The Rise and Fall: An Overview on the Current Frontier Metagame, Part 1 – The Kings of the Hill

The King is dead, long live the King. Frontier is one of the most cyclical formats I have ever played thus far. The amount of viable tiered decks with polarized matchups means that a resurgence of a certain archetype will almost certainly be met by a future rise of a foil to said deck.

With that being said, the metagame is always going to have decks that made their way onto the top, decks people will be playing to knock down the king of the hill, and decks that have fallen to the wayside. This is going to be quite a long discussion, so I’ve decided to divide this article into four parts. Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

The Kings of the Hill (Tier 1)

These decks are currently what I, and most of the Frontier community, would regard as the most powerful and well-positioned decks right now. If you’re looking for a deck to play, don’t choose one that can’t beat either of these unless you’re looking for a bad time.

Atarka Red
list by loopholbrook (Untap Open League Season 5)

Creatures (17)
Smuggler’s Copter
Soul-Scar Mage
Monastery Swiftspear
Zurgo Bellstriker
Hazoret the Fervent

Spells (22)
Stoke the Flames
Lightning Strike
Atarka’s Command
Wild Slash
Become Immense
Dragon Fodder
Exquisite Firecraft
Lands (21)
Wooded Foothills
Bloodstained Mire
Mountain
Cinder Glade
Ramunap Ruins

Sideboard (15)
Aethersphere Harvester
Rampaging Ferocidon
Goblin Chainwhirler
Abrade
Blossoming Defense
Mountain
Scavenger Grounds
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Roast
Kari Zev’s Expertise

The deck that faded into obscurity for quite a few months, Atarka Red made its comeback in surprising fashion, taking up roughly half of the online metagame, right after the preceding season had almost none of the archetype present. The deck aims to take its opponent’s life total from 20 to 0 in as few turns as possible, and such a strategy has been perpetually viable in the format since its inception.

This particular list is one that deviates from the classic Hordeling Outburst variants, instead going for a more burn-heavy strategy with maindecked copies of Exquisite Firecraft. To add to the deviation from stock lists, this particular variant runs Hazoret the Fervent, a card often relegated to Atarka Red sideboards, as a 3-of in the mainboard. Both of these changes are trading some of the potential Turn 4 kills in order to add an additional element of reach to the deck, as well as rendering traditional cheap sweepers such as Radiant Flames and the like less effective against the deck than they would be in comparison against the stock variants.

With the number of people playing it, and with both stock and burn-heavy variants putting up great results in the online leagues thus far, Atarka Red is once again looking like the deck to beat.

The most common plans of attack used to foil the deck come in cards that can stall their aggression long enough for the more expensive haymakers to come online; some of the best examples of those are Radiant Flames, Arashin Cleric, and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. This is theoretically an effective strategy because Atarka Red fights best on the axis of speed, and is less effective in long,  drawn-out grinds.

It is not always that simple though, as some versions of Atarka also bring a plethora of tools to have some diversity in their threats. Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Hazoret the Fervent are both very potent threats that can end the game in quick fashion. However, there are answers for them if the opponent is prepared. The strength in this sideboard plan is how your opponent will have to prepare for two angles of attack; the fast and aggressive starts, and the bombs that can dominate the mid-game. Kari Zev’s Expertise is also yet another neat tool they can use to come in swinging just as you thought you’ve stabilized as you dropped something like a Lyra Dawnbringer.

Learning how much you can afford to dilute your game plan against this deck, especially post-sideboard, is the key to playing against this matchup optimally. If you’re looking to build and play a deck, make sure you have a coherent plan to beat this menace.

UBx Control
list by Cherkbutt (Untap Open League Season 5)

Creatures (3)
Torrential Gearhulk

Spells (31)
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Cast Down
Cast Out
Dig Through Time
Disallow
Essence Scatter
Fatal Push
Fumigate
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Search for Azcanta
Languish
Liliana, the Last Hope
Negate
Lands (26)
Island
Isolated Chapel
Drowned Catacomb
Flooded Strand
Plains
Glacial Fortress
Polluted Delta
Prairie Stream
Sunken Hollow
Swamp
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Sideboard (15)
Arashin Cleric
Arguel’s Blood Fast
Flaying Tendrils
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Negate
Settle the Wreckage
Sorcerous Spyglass
Sphinx of the Final Word

A pillar of the format, and regarded by many as the singular best deck in Frontier for a long time before the recent Atarka Red resurgence, UBx Control’s history of success cannot be denied. The deck is highly adaptable, and can be customized to beat the matchups that appear most relevant to the pilot.

Dominaria brought UBx a plethora of new tools such as Cast Down, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Karn, Scion of Urza, Isolated Chapel, and more, thus giving the already-powerful control macro-archetype even more options to choose from. This particular version splashes White for the new and powerful five-mana planeswalker, as well as a potent sideboard tool against aggressive strategies in Arashin Cleric.

As with most Control decks, you can only fit so many answers in your 75. With that in mind, it is important to correctly identify which threats are going to be most prominent in order to create a Control list that is even remotely capable of competing. You needn’t have answers for everything; you just need to make sure you’re bringing the right answers for your opponents’ questions.

Most commonly, people side in disruption cards such as Duress, Transgress the Mind, and Negate, hoping to disrupt the control player long enough to win the game as they try to reestablish their choke hold. This plan, however, only works if you have a reasonably fast clock to back up the disruption, as this deck will inevitably regain control of the game if it goes long enough.

Older, often straight Blue-Black versions used to lose to extraction effects such as Infinite Obliteration, which Black decks still keep around as a one or two-of inclusion in their sideboards. Other common sideboard tools also include a plethora of card advantage-oriented planeswalkers, all of which will give Control nightmares if left unchecked, as well as yet another angle of attack for them to prepare for, recursive creatures such as Scrapheap Scrounger, and card advantage engines such as Lifecrafter’s Bestiary, which can bury UBx in cards in a long game.

To sum it up, you can beat this deck by either breaking through their defenses in blistering aggression backed up by disruption, or by grinding right through all of their cards, eventually burying them in advantage. Playing against this deck effectively requires knowing how you plan to win through all the control elements your opponent will bring.

Conclusion

Stay tuned for the next installment, where we will delve into Part Two, featuring the decks that are looking well-poised to topple either, or possibly even both of these Kings of the Hill: the Instigators.

If you made it here, thank you for reading this article! Make sure to check back every Wednesday, where we will always have high-quality Frontier content for you right here, on MatchupGuru.

Through the Spyglass: Jeskai Ensoul

The first deck I ever played in Frontier was Blue-Red Ensoul. I fell in love with its explosive draws and potential for Turn 5 kills. After having played Bant God-Pharaoh’s Gift in the previous Frontier League, it was time to return to my roots.

The biggest problem with the old Blue-Red Ensoul list was that it was fairly inconsistent, and often did absolutely nothing if you didn’t draw any copies of its namesake card, Ensoul Artifact. This version of the deck tries to fix some of these issues by playing white, which gives us access to two of the best one-drops in the format in Thraben Inspector and Toolcraft Exemplar. These cards, in combination with the stronger tempo game that Reflector Mage and Spell Queller facilitate, allow the deck to function in a fair game of Magic that doesn’t involve an undercosted 5/5 beater.

