Tuning forks are mesmerizing.
If you’re a musician or you’ve rooted through your music teacher’s desk, you might have stumbled upon one of these perfectly weighted metal rods before. Give it a strike on a hard surface and the fork sings its monotone note. It doesn’t sound like its coming from the fork; it just fills your head. The tone is unchanging, but if you give it the chance to distract you from whatever you’re doing, you could find yourself striking it a time or two again just to listen to the eerie clarity of the tone. It’s one part relaxation, one part discomfort from the inorganic sound the fork produces, but I’ve always found them fascinating regardless.
Moving back to Magic, if you haven’t guessed from the many clues, our card of the day is Strionic Resonator.
I’m not sure what a tuning fork has to do with duplicating triggered effects, but there you have it. Strionic Resonator is one of many artifacts, enchantments, and other noncreature permanents (NCPs) that give you a second opportunity to do something you normally complete only once. Triggered abilities, perhaps even more than activated abilities, have a long history of changing the way Magic is played and the way that you prepare for your opponent’s next move. Most recently, Thragtusk, Restoration Angel, and Snapcaster Mage have provided superb value for their owners in the form of "enters the battlefield" abilities. These function just as much as typical one-use spells as a creature, and these are more easily manipulated to duplicate and amplify their effects.
Strionic Resonator offers the intriguing opportunity to create additional value for creatures and NCPs entering the battlefield. From a deckbuilding perspective, they overlap fairly well, and they fit into every color and potentially every strategy. I took this literally and built a highly aggressive strategy alongside a slower midrange-oriented strategy to see which application is more useful. Both strategies offered intriguing opportunities in every color, but I carefully chose the ones I believe have the highest potential.
Our first deck is a familiar aggressive deck that features some new players to the tried-and-true archetype around which these colors generally orbit.
- 4 Judge's Familiar
- 3 Precinct Captain
- 3 Firemane Avenger
- 4 Boros Elite
- 2 Legion Loyalist
- 3 Boros Reckoner
- 1 Tajic, Blade of the Legion
- 3 Banisher Priest
- 4 Akroan Hoplite
Now, I know what you’re thinking. I approach even the most straightforward decks with an added and often unnecessary level of complexity.
The flavor text fairly describes my approach to Magic.
That being said, as with any niche strategy, there is a critical mass that the strategy must reach to support and maintain reliable wins against a variety of decks. Each week I’m just hoping to find that criticality point. Let’s draw our swords and tuning forks and dive into the list!
This deck is based around the battalion triggered abilities from Gatecrash; many of them do not provide additional bonuses for additional triggers, but those that do ended up here.
Boros Elite, perhaps the most basic one, can be easily propelled to being a 5/5 with the help of two fellow attackers and a Resonator, so it’s intended to be a one-drop workhorse in combat. There are few creatures that can stop a 5/5 effectively, giving you addition evasion and additional damage on connection. Although Legion Loyalist does not benefit from double triggers, it still acts as an effective combat trick when battalion is available. With the extra power and triggers available, first strike and trample become all the more relevant.
Firemane Avenger, one of my favorite ladies from Gatecrash, might have crossed the point of mediocre to pretty decent with the help of some resonation. Doubling the attack trigger gives you a huge life swing if you point it above the shoulders, and it can smite nearly any non-God on the battlefield. It is the most difficult to get online, but I would argue it is the most powerful once it is getting in each turn. Tajic, Blade of the Legion is one that really doesn’t need the help, but his ability to withstand board wipes and still crash in for significant damage is only augmented by the ability to occasionally become a 12/12 indestructible attack force. Fine with me!
Nearly every creature in this deck has some trigger associated with it, and those triggers can provide additional benefit outside of combat. Akroan Hoplite, which has mostly fallen under the "win more" Boros cards, seems significantly better once you pair it with a Resonator. Even just attacking by itself it’s as good as a Wojek Halberdiers, and every additional attack can make it even larger. Throw in Legion Loyalist to provide essential combat abilities and you’ve got a real brawler! Familiar face Boros Reckoner can potentially smack two things after being damaged or alternatively grievously hit the player who hurt it.
