Saviors in Standard: Highlights, New Decks, and Prophesies

Rick Rust delivers an awesome article today, taking apart what Saviors of Kamigawa has to offer the best decks in Standard as part of his set review, and then proposing not one, not two, but an astounding nine possible decks that try to abuse the new set including what could be a very saucy Reanimator build. This is great Regionals preparation for netdeckers and rogue players alike.

Ever have one of those prereleases where you open great cards, and somehow you just can’t post a winning record? So you enter another flight to redeem yourself and the same thing happens again? I’m talking about the kind of prerelease where you are racing an opponent’s Endless Swarm and he topdecks Ghost-Lit Nourisher for the win, when you’re going to swing for the win the following turn. It was so bad he actually apologized. The kind of prerelease where your opponent’s deck with three colors works perfectly, combining Honden of Night’s Reach, Okina Nightwatch, and Ivory Crane Netsuke to totally blow you out, while you have to mulligan at least once each game.

Moving right along, I’m really excited about this new set. It has lots of interesting new cards and presents new challenges that established archetypes for Mono Blue Control and Tooth and Nail. Let’s take a quick look at the pre-Saviors metagame, so that we can put the new cards in perspective.

The Big Four


Beacon Green



There are many other archetypes that are hanging around too, from G/U Control and Rainbow Gifts to White Weenie and Big Red. Nevertheless, these are the four biggies that tend to appear the most and win the most. Any viable deck needs to have a plan against them. No one denies that MUC and Tooth are serious contenders, but you might not be so sure about the other two. For background on Ponza, check my previous article. Originally, I feared that I would have to explain why Beacon Green is on the list, making this article even longer, but Sean McKeown kindly saved me the trouble. He even argues that Beacon is the best deck in the pre-Saviors format.

Alright, it’s time to get down to business. I’m look at the highlights and impact of Saviors by archetype, considering helpful new additions and the new cards that help opponents attack each archetype. Then I’ll briefly cover a number of other cards that don’t really fit into established archetypes. Finally, I’ll wrap up with a laundry list of new or newly tuned decks, followed by a brief wrap up about the Post-Saviors that includes me playing the role of soothsayer, trying to prophesize what directions the new format will take.


Oboro, Palace in the Clouds

Oboro, Palace in the Clouds isn’t that exciting. There are a few tricks with it that help shield you against land destruction or give you something to discard to Thirst for Knowledge, but when it comes down to playing a man-land (win condition) versus such a subtle legendary land, it’s unlikely that the latter is more important.

Oppressive Will

This is a really well-designed counter, which is a roundabout way of saying that it isn’t good enough for Standard. In the early game, it’s better than Hinder, acting as a hard counter. Later on, though, when your hand is smaller and your opponent has a large mana base, this counter is garbage. Condescend, by comparison, is almost as good in the early game and, at a minimum, lets you scry into good stuff in the late game.

Overwhelming Instinct

Remember Spelljack? Like that six-mana counter, Instinct looks too cute and too expensive for its own good. If you are going to pay six mana to say “no,” it Time Stop is better overall. Instinct won’t stop Beacon of Creation from Mono Green or Tooth and Nail.

On the other hand, resolving Instinct against even a measly two-mana creature is a three-for-one in card advantage. Now imagine what happens if you stop Troll Ascetic or Arc-Slogger. It promises big rewards but its narrowness and big cost are more than a counterbalance.


Having an extra copy of Thirst for Knowledge or Bribery on the stack is pretty sweet. Matching Tooth and Nail’s sorceries is nice too, but you need to realize that your Twincast Tooth resolves first, allowing the Tooth player to turn the tables afterward with Kiki-Jikki and Duplicant. Versus Ponza, land destruction and burn becomes an eye-for-an-eye, and in the mirror, Twincast reads: counter target counterspell. Against Beacon Green, it’s less exciting, but you should be able to catch a Cranial Extraction or Plow Under eventually.

Despite all these possibilities, Twincast doesn’t fit well in MUC. You want to stop spells entirely, not duplicate them. Maybe there’s a way to redesign MUC so that Twincast has some broken synergy, but nothing is jumping out at me.

Overall, it doesn’t look like MUC gains anything significant from Saviors. There is a large influx of problematic anti-MUC spells, though…

Pithing Needle

This chase rare hits MUC harder than any other established archetype. It can shut down Stalking Stones, Blinkmoth Nexus, Wayfarer’s Bauble, Vedalken Shackles-the biggie-and Meloku. All for one mana. Blue mages, you’ve been warned.

Arashi, the Sky Asunder

Countermagic doesn’t stop Channel. Therefore, Arashi is a powerful removal spell against Thieving Magpie, Meloku, and all his minions.

Rending Vines

Losing Shackes is always bad for MUC. Watching your opponent gain card advantage in the process is even worse.

Adamaro, First to Desire

Adamaro’s Gaze

This Adamaro guy must really hate mages who have a penchant for control. Adamaro, himself, comes online early and hits really hard. His Gaze may be a turn slower, but has the benefit of being an instant. For the same cost as Boil, you can take a large chunk out of the Blue mage’s life total and not have to worry about Spectral Shift.

