Let’s just agree not to talk about my performance at #SCGStates, okay? It wasn’t good. I played fairly well, but variance was not on my side and the 50-50 battlefield situations went against me more often than not. It happens. That’s the way the game goes. It does however mean that my dream of posting my list and being able to see “1st place at States” underneath it has died for another year.
It also means that I have to go looking elsewhere for some fun lists to talk about. For three of the lists I don’t have to go too far from home: a Modern and a Standard list from the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincials caught my eye, as did a Modern list from nearby Nova Scotia. The final list is something truly spicy and comes from the other side of the country in Alberta. Keeping it Canadian up in here!
A Spirited Brew
Neal Tremblett is a teacher who has done wonders in bringing Magic to schools through Magic clubs that he started. Our FNMs have seen a steady influx of new young players, many of whom stick around and become quite good at the game. In fact, two of Neal’s protégés made Top 8 at Provincials. While he does not play as much himself, Neal did come up with this rather promising Spirits deck for Modern that is essentially “Innistrad’s Greatest Hits”:
- 2 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
- 2 Eternal Witness
- 1 Mirror Entity
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Geist of Saint Traft
- 4 Strangleroot Geist
- 3 Drogskol Captain
- 2 Eidolon of Countless Battles
- 2 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
- 3 Rattlechains
In talking to Neal he mentioned that the deck was feeling a bit bottlenecked at three, which led to the inclusion of Strangleroot Geist and Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit. Noble Hierarch also helps a little here in that she allows acceleration directly to the three-drop slot, but we’d still like to reduce that glut a little.
If we’re looking for changes to make, the first place I would look is Strangleroot Geist. It’s a good card without a doubt, but having double green on turn 2 when green is our splash color is asking quite a lot. Cutting Strangleroot then brings up the question of whether or not we need green, and by extension Collected Company, at all. The Collected Company value is evident, especially with Anafenza allowing for some really nice bolstering, and Noble Hierarch certainly helps smooth out the mana. Cutting those not only lets us up the numbers on our best spells (Drogskol Captain and Rattlechains) but also lets us run Spirits at converted mana cost four that otherwise might feel bad in the deck.
There are 148 Spirits across white and blue, and that doesn’t include the token-making cards like Lingering Souls. One inclusion that immediately came to mind was Celestial Crusader. A decent-sized body that essentially cannot be countered and provides an extra Anthem effect to the team is exactly what this deck needed. That it also pumps the Angel token from Geist of Saint Traft is a nice bonus.
The inclusion of both Eidolon of Countless Battles and Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit sends us in two different directions. Neal liked the interaction with the Eidolon and Rattlechains, allowing us to bestow at instant speed for a surprise boost. While that is tempting, it does not play well with a deck that can’t go particularly wide. We can either cut Anafenza for more tokens, or cut the Eidolon for something a bit more robust like Dungeon Geists.
The token route allows us to also play one of my favorite underplayed rares from Ravnica, Twilight Drover. The very soul of going wide, the Drover has that “army-in-a-can” effect that allows us to hold off on over-committing to the battlefield. It also interacts very well with Geist of Saint Traft and Moorland Haunt, a land we are almost definitely adding if we cut green.
Although I want to remove the green from the deck, adding a couple of black sources to allow for a Lingering Souls Flashback is much easier and isn’t the worst thing in the world if we cannot use it. Souls is just too good to omit in the token version and can take the place of Anafenza if we go that way. If tokens aren’t for you, I would look for something low on the curve that can benefit from Anafenza’s bolster ability: Hopeful Eidolon is a possibility, as is Topplegeist. The latter, though, is unlikely to ever hit delirium (which Neal identified). Ghostblade Eidolon curves from Anafenza nicely and would really appreciate the counter.