Banisher Priest has the potential to grab two creatures when it enters the battlefield, paving the way for more creatures to get past your opponent’s defenses. Although both come back if the Priest meets her Maker, she can still effectively pin an opponent’s entire defense force on that key combat turn. Upon a successful hit, Precinct Captain can generate a battalion on the fly or two blockers for your opponent’s backswing. Judge’s Familiar is the only creature that does not have a triggered ability, but the combination of its Cursecatcher ability, single mana cost, and evasive ability makes it a more utilitarian inclusion in the list.
The spells in this list, as in most aggro lists, are uncomplicated, so I’ll just move on.
Coming up with a land balance for this deck was fairly difficult; every creature in the list sports a 100% or at the least majority color-dependent cost. That sadly creates a bit of a nombo situation for Mutavault, who doesn’t provide the color needs that this deck requires. Battalion decks love Mutavault as a safe attacker late game, but it cannot be considered a land in this deck since there is very little it can actually cast. Following the traditional Boros path of choosing one type of basic land and filling out the rest with dual lands seemed inadvisable as well. Eventually I decided on this split, but more extensive playtesting could probably help confirm that.
The first sideboard inclusion, Chained to the Rocks, benefits from Strionic Resonator and is a great way to slow down a fast deck or decimate an opponent’s attack or defense force in the late game. To support this coming in from the sideboard I have stocked perhaps one or two more Mountains than I would normally, but I still believe it is worth including despite the influence it has on the deck’s form. Brave the Elements, a classic alpha strike or reactionary spell, tags every creature in the deck except Legion Loyalist.
The next two directly interact with Strionic Resonator. Ordeal of Heliod lets you not only get additional +1/+1 counters but also gain twenty life when you sack it. Twenty life! It’s ready to go a turn sooner too, and it helps give you an enormous life swing for 1W and a bit of work. Secondly, Assemble the Legion can also get online twice as fast. Copy its first upkeep trigger, add two counters, and get three Soldiers. Do it the following turn for seven more! As a control win condition, this card is great, but as an aggro win condition against control, it’s difficult to stop the speed presented in congress with the Resonator. A pair of utility Wear // Tear copies round out the rest of the board.
Against decks weak to aggro Strionic Resonator was only occasionally helpful; the creatures alone were able to do most of the work. Against midrange the deck was actually unable to get past a lot of midgame plays, as creatures were either ineffective or quickly thwarted by removal. Against U/W Control, though, the deck was pretty good, especially post-board. The ability to double battalion triggers was not uncommon, and they allowed me to deal significant damage in the windows I found to attack. This is a cute deck, and it’s a fun casual deck to play alongside your pals if you want to play a more relaxed deck. It didn’t put up enough successful interactions to merit my interest, but I am not as good of an aggro player as I used to be in my spry youthful past.
For those looking for a bit more dynamic experience, here’s some food for thought in the control-leaning shard of Esper. Utilizing interesting creatures and powerful Standard-staple spells, I constructed a follow-up deck that might just be the ticket to a fun time for you this Friday.
- 3 Obzedat, Ghost Council
- 4 High Priest of Penance
- 3 Council of the Absolute
- 4 Daxos of Meletis
- 1 Ashen Rider
This zero-permission list has a ton of possible interactions, and I’m excited to dig into it. It defies traditional Esper tenets, and I’m all about some role bending!
