Champion Of Wits Will Change Everything

It’s all there in the title, folks! How does GerryT think Champion of Wits will change the Standard metagame in general, and his beloved Zombies in particular, ahead of SCG Cincinnati?

Hour of Devastation is low on relative power level, but that’s all right. I get to build decks around the graveyard, discarding cards, and ramping, so I’m in!

This isn’t necessarily a set that will spawn a sea of entirely new archetypes; however, there is one card that might change everything.

Champion of Wits is the missing link to a plethora of Tier 2 decks.

Having a Careful Study (and potentially more) attached to a 2/1 body is kind of incredible. Creatures tend to be easier to abuse than spells, especially those with enters-the-battlefield effects. Eternalize is already a reasonable way to get an extra use, but even something like using the body as fodder for emerge is great. If you have a way to bounce or blink it, even better.

When building the original versions of Temur Emerge, we wanted a three-drop creature that was able to deposit a Kozilek’s Return into the graveyard. Champion of Wits is much better at that job than I ever could have dreamed up.

Having velocity attached to a body is sick because it allows you to develop your position while also fixing your hand. The comparison to Rogue Refiner is apt. The main difference is this one goes harder and pays you later with eternalize (and a new burst of cards) instead of immediately with a single extra card. Having another resource to work with is nice, but I’d rather have the extra loot if I’m also doing graveyard shenanigans.

You could also look for ways to pump Champion of Wits, and while that could be a viable strategy, it’s not something I’m interested in at the moment.

Unsummon is the other hero of the set.

It’s easy to look at Unsummon, note that it creates tempo, and move on, but it’s deeper than that.

  • It saves your valuable creatures from removal, making it less dead against a creature-light control or midrange deck.
  • It allows you to reuse your various enters-the-battlefield effects when the games do stall out.
  • Your first opportunity to double up on spells arises much sooner.

There have been moments where things like Vapor Snag or even literal Unsummon are excellent. This happens to be one of those times. Many games end without both players using all their cards and there is no greater indicator that tempo matters.

Attrition is (mostly) dead and tempo is king.

Despite all the upside, you will never want to flood on Unsummons. Drawing one or two copies might be fine, but when you draw three or more, you probably won’t have enough resources that add to the battlefield. Unsummon is great in small numbers, just not something you necessarily want to start four of. Not every deck wants Unsummon, either, but the decks I want to play happen to want it.

So we have a great engine card and a multi-purpose utility card, and they happen to be in the same color.

Are you in yet?

These are the tools I’m working with:




Adjacent Cards We Might Want

Let’s get to work!


Consider this deck a cousin to U/R Emerge. At its core, it’s a beatdown deck, but it has a good amount of filtering and some cheap ways to interact with its opponents. I’ve been burned by decks like these in the past, but Champion of Wits adds an unprecedented level of consistency. It’s worth trying again.

Strategic Planning seems like it fits, but it might both be too slow or worse than Perpetual Timepiece. If your deck needs to stay even on resources to function, maybe you want Strategic Planning. Otherwise, if all you’re trying to do is fill the graveyard, Perpetual Timepiece is going to do a much better job.

When you’re trying to have 2UU available on turn 4 for Elder Deep-Fiend, having that extra resource to help you get there is nice. Then again, we have Champion of Wits to filter through cards, so maybe you’ll still be fine.

Hollow One is also excellent with Elder Deep-Fiend, both as a cheap attacker and because it costs five for emerge. We’d have to retool the entire deck to enable it more often, and that’s something I’m working on.

I like Aether Hub as an additional multicolor land that will always enter the battlefield untapped, even if it comes at the cost of making my Sunken Hollows even more unreliable. The fact that each one will allow you to activate Minister of Inquiries an additional time isn’t trivial either.

If the mana could support it, Hostile Desert would be great in a deck like this. Unfortunately, most of these decks don’t have a lot to do with colorless mana. Maybe Matter Reshaper in a Temur Emerge-style deck could make a comeback.

The Gate to the Afterlife package in the sideboard is exciting. It seems like a great way to potentially dodge spot removal and go over the top of your opponent. The package could fit into numerous different decks too. Just be wary about including it in decks where your opponents will likely bring in artifact removal against you.

One of the main things to worry about when playing a deck like this is Crook of Condemnation.

That card has shown up in a lot of decklists already, despite there not being a popular graveyard-based deck to worry about. That’s troublesome, because it means that even if people shouldn’t necessarily have them in their sideboard, they will, since it covers their bases.

That said, facing down a Crook of Condemnation isn’t game over. You should be able to overwhelm it. It does make things more difficult, though.

