This weekend marks the inaugural Standard tournament featuring War of the Spark. Ross Merriam and I have spent the last few weeks trying out various brews on VS Live! and we’re just about ready to show the world what we’re bringing to the event. His article from this past Tuesday went over his pick for the tournament, Esper Midrange, in which he utilizes Hero of Precinct One with a plethora of powerful multicolor spells.
I, on the other hand, like to do things a bit differently.
As many of you know, Wilderness Reclamation has had my attention for months now. The mana battery allows for some disgusting situations that usually result in your opponent’s death, or you taking infinite turns and your opponent conceding out of boredom. And while Ross might have the midrange decks covered, I’ll be spending today going over my picks for the best Wilderness Reclamation deck in the new Standard format.
For those of you who haven’t been paying much attention to my content lately, you should know that Temur Reclamation has been my bread and butter. And with many new additions from War of the Spark, I think the deck could be the front-runner in the format. It’s powerful, has decent interaction on the creature front, and gets an extra punch from the sideboard options. And, most importantly, you don’t roll over to Teferi, Time Raveler or Thief of Sanity nearly as much as the Simic versions (but I’ll be going over that later).
In a recent article, I talked about Ral, Storm Conduit and Ral’s Outburst, two cards that could potentially see play in Temur Reclamation. After some testing, I’ve found both of them to be worthwhile inclusions. But what am I cutting for them?
Unlike the Nexus of Fate versions, Temur Reclamation doesn’t really need to dig for gasoline every single turn. Often, you just need to find one Expansion // Explosion to draw five or six cards, and everything just cascades from there. Search for Azcanta is obviously very good, but it’s completely bonkers when you get to do it multiple times in a row. And while Wilderness Reclamation does exactly that, the pairing with Nexus of Fate is a must.
Ever since I started trying Wilderness Reclamation decks, even back with Primal Amulet, I always felt like Search for Azcanta underperformed. If you draw it late-game, it’s rarely doing much, as you need your money spells to have an immediate impact. Taking that whole extra turn to get online is a downer, but that’s why it works so well in tandem with Nexus of Fate. You get that extra turn immediately, transforming it into Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, and then start digging for more copies of Nexus of Fate.
Counterspells are pretty bad in the deck. I keep going back and forth between two and four copies, but I’m honestly starting to think I should play zero. You’re not really a control deck, and all Sinister Sabotage really does is help cement victory when you’re ahead. And after sideboard, stuff like Negate is starting to get worse and worse.
Counterspells in general are fairly weak in Temur Reclamation because your opponent is usually attacking you with creatures that put a lot of pressure on you, or they’re picking you apart with discard. And in both of these cases, counterspells are rarely going to save you. So I suggest being more proactive in your approach.
And as for stuff that’s new to the archetype…
I was initially afraid that Ral, Storm Conduit wasn’t good enough in the deck, as the combo of double Expansion with Ral seemed pretty hard to pull off. Turns out Ral, Storm Conduit is just good enough on its own, and just naturally playing games of Magic has you occasionally combo-killing your opponent. And, at the very least, the minus ability on Ral lets you catch back up in situations where you start to fall behind. Two removal spells or two draw spells in any given situation is a big deal.
Ral, Storm Conduit is also a great card for helping contain opposing planeswalkers, namely Teferi, Time Raveler. The constant ping helps you knock him down if he bounces your Wilderness Reclamation, but it isn’t all that hard to string together some spells to ultimately kill a five- or six-loyalty planeswalker off. Thanks to Shock (and potentially Lightning Strike) as your removal spells, you’re a bit more versatile in how you approach certain problematic permanents. And while I’m not sold that Lightning Strike is best, it certainly isn’t a dead card against control or other Wilderness Reclamation decks where Lava Coil and Jaya’s Greeting aren’t castable.