High Priest of Penance provides a very simple but effective deterrent against both aggro and midrange decks. While he often has functional deathtouch (block their biggest attacker and target it with the trigger), Strionic Resonator lets it take out two for the price of one. It can also be aimed at their Whip of Erebos; Jace, Architect of Thought; or Boros Reckoner and perform tidy cleanup. Next up, Daxos of Meletis functions as a racer as well as a source of significant card advantage in the middle and end of the game. Daxos has been plagued by his counterpart, Nightveil Specter, which is easier to cast for many decks and provides unrestricted utility on the stolen card. However, Daxos is ultimately more difficult to block in my opinion, and he never gets used! Why not try him here?
Now we come to another card that sees almost zero play: Council of the Absolute. This card is a conditional Slaughter Games on a stick; in the mirror it provides essential access to cheap copies of your own cards, like Jace, Architect of Thought, and a skilled Standard player can recognize an archetype and call what they determine to be the most unanswerable card the opponent can play from their current list. Alternatively, it lets you play Strionic Resonator for free, and we all love free. It has the potential of course to Conjurer’s Ban two cards and/or reduce the cost of two cards or a bit of both.
Obzedat, Ghost Council is still a house even if you’re not creating an eight-point life swing each turn. A single Obzedat can decimate your opponent without a Resonator, but its power is increased significantly with the inclusion of this little artifact. Finally, a single very expensive copy of Ashen Rider rounds out the final slot. It may be overkill and/or uncastable, but I feel like its synergy both entering and leaving the field and providing four Vindicates is reasonable enough.
As stated earlier, this deck is utterly devoid of counterspells. I’m sure the deck could use them, but I find the more aggressive control plan more interesting. A full set of Detention Sphere interacts with your opponent’s permanents in the same way Banisher Priest did in the first deck, providing two exiles instead of one with a Resonator; however, here a 2/2 is much less important than a hard-to-target enchantment. Four copies of our tuning artifact make it in for list number two. As stated earlier, they do fine in multiples. Mana is more plentiful in this list, so activating one or two alongside another spell is interesting.
I decided on the full set of Thoughtseize. This deck contains enough life-gain measures that I felt sufficiently comfortable to effectively begin the game at fourteen or sixteen life. Jace, Architect of Thought provides his normal card advantage, but his first ability can be buffed with the Resonator. When the delayed trigger goes on the stack during your opponent’s combat step, you may copy it to give your opponent’s creatures two less power instead of just one. Nice! Far // Away and Whip of Erebos, both strong and familiar cards, round out our spells.
Color was still fairly important, and despite the moderate cost of most of the deck’s spells, you’ll find 26 lands present. The lack of reliable card draw or library manipulation (even Azorius Charm or Omenspeaker) drove the increase in lands, and I also wanted to ensure I can activate Resonators whenever possible.
Although simplistic in appearance, the sideboard serves several purposes. Sin Collector is always a good one against control, and making it a double Coercion is very exciting, giving you a significant step up against an unprepared control opponent. Drainpipe Vermin, on the other hand, is an anti-aggro card. Discard is only helpful against aggro opponents if it is very early on; providing a chance to make them discard as early as turn 2 or 3 (doubled with a Resonator of course) is the more relevant the effect. Drainpipe Vermin is a card I’ve tried to include in any deck that seems to want it, but in reality it’s probably just a terrible Magic card.
While not complementary, Supreme Verdict is a necessity against the faster decks you might encounter, and an Esper list shouldn’t leave home without it. Finally, Azor’s Elocutors, a return visitor to my column, stands in as a Siege Mastodon that provides an imminent win condition, especially with multiple Resonators. Theoretically, with a full set of Resonators out, it can add enough filibuster counters to win in just one turn! Take that Aetherling!
The possibilities for the Resonator, both in Standard and across Eternal and casual formats, is exciting and overwhelming. I’m certain I’m not done brewing with this ETB fork, and I’d love to share a good find with you in the future. I hope you’ll try these lists out based on your preference; I personally believe the Esper list has more potential right now, but who knows?
I hope you and your friends and family enjoy this holiday season, and I’ll be back on Christmas Eve with your next dose of bizarre Standard brews.
Until then, don’t forget to untap!