Daily Digest: Walking Is Better Than Driving

Mardu decks are more than Toolcraft Exemplar and Vehicles. Ross Merriam showcases a Standard list on Magic Online with no Vehicles but plenty of ‘walkers!

Mardu Vehicles started out as a clear aggressive deck with plenty of one- and two-drops, efficient removal, and enough Vehicles and planeswalkers to keep control and midrange decks off-balance with a diversity of threats.

But over the last month, Mardu decks have been getting bigger, moving into the midrange part of the spectrum by eschewing some of their low-end to incorporate more planeswalkers, Walking Ballistas, and Archangel Avacyn.

You’d think that would be enough, but some people just aren’t satisfied. Toolcraft Exemplar, gone. Scrapheap Scrounger, gone. Who needs ’em when you have planeswalkers and removal spells? And once we cut all the stupid creatures, what are we doing with all these Vehicles? Cut those too.

The result is a Mardu deck that is not at all like the ones we’ve seen in Standard since the fall, although it certainly resembles Mardu decks we’ve seen in the past. The various Oaths provide some additional advantage on top of being solid removal spells, and between them and the natural snowballing advantage of planeswalkers, this deck doesn’t really need a typical card advantage spell like Painful Truths.

Two strange things to note about this particular list. First, Renegade Map is a heady addition that smooths the deck’s mana while giving it a cheap way to enable revolt on Fatal Push so you can regain tempo while you’re trying to land planeswalkers or simply answer a Felidar Guardian.

Second, the maindeck copies of Release the Gremlins are quite telling. They are nearly blank against Four-Color Saheeli, so this deck is clearly trying to beat up on a Mardu-infested metagame. They can also nab Gearhulks and Dynavolt Tower, so they’re still fine against most of the rest of the metagame, which likely minimizes their downside in one matchup. Release the Gremlins is simply one of the best cards you can have in the matchups where it’s good.

And that tells you something about where Standard is right now. It’s a well-defined, narrow metagame and that makes it easy to exploit with decks that would’ve been completely unviable a month ago. You can aggressively tune your decks away from the fringe and toward the dominant archetypes, and this list in particular exploits people’s expectations by letting them assume you are a midrange aggressive deck when you’re really not.

We often look at the early time in a new format as a brewer’s paradise because there are few constraints, but restrictions breed creativity and having a well-defined, stationary target makes brewing significantly easier. So if you’re not having a lot of success with the top decks, try mixing it up.