Blades to help
combo with Torpor Orb to shut down Primeval Titan. Turning off the “come into play” ability is less impressive if I can’t stop it from attacking.
Going forward, I’d probably play something like:
The single Creeping Tar Pit probably looks weird, but with so many cards that take mana just to cycle, I really want my lands coming into play untapped
as much as possible, and I rarely have time to attack, since I usually have spells to cast. This is the same reason I’m not playing Preordain,
though I’m not sure those wouldn’t help the deck.
Playing the deck:
In general, you want to get Everflowing Chalice into play as soon as possible rather than trying to wait to play it with a higher kicker. It’ll
get big through proliferating; you don’t need to invest that much in it the first time.
Pay attention to when you can afford to skip playing a spell to get a poison counter in with Inkmoth Nexus, especially if it’s the first one, as
there’s a reasonable chance that being able to proliferate poison will be important later on.
Chimeric Mass, like Everflowing Chalice, can be tempting to sit on, but you’ll never really find a time when you want to slam a bunch of mana
into it because so many cards want you to keep spending mana to go through the deck. It’s there to be an early artifact for metalcraft, and then
late in the game, it just happens to be a large creature thanks to proliferating.
Figuring out when to play Hex Parasite can be tricky. I think I’ve been too prone to casting it on turn 1 to use mana efficiently, when it should
probably be treated as more of a spell, to come down after a planeswalker most of the time. The primary exception would be playing it to get metalcraft
earlier for Mox Opal or Vedalken Certarch. The early damage is pretty insignificant.
Your plan is basically to turn off their lines of attack with Vedalken Certarch and to stop their Equipment with Guard Gomazoa and to stop their
planeswalkers with Hex Parasite and your planeswalkers. This is a little soft to them just playing a bunch of Squadron Hawks, which is why I went for
Guard Gomazoa over more Vedalken Certarchs in the sideboard. Emeria Angel is still an issue, but Tezzeret is very good. U/W is much harder than U/W/b
because Spell Pierce is amazing against you. This is what I lost to in the tournament, but it felt like I got a little unlucky, and the matches were
You want to stop them from untapping with Lotus Cobra or Jace. Tezzeret, Hex Parasite, and Jace help fight their Jace, and you want Contagion Clasps
and Doom Blades for their Lotus Cobras (and the Blade kills their other creatures). Torpor Orb is important to turn off Inferno Titan and Deceiver
Exarch, if they have the combo.
Aggro (Red or Vampires):
You’re just trying to stay alive to stick a planeswalker or Wurmcoil Engine. Your 1/1s are terrible, and your cyclers might be a little slow. Cut
three Vedalken Certarchs, Spine of Ish Sah, Hex Parasite, Torpor Orb; add four Necropedes, two Contagion Clasps. If they’re not black, cut some
Wellsprings for Doom Blades and consider how many Spellskites you want.
You don’t have counters, so you have to slow them down as much as you can with Vedalken Certarchs game one and basically just hope to race them
with Tezzeret. That shouldn’t be easy. Game two you can Memoricide their Titans, and Torpor Orb and Doom Blade can let you deal with them. Side
out something like Contagion Engine, Hex Parasite, one Mycosynth Wellspring, Trinket Mage, Treasure Mage, and one Jace, the Mind Sculptor for three
Memoricides, two Doom Blades, and Torpor Orb.
The deck is fun and interesting and highlights some interesting interactions in Standard. I’m not convinced it’s quite ready for high-level
competitions at this point. That said, it does things that aren’t strictly worse than what other decks are doing, and elements of it could easily
be used to take a tournament by surprise.
Thanks for reading,
@samuelhblack on Twitter