However, because the mana is really bad if you want to play a large mass of red, white and blue cards, I decided to tick the Red elements of the deck down to a minimum, barely splashing it for three copies of Shrapnel Blast and four copies of Bomat Courier. I also splash Black for Scrapheap Scrounger off of four fetchlands, a Fetid Pools, and four copies of Spire of Industry. Without further ado, let’s get right into it:

Creatures (23)
Thraben Inspector
Spell Queller
Toolcraft Exemplar
Reflector Mage
Bomat Courier
Scrapheap Scrounger

Spells (15)
Smuggler’s Copter
Ensoul Artifact
Shrapnel Blast
Metallic Rebuke
Lands (22)
Island
Fetid Pools
Plains
Prairie Stream
Inspiring Vantage
Spirebluff Canal
Darksteel Citadel
Spire of Industry
Flooded Strand

Sideboard (15)
Sorcerous Spyglass
Tormod’s Crypt
Arashin Cleric
Seal Away
Settle the Wreckage
Authority of the Consuls
Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp
Spell Pierce




I think these four matchups quite clearly show where Blue-Red Ensoul’s strengths and weaknesses lie. The deck punishes stumbling opponents and clunky draws extremely hard; for instance, in both games against Abzan Aggro, my opponent stood no chance, and that Turn Four kill versus Green-Red Monsters was just brutal.

Ensoul stumbles, however, when your opponent is consistently able to answer your nut draws, which my game against Mardu Tokens quite clearly exhibited. In Game One, I had the choice between playing Ensoul Artifact on either Smuggler’s Copter or Darksteel Citadel. The problem is that if I enchant my Darksteel Citadel, my opponent will be able to simply chump it every turn, and if I Ensoul targeting Copter, like I did in the game, I get blown out extremely hard by a single removal spell. I think that Atarka Red is a fairly even matchup, and mostly comes down to who draws the best. The Game 2 in the match versus the Red deck was an incredible nail-biter, which is no surprise, as games versus Atarka are often extremely close and being on the play is extremely important; the difference between winning and losing is often just that single turn.

Now, let’s have a deeper look at that second game versus Atarka, starting with our opening hand:

Our opener consisted of three lands that covered all of our colours, a Bomat Courier, an Ensoul Artifact, a Metallic Rebuke and a Spell Pierce. This is a pretty good hand versus Atarka; Spell Pierce and Metallic Rebuke are both really good, and Atarka is often not able to cleanly remove a 5/5 Bomat Courier.

Our opponent leads on a Soul-Scar Mage, which makes our Bomat Courier look a lot less exciting. Nevertheless, we play our Bomat Courier on our first turn, having drawn Darksteel Citadel. He plays two more one-drops on his turn, and on our second turn we are faced with the first interesting decision of the game.

We can either Ensoul our Bomat Courier and swing for five damage, or we can Ensoul our Darksteel Citadel, and create an indestructible 5/5. I think that in the video, I explain quite well why targeting the Courier is correct here, but I’ll go over it once more. There are three reasons that this is correct: the first one is that with a Soul-Scar Mage on board, there is very little difference between a 5/5 that is indestructible and one that is not; even though he might be able to block the Bomat Courier and kill it in combination with a Lightning Strike, putting three -1/-1 counters on it will most of the time be enough to significantly reduce the impact of Ensoul Artifact. Secondly, this Bomat Courier will likely almost never get to attack through the horde of two-toughness creatures that he is playing, and thirdly, the five extra points of damage that playing Ensoul on the Courier enables are likely important.

Then on his third turn, he plays Smuggler’s Copter and hits me for six. I then play another Bomat Courier and hit him for another five damage, knocking his life total down to eight on my turn. I also quite importantly miss my Bomat Courier trigger here.

He plays Dragon Fodder, which I tag with my Spell Pierce, and he then hits me down to seven. I fetch, going down to six. I think that his attack here was quite conservative, leaving back one of his creatures to chump my 5/5, in order to play around Shrapnel Blast.

At this point I can take exactly one hit from Smuggler’s Copter.
I do have a Settle the Wreckage in my hand, but I don’t draw the second white mana source I would need to play it. I attack with my 5/5 Courier, which he chumps.

On his turn, he plays another Monastery Swiftspear and attempts to Wild Slash my Bomat Courier.

I have to counter that in order to not die here, and as a pleasant surprise, he decides to only attack with Smuggler’s Copter in order to play around Shrapnel Blast again. I understand it from his perspective, especially considering there will be three cards underneath my Bomat Courier, effectively giving me four chances to draw it. I also think he felt quite ahead here, with him threatening lethal with Smuggler’s Copter on his next turn, and with me having no fliers to block it, I can understand why he wanted to play it safe.

On my turn, I again fail to draw the second white source I need for Settle the Wreckage, so I attack with both the Courier and the Scrounger, which prompts two blocks from my opponent. In my second main phase I pop my Courier, finding a land, a Smuggler’s Copter and a Spell Queller. Here I have to make another tough decision between playing Smuggler’s Copter, offering a trade of Copters that leaves me dead if he has another Wild Slash, but preserves the Spell Queller that’s in my hand, or holding up Spell Queller to chump block his Copter, which plays around Wild Slash at the expense of my Queller.

The analysis I make in the video is faulty. I say that Spell Queller is better solely if the top card of my deck is either Shrapnel Blast or another Smuggler’s Copter. The logic behind this is that Spell Queller essentially guarantees that I draw one more card, but in that case, I have other outs to a Wild Slash aside from just Shrapnel Blast or Smuggler’s Copter. In fact, Smuggler’s Copter would still leave me dead to Wild Slash! The top card of my deck would have to be a creature that costs two or less mana, or Shrapnel Blast in order to play around Wild Slash, I didn’t calculate the actual figures, but I think that that is little over half of the deck. So, the decision then is not to play around Wild Slash at all, or to play around it in little over half the time.
Considering that I’m super far behind, I think that it is more than worth it to take the risk of playing Smuggler’s Copter.

He draws and plays Dragon Fodder and attacks with his Copter and his Soul-Scar Mage, I am forced to block the Copter, and I go down to 1. I loot away a land with Smuggler’s Copter.
On my turn, I swing with Bomat Courier, and he chumps it with a Goblin token once more.

Here, I think that chumping is no longer correct, as it only plays around Shrapnel Blast, and if he doesn’t chump he is almost guaranteed lethal, I would need to have two creatures to not die on the spot, and considering I didn’t play another creature after my Smuggler’s Copter the turn before, I think it would have been worth it for him to take a risk here in order to guarantee lethal damage.

On his turn, I get to Spell Queller his Hordeling Outburst, and he is left with no feasible attacks. I draw another Spell Queller on my turn, which was likely the best draw in my deck. I attack with Scrounger again, and now he decides to take the three damage, going down to 4. It was not correct to attack with my Spell Queller here, because if he doesn’t chump the Scrounger, I will be forced to play my other Spell Queller in combat, leaving me dead to a post-combat burn spell.

On his turn, I take a slight risk by countering his Smuggler’s Copter with Spell Queller to guarantee I have lethal next turn. This leaves me dead to exactly Wild Slash, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that he doesn’t have that in his hand at this point, considering he would’ve most likely played it earlier, or he had to topdeck it. He does not have the Wild Slash and my Spell Quellers swung for the win come the next turn.

I just wanted to look at this game closely for you guys because I think that there were a couple of interesting decisions to learn from.

I already shortly talked about the other matches I played, but let’s still cover them briefly:

The first match I played was against Mardu Tokens. This matchup is abysmal for me, I played this same opponent in the first round of the Frontier League, and I was able to win that match with a combination of sheer luck, and him playing a slightly worse version of the deck. This match however, was hopeless and he completely stomped me two games in a row.

Against Abzan Aggro, the tables were turned and there is nothing particularly noteworthy about this match. He drew a really slow hand in the first game, and I killed him before he was able to do much of anything, and even though the second game was a bit closer, I still completely destroyed him. Matchups like these are really good for this deck, as Spell Queller and Reflector Mage shine in these matchups. If you draw even remotely well, you should be able to win these kinds of games quite easily.

The games versus Red-Green Monsters were more or less the same, he had a really clunky hand Game 1, and I killed him on Turn 4. Game Two, I lost to a resolved Goblin Rabblemaster, which is a just a really quick clock when left unchecked. Considering this deck has very little interaction against resolved threats, Rabblemaster made quick work of my life total. Game 3, I was able to counter his Rabblemaster, and proceeded to make quick work of him after.