Thoughts of Ruin

Adamaro was just an appetizer. Here is the Blue-mage killer. Life is a resource that is expendable for MUC, at least in the near term. Lands are not. Stone Rain and Molten Rain are annoying but rarely game-breaking. Thoughts of Ruin, on the other hand, is a wrecking ball, attacking everything that lets MUC win, the man lands, Shackles, and Meloku.

Beacon Green

Pithing Needle

Myriad Red creatures give the Green men a hard time, like Vulshok Sorcerer, Big Slogs, Kumano, and Kiki-Jiki. For one measly mana, Pithing Needle shuts down not just one of these Red bad boys, but all future copies as well. Against MUC, you can take the artifact destruction approach against Vedalken Shackles, but Pithing Needle is easier to resolve and turns additional Shackles into dead draws.

Arashi, the Sky Asunder

I already mentioned how this card beats up on Blue fliers. Getting beyond that, there’s much more to love about Arashi. Even without any abilities, a 5/5 for five mana would be respectable. Tapping to knock out fliers and Channel make Arashi much smarter than the typical mindless green beatdown machine. Not only is this Legend an uncounterable answer to MUC’s fliers, it also gets ride of Tooth’s Mephidross Vampire and Platinum Angel. Arashi is aggression and control, wrapped up in one streamlined package-a very rare commodity for Green.

Rending Vines

As long as most of the common targets have a converted mana cost of two or three, this Naturalize-turned cantrip seems better than the original. It’s even an Arcane. The GG in the mana cost is a minor issue, considering that all non-Tooth decks, have plenty of Green sources to support Eternal Witness.

Stampeding Serow

When I first saw the spoiler, I thought that there had to be a misprint. Power greater than the converted mana cost? Trample too? Then there’s the “drawback” that is really a potent ability. With Birds of Paradise and Beacon of Creation, paying the bounce cost is practically painless. Throw in creatures like Wood Elves, Viridian Shaman, Eternal Witness, maybe even Karstoderm, and returning a creature to hand becomes an advantage.

Green doesn’t gain many cards, in fact the depth and variety of its new cards is really lacking, but helps make up for this with the quality of the few cards it does gain. Another bonus is that it doesn’t look like there are that many new cards that have green in the crosshairs.

Overwhelming Instinct

As I mentioned earlier, Instinct doesn’t seem that good versus Green, even though there are plenty of three-mana creatures in Green decks and catching even one of them with Instinct is really nasty.

Thoughts of Ruin

Beacon Green is a very mana-hungry deck. More lands means bigger Beacons, and each time you cast the Beacon your chances of drawing another land decrease. Troll Ascetic and Equipment also demand quite a bit of mana. If the Red mage can contain Birds of Paradise and fire off a Ruin before a Green a fatty or Swarm of Insects appears, things aren’t looking too good for the Green mage.

Tooth and Nail

Pithing Needle

Temporal Adept is the most devastating cards in the evil Blue mage’s sideboard. In the late game, Vedalken Shackles is also something Tooth doesn’t like to see. Voilà: the solution to both problems. Starting to see why this card is HOT?

Tooth and Nail is a pretty tight decklist, and I can’t find anything else in all of Saviors that looks tempting, which is fine, because Tooth doesn’t need to get any more powerful. There is one new spell that promises to challenge Gabiel Nassif’s creation.

Thoughts of Ruin

I already mentioned this when talking about MUC, and the same argument applies. If this spell resolves, Tooth is in extremely serious trouble. Maybe Tooth will have to start splashing White for Sacred Ground in the sideboard. Speaking of land destruction…


Adamaro, First to Desire

Gaze of Adamaro

Both of these cards are brutal against slow control decks that keep lots of cards in hand, as I mentioned earlier. Red is especially able to abuse them thanks to land destruction, which makes it harder for opponents to decrease their hand size. Imagine playing Adamaro on turn 3 and then casting Thoughts of Ruin the turn after. Damn, that’s spicy.

I suppose that the Gaze could end up in some sort of deck that plays Howling Mine and abuses the cards in hand mechanic, but it’s more likely to end up in sideboards, if anywhere.

Skyfire Kirin

When was the last time red got a 3/3 flier for four mana with a great ability? Rock of Kher Ridges was a vanilla 3/3 flier. Alright, I guess Fledgling Dragon counts. This Kirin’s special ability isn’t as good as it looks. Unlike Blind with Anger, you don’t get to untap the stolen creature, nor does it gain haste. Against Tooth and Nail and MUC there aren’t that many creatures to deal with and it’s hard to steal the fatties. Two of Mono Green’s best threats are Troll Ascetic, and Beacon of Creation.

The best way to abuse this Kirin would be with Arcanes, so that you can force opponents to chump their attackers with their own creatures. Aside from Glacial Ray, though, the other Red instant Arcanes are pretty clunky and situational.

In the Spirit department, you have Glitterfang, Frostling, Hearth Kami, Adamaro, Burning-Eye Zubera, and Yuki-Onna. Given those possibilities, it seems like this Kirin would fit best in a aggro deck that concentrates on creatures and burn rather than land destruction. The goal of the Kirin would be to simply remove blockers for your army. While that might be worth trying, without land destruction you always face the same problem: how do you beat Tooth?

