Stubborn Denial

Relentless brewer Matt Higgs is ready to move on to Dragons of Tarkir, but he has one last #SCGINVI-ready build from Fate Reforged Standard! His favorite deck of this season is ready for a dragon-infused update!

Welcome to Dragons of Tarkir! While most all of you got out to play in a Prerelease this weekend, I actually didn’t get to battle in one. Missing a
Prerelease feels weird, buy maybe it’s just as well; nine or ten rounds of Sealed isn’t my preferred way to play. Drafts are more my style, building your
deck on the fly and all.

Anyway, no worries, I’ve got one final Fate Reforged brew for you, some extensive testing, and some updates that can make it better.

My favorite card in current Standard is little mystery to those at my shop.

The ability to make an artifact a big bruiser for so little and the potential to craft a deck to maximize this potential draws me to this enchantment again
and again. To date, I’ve thrown several decks together to try and find the perfect balance of creatures, removals, and colors. I’ve been working on a
mono-blue version for six months that, while fun, has now been hesitantly shelved after thorough reworks and retooling with each new set.

More than almost any other in the history of my Magic career, this was my baby.

I took it through every step I could to make it better, but I just couldn’t save it from mediocrity. The removal was never good enough, it was never
consistent enough, and it relied too much on a few key cards and play sequences to clutch an FNM. Usually, I’d go 2-2 or 1-3 and pack it up, dejected.

With Vial of Dragonfire being underwhelming, to say the least, moving away from Renowned Weaponsmith seemed like the only option with Dragons of Tarkir.
Before that though, blue was proving to be insufficient to hold up the rest of the plan. Not having hard removal was a consistent problem. Moving into red,
with the temptation of Shrapnel Blast, hadn’t worked well in the past, so I decided that black might be the best route.

It just seemed too good to pass up.

With the idea of going back to black, I dredged up an old list and
started from there. Springleaf Drum seems to work too well with the best inspired creatures in the format, and the addition of one of Fate Reforged’s cards
seemed to seal the deal on an otherwise mediocre deck. Toss in a little Illusory Angel for all of the small spells too.



One thing has proven to be true with every iteration: Ornithopter alongside Ensoul Artifact can be game winning all on their own. Nothing feels better than
slamming a drawn Ensoul Artifact and getting sideways on turn 2. Ornithopter is about the best target with its evasion, and it plays really well with the
deck’s two inspired creatures, Pain Seer and Disciple of Deceit, allowing a free draw and a land search function, respectively.

Illusory Angel is perhaps the most outlandish inclusion, but with lots of cheap spells, casting a 4/4 Angel for three (or four or five) is pretty good,
especially given the relatively small amount of flyers present pre-Dragons of Tarkir. Mardu Shadowspear, while being a fun, cheap aggressive card, can also
be recast each turn in case you have several Angels in hand to unload.

Tasigur, the Golden Fang, was the real breakthrough though.

This huge guy for nothing not only helped me get the Angel out easily (one mana for a 4/5), but it also was a house by itself. As a six-drop, it’s
obviously a bit for Pain Seer, but I tried to mitigate that by keeping the number reasonable. The final creature, Silumgar the Drifting Death, can be
searched up by tossing an extra Tasigur to Disciple of Deceit, allowing for flexibility in the legendary six-drop slot.


Ensoul Artifact is a given, and it has to be four copies. If you play less, you should ask yourself why you’re playing it at all. Springleaf Drum was in
earlier drafts but as a way to smooth the mana for a color-intensive deck, a free way to tap inspired creatures, and a turn-2 target for Ensoul Artifact;
the Drum was a slam dunk. Icy Blast was great with an Ensouled artifact, an Illusory Angel, or Tasigur himself, as it gave me great lategame reach and
defense. Early on, it could also tap my own inspired creatures down to force an activation when I didn’t have a Springleaf Drum lying around. As an X-cost
spell, it can easily be tossed for another one-drop spell with Disciple of Deceit while also not being too painful to see on top after untapping Pain Seer.
Hero’s Downfall is the best answer three mana can buy these days, and with lots of other three-cost creatures, it’ll be easy to tutor it up when needed,
and you can just about never have enough of this little gem.


Because you can seek a land by discarding an Ornithopter to Disciple of Deceit, the deck has some toolbox-like access to certain lands. A Radiant Fountain
is sometimes just what you need, but not always, and you only ever need one Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. It also lets me keep the Darksteel Citadel count
down. As great as it is to have a set, moving into two colors means some extra sacrifices.


As this is a glorified fiddle-around deck with cheap creatures, the deck struggles against the faster decks of the format. Thus, I felt like it was
critical to add a set of Bile Blight and Jorubai Murk Lurker. With the high-power creatures in the deck, the Murk Lurker can completely turn a game around,
and early on it’s a great way to stay on top of red decks with its Courser of Kruphix body. Stubborn Denial and Dissolve are a compromise between power and
speed, and both come in against slower decks. Two Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver can come in (and be easily tutored for) against a midrange deck to snatch the
best creatures. I liked the idea of Thassa, God of the Sea too, just not in the maindeck. You can set up your next Pain Seer draw to be as pain-free as
possible; bear in mind that Pain Seer’s trigger usually happens during the untap stap before Thassa will trigger during your upkeep.

