The Archive

Looking for a few sweet brews for the #SCGDFW Standard Classic this weekend? Join our own Chris Lansdell as he ventures into the unknown with some insane builds just for the occasion!

We’ve reached that point in the season where all I want to do is jam brews each and every week. I have so many ideas on decks, most of which we have already discussed, that it’s hard to figure out which one to play first. Normally I would prioritize the ones that are built around cards that are rotating soon, but we are still four months and a whole new set away from that being a concern. As usual, there are more sweet ideas than there is time to play them.

But hey, that’s not a bad thing, right? If the sets we were getting didn’t lend themselves to our particular brand of creativity, we’d be complaining bitterly. We are, after all, Magic players. The fact that, each week, I am finding another fun interaction or deck that I want to mess around with tells me that R&D is doing something very right.

As if I wasn’t getting enough inspiration from the internet and my playtest group, a strange thing has started to happen. People have started sending my decklists. Lest I appear ungrateful, rest assured that I absolutely love this and would love for it to continue! I am going to start talking about those every now and then, especially if one catches my eye. This week, however, we are going to draw some cards and gain some life.

Breaking Out of Prison

Martin Muller’s Mono-Blue Prison deck is a work of art.

It combines literal Draft chaff with one underplayed mythic in Day’s Undoing and one seldom-played mythic in Part the Waterveil. Seriously, have you ever sleeved up a playset of Hydrolash in Limited, let alone Standard? Neither have I. This absolute gem reminded me a lot of the Magic 2014 mono-blue Draft decks that basically just wanted to cast Opportunity a bunch of times, winning with basically anything that could stay on the battlefield.

Despite not being much of a blue mage, I have a soft spot for drawing approximately seven thousand cards. As such, Muller’s deck speaks to me on that level. That we can gain life with Prism Ring is an additional temptation…but to quote Leonardo DiCaprio, we have to go deeper. Why draw a card and gain a life when I can draw two and gain two instead? This is quite the story archive I’ve found, isn’t it?

No, I am not even a little bit sorry.

Alhammarret’s Archive has seen small amounts of play in Sphinx’s Tutelage decks and in some versions of the Blue Prison deck above. The five mana initial investment is a little steep, but once you untap with the card on the battlefield it more than makes up for the cost as soon as you start casting spells. There are multiple ways to make that happen in Standard, but the one that impresses me most is the Clue engine.

Even with that qualifier, we still have two routes to take because of the number of build-around enchantments our benevolent overlords in R&D have seen fit to give us. The first of those is a more creature-based one, making use of the absurdity of cracking a Clue with Graf Mole and Alhammarret’s Archive on the battlefield. The rest of the deck might be terrible, it might be great, but if I get to do that just once I will be ecstatic. Two cards and six life? I am so in.

The drawback to our Mole friend is that it isn’t a very good investigator. We’re going to need ways to get Clues, of course, and ideally they will help us stay alive in the process. We also need to decide if we want to win via Sphinx’s Tutelage and Fleeting Memories or via Ulvenwald Mysteries-empowered “beatdown.” Although we are likely playing Ulvenwald Mysteries regardless, I don’t think a bunch of 1/1s is really viable as a beatdown strategy (hi, Secure the Wastes!) and I really want to mill people out, so to the enchantments we go!

Although we want to be playing Fleeting Memories, Sphinx’s Tutelage, and likely Ulvenwald Mysteries, we would be crazy not to include Ongoing Investigation. In a deck that wants to be using creatures to fuel the Clue engine, there is no better card in my mind. Not only do we get Clues for going on the offensive, we get them for sitting back and blocking to stay alive as well, because we can exile our brave defenders from the graveyard for life and a Clue. Or more life and a Clue, if we have our Archive.

I may have a problem.

An almost-automatic inclusion has to be Erdwal Illuminator, which blocks well and lets us make silly numbers of Clues. Just with the way the deck seems to be coming together, it would not surprise me if planeswalkers were going to cause us some trouble. The ability to peck away for one or two in the air helps mitigate that somewhat.

One interesting decision is whether we want to go for the full set of our utility enchantments or if we want to try a more toolbox approach and run a full four Tamiyo’s Journal to find the ones we need. Either way we’re going to want some number of Journals; that card is too good to not play. I’m going to opt for a few more enchantments because that means we can play another forgotten Magic Origins card, Herald of the Pantheon. If we can cast that on turn 2, we can drop both Ongoing Investigation and Fleeting Memories on turn 3. Oh, and with Alhammarret’s Archive out, we can gain two life per enchantment!