Thoughts of Ruin

Alright, this card has already been mentioned at least twice. What else is there to say? First, this spell will probably lead to the creation of a whole new breed of Ponza, one that that is midway between the ultra aggressive budget version that uses Akki Avalanchers and Crack the Earth, and the build that plays more lands to power up Arc-Slogger. Ponza Ruin would probably top out at three or four mana and play three to four copies of Zo-Zu the Punisher and possibly Adamaro as well.

Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it?

There are some issues. Imagine the matchup against Slogger Ponza. Thoughts of Ruin becomes a liability if your opponent gets the jump on you with Slith Firewalker or casts Arc-Slogger on turn 3. It’s also hard to break the symmetry of Ruin when your opponent is playing with land destruction too. While your signature card becomes very bad, the card that defines your opponent’s deck, Big Slogs, is practically unstoppable.

Another issue with this very hyped spell is that it gets progressively worse the longer games go on. Ponza and Red decks, in general, don’t like to hold lots of cards in hand. Control decks have larger mana bases. If MUC counters the a Ruin or two, it’s very likely that by the time the next one is cast, MUC won’t even care, because it will have enough lands on the table and Ponza will be running low on gas. Unlike the real Armageddon, you can’t rip Thoughts of Ruin off the top and steal games when your hand is empty.

Don’t get me wrong, Thoughts of Ruin is a very powerful spell and looks to be public enemy number one for both Tooth and MUC, but you do need to be realistic about what it can do and what the consequences are of building a deck around it. Perhaps a R/G Build, with mana creatures, Mox, and even Talismans would be a better approach. The biggest challenge is to build a deck around Thoughts of Ruin that is more than a one-trick pony.


This spell is a reusable Flametongue Kavu versus artifacts.

There, I said it. Despite the-deck-that-shall-not-be-mentioned perishing, artifacts remain very important in Standard, and thanks to Pithing Needle I’m sure this trend will continue.

Red already has Hearth Kami, easily the most underrated creature in its arsenal, and Yuki-Onna is a fabulous companion. It fits perfectly in the four-mana slot, which has been chronically short on good creatures. Throw in some instant Arcanes and you open up the possibility of combat tricks with Yuki’s damage on the stack.

I could easily see Ponza maindecking a copy of two of Yuki, and at least putting her in the sideboard. Though Shatter may be faster, I always hate putting it in a Red deck. Shatter is reactive, and you’ll inevitably find yourself drawing it when you need that additional threat to finish off your opponent. Yuki, obviously, is both an answer and a threat.

After looking at MUC, Tooth, and Beacon Green, so far Ponza is our biggest winner in Saviors, but it’s not all good news.

Pithing Needle

Like Thoughts of Ruin, this card can’t get enough press. Thanks to creatures like Vulshok Sorcerer, Big Slogs, and Kumano, Red can consume little creature decks in an inferno. Pithing Needle changes that.

While Red does have artifact destruction as an answer, it comes at the cost of tempo, since Pithing Needle is so cheap. Even when if you do blow up the Needle, it might come at the cost of not having the necessary answer when your opponent gets out Umezawa’s Jitte or Sword of Fire and Ice. All those artifacts can overload Red’s removal.

Ivory Crane Netsuke

While the seven cards in hand clause is very demanding, four points of life is a lot, and decks can definitely be designed with a heavy emphasis on card advantage keep the Netsuke happy. While most normal decks won’t be able to support this card, those that do represent a disturbing challenge for the Red mage. Artifact removal may come in time to the rescue, but even one or two triggers by the Netsuke buys an opponent lots of time to get the jump on the Red mage.


I’m still trying to figure out how to break this card, but it seems like there has to be a deck out there that can play it in a proactive and broken way. Against such a deck, it will be really annoying when Red’s burn spells and land destruction gets duplicated for such a bargain price.

White Weenie

Celestial Kirin

When I saw the words “all permanents,” this card got a whole lot better. That’s creatures, enchantments, and artifacts, folks. Two major drawbacks-potentially insurmountable-are that you can’t kill tokens with the Kirin and its triggered ability does not have “may” in it. That means that Beacon of Creation, Promise of Bunrei, and preserving your own creatures becomes problematic.

This Kirin is still a real beating in the mirror match, where you can drop it and turn into a control deck, but beyond that it seems like this Spirit needs to find a home elsewhere. The first alternative that jumps to my mind is an aggro-control U/W deck with lots of Arcanes. How to make that work? I have no idea.

Charge Across the Araba

If this cost one mana less, it would be a new staple for White Weenie, but at five mana it’s definitely pushing the mana curve where it doesn’t want to go. Giving your army +5/+5 should be enough to win the game on the spot most of the time, especially if you’re playing with Raise the Alarm and Promise of Bunrei. With that amount of shear power, maybe White Weenie should go up to 24 mana sources in order to support the full complement of Charges.

Kataki War’s Wage

In an Equipment-free White Weenie deck-something more likely if you’re on the Charge-this Spirit is a solid beater who wreaks havoc against all the Moxes and Swords running around. Nevertheless, being 2/1 and a Legend is problematic. It’s important for every creature-drop to be as efficient as possible. Thus, Kataki is merely good and not great.

