Theros Beyond Death drops next month, and it’s not a moment too soon.
While the banning of Oko, Thief of Crowns; Once Upon a Time; and Veil of Summer has increased diversity in Standard, it would be nice to start over. While we haven’t seen all that much yet, there are already a few gems from the holiday sneak-previews aimed at tiding us over until preview season really gets underway in a couple of weeks.
Some cards are complex, nuanced enigmas, with subtle applications only discernible after countless hours of consideration, exploration, and experimentation.
Staggering Insight is not one such card. Sometimes, when it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it really is a duck.
Staggering Insight looks like a combination Curious Obsession plus Lifelink. You may not have been in the market for both at the same time, but there’s definitely some appeal to not having to spend two cards to get both effects (and without all that “did somebody attack” business).
While it’s hard to beat Curious Obsession’s mana efficiency, Lifelink is a pretty fantastic ability to complement it. Generally, stuff that makes for a good Curious Obsession target is also going to make for a good Lifelink target. The primary plan of putting Curious Obsession on an evasion creature is exactly the sort of creature you’d want to put Lifelink on. A racing-in-the-air gameplan takes on a whole new dimension when you can actually rely on your card draw engine to also keep you ahead in the race.
The first place I think to try Staggering Insight is also the one I keep returning to with it. Curious Obsession types are generally at their best in one- or two-color tempo decks with cheap fliers, interaction, ways to protect your enchanted creature, and maybe a little more draw smoothing. Interestingly, white is actually really helpful for such a gameplan, given the current card pool.
Gods Willing is an excellent way to protect your investment. It’s a reliable way to stop most types of removal, and scry on a one-mana card is great for helping us get up to three, despite a low land count. My only reservation is that if we give our creature protection from blue or protection from white, our Staggering Insight will fall off.
Sky Tether is already super underrated, really just being held back by a lack of a home. Staggering Insight makes a whole new kind of deck possible, and it actually looks like a really good home for Sky Tether. Costing one mana is a big deal for such a tempo-based strategy, and the typical “drawback” to Sky Tether is that the creature could still block on the ground. If we’re playing all flyers anyway, that’s no problem at all.
Yeah, Teferi is mostly just a crazy strong card. Still, using it here will not only help us protect our flyer, it can also buy us time against hard threats and give us a much-needed alternative line of play against opponents with lots of removal.
I wouldn’t hate at least one more cheap threat, but I think it’s got to fly to work well with Sky Tether and Staggering Insight, which means no Brineborn Cutthroat. Instead, I’m trying out a variety, just trying to get more data with them.
Faerie Vandal obviously gives us some play with the permission and we’ve got several ways to trigger it. That said, its rate is pretty medium and if I were playing in a tournament tomorrow, I’d just use another Fae of Wishes.
Fae of Wishes has a nice body for enchanting with Staggering Insight, and even if it seems random, I don’t hate the option to play it as a form of card advantage (potentially getting some of our more exciting sideboard cards, like Time Wipe).
I want to like Hypnotic Sprite, but it is kind of awkward. It’s not like we actually want to cast it on Turn 2 most of the time, and when we do, it’s not like it’s that good. When we hold it, we aren’t always going to be able to counter what we want, and besides, three-mana counters are tougher when we’ve already got plenty of proactive three-cost cards we want to play. When we finally do counter something, it’s not like that’s the time where a 2/1 flyer shines brightest.
Dovin, Grand Arbiter might actually be really sweet for this deck, but it’s hard to make room at three when he’s competing with Teferi and Brazen Borrower. If we do end up finding a couple of cheaper flyers we’re happy with, we might need to figure something out with the manabase.
White one-drops are basically non-starters, as long as we’ve got our mana slanted this way. It’s not like we’re happy about these Tranquil Coves, anyway; so even if they print another Azorius multicolor land, we might just cut the Coves and still avoid white one-drops (though if the land is untapped on Turn 1, that might be an interesting argument the other way).
While Pteramander isn’t at its absolute best here, at least going big can be really exciting with lifelink. The only other one-drop option is Faerie Miscreant, which is a tough way to do it, unless you play all four (which could be part of a plan involving one to four Pteramander).
