Mastermind’s Acquisition For Fun And Profit

New Standard decks are still being discovered and developed! This is one of the latest, and Pro Tour Champion Shaun McLaren is a big fan! See his updates for this exciting new archetype!

The Standard metagame at
had plenty of awesome different decks to choose from, no matter what you’re
interested in doing. I’ve had my eye on Modern lately, but there was one
new Standard deck cool enough that I couldn’t resist trying out. That’s
what I’ll be discussing today, starting with the first version:

Ali Aintrazi’s version placed third in the Indianapolis Classic, and boy
does this deck look strange and cool.

The core of the deck is green and black. It’s packed full of removal and
ramp with some card draw and Mastermind’s Acquisition to find your win
conditions. It’s essentially a G/B Control deck, but there are plenty of
interesting things going on with what the deck wants to do.

Let’s start by going over some of the key cards, core strengths, and
interesting lines of play involving how the deck can perform.

Hour of Promise is a really powerful card. You’re almost always
searching up any missing Deserts to get to three on the battlefield so
you get the Zombie tokens, usually starting with Ifnir Deadlands and
Scavenger Grounds. Once you have three Deserts you probably want Arch
of Orazca to make sure you don’t run out of cards in the late game,
with Field of Ruin and Cascading Cataracts as considerations as the
situation warrants.

With Mono-Red Aggro and G/R Monsters being so powerful right now and a
large emphasis on creatures in the format, it’s nice to have a deck
packed full of removal. That also means it’s nice dodging creature
removal as well, since other than the tokens from Hour of Promise,
you’re not playing many creatures.

Mastermind’s Acquisition is what allows you to get a leg up over the
non-aggro part of the format by allowing you to play a powerful toolbox
of cards to tutor for in your sideboard. While Mastermind’s Acquisition
may be slow, it’s incredibly versatile. It acts as a way to find the
best card for any given situation and is your win condition (or at
least allows you find your win condition).

Mastermind’s Acquisition is unique in that it allows you to search for
a card from your library or for one outside the game (also
known as your sideboard). The especially nice thing about the
Mastermind’s Acquisition is that those toolbox cards don’t have to stay
in your sideboard in games 2 and 3 like they would if you were tutoring
them up with Glittering Wish or Cunning Wish. You can just bring in
your good cards and then tutor through your deck to find them. For
example, against an Approach of the Second Sun deck, you’d bring in
Lost Legacy and be happy to draw it naturally or search your deck to
find it with Mastermind’s Acquisition

Here’s another take on Mastermind’s Acquisition from Chris Botelho from
Grand Prix Memphis:

Adding white as a main color in the deck unlocks some great cards. Approach
of the Second Sun is a great creatureless win condition and white gives you
access to the most powerful mass removal in the format as well.

Fumigate and Settle the Wreckage are a little more costly than the black
spot removal, but it allows you to get back in the game if you start
falling behind early spending your first turns ramping.

Spring is essentially Gift of Paradise but instead of gaining three life
immediately, you can draw cards later. The way the format looks right now,
the three life from Gift of Paradise is important, but Spring can
supplement when you want more ramp. Just don’t enchant the same land with
two copies of Gift of Paradise since its effect doesn’t stack.

Finally, here’s my take on the deck:

I’m trying to keep the manabase simple by focusing on the green and black
in the maindeck. Even though you can splash for pretty much anything, the
green and black cards you have access to cover almost everything you want
to be doing and keep your mana smooth. Cascading Cataracts and Gift of
Paradise should fix your mana by the time you’re ready to start casting
some of the more interesting sideboard cards.

Since the deck has so many silver bullets to tutor for, I’ll go over some
of the individual card choices and how they fit into the deck:

Vraska, Relic Seeker is one of the ways you can win without Mastermind’s
Acquisition involved. It’s easy to ramp into and acts as excellent removal,
a win condition, and even mana fixing. Vraska can ultimate quickly once
you’ve cleared out your opponent’s threats.

Moment of Craving isn’t the most exciting removal spell, but it trades with
most of the early drops in the format of equal mana cost you’ll encounter
and even gains you some life. At instant speed that’s a bargain. Moment of
Craving even pairs up with Yahenni’s Expertise to take down a Hazoret the
Fervent or Rhonas the Indomitable.