Our matchup versus Atarka Red is often really close to a pure 50/50. The player who draws better wins this matchup, and being on the play, as mentioned, is important. I played another match versus Atarka off-screen, and I lost after mulliganing to five cards in Game 1 and him drawing the absolute nuts in Game 3.

Overall, I’m very happy with the list I played and I’m very excited for the rest of the Frontier League. I feel like I finally have a really good deck, and I think that I already played the only really bad matchup in the field. I think that Ensoul is an excellent choice going into an unknown field; it has very little extremely bad matchups, and even against your bad matchups, you still always have at least chance at winning those games off of your nut draws. Join us next week as Somnus breaks down the current tier list of the Frontier format!

A Modern Deck for Every Player

By Sylvan Schrank

With so many sets, cards, and strategies in the Modern format, it can be daunting for new players to get into – to say the least. I remember how long it took me to select my first Modern deck, and I’m sure many others remember that process as well. Thankfully, new players looking to get into the format, you’re not alone. In this article, I’m going to talk about some great decks for every playstyle, and find a deck you’ll love to play.

 

Aggro

Aggro, historically, is one of Modern’s most successful archetypes. Burn and Affinity are omnipresent, having put up great results forever, and decks like Humans, Hollow One, and Bogles are currently putting up great results. If I was looking to play an aggressive deck in Modern, I would go with Humans – at least right now. The Aether Vial fueled five color deck isn’t the fastest out there, but it’s got nut draws that can outrace any deck in the format, and it backs it up with some of the best disruptive creatures Modern has to offer. Disruption and a clock is a great strategy in Magic, and Humans is no exception. In my opinion it’s the best deck right now, you can’t really go wrong choosing it.

 

If you’re looking for a reference that this deck feels like, it’s similar to a combination of Death and Taxes and Zoo decks. It has the ability to put pressure on with cheap creatures like Champion of the Parish that grow quickly and outmuscle almost anything in the format, or it can play a slower game with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and other taxes effects to lock the opponent out. In general, you’ll want to prioritize your taxes, but there are matchups where you just want to go for the kill early on.

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Humans by Bernardocssa

7-1, Modern MOCS – May 5, 2018

Creatures (37)
Champion of the Parish
Kitesail Freebooter
Mantis Rider
Meddling Mage
Noble Hierarch
Phantasmal Image
Reflector Mage
Restoration Angel
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia’s Lieutenant

Spells (4)
Aether Vial
Lands (19)
Ancient Ziggurat
Cavern of Souls
Horizon Canopy
Plains
Seachrome Coast
Unclaimed Territory

Sideboard (15)
Auriok Champion
Damping Sphere
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Dismember
Gut Shot
Izzet Staticaster
Kataki, War’s Wage
Reclamation Sage
Sin Collector

 

Midrange

Historically, Jund has been the Midrange deck to beat. With the unbanning of Bloodbraid Elf it could be seen as the best – and it is a great choice – but you can do better. Mardu Pyromancer, while relatively new to the competitive scene, is a much better choice right now, in my opinion. The deck feels like Jund, if Jund cut Tarmogoyf and Liliana of the Veil for Lingering Souls and a Treasure Cruise that comes stapled to a 3/4 with Prowess – a trade that Jund, as well as most other decks, would be happy to make. This is the best Midrange deck in the format, in my opinion, and I would recommend it over any other. It is worth noting that this is one of the format’s hardest decks to play, so if you don’t feel like you will have time to learn it, you might want to play something else.

 

The key to this deck is Bedlam Reveler. You’ll have been 1 for 1’ing your opponents into oblivion similar to Jund; now, to finish, you draw 3 and make a giant beater. Many decks will have trouble answering this. It’s especially hard for many decks to answer token swarms from Lingering Souls and Young Pyromancer while still being able to beat your Reveler.

Mardu Pyromancer by Kerrick_  

5-0, Modern Competitive League – May 5, 2018

Creatures (8)
Bedlam Reveler
Young Pyromancer

Spells (32)
Collective Brutality
Dreadbore
Faithless Looting
Inquisition of Kozilek
Lingering Souls
Thoughtseize
Fatal Push
Kolaghan’s Command
Lightning Bolt
Terminate
Blood Moon
Lands (20)
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Godless Shrine
Marsh Flats
Mountain
Sacred Foundry
Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Blood Moon
Fatal Push
Anger of the Gods
Crackling Doom
Engineered Explosives
Goblin Rabblemaster
Leyline of the Void
Liliana, the Last Hope
Molten Rain

 

Control

I’ve written about Blue Moon before, and it’s still a great choice, but between then and now, something new has happened. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria feels like a strictly better Jace in this format – turns out 3 mana is better than 4 mana. Although Blue Moon is still by far the best Jace deck, I think it would be a mistake not to suggest Jeskai, especially after its performance this weekend.

Jeskai Control by GedionRavenor

5-2, Modern Challenge – May 19, 2018

 

Creatures (4)
Snapcaster Mage

Spells (56)
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Serum Visions
Supreme Verdict
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Cryptic Command
Electrolyze
Lightning Bolt
Lightning Helix
Logic Knot
Negate
Path to Exile
Secure the Wastes
Search for Azcanta
Celestial Colonnade
Field of Ruin
Flooded Strand
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Island
Plains
Sacred Foundry
Scalding Tarn
Spirebluff Canal
Steam Vents
Sulfur Falls
Sideboard (15)
Negate
Baneslayer Angel
Celestial Purge
Damping Sphere
Dispel
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Engineered Explosives
Runed Halo
Vendilion Clique
Wear // Tear

 

Combo

Justin Schabel wrote a guest article about Storm for us last week, and that’s what I would recommend as well. It’s relatively easy to learn, and is one of the most powerful decks out there. The deck can adapt to beat almost anything, and with Shadow on the decline, one of its worst matchups is seeing less play.

 

The deck feels like it’s doing one of the most broken things in the format. Not many combo decks go off as consistently as it does, and the ones that do tend to not do it until turn 4, at fastest. Although Storm’s average kill will come on turn 4, it can kill as early as turn 3, especially in game 1. The hardest part of piloting the deck is beating hate. Anything from taxes to grave hate can hurt you, and you have to have a plan against them all.

UR Gifts Storm by chaba_lol

5-0, Competitive Modern League – May 11, 2018

Creatures (6)
Baral, Chief of Compliance
Goblin Electromancer

Spells (36)
Empty the Warrens
Grapeshot
Past in Flames
Serum Visions
Sleight of Hand
Desperate Ritual
Gifts Ungiven
Manamorphose
Noxious Revival
Opt
Pyretic Ritual
Remand
Repeal
Lands (18)
Island
Mountain
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Shivan Reef
Snow-Covered Island
Spirebluff Canal
Steam Vents

Sideboard (15)
Empty the Warrens
Abrade
Dispel
Engineered Explosives
Flame Slash
Gigadrowse
Lightning Bolt
Pieces of the Puzzle
Search for Azcanta
Shattering Spree
Wipe Away

 

Ramp

Although I think it would be a mistake not to at least mention Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle-based strategies, for the ramp players reading this I would recommend Tron. It’s been tier one for almost the entire existence of Modern – the only time when it wasn’t, in fact, was when Cloudpost was just a better version.

 

Tron is the deck with, probably, the most 80-20 matchups in the format – for both players. For example, it’s almost unwinnable for Jund, but Burn is incredibly favored in the matchup. If you want a deck with lots of 50/50 matchups, I can’t recommend this deck. If, however, you don’t mind having some near-impossible battles, this is a great choice.

