I might have a problem.
There’s just something so intoxicating about casting a bunch of spells in a turn and burying your opponent under all that prowess value. It’s as though you’re playing an aggro-combo hybrid when most decks of those sort are filled with sticky, hard-to-kill value creatures that do not attack well because the synergies and combos between them are so powerful. Think Birthing Pod and Abzan Company in Modern and Rally the Ancestors from the last Standard.
Prowess decks are legitimate aggressive decks. The creatures attack for relevant amounts of damage even when the deck plays out normally. When the deck comes together, though, some beautiful things happen. Spells chain into other spells, coming down in a flurry but all leaving behind some modicum of value, whether that’s a 1/1 Elemental token or one to two extra damage in the ensuing combat. When the majority of those spells cantrip or remove your opponent’s creatures, your opponent is left to rebuild their battlefield while you remain ready to repeat the carnage the next turn.
There’s an elegance to the proceedings, and the same is true of the deckbuilding. You have to find the right mix of creatures and spells and the right mix of removal and cantrips so that your deck functions optimally. It’s all about creating an engine that runs as efficiently as possible. The numbers in this list might look strange, but I don’t think they are far off.
The only thing I am particularly struck by is having only three copies of Gitaxian Probe. The card is perfect in this archetype, letting you get immediate value from Young Pyromancer or setting up the most devastating turns with your more aggressive creatures. I would never consider playing fewer than four. The cantrips keep the gas flowing and this deck may want even more than those eight, adding something like Thought Scour or Sleight of Hand. With so many cantrips, I think twenty lands may be high, but with three colors, I can understand raising the land count.
I was also surprised at first by the lack of Monastery Swiftspear, but with how powerful the two-mana creatures are, I can understand it. The strange thing is that Swiftspear may just be better than Delver of Secrets in this deck. Having more haste creatures makes your opponent play scared, giving you the time you actually need to set up a kill. While Delver is likely better on turn 1 and possibly turn 2, I don’t think it’s by much and Swiftspear is much better after that.
I would also like to incorporate Monastery Mentor. The card is so absurdly powerful that it will generally win the game if you untap with it, which makes it preferable to Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest and a copy or two of Seeker of the Way. You do not have the same threat density as other aggro decks, so you need to play the best option available at each slot. Mentor is particularly good with the Phyrexian-mana spells, since the Monk tokens it makes represent significant threats in a deck like this. As such, I could see increasing the counts on both Gut Shot and Mutagenic Growth once Mentor is in the deck.
The last card that immediately comes to mind is Distortion Strike. We are used to seeing this card in Infect as a way to force through lethal damage, but rebound also plays nicely with prowess, and this deck can sometimes have trouble punching through damage without any of its go-wide creatures. Slip Through Space may be better, but my instinct is that drawing a second copy of the spell is better than a random draw, so most of the time rebound will be better than cantripping.
U/R Prowess never caught on that strongly in Standard because it was somewhat underpowered despite the presence of Treasure Cruise. Even without the broken delve spell, this deck gets a significant increase in power level, and I would be beyond excited to register it in Columbus. Maybe a little too excited.
- 3 Snapcaster Mage
- 4 Delver of Secrets
- 3 Young Pyromancer
- 2 Seeker of the Way
- 1 Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest
- 3 Stormchaser Mage