After the release of Kaladesh, I wrote an article as a preview for the first SCG Tour event. It was well-received, so I’ll be doing the same for Aether Revolt.
While it usually takes a full rotation in Standard for there to be a huge shake-up in the “gauntlet decks,” the bannings have functionally done the same thing. Almost every single major player in Standard suffered from the loss of Emrakul, the Promised End; Smuggler’s Copter; or Reflector Mage.
As a result, there isn’t a great deal of information to point to as to what might see play this weekend. If you’re looking to get a baseline idea of the metagame, or perhaps are looking for some inspiration on your own brew, this is the article for you.
As the most-hyped and potentially dangerous opponent for you to face this weekend, let’s start with my sketch of Felidar Guardian – Saheeli Rai Combo.
Many of the lists that I’ve seen are very controlling and are loaded up on countermagic to try to set up the combination of Saheeli Rai plus Felidar Guardian and protect it. While I have many of the same elements, I’ve notably moved towards Essence Flux over something like Dispel.
This changes a few different elements of the deck:
We are more proactive.
I can now easily include cards like Whirler Virtuoso, Cloudblazer, and Maverick Thopterist to play a normalized grindy game when we aren’t reliant on drawing the combo to win every game.
Jeskai Saheeli can now fight more effectively through disruption on the battlefield. For instance, Walking Ballista was always going to be able to stop someone from being able to combo off while on the battlefield. While it is still technically a hindrance, Essence Flux can allow you to blink Felidar Guardian and reset the Saheeli Rai. If your opponent redirects their damage to the planeswalker, you can simply use her plus ability to get her back up to three loyalty and try again on the following turn. This is some additional flexibility that Dispel does not have.
It introduces a backdoor “combination” with Aetherflux Reservoir in the sideboard, reminiscent of the fringe U/W Lifegain deck. This gives the deck yet another potential angle of attack. Additionally, Torrential Gearhulk plus Essence Flux is just monstrously powerful.
We’ll probably be getting a better idea this weekend about what version of this deck will be the most successful, but a common theme in this article will be incorporating cards into various archetypes to help slow it down or keep it in check.
- 3 Expedition Envoy
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 1 Hanweir Militia Captain
- 4 Town Gossipmonger
- 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
- 3 Pia Nalaar
- 4 Inventor's Apprentice
- 4 Metallic Mimic
- 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
I suppose that technically I have taken the smallest of liberties with this deck list, but it is spiritually all Tom Ross.
I envision W/R Humans to be the premier all-out aggressive deck. It is fast and was already at a stage where it was largely eschewing Smuggler’s Copter. This, combined with a huge upgrade in Metallic Mimic and its ability to easily play one of the most relevant removal spells in the format in Shock, means that it has a lot of attractive tools.
Beyond that, there are many more ways for this archetype to fight Felidar Guardian, including Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Authority of the Consuls.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Jeskai had to get more controlling and find a way other than the Felidar Guardian to fight through Humans and other white aggression. I imagine that a lot of the tension this weekend is whether folks are interested in exploring many different types of sideboard strategies that will leave their opponents rotting with cards like Authority of the Consuls.
- 4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
- 1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 2 Maverick Thopterist
This is a reasonably straightforward update to Aetherworks Marvel. While it is still possible to just spike a turn 4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, our backup plan is a bit more complicated than the previously simple “Ishkanah, Grafwidow into Emrakul, the Promised End.”
Inspiring Statuary plays a fine support role for allowing us to cast our giant Eldrazi, and cards like Whirler Virtuoso and Maverick Thopterist are great at providing relevant battlefield position while simultaneously serving as ramp spells.
I have a hard time constructing a sideboard that really makes sense for this deck. While Kozilek’s Return plus World Breaker seem reasonable in combination with Statuary, I don’t exactly know what you want to be doing against Felidar Guardian. Boarding into a couple of Shocks and Negates in this deck sounds pretty embarrassing, despite them being some of the more efficient options.
- 4 Bone Saw
- 2 Prophetic Prism
- 4 Cathar's Shield
- 4 Paradoxical Outcome
- 3 Aetherflux Reservoir
- 4 Baral's Expertise
- 4 Inspiring Statuary
I just love this deck. It’s probably what I would play if I were attending SCG Columbus just because it’s so much fun. Baral’s Expertise absolutely super-charged the strategy since the VS Video I did with Todd.
Not only does it allow you buy time while also building your battlefield position (by, say, casting Aetherflux Reservoir), but it also is just another enabler for going off. You can rebuy your zero-mana Equipment to generate more storm, draw more cards with Sram, and generate more mana with Inspiring Statuary.