Unfortunately, the spiritcraft creatures from Kamigawa block are a little too expensive to be of use to us here. The one possible inclusion would be Moonlit Strider, which we can sacrifice to simultaneously protect against removal and return a Drogskol Captain or Geist of Saint Traft from the graveyard. The body is not an impressive one, but the utility makes up for that.
Nikko-Onna is also a card that caught my eye, as we can make use of the tempo swings it provides at instant speed if we are flashing in creatures. That also leads to the possible inclusion of Aether Vial, which makes a fine replacement for Collected Company and also lets us do disgusting things with Nikko-Onna. If we do go this route and try for a more tempo-oriented approach, I like adding Reflector Mage here as well.
The best thing about this deck is that almost all its offense is in the air. Few decks come prepared for that sort of assault, and with two creature-based Anthems and three ways to protect our creatures, we are more resilient than many aggressive decks. One caveat with Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, though: do not try to bestow with Kira on the battlefield. It will not end well.
What the Heck Is a Pili-Pala?
You had to hover over that autocard link, didn’t you? I didn’t, but only because one of our local players has been playing the combo in a Mono-Blue Tron list for a while. The underplayed scarecrow lets you pay two generic mana and untap it to add one mana of any color to your mana pool, which, in tandem with any effect that lets it tap for two mana, is an arbitrarily large mana combo.
What’s that? Why, yes, Grand Architect does do just that.
- 4 Eternal Witness
- 4 Wall of Roots
- 4 Pili-Pala
- 1 Spawnsire of Ulamog
- 4 Grand Architect
- 2 Spellskite
- 1 Hornet Queen
- 2 Courser of Kruphix
I adore this deck. Absolutely adore it. I have met and played against Tim a few times and it does not surprise me that he would come up with something this off-the-wall. The problem with most decks that generate infinite mana is finding the win condition. In this deck, Tim has not only included two different win conditions in Spawnsire of Ulamog and Blue Sun’s Zenith, he has added Chord of Calling to find the former as well as parts of the combo.
One addition I would love to see is a copy or two of Drift of Phantasms. Not only can it find Chord, Zenith, and Architect, it can also do a fine job as a blocker in a pinch, only to be returned to hand by Eternal Witness if it dies. That would let us run fewer copies of Zenith, which as a three-of I think might end up being stuck in hand.
The deck does have the fallback plan of the old Eternal Witness – Cryptic Command – Aether Vial soft lock, which can buy time until we find the combo. We could also use the Command to bounce our Drift of Phantasms in preparation for being transmuted, if we go that route.
The sideboard, given that it is only thirteen usable cards because of the need to enable Spawnsire of Ulamog, does a reasonable job of shoring up some weak matches. As a combo deck that has a fairly solid delaying game, we are mostly worried about the decks that can kill us in a hurry: Affinity, Infect, and Burn. Just to drive my suggestion even further home, Drift would help a lot in two of those matchups as well.
I understand Hornet Queen, but I can’t help but wonder if Myr Battlesphere would be a better choice given that we can use Grand Architect mana to cast it. Wurmcoil Engine is another consideration, and one that curves nicely out of the Architect. Thassa, God of the Sea is another card I would like to test out in the deck, but only because I just love scrying every turn.
To the Skies…Again!
Back home in Newfoundland, GP Montreal 2015 Top 8 competitor Stephen “Mev” Whelan took down the Standard #SCGStates with this brew. Mev is not known for brewing and was very excited to let me know that he was playing one. Perhaps he should do so more often.
- 1 Dragonlord Ojutai
- 2 Icefall Regent
- 4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
- 3 Reflector Mage
- 3 Eldrazi Displacer
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 3 Hedron Crawler
- 4 Dimensional Infiltrator
- 3 Archangel Avacyn
In building this list, Mev clearly listened to the established wisdom that Bant Company and to a lesser extent the Ramp and Aristocrats decks were weak to fliers. Kenji Tsumura posted a U/W Skies deck on the #kenjiwayfinder deck-posting spree that usually emanates from the Hareruya Twitter account come set release, and I thought it had promise at the time. Of course, that list ran Thunderclap Wyvern (which I still think has potential) and not much in the way of removal, so this one is quite different.