Battle at the Bridge is similar to Moment of Craving, just a little bit
slower and sorcery speed. The upside being it can take down much bigger
creatures and gain you a lot more life as the game progresses. It’s
especially nice getting an extra bonus thanks to improvise with Treasure
Map, Azor’s Gateway, and Thaumatic Compass. You can also improvise with
Treasure tokens from Treasure Map and Vraska, Relic Seeker.

Doomfall bridges the gap between aggro and control. Exiling creatures is
great right now, but it can be inconsistent for hitting what you want. The
nice thing is you have plenty of cheap spot removal so you can usually set
it up to exile something juicy with Doomfall.

Arch of Orazca is great and is one of the keys to winning long and grindy
games. My list runs a second copy because drawing cards for free is fun. It
might be overkill against aggro decks, but it’s nice to have the second
copy to draw naturally in case you don’t resolve Hour of Promise against a
control deck or your opponent has a Field of Ruin.

A powerful card that’s easy to transform, thanks to Hour of Promise, with a
unique defensive ability. It can help your slower draws without ramp,
allowing you to hit lands drops while still occasionally leaving some mana
left over for casting removal. Then once Thaumatic Compass transforms into
Maze of Ith… I mean Spires of Orazca… you have a permanent answer to pesky
threats like Rekindling Phoenix. The biggest problem I have with Thaumatic
Compass is that you have to transform it once you hit seven lands,
which means you can’t just find all the basic lands in your deck against
control decks first.

It’s not that difficult to transform Azor’s Gateway, thanks to the deck
having plenty of different mana costs, but it does take some time. The
looting effect is great in the deck though, since sometimes your removal is
dead and you don’t want to be stuck drawing ramp or lands in the late game.

The real fun starts if you can transform Azor’s Gateway into Sanctum of the
Sun. If you have Mastermind’s Acquisition, you can usually just tutor up
Torment of Hailfire and win on the spot.

Treasure Map is just good clean card selection to start out with and
eventually turns into ramp and card draw. It fits the deck’s curve nicely
and allows you to draw what you need while transitioning to the late game.

Torment of Hailfire acts at a tutorable mana sink and ridiculously
satisfying win condition. It might sometimes take X to equal ten or more to
outright win the game, but it isn’t that hard to get to that point in long,
drawn out games.

Great against control decks and often what you want to find with
Mastermind’s Acquisition if you’re out of cards but have a decent amount of
mana against a control deck but not enough to just win with Torment of
Hailfire. I found Wildest Dreams to be a little underwhelming, since when
you have enough mana to make it good, you can just cast Torment of Hailfire
or get Arguel’s Blood Fast to draw a bunch of cards anyways or just put in
another copy of Arguel’s Blood Fast over it instead.

You might not be tutoring up Zacama, Primal Calamity that often, but the
times you do are incredibly satisfying. Zacama, Primal Calamity basically
just wins the game on the spot against red aggro decks since it’s difficult
for them to remove and gains you a ton of line.

Zacama is especially nasty with Sanctum of the Sun since it untaps all your
lands and allows you to generate a ridiculous amount of mana while
conveniently giving you a mana sink as well.

Sometimes you need a card to exile your opponent’s creatures while also
dodging removal and giving you an eventual win condition. Profane
Procession has you covered. A great card to find against a creature deck
when you’ve stopped their initial onslaught and you don’t want them
grinding you out.

Mainly for Approach of the Second Sun decks, but works against most combo
decks in a pinch or can hit Glimmer of Genius against control.

Nezahal, Primal Tide slips past a counter wall and is hard to kill once it
hits the battlefield. Perhaps a little too narrow and underpowered compared
to just jamming more copies of Arguel’s Blood Fast, but not that difficult
to cast at only seven mana.

There’s plenty of mass removal you could put in this slot, but I like the
fact that Hour of Devastation hits planeswalkers and makes creatures lose
indestructible. The alternatives like Bontu’s Last Reckoning, Fumigate,
Yaheeni’s Expertise, and Star of Extinction all have merits as well though.

Mastering Mastermind

So is the deck good?

I think it has the tools necessary to tackle the aggro and control decks of
the format. The deck does suffer a little from having clunky draws where
you draw your ramp and removal at the wrong times. I’m also afraid of the
resilience of G/R Monsters, especially the cards with eternalize. Overall I
think the deck’s consistency might be the biggest issue that keeps it from
being a top contender, but it sure is fun to play.