Hand of Honor

This White Knight clone’s timing could not be worse. Right now, there are so many solid White creatures for two mana that I don’t even think there’s room for this one in White Weenie. Raise the Alarm is better against Red and works great with Glorious Anthem and Charge; Leonin Skyhunter has evasion, which is more important than protection from Black and Bushido 1; and Samurai of the Pale Curtain shuts down the omnipresent Eternal Witness.


Like its Red cousin, this is an awesome card. If enchantments become relevant in the format, White is has a great answer sitting on the sidelines. Nikko might even lurk in the sideboard for the mirror-match, where destroying your opponent’s Promise of Bunrei, Anthem, or Reverence will be important.

Promise of Bunrei

Four tokens for three mana is a bargain. All you do with dorky White men is attack, and eventually your opponent is going to have to start killing them in order to win, so eventually you will trigger the Promise. The lack of immediacy does make me worry a little, though, and most White Weenie builds skimp on the land count, so adding another three-mana spells is less than ideal.

You can use Kami of Ancient Law to get the tokens on command, but that entails paying a total of five mana and two cards, which hurts your tempo and card advantage. I guess you can use counters from your Jittes to off your own men too, but if you’re swinging with the Jitte and building up counters, aren’t you winning already?

You need to move away from traditional White Weenie to harness the true power of Bunrei’s Promise. Green gets you Sakura-Tribe Elder, Red offers Hearth Kami, and in Black there’s the mighty Phyrexian Plaguelord.


This is a wicked sideboard card for the mirror match and Beacon Green. It’s also a beating against Ponza if you can drop it fast enough, since it shuts down Hearth Kami, Slith Firewalker, and Blinkmoth Nexus. Come to think of it, Reverence stops Illusion tokens and Thieving Magpie as well, making it pretty decent against MUC. It also stops you from getting attacked by your own men once they are Shackled. White’s sideboard just got a lot better.

Spiritual Visit

This seems more naturally suited to a control deck, where you Splice over and over again, but there are some applications for the Weenies as well. It’s an instant 1/1 that can ambush attackers. It triggers Tallowisp, Waxmane Baku, and Celestial Kirin. With Blessed Breath, Otherworldly Journey, and Shining Shoal, White also has a nice collection of Arcanes that could offer some Splicing opportunities.

Pithing Needle

The Needle strikes again. I’ll keep it brief: White finally has an efficient answer to Vedalken Shackles and Arc-Slogger.

White Weenie gets all sorts of new goodies to play with, but a closer examination reveals that few of the spells add much depth to the archetype or the color in general. You’ve basically got five creatures, a pump spell, and a nice sideboard card. What White really wanted was an answer to Tooth and Nail. The best card gained, Pithing Needle, isn’t even a White card, and that’s telling.

Despite the disappointing development of White as a color, at least Saviors doesn’t add many new cards the color of benevolence has to worry about.

Arashi, the Sky Asunder

As a 5/5, White can still win in the air the battle against Arashi by swinging in the air and chump blocking on the ground. In Tropical Storm form, however, Arashi is a minature one-sided Wrath of God.

Aggro Black

This archetype hasn’t really existed in any significant way in the pre-Saviors environment, but the aggressive nature of many of Black’s new cards forced me to put in this section.

Akuta, Born of Ash

Initially, I missed the “more cards in hand” part of this card. Now I can’t tell if Akuta is quite good enough, but I’m leaning towards no. With some Rats in your deck, making sure Akuta returns to play is pretty easy, but other creatures, like Yukora, the Prisoner or the new Razorjaw Oni if you’re going the Suicide Black route, seem like more powerful choices.

Hand of Cruelty

This Samurai is much more relevant than its White counterpart, easily grabbing the title for Black’s best weenie. The big question is whether aggro-Black has what it takes to emerge as a viable archetype. This has to help.

Infernal Kirin

All of the Kirin push the power envelope, and this one is no exception. Wicked Akuba, Thief of Hope, Razorjaw Oni, Yukora, Akuta, and Kagemaro, First to Suffer are promising triggers. In the Arcane department you have Rend Flesh, Cranial Extraction, Hideous Laughter, and Sickening Shoal. This creature seems like it would work well with both aggressive and control strategies.

Kiku’s Shadow

This sorcery looks underpowered, but it’s actually quite solid. For the same price of Terror, you can target Black creatures and artifact creatures. With Arc-Slogger, Thieving Magpie, and Meloku as notable exceptions, Kiku’s Shadow will kill just about every creature you run into. If Black creatures make a comeback, this card might become better than Terror.

Raving Oni-Slave

If you’re going to go all-in and pick up the Suicide Black mantle, here’s where you start. Six life points is a hefty cost, though, especially if you’re racing against another aggressive deck. Then again, there are a few good Demons that can hold the Oni-Slave in check, like Yukora and Razorjaw Oni, and both are conveniently undercosted fatties.

Razorjaw Oni

Here’s another Suicide Black candidate. That turn of summoning sickness may leave you open to a lethal alpha strike, though. Unlike with Oni-Slave, there’s way to make the drawback bite your opponent instead. Hack it. That’s right, Slight Knight is back. Throw a whole bunch of Black creatures together, including Hand of Cruelty and this Oni, add a touch of Mind Bend or Shifting Sky, and sprinkle removal to taste. Too bad there are no good lands for allied colors.

