The Innovator’s Guide To Innistrad Standard: Part 2

Patrick Chapin’s review of Innistrad today includes 16 decklists made possible only with Innistrad. Whether it’s Werewolves, Dredgevine, or Solar Flare, Patrick is always on top of the latest innovations. Pick one up for Indy!

Welcome to part 2 of our tour through Innistrad. Today we’ll be examining a number of Innistrad cards that help make new strategies possible. Part 1, covering updates to existing strategies can be found here .

It will take some time to figure out how to use all of the new cards, as well as just determine which new cards and strategies are best positioned in the new metagame. There is nothing better than brewing for a new format, and four sets rotating out plus a new large set chock-full of options for tournament play ensure next week’s format is going to be radically different from this week’s. Just like Lorwyn, Zendikar, and Scars of Mirrodin, Innistrad has been suggested to be a “powered down set for Constructed,” a claim people make about every non-gold stand-alone, lately.  

Guess what? While some number of sets are, of course, objectively “weaker” than the previous block, others are stronger, and there is no correlation between general mood and actual strength.

For instance, Lorwyn turned out to be exceptional, but it wasn’t until people figured out how to use the cards that they realized just how insane the set was. People are scared of what they don’t understand and often look for fault in every change.

Every stand-alone is a fresh start, complete with a change in Standard, draft, mechanics, flavor, mental space, and more. For a year we have been evaluating cards with a Scars of Mirrodin mentality, so the world of Innistrad is going to take some getting used to. Not surprisingly this is a little…


Most people thought Invasion was “stronger” than Odyssey. Ravnica? People thought it was “stronger” than Time Spiral block. Shards of Alara block? People thought it was stronger than Lorwyn and Zendikar. Why? Gold is familiar. Each time we return to the Gold Standard, there is a foundation for people to stand on, enough tools for players to understand a higher percentage of cards out the gate than they normally would.

Innistrad has double-faced cards, among many other strange new cards. It is going to take a minute to get the hang of these, though fortunately the flashback mechanic returning provides a robust jumping-off pad. Flashback is familiar, and even better, flashback is a proven winner. Not surprisingly, quite a few of the lists we will be discussing today feature the flashback mechanic.

These lists are going to be rawer than Monday’s, requiring more tuning. Some may even be better off abandoned, once we discover why they are not right for the new format. Still, figuring out what all is possible is the first step to uncovering the questions the metagame is really asking. Besides, with States just three weeks away, those who have looked deeper into the format will be at the advantage.

One other note before we get started, I’d like to add that, “Yeah, Splinter Twin should probably be #3 on the list of cards rotating out, behind only fetchlands and manlands.” Without a regular turn-four kill in the format, the rules of engagement are quite different.

We have sixteen-ish decks to cover today, but I do want to start with a couple alternative takes on archetypes covered Monday. First of all, a card that I have really liked the look of in Snapcaster Mage decks is Divination:

The prospect of combining Divination with cheap removal and counters is very appealing. Using Snapcaster Mage on a Divination is an excellent way to build your own Mulldrifter. Additionally, Twisted Image and Psychic Barrier are two more great cheap targets for Snapcaster. It is not going to be that hard to cycle Twisted Image, so it is just a question of whether there are enough zero-power creatures to make it worthwhile. Birds of Paradise, Signal Pest, and Tree of Redemption are three, but I suspect more will emerge as the format evolves.

Psychic Barrier is a fine two-mana counter that plays very nicely with both Mana Leak and Think Twice. It sadly does nothing to address the hole left in U/B’s game plan as a result of Into the Roil’s absence, but with so many Snapcasters on the horizon, a counterspell that beats it with value is very enticing.

The other concept from Monday I wanted to revisit out the gate is that of RDW. This version is a bit experimental, but does some interesting things.

First of all, moving Grim Lavamancer to the sideboard is a hard pill to swallow, but without fetchlands, it is going to be right in some builds. Reckless Waif and Stromkirk Noble are both excellent, and Furnace Scamp is so good with Brimstone Volley.

The other new technology here is the use of Volt Charge. Shrine of Burning Rage and Koth of the Hammer already provide some nice synergies. The prospect of giving Stromkirk Noble and Stormblood Berserker +1/+1 counters at instant speed has me wanting to experiment with proliferate in red a little.

