Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the article right away… here’s a deck I’ve been testing for about a month.
It’s very similar to the Elemental brew I offered last week. From my testing, I believe it to be one of the best decks out there right now, and definitely one of the more fun archetypes with which to thrash your opponents. You’ll often end the game well ahead of your opponent due to the attrition-based tactics the deck employs.
Given its unique complexity, I’m going to do a card by card review detailing each card’s role, how to sideboard, and what kind of tactical plans this deck looks to execute against the predictable contenders this weekend. So if you’re looking to go rogue this weekend and attack the format from a different angle, this could be your big hitter.
The completed list is at the foot of the article.
4 Vivid Grove
4 Vivid Crag
4 Primal Beyond
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Fire-Lit Thicket
2 Twilight Mire
2 Sulfurous Springs
This is a pretty saucy manabase. Twelve lands that tap for mana of any color make Reflecting Pool more efficient in this deck than in Five-Color Control and Toast variants, but this is simply an Elemental version of the popular Toast Block deck. The Elemental theme is there to pick up better kill conditions and more efficient deck manipulation, along with much healthier mana.
One problem I’ve had is starting with multiple filter lands and Primal Beyond as my only lands, severely limiting my non-Elemental spells. This doesn’t happen very often, and the pair of times it did happen saw me win anyway, but it was still annoying nonetheless. Sulfurous Springs looks to solve that problem while not being too troublesome as a two-of painland, and it enables six lands to play a turn 1 Flamekin Harbinger.
This guy is pretty nuts. He’s the best Harbinger by a mile, and he gives the deck a certain consistency that helps you shift into gear more easily. Whatever you’re missing from the Elemental jigsaw, he’ll fetch it. He’s the perfect man to run the point since his transition defense is off the chain, usually saving three to four damage from incoming creatures. He’s an excellent chump blocker for Figures, Finks, and any Kithkin that wanna step outside.
If you’ve got Smokebraider already, you can fetch a Horde of Notions if you know they aren’t likely to have an answer for him. If you’re short on mana, Smokebraider gets put on top. If they’re playing Vivids and you’ve got Makeshift Mannequins, go for a Fulminator Mage and get a free win from your opponent’s mana screw. Already got Fulms and Mulls? Go for Reveillark to cement the card advantage engine. Playing against Bant, Mono Red, or Kithkin? Shriekmaw is the ideal target, which is another virtual win when backed up with Mannequin/Torrent of Souls. The most frequent target is Mulldrifter, since it’s a good median against whatever deck you happen to be battling. Drawing cards is never bad, and Mulldrifter is the beginning of several sick chains from Mannequin, Horde of Notions, Reveillark, and Torrent of Souls. The deck is basically centered on Mulldrifter.
This deck has a lot of ways to maneuver around whatever the opponent is playing, and Harbinger is the perfect tutor to implement those strategies. Mid-late game you’ll often get him back with Reveillark, or even Mannequin him back to ensure another steady stream of cards in the grip.
For all intents and purposes, these cards are essentially the same. Everyone is aware of the sick curves that Smokebraider starts, being the key enabler to the coveted turn 3 Horde of Notions or hard-cast Mulldrifter. Bloom Tender is less heralded, but equally as sick, enabling a pair of Fulminator Mages on turn 3, Fulminator Mage plus Gift of Gargantuan, Mulldrifter plus another Bloom Tender, Smokebraider plus Gift of Gargantuan… all kinds of super efficient plays that set you up for a potent end game.
Over drawing these guys is extremely useful too, unlike most similar producers, but in the end I’d rather have a 24th land than an 8th accelerator. One of the hidden secrets of this deck is how much more powerful your plays are the more mana you have. When you have a pair of Bloom Tenders and a Horde of Notions, you can do pretty much anything you want, which is why getting back your mana dudes with Reveillark is an extremely appealing play at any stage in the game. On top of that, they are excellent additional attackers to have the turn you cast Torrent of Souls, making it that much more devastating.
There are match-ups in which Shriekmaw will be your best line of attack, and there are match-ups in which it’s a complete dud. Mostly it’s aggro for the former and control for the latter; however, Shriekmaw shines against Bant Control decks. Cards like this are always most effectively used as one-ofs with a set number of cards to tutor for it. Luckily, Flamekin Harbinger acts as Shriekmaw #2-5 pre-board, before his two brothers arrive and gang up on unsuspecting Kithkin when they’re exiting their favorite pint-sized pub. The Shriekmaw trio is a feisty fraternity that are always down for a parking lot scuffle.