Skull Collector

Tim Aten went 3-0 at the Invitational with a Rat deck that abused Ravenous Rats, Chittering Rats, and Nekrataal combined with Ninjas. It’s hard to imagine a card more tailored for that strategy than this one. Imagine this:

Turn One: Mox, Ravenous Rats

Turn Two: Chittering Rats

Turn Three: Skull Collector

Turn Four: Chittering Rats

Turn Five: Chittering Rats

Turn Six: Chittering Rats

Okay, you get the picture. As a 3/3, this Zombie is also the perfect size to shrug off Magma Jet and block Eternal Witness. If anything bigger needs to be blocked, it can always regenerate. Wow. This could be even better than the Serow.

Pithing Needle

Without a reasonably inexpensive way to remove Equipment or Vedalken Shackles, aggro Black has suffered. Yet again, the Needle solves some major problems.


In general, the Needle seems superior, but it’s worth noting that Black can cheat again and gain a limited form of artifact destruction.

Tomb of Urami

Even without Skullcollector, Raving Oni-Slave, or Ogre Marauder in play, this land is great in aggressive Black decks. When you’re out of threats, and living off the top of your deck, activating the Tomb seems like a reasonable gamble. Running out of gas is a classic problem for aggressive decks, and the Tomb squeezes one more very significant threat into your deck.

Keep in mind that Urami come into play at instant speed and can’t be countered. Of course, the Demon is vulnerable to Shackles, Boomerang, and can be chump blocked by Meloku tokens, so summoning Urami against MUC is very risky, but most of the other decks in the format have trouble huge black fliers. With Chrome Mox and a low mana curve, sacrificing the lands might not even be much of a problem.

Aggro Black makes some major gains in Saviors. Its creature curve becomes better and more aggressive; it gets an aggressive discard engine; and there is the mighty Rat engine known as Skull Collector. By comparison, there are few new cards that Black has to fear.

Promise of Bunrei

This is a great counter-measure to Black’s removal. Technically, Aggro Black could play Hideous Laughter, but it looks too symmetrical to be good.

Ivory Crane Netsuke

Pithing Needle can’t shut this artifact off. Once it goes online, Aggro Black is probably doomed.

Mono Black Control

Kagemaro, First to Suffer

Part Mutilate, part massive beatdown machine. Kagemaro seems like a perfect complement to Kokusho, the Evening Star. He’s a solid answer to all creatures and is particularly adept at taking out Troll Ascetic and hordes of weenies.

Ivory Crane Netsuke

Putting this together with Night’s Whisper and Phyrexian Arena smells like a combo to me. A single Netsuke negates the Arena’s drawback and still lets you gain enough life to make it a nightmare for aggressive decks.

Like Green, MBC makes up for the lack of new additions with their quality, and don’t forget that several spells listed under aggro Black (Pithing Needle, Kiku’s Shadow, and Infernal Kirin) would also make MBC happy. Just as with Aggro Black, two cards MBC doesn’t want to see opponents play are Ivory Crane Netsuke and Promise of Brunei. Unlike with Aggro Black, there’s a major addition to this list:

Thoughts of Ruin

Without any counter magic as an answer, MBC’s only hope is to swipe Thoughts of Ruin early with Distress or wipe it out of existence with Cranial Extraction.

Other Significant Lands

Mikokoro, Center of the Sea

In the right deck, this won’t be symmetrical. The obvious approach is to use it with Ivory Crane Netsuke and some of the other “cards in hand” spells. Less obvious is that it could help you Mill your opponent or make it easier to put a combo together.

Miren, the Moaning Well

It’s hard to get really excited about this card, and you probably shouldn’t. If your mana base can fit another colorless land into it, then why aren’t you adding a man-land so you have another threat? Well, three colors in magic can’t gain life, and Miren does provide a way to accomplish that feat. There also might be times when you want to be able to sacrifice creatures-Kokusho, for instance-on command. This land is an oddball, for sure, but it has some potential.

Other Significant Artifacts

Scroll of Origins

This looks like the closest card to Library of Alexandria that has ever been printed. With the Library, you tap a land (itself) to draw, whereas once the Scroll is in play you need to tap two lands. In one minor respect, the Scroll is even better, since you can still use it when you have more cards in hand. Despite this impressive comparison, I struggle to think of what an old-school Weissman-style control deck would look in today’s environment. Well, it’s not the imagining part that’s hard, it’s making it successful.

Rogue Cards Looking for Love

Descendant of Kiyomaro

This card has the potential to do awesome things, but the WW in the casting cost hurts. Like Scroll of Origins, it’s really hard to figure out how this guy would fit into a deck.

Hail of Arrows

This is the best removal spell for White Control we’ve seen in a long time. Anyone who can find a way to make that archetype work against Tooth, Ponza, and MUC is my hero.

Elder Pine Jukai

It’s definitely slow and fragile, but this guy makes one hell of a mana engine, has insane synergy with Sensei’s Divining Top, and can even Soulshift guys like Frostling and Hearth Kami back to your hand. I’m not sure what sort of deck takes shape around that skeleton, but it seems like there might be something there.