Mono Green Tron by Connor Sloan

SCG Louisville Modern Classic Louisville, 2nd Place  – May 20, 2018

Creatures (8)
Walking Ballista
Wurmcoil Engine
World Breaker
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Spells (33)
Karn Liberated
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Chromatic Sphere
Chromatic Star
Expedition Map
Oblivion Stone
Relic of Progenitus
Ancient Stirrings
Sylvan Scrying
Lands (19)
Forest
Field of Ruin
Horizon Canopy
Sanctum of Ugin
Urza’s Factory
Urza’s Mine
Urza’s Power Plant
Urza’s Tower

Sideboard (15)
Thought-Knot Seer
Thragtusk
Nature’s Claim
Spatial Contortion
Warping Wail
Karn, Scion of Urza

 

Tempo

Sadly for tempo mages out there, the Modern format doesn’t offer much for us. However, there is one deck that fills the slot. Around May of last year, Grixis Death’s Shadow began to see play, and it’s filled the role of the format’s best tempo deck since.

 

With many close, skill based matchups, this is a great choice if you’re good at the deck’s style. I wouldn’t pick it up and just expect to win though. Although not the hardest deck in the format, it has a high skill floor, and you’ll need to practice a lot. It can be very rewarding though, and the deck can be tuned to beat almost anything.

Grixis Death’s Shadow by Dylan Donegan

SCG Modern Open Louisville, 14th Place – May 20, 2018

Creatures (16)
Death’s Shadow
Gurmag Angler
Snapcaster Mage
Street Wraith

Spells (26)
Dismember
Fatal Push
Kolaghan’s Command
Lightning Bolt
Stubborn Denial
Temur Battle Rage
Thought Scour
Inquisition of Kozilek
Serum Visions
Thoughtseize
Lands (18)
Island
Swamp
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
Engineered Explosives
Grim Lavamancer
Young Pyromancer
Ceremonious Rejection
Disdainful Stroke
Kolaghan’s Command
Stubborn Denial
Liliana, the Last Hope
Anger of the Gods

 

Although at first glance it may seem hard to start out in Modern, there are a ton of strategies for everyone. Whether you find yourself filling the board with tokens on Mardu Pyromancer, ramping into turn 3 Karn Liberated and turn 4 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, or casting 1-mana 8/8s in Death’s Shadow, there is a deck for you out there. I hope this article has helped you find that deck, and I’ll see you next week.

Exploring the Frontier: Four-Color Sylvan Ascendancy

Hello! I am Aaron Torres, more commonly known around the online Frontier scene as Somnus21, and this is the third installation of my column: Exploring the Frontier! These articles will be centered around my newest attempts at building an innovative spin-off of Frontier’s top decks. With so many unexplored interactions in this format, you can expect to see one of these from me every now and then. Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

Going into Season 5 of the Untap Open League, only a few weeks after Dominaria was fully spoiled, I knew I wanted to find broken things to do with the influx of new and powerful cards, the level of which we have not seen from a Standard set as of late. I tried many decks early on in the testing phase, but then I found out about a certain interaction between a new card, and another old engine card just waiting to fire. With that, I built a list, spent the rest of the testing season tuning it, and came up with this:

Sylvan Ascendancy

Creatures (3)
Thing in the Ice

Spells (38)
Attune with Aether
Dispel
Unbridled Growth
Opt
Spell Pierce
Crash Through
Anticipate
Strategic Planning
Negate
Sylvan Awakening
Jeskai Ascendancy
Treasure Cruise
Lands (19)
Aether Hub
Botanical Sanctum
Windswept Heath
Island
Cinder Glade
Mountain
Prairie Stream
Forest
Plains
Spirebluff Canal

Sideboard (15)
Abrade
Naturalize
Rending Volley
Negate
Tormod’s Crypt
Dispel
Monastery Mentor
Radiant Flames

The Core Strategy

   

The problems with the old Frontier Jeskai Ascendancy deck were that a.) the deck lacked any one-mana dorks like Birds of Paradise to really speed up the pace of the combo, as well as things like Fatestitcher that gave the deck a level of resiliency to removal, and b.) the one-mana cantrips were more often than not simply not good enough to dig us into a kill. Sylvan Awakening fixes both problems, as its ability untaps all of our lands, allowing us to shift towards more expensive but more effective cantrips, as well as providing a certain level of resiliency to common removal spells.

   

These cards were the first big change from the old shell, and while they may not look like much, these are much of the reason the deck is able to function at the amazingly consistent fashion it does. Anticipate allows us to select whatever we need most from the top three cards of the deck, which is great in a deck that’s looking to find two pieces of a combo that can end the game in a fashion almost as determinate as the dreaded Saheeli Rai + Felidar Guardian kill. Strategic Planning just takes it a step further, allowing us to set up cards in the graveyard to delve away to a powerful card draw spell that’s banned in Modern and Legacy in Treasure Cruise.

   

As mentioned above, Treasure Cruise is a card that is potentially a not-so-worse version of Ancestral Recall in the right deck, but as it turns out, even a strictly worse version of a Power Nine card is insane, so much that it had to be banned in Modern and Legacy, which are two formats with a significantly higher power level than that of Frontier’s. This is the first Frontier deck I’ve played where Cruise feels like actual Ancestral Recall, and I almost never feel like I can lose after casting one. On the other hand, Opt is just one of the best cantrips around, and we can’t really feel bad bringing a playset of it.

   

Sometimes, the plan of attacking with all our pumped-up lands isn’t good enough into a board of chump-blockers, and this is what Crash Through is for; at the inexpensive cost of one copy, it allows us a way to, well, crash through whatever board opponents may present us with. Thing in the Ice is just a great defensive card for the early game, that also doubles as an alternate win condition when your opponent leaves it unchecked.

   

Settle the Wreckage can be a blowout for our combo though, so while leaving up countermagic is often enough, you can also run a copy of Fling or Burning Anger to play around it. For Fling, the only real problem is needing to get something to twenty power, which means you have to go off for longer than if you were on Anger. As for Anger, the combo nets enough mana to not care about the steep five-mana cost, but getting responded to by Cast Outs or Vraska’s Contempts can be a problem, if you’re not careful. But the real price for either is that they can’t cycle themselves when you really need to dig for something else.

   

Combo decks often have a problem running into decks with interaction for their pieces, and the fact that this deck can just naturally insulate itself from disruption is amazing. Unbridled Growth protects us very well from the dreadful Dromoka’s Command that is all too common in GWx decks like Bant Humans or Abzan Aggro. Furthermore, the counterspell suite which is a split of Negates, Dispels, and Spell Pierces, has improved our control matchup, traditionally a bad one for any deck looking to do unfair things significantly better, to the point where I can even say this deck is heavily favored into most Ux Control variants, which are currently poised to beat aggro and midrange.

Sideboarding

As I’ve reiterated with most Combo decks I’ve built, one of the most vital elements of a viable unfair strategy is an alternate plan that requires significantly different answers to beat. Cards like Lost Legacy have been very prevalent for a long time, and if you can’t beat one that resolved on Turn 3, that’s a very easy weakness to exploit, especially since this deck’s critical mass nature makes is substantially harder to play a fair plan.

For a long time, this card has been looking for a good shell to call home, and I can almost confidently say this is the best Monastery Mentor deck in the format as of the moment. We’re already in the market for lots of spell-casting with our absurd amount of cantrips. Pair that with our large pool of counterspells, especially post-board, and we’ve got another game-ending threat that requires completely different tools to answer.

Other than the Mentor sideboard plan, however, the rest of it is rather textbook; good cards for matchups where they’re needed. The whole sideboard can definitely be fiddled around with depending on the metagame you’re entering.

Disclaimer

This deck is absurdly consistent, and probably a very powerful choice moving forward. After all, a deck that can beat Control like cakewalk, while going toe-to-toe with Atarka Red is a pretty good niche to stand on. However, there is one thing you should know.