Our first “new” archetype has been the most hotly requested one from the past week, the Esper Reanimator Control deck known as Solar Flare:

The Solar Flare concept is that of an Esper control deck with a little bit of permission, discard, removal, and card draw. The way it seeks to secure a game-winning advantage is with a number of powerful fatties as well as reanimation spells that let you play them for cheaper than you normally would. This archetype has not been around for a number of years, as there haven’t been any good reanimation spells that work well with it. Unburial Rites changes all that.

Unburial Rites is deceptively powerful, as it is a “cantrip” Zombify that draws you another Zombify for only one extra mana. Additionally, you can get it into your graveyard with Forbidden Alchemy, Liliana, or Nephalia Drownyard, turning it into a cantrip Zombify for no extra cost. This is a very appealing strategy, especially given how well it fights through the countless Mana Leaks we are likely to see in Snapcaster’s world.

We discussed Forbidden Alchemy a little on Monday, but in summary, it is halfway between an Impulse and a Mystical Teachings but dumps cards into our graveyard more efficiently than usual. The dream of turn three Alchemy, turn four Unburial is not out of the question, but is certainly not “necessary.” Each time we get a card into our graveyard that does something, it is like Forbidden Alchemy has drawn us another “card.” A lot of people are hesitant because FA’s flashback cost is so high, but remember people said the same thing about Mystical Teachings. This card is real nice.

Liliana of the Veil has a lot of natural synergy with Solar Flare. She provides additional removal that is actually a very powerful anti-control threat instead of being just another pseudo-dead-card. She is a fantastic “get” for Sun Titan, no question. Her mutual discard effect works great with flashback, but she also gives you a vehicle for discarding a fatty for reanimation early. For instance:

Turn 3 Liliana, discard Unburial Rites

Turn 4 Discard a fatty, flashback Burial

It may be right to play more expensive fatties that we are realistically not casting; however, at least at first, I am drawn to Sun Titan’s ease of hard casting. Michael Jacob and Gerry Thompson are apparently on the same page, as MJ discussed here , and Gerry discussed here . I have to admit that Ali Aintrazi Rune-Scarred Demons are kind of alluring, though, as I imagine once you get a Demon in play, things tend to just get better from there. The National Champ’s list can be found here .

Phantasmal Image is already so hot with Sun Titan, but the favorable interaction with Snapcaster Mage makes it particularly well-suited to this list. You don’t get an extra look at Mana Leak (since Phantasmal Image doesn’t have flash), but another Nekrataal or Mulldrifter is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Phantasmal Image, Liliana, and Day of Judgment, not to mention blocking with Snapcaster, make this strategy uniquely well suited to fighting Geist of Saint Traft, a card I expect to be quite popular. Remember, Geist of Saint Traft is a legend, so copying it with Phantasmal Image is a solution that beats hexproof. Most of the Legends in Innistrad are quite good and likely to see tournament play, meaning Phantasmal Image is going to be a removal spell even more than it was.

I know Snapcaster has gotten an unreal amount of hype, but rightly so, as he is the latest in the proud tradition of Cryptic Commands. It is not that he breaks the game open or anything. He is just insidiously good on rate. Like Cryptic Command, he is unbelievably versatile and nearly impossible to stop from producing a quality two-for-one. It is not any one thing he does; it is that he does everything so well.

He is a 2/1 for two mana that effectively draws a card, which is already too good. Now you add flash and the selection from getting to use any sorcery or instant you want, and we are talking amazing value. Just like Cryptic Command would be nothing special at five but defines some formats at four, Snapcaster would be nothing special if he cost the same as Eternal Witness. At two, however, he is just a little too good.

I hope you enjoy Snapcaster battles because we are going to be seeing a lot of this guy from now on. Being one of the best creatures of all time in the best color and a tournament staple in every format, he is going to be a long-term part of Magic. You probably already know everything in this paragraph, but not everyone is up to speed yet, so it is kind of a necessity.

Sun Titan’s synergy with Snapcaster is adorable, so there is yet another point in his favor. I have a feeling he is going to have that Jace sort of situation where every new card or strategy “combos well with Snapcaster.”

Solar Flare has so many exciting options that it is going to take some testing to figure out what direction to even start. These are only some of the first level of options, but having more good options than we have room for is a good problem to have.


