Aetherflux Reservoir. Man, it even sounds cool. It’s like a huge vat of all this aether, tossing around in a state of…well, flux. Quite how that relates to a game mechanic that has nothing to do with energy is beyond me, but it still sounds and looks cool.
The rules text is pretty special too: a ludicrous activation cost, an unparalleled effect, and a callback to the storm mechanic, all in one tidy little package. That it is not legendary just makes it even more fun. But then, how much more fun do you need than dealing 50 damage to a target?
And then there’s the flavor. Rewarding its owner with ever-increasing life force, it also grants said owner the ability to channel that life force into one huge, soul-destroying blast. I am unsure as I write this if I will be saying “Imma chargin’ ma lazor” when I gain life with the Reservoir or if “Commence primary ignition” is fitting once I reach 35 life (¿Por que no los dos?), but I am positive that I will be having a lot of fun with this card.
Aetherflux Reservoir is a very interesting card to build around. Unlike Panharmonicon and Aetherworks Marvel where the artifacts are basically one-trick ponies, the Reservoir has two abilities that, while they work together, can lend themselves to different decks. We can storm off or we can just gain life and drop the Reservoir as a finisher. It also avoids the “win more” feel of Panharmonicon while not giving up any of the combo potential. Flexibility and a unique, splashy effect? I am all about it.
The lifegain aspect is oft-maligned, but there are some decks that make good use of it as a strategy. I am not for one second going to suggest that cards that only gain life are good, but when that lifegain is tied to effects that you actually want, it is much easier to justify. And storm…well, it’s busted. We know this. In Standard it is a little challenging to get the count high enough, but in Modern it is much easier. I put on my brewing cap and came up with some lists to whet your appetite. Behold!
This deck is Legen…wait for it…
Before rotation, a B/W Legendary deck was seeing some play in Standard. Built around Thalia’s Lancers and its ability to tutor up the appropriate legendary permanent for the game state, it also packed a large removal package.
Rotation cost us very little in terms of tutorable legendary creatures and in fact gave us a new one in Kambal, Consul of Allocation. Okay, we also got Gonti, Lord of Luxury and Gonti might be good enough too, but we’re a little glutted at four mana.
Before we go too much further, let’s check out the list:
- 2 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
- 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
- 2 Archangel Avacyn
- 1 Bruna, the Fading Light
- 2 Gisela, the Broken Blade
- 3 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
- 3 Thalia's Lancers
- 1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
- 3 Filigree Familiar
- 2 Aerial Responder
- 1 Noxious Gearhulk
- 2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
I am a little concerned about the early-game for this deck, but my hope is that we can catch up enough in the mid-game with all our lifegain. Kambal might well be a lightning rod, but against some decks, that gain of two life might be what we need to buy us another turn. Besides, killing Kambal means one fewer spell they can use to remove Gisela, the Broken Blade or Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim. Aerial Responder and Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim can both help us survive to the late-game, when the Reservoir comes down to hopefully win us the game in one shot.
Liliana, the Last Hope is a key component to the deck outside of the obvious Thalia’s Lancers tutor engine. Her ability to recur creatures that have been sacrificed to Ayli is the best way to keep our life total on the ascent, but she also helps keep creatures off our back early in the game. It’s possible we want the third in the maindeck, but more testing is needed to be sure of that.
Our removal suite is fairly solid and mostly at instant speed. Grasp of Darkness does make our manabase slightly tricky, but it’s too good in this format to leave out. Blessed Alliance might be better in the sideboard, but I will admit that I have it in here because it can also gain us life. Look, I’m predictable, okay?
Gain Even More Life
That first deck not doing it for you? Are you more interested in being all-in on the lifegain plan? Okay, I got you. How do you feel about mono-white?
- 2 Bygone Bishop
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 2 Pious Evangel
- 3 Gisela, the Broken Blade
- 4 Lone Rider
- 4 Aerial Responder
- 2 Angel of Invention
It’s possible the Bygone Bishops should be something else, perhaps something to pump a turn 2 Lone Rider, but I wanted a way to draw some cards. Filigree Familiar is also a contender for this spot, but the flying and the extra point of power make me more interested in the Bishop.
This feels much more like a deck that can reliably get to a high life total for the Reservoir to do its Death Star impression. Going heavier on the beatdown and cutting some of the removal might be a better plan; I could see a case for more Collective Effort, for example, which plays very nicely with all that vigilance. At heart this is a fairly aggressive deck that gains life while beating down, which seems like exactly where I want to be. Because of all the vigilant threats, we can also play solid defense, making Aetherflux Reservoir even better when it resolves.
Felidar Sovereign in the sideboard could be wrong, but if we are planning to get our life up that high, then it seems like the card belongs somewhere in the 75. I considered Ruin Processor in this spot, but Felidar Sovereign is just better in almost every way.
There’s another way to build this deck that splashes blue for Cloudblazer, adds Filigree Familiar, and plays Eldrazi Displacer, but I feel like that gets us looking down a different road.
The Ironworks Were Building a “Laser”
Oh, that wacky Krark Clan. All this time we knew they had an Ironworks, but little did we know that they were building a galactic superweapon there. Smart Goblins…who knew?