There is a lot going on here. Eldrazi Displacer, one of my favorite cards in Standard, teams up with Eldrazi Skyspawner to make an annoying defensive engine and Archangel Avacyn to make…well, an insurmountable protection engine. Icefall Regent, Reflector Mage, and even Thought-Knot Seer make excellent blink targets too. That explains the inclusion of Hedron Crawlers in a deck that otherwise looks to be somewhat aggressive, and in this slot I would almost prefer Rattlechains as another flash threat.
Maindeck Negates are a spicy inclusion, but in this format there are so many back-breaking spells that they seem necessary. The removal suite seems a little haphazard, but Mev assures me it was the product of testing. As the metagame develops, we may want to look at tweaking those numbers slightly, especially the Declaration in Stone.
I really want to find a way to squeeze a Wyvern or two in here. It might be too expensive for the effect, but flash Anthems are powerful, and a lot of our deck is set up to take advantage of it. It also puts Dragonlord Ojutai and Avacyn out of range of Languish and Grasp of Darkness, which could be relevant in this metagame with the Seasons Past control deck out there.
I really like this list, and if you are a fan of U/W tempo decks with the ability to throw down a lot of damage in a hurry, you could do a lot worse than giving this a spin.
But It Has Sarkhan!
We’ll finish up with this sweet list from Alberta champion Michael Walsichuk. I showed this list to my good friend Mike (the same one from last week, my brewing conscience basically) and he was distinctly unimpressed. I thought he shared my unbridled passion for Sarkhan Unbroken, but apparently he has more restrictions on it than I do. Fine. I am still building and playing this, with a few changes to make it my own.
First of all, the lack of Oath of Nissa hurts my soul. Now, I may not have done very well at my event while this gentleman clearly won his, but I know a good card when I see it. Oath does much work for the minimum investment while also smoothing your mana for your game-winning spells. I would not want to leave home without it.
While the lack of a maindeck sweeper is a little alarming, we do have Oath of Chandra and Roast to keep us alive long enough to find Chandra herself and blow up the world. Dragonlord Atarka does a reasonable job of that as well, though the lack of any sort of Regent in the 75 is a little off. That said, we are not lacking game-winning spells, so maybe they are just overkill.
While I am a huge fan of Epiphany at the Drownyard, I am not sure this is the sort of deck that wants it. True, any pile the opponent picks is likely to contain a powerful finisher, and we can always get some stuff back with Den Protector, but maybe Tormenting Voice could do more for us? In the few quick games I played, I never felt like I wanted to cast the Epiphany, but spending 1R to draw two would have been a lot easier to stomach.
The manabase is the last spot where I would make a couple of tweaks. I really want at least one Wandering Fumarole in here, possibly instead of the fourth Reef. A fifth Forest is probably too greedy but it would make late-game Nissas better for us. We’re running the full suite of Sylvan Advocates, and the Fumarole really likes that +2/+2 when it becomes time to beat down.
As I write this, I am in Toronto for this weekend’s Grand Prix. Having worked a couple of days on the event already, there are some interesting decks I managed to see and talk about with the creators.
Some people took the G/B Aristocrats shell and added white for Eldrazi Displacer, also playing Brood Monitor to add another combo to the deck. I saw Mono-White Humans playing maindeck Eerie Interlude because of all the Tragic Arrogance going around. The most interesting deck I saw ran four Nahiri along with Avacyn’s Judgment, Fiery Temper, Lightning Axe, Vessel of Ephemera, and Goblin Dark-Dwellers…plus Gibbering Fiends, Topplegeist, and Sin Prodder. It was 5-3 when I left on Saturday, but it looked like a bunch of fun.
As always, folks, thanks for stopping by, and until next time…