Sun Titan, Grave Titan, Frost Titan, Wurmcoil Engine, Consecrated Sphinx, Rune-Scarred Demon, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Sheoldred, Whispering One, Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, Phantasmal Image, Snapcaster Mage


Dismember, Doom Blade, Go for the Throat, Oblivion Ring, Day of Judgment, Ratchet Bomb, Sever the Bloodline, Tribute to Hunger, Geth’s Verdict, Snapcaster Mage


Mana Leak, Psychic Barrier, Negate, Dissipate, Mental Misstep, Distress, Mind Rot, Memoricide, Despise, Snapcaster Mage

Library Manipulation:

Forbidden Alchemy, Think Twice, Divination, Dream Twist, Visions of Beyond, Ponder, Gitaxian Probe, Snapcaster Mage

Solar Flare may be the most obvious home for Unburial Rites, but it is far from the only one. Really, it is just the interaction between Forbidden Alchemy and Unburial Rites that is so appealing, as well as the synergy with the amazing fatties that are legal, these days. Here is quite a different direction we might consider:

The foundation for this deck was the realization that Ancient Grudge is the perfect card for a U/B deck. It is cheap removal, card advantage, great in the format, and solves most of U/B’s problems, like Swords, Inkmoth Nexus, and Birthing Pod. On top of all of this, it combines exceptionally with Forbidden Alchemy.

Curse of Death’s Hold is another favorite of mine that is currently underrated. Part sweeper, part “card advantage,” it is a bit expensive but very powerful. Obviously just how powerful is a function of what other people are playing, but Snapcasters and Inkmoth Nexus are surely two of the most popular cards in the new format, which is a solid start, to say nothing of all the aggro decks.

It is possible that Shimmering Grotto should have a larger place in this list, though it is a little hard to justify paying an extra mana. Still, that it gives you your white, red, and green, not to mention backdooring Curse of Death’s Hold and helping make all the basics suck less has me interested.

Think Twice makes your Forbidden Alchemies stronger and is selected over Desperate Ravings for mana cost considerations, but don’t get it twisted. Desperate Ravings is a stronger card, in general.

Elixir of Immortality is another cute toy that has my eye. The ability to cycle through our library so quickly makes us more interested than ever in the recursion that the Elixir provides. That it provides respectable life gain to boot is just gravy. It may be that a Memory’s Journey build is better, but both have advantages.

The biggest turnoff to this deck, for me, is the Sphere of the Suns. They are nice when they live, but I’m picturing more than a little artifact destruction in maindecks. Even if we are talking Grudges out of the sideboard, that is really annoying when we are relying on them for our splashes. I have some ideas on how to address this in a list we will be getting to shortly. First though, I want to cover one last Unburial Rites decks:

By request, this is a rough draft of a Corpse-Born Ooze deck. The primary concept is that we are milling ourselves as hard as possible, looking to set up the combo of Necrotic Ooze with both a Grimgrin and Bloodline Keeper. This lets you tap the Ooze to make a Vampire, which you can sacrifice to untap the Ooze and put a +1/+1 counter on it. Repeat ad nauseam, and you have a lethal ooze.

It is possible that you want some other creature to make your Ooze actually lethal, such as a Trespassing Souleater, but for now I have the backup plan of Feeling of Dread to tap their blockers. It is easy to write off a card like Feeling of Dread, since cards like that are not usually good in Constructed; however it has a useful effect and a cheap flashback cost. Combine it with cards like Liliana of the Veil, and you are talking about a great way to get board advantage without spending cards (since it is like a cantrip when you discard it). The card probably isn’t quite as strong as Tumble Magnet, another card that people underestimated that was actually surprisingly playable.

The other backup plan I have is Laboratory Maniac; though it is very possible that this should just be a Laboratory Maniac deck. Here is a dedicated Laboratory Maniac deck using a Solar Flare shell:

Remember, with both of these decks, we can find our entire combo by milling ourselves repeatedly. The Ooze combo isn’t that insane when you pull it off, but at least the individual pieces are halfway decent on their own. The Maniac is obviously sometimes lame, but you don’t have to play very many, since the implication is that by the time you play him, you have milled your entire library.

Dream Twist is a very exciting new card that is so effective at milling and being a part of a strategy that seeks to chain various mill effects together to form a makeshift dredge engine that I fully expect it to find its way into the heart of a number of dedicated “dredge” strategies. Just as the above two lists are going to need some serious TLC before they are ready for tournament play, so too will the list that follows, but it does do some powerful things.

