Standard With Battlefield Thaumaturge

Sam is brewing new decks for Journey into Nyx Standard and really wants to work with Battlefield Thaumaturge. Take a look at all the different ways he thinks it can be put to work.

Battlefield Thaumaturge is a crazy card. It’s a hero, but it doesn’t really care about being targeted, it just has an incidental ability that can sometimes protect it. What it does is make spells cheaper. For most removal, this will save you a mana, but sometimes, it will let you do incredible things. Battlefield Thaumaturge is fragile, and it can be played as ‘just’ a moderate tempo creature, but for a card with this much potential upside I figured it would be a good idea to take some time to explore the variety of things we could potentially do with it in Standard.

Lets start with a list of every spell in Standard that Battlefield Thaumaturge can save more than one mana on. That should be a good start to making sure we don’t miss anything too great.

Aerial Formation
Ajani’s Presence
Armed / Dangerous
Aurelia’s Fury
Flesh / Blood
Turn / Burn
Clan Defiance
Colossal Heroics
Curse of the Swine
Cutthroat Maneuver
Dauntless Onslaught
Flames of the Firebrand
Frost Breath
Give / Take
Glimpse the Sun God
Harness by Force
Hour of Need
Hunt the Weak
Launch the Fleet
Mischief and Mayhem
Nature’s Panoply
Phalanx Formation
Pinnacle of Rage
Polymorphous Rush
Protect / Serve
Rites of Reaping
Rouse the Mob
Sea God’s Revenge
Silence the Believers
Solidarity of Heroes
Sudden Storm
Time to Feed

Most of those cards are not remotely Constructed-playable, or at the very least it is hard to imagine even in a deck with Battlefield Thaumaturge, but some of the cards that don’t normally seem great start to look reasonable when they cost two or more mana less. Dauntless Onslaught and Frost Breath look a lot more like Constructed-playable cards when they cost one mana rather than three mana. Even Mischief and Mayhem looks surprisingly reasonable at three mana.

Of course, the problem is that if you fill your deck with these cards you may be in trouble when you don’t draw Battlefield Thaumaturge, so it’s careful not to go overboard and to make sure you still have things to do in games where you don’t have it.

Battlefield Thaumaturge wants to be in a deck with other creatures, because it’s not going to win the game by itself and it is going to turn on every piece of removal your opponent has. It’s obvious what kinds of spells Battlefield Thaumaturge works with, but what kinds of creatures are best with it?

First, other creatures that want you to play spells are a natural fit – creatures like Delver of Secrets, Snapcaster Mage, and Augur of Bolas. Wait. None of those are in Standard. Clearly, what I meant was Young Pyromancer, Goblin Electromancer, and maybe even Nivmagus Elemental or Blistercoil Weird.

Next, other heroes are great with Battlefield Thaumaturge: many of the spells he works with want to target your own creatures.

Another thing Battlefield Thaumaturgist likes is ways to draw more cards, as that is always good with things that give you mana or decrease costs… the best way to really abuse that is to cast multiple spells in a turn, which will eventually require drawing more cards. Not many of the cards on the list above help us with that, but it’s just something to keep in mind.

Many of the most exciting cards to cast with Battlefield Thaumaturge are white: Glimpse of the Sun God, Launch the Fleet, and Aurelia’s Fury can all target as many creatures as you want without paying any mana for X. This is going to pull me toward white. Battlefield Thaumaturge obviously requires blue mana, and the other best creatures that are interested in casting spells are red, so let me start with some R/W/U decks.

First, based on spells:

Hour of Need is a strange card. It looks incredibly powerful and also like a bad Constructed card. It looks like the kind of card that’s great in Limited but never breaks its way into constructed, but this deck can really take advantage of it. Young Pyromancer provides tokens to exile and Battlefield Thaumaturge makes it cheap. With just one Thaumaturge you could upgrade three tokens into Sphinxes for just four mana. Akroan Crusader helps provide more tokens, or in a pinch can itself be a creature that you’re very happy to turn into a Sphinx while replacing itself with a 1/1 on the way out. Launch the Fleet also gives us tokens, so we’re actually very good at making creatures to exile. Hour of Need is expensive for our 22-land deck without Battlefield Thaumaturge, but if we have a Goblin Electromancer instead we can still make two Sphinxes for four mana, which isn’t bad at all. Remember, this is an instant, so we can use it in combat to ambush attackers, use it in response to a removal spell, or use it as a test spell at the end of the opponent’s turn – if it’s countered, we don’t even lose our guys!

Hour of Need is one plan to win the game without being forced to rely on attacking with one-and two-power creatures, but it’s not all we have: Anax and Cymede is also a great way to turn our token army into a serious threat. When we don’t draw Hour of Need, we still have twelve cards we’re happy targeting the heroes with and we’ll generally generate a lot of value when we do.

Warleader’s Helix offers reach, and against other big creature decks we can bring in Glimpse the Sun God and Chained to the Rocks to stop their blockers. Against aggressive decks, we have Boros Reckoner to lock up the board while we set up our big spells.

