M15 made its grand entrance into Standard last weekend as it stormed through the Baltimore convention center in the first major Standard event it was legal
…oh wait, what’s that you say?
Mono-Black Devotion won the event? (Congrats Dan!)
Hmm… well that’s not that interesting.
In fact, these were the only seven M15 cards to appear anywhere in the entire top 8, with many of them either coming in sideboards or as part of manabases:
Now this is not something new, as two things tend to happen when a new set comes out. People are slow to adapt to new cards, as they already have their
tried and true decks ready to go. I am case and point, as I played a U/W Control deck in the Open with zero new cards. More importantly, however, is that
people haven’t really had time to smooth out any new decks or brews they have been working on. This naturally means that more established decks will likely
be taking the top spots for the first few weeks until someone is brave enough to push their brew to the next level.
There is also the added factor that there is a Pro Tour looming, so many of the game’s best players are going to be very tight-lipped about everything
having to do with Standard.
Except Tomoharu Saito, whose Twitter account is always producing fun brews:
I saw this deck after round 4 of the Open last weekend when I was on my phone wandering around on Facebook, and once I saw it I wished I had seen it before
the event. This was probably because I was extremely exhausted and had lost my first two rounds with U/W Control but also because the deck has a lot of
cool stuff going on.
The deck looks really sweet, but it also might just be awful as it has a lot of very weak synergy cards in it as well. While it can have some really scary
starts involving turn 2 Illusory Angels and quick evasion beats, it also can produce opening hands that look like this:
Despite the relatively low power level of some of the cards in the deck, there are a ton of synergies in the deck.
Surprisingly enough, Ornithopter is a lynchpin in the deck. It allows you to cast Faerie Imposter and Illusory Angel for their mana costs despite supposed
drawbacks; it can become a 5/5 flyer on turn 2 with Ensoul Artifact; it can provide an extra attacker to trigger Military Intelligence on turn 2; it can
also become a Birds of Paradise on turn 1 in conjunction with Springleaf Drum.
The most important thing for synergy cards like Ornithopter is making sure you have enough things to do with them to make them worthwhile. Because
Ornithopter is so weak by itself, it really needs to work with a majority of the cards in the deck to be worth including. In this deck there are twenty
cards that get significantly better with an Ornithopter involved.
While both of these cards are amazing with Ornithopter, they still work reasonably with the rest of the deck as there are a very good number of one mana
creatures that can be cast before them. While making Illusory Angel or Faerie Imposter cost one more mana isn’t the best, it still makes them reasonable
cards, and at full power the payoff is very good.
One of the more interesting cards in the deck, Ensoul Artifact has fourteen artifacts to work with in this deck, with four of them being the ideal play
with Darksteel Citadel. Turning a useless mid-game Springleaf Drum into a 5/5 beater with haste seems pretty sweet, but fourteen artifacts for four Ensoul
Artifacts seems awfully low. It is very possible to draw a hand with multiple Ensoul Artifact and no artifacts to ensoul. One can only assume Khans of
Trokair will have some artifact themes, but for now it really doesn’t seem supported enough.
Ahh, the card I picked last week as one of my favorite in the set–and
also warned that it might be a trap. Military Intelligence is one of the most important cards in this deck, as the best way to make up for a lower overall
power level is to use your synergy to simply over card and over power your opponents. With four Ornithopters and an absurd sixteen one-drops and four
Mutavaults, triggering Military Intelligence every turn really should not be a problem at all, and all those extra cards can be put to good use to overcome
any card disadvantage some of your weaker synergy cards create.
Despite how sweet this deck looks, as it is currently constructed, I don’t think it has what it takes. While it is surprising that Saito was actually able
to make the artifact theme workable, it is just too forced and short too many cards to be effective.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t use some of the ideas from the deck and brew our own Military Intelligence decks!
A full third of this deck is evasive one-drops, and every single creature in the deck has evasion. While individually each creature is pretty weak on its
own, the redundancy allows you to craft the deck around them and help them out to become more than the sum of their tiny parts. Ideally this deck will
never miss a trigger on Military Intelligence which will help fuel it into the midgame and to victory, and Hall of Triumph will be adding three-to-five
hasted power to the board to speed up your clock.
Because you can play out most of your threats in the first few turns, you are left to use your mana in the midgame on counterspells. While Mono Blue
Devotion has been the premier blue aggro deck for a while, most blue aggro decks in the past have followed this heavy tempo approach and used countermagic
to disrupt their opponents long enough so they can win. Standard is a very midrange format at the moment, and most important spells cost around
three-to-five mana- perfect prey for a low curve tempo strategy. Aside from Supreme Verdict, Standard is also pretty soft to a blitz-style creature attack
that can outpace two mana removal spells.
Lastly, the deck gets to make use of the newest bounce spell on the block, Void Snare. While not as good as Vapor Snag, which saw very heavy play, Void
Snare is still an excellent tempo play that is extremely efficient and adept at dealing with planeswalkers as well as creatures. Even something as simple
as Void Snaring a Polukranos or Desecration Demon represents a major tempo swing if you have any sort of board presence. It also helps to make good use of
the extra cards we will be getting from Military Intelligence.
- 3 Suntail Hawk
- 4 Judge's Familiar
- 4 Dryad Militant
- 4 Boros Elite
- 2 Syndic of Tithes
- 4 Daring Skyjek
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
- 4 Loyal Pegasus
Of course, our deck doesn’t just have to be blue. This is another look at the mono white aggro deck that has been a nice budget option for Magic Online
Daily events for the last few months. Unfortunately the deck was fast but inconsistent, and if it ever drew more than a handful of lands it would have a
lot of trouble winning.
Adding Military Intelligence, and to a lesser part Void Snare, helps to mitigate these issues. We can lower our curve even more, which is already absurdly
low, and push the aggression to the limit. If you thought the twenty one-drops in the last deck was a lot, this deck is pushing twenty-three and only has
one card in the entire deck that costs more than two mana.
Half of the one drops have evasion, while the other half are just some of the best beaters available. While 23 is a pretty absurd amount of one-drops, they
do a lot of important work in the deck that is greater than the sum of their parts. They help trigger battalion and Military Intelligence while giving you
a quick clock to apply maximum pressure.
The deck also dips into its bag of tricks and pulls out an amazing draft common that has not yet seen the light of constructed in Syndic of Tithes. While
it’s possible Syndic just isn’t a good enough creature, considering the low cost of all the spells in your deck and the rate that we hope to be drawing
them, draining one or two life a turn with Syndic could provide the deck with some nice reach in the midgame to help close it out. And speaking of closing
it out, Void Snare and Brave the Elements are excellent one mana tempo plays that can help to really put the game away.
Are these decks the best shells for Military Intelligence? I’m honestly not sure, and there are definitely a bunch of possibilities. Maybe it could slot
into a Boss Sligh type heroic deck? Or into an aggressive U/R deck utilizing Young Pyromancer? Or maybe Saito’s deck could incorporate some sort of
inspired theme with Pain Seer because it already has all those Springleaf Drums and an aggressive slant?
I for one am excited to see what ends up being the hot deck at the Pro Tour.
So what do you guys think? What other shells could Military Intelligence fit into, and do you think the card is good enough to make an impact?