How To Beat Copters

We know the deck to beat; now we need to figure out how to beat it. Luckily for us, we have GerryT at our disposal. He’s spent the week testing and re-building archetypes with one goal in mind: to beat Smuggler’s Copter…and everything else!

#GPAtlanta October 7-9!

The results of #SCGINDY are in, and they make me very happy.

Vehicles are everywhere, and rightfully so, but it puts the format in an awkward position. Sam Black (“One Copter To Rule Them All“) and Ari Lax in his article covered why earlier this week.

Smuggler’s Copter and Fleetwheel Cruiser create a format where spot removal is mostly ineffective. You could attempt to remove every creature your opponent plays, but you’re most likely going to get nickeled-and-dimed out by haste creatures and creature-lands. Even threats like Liliana, the Last Hope, certainly great against W/R Vehicles, are not the be-all, end-all. Planeswalkers in general are very poorly positioned at the moment.

Killing Vehicles isn’t easy, especially with most of the cheap, instant-speed removal being based on size. It’s difficult to catch a Smuggler’s Copter with Harnessed Lightning when they have Veteran Motorists and Depala, Pilot Exemplar. You can try picking off the Crew members, but they’ll eventually have something else to Crew with.

Realistically, your best option is to have some removal to keep their battlefield dry for a bit, slow the game down, and play something they can’t beat. There are two options for that.

Overall, Ishkanah, Grafwidow is the stronger card against W/R Vehicles. The first one is unlikely to get the job done, as they can just beat through it, trading multiple cards but eventually clearing the way. The second issue is Declaration in Stone. Realistically, the second Ishkanah is what is going to finally seal it, as they’ll likely lack the resources to break through a second time.

As for Kalitas, it doesn’t do enough on its own. However, with a little support, it could easily run away with the game. Again, it’s weak to Declaration in Stone, but once you have enough things they have to use Declaration in Stone against, that starts to become a benefit rather than a disadvantage.

A typical W/R Vehicles-aware B/G Delirium deck would look something like this:

You are not going to beat W/R Vehicles without having Kalitas, Ishkanah, Tireless Tracker, or Liliana and milking them for all they’re worth. This deck is built to maximize the odds of that happening. Spot removal gives you some breathing room, while Traverse the Ulvenwald, Vessel of Nascency, and Grapple with the Past help find your threats.

I’m sure many people will take issue with my lack of Evolving Wilds. In theory, it fixes the mana and works well with Tireless Tracker. In reality, it creates too much tension with the one-mana green spells and Grasp of Darkness. Most of the lands need to tap for black mana for early Grasp of Darkness, so Swamp, Swamp, Evolving Wilds doesn’t make for early-game development.

Foul Orchard isn’t pretty, but I firmly believe it to be better than Evolving Wilds, even with Tireless Tracker in the deck. Extra Clues are nice, but most games are over quickly. Sacrificing a couple of Clues with spare mana is nice, but it’s not often that you’ll play a game where you need to sacrifice eight.

As always, the sideboard is still under construction.

I could see a world where Gnarlwood Dryad is better than Dead Weight, even in the maindeck. If that’s the case, I would rebuild the deck entirely, become more aggressive, and change the overarching gameplan.

This one has proven that it can fight in a field of W/R Vehicles, and I like what it’s doing. It’s light on removal but definitely has what it takes to win a race.

I’m tempted to drop the Gearhulks for something like Mindwrack Demon, which might actually be good now.

It’s one of the few things that can block Smuggler’s Copter (and basically everything else) early in the game. With Reflector Mage not being as prevalent, there isn’t much that deals with it cleanly outside of Declaration in Stone.

One of the issues facing the smaller versions of B/G Delirium is that they might suffer from having too many of their cards trying to accomplish roughly the same thing. How many Sylvan Advocates do you want to draw against something like W/R Vehicles? At some point, those start having diminishing returns. Cards like Grim Flayer, Sylvan Advocate, and even Gnarlwood Dryad and Tireless Tracker all feel like they’re kind of the same card in that matchup.

How many of them do you need to actually win a game? At some point, it’s going to be worth it to trim on threats in an attempt to incorporate something else, such as Dead Weight.

What about something cooler than mopey B/G Delirum?

Two Temur decks centered on Aetherworks Marvel finished in the Top 64 of #SCGINDY.

Both decks feature eight fatties, 22 land, and some Kozilek’s Returns. Since W/R Vehicles is kind of easy to build and suffers from the problem of having too many good cards, you can’t get it very wrong. On the other hand, Aetherworks Marvel is a weird combo deck where you’re taking most of the pieces from a single set.

This deck is trying to find Aetherworks Marvel and use it to cast Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Emrakul, the Promised End. There are issues of not finding your marquee card in time, missing on an activation or two, or even coming up short on Energy.

The missing piece, and potential key to success, is likely Ishkanah, Grafwidow.

Thriving Turtle makes it clear that there’s an issue with aggressive decks, but it’s not a good solution to the problem. There are a lot of creatures and vehicles that don’t care about a little 0/3 or 1/4 in their way.