The part of Ral, Storm Conduit I like most is that it starts with an insanely high loyalty. Six loyalty on four mana is a ton, and especially so if you’ve been killing your opponent’s creatures or have cast a Growth Spiral in the early turns. And even though we’re not really a damage-based deck, there is a very real possibility that Ral, Storm Conduit just generates enough damage over time to finish the job. I’ve killed people as early as the sixth turn without casting an Explosion. All you need is Ral and a few copies of Ral’s Outburst to get the job done.
I know I’ve been singing the praises of Ral’s Outburst but I just want to make it abundantly clear: Ral’s Outburst is exactly the type of card you want in Temur Reclamation. Kills creatures? Check. Draws cards? Perfect. Cost four mana and is an instant? Well, that just seems like a really swell card to pair with Wilderness Reclamation.
Yes, only dealing three damage means you’re not killing large creatures, but large creatures aren’t usually a problem for Temur Reclamation. That means they’re taking quite some time to start applying pressure, which means you’re probably about to kill them with a big Explosion. Small creatures with disruptive backup are how you attack Wilderness Reclamation decks, and Ral’s Outburst helps alleviate that pressure on the same turn you’re sticking your marquee card.
The trick, as always, is making sure you survive long enough to use all that extra mana, as well as just having something to do with the extra mana in the first place. Ral’s Outburst does both.
So, without further ado, here’s the list I’m almost assuredly playing this weekend at SCG Richmond.
Blast Zone is specifically disgusting with Wilderness Reclamation, as you can play it, put counters on it, untap it, and use it, all on your own turn. While it is a bit awkward to play a colorless land in a three-color deck, I’ve only cut one colored source to add in two, as I’m playing one as a “virtual spell” that functions like a land. And in a deck with Growth Spiral, having lands that function like spells is huge.
I know Blast Zone is disgusting in the Simic Nexus decks, and I’m looking forward to trying it more before this weekend to see if I want to get a little crazy and play three or four!
Fiery Cannonade is in the maindeck because some of our toughest matchups are creature-based. Fiery Cannonade can help catch us up if we’re significantly behind, but it also gives us breathing room against a number of go-wide strategies. Plus, I can only imagine it’s pretty sweet to copy a Fiery Cannonade with Ral, Storm Conduit to clean up a host of medium-sized creatures.
This isn’t really a newer addition to the deck, but it’s one I’ve been struggling with lately. It’s a dead card in the maindeck against a number of decks, but it’s not like Lightning Strike is a hit. Control decks play Kaya’s Wrath, right? I think we can sacrifice a few slots for a sweeper. And with Chemister’s Insight, we can occasionally turn those dead cards into something real. Plus, any instant or sorcery has value with Ral, Storm Conduit because of the ping ability.
One of the first things I learned from watching Esper Control over the last few months is that they have a tough time beating a single Sorcerous Spyglass naming Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. And with the addition of 100 unique planeswalkers to the format, having some way to check them is important, especially so if they’re in a deck where counterspells aren’t all that useful. And now that we’re not playing Search for Azcanta ourselves, naming Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin is also a very real option. Since we’re getting tagged on both sides by counterspells and discard, having something we can cast on the second turn and invalidate most of their entire strategy is definitely sweet.
Of course, after sideboard, they’ll have more stuff for us to worry about. After all, nearly every single Esper Control deck plays four copies of Thief of Sanity in the sideboard. At this point, it’s probably worth just leaving in all the removal and just bringing in like three or four cards. I don’t know how else to approach the matchup. There’s likely a build that trims or cuts Wilderness Reclamation entirely, but it’s terrifying to think of playing a Wilderness Reclamation deck without Wilderness Reclamation! So many of your cards get worse, but maybe that’s the necessary tradeoff? Maybe we just find another way to win because resolving a big Explosion, or even your first Wilderness Reclamation, is really difficult.
Narset’s Reversal is probably a bit too much, but it’s certainly a sweet one against the mirror or Simic Nexus. Copying a Nexus of Fate or big Explosion while bouncing theirs is game-ending. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of other great hits in the format. Obviously, using it to delay a Chemister’s Insight while casting your own is pretty sweet, so it’s never going to be a dead card in those types of matchups. Plus, it’s pretty good against opposing discard spells out of Esper Control. My gut says I should just play one and try to get a little lucky in a tight spot. We’ll see if I end up on zero, one, or two when Saturday morning comes.