Despite no cards with dredge and no Vines, Dredgevine is the perfect description of this deck that actually reminds me a bit of the Necratog decks of the mid-nineties. With 21 cards that mill ourselves, we should be constantly filling our yard for the purposes of fueling Boneyard Wurms, Splinterfrights, and Skaab Ruinators, as well as chaining together more flashback cards and setting up a deadly Spider Spawning. That Dream Twist and Forbidden Alchemy are instants is awesome, as they serve as a kind of Giant Growth for our guys.

Ponder is exceptional in this build, despite a tiny shortage of blue mana. With so many good ways to reset the top of our library, we are definitely getting our money’s worth, not to mention setting up sweet Mindshriekers.  

I considered Bonehoard, and it is possible it is too good not to play, but I really wanted to limit the number of non-creature cards I was using. Mulch didn’t make the cut on account of so little land, but it is another one that might just be too efficient not to play. It is tough because there are so many sweet support spells, but we really want to be disciplined and play more creatures.

Skaab Ruinator may be overhyped a little, but he is still a total badass. A 5/6 flier for three that you can “dredge” into helps make this a very annoying deck to face with traditional removal (especially Dismember). Decks like this, as well as Solar Flare, and a number of other graveyard-related decks make it clear that graveyard hate is going to be on the rise. Leyline of the Void is going (thank goodness), but Nihil Spellbomb is still around and quite strong. Surgical Extraction is also a reasonable option, as is Purify the Grave. It is definitely nice to see everyone have options for graveyard hate, by the way.

While we are examining graveyard decks, here is another style that blends some of the 5C Control elements I like from above with a Burning Vengeance endgame.

As you can see, this list has significantly more red than the above list, sacrificing the Unburial Rites + fatties endgame for a Burning Vengeance one. Burning Vengeance is kind of a cross between Astral Slide and Lightning Rift and quite strong. Even if you just flashback one card a turn, you are getting a Cursed Scroll that doesn’t cost mana, which is amazing. The biggest cost to playing Slide and Rift was the need to fill your deck with cycling cards you might not otherwise have wanted. Burning Vengeance asks a bit less, as the flashback cards are what you should be playing anyway.

Snapcaster Mage has a little tension with the sheer volume of spells that already have flashback, but he is just too good, and he does let you turn your removal and Leaks into Vengeance triggers as well. Additionally, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be able to fight Geist of Saint Traft.

I absolutely love Desperate Ravings here, as it isn’t just another Think Twice. Every time you discard a flashback card, it is like you drew a half a card extra. Additionally, if you have good cards in your hand, you can cast them some amount of the time instead of Desperate Ravings. When you have bad cards in hand, you can just Desperate Ravings and maybe upgrade them. This means that in general, the quality of your hand will improve by a greater margin than when you just cast Think Twice. Yes, there is higher variance, since it is possible you discard the one card you need, but this really is the new Demonic Consultation where people are afraid of the risk, despite the fact that the power makes it easily worth it (and the risk isn’t going to kill you often).

It remains to be seen how good Rolling Temblor is, but we do need answers to the Geist; a sweeper would be useful in general; and it does help fuel the Vengeance, if nothing else. It is just so wild to me that Burning Vengeance doesn’t cost mana to use. I have to imagine it will be the backbone of one of the top tier new strategies, when people find the right mix.

There are a lot of possible ways to build this sort of a deck. For instance, here is a more green-centric version that tries to play a big mana ramp game, instead of a U/x Control game:

All these flashback cards are very mana hungry. Rampant Growth and Caravan Vigil provide a solid plan for actually providing the fuel to take full advantage of them. Lay of the Land was fine without the morbid bonus, but it is the bonus that really makes the card exciting. We like Rampant Growth anyway, so the prospect of getting it for free seems awesome. Yes, Vigil does cost one, but it puts the land into play untapped, so we are already at least break even (assuming we are morbid, and knowing us, we probably are). Cheap removal like Dismember works best with Caravan Vigil, helping us get enough mana to cast multiple flashback cards per turn.

If we need, we can actually go infinite here with the Runic Repetition + Memory’s Journey combo, but I’m not sure how often we will actually need to go this route or if it is even worth the space. Devil’s Play might be a better endgame backup plan. The ability to Devil’s Play a creature early, than have an extra Blaze in reserve is actually somewhat reminiscent of Firebolt.

