With the SCG Invitational and Grand Prix Denver approaching, I’ve been spending a lot of time testing Standard. Standard is in a very stagnant place at the moment. If you’ve been locked up in quarantine since the Pro Tour, W/U Flash and B/G Delirium make up a significant portion of the metagame and it’s about time a new horse enters the race.
If these two decks were the actual only decks, B/G Delirium would be the dominant deck of the format because it matches up fairly well against W/U Flash. With that being the case, I expect to see the numbers of B/G Delirium decks increase while W/U Flash slowly becomes a smaller part of the metagame, emphasis on slowly.
How can we take advantage of this shift?
Well, from personal experience I can tell you the card I was most afraid of playing against at the Pro Tour, and that is Aetherworks Marvel.
R/G Aetherworks Marvel is a deck first played at Pro Tour Kaladesh by various players including Niels Noorlander, Magic Online Champion. I actually had a conversation with Niels about the deck in the pool after the Pro Tour and he was very high on the deck. I sort of forgot about this conversation while vacationing in Hawaii until I saw it creep up again in the Magic Online Standard Championship.
Magic Online Standard Champs was won with a remarkably similar, and more finely tuned, R/G Aetherworks Marvel deck in the hands of Logan Nettles, aka Jaberwocki.
The concept of the deck is to both be able to play a quick Eldrazi off the back of an Aetherworks Marvel, but also to fill your graveyard with different delirium types to enable casting Emrakul, the Promised End naturally. This deck is much better at casting Emrakul, the Promised End than other Aetherworks Marvel decks from the Pro Tour were.
While the deck is extremely powerful, it draws similarly to a ramp deck. There are certain enablers that allow us to fill up the graveyard for delirium, others that produce energy, and then the typical fatties that we end the game with out of a normal ramp deck. We need to mulligan hands too cluttered with high-end creatures, as it both makes our hand weak and extracts the high-end spells from our deck we would like to hit with Aetherworks Marvel.
One slot I’m not sure about is Tormenting Voice versus Cathartic Reunion. Tormenting Voice is a better topdeck and a better card to cast off Aetherworks Marvel when it comes to that, but Cathartic Reunion is a much better card in a lot of opening hands. Getting a Cathartic Reunion exiled off Spell Queller is the main reason I’m leaning Tormenting Voice at the moment, but I think you can play either and it’s perfectly fine.
Here’s the list I’ve come to which after moving a bunch of cards around, landed largely right back where Jaberwocki had the deck with some minor changes.
- 1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
- 4 Emrakul, the Promised End
- 3 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
Let’s talk about the major Standard archetypes, how the games play out, and how we should sideboard.
Let’s start with one of our worst matchups. Spell Queller is an obvious problem as it counters Aetherworks Marvel and applies pressure. The games we win usually involve us getting underneath their countermagic and forcing them to play at sorcery speed. We can play a turn 2 Servant of the Conduit on the play to land an Aetherworks Marvel or Chandra, Torch of Defiance before they can cast Spell Queller, though Chandra will be vulnerable to Revolutionary Rebuff as well.
The games we lose usually involve them leading on a threat and holding up countermagic while pressuring our life total.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar can be a problem if we don’t have an explosive Aetherworks Marvel start but can play out as a liability for the W/U Flash player if they give us a window to resolve an Aetherworks Marvel and find an Eldrazi to take over the game.
Games after sideboarding play out a bit differently as they have more counterspells.
Natural State is a way to both control an early Smuggler’s Copter and kill a Stasis Snare later when we need to unlock an Emrakul, the Promised End or even get an Ishkanah, Grafwidow back with a second trigger.
Tireless Tracker is good at getting underneath counterspells or forcing them to use a counter and then forcing them to have another for an Aetherworks Marvel on the following turn. Tracker is also good at pressuring a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar if it sticks before Gideon is in play.
The W/U player often has to leave up mana from turn 3 on, so if their battlefield is empty before that, it’s a bonus.