With the idea of bringing consistency and interaction to the old Ensoul Artifact shell, it was time to suit up for a local event where I got to test the
deck in five different matchups. Some went well and some…well, we’ll just look at ’em together.

Best Matchup – Mono-Red

This was surprising, but here’s what happened: Turns out every creature in the deck can effectively block a one-toughness creature, and Hero’s Downfall is
there for everything else. Moreover, if you can stick the good ol’ Ornithopter + Ensoul combo on turn 2, they actually can’t kill it. The
sideboard playsets made it even better in game 2. It’s possible this deck can’t lose against Mono-Red.

Or I drew really well.

Good Matchup – Mardu Tokens

Mardu has access to good removal, including Chained to the Rocks, Crackling Doom, and the standard black removal spells. However, most Mardu decks don’t
seem to play a lot of them, meaning the best cards in the deck are planeswalkers or big creatures like Butcher of the Horde that we can attack more easily.
Counterspells are much better in this matchup, so the blue paid off as well. Bile Blight kept the tokens in check, but there was significant removal that
kept me down too. This is not a freebie, and you have to play it safe a lot of times, especially postboard.

Average Matchup – G/X Devotion

I found this matchup was much better in game 1, again, thanks mostly to the deck’s evasion. The one particular version I played, which included red for
Crater’s Claws, was particularly light on any way to answer a flyer outside of Hornet Queen. The matchup changes completely in the last two games, and
after going to game 3, I brought in every sideboard card. Jorubai Murk Lurker really shined here, giving me a reason to bounce off Courser of Kruphix every
turn. I got this one two games out of three.

Poor Matchup – Mono-Black Humans

Dealing with one-power creatures is one thing, but dealing with twelve two-power one-drops is too much. Any kind of lousy draw put me behind, and even
after four games (we played a couple extra after he 2-0’ed me), I still struggled to get ahead, relying solely on Bile Blight and counterspells to keep
things like his Pain Seers and Obelisk of Urd from causing trouble. Without good sideboard cards though, I didn’t stand much chance.

Bad Matchup – Abzan Midrange

Unfortunately, this format-owning behemoth was the toughest time I had all night. Between Thoughtseize and Siege Rhinos blanking my ground team, and Abzan
Charm snagging my biggest attackers, the fact I had speed and evasion didn’t really matter. I was quickly outgunned in four games; playing a fifth one gave
me a win just for hitting the turn-2 Ensoul Ornithopter play. Thoughtseize is really brutal, as two games left me with Springleaf Drums in hand with no
creatures or no removal spell to stop him from getting Courser of Kruphix value.

Not ideal, but as an untested archetype, I’m willing to let a lot of things slide. Tasigur was excellent, and Pain Seer was much better than I expected;
thankfully, the two only met once, and I had the life to spare at the time (it was against the red deck too!) However, Illusory Angel was way too
variable, and I had lots of games where a pair rotted in my hand. Hero’s Downfall wasn’t even that great; it was often expensive enough that I could only
cast it during any one turn. The numbers each needed some playing with but, hey look, a new set!

The deck was really fun to play, so I was anxious to try some new cards out, and it has lots of candidates from the new set.

Silumgar Sorcerer is a win-win for me; not only is it just another flyer to add to the stable to replace something, well, less evasive, it’s got a
counterspell built in! Bear in mind the exploit is optional, so if you can’t trade in your dinky third Ornithopter for their best creature spell and a 2/1,
you can just catch a two-toughness creature off-guard. Ultimate Price, the best Doom Blade I think we’ll get these days, makes for a much more
mana-friendly alternative. We’ve got flyers, we can just kill the walkers! Damnable Pact is an easily-tutored black Blaze; although reasonable to
point at yourself, I think its value comes from finishing off a wounded player.

Soulflayer! Of course! Exiling an Ornithopter basically gives me an Illusory Angel anyway, potentially for a mana cheaper! It also cleans up the graveyard
for Tasigur’s ability to be more effective. Obelisk of Urd, with so many Humans, is a nice way to push through, and it can be tutored with either delve

It was scary to step away from the first list I made, finally abandoning much of the core, but I’m glad I did. If the deck doesn’t work, after a while it
just won’t be fun, but it took me months to come to that conclusion. Now that’s some Stubborn Denial.

There are even more cards that I’m going crazy brewing with, and now that you’ve got your own cards in hand, you’re probably going nuts too! Maybe we can
share notes?

There are a lot of sweet spells and creatures from Dragons of Tarkir. Did I miss one for this particular list, new or old? How can I up my game with a
sweet list like this?