Now for the bad part, and this is going to be a recurring theme today – we’re building decks based around targeting creatures. That means that if the opponent doesn’t have their own creatures and instead has a deck that’s based on killing creatures, we’re not going to have many creatures left to target and we won’t get anywhere near as much value as we would against another creature-based deck. This means we’re not going to be well-positioned against Mono-Black Devotion and Esper Control… that’s just the reality of the situation. Ajani’s Presence is doing what it can to help with those issues, but it’s just one answer and it’s only a one-for-one.

This deck is doing a lot of targeting its own creatures for a deck with only six heroes (ten really, but since it doesn’t pump its own power I don’t really count Battlefield Thaumaturge). What if we try something a little more dedicated?

This deck goes a different direction than many Heroic decks do. For the most part, the heroes that get +1/+1 counters have generally been the preferred heroes, but here I’m only playing two Favored Hoplites and they’ve only made it into the deck for curve considerations. Almost all of the cards that I’m playing that enable Heroic can target my entire team, which means I can trigger all of my Heroic abilities. When that happens, we end up generating the most degenerate board possible by making creatures and pumping all of them simultaneously, so careful stack management is necessary to optimize your outcome – stack the triggers wrong and you can lose a fair chunk of damage.

With 4 Hidden Strings, 4 Glimpse the Sun God, and 4 Gridlock, successfully blocking this deck is almost impossible. That means I can reliably get my 1/1 creatures through, which means they’re dealing as much damage as a +1/+1 counter would except that they can’t all be swept up by a single spot removal spell. That’s before we start triggering Phalanx Leader and Anax and Cymede – multiple heroes in play layer their benefits over each other and greatly increase that damage output. It also means I don’t need dedicated removal, I want the board to get full of creatures so that I use all of my cards synergistically triggering each other and just ignore all of their cards. Any time I’m trading my cards for theirs, I’m falling behind – but any time we’re both developing our boards, I’m getting ahead.

The sideboard includes some different ways to target and/or protect my creatures. Spear of Heliod offers us some more resistance against removal and combines well with my token-making strategy, Congregate absolutely beats burn-based decks, and Tethmos High Priest is an awesome way to keep your engines humming against removal – it’s possible that it should be considered for the maindeck.

A very similar deck can be built in just Blue/White but with less emphasis on making tokens, less painful mana, and more +1/+1 heroes. The particular details of that list seems too obvious to spend our time on here.

Instead, I want to look at something more different. The card I most want to cast with Battlefield Thaumaturge in another color is Silence the Believers. This is an extremely powerful effect that’s generally just a little too expensive, and with Battlefield Thaumaturge it becomes a bit more realistic.

This deck is really stretching it – Battlefield Thaumaturge is at its worst here. There’s some chance it’s still worth it, since mana can be tight and when things go well we’re looking to cast multiple spells per turn, but the saving are definitely limited and Spiteful Returned or Pack Rat are both powerful two=mana options we could be considering here instead.

Part of this will depend on whether Hour of Need is actually good. It’s cute that it gives us a maindeck answer to Blood Baron of Vizkopa by letting us just turn it into a Sphinx; from there we can either use a removal spell on it or trade a Sphinx of our own for it.

This is basically just a black aggro deck that’s playing more removal to get through with Pain Seer and Nightveil Specter and playing Battlefield Thaumaturge to help cast that removal. This will help against creature decks, but against removal-heavy decks we’ll wish we had more threatening creatures with Bestow instead.

I started with 4 Master of the Feasts in the sideboard as they seem like a good sideboard card with a lot of value in some matchups, but I cut them when I realized that I was already weak against removal decks and I’d want a threat to bring in when removal is bad. Master of the Feast is often going to be bad in those same places, so Herald of Torment got its place instead.

The final deck I want to look at doesn’t use Battlefield Thaumaturge, but I just keep thinking about it, so I have to make a list.

The cheap fliers are there to carry my cipher cards and use Springleaf Drum because I want to have extra mana when I’m drawing so many cards. Also, the ability of Judge’s Familiar is more impactful when the opponent is drawing extra cards and trying to use everything as well, so even though the ability seems small, protecting my bigger creatures is extremely valuable. Pain Seer is the best drummer. Hidden Strings is the best way to play lots of extra cards, which is already our plan A.

There are a lot of synergies with the card draw/punisher cards: Master of the Feast’s drawback has less of an impact the more cards you force your opponent draw – they won’t have time to cast them all, so one more doesn’t really matter – and the same is true of Dictate of Kruphix, so all of those loosely combine with each other. Fate Unraveler obviously deals more damage if the opponent draws more cards, so it’s also a loose combo with both of those. Whispering Madness is a massive combo with Fate Unraveler or Notion Thief, as either one is likely game-winning. Fate Unraveler will deal huge amounts of damage as you make them draw cards equal to the number of cards in their hand, which should be large if the rest of your deck is working, and then we go ahead and double that number. If instead our enabler is Notion Thief, it empties their hand and doubles yours and also combines with Dictate of Kruphix to give you all the extra cards instead of splitting them evenly between the two players as normal. Cyclonic Rift is great when you’re flooding their hand, but it is particularly incredible with Whispering Madness.

This deck is a little fragile, but I think for a lot of people, it’s likely the most fun you can have in the current Standard format.