We have ourselves a new set, ladies and gentlemen! Lemme at it already! Not only does this set have a plethora of powerful cards with unique effects, it looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s possible I will get tired of all the swirls and the filigree, but right now my list of “I need this in foil” is long and potentially expensive.
But of course you’re not here to read about my aesthetic. You’re here to see what my slightly crazy brewer’s mind has come up with for Standard. My notebook has a whole bunch of scribbles in it, from full decklists to two-card interactions to a disturbing amount of raving about Verdurous Gearhulk. Seriously, that card is absurd.
Coming to a Standard near you.
I Dovin to Control
No sooner had I submitted last week’s article than we got all the answers I was looking for to Selfless Spirit and potentially Archangel Avacyn. Freshly equipped with those answers, we might actually have the U/W Control deck that Standard has been “missing” since…good grief, I cannot remember. Was Ivan Floch’s Pro Tour win really the last time that good old U/W Control was a deck?
There are a few ways we can go with this. Generally, if I am going to play control, I want to turn off as many of the opponent’s spells as I can, so I run very few creatures. This Standard, however, presents us with some simply undeniable creatures, so it would be irresponsible to not look at them.
This is the more traditional build, leaning on the nigh-unkillable Sphinx of the Final Word and the dual-purpose Cataclysmic Gearhulk to deal our damage. I may have overloaded on the planeswalkers at the expense of some cheaper card draw spells, but as they both allow us some card draw, we might be okay. We might also want to look at Declaration in Stone somewhere in the list.
Dovin Baan is important in a format that contains Selfless Spirit because it lets us control when the Spirit is used. We can use the plus ability after playing our fifth land, and now the opponent can either sacrifice the Spirit and let us cast Cataclysmic Gearhulk with one less creature to worry about…or leave it alone and let us cast Fumigate. We’re still vulnerable to Archangel Avacyn, but she is relatively easy to play around: do they have 3WW open? If yes, be very careful about what you cast.
The other card that really helped control turn the corner is Revolutionary Rebuff.
Mana Leak it is not, but it’s a two-mana counterspell that can be relevant in the late-game. I’ve tried to build the counterspell suite around the situations where Rebuff isn’t great (no, you can’t stop that turn 2 Smuggler’s Copter) to shore up that weakness, but overall this is a powerful effect, the likes of which we have been lacking since actual factual Mana Leak rotated out.
But what if we like creatures? Well, you’re in luck, because U/W has plenty of creatures that look like almost all the spells we want to be casting. We already know about Cataclysmic Gearhulk, but we also have Reflector Mage, Spell Queller, Torrential Gearhulk, and even Fairgrounds Warden. All those enters-the-battlefield effects definitely draw you towards Eldrazi Displacer and cards like Essence Flux, but it’s possible that we’re out of the realms of control at that point. If only Venser, the Sojourner were around…
Much like the Titans before them, most people expect the Gearhulk cycle to see a lot of Standard play. The consensus appears to be that Noxious Gearhulk is the best, with Verdurous and Cataclysmic right behind them. Torrential Gearhulk certainly has potential but requires more of a dedicated deckbuilding strategy than I want to look at right now. Instead, I want to play in the graveyard.
I’ve spoken several times about the power of Ever After. We already have a multitude of ways to fill up the graveyard, and now with Refurbish we have a way to retrieve artifacts from it. Paired with Ever After, we can run as many as eight (though we don’t want eight) reanimation effects. Okay, I am potentially interested. What can we do with that?
One of the keys to determining a creature’s viability is the impact it has on the battlefield right away. The more mana you pay, the bigger that impact needs to be. Fortunately, the Gearhulks have giant check marks on both those criteria, even at six mana. If we’re paying four mana for one Gearhulk or six mana for two, that value requirement is more than met.
The question of which colors we want is the most pressing one. Clearly we want white and black, but the other three are all legitimate contenders. Green gives us access to Grapple with the Past, Vessel of Nascency, and Verdurous Gearhulk. In blue we get Oath of Jace and other loot effects. Red gives us Nahiri, the Harbinger and cards like Tormenting Voice. The biggest draw for me, though, is that red also gives us Nahiri’s Wrath, a card that has impressed me every time I cast it. The ability to go huge on a sweeper while also putting relevant cards in our graveyard is very appealing.