The Big Matchups
This is the matchup where Fiery Cannonade matters most. It singlehandedly cleans up History of Benalia, but it’s fine at addressing some of the earlier one-mana threats. Fortunately, this is one of the decks that Niv-Mizzet, Parun absolutely wrecks, but the significantly lower cost of Ral, Storm Conduit makes it more desirable.
Out entire goal is to kill as many creatures as possible, but this is one of the tougher matchups for Temur Reclamation. We have trouble killing Venerated Loxodon, Gideon Blackblade seems worrisome, and their sideboard gives them some very powerful tools. Dovin’s Veto, in particular, is devastating in the right spot. Overall, I think you just want to dodge the matchup, but some of their three-drop-heavy hands are too slow to beat your interaction plus big fireballs.
Important Sideboard Cards:
Esper Control is very hit or miss. Sometimes you’ll lose sideboard games to Thief of Sanity. Other times you’ll steal the first game of the set because they drew a host of spot removal and Kaya’s Wrath. Sticking Wilderness Reclamation isn’t all that difficult, but your main tool to pressure them is Ral, Storm Conduit. It checks their Teferi, Hero of Dominaria while also providing you with some much-needed card advantage by copying Chemister’s Insight. Plus, it can actually just kill them if they don’t do anything about it.
After sideboard, you’ll need Niv-Mizzet, Parun to do some heavy lifting, acting as both a real threat and a card advantage engine. If the games go really long, you’ll need to stockpile a few protection pieces, which will draw you cards while fighting over their removal spell.
Important Sideboard Cards:
This matchup would be a lot easier if we were playing Lava Coil. As it stands, our spot removal doesn’t do much, but they’re lacking in significant interaction in the first game. Outside of Spell Pierce, we should be fine, and especially so if they go a little bit slower with Saheeli, Sublime Artificer.
I don’t think this deck will show up in high numbers, as it had a pretty poor showing this past Standard season. However, I’m guessing this will change, as it seems to have gotten a lot of great new additions. Izzet Drakes, in some form or fashion, is on my short list for decks to play if I can’t get Temur Reclamation to a list I really like before Saturday, though which version I end up on remains to be seen.
Important Sideboard Cards:
Out of all the decks that existed in Standard pre-War of the Spark, Simic Nexus seems to have gotten the biggest upgrades. Tamiyo, Collector of Tales might look bad on paper, but I can’t tell you how insane it is in the deck. Blast Zone is also big for Simic Nexus, as it gives them an answer to a couple of different, problematic permanents.
In this matchup, I think we’re favored on a few fronts, but Nexus of Fate is really scary. Cutting counterspells also makes things a little bit worse, but we have something they can just never really beat in Niv-Mizzet, Parun.
Important Sideboard Cards:
- Crushing Canopy
- Narset’s Reversal
- Niv-Mizzet, Parun
This matchup is pretty easy in Game 1 but gets significantly harder after sideboard. They get discard and counterspells, and have a solid clock. Plus, some of their creatures can kill your Wilderness Reclamation, which is double duty against your strategy. For the most part, I usually win the first game easily and then just try to squeak one of the next two games on the back of big Explosions (killing creatures usually) and Ral’s Outburst.
Important Sideboard Cards:
The most important thing to remember is that this is Week 1. Expect the unexpected and make sure you have a variety of answers for the weird threats people are going to throw at you! Temur Reclamation is tough to pilot, often winning with very little room to spare, so having some “easy button” cards like Niv-Mizzet, Parun or Ral, Storm Conduit gives you some breathing room.
Do I think I’m going to win the event? Probably not. But I’ll be having some fun along the way. And if I do end up doing well enough to Top 8 or gasp win the tournament, I’ll just get to take a victory lap in my article next week!