You cannot play this deck if you know Spell Queller is going to be commonplace. Just do not put yourself through that torture of playing what feels like a near-90/10 matchup. You can try to jam three to four Rending Volleys in the sideboard to try and force through it if you really want to try, but the general matchup against the decks that run the card is very bad because they definitely have more than a few ways to protect it. Even if Rending Volley gets through counterspells, they cannot get through a second Spell Queller, Selfless Spirits, and Dromoka’s Command from the Bant Value Company decks that run it.

Conclusion

Overall, the deck is really interesting to play, and can put up results. Getting the Atarka Red matchup even through innovations like Thing in the Ice and Radiant Flames proved to be invaluable, as nearly half of the Untap Open League metagame ended up on the deck. While it’s unfortunate that I got paired up against the singular Spell Queller deck in the field the round after, I still feel confident in the deck’s ability to pull out the wins for me in the later rounds.

If you made it all the way here, thank you for reading this article! Make sure to check back every Wednesday, where we will always have high-quality Frontier content for you right here, on MatchupGuru.

Modern UR Gifts Storm Primer

Hello everyone! I am Justin Schabel, a normal human that has an unhealthy affinity for Storm. I have been playing UR Gifts Storm in Modern for almost a year now and feel like I have gained a firm grasp of the archetype.

For those who do not know, Storm is a mechanic designed around casting lots of spells. Cards that have Storm make copies of themselves based on the amount of spells that have been cast in a single turn. Now, this may seem innocuous, but it can easily been broken. Using cards that replace themselves and cards that generate mana, it gains the ability to cast upwards of 20 cards in a turn.

UR Gifts Storm is a take on the storm archetype in modern that takes full advantages of the cards Goblin Electromancer, and Baral, Chief of Compliance to really go crazy with your cards that net mana and draw cards. It utilizes Gifts Ungiven as well to tutor up missing pieces or just answers, and wins by finally casting a Grapeshot to deal lethal damage to the opponent. Now for the actual includes in the deck.

Lands

We can’t get all of our mana from rituals. We need lands before we can cast anything else, as does any deck in Modern. As a result of all of our cantrips and our relatively low curve and cost reducers, we can play fewer lands than many other decks do. Most lists run about 17 lands.

Mountain – Run one of these. While it is the worst land in the deck and it creates unkeepable one landers with multiple cantrips, it is a necessary evil. There are just too many Field of Ruin, Ghost Quarter, and Path to Exile in the meta right now to not include this.

Island – Run two. Second worst land in the deck but it is still a fine card. Not much to be described, taps for the best color of mana in Magic.

Snow-Covered Island – Run two. While it does not come up often, it can be real nice to have two different names for Gifts Ungiven Piles. Other than that, it fills the same role as island.

Spirebluff Canal – Run four. Most of the time this is just a Volcanic Island. Taps for the colors the deck requires to function, nothing more.

Scalding Tarn – The fetch version has fallen out of favor as of recently. The main reason to go for fetches in your mana base is to run Blood Moon in the sideboard. It has fallen out of favor mainly because of the fact it messes up the scries off your cantrips. However, feel free to run this if you value blood moon over some small percentage points.

Polluted Delta, Misty Rainforest, Flooded Strand – Extra blue fetches, see above for reasons.

Steam Vents – Run two to four depending on what build you are on. With fetches, I prefer using two but if you really want you could go up to three. Fetchless needs four. It’s a shockland, taps for your colors, nothing super special.

Shivan Reef – Run four or none depending on your build. These are ran in build without fetches. Just acts as another dual, taps for your colors, nothing amazing.

As I said before, there are two different builds for manabases. Fetches and fetchless. The only real reason for fetches is to run Blood Moon. I personally do not like fetches as Moon either acts as a win more against decks like Tron, or a card that gets countered or discarded against decks like Jeskai and Jund. Instead of Moon, we can run much more impactful sideboard cards to help these matchups. However, if you feel Blood Moon will win more games than not, feel free to go with fetches in your mana base.

Creatures

We run fewer creatures than most decks do, but they are possibly the most important cards in the deck. A Baral, Chief of Compliance can turn a Pyretic Ritual into a Dark Ritual. A Manamorphose will create mana alone and a remand often becomes a 1 mana Time Walk that cantrips.

Baral, Chief of Compliance – Run four. Best dork in the deck. Can be cast with only island and  allows for the deck to go off. Being a 1/3 allows it to survive shocks and block a lot of creatures in this format, which is also nice. While combos can still be executed without a reducer, they take a bit more effort.

Goblin Electromancer – Run two or three. Another reducer but can be a bit awkward at times where you are choked on red mana. Still a fine card in the deck and often works well.

Now running more copies of a legendary in a deck than a non-legendary may seem counterintuitive, however Baral really shines in this deck. For one, having 3 toughness is really relevant in the current meta. This allows it to act as a brick wall for your opponent’s attacking force, but it is still vulnerable to lightning bolt. The two toughness of Goblin Electromancer is surprisingly relevant, as well as costing both blue and red. With Baral costing only blue and generic, the life we save from shivan reefs in matchups like burn is rather relevant. Finally, Baral has a second clause that allows you to loot whenever you successfully counter a spell. This is really nice when digging for your final pieces, allowing you to go another card deeper with remand. Because of the reasons listed above, Baral is just better than Goblin Electromancer in this deck, even though they may seem around the same power level.

Core

Run a non-zero amount of all of these cards in your list. The exact numbers are decided by you, and your list can be tweaked to fit your meta. Also feel free to cut some number of core cards for flex slots that are really good in your meta.

Serum Visions – Best cantrip in the deck; digs three cards deep; helps us set up. Automatic four of.

Sleight of Hand – Not a Serum Visions but still does a fine job of digging. Also run four of these.

Opt – Run zero to three. The amount depends on your creature slots. I’m not a huge fan of Opt as it only digs two cards down at best and one of those is often unknown.

Repeal – Run one. No ifs, ands, or buts. This has won me tons of games that I have no deal winning. An amazing card and I would never leave home without one.

Remand – Run two to three. Allows for some great interactions I will go over later and replaces itself. Stick to two if you play Unsubstantiate, but I think it’s reasonable to go to three in a meta full of control and midrange.

Gifts Ungiven – Namesake card of the deck. Allows you to have access to most cards in your deck at instant speed. Allows you to win with 3 mana + reducer (assuming your opponent has no interaction. Run four.

Noxious Revival – Great card, allows for tons of weird and wacky Gifts piles at the low cost of two life. Can have cool interactions with Manamorphose and your cantrips. Stick to one.

Pyretic Ritual – Helps us win by generating mana. Never go without four.

Desperate Ritual – Same thing as Pyretic Ritual but has the ability to splice to generate even more mana. Never go without four.

Manamorphose – Lets us filter our red mana into blue mana and draws us a card. Never go without four.

Grapeshot – Our win condition in the main deck. Can act as a Wrath of God, Lightning Bolt, or, most often, a lethal Banefire. Has really neat synergy with our Remands and Unsubstantiates and is just an all around good card. Run three or two depending on whether you run Empty the Warrens main.

Past in Flames – best card in the deck. Without Past in Flames, Storm would not really be a deck. This card allows us to utilize our previous rituals and cantrips to really build up storm count and eventually cast that lethal Grapeshot. Run two.

Popular Flex Slots

The left over slots tend to be filled by some number of these cards. These are normally included based on personal preference and what you want to be doing with your list.

Peer Through Depths – Run zero to two. I like running these over Opt when you go to three Electromancers. The card is insane with a reducer and can really help you find Gifts when you need it. However, it cannot hit creatures or lands which can be annoying when you are constricted on either.

Merchant’s Scroll – Run zero to one. This can act as an extra copy of every blue instant in the deck. While the versatility is nice, I have not really liked its mana intensitivity. It is also very slow which is painful in aggro matchups. Making room for this is often a pain and removes some flex slots that I love having.