Yes, I have a problem. Send help, or two helps if I have an Archive. Dammit. Sorry. Here, have a list. Maybe two. I just resolved Alhammarret’s Archive.

I don’t know how Woodland Bellower will turn out, but it can tutor up all of our key creatures bar Erdwal Illuminator. It may be better in the sideboard as a way to switch to a damage plan for Games 2 and 3. I do like the semi-switching plan we have in the sideboard. The Great Aurora helps us against decks that go wide; Briarbridge Patrol and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger gives us an excellent alternate win condition against decks like Mono-Blue Prison,;and the additional Westvale Abbey can come in when we bring in the additional Ulvenwald Mysteries: against decks with a lot of removal. Just looking at this deck, I have no idea if it’s good…but it’s going to be fun.

This deck borrows a lot from the Blue Prison deck, but eschews the Part the Waterveil or Rise from the Tides kill conditions for one that is more fun and possibly harder to disrupt. A more spell-based strategy combined with Trail of Evidence will both draw us in to our key cards and fuel our Clue engine.

Opponents will hate using removal on Graf Moles and Erdwal Illuminators, but use it they might, so don’t be afraid to sideboard out some or all of the creatures in Game 2. If I had to guess, I would say that this deck will draw a lot of cards and then die, but think of all those cards!

A Change of Pace

Reader Joe Bey sent me this list, which also contains an underplayed Magic Origins card that I adore:

Joe has avoided the trap into which most people fell to start the format; he is not all-in on the Vampire strategy. Draconic Roar is really well-positioned right now, and unlike Mike’s deck from last week, we’re running eight Dragons to turn it on. Joe has also found the power of evasion to be too strong to…well, evade, but he went with flying over menace as his way to get past the blockers.

That said, there are a few things here that I am questioning. The first of those is the split of Dragons. Dragonlord Kolaghan is the only card in the deck that wants us to have more than four lands on the battlefield. It is no doubt a powerful card and plays well with all of our removal. However, Avaricious Dragon is also very powerful and is far less likely to get stuck in our hands. I think I would just make that straight switch.

Olivia’s Bloodsworn has not excited me at all. I want Sin Prodder here pretty badly, as that card has some serious play in this deck. If we can grant it haste with Olivia, Mobilized for War, then it gets even better. That does lower our Vampire count for Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, but that’s not a huge problem.

One card I would love to squeeze in here is Hangarback Walker. It plays well with Olivia and Drana, Liberator of Malakir. If we can sacrifice it to Kalitas after Olivia bites it, will make a lot of creatures in a hurry. Am I going too deep? Probably, but I don’t have Alhammarret’s Archive in this deck to calm me down.

I also can’t get behind the removal suite. Although all the cards chosen are powerful, I think the current metagame calls for more than one Ruinous Path. I think we can afford to go down to 23 lands and also cut one of the other removal spells for a second Ruinous Path. We also need at least one more in the sideboard.

Speaking of the sideboard, we have a solid suite of spells that allow us to take a more controlling route should we need it. However our main deck is a little too far on the aggressive side to make that switch viable with just some more removal spells. I would love to see a From Under the Floorboards or two in here, as well as Kozilek’s Return instead of Seismic Rupture. Most of our creatures are going to be over two toughness anyway, and the instant speed of Return give us more play.

Progress Report

Because I am a sucker, I took the U/G Butt Company deck from a couple of weeks backto FNM. Although G/W Tokens is everywhere and I lose hard to a resolved Dromoka’s Command in most cases, I could not resist the call of Assault Formation. This is the list I played:

I included the Vessels to give me some insurance against Dromoka’s Command as well as to help find the Assault Formation. Jhessian Thief draws a lot of cards early on, even if we cannot trigger the prowess very often. Not only did I manage to take this to a 3-1 record (losing to Mono-Blue Prison), but there was a second Assault Formation deck at the event that was more U/R splashing green. Aside from Goldnight Castigator (which is a liability in a maindeck), it did run Vile Aggregate and Kozilek’s Sentinel. I like both of these additions and would probably try to find a way to make those changes if I wanted to play the deck again.

Well, folks, that’s all we have for this week. As always, thanks for stopping by the LAB, where Lansdell’s Always Brewing. Until next time…Brew On!