In order to beat the W/U Flash player, we need to stick one of our many threats. The best plan of attack is simply casting your spells on curve and crossing your fingers if you’re behind on the battlefield. If you have already stuck a threat like a Tireless Tracker, it’s possible they’ll need to spend mana to react to Tireless Tracker, leaving you a window to stick an Emrakul, the Promised End or an Aetherworks Marvel.
Some of their counters can only counter specific threats, so pay attention to when they use their more versatile counters like Spell Shrivel and Void Scatter, because it likely means they are running out.
It’s not pretty, but the matchup is certainly winnable.
This matchup is extremely favorable. Game 1, B/G Delirium has almost no way to interact with an Aetherworks Marvel. Even if you miss with Aetherworks Marvel the first time, you can usually cobble together enough time and energy to fire it off again.
B/G Delirium generally has a slow clock. Games without Grim Flayer usually involve you both racing to cast Emrakul, the Promised End, and the R/G Aetherworks Marvel player is much better at doing so with both Aetherworks Marvel and a ramp spell in Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Be aware of Grim Flayer curved into Tireless Tracker, as such draws can actually beat some of your slower draws.
In sideboarded games against B/G Delirium, we want to be as proactive as possible. It’s even possible we don’t want any Harnessed Lightning at all and leave in a pair of Ishkanah, Grafwidow in to diversify threats against Lost Legacy and Pick the Brain.
Their plan is to disrupt your hand and try to clock you with Tireless Tracker and Grim Flayer, just like it was in Game 1, except this time they have a little bit of disruption to make it more plausible.
Bringing in a bunch of redundant threats make it extremely difficult for them to grab all of your threats with discard, leaving them in a tough spot on what to do with their early turns. If they spend their turn casting a discard spell, they aren’t casting a creature to pressure you, giving you another turn to develop and eventually stick a threat.
Because of all the discard, it’s important to cast your Aetherworks Marvel as quickly as possible, whereas in other matchups you may want to develop your energy first to avoid playing into an artifact removal spell.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance is an all-star in this matchup because of how few threats they have. You can cast Chandra on turn 3 or 4 and kill their only threat. Unless they have a Hissing Quagmire to clean up, you’re still left with a Chandra, Torch of Defiance. If they do pick off the Chandra with a Hissing Quagmire, you’ve still tapped them out on a very important early turn of the game.
B/G Delirium is a very good matchup, and one that is difficult to fix from the B/G Delirium side.
All the Vehicles matchups play out similarly. The Vehicles opponent is trying to present a critical mass of threats and damage, racing you to an Ishkanah, Grafwidow or Aetherworks Marvel. The games where you are on the draw and they curve out perfectly are going to be difficult. Kozilek’s Return can stifle some of these draws, but not even all of the draws where they play a turn 2 Smuggler’s Copter or, even worse, a Smuggler’s Copter into a Depala, Pilot Exemplar. For this reason I only have one Kozilek’s Return maindeck, as I think aggressive decks are diminishing because of the rise of B/G Delirium and I want to be as proactive as possible against other midrange decks.
Sideboarded games here don’t change much unless they’re splashing blue for counterspells. If that’s the case, pick your spots to resolve big spells, but a lot of the time you’ll be forced by their pressure to slam your cards on-curve and hope for them to resolve.
Remember against the non-blue versions of Vehicles decks that they will often have Fragmentize in their deck, so you’re better off holding Aetherworks Marvel until you can use it immediately so you don’t lose it before using it.
As a side note, I have also played against some versions of Vehicles that sideboard into a much slower midrange deck with a lot of Stasis Snare and Fumigates post-sideboard. If you notice this, it may be wise to leave Kozilek’s Return in your sideboard and bring back in Chandra, Torch of Defiance.
All in all, I felt slightly favored against Vehicles.
B/R Zombies is a lot like the Vehicles matchup, except they are generally slower. Kozilek’s Return is much better here.
Voldaren Pariah can be a tricky card for them to madness onto the battlefield to eat a freshly minted Emrakul, the Promised End. Make sure you’re aware of this, sometimes it’s not even that bad to just play into it if you have a good follow-up.