For the matches in which he is excellent, you’re likely to get several uses out of him courtesy of Mannequin and Torrent, which give you seven ways to get additional two-for-ones out of the potent Shriekmaw.
This is the best card in the deck, and the key to this strategy. Combined with Reveillark, Mannequin, Torrent, or simply hard cast on turn 3 via a Smokebraider, it’s almost like cheating. He’s also the prime target for Horde of Notions recurring action. Mulldrifter gives you a way to keep the gas in the tank, and this deck has more ways to see its potential than any other Standard deck so far.
Billy Moreno was the man that opened my eyes to how good Fulminator Mage really is… “he gives you free wins when combined with Mannequin and Torrent.” I don’t think you can really put it any better than that. It’s an insanely disruptive 3-4-5 curve that is backed up by the mass of ways to gain card advantage in this deck.
I had Fulms down to a three-of for awhile, but he enhances Bloom Tender’s effectiveness. He’s also extremely disruptive opposite both aggro and control match ups, while only being a bad card against the underpowered decks in the format. I can live with that. Combined with Horde of Notions in the late game, you’ll destroy two or three lands per turn, making him a key tool to closing out the game. There are also the nut high draws where you draw two or more combined with a Reveillark with another reanimation spell or two, and suddenly you become a full blown Land Destruction deck based solely around Fulminator. This is clearly an awesome option to have in your pocket.
This guy’s stats are pretty absurd. Not only is he an extremely hard-to-kill 5/5 for five mana, but he will also deal damage the turn he comes into play, ensuring you’ll get some value out of him. He also has a form of evasion — Trample – and he’s also your odds-on best defensive guy in the deck. Strap all that onto a built-in card advantage engine that goes completely bonkers when Bloom Tender is in play, and you have Lebron James as a Magic card.
Bant Charm and Condemn are the only good answers to this guy, both of which are heavily played, but only Bant Charm is a realistic answer since I’m never attacking with my card advantage engine when they have a White up and my spidey senses are tingling. Oblivion Ring and Unmake are also perfectly acceptable answers, but that just means they aren’t removing my Mulldrifter, which means I’ll eventually find another Horde or Harbinger to start it up again, or just kill them out of nowhere with a Torrent.
This guy is really what makes this deck feel like an aggro deck at times. This is usually associated with his appearance on turn 3, which happens more often than you might expect considering Harbinger can fill whatever piece you’re missing. On top of that, this deck also has a combo feel to it the way everything seems to click together, alongside a very controlling persona since you’ll usually have considerable board advantage. The versatility of this deck enables you to play whatever role you want, and it performs each one very effectively.
I’m honestly not too excited about Reveillarks in here. She’s nice and all, but always a win more. I’ve considered dropping down to two, but at that point I’d rather just have a one-of, and there’s no way a one-of Reveillark can be right, given the amount of utility it has in here. So until I find a better option, I’m just going to stay greedy.
Reveillark enforces whatever plan you’re looking to execute. When Fulminator is the key, Reveillark gets back the support team. When your angle is attrition, getting back Mulldrifters is your mission. When you’re in need of a Harbinger from the grave, Reveillark will bring the concrete and pave you a way. Concrete… that’s a good word to describe Reveillark. She’s the perfect supporter, with a trunk full of options at her disposal.
A lot of the time Reveillark is essentially a virtual Moat. She stops creatures from attacking, since you can take out their biggest dude while chump blocking the others with whatever utility creatures are there, preventing all the damage while killing their creatures and netting whatever comes-into-play abilities are available. On top of that, there are ten cards to reset the Reveillark (Horde, Mannequin, Torrent), so the chain will keep going until you eventually decide to kill them. This works against both control and aggressive decks, which is what I think makes this deck more than just viable.
This is one card that hasn’t gotten much attention, and it’s really a pity. I was talking with Patrick Chapin a few weeks ago, and he had the innovative thought to include Gift in a Reveillark deck. The logic is there. Generally, in Reveillark decks you overload on creatures to maximize its utility, which is what you’d want to do if you’d make a deck focused around Gift as well. On top of that, Gift helps dig deeper to find the creatures you do need, while also providing mana to cast everything. A one-two punch that reinforces the bases you have covered.
4 Makeshift Mannequin
3 Torrent of Souls
This is the real backbone of the deck. All of the creatures are important, and these cards add a lot of resilience to both hand disruption and narrow removal spells, invalidating almost every card fitting into those categories. I’m usually happy when my opponent casts Thoughtseize against me. For one, they have no clue what’s going on. For two, it’s too easy to recover from something like that when all of the cards in your deck are aimed at acquiring card advantage.