As currently configured, we are probably golden against slower strategies, but a little too slow against aggro. In order to know the best way to fight the aggressive strategies, we first need to figure out which ones are likely to be the common ones. One thing is for sure, whatever aggro decks rise to the top of the new metagame, they are going to need a plan for fighting someone who is just getting free Shocks left and right from Burning Vengeance. A straightforward weenie deck is likely going to be torn apart by this card, so I wouldn’t be surprised if three toughness is the magic number for a solid mid-speed threat (and the line between small creatures and big creatures in this format).

Burning Vengeance isn’t the only way to take advantage of filling our graveyard with spells. Here is another Caravan Vigil deck, this time fueled by Past in Flames, instead:

Burning Vengeance is a more appealing engine to me, on the surface, but Past in Flames is interesting and worth more than a quick look. Obviously people are more excited about its applications in powered formats (with real rituals), but Yawgmoth’s Will appeared in a number of midrange decks as a card drawer, and I would definitely love if Past in Flames ends up in that same space. It costs a lot of mana to get going, but Rampant Growth and Caravan Vigil help get us enough mana to actually be able to get a good Past in Flames going, after using some removal to buy us time. Then, flashing them back, we stabilize the board and build our mana even more so that we can actually flashback the Past on our next turn. For instance:

Turn 2- Rampant Growth

Turn 3- Dismember, Caravan Vigil, Mind Rot

Turn 4- Mulch, Bramblecrush

Turn 5- Past in Flames, Dismember, Caravan Vigil, Rampant Growth, Mind Rot

Rather than try to be all-in on Past in Flames, we are just using it as a medium value card. Why put all our eggs in one basket, when we have such great cards to ramp into like Titans and Garruk, Primal Hunter? Instead, we are just using Past in Flames as a slow Tidings sort of card that gives us reasonable card draw that fights through permission.

Speaking of permission, here is a very different sort of permission deck than we have seen in Standard lately made possible by two of the most powerful Innistrad creatures:

Snapcaster Mage in yet another deck filled with blue spells and removal is no surprise, but the use of Mayor of Avabruck might be. As mentioned above, new things are scary to people before they understand them. Werewolves are no different.

The Mayor of Avabruck will play quite a bit differently depending on what kind of a deck you use him in, but he is so strong that he will find a number of homes. Here, he is a two-drop you can play on the second turn that sort of has “suspend 2.” On your third turn, he is still a 1/1 (assuming your opponent had a spell, which is super annoying for them if their turn two was going to be holding up Mana Leak). You can just do nothing on your third turn, planning on using instants on your opponent’s turn. This well-timed pause will cause the Mayor to flip out and become the Howlpack Alpha that all the girls go crazy for.

A 3/3 that produces another 3/3 every turn can take over a game quickly, and even if he dies, you still have a number of Wolves to show for it. That you are getting all of this out of your two-drop is just incredible. Mayor of Avabruck is one of the biggest incentives to play spot removal in the new format, as it is very rare for this strong of a Baneslayer to cost two mana. That he randomly pumps Tiago sometimes is just an amusing bonus.

Does red need to be the third color? No, but the combination of Beast Within and Dismember sure makes the need for white or black a lot less, and Ancient Grudge is really, really good.

Here is another possible home for the Mayor of Avabruck:

While this list doesn’t trigger the Mayor as fast as easily, it does appreciate the tokens. You may be asking, what about Parallel Lives? Intangible Virtue? Midnight Haunting? The answer is that there are just too many options to try all at once. Parallel Lives and Midnight Haunting are already getting an unnatural amount of love from people who remember the fondness that they had for Doubling Season and Spectral Procession. I’m not sold on either, but both are in the right ballpark. I just don’t like that Midnight Haunting gives you less power than the mana you spent. Intangible Virtue is a little unexciting but could be okay in moderation.

Overrun is obviously a great card for a token deck, but the one I am most excited for is Gavony Township. Spending four mana to give all your guys a +1/+1 counter is already a real card.

Granted, I would only want to spend two mana for that effect, but the fact that this land taps to do this every turn at instant speed as a cantrip is very enticing. It is not that this is just an amazing rate on mana efficiency; it is that it gives you something great to do with your extra mana with almost no opportunity cost, meaning you will flood out less. It also ensures that every token generator is a massive threat by itself, helping you play around Day of Judgment.