Unsubstantiate – Run zero to one. Acts as a slightly worse Remand and a slightly worse Repeal. I would run this in a meta with a good amount Humans, Death and Taxes, creature toolbox decks, and Burn to have another answer to their problematic creatures, but it is not that good elsewhere.

Lightning Bolt – Run zero to two. Really nice in creature heavy metas, similar to Unsubstantiate. The key difference, however, is that this gets rid of the creature permanently, and it won’t just be recast. I’ve personally been liking one of these since it hates out creatures, and at worst just acts as a lava spike that adds to storm.

Empty the Warrens – Another way to achieve free wins. While it has fallen out of favor as of recent with the addition of Repeal and Unsubstantiate, it is still an alright inclusion. However, I have been preferring the third Grapeshot as of late. Good fallback plan if you know your meta has lots of Leylines of Sanctities or main deck graveyard hate. Run zero or one.

Search for Azcanta – I’ve seen these in main decks from time to time. They are really good if you are in a really control/midrange heavy meta, but I would heavily refrain from running these if your meta is very open or has lots of aggro/combo.

Sideboard

Like most sideboards, ours is used to help us fight our unfavorable matchups. However, we also have to hedge possible hate that decks bring in against us, as we are reliant on our graveyard for a quick and easy kill. These two factors require us to run some really unique cards in our sideboard that seem underwhelming at first glance but are really all stars.

Pieces of the Puzzle – Great card. Almost always hits two instants or sorceries as well as putting more in your graveyard. These normally come in versus decks that interact with your Gifts, such as control or decks that make you discard it. I honestly would never leave home without four.

Lightning Bolt – Everyone knows what Lightning Bolt does. Comes in to kill pesky creatures that everyone hates. Board these in when playing against decks that are creature heavy or decks that lower their life quickly. Examples include Company, Shadow, Hollow One, Humans, and Hatebears. Normally you pack three of these into your board.

Wipe Away – Don’t like something? Bounce it! Valakut player cast a lethal Scapeshift? Bounce their land! I have slowly fallen in love with wipe away. The ability to bounce something at instant speed combined with its pseudo uncounterable ability make this a great card. Bring this in versus decks you know pack hate such as Rest in Peace, Leyline of Sanctity, or Rule of Law. I would always bring one of these.

Shattering Spree – Chalice of the Void? Bye! Affinity player? Bye! This is amazing hate but is pretty narrow. It destroys artifacts, so bring this in against decks that pack hateful artifacts, or a lot of artifacts. I would pack one of these, but feel free to run more if your meta is all artifact decks.

Empty the Warrens – Comes in against decks that pack grave hate or decks where we need extra time to set up a perfect hand. Bring this in against grindy matchups, Shadow, or Control. Two empty sideboard is stock.

Pyromancer Ascension – Tech that has come back into favor. An active ascension allows us to go insane, often times drawing our entire deck. However, turning it on could take a little bit of time which is why we reserve bringing it in for matchups where we plan on grinding. Run zero to two

Search for Azcanta – New tech that helps us grind. I’ve been loving this card. Really helps us bury control and midrange decks in card advantage, and provides a threat they need to use an answer on. Run zero to two.

Gigadrowse – Our super secret tech versus decks that won’t stop interacting. End of their turn tap all of their lands, untap and kill them! Stick to running one of these, as you only need to cast one to get the win (normally).

Dismember – When Lightning Bolt just is not enough. Kills things like Eidolon of Rhetoric for good. Normally comes in versus decks with massive creatures you want to get rid of. Also has the benefit of being free with a reducer in play! Run one to zero.

Engineered Explosives – Does the same job as Dismember but can do it better. Normally this hits multiple permanents which can be better versus Jund and Shadow. We can cast this for up to 5 with Manamorphose if needed. I would stick to one or zero in your sideboard.

Sample List

Gifts Storm by Justin Schabel

Creatures (6)
Goblin Electromancer
Baral, Chief of Compliance

Spells (37)
Serum Visions
Sleight of Hand
Opt
Lightning Bolt
Noxious Revival
Repeal
Desperate Ritual
Pyretic Ritual
Manamorphose
Grapeshot
Remand
Unsubstantiate
Gifts Ungiven
Past in Flames
Lands (17)
Island
Snow-Covered Island
Mountain
Shivan Reef
Steam Vents
Spirebluff Canal

Sideboard (15)
Engineered Explosives
Lightning Bolt
Gigadrowse
Shattering Spree
Search for Azcanta
Pyromancer Ascension
Wipe Away
Pieces of the Puzzle
Empty the Warrens

Gifts Piles

Gifts Ungiven is an interesting card. For 3 generic and 1 blue mana, you search your deck for 4 cards with different names at instant speed. Your opponent chooses two and they go into your graveyard. The rest go into your hand. Now this may seem like a losing game as your opponent gets to choose what you get and what you don’t. However, you can manipulate your piles to get what you want in your hand, and what you want in your graveyard.

The Winning Pile – When going off with gifts on a combo turn, you can win with 3 mana floating post gifts and a creature in play. Simply search up Past in Flames, Pyretic Ritual, Desperate Ritual, and Manamorphose. No matter what your opponent gives you, you will have enough mana to cast past in flames with one red floating to start recasting rituals. Simply recast your rituals and gifts, searching for a pile including past in flames and grapeshot, then kill your opponent.

Another Winning Pile – You can also win a game with two mana floating post gifts, a creature, and past in flames in hand. Simply search up Manamorphose, Noxious Revival, Pyretic Ritual, and Desperate Ritual. No matter what your opponent gives you, you can cast past in flames and your rituals and win.

Creature Pile – Need a creature to go off and have a gifts? No problem! Simply get Baral, Electromancer, Noxious Revival, and a Past in Flames. This pile will guarantee you a creature, and can help you go off.

Anti-Creature Pile – Eidolon of Rhetoric or Eidolon of the Great Revel stopping you from winning? Simply Gifts for lightning bolt, repeal, unsubstantiate, and noxious revival! This gives you two answers and will allow you to win.

These are just some piles that you get often, however you get a ton of different piles depending on the boardstate.

Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t be afraid to aggressively cast a Gifts at the end of your opponent’s turn with a Ritual!
  • Noxious Revival can be combined with a draw effect to get the card you want immediately. For example, Noxious Revival your ritual, cast a Manamorphose, then draw and cast that ritual and go off!
  • You can Noxious Revival your opponents target with Snapcaster Mage or other graveyard effects to fizzle the ability and go off unimpeded. However, be wary of instant speed draw effects like Opt and Street Wraith that gives your opponent that card.
  • Don’t be afraid to wait against a deck that has no clock on you, you will be able to sculpt a perfect hand and kill them eventually! However, do not do this if you know your opponent will be able to kill you out of nowhere.