Feral Lightning

Six mana for nine damage is very nice. With Pyroclasm, Flamebreak, and Oblivion Stone, Mono Red Control can keep the entire board clean, making this spell an unusually good finisher.

Spiraling Embers

A full hand makes this a highly efficient burn spell, but we can do better. What if you Barrel Down Sokenzan a bunch of Mountains back to your hand and then cast a really huge Embers? I can’t help but notice that these cards are both Arcanes, making them searchable by Eerie Procession. Why not throw in Seismic Assault while you’re at it? And you might as well use Burning-Eye Zubera as your sacrificial lamb for the Barreling Down. What a combo! Or not.

Homura, Human Ascendant

I’m going to talk about another combo, but this time I’m serious. If you use Through the Breach, here’s what Homura reads:



Put a 4/4 Creature with Haste into play and sacrifice it at end of turn.

After the creature goes to the graveyard, for the rest of the game your creatures have flying, +2/+2, and Firebreathing.

You can tutor up Homura, or another saucy Legend with Time of Need. Imagine Slith Firewalker powered up by Homura. Under the Legend’s inspiration, even great support creatures like Birds of Paradise or Sakura-Tribe Elder become brutal attackers.

Pain’s Reward

In a very aggressive deck loaded with creatures or burn, this is actually a very efficient way to refill your hand. You have to build a deck around Pain’s Reward, but it should be worth the effort.

Footsteps of Goryo

This is the most efficient reanimation spell we’ve seen in a while. The drawback looks crippling until you think about having Ryusei, Kokusho, Keiga, or Sundering Titan walk in the Footsteps of Goryo. Now add Gifts Ungiven to the mix, allowing you to tutor up a toolbox worth of reanimation targets, or fetch a suite of reanimation spells (Footsteps, Zombify, Beacon of Unrest, and Through the Breach). Now we just need a really efficient discard mechanism, which is where the next card comes in.

Ideas Unbound

This is a wonderfully designed card. It’s incredibly powerful, but at the same time it will only reward careful deck construction. The first thing I thought of was using it to pitch fatties into the yard for reanimation.

Then I read the card more carefully. You don’t discard until the end of the turn. So if you draw three cards and can play all of them the same turn you really do get an Ancestral Recall worth of card advantage. The UU casting cost limits its usefulness, but Blue might be able to muster up an aggressive set of creatures, and you should be able to get away with a careful splash for a second color.

Murmurs from Beyond

Unlike Thirst for Knowledge, you will always end up ahead one card after you cast this. However, this advantage comes at the cost of giving your opponent control over what you discard. A lot depends on what three cards you reveal. Let’s look at the possibilities:

Good Card

Good Card

Good Card










Granted, this is an oversimplified explanation, looking at cards in binary terms. A smart opponent will always pluck the best card. Let’s run with this example anyway, just for the big picture. The only time you get really screwed is when you only reveal one good card and your opponent leaves you with two bad ones. In all the other situations, you are either certain to get at least one good card, or you’re making substantial progress toward digging up the good cards.

So far so good, but next you need to consider the overall power level and threat density of a deck. With so many mana sources and so few business spells, Murmurs won’t work well in MUC. However, if you’re playing a U/R Arcane deck that plans to cast a huge Ire of Kaminari, Murmurs is perfect. You can even splice Glacial Ray onto it. Similarly, Murmurs would be good in a blue deck that runs a very slim mana base (maybe 20 sources) and eight cantrips (Reach Through Mists and Serum Visions). I have my doubts about such a Mono Blue build, but it’s an interesting possibility.


One of the early spoilers mistakenly wrote in the casting cost as 0. When I found out the truth I was crushed. In a deck with tons of Arcanes, I could see playing this as a one-of, but not being able to actually cast this spell is a crippling drawback.

Deck Sketches

Still hanging in there? I know that was a lot of cards. Imagine me having to do all that typing. My head is swimming. I couldn’t have done it without that handy spoiler poster that Wizards gave out at the Prerelease. At least something good came from my poor performance.

Now comes the part you’ve all been waiting for, or at least what most of you scrolled down to right away. I’m going to look at some post-Saviors decks in rapid-fire fashion.

White Weenie Charge

20 Plains

4 Chrome Mox

4 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Lantern Kami

4 Suntail Hawk

4 Tundra Wolves

4 Raise the Alarm

4 Leonin Skyhunter

1 Skyhunter Skirmisher

3 Hokori, Dust Drinker

4 Glorious Anthem

4 Charge Across the Araba

Nothing too fancy here. It looks like a lot of mana sources, but when you’re blowing out your opponent on turn four or five with a mighty Charge, they should be worth it. If you can goldfish that quickly on a regular basis, you might even be able to go 50-50 against Tooth and Nail. Having the extra mana sources is also great with Hokori, ensuring that he hits the board right on schedule against control decks. Hokori does make it harder to cast Charge, but that’s something you have to accept since Hokori is so important against Green decks.

Stampeding Beacon Green

21 Forest

1 Swamp

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Viridian Shaman

4 Wood Elves

4 Eternal Witness

4 Beacon of Creation

3 Stampeding Serow

2 Plow Under

2 Arashi, the Sky Asunder

4 Cranial Extraction

This looks like a hell of a deck. Troll Ascetic has left to make room for Wood Elves. I still think that the Troll is overrated. In the early game it’s hard to always leave mana open so that it can be an effective attacker or blocker. Wood Elves, on the other hand, make just about every card in the deck better. With a full set of Shamans and Serow to recur them, dropping Equipment seemed like an acceptable risk.