Mikaeus, the Lunarch is a little underrated right now. Remember, you can just play him as a two-drop that taps to give himself +1/+1. Then, when the time is right, he starts to buff your guys every turn. That he has multikicker is just a sweet bonus.

Geist-Honored Monk has a giant question mark over its head. Is it better than just playing more Elspeths? I’m not sure, but he sure is big. Mentor of the Meek is a new addition I’m even less sure of. He is definitely there on power, but he is a little slow for a deck that has no removal. Still, blocking with countless tokens is something.

Avacyn’s Pilgrim… I have nothing but good things to say about this guy. He isn’t quite Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch, but he is better than Llanowar Elves in general. This is because decks with mana-creatures tend to have to play way too much green mana, making the green produced by Llanowar Elves somewhat colorless. The ability to get your other color from your one-drop is exactly what they want, even if they play Overrun.

Continuing our tour of Mayor of Avabruck decks, we now come to dedicated Werewolves:

So the primary incentives to sticking to the Werewolf tribe are Howlpack Alpha and Moonmist. This may not seem like a lot, but we are also not talking about playing with any Wolves that aren’t fine on their own. That Howlpack Alpha gives your team +1/+1 is sweet, but whenever he lives and is making tokens, you are in pretty good shape anyway. The one that really captures the imagination is Moonmist, a card that people seem to suggest is just for Limited. Why?

For two mana, it massively crusades your team, mid-combat. On top of this, it is a devastating combat trick that makes it extremely hard to stop Werewolf assaults by blocking. It is fine to take a turn off to turn everyone on, but being able to unleash everyone’s inner-howl by surprise and without forgoing play… well that is just brutal.

Playing with the Werewolf deck is going to take some practice, as you don’t want to take a turn off for each Wolf. Getting the pacing down of how many Wolves to put down, as well as anticipating which turns your opponents will miss a drop is a matter of experience. The sheer volume of big threats offers enough incentive that I think we will see Werewolves turn up at least as a tier 2 deck, a la Vampires.

Daybreak Ranger is quite underrated in his own right, and Kruin Outlaw hits really hard. This is especially true when he is combined with Instigator Gang, a card that is very much this archetype’s Nocturnus. If you’re interested in this exciting new archetype, I would make sure to follow Kibler’s column closely, as I suspect he will be helping lead the pioneering of this new style of play.

While on the topic of new aggro archetypes, let’s take a look at Zombies:

So the incentives to play Zombies are numerous (Cemetery Reaper, Unbreathing Horde, Ghoulraiser, Ghoulcaller’s Chant, Endless Ranks of the Dead), but none are actually that incredible. Additionally, they all Crusade each other well, but you generally need at least two Zombies to make them good enough to be worth the cost anyway. They have quite a bit of tribal synergy, but more than anything I am suspicious of the lack of one-drop and two-drop Zombies. Diregraf Ghoul and Walking Corpse… and that’s it?!

I am not sure what the missing link is, but an aggressive deck like this can’t just sit around and wait until the third turn to start making its drops. Distress and spot removal is something, but we could really go for something more like Sign in Blood or Carnophage.

Unbreathing Horde being a “Phantom” style of creature is cute, and the plethora of reanimation on the cheap is at least mildly efficient, but it is very possible that this archetype needs a second color to fill in the gaps at one and two. Just as post-Nocturnus Vampires enjoyed more success with the addition of red, so too is Zombies likely to acquire a support color. We don’t even have a way to get paid from all these Swamps, since Lashwrithe and Phyrexian Obliterator aren’t really what we are looking for.

I’m not sure what blue spells we want to add, but that is the most likely candidate. The mana for blue and red splashes is much better than white or green, and blue is the other “zombie color,” which makes me suspect that WotC planted some seeds for a U/B Zombie deck. Maybe counters? Bounce? Library manipulation? Phantasmal Image? Maybe we actually want to mill ourselves?

Our final monocolor deck of the day is not really an “aggro” deck, per se, but its reliance on creatures gives it an aggro feel in many matchups:

This list is derivative of an Adrian Sullivan creation, though I never actually got to see his full list. Hopefully he will be writing about it in the weeks to come. The concept is simple; use green ramp to power out versatile control elements (Acidic Slime, Beast Within, and Bramblecrush) to disrupt the opponent while gaining an advantage with planeswalkers and Make a Wish. Dungrove Elder provides an excellent kill condition and helps reward us for sticking to mono-green, though splashing out of the sideboard could be arranged if we wanted.

