Initial Amonkhet Testing Results!

Just in time for SCG Atlanta, Gerry Thompson has your initial testing results! Is Mardu Vehicles at the top of the Standard heap? Is a Delirium deck viable again? And what do the aggressive decks of the format look like? GerryT has your answers inside!

I’ve spent a lot of time this week playing Standard on Magic Online, and the results were clear: I was losing a lot to Four-Color Saheeli.

Thankfully we don’t have to worry about that anymore!

Let’s start with the new (old?) king of Standard.

Glorybringer is the truth.

Initially I was skeptical of its ability to compete in a world with the combo, but with mana acceleration, it actually halted the combo quite well. With Felidar Guardian now banned, that’s mostly irrelevant, but it just added to the laundry list of cards and strategies that Glorybringer is good against.

It slays Gideon, it kills quickly, and it’s the twice-yearly reminder that haste is the best mechanic. Glorybringer is worth maindecking as it fits both the aggressive Plan A and the controlling Plan B perfectly. Not only that, but it’s a card that is going to define Standard. Now is the time to go back to a W/R base with a black splash.

Cut//Ribbons is another reason to move back to red, although it’s less important as Fatal Push was comparable. Cut kills most things that Fatal Push didm along with some others (and without having to revolt). Additionally, Ribbons is a fine way to close games and gives you something to do when you’re mana flooded, similarly to Walking Ballista. It’s not easy to get BB, but by the time you want to cast Ribbons, it should be easy enough.

The real case for Cut over Fatal Push is that casting Fatal Push wasn’t as simple as having an extra mana lying around. Sometimes you had to jump through hoops to get revolt active. Plus, having black mana wasn’t always easy. While Cut is twice as much mana as Fatal Push, it often feels easier to cast.

Michael Majors tried a version that removed Spire of Industry from the deck entirely, but I’m not sure it’s a move I agree with.

In post-sideboarding games where you sideboard out a lot of artifacts in the face of hate, Spire of Industry certainly gets much worse. On the other hand, Spire of Industry is one of the few mana sources that taps for all three colors and enters the battlefield untapped without question.

My never versions of Mardu have WW, RR, and B (BB if you want to count Ribbons) as mana requirements, so having the multicolor land is important. If it’s a colorless land in the sideboarded games, that’s going to be an issue at times. I’d rather take that risk than be forced to play more lands that enter the battlefield tapped, though.

The entire subject of the manabase is in question, especially as the different mana requirements shift wildly depending on which cards in your wedge you want to play with.

Now that Felidar Guardian is out of the picture, is Mardu going to reign supreme? Well, it sure would be awkward if it did. For months, authors (including myself) have been saying how much the format would open up if only the combo would be banned, as there were no shortage of decks that beat up on Mardu that folded to the combo.

Given that I still think that’s true, it’s time that Mardu adapted once again. However, it’s not quite yet time for that. In the short term, I think it’s easy to say that most people are going to play decks that they were already working on and not necessarily do anything too drastic.

You may see an uptick in things like Paradoxical Outcome decks, U/G Crush of Tentacles, Turbo-Fog, and the like that are built specifically to crush Mardu. Rather than try to beat a metagame that doesn’t quite exist yet, we should focus on what Mardu can do best, at least for #SCGATL and the first week of the new format.

Lay Bare the Heart is a fine hedge for all the weird decks out there, including Aetherworks Marvel, that would be difficult matchups. Originally I was skeptical of Lay Bare the Heart over Transgress the Mind, as Transgress the Mind typically hits most of the things you would want to hit against the decks you would want to bring it in against.

The whiff rate on Transgress the Mind was a tad low for me, and that, combined with the fact that Lay Bare the Heart hits most things but missed a smaller subset of things, led to me abandoning Transgress the Mind entirely. Yeah, you might not be able to hit an Archangel Avacyn or Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, but you’ll be fine.