Ponza Ruins

19 Mountain

1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep

4 Chrome Mox

4 Frostling

4 Hearth Kami

4 Slith Firewalker

3 Zo-Zu the Punisher

3 Adamaro, First to Desire

2 Vulshock Sorcerer

4 Magma Jet

4 Stone Rain

4 Molten Rain

4 Thoughts of Ruin

By recommending Adamaro, I’m really going out on a limb, but if you’re going to do insane things with Thoughts of Ruin, why not go all the way? Adamaro is also the only Red three-drop that still makes the Ruins plan viable if your opponent manages to power out a quick fattie. You could definitely take a more conservative approach and simply add Thoughts of Ruin to good old Seething Slogger Ponza, but doesn’t it seem counterproductive to blow up all Mountains that you need to activate Big Slogs? I think so.

Mono Red Control

18 Mountain

1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep

4 Stalking Stones

1 Miren, the Moaning Well

4 Wayfarer’s Bauble

3 Sensei’s Divining Top

2 Oblivion Stone

4 Magma Jet

4 Hearth Kami

4 Molten Rain

3 Flamebreak

3 Sowing Salt

2 Yuki-Onna

4 Arc-Slogger

3 Feral Lightning

This seems like the best way to showcase Yuki-Onna and Feral Lightning. The combination of hasty 3/1s works really well with Flamebreak and Oblivion Stone. I really like all the flexibility and board control in this deck. Sowing Salt looks strange in the maindeck, but it’s necessary if you want to win game one against Tooth. Against other decks, hopefully you can catch a Legendary or man-land.

Rat Deck Wins

18 Swamp

1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse

4 Chrome Mox

4 Aether Vial

4 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Nezumi Cutthroat

4 Skullsnatcher

4 Ravenous Rats

4 Chittering Rats

3 Skull Collector

3 Throat Slitter

4 Nekrataal

3 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni

This list is basically a carbon copy of Tim Aten Invitational deck. Basically, I dropped Nezumi Shortfang for Skull Collector and added Chrome Mox. I thought that the Shortfangs were expendable because they look like win more cards, and with the possible lock of Chittering Rats plus Skull Collector, Chrome Mox seemed like an automatic addition to speed up the combo.

Suicide Black

17 Swamp

1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse

1 Tomb of Urami

4 Chrome Mox

4 Pithing Needle

4 Wicked Akuba

4 Hand of Cruelty

4 Nezumi Cutthroat

4 Raving Oni-Slaver

4 Ogre Marauder

4 Razorjaw Oni

1 Yukora, the Prisoner

4 Lose Hope

4 Sickening Shoal

If Rats aren’t your thing, hopefully you like this better. The creature set is pretty self-explanatory, but the removal package looks really strange. The idea is maximize the efficiency of removal. You don’t want your efficient men wasting their time slamming into X/1 blockers, so Lose Hope is there. Even when there aren’t any targets you can always hit your own man to set up better draws. Sickening Shoal fits the plan of going all-in, and this deck is not concerned about card advantage. Pithing Needle in the main is also controversial, but it does more for black than for any other color. Without it, Vedalken Shackles or Arc-Slogger mean game over. Against other decks, it shuts down Equipment, ensuring that you maintain creature superiority. Even against Tooth and Nail, you can stop Oblivion Stone, Kiki-Jikki, and Mindslaver.

Mono Black Combo Control

15 Swamp

1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse

2 Stalking Stones

1 Mikoro, Center of the Sea

4 Chrome Mox

4 Pithing Needle

4 Ivory Crane Netsuke

4 Night’s Whisper

4 Terror

4 Phyrexian Arena

4 Cranial Extraction

4 Hideous Laughter

3 Promise of Power

2 Kagemaro, First to Suffer

4 Consume Spirit

What did you expect me to regurgitate someone else’s list and merely tune a few cards?

Welcome to Combo Black Control. Playing just 23 mana sources seems wrong in a control deck, but it seems like you cheat a little and rely on Night’s Whisper and Phyrexian Area to keep the lands coming. The synergies are obvious, and I especially like Promise of Power as a way to get Netsuke and Kagemaro online while at the same time presenting a huge win condition later in the game, when you’re ready to blow out your opponent.

Arcane Ire

15 Island

9 Mountain

4 Reach Through Mists

4 Psychic Puppetry

3 Ideas Unbound

2 Twincast

1 Evermind

4 Murmurs from Beyond

3 Hinder

3 Bribery

4 Lava Spike

4 Glacial Ray

4 Ire of Kaminari

This started off innocently as an attempt to abuse Ire of Kaminari. What ended up happening was practically every new blue card I liked found a way into this deck. I’ve sketched, discarded, and resketched this deck several times on paper, but it’s impossible to tell how well it will actually work in practice. Here are a few theories. Twincast doubles how fast you kill an opponent with Ire, and also helps force your Ire past counter magic. Hinder and Bribery-another nice target for Twincast-give you game against Tooth and Nail. Against basically everything else you can play like a combo deck.