Generally they just play a slower aggro game that isn’t close to being fast enough. You will typically win most of the Games 1 where you have functional draws, though they have some fast starts with Smuggler’s Copter or quick Prized Amalgams that can be much closer. It’s extremely rare for them to be able to beat a turn 5 Ishkanah, Grafwidow with delirium, and any big hit off an early Aetherworks Marvel is generally good enough.
Most of their creatures die to Kozilek’s Return, and keeping them off Voldaren Pariah flipping can be important once they neuter your deck with Lost Legacy, as we have a limited amount of big threats. Contrary to with the Vehicles matchups, you want to play Aetherworks Marvel as quickly as possible to avoid losing it to a Transgress the Mind.
This matchup I find favorable, but you can lose to some of their really fast starts, or occasionally to Lost Legacy.
U/R Control Variants
There are a bunch of different versions of U/R Control. Mostly we are talking about decks with counterspells and Torrential Gearhulk. U/R Control has been the worst matchup in my experience for the deck by a huge margin. The amount of counterspells U/R Control is usually packed with can make Game 1 extremely dicey, but that is a game you almost have to steal.
They have fewer counterspells in Game 1, and if you win the die roll, you can try to stick a threat on turn 3 off a Servant of Conduit. That is extremely unlikely as they have both Harnessed Lightning and Galvanic Bombardment usually.
Your best bet in this matchup is to just cast every threat you have when you can and hope one slips through. Taking a turn off to let them cast Glimmer of Genius or Anticipate will generally work out poorly.
U/R Control decks after sideboarding end up with a ton of counterspells. The best plan is still to try and play a threat every turn of the game and try to make one stick. It’s important to continue to tie up their mana and not let them cast Anticipate and Glimmer of Genius to find more counterspells.
The games you win generally just involve sticking an Aetherworks Marvel and making every card in your deck that generates energy a potential threat. Drawing too much do-nothing is a problem, so we trim a Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot so we don’t flood on them.
This matchup is highly unfavorable.
Just like most Aetherworks Marvelworks mirrors, this one can get pretty degenerate. Having a fast Aetherworks Marvel activation gives you a huge advantage.
One major reason I want a maindeck Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is that when you hit Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger off an Aetherworks Marvel, it is nearly impossible for your opponent to win from that spot in this matchup, regardless of how late in the game it is. You can devastate their mana; exile their Emrakul, the Promised End and Aetherworks Marvel; or even just have an indestructible threat that generally kills the opponent in two turns simply by milling them.
Some of the games come down to playing Emrakul, the Promised End turns efficiently. If you can, burn all of their energy possible with Harnessed Lightning or activate their Aetherworks Marvel for them. Remember that, when their permanents die, they are left with energy, so after combat or a Harnessed Lightning, use a Servant of Conduit or Aether Hub to drain their remaining energy.
In the mirror, the post-sideboard games go much more quickly. Tireless Tracker can end the games relatively swiftly or just get eaten up by a Chandra, Torch of Defiance. The amount of threats increases but otherwise the gameplan is the same: cast an Emrakul, the Promised End first and leave them with as few resources as possible to cast their own.
Casting the first Emrakul, the Promised End isn’t always going to end the game, so make sure you leave them as crippled as possible when you cast an Emrakul play in a way to leave yourself the most resources after their Emrakul. This can mean casting Tormenting Voice to not discard a good card or casting Attune with Aether and activating Vessel of Nascency so that you get value out of them the turn before they are setting up an Emrakul, the Promised End.
I think R/G Aetherworks Marvel is in contention for the best deck in the format right now. Even though W/U Flash is a tough matchup, it’s certainly winnable. There is a huge disparity between how good this deck is against B/G Delirium and how bad it is against W/U Flash. In a format largely dominated by these two decks, I like R/G Aetherworks Marvel this week. If you’re bored and looking to get away from the same old two decks everybody is talking about, I think R/G Aetherworks is not only competitive, but a lot of fun to play as well.