One option I’m not at all sure of yet is Hushbringer. This one is really going to depend on how the metagame is shaping up, of course. Cavaliers and Massacre Girl are some pretty solid cards to hit, though.
While it’s not great, paying for lifelink when we’re possibly going to be putting Staggering Insight on it, it’s not that big of a deal. If it’s right to play Hushbringer, it’s definitely going to be on the back of the ability to suppress enters the battlefield and death triggers.
Cerulean Drake is appealing, if only to free up some sideboard space. It wears a Staggering Insight exceptionally and might just run away with some games for us. Still, I’m leery of just how bad it is against nonred opponents.
Even if a blue base is the more natural starting spot, it’s not out of the question to build it like a mono-white aggro deck that splashes blue instead.
- 4 Healer's Hawk
- 4 Venerated Loxodon
- 4 Hunted Witness
- 2 Deputy of Detention
- 3 Tomik, Distinguished Advokist
- 3 Apostle of Purifying Light
- 4 Faerie Guidemother
The mana just looks so much worse this way, though. This is definitely one that really needs another passable multicolor land. The tempo loss from Tranquil Cove is just too brutal here. One card I wanted to start with is notable in its absence:
I’m definitely into Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis, generally speaking. This isn’t the best spot for it, though, as it’s kind of expensive for such a low-land deck (particularly when we’ve got Castle Ardenvale to sink our mana into). Even if we think we’re getting up to four a fair bit, I think you’ve really got to believe in your ability to hit six to get your money’s worth from Elspeth, making her more the domain of Selesnya Tokens, Azorius Control, and some bigger midrange decks.
We’re kind of lean on two-drops (and our one-drops could really use some upgrading), but putting Staggering Insight on Apostle of Purifying Light is pretty sweet. It may not have evasion, but protection from black is a pretty great way to protect your investment. Besides, the graveyard hate ability might be awesome right now, with all the Cauldron Familiars and such.
I considered Fencing Ace, which I guess is kind of a combo with Staggering Insight, but with no evasion and no protective abilities, I just don’t know how we’re ever drawing one card with the Ace, let alone two. We’d probably have to cut white entirely, but Loyal Pegasus is always an option, if we get super-turbo with one-drops. Still, at that point, what are we even doing?
I’m going to be very interested in what-all cheap white creatures and enchantments Theros Beyond Death will bring. I could imagine a white devotion deck coming together in a really nice way. We’ve already got Staggering Insight and Conclave Tribunal, and I could easily imagine stuff like Pacifism and Daxos, Blessed by the Sun.
Daxos counting as a white enchantment with two white symbols could be good, depending on what white devotion rewards there are. Realistically, though, if we’re going to play Daxos, we’ll want to be able to take advantage of the lifegain triggers, like with Ajani Pridemate or some such.
- 4 Ajani's Pridemate
- 2 Soulmender
- 4 Healer's Hawk
- 4 Impassioned Orator
- 4 Angel of Vitality
- 4 Beloved Princess
- 4 Daxos, Blessed by the Sun
There just isn’t enough payoff to justify this low of card quality; however, with the right devotion to white payoffs that synergize with the Soul Sisters strategy, this deck could go from zero to hero in a hurry.
While I declined the blue splash, the printing of a new Azorius multicolor land would go a long way towards making that realistic. Healer’s Hawk and Beloved Princess are both fine targets for Staggering Insight, even if the lifelink is wasted.
Really, we’d have to see what exactly the enchantment payoffs are and if they synergize with Staggering Insight in any other ways.
If we end up going really hard on enchantments, All That Glitters could actually be sweet. To make all this work, though, we’re probably going to need a way to get extra cards out of all these enchantments.
We’re probably talking about a pretty different deck by the time we get to Setessan Champion levels of enchantments (and playing green). Still, this is definitely really high on my list of cards to build with. Honestly, I’d kind of be down for even a Verduran Enchantress, so this one looks awesome.
So, what’s the final verdict on Staggering Insight?
I think it’s got the potential to be a linchpin in the new blue-based tempo deck it enables. Otherwise, it’s a possible niche roleplayer in other aggressive linear aggro decks.