Rise Of Aintrazi – New Ingredients To The Cauldron

Control decks get much better; Birthing Pod got some new toys; Burning Vengeance got another enchantment; and we now have a token deck. Can these contenders take down tempo at StarCityGames.com Open: Richmond?

So we are here again. A new set is out, and a Pro Tour is right around the corner. Dark Ascension may seem like it didn’t bring too much to the table, but it has. Control decks get much better; Birthing Pod got some new toys; Burning Vengeance got another enchantment; and we now have a token deck. Can these contenders take down all the tempo decks? Maybe, let’s get to brewing!

Let’s talk about my favorite deck first.

And I thought I loved Solar Flare. This deck does everything Flare could do and more. We have Ratchet Bomb and Whipflare to keep all the tempo decks honest in the early game. We then can finish them off with a Sun Titan, recurring anything we want from our graveyard, an Elesh Norn, wiping the board, or a Grave Titan to start putting on pressure. A thing to note about Sun Titan is that if he recurs Pacifism, it can go on any creature, even one with hexproof. So this little enchantment can stop Invisible Stalker, Geist of Saint Traft, and Thrun, the Last Troll. If you get it on a legendary creature, like Thrun, the Last Troll, it’s going to be really hard for your opponent to get another one out.

I find Mana Leak to be the weakest card in the deck, but I feel like it’s a necessary evil. I’ve shaved one, but I can’t bring myself to take away anymore from the deck.

Maindeck Ancient Grudge may look weird, but it’s held up its own weight. At worst, it gets stuck in your hand until you can discard it to a Faithless Looting or Desperate Ravings. At best, it destroys your opponent’s Sword of War and Peace and waits in the graveyard at the ready.

This deck isn’t all upside though. It does struggle a bit against a true control deck, like U/B Control with Drownyards. This is one of the reasons for the third Unburial Rites, since they need to counter that spell twice or Dissipate it. I also don’t believe control will be that big in the new metagame, at least not in the beginning; it will take a few weeks for it to establish itself. We still have a lot of tempo decks, and turn-two Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is such a beating against a U/B Control deck. If a miracle happens and control begins to dominate the meta, then we can update the maindeck and sideboard accordingly. A deck playing four colors can adapt pretty easily.

Moving on, let’s go to a deck that I believe people have forgotten about. This list is Brad Sheppard’s with a few changes.

Many people think this deck isn’t good enough or is just a thing of the past. I personally think it’s still a good choice and an even better choice if control becomes big in the format. This deck can pretty much answer any other deck with an active Pod. It can remove pesky creatures with Fiend Hunter, destroy annoying artifacts and enchantments with Sylvok Replica or Viridian Corrupter, it can buy you time against an aggressive deck with Peace Strider, Stonehorn Dignitary, and/or Wurmcoil Engine. It can even draw you some cards if that’s what you’re looking for with Mentor of the Meek. Mimic Vats act as Pods five through six, and things just get silly if you have both of them out.

The only problem with this deck is that if it gets big, it can be easily hated on with Grafdigger’s Cage, but this deck can adapt to that card. It already has five ways of dealing with it in the maindeck and gains many more from the sideboard. It’s also an awkward deck when you don’t get either Birthing Pod or Mimic Vat. You become a midrange deck with no real focus. At least you’ll be playing Commander in Standard; that’s always fun right?

Playing against tokens can be rough if they have limitless tokens, and that’s why I’m packing the three Ratchet Bombs in the board. Ratchet Bomb is also a nice catchall against any deck. You can bring it in against Tokens, Delver, Humans, and even against a Burning Vengeance deck. Speaking of Burning Vengeance, nobody wants to talk about that deck. I know it’s not a very powerful strategy, but I think we should still give it a look.