Ishkanah solves that problem while being a reasonable threat on its own and another potent card to hit off Aetherworks Marvel. This deck automatically deposits cards in the graveyard via Vessel of Nascency and Cathartic Reunion, so hitting delirium isn’t exactly an issue. Plus, the Spider tokens generated go a long way toward activating your Aetherworks Marvel a second time.

While those lists had some success, I’d prefer to clean them up a bit.

This seems more like what we should actually be working toward.

Making Energy is almost trivial, at least as far as activating Aetherworks Marvel once goes. Even if you miss, you will often find a way to make some more Energy, such as a Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot.

Overall, the premise of the deck is solid. I don’t like being one-dimensional about it, though. There are battlefield states that aren’t beatable with just an Ulamog or Emrakul. Softening up their battlefield position is the best way to simultaneously buy you time and allow your big threats to actually beat them. Otherwise, the deck is too reliant on Flashback Kozilek’s Returns to actually stabilize. To that end, we also have Ishkanah, Grafwidow.

Glassblower’s Puzzleknot is slow and ineffectual. Servant of the Conduit is a much stronger addition to the deck. There’s nothing I’d want in blue except for countermagic against control decks and mirror matches, but I think we’ll be able to get by without it.

This sideboard might be garbage. I’m basically looking for something to help solidify the matchup against the aggressive decks and some additional threats for decks that will be able to answer Aetherworks Marvel. Ceremonious Rejection seems difficult to beat with the current maindeck.

One of the main issues is not having big enough hits off your Aetherworks Marvels to make it worth it, so five Eldrazi might be a tad on the low end. The only thing I could see cutting is a Cathartic Reunion, but those actually get better the more Eldrazi you have, so it’s been tough to convince myself so far.

The last deck I’m going to talk about is a classic control player’s dream where you sit back, draw cards, and kill their creatures. The real issue with trying to remove all their stuff is the lack of good sweepers and good card drawing. At least in the obvious places.

A while ago, Michael Majors sent me this decklist:

The idea of cheap removal, your lands entering the battlefield untapped, card drawing, and a repeatable source of damage is a good recipe. But does it actually work?

Against W/R Vehicles, the answer is mostly yes, but the onus is definitely on the control deck to have the correct answers. If you don’t draw your one-mana removal, especially when you’re on the draw, stabilizing is very difficult. In those situations, many games come down to slamming Dynavolt Tower and hoping you can use it to clean up the battlefield within a few turns. A sweeper was almost a necessity, even if they tend to line up poorly against Vehicles and Selfless Spirit.

Revolutionary Rebuff is an option, but not one that I like. There are very few cards I want to counter that aren’t artifacts, holding up mana can be difficult at times, and it goes dead very quickly.

Spark of Creativity is unbelievably good with Dynavolt Tower, and mostly very good in general. There are spots in the mid-game where you use Spark of Creativity alongside Contingency Plan to stockpile a massive amount of Energy. Aether Meltdown fits the Energy theme, but not the prowess theme. We are not that hard up for answers.

As always, any strategy that relies on an artifact is probably going to have a tough time in the post-sideboard games, so this deck needs a way to dodge that. Spending your turn casting a Dynavolt Tower, only for it to be answered by a one-mana Fragmentize is not the best way to win games. You either need to shift your focus away from Dynavolt Tower or save it until you can get some use from it.

After playing some games, I would re-tool the deck slightly.

Todd Anderson is probably going to cut Contingency Plan and Take Inventory for Cathartic Reunion and Fiery Temper and win SCG Regionals with it. You have all been warned.

This version is clean and I like it. Radiant Flames is a nice way to catch up if you’re behind, plus Aether Hub allows you to hit their Depala if necessary. The more games I played, the more I realized how much removal I wanted access to, so I just kept adding more. Obviously that can be risky, but it doesn’t seem like an issue in this format.

Some of the ways to lose games are to flood out, not draw enough cheap removal, or have too much or too little card drawing. Basically, things have to go just right. However, the deck is redundant enough that I think that’s possible.

I could see a world where there’s an Unsubstantiate or two in the maindeck. It handles larger threats and even rebuy a Bedlam Reveler if it comes to that.

As for the sideboard, we need a way to fight decks that are light on creatures or targeting our win conditions with removal. Thankfully, we have several options.

No matter how you want to fight control decks, you have plenty of options. Fevered Visions is likely the best of the bunch, but you probably want an additional threat past that. Unlike the Pyromancer’s Goggles decks, you don’t have a bunch of burn to close out the games. Retooling the deck in that configuration with Fiery Tempers and Collective Defiances is possible, but I’d rather build my maindeck to beat aggro decks.

Weaver of Lightning might be too good against W/R Vehicles to omit from the 75, but most of the hate for that matchup is in the maindeck currently.

That’s about it for my brewing. Of course, I’m also working on various Emerge decks. Temur Emerge was oddly absent from #SCGINDY, but Grixis Emerge made a hell of a showing. Minister of Inquiries might make for a nice addition.

Back to the beginning. Why do the results make me happy? The format is now defined and it’s very narrow, which means it’s easy to target certain archetypes and thrive because of that. I’ve been doing a lot of work to that end, because I don’t foresee any big format shifts until after the Pro Tour.

On top of it all, the games in this format have been a lot of fun. Win or lose, I’m enjoying the gameplay and the various interactions.

#GPAtlanta October 7-9!