I’ve wanted to go down to two Torrent for awhile, but the fact is that you don’t have as many draws to get these cards in your hand as you do the numerous Elementals and such. With Flamekin Harbinger and Gift of the Gargantuan drawing everything but these spells, it’s much more comforting to have two in the opener since you’re almost guaranteed to draw the missing action to make them useful.
Torrent is a really big problem for a lot of decks. The fact is that if they try and attack you from a one-for-one standpoint, they’ll always lose. They need Mind Shatter, and they need to hit every card in hand, or they’ll fall victim to a brutal comeback every time. This deck is simply too resilient and has too many comeback cards.
Makeshift Mannequin gives you a way to play during their turn. It increases Mulldrifter’s value, since you always want him in the graveyard, and no one will swing into him if there’s going to be a trade. Putting him into play at Instant speed, along with Shriekmaw, Flamekin Harbinger, and especially Reveillark, is a trick that causes most decks to flat out lose. And since it’s States, we can expect for players to consistently walk into such a predictable trick.
These will be exchanged for Gift of the Gargantuan opposite the more aggressive decks. Gift is too slow against them, and Firespout is something that you have to show them you have to get one of two reactions. They either slow down, or they play as though you don’t have it. Either way, you’re in good shape, since Shriekmaw alone can keep the most sizable of squads at bay if backed up by Mannequin and Torrent until you can find a Firespout. Jund Charm might be just as good in this slot. However, is much more color intensive.
I’ve been debating the pros and cons of Response versus Negate for awhile now, and I’m still undecided. I might change it to three of each and cut Primal Command, but that’s more of a metagame call that I’ll decide on Saturday morning. That said, Guttural Response is excellent in here. It forces through whatever you’re looking to resolve while protecting against the troublesome Bant Charm. It also prevents my dying from having all my creatures tapped by Cryptic Command. The Charm / Command duo are biggest pitfalls of the deck. A Torrent, a Shriekmaw, a Smokebraider, and a Horde are the usual subtractions I make to fit Guttural in. Horde loses a bit of value against decks that can just counter him, and likewise Smokebraider goes isn’t needed when the first one is going to live a good portion of the time. Shriekmaw is usually a dead card, and Torrent is too clunky at times.
I want this to combat those stupid Mono Red decks. It’s also strong against mid-range control decks like Doran, especially when paired with a single copy of Realm Razer to have a late-game blowout option. This is another replacement for Gift of the Gargantuan in certain match-ups. I don’t think I need it opposite Kithkin, since it’s still a bit too slow, but any decks looking to throw damage at my dome… I’m going to want it.
I only need two copies, since this card only comes in when the matches go long and I might need an ace off the top to close the game out. If you don’t have a Torrent, or if your Horde is neutered, it can be hard to kill the opponent, and this will often result in Wrath gaining marginal utility against a cluttered board of Elementals. This takes that option out, and can be implemented as early as turn 6 by hard-casting a Horde and using Bloom Tender and a land to play Realm Razer for the knockout.
Having seven Shriekmaw is essential to fight the decks with lots of one-drops. I usually board an extra copy against those awful Bant decks too, and both opposite Merfolk. Reveillark usually isn’t as good against Kin, so I shave one of those and go down to three Fulminator.
Thanks to Harbinger and all the reanimation, I only need one copy of this guy against Fae. He really isn’t even that good, but being able to turn Mannequins into a 7/7 plus Wrath of God for my opponent is too good not to play. He’s also an excellent option to get Fae to tap out at the end of their turn, so I can follow it up with a Torrent on Thresher and eleven damage to their noggin.
I didn’t want to write a complete sideboarding guide, because there are far too many decks and variations on those decks to keep track of these days, and this deck’s line of attack can change depending on your view of the match-up at hand.
Here’s the complete list…
- 4 Flamekin Harbinger
- 3 Horde of Notions
- 4 Mulldrifter
- 1 Shriekmaw
- 3 Smokebraider
- 3 Reveillark
- 4 Fulminator Mage
- 4 Bloom Tender
If you’re a pretty strong tactical player, you can really take advantage of a deck like this, since you can attack from so many different angles. The heart of the deck is a attrition-based greedy card draw control deck, just like the other five color decks out there. This, however, is much more resilient to both land destruction and hand destruction. Cruel Ultimatum also isn’t very effective, since you’ll usually have three excess cards in hand, and sacrificing a Mulldrifter or Reveillark is a bonus.
All that’s left is to try and squeeze Cryptic Command in there…
Thanks for reading!
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