Garruk Relentless may be quite overrated, but he is still a good man. The ability to pick off opposing creatures is especially appreciated here, as we need all the removal we can get. Sometimes we are going to be able to Veil Curse him quickly, leading to chaining together Acidic Slimes using the -1 ability. Some people are nervous about using Garruk Relentless and Garruk, Primal Hunter in the same deck, but it is just like using Jace Beleren and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Obviously Jace wars caused them to trade with each other quite a bit, but the truth is, if you are Garruking at all, you are in real good shape. There is no question that Garruk Relentless will be the latest in a long string of over-dollar-costed planeswalkers that are solid but not broken. He is a little on the lower end, whereas Liliana is a little higher, but he will have his uses.

Make a Wish is kind of a crazy card that is going to take some serious thought to understand. That it doesn’t exile itself is just wild. It is really not that hard to cast it when you have exactly two cards in your yard and just make it into a double Regrowth. Then you cast one again and follow it with a second Make a Wish… This is better raw card draw than green normally has access to, and it has selection. It is a little slow (four mana to draw two), but it is card quality, making it feel more like Sift.

Bramblecrush is so sweet and not just here. The ability to be able to maindeck answers to artifacts and enchantments is so hot; plus it actually gives you an out to lands like Gavony Township. On top of all of this, it is a great answer to planeswalkers and helps establish a very real advantage that green has over the other colors now. Oblivion Ring is fine, but Bramblecrush is more reliable. Overall, it is just nice to see Into the Roil leave and Bramblecrush replace it, making green one of the top three colors for fighting walkers instead of blue (the other being red, of course).

The final deck we are going to look at today makes excellent use of Heartless Summoning, one of the best under-the-radar cards from Innistrad.

Grand Architect decks have been long been plagued with the problem that they are awesome when you have the Architect but clunky without him. Heartless Summoning solves this problem beautifully. It is a Bitterblossom-level threat in this deck, making every hand with it twice as strong as the ones without (and often worth mulliganing to look for). Even if it only produced two mana a turn, we’d be interested, but here, it does so much more.

Heartless Summoning lets you play all your Myr Superions immediately and for free. They are merely 4/5s for zero, which is pretty darn good. The ability to play them off of the Summoning or the Grand Architect leaves them stuck in your hand a lot less than they used to.

Heartless Summoning combines with Treasure Mage to fuel Wurmcoil Engine and the rest of the “Treasures.” This is particularly exciting when combined with Grand Architect. For instance:

Turn 2: Heartless Summoning

Turn 3: Grand Architect, Treasure Mage, Wurmcoil Engine(!)

That is a really tough sequence, though not uncommon. I have been testing this deck a bit this past weekend, and I gotta say, it does feel like Affinity sometimes, when you have a Heartless Summoning in play. This is still a very early version, but this feels like the beginning of a deck that does some pretty unfair things. Now that Twin and Valakut are gone, the format is missing an “unfair” strategy. Snapcaster Mage may be “too good,” but he still does fair things, just a little too efficiently. Heartless SummoningHeartless Summoning is unfair.

It may be that the Forgemaster package is too ambitious, but the curve of turn two Heartless Summoning into turn three Forgemaster is already threatening to put a Blightsteel Colossus onto the battlefield turn four that still kills in one hit, despite being Heartless.

Grand Architect’s ability to make artifact creatures blue (and thus get +1/+1) is especially relevant in this deck, so be sure to watch for that. I tried using Tezzeret in here, but he was a little clunky. It was nice to be able to play a Tezzeret on turn four, then immediately put the Myr Superion into play, but that it doesn’t always work right with Heartless Summoning and Grand Architect is annoying. Still, it might be right to make room for some, particularly if we need help against other planeswalkers.

I’m not really sure what to do with Tez yet, as there is basically nothing in the new set that supports him, whereas there are a lot of cards that are quite strong in total other directions. That said, I will be giving the subject some serious thought before my article on Friday. Friday will cover cards that have an impact outside of Standard, but it will also contain a number of very experimental decks and some new decks that weren’t ready for today. Thanks for joining me today. See you Friday!

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”

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