Not the best deck on the block by any means, but the deck did gain some new spells. While Faithless Looting is really good in this deck, Secrets of the Dead is underwhelming. Why couldn’t they just make Burning Vengeance cost two mana? Actually, that still probably wouldn’t be enough. People like to compare this deck to the Astral Slide / Lightning Rift deck of old, but it’s just not as good. In that deck, your cyclers cost one or two mana. In the Burning Vengeance deck, the cheapest flashback spell you have costs three mana, which makes it infinitely slower.

I’m still trying to make this deck work because I just love these types of decks. These decks are nigh unstoppable if they have their namesake card in play; otherwise they just flail like a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man. So I’m using the Astral Slide strategy of adding Exalted Angel to my deck to give it an alternate win condition. My Exalted Angel is obviously Batterskull, and it does one hell of an impersonation.

Keep in mind you want to be extra careful when casting Burning Vengeance against a deck running counterspells. Don’t just jam the card turn three against a blue player and hope it resolves. Be patient; Burning Vengeance will win you the game, so don’t just throw it away. Even if you have two in hand, don’t be so hasty. I would jam my Secrets of the Dead before I cast Burning Vengeance in hopes they counter that over my win condition.

Some things about the sideboard that may not be blatantly obvious: Phantasmal Image is for hexproof creatures, since it’s really hard for you to kill them. Shrine of Burning Rage I bring in against any slow control decks. As you may know, Shrine alone can kill a control deck if played in the early turns, and it goes unanswered. The second Grudge is for ramp decks or Tempered Steel, since you’ll look like an idiot with your Whipflares in hand against their army of artifacts; hey at least you can pitch them to Looting! Flashfreeze is for ramp decks and Red Deck Wins.

A neat thing about Burning Vengeance is it doesn’t just trigger off flashback spells. It triggers off any card cast from the graveyard. So cards with retrace or cards like Gravecrawler are fair game. If you or someone you know has had success with a list of Burning Vengeance, I would love to see it. Maybe you tried a different color or went a different route entirely? Let me know in the comments!

Let’s look at one more deck shall we? How about Heartless Summoning?

After playing Mark Kinney in the Standard portion of SCG Open: DC, I couldn’t stop thinking about Heartless Summoning. I was playing U/B Control, and he was playing his Heartless deck. Game one, he crushed me pretty quickly, but game two I brought in my three Praetor’s Grasps, Life’s Finale, and Mimic Vat; I pretty much just played his deck! I even got a Rune-Scarred Demon under Mimic Vat at one point (very unfair, mind you). The match ended up in a draw, but after that, I wanted to build my own Heartless deck, and here we are.

When I saw Havengul Lich, I knew he belonged in this deck. Having your board wiped and then being able to cast all your creatures and your opponent’s creatures with this guy is just too insane. I’ve also included the combo of Heartless Summoning, Havengul Lich, and Perilous Myr. You can just pay one mana and gun down anything you want. It shouldn’t happen too often, but it will happen since Sphinx of Uthuun digs so deep and Rune-Scarred Demon can tutor pieces that you need if you are trying to assemble that combo.

I’m not playing Mana Leaks in the maindeck. Instead I’ve opted for creature kill and moved all my control cards to the sideboard. I just don’t feel like I will play control that much, and I’d rather have the removal against all these tempo and token decks.

I’m extremely excited for Massacre Wurm against all these little creature decks. You have five tokens in play? Okay, well they are all dead, and you lose ten life! By the way, every time you chump block, you lose two life. Against the control decks, we bring in Distress, Bloodgift Demon, and the Mimic Vats, cutting all our removal. The plan is to just overload them with spells and resolve a Mimic Vat. If you ever get one of your creatures under the Vat, the game should be all but over. The Frost Titans I’d bring in against ramp decks to lock up their Titans, Inkmoth Nexus, or Kessig Wolf Run.

This deck looks like the most fun to play for me. I’ll probably be slinging this or Four-Color Control at the StarCityGames.com Open in Richmond. If you are there, stop by and say hello.

As always, thanks for reading and happy brewing!

Ali, Dimir Lobotomist