Game Plans and Sideboard Guide

Affinity – This matchup is a race, though we are normally favored since we can win t3 more consistently than they can. Don’t be afraid to play a creature on two, since their only removal is usually in the form of galvanic blast, which is only a four-of. Make sure to try and combo as fast as possible, and don’t be afraid to use grapeshot with a small storm count to wipe their board and buy you more time. In postboard games, assume the control route, but feel free to go for the kill if you have it. Bolt, Explosives, and Shattering Spree help us remove their pesky threats and buy us time to sculpt a winning hand. 60/40

In: +2 Bolt, +1 Shattering Spree, +1 Engineered Explosives

Out: -2 Opt, -2 Remand

Humans – This matchup is pretty rough. Their disruption in addition to a quick clock really puts us under the gun. In game one, you really need to get a bit lucky and hope for no Kitesail Freebooter, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, or Meddling mage, as those all really put a toll on us. Don’t be afraid to run out your creatures on turn two, as their only way of disrupting them is with reflector mage. Game two and three, use your removal to try and slow down their clock, while also sculpting the right hand to win. Engineered Explosives for two can really shut their deck down, as it hits their main hate pieces, but don’t rely on that to win you the game. 30/70

In: +2 Bolt, +1 Engineered Explosives

Out: -1 Opt, -2 Remand

Hollow One – As with all matchups Hollow One has, this depends on how lucky they are with their discard. Multiple Hollow Ones on turn 1 can really be a beating, but our discards really matter. Their only removal is 4 copies of Bolt, so running a creature out on turn two is a pretty safe line. Try to stall a little bit with your bounce effects, but you really just want to go as fast as you can. Postboard, we get access to more creature removal and Empty the Warrens to try and close the game out a bit quicker. The matchup is about the same as postboard, but be wary of any fatal pushes or leyline of the voids they could have. Overall, this matchup is a bit of a toss up, but I feel we are usually favored. 60/40

In: +4 Pieces of the Puzzle, +2 Lightning Bolt, +2 Empty the Warrens

Out: -2 Remand, -1 Opt, -2 Gifts Ungiven, -1 Noxious Revival, -1 Past in Flames, -1 Grapeshot

Tron – This matchup is really easy with a quick hand. Their minimal amount of disruption plus their do-nothing aspect on the first few turns really allows us to get ahead quick. Don’t be afraid to go for it, as most lists run minimal removal in the first few games. When on the draw, try to leave up a Remand or Unsubstantiate for their t3 play, assuming they have Tron. This should allow you to untap and kill them. Slow hands will be punished in the matchup, so try to go as quick as you can. Postboard we get to slow them down a little, but nothing changes drastically. They have a bit more removal so be a bit cautious, but still feel free to go. 70/30

In: +1 Shattering Spree, +1 Engineered Explosives, +1 Wipe Away

Out: -1 Lightning Bolt, -1 Noxious Revival, -1 Past in Flames

Burn – This matchup is really draw dependant. Eidolon is a real pain for us to deal with, as it basically kills us when we try to go off, so make sure to kill it on sight. Don’t be afraid to use a spell + Grapeshot to get rid of it, as it will cause us lots of damage in the long run if it survives. Most players will keep passing, holding up removal for our guys and point it at our face end of turn, which is painful. This makes game one painful, though game two and three get a bit better. Postboard we get more removal which allows us to keep their threats out of the way, though the matchup is still pretty bad. We also have access to empty, and Burn can normally not beat an Empty for about 8 Goblins. Rely on this on postboard games, but if you have the standard kill, go for it. 30/70

In: +2 Lightning Bolt, +1 Engineered Explosives, +2 Empty the Warrens

Out: -2 Opt, -2 Remand, -1 Noxious Revival

Jund – This matchup is really draw dependant. We can really capitalize when opponent doesn’t have turn one discard, though game one is normally pretty rough. Their combination of stripping our hand, killing our guys, and having a quick clock really makes us vulnerable. Use Bolt aggressively on scavenging ooze as it can provide a constant pain with multiple activations. Postboard gets a lot better for us, as we gain the ability to grind with them. Flipped Search for Azcanta is game-winning, as the incremental card advantage we gain from the land is insane. Empty the Warrens can provide a nice sub-game that provides a must-answer threat and buys us more time to set up our win. 50-50

In: +1 Engineered Explosives, +2 Lightning Bolt, +4 Pieces of the Puzzle, +2 Empty the Warrens, +2 Search for Azcanta, +1 Pyromancer Ascension

Out: -1 Grapeshot, -2 Gifts Ungiven, -1 Noxious Revival, -1 Past in Flames, -2 Opt, -2 Goblin Electromancer, -1 Unsubstantiate, -1 Baral, Chief of Compliance, 1 Pyretic Ritual.

Grixis Death’s Shadow – This is another matchup that can get pretty rough. The combination of a quick clock, a one mana Negate in Stubborn Denial, plus discard can really dismantle our gameplan. Your best bet is to become a mediocre burn deck with Grapeshots and Lightning Bolt, and hope that gets you across the line. It doesn’t sound great, and it really isn’t. If your opponent knows what you are up to, it gets pretty hard to win. However, things look up after we sideboard. We get access to more resilience as well as Empty the Warrens as a tool that can one-shot our opponent. Rely on burning and Empty in this matchup, as those are your main hopes. 40/60

In: Everything but Wipe Away and Shattering Spree

Out: -4 Baral, Chief of Compliance, -2 Goblin Electromancer, -4 Gifts Ungiven, -2 Opt, -1 Past in Flames

UW Control – This matchup is really easy. Since they have no clock on us, we have time to set up the perfect hand with a few Remands backup. Make sure to wait until they start constraining themselves on mana by attacking with Celestial Colonnade or planeswalkers, but don’t be afraid to go for it early if they tap low since most of their interaction is expensive. Postboard we get things to hedge against control, and just let us out-value them. Empty is nice at creating a sub-game that buys us time and forces them to answer, though don’t rely solely on it as they have many wraths. 70/30

In: +4 Pieces of the Puzzle, +1 Gigadrowse, +2 Search for Azcanta, +1 Pyromancer Ascension

Out: -1 Lightning Bolt, -2 Gifts Ungiven, -1 Past in Flames, -1 Noxious Revival, -1 Grapeshot, -1 Opt, -1 Unsubstantiate

Mardu Pyromancer – I don’t have much experience with this matchup, though it feels bad in the games I’ve played. Their pile of interactive spells combined with a rather quick clock through Bedlam Reveler and Young Pyromancer put us under a lot of pressure. Postboard, however, it gets better. With access to Empty the Warrens and Pieces of the Puzzle, we get a lot more strength. As they don’t normally run wraths, we can just go wide and jam in for lethal. Our grindy enchantments are also nice because they bury our opponent in card advantage and allow us to go crazy. 40/60

In: +2 Lightning Bolt, +4 Pieces of the Puzzle, +2 Empty the Warrens, +2 Search for Azcanta, +1 Pyromancer Ascension

Out: -4 Gifts Ungiven, -1 Past in Flames, -1 Noxious Revival, -2 Goblin Electromancer, -1 Repeal, -2 Baral

Bogles – This matchup is interesting. A turn 0 Leyline can be a bit of a problem for us, though it isn’t impossible to beat since we have Repeal. Leyline makes it so we can’t target our opponent, so remember that you cannot cast Gifts Ungiven. If they load up on a Kor Spiritdancer, we can Unsubstantiate it and give us a lot of time, though the matchup feels bad if they have Leyline + a huge Bogle. Still, the matchup is winnable and since Bogles decks have been cutting on interaction in the main deck, feel free to jam your creatures on turn two. Postboard they get Gaddock Teeg and some other tools, so make sure to keep some answers. We get access to Engineered Explosives and Wipe Away to get rid of the threats that are really putting a toll on us. Same plan as the preboard games, and try to kill them as fast as possible. 60/40

In: +1 Wipe Away, +1 Engineered Explosives, +4 Pieces of the puzzle

Out: -1 Lightning Bolt, -1 Grapeshot, -4 Gifts Ungiven

Ponza – This matchup is really play/draw dependant. If they get a good start and start blowing up your lands, it can be a real pain. Likewise, if we can jam a creature before they start destroying our lands, we are insanely ahead. Make sure to hold your islands in this matchup in the early turns to give yourself some insurance against Blood Moon. A creature on turn two is insanely hard for them to get rid of, so don’t be scared running one out there. They run little interaction, so if you are able to kill, go for it. Postboard they get access to Trinisphere, an annoying card. We cannot win through this, as our Rituals become neutral on mana and Manamorphose makes us down a mana. Still just try to go fast and kill them before they have time to set up. 50/50

In: +1 Wipe Away, +1 Engineered Explosives, +2 Lightning Bolt

Out: -1 Grapshot, -1 Past in Flames, -2 Opt

…And that’s it! I hope this read was worth your while and you try out the deck sometime! I would highly recommend storm if you like winning early, playing mind games with your opponent, complex gifts piles, and just casting lots of spells. Hope to see you on Storm!