Mardu does mean we are stuck with arguably the weakest of the three Gearhulks in Combustible Gearhulk, but that’s like dating the least attractive member of Destiny’s Child or the Backstreet Boys. It also does a fine job of filling up the graveyard or our hand, which are functionally the same thing if we build the deck correctly. Here’s a first look.
- 1 Void Winnower
- 1 Linvala, the Preserver
- 1 Emrakul, the Promised End
- 3 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
- 3 Noxious Gearhulk
- 2 Combustible Gearhulk
This is a really rough list. I considered going heavier in planeswalkers with Liliana, the Last Hope and Sorin, Grim Nemesis along with the Oaths of Gideon and Liliana, but the removal approach felt better. I also looked at Smuggler’s Copter and Aradara Express along with Key to the City in a heavier artifact build, but I couldn’t fit in enough ways to Crew the Vehicles. One of the great things about this time of year? Every idea is equally bad until the games start.
There’s a Storm Brewing
I am far from the first to look at Aetherflux Reservoir and start salivating over the combo potential. Fellow brewmaster Matt Higgs gave us some brews on Thursday, and I had some pretty fair ideas the day before that. But why on earth would we play fair when we can storm off and cast six or seven spells in one turn, allowing us to just go up to 51 life and dome the opponent?
I am more all-in on my cost reducers than many lists I have seen, but I think they are the best way to make the deck hum. I would love to be able to fit Saheeli Rai in here, but another three-drop is going to clog up our draws on the turn we want to go off.
Another possibility is cutting red for white, which gives us Sigarda’s Aid. That lets us cast our equipment at instant speed in response to each other, so that when the triggers resolve, they all count the total number of spells. So for four spells, we gain 4+4+4+4 instead of 1+2+3+4. Paradoxical Outcome is also an instant, so we can even do this at the end of the opponent’s turn.
Could we add the Reservoir to the Modern GrapeNaughts deck? Four mana is a lot to ask, but it makes it a lot easier to combo off and win the game in a hurry. I will be testing it so you don’t have to.
Are You Allergic to the Mets?
One of the coolest decks of the last Standard season was the mono-blue Prison deck that cast approximately a billion spells each turn and recurred its library over and over before killing you with an awakened land or with an enormous Rise from the Tides.
As much as I admired the building of the deck, I absolutely detested playing against it. Despised. Loathed. Almost as much as I hated watching the mirror in untimed rounds of a Standard side event at a GP. I had to stay awake for that. I blame Martin Muller.
We still have Rise from the Tides, Part the Waterveil, and the majority of our cantrips. We also gained a very important piece in Metallurgic Summonings, which in a way is better for the deck than Rise from the Tides, as it makes bigger tokens more often.
How do we best make use of this engine? Ideally with madness spells, but even without them we can generate a large army just for churning through our library.
This is again a rough mono-blue shell. It may benefit from the addition of red, but I want to try it this way first. We lose the lifegain aspect of Prism Ring, and that hurts the deck, but we do get to play Thing in the Ice instead. It’s possible we don’t actually want to do that, as we’d be bouncing all our Constructs, in which case we could go with Curious Homunculus instead. If nothing else, this deck has some serious velocity and will satisfy your urge to draw approximately all the cards. Could this be a place to play Docent of Perfection or Niblis of Frost? I like both cards and Docent in particular combines well with Metallurgic Summonings…except for the fact that they both cost five.
Welcome to the Age of Innovation
Wow. Four decks down and I have barely scratched the surface of what I want to do with this set. I am more excited to start brewing with these cards than with any other set in recent memory. The artifacts alone make me want to do so many busted things. I hope to share some of those with you next week, including a bunch of infinite combos. After so long without a true combo deck in Standard, I already have four I want to build.
Have fun this weekend at your Prereleases, and keep an eye open for cards that are more powerful than you thought. I have come up with more than one deck idea from playing a Prerelease and seeing the synergies emerge.
That’s all I have for this week, but next week I will have even more Kaladesh brews to share. As always, thanks for stopping by the LAB. Now more than any other time, Lansdell is Always Brewing. Until next time…Brew On!