Shadows over Innistrad is almost here. The days of dying to Nantuko Husk sacrificing infinite creatures for value are over…
Not so fast.
William Palma has a sweet-looking brew from the current Standard format that almost completely survives rotation. Without Rally the Ancestors, we have to focus on a more traditional “sacrifice my creatures for value” plan, but there are plenty of attractive options to feed such an engine.
The key piece for this deck is Hangarback Walker. The barrel o’ Thopters hasn’t seen quite as much play in recent months because players are prepared to exile while avoiding the trigger. Well, this deck contains plenty of ways to kill your own Hangarback and create a flying army, from the traditional Nantuko Husk and Evolutionary Leap to more uncommon options like Bone Splinters and Smothering Abomination.
The second key piece is Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. The +1 ability provides a steady stream of fodder to sacrifice for value, and the -2 ability makes your Hangarback Walkers threats that can end the game almost immediately. Having that kind of combo finish is an important wrinkle for a deck like this, since the creatures themselves are usually small and so the clock is anemic. This allows players to go over the top of you with more powerful cards, thereby negating any card advantage your internal synergies provide.
The rest of the deck is a collection of generically powerful cards and key role-players to make sure the engine runs properly, and I was impressed by how all the numbers make sense. The one change I could see making is cutting an Evolutionary Leap for another planeswalker, although I’m not sure which one, since they are both excellent in this deck. Leap can often be slow, is very mana intensive, and is dead in multiples. It’s certainly possible that you need the extra sacrifice effect, but that is definitely the worst one for the maindeck.
The real weakness I see for the deck is the manabase. The good news is that the loss of fetchlands will hurt everyone, and I expect the overall quality of manabases in the metagame to drop significantly. This means that the present mana is better than it looks in comparison, but playing GG and BB in the three-drop slot means that this deck definitely taxes its mana more than most.
Much like what happened with early Rally decks, I could see Liliana being begrudgingly cut in order to make the rest of the deck run more smoothly, allowing you to shift to a more green-centric manabase. I could also see Holdout Settlement taking a few slots from Crumbling Vestige, since you should have some expendable bodies to help fix your mana. I would also try Deathcap Cultivator from Shadows over Innistrad, which fixes your mana and lets you flood the battlefield more quickly.
While the colored mana situation is murky, you do have access to some solid utility lands to prevent flood. Hissing Quagmire gives you yet another body to swarm your opponent, and Tomb of the Spirit Dragon plays nicely with Scion tokens and Hangarback Walker. That being said, I would look to Foundry of the Consuls to further increase the deck’s threat density and play nicely with Nissa.
The sideboard looks solid, but since we are looking forward to a post-rotation format, it would behoove us to rebuild it from the ground up once we have a better picture of Shadows over Innistrad Standard. For example, if you end up needing to kill big creatures, Fleshbag Marauder is a great option that plays very well with Liliana, Heretical Healer.
Generally these decks want to sideboard into a more interactive deck, so having some removal like Grasp of Darkness or Ultimate Price makes sense, especially since they both kill Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Ob Nixilis Reignited is also a nice option for when you want to function more like a midrange deck.
I would stay away from cards like Warping Wail that require colorless mana, since your mana is already strained as it is. Once they are gone, it’s possible the best manabase cuts the mana-fixing colorless lands for more basics.
This is definitely a deck to keep your eye on if you liked playing Four-Color Rally, but only if you were stylish enough to play Onslaught Nantuko Husks. The rest of you should just play some madness cards.
- 4 Nantuko Husk
- 3 Liliana, Heretical Healer
- 4 Hangarback Walker
- 2 Smothering Abomination
- 4 Catacomb Sifter
- 4 Blisterpod
- 4 Zulaport Cutthroat