- 3 Sleight of Hand
- 4 Serum Visions
- 4 Second Sunrise
- 4 Conjurer's Bauble
- 4 Reshape
- 1 Pyrite Spellbomb
- 4 Chromatic Sphere
- 4 Chromatic Star
- 4 Lotus Bloom
- 4 Elsewhere Flask
- 2 Silence
- 1 Gitaxian Probe
- 4 Faith's Reward
I played Eggs back in the days before Stanislav Cifka put the deck on everyone’s radar by winning a Pro Tour with it. Proponents of the archetype, of which I am one, will tell you that with practice and a non-recursive win condition, the deck was fine even with Second Sunrise. Pyrite Spellbomb is an option, sure. So are Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Banefire, and they cannot be countered. Kaervek’s Torch is also worth considering. But alas, even though Cifka played relatively quickly on-camera, the baying masses won the day and Second Sunrise went the way of the Blazing Shoal.
The deck refused to die, as all good combo decks should. It’s undoubtedly less powerful now that one of our recursion effects costs 4WW instead of 1WW, but the mana was never really the stumbling block for the deck. We fizzled more due to not finding the recursion than not being able to cast it. The win conditions didn’t change, but now we have one that fits the rest of our gameplan in Aetherflux Reservoir:
The way the deck plays out has not changed: Cast your small artifacts. Draw cards. Wait for Lotus Bloom to come off suspend if necessary. Sacrifice everything and then bring it all back with Faith’s Reward or Open the Vaults. Rinse and repeat. Find your win condition. Kill them with all the mana you generated from Krark-Clan Ironworks and tapping lands before destroying them with Ghost Quarter…or simply by paying 50 life.
The reason that Aetherflux Reservoir works so well in this deck is that no matter when in the loop you cast it, it will still count all the spells that happened before. It can also be sacrificed itself to give you two mana, only to come back when you recur the graveyard. On the turn you combo off, it is not hard to cast ten or more spells, letting you gain huge amounts of life from just a few more spells. I might have one too many in the deck, to be honest, but they are very good in multiples.
Is this deck playable when graveyard hate is so prevalent? Well, I think so, yes. We have a lot of answers to Rest in Peace in our sideboard, and although we cannot counter a pre-game Leyline of the Void, we can exile it with Revoke Existence. We need that card over a destroy effect because the last thing we want to do is recur an opposing Stony Silence with Open the Vaults. Grafdigger’s Cage is completely dead against us, which is why we have it in our own sideboard. The deck does suffer from some splash hate, but it’s also immense fun and relatively cheap to put together.
Hey, Soul Sister
How convenient that a set containing trains should give me a card that I want to play in a deck that shares a name with a song by Train. Okay, that was a stretch. I admit it. I was making that joke regardless. But I will go to almost any lengths to play this deck, and to make jokes about it.
One of the biggest problems with Soul Sisters has always been what to do with all that life against decks like Jund that can just remove all your cute stuff. Even the W/R version with Genesis Chamber and Norin the Wary was vulnerable to Kolaghan’s Command and heavy removal. Aetherflux Reservoir solves that problem by giving us an “I win” button, and one that is hard to interact with. We can resolve it and activate it without passing priority, so Kolaghan’s Command isn’t as scary.
Soul Sisters might be the obvious place to look for an Aetherflux Reservoir deck, but that isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes the obvious is also the best. Traditional Soul Sisters builds will play cards like Spectral Procession and Squadron Hawk, but we are not going that route. Instead we are adding a light black splash and playing Martyr of Sands and Serra Ascendant to make sure we get to 50 life as quickly as possible.
Why black? The usual card to play with Martyr of Sands is Proclamation of Rebirth, which can be forecast for 5W to bring back a creature with converted mana cost one or less from the graveyard to the battlefield. It can’t be countered, but you can only forecast in your upkeep and it ties up six mana each turn. Orzhov Charm, on the other hand, has at least two relevant modes, and we can often make the bounce mode work too. It’s also an instant and far cheaper than Proclamation, though lacking in the reusable nature. Then again, how often do you need to gain twelve life before we find a Reservoir?
- 4 Soul Warden
- 4 Martyr of Sands
- 2 Ranger of Eos
- 4 Soul's Attendant
- 4 Serra Ascendant
- 2 Archangel of Thune
- 2 Lone Rider
- 1 Angel of Invention
Few things in Magic make me as happy as sacrificing a Martyr of Sands, but one of those things might be dealing 50 damage in one shot. I’m a simple man with simple tastes.
Unlike a lot of decks with a lot of low-cost creatures, this one doesn’t want to play out its hand right away. Both Martyr of Sands and Aetherflux Reservoir will reward you for holding spells, and as the Reservoir is the only card in the deck that doesn’t gain you life when revealed to Martyr, it should not be hard to keep four or five spells in hand most of the time.
Because an army of 1/1 creatures isn’t particularly threatening, we have some five-drops that make the team decidedly scarier. I considered a Hero of Bladehold in the deck as well, but I thought Angel of Invention fit the plan better, as Hero works best with aggressive creatures. Archangel of Thune can win games on its own but is even better if it resolves when your side of the battlefield has two or three Soul Sisters on it.
You May Fire When Ready
I hope you were able to find something here to catch your attention. As I will be at the SCG Invitational in Atlanta in December, I may even play some of these lists in an effort to get another deck tech with janky creatures. I can dream, right?
As always, folks, thanks for stopping by the LAB. Until next time…Brew On!