New Horizons: Dominaria’s Impact on Frontier

The new set Dominaria just hit the shelves, and the power level of these new cards is undeniable. A lot of these cards, such as Cast Down, Karn, Scion of Urza, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and the like are already on their way to being slotted into the preexisting shells, giving these decks a much-needed shot in the arm.

But since those upgrades are going to be rather intuitive to those who already play their given archetypes, this article is going to focus on the new, off-the-wall archetypes that this supercharged set could spawn. Let’s get right into it!

Mardu Tokens

Benalish Marshal is a card that has excited me since it was spoiled. Being a Glorious Anthem stuck onto a 3/3 body for a rather cheap cost of three mana, the potential this card has to facilitate blisteringly-fast starts is absurd. It’s mostly expected to slot into Mono-White Humans or White-Blue Humans, because these decks are the least taxed by the heavy triple-white requirements on the powerhouse.

However, there actually is another deck that could use the card to great effect, and can meet the mana requirements consistently enough, and it looks a little like this.

Lands (24)
Inspiring Vantage
Concealed Courtyard
Battlefield Forge
Caves of Koilos
Nomad Outpost
Canyon Slough
Plains
Shefet Dunes

Creatures (14)
Goblin Rabblemaster
Benalish Marshal
Kytheon, Hero of Akros
Reckless Bushwhacker

Spells (22)
Legion’s Landing
Raise the Alarm
Secure the Wastes
Fatal Push
Abrade
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Murderous Cut
Sideboard (15)
Trespasser’s Curse
Fatal Push
Duress
Declaration in Stone
Transgress the Mind
Lyra Dawnbringer
Murderous Cut

The four Nomad Outposts are an unorthodox choice, but a necessary one to keep the colors consistent. Pain lands are an option that can be used to cut down on these, but the self-damage can really be relevant in faster matchups such as Atarka Red. Overall, the deck has enough untapped lands to curve out even with a tapland or two in the equation.

   

With the manabase dilemma solved, the synergy of the Marshal in this particular archetype is rather elementary to spot; anthem effects are good when paired with the go-wide strategy this deck aims to facilitate. Time will tell whether or not this deck is good enough to ascend to the top tiers, but the power level certainly is present and evident.

Sylvan Ascendancy Storm

At first, I dismissed Sylvan Awakening as yet another one of those cards that would just take too much and too long to really make a significant impact to the board, relegating it to janky Red-Green-X Ramp variants. I would’ve left it at that too if not for Kevin Finkle, a host of the Magic: the Final Frontier podcast, gave me a heads-up about its very strong interaction with an old combo engine that just needed the right pieces to finally fire on all cylinders.

I’ve been trying to make this card work ever since I started playing the format, and the classic mana-dork version just did not cut it; the one-mana cantrips are simply too low-quality. But with this new card in the mix…

Lands (19)
Aether Hub
Botanical Sanctum
Windswept Heath
Forest
Island
Cinder Glade
Mountain
Prairie Stream
Plains
Spirebluff Canal

Creatures (3)
Thing in the Ice

Spells (38)
Attune with Aether
Unbridled Growth
Opt
Anticipate
Strategic Planning
Sylvan Awakening
Jeskai Ascendancy
Treasure Cruise
Negate
Spell Pierce
Dispel
Crash Through
Sideboard (15)
Abrade
Naturalize
Rending Volley
Negate
Tormod’s Crypt
Dispel
Monastery Mentor
Radiant Flames

I found this deck so effective, that I actually just locked it in for Season 6 of the Untap Open League. The non-inclusion of any mana-dorks might seem misguided at first glance, but when you look at the rest of the deck, this is actually a boon rather than a bane.

   

For one, it enables us to run Thing in the Ice as a mainboard foil against aggressive strategies, but the main upgrade is the shift to more expensive cantrips such as Anticipate and Strategic Planning, which allow us to dig deeper into the deck, and really find all the pieces we need to assemble a win.

    

In addition to all these, we have a plethora of counterspells such as Dispel, Spell Pierce, and Negate to protect our combo pieces or disrupt the opponent as the game state dictates, as well as a post-board Monastery Mentor plan, which adds more surprise factor and resilience against hate cards. Personally, if there is a deck for Mentor in this format, this is definitely the one.

Green-Black Elves

   

Elves has been quite a fan favorite for a low to mid-Tier 2 deck, and this is the first set in a long time that finally brings in more relevant support cards. Llanowar Elves now gives us access to 12 one-mana dorks, and is a great step forward in making the Elves’ game plan consistent enough to compete. In addition to this, the deck also got a great foil to its greatest weakness in Steel Leaf Champion which provides an unbelievably fast clock while being immune to just about all the relevant three-mana sweepers.

Lands (19)
Blooming Marsh
Llanowar Wastes
Unclaimed Territory
Swamp
Hashep Oasis
Ifnir Deadlands
Forest
Westvale Abbey

Creatures (29)
Dwynen’s Elite
Elvish Mystic
Gnarlroot Trapper
Elvish Visionary
Llanowar Elves
Shaman of the Pack
Steel Leaf Champion
Reclamation Sage

Spells (12)
Collected Company
Driven // Despair
Chord of Calling
Song of Freyalise
Sideboard (15)
Watchers of the Dead
Whisperwood Elemental
Phyrexian Revoker
Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Dean
Thought-Knot Seer
Minister of Pain
Vicious Offering
Duress
Warping Wail

   

Aside from the two powerful Elves though, there are some cards from Dominaria that also give this deck a shot in the arm. Song of Freyalise is generally not the kind of card I would run in a deck with 12 mana-producing creatures, but the III effect is strong enough for me to warrant testing. It could ultimately be low-impact, but the potential is there with an unanswered board. The real powerful addition to the deck, however, is actually Vicious Offering. Having to sacrifice a creature to make it relevant can be rough at times, but finally having a clean answer to the deck’s problem cards such as Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is too good to pass up.

Conclusion

These are just some of the potential archetypes that the new set could bring about that I saw, and as always, the Frontier format remains open and unexplored, as if asking to be broken wide open. There are more new decks that I’m working on, but they’re currently not in a presentable state yet, such as Esper Vehicles with Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp, or a new Shrapnel Red variant. I’ll be sure to show those once they’re ready, but until then, keep on exploring!

If you made it all the way here, then thank you for reading this article! If you want to keep track of articles from me, you can follow my Twitter account @som_nambulist, where I will be sure to post about any and all future releases. Make sure to check back every Wednesday, as we will always have high-quality Frontier content for you right here, on MatchupGuru.

 

Through the Spyglass: Jund Delirium

Just a few months ago, Jund Delirium was the top dog of Frontier. It found huge success in the Untap Open League, and then it kind of faded into the background. I’m still not quite sure what caused its downfall, because I think the deck is still very powerful. The midrange control plan of playing removal spells that stall and build into Emrakul, the Promised End still works quite nicely against most decks, and there is nothing wrong with the value creatures plan facilitated by cards such as Goblin Dark-Dwellers and Ishkanah, Grafwidow, either. To prove that Jund Delirium is still a real deck, we will play some matches with the deck and discuss what we learned from them. I will not need to go to in-depth on the deck itself, because Thomas has you covered on that quite nicely here (https://mtg.one/frontier-jund-delirium-primer-sideboard-guide/). So, without further ado, here’s the list I played:

Lands (22)
Wooded Foothills
Bloodstained Mire
Woodland Cemetery
Dragonskull Summit
Cinder Glade
Smoldering Marsh
Forest
Mountain
Swamp

Creatures (13)
Satyr Wayfinder
Walking Ballista
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Emrakul, the Promised End