While this deck is potentially fairly loose to the combo in the first game, you do heavily benefit from there not being a ton of splash hate for what you are doing. Removal is simply okay against you and the deck is fairly fast and overall difficult to interact with.
Post-sideboard, we have access to counterspells in addition to Authority of the Consuls to fight through Felidar Guardian, but also the perfect alternative win condition in Efficient Construction. It’s possible you even want to pair it with a copy or two of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to allow you multiple paths. Generating a bunch of Thopters with Inspiring Statuary also plays well with the Eldrazi Titan.
- 4 Catacomb Sifter
- 3 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
- 2 Gnarlwood Dryad
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 4 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 1 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
I’m not sure I can comfortably recommend this deck. It would make some sense to give more attention to the aggressive version of Delirium after the loss of Emrakul, but this deck just might be too weak without Smuggler’s Copter.
It’s true that this is potentially a great home for Fatal Push and that Verdurous Gearhulk looks primed for some more play (and I love the synergy Catacomb Sifter has with Fatal Push), but I’m just not sure all the pieces are here.
Perhaps a better direction would be incorporating Winding Constrictor and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, but that’s a completely different deck altogether.
This is what I thought was the best looking deck that Gerry posted in his article last Friday. Tezzeret the Schemer is incredibly powerful; it’s just a matter of finding a good shell. This deck has a plethora of efficient interaction, card advantage, and solid payoffs in its planeswalkers. I imagine that most games will just be about killing creatures and setting up an impenentrable wall before one of your planeswalkers goes to Ultimate.
Frankly, this seems like a fine strategy when so many of your cards are solid at killing 1/4 Cat Beasts.
Metallic Rebuke is a great example of a card people need to be putting into their decks. It is utterly outrageous with a simple Thraben Inspector and is clearly amazing in a deck like this that is actually putting effort into playing artifacts on the first turn.
This is a slightly updated version of my Inspiring Statuary “Ramp” deck. In reality this is more like a control deck that can “randomly” play Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger around turn 6. I was originally having some difficulty with go wide strategies and general aggression, assuming my Servos were inconsequential, so I’ve incorporated some Fumigates in the maindeck.
Other than that, there have just been a few simple changes other than incorporating a playable sideboard.
My favorite part about the deck is that, other than drawing copies of Ulamog early, the rest of the deck is just of such high quality. You simply get to play honest Magic for several turns until you’re ready to completely trump whatever your opponent is up to.
What might be possible is to incorporate some copies of Kozilek’s Return in the sideboard, and perhaps it is even reasonable to go as deep as including World Breaker alongside them to complete the package.
Between Prophetic Prism, Pilgrim’s Eye, and Spire of Industry, it isn’t terribly difficult to make a few splashes.
This B/W Control deck both has a lot of appeal and many flaws. It hasn’t received many upgrades, notably just Yahenni’s Expertise as a cheap sweeper. It is also absolutely desperate for any form of card advantage. Without gaining enough traction and sticking a planeswalker, B/W is likely to just run out of steam or flood out.
However, what is great about this deck is how ruthless it is against combo. Between Transgress the Mind, removal, Anguished Unmaking, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, there is a ton of pressure against any decks reliant on specific cards or permanents.
Additionally, the deck is also well-suited against these archetypes post-sideboard with Authority of the Consuls, Lost Legacy, and now Decommission.
This deck is awkward and has many internal problems, but it also just might be excellently positioned this weekend. It has a lot of generically powerful cards and answers.
Frankly, many of your opponents this weekend are likely to be up to no good. Between Felidar Guardian, Aetherworks Marvel, Aetherflux Reservoir, and Inspiring Statuary, you are going to play many games that do not resemble the midrange battles of Standard’s past.
Be prepared to deal with artifacts and combination creatures especially, but also try to keep the Tom Rosses of the world in check with some adequate removal. Cards like Shock and Negate are legitimately at a premium due to their ability to reasonably hedge against many different types of strategies.
Perhaps even more importantly than being mindful of the answers in your deck – be sure you’re showing up to do something on par with these decks. You’ve likely noticed that I didn’t publish any G/W Tokens decks like many other authors have written about over the last few weeks. The reason for that is because I think it sucks. Signing up to make some 3/3 and 4/4 tokens is not at all what I’m interested in doing. People will go way over the top of you or simply eliminate all of your hard work with a sweeper and some proper deckbuilding. I have a lot of respect for Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, but I have no interest in making some Plants in the face of so many potentially powerful combo decks.
While I’m unlikely to be attending, I’m as excited as the rest of the world to see what our first competitive taste of Aether Revolt is going to look like. Best of luck at SCG Columbus! It should be a fun couple of weeks!