This is also a cousin to U/R Emerge. Once it has its engine set up, your Traverse the Ulvenwalds will provide a string of Elder Deep-Fiends to soft-lock your opponents out of the game.

Traverse the Ulvenwald can fix your mana if necessary, but it’s much more powerful if you wait until you can chain Elder Deep-Fiends with it. The shaky manabase can be smoothed out with Traverse the Ulvenwald if needed, but you shouldn’t build your deck or manabase with Traverse the Ulvenwald in mind, at least if you actively want to be using it to search for a creature.

The mana is a little rough in this one. I used to not think Minister of Inquiries and Grim Flayer should be in the same deck, but other people had some success doing it months ago. I could see trimming the green portion of the deck, but then we end up with U/B splashing Traverse the Ulvenwald. Is that worth it?

Temur Emerge

Shaun McLaren posted a sweet Temur Emerge decklist last week.

Kenta Harane won a tournament with something similar the week before #SCGINVI. It appears to be a disjointed mix of cards, yet actually plays powerfully and smoothly. You should note that not many decks in Standard are great against Elder Deep-Fiend and Kozilek’s Return.

Honestly, I wouldn’t change much about Shaun’s list. Trying to stretch early green alongside Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Elder Deep-Fiend doesn’t seem wise to me. Chandra, Torch of Defiance is a fine card, but I don’t like what it does to the manabase. While it’s nice to have an extra card type for delirium, it’s not entirely necessary.

Temur Emerge is one of the decks I’ll be working on extensively once Hour of Devastation is out on Magic Online (which it should be once this article goes up). This is where I’m going to start.

If you’re Traverse-ing for Elder Deep-Fiend or a land 90% of the time, there’s not a ton of value in building your deck with a bunch of silver bullets. Ishkanah, Grafwidow is the one card that does something unique enough to be worthy of inclusion, and even that’s a metagame consideration.

Basically, I just want to clean the list up and tighten it a bit.

Any three-drop creature that gives you value is great as sacrificial fodder for Elder Deep-Fiend. Rogue Refiner makes the cut because it’s easier to cast than something like Matter Reshaper. That might be a different deck entirely. For now, the Rogue Refiners are an easy addition, even if the energy isn’t providing much value.

The energy package is small and basically only exists because of Aether Hub and Rogue Refiner. Aether Hub is perfect for the deck, since you want all three colors early and there’s not a whole lot else for you to spend energy on. You could play Harnessed Lightning if you wanted to, but I’d rather have Abrade and Unsummon, at least in small-ish numbers. Anything past what I have could be Harnessed Lightnings, though.

Unsummon is perfect for every aspect of this deck. You can protect your valuable creatures from removal or even bounce their big creature and tap their lands with Elder Deep-Fiend to stop them from recasting it for a bit. Those sorts of huge tempo swings are what will win you games, so it’s something I’m looking forward to trying.

Between Unsummon, Abrade, and Kozilek’s Return, this deck has a ton of versatility in its interaction, which is always nice. You might not have clean one-for-one answers for everything, but you have plenty of ways to keep them off-balance long enough to close the game.

Champion of Wits is basically your late-game plan should Elder Deep-Fiend not get the job done somehow. Even though you’ll have 4/4s that draw you cards, it’s still possible for your opponent to go over the top of you in the late-game, but I’m not sure what you could include to help with that, at least in Game 1.

Post-sideboard, you’ll have all sorts of answers to your opponent’s threats and counterspells for the stuff you can’t deal with, which makes drawing cards way more powerful. It wouldn’t surprise me if you could out-value the midrange and control decks post-sideboard. If you needed even more help, Temur Emerge would be a good place to sideboard the Gate to the Afterlife package.

Since we’re a green Elder Deep-Fiend deck, it’s possible we could find a better way to loop Elder Deep-Fiends too. We already have Traverse the Ulvenwald, Grapple with the Past, and Sanctum of Ugin to keep the chain going, but I can help but feel like there could be something better.

Mortuary Mire and Kefnet the Mindful exist, but that’s incredibly slow. How many Elder Deep-Fiends does it take to win the game, anyway? It’s somewhere in the one to three range, but if we could go forever, that would be sweet, obviously.

The brewing shall continue.


I couldn’t be more excited to see where else Champion of Wits fits into Standard, as I don’t think it’s only good for graveyard strategies. It crews Vehicles; gets pumped by Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; and is an excellent blink target. It’s even nice with Vizier of the Menagerie.

You’ll be seeing a lot of Champion of Wits in the future.