3 Waterveil Cavern

3 Saltwater Marsh

4 Tendo Ice Bridge

3 City of Brass

1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge

1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds

1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse

1 Shinka, the Bloodstained Keep

1 Miren the Moaning Well,

4 Chrome Mox

1 Sensei’s Divining Top

4 Talisman of Dominance

4 Serum Visions

4 Ideas Unbound

4 Thirst for Knowledge

4 Gifts Ungiven

2 Goryo’s Footsteps

4 Zombify

2 Beacon of Unrest

1 Through the Breach

3 Sundering Titan

1 Kokusho, the Evening Star

1 Ryusei, the Falling Star

1 Keiga, the Tide Star

1 Yuki-Onna

1 Duplicant

I saved the most interesting and fun deck for last. Here’s the plan:

Turn One: Land, Visions or Top

Turn Two: Land, Talisman of Dominance, (Activate Top)

Turn Three: Land, (Chrome Mox), Ideas/Thirst/Gifts

Turn Four: Land, Reanimate

My original build featured a normal mana base and eschewed the Titan. After thinking about it for a bit, though, I realized that the mana base was your best defense against Tooth’s Titans, and that if you’re only reanimating Legendary Dragons you might as well skip the whole theme and just place mana acceleration so they come out early. In other words, the Titan makes all the effort worth it. It’s also your best approach against MUC’s bounce.


Where do the big Four end up?

MUC takes a huge hit. Having virtually no new additions in Saviors combined with facing new challenges like Pithing Needle and Thoughts of Ruin, MUC looks like an endangered species. The Needle is especially bad news because any deck can run it and it is absurdly fast. I’m probably leaping to conclusions, but it doesn’t look like the old MUC will be able to survive in this new world. At the very least the deck requires some serious tuning-maindeck Annul?-and possibly an entire overhaul.

The other pre-Saviors powerhouse, Tooth and Nail, is in a similar, though less severe situation. Like MUC, Saviors offers it little. Unlike MUC, its biggest new threat cannot possibly be as rampant thanks to RR in the casting cost. Maybe Thoughts of Ruin isn’t such a big issue after all, considering that Tooth lost to pre-Ruins Ponza anyway. In other words, a bad match-up gets worse. So be it. Tooth still challenges all of the other decks out there. I do wonder, though, how it will fare against the new Rat deck that can lock up your draw step with Skull Collector as early as turn three.

Beacon Green remains very strong. Though Thoughts of Ruin will be problematic, it’s easier to play around it than with Tooth. For instance you can control your mana development and hold back lands, or avoid sacrificing Sakura-Tribe Elder early. Thanks to Arashi and Stampeding Serow, the green deck can branch off more towards control, a direction that Beacon has slowly shifted towards over the previous months as people refine the deck.

Perhaps Ponza fairs the best of all-at least in Big Four terms. Thoughts of Ruin is tremendously powerful against slower or control decks. Merely putting it in the sideboard might be enough. Red also picks up reusable artifact destruction and an excellent finisher. The main new problems for red appear in artifact form, namely Ivory Crane Netsuke and Pithing Needle. It may not be ideal, but Red can always play more artifact removal as a countermeasure, if necessary.

Then we have all the tier two decks that might have gained the necessary components to move up into the big league. White Weenie gains a threat a card that addresses its vulnerability to mass removal, a great sideboard card that hoses small creatures, and a pump spell that should enable faster and more consistent goldfishing. While all of this is good news, there’s the distinct absence of a miracle solution to help against Tooth and Nail.

Surprisingly, it seems like black gains the most out of all the colors. If any underplayed archetype will stage a comeback, I’d wager it will be aggro black or control black. That I have to mention both of them is a direct result of the diversity of the cards it gains in Saviors. As the color that struggles the most to handle artifacts, Pithing Needle is even better in Black than in other colors. Then there is the cost of efficient black creatures, not just weenies, but mid-sized men too. There’s also a solid two-mana removal spell, and two creatures that can set up discard engines.

Finally, we have Mono Red Control. Adrian Sullivan would be mad if I didn’t mention this deck. Yuki-Onna can go in any Red deck, or get splashed easily into other decks, but she seems most at home in MRC, where she can help you gain card advantage and then jump into the red zone. Red already has some great burn spells, like Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] and Beacon of Destruction. Dealing nine damage for six mana is another story entirely. Between Pyroclasm, Flamebreak, Oblivion Stone, and Arc-Slogger chances are that by the time you unleash the Lightning Elementals your opponent won’t have any blockers.

Let’s not forget the rogue decks. I already outlined Reanimator and Arcane Ire, but these are merely two prototypes among the nearly limitless possibilities. What about a deck built around Promise of Bunrei and sacrificial creatures? Or Through the Breach and Homura? Will some sort of bizarre Millstone deck work with Howling Mine, Mesmeric Orb, and Kami of the Crescent Moon? What can you do to break Pain’s Reward? How about Spiraling Embers? What if you made a five- or four-color deck that plays as many cards-in-hand spells as possible? The list goes on only as long as your imagination.

Take it easy and thanks for reading,


rick at rickrust dot com