Basically, the decks that beat Mardu are the ones that go over the top of it, as it’s been doing to everyone else. Decks with an expensive, sorcery-speed top-end couldn’t compete with the Felidar Guardian / Saheeli Rai combo, and therefore couldn’t compete in the format, despite having at least one great matchup.

While having some disruption obviously helps against those sorts of decks, it’s definitely not enough to seal the deal. In order to accomplish that, you’re going to need a clock. Since Mardu’s best route for beating slower, more powerful Standard decks was by becoming slower and more powerful itself, it’s absolutely ripe for combo decks to prey on it. Mardu’s efficient removal and midrange mirror breakers don’t do much against spell-based combo decks. If you want to win, you’re going to need to threaten lethal damage by turn 5.

Mardu’s transformational sideboard plan into planeswalkers is going to be classic midrange, and Sorin, Grim Nemesis would cement that even further. It used to be the go-to planeswalker for outclassing mirrors, but that might not be a viable strategy with Glorybringer in the mix.

It’s possible that the new Mardu is going to want to be a bit more aggressive, but it probably still wants Glorybringer somewhere.

Initial testing of this deck was incredibly positive. Most games felt within my control because this version felt like it was going at the perfect pace. The return of Veteran Motorist and Cultivator’s Caravan was a suggestion to make the deck more aggressive and to help cast Glorybringer and Ribbons. At least in Game 1 scenarios, both cards were great.

With Four-Color Saheeli out of the format, Thalia, Heretic Cathar loses some of her usefulness. Pia Nalaar could be better, especially in more aggressive versions that could use the artifact. That said, Thalia, Heretic Cathar is incredible against Glorybringer.

I could also see a lower-to-the-ground list with Inventor’s Apprentice, as those typically played well in the Cultivator’s Caravan versions. If you felt like you needed to against the various B/G decks, you could fully transform into a midrange deck with Glorybringer and the like.

Post-sideboard, my artifacts got blown up a lot, so I’d like to refine a sideboard plan where I get to sideboard out all of my non-Scrapheap Scrounger artifacts. Glorybringer is perfect for that gameplan, so I want to build around that. With the faster clock, Lay Bare the Heart might not be entirely necessary. Additionally, I think I want more cards for the transformational sideboard plans. I just haven’t figured out exactly what that entails.

My games against various B/G decks didn’t go as well as planned, so some additional measures like Fumigate were necessary.

Is Veteran Motorist a good idea in a format with Walking Ballista? Is Cultivator’s Caravan good in a format with Manglehorn? I think the real question is how effective those cards are in maindecks. Presumably the format won’t be narrow enough to warrant maindecking Walking Ballista outside of decks with artifact synergies or Winding Constrictor. Manglehorn is an entirely different story, as artifacts will be prevalent, but Glorybringer tends to beat Manglehorn decks.

It’s a work in progress, but one that I think has a ton of potential.

I’m still working on the sideboard, the sideboard plans, and there are some cards I want to try in the maindeck, such as Heir of Falkenrath and Bone Picker. The maindeck feels mostly correct, though.

Ghoulsteed was a big breakthrough for the deck. At some point I thought of Ryan Hovis’s G/B Aggro deck with Decimator of the Provinces, and Ghoulsteed seemed perfect. Adding the consistency to the Haunted Dead package worked out well. In fact, it’s possible that more Ghoulsteeds may be in order.

Rather than max out on Lay Bare the Heart, this deck gets to play Distended Mindbender to reasonable success. Control matchups are actually kind of difficult with additional exile effects in Magma Spray and Cast Out. I’m kind of on the lookout for a difficult-to-remove permanent to sideboard in against them, but I am mostly coming up short. Splashing Fevered Visions isn’t out of the question, but Cast Out makes me think that it’s not a great idea. Counterspells might be worth it, though.

The best thing about this deck was how well it did against Four-Color Saheeli. Now that that’s not a thing anymore, its matchups across the board might be worse. R/B already had the Mardu issue of not being great against combo decks due to its relatively slow clock. B/G variants can be rough also.

This is a mix of various B/G decks from previous seasons, and while I didn’t feel confident in B/G before, that might change with Felidar Guardian gone. Regardless, this is the best list I could come up with for the aggressive version.

Gifted Aetherborn is the best two-drop and is worth potentially warping your manabase in order to incorporate. Winning races and trading up are both great qualities. Scrapheap Scrounger and Sylvan Advocate didn’t exactly impress me. Despite wanting to a take a more aggressive stance, playing the weaker, but slightly more aggressive two-drops weren’t more helpful than playing Gifted Aetherborn.

Other than that, this deck is fairly normal, albeit with some Todd Anderson technology of maindeck Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, but that could easily be the fourth Verdurous Gearhulk. The sideboard is a mix of stuff for midrange creature mirrors, small creature decks, and random combo decks.

It’s worth noting that Glorybringer is a gigantic beating against decks like this, but Blossoming Defense is such a huge tempo swing that it will probably win you the game on the spot. From playing with green aggro decks,

Early on, I had issues with my Shatters not being Disenchants, so I remedied that by including Appetite for the Unnatural. While not the perfect card against every deck, it does remove Drake Haven and Cast Out, two cards I previously had issues with.

If you want something more controlling, then you will probably welcome the return of pure B/G Delirium.

Aside from feeling like B/G Delirium was mostly half a turn behind most of the time, my biggest disappointment with the deck was how rarely I could play Liliana, Death’s Majesty and immediately reanimate a big creature. Without more ways to self-mill or discard cards, it didn’t come up very often. Granted, you’re supposed to have enough time to cast your threats, trade them, and then Liliana them back, but that’s not always the case.

To that end, I’m going to try Grim Flayers maindeck in place of some Grapple with the Pasts and Gnarlwood Dryads. Regardless, I’m interested in playing Grim Flayer somewhere in the 75. The other route I’m interested in going down is rebuilding the old Sultai Delirium deck with Torrential Gearhulk and a little bit of extra self-mill. I find it difficult to believe that Liliana, Death’s Majesty returning a Torrential Gearhulk wouldn’t be game over the vast majority of the time.

While I’m not ready to call it quite yet, I don’t think U/R Emerge is going to be great.

Have you ever been Magma Sprayed? It is the absolute worst.

Cast Out isn’t much better for you. At least with the R/B deck above, you have no shortage of attractive Magma Spray targets.

I’m sure someone will make a good version of this deck, but I couldn’t figure it out. Bloodrage Brawler didn’t seem correct because the deck couldn’t leverage the extra clock well enough. Drake Haven and/or Kozilek’s Return maindeck could go in a more controlling package, but at that point, I’m not very excited about what the deck is really doing.

The next two decks are things I’ve played against that have some potential but that I wouldn’t expect to be big players.

This is one of those decks that probably isn’t going to be great but is one of the litmus tests for certain things that you’ll have to be able to beat. Quick beats, some removal, and Glorybringer at the top-end is a fine place to be, but it’s nothing special.

Most of the lists I’ve played against online have been W/R, but I haven’t seen many actual red cards outside of Hanweir Garrison. That alone doesn’t seem like it’s worth the splash to me, but their red cards could also be things like Reckless Bushwhacker in the sideboard.

Both of the Exert two-drops make this deck viable again. Gideon of the Trials certainly helps too. Metallic Mimic and Devoted Crop-Mate are potential cards to play, especially if you don’t want some of the clunkier spells in the deck. Those cards haven’t been cast against me very often, and I assume that they have been tested to some degree and found lacking.


Mardu is a safe choice for #SCGATL, but I would expect there to be some crazy hate out there. Maindeck Manglehorns will be out in full force, so be careful if you think it’s finally safe to play an artifact-based deck. If I were going, I’d play Glorybringer, but I’m not sure what other cards should go with it. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is looking worse and worse, and I’m not high on the idea of trying to curve one through five. I think Glorybringer with green cards (and probably another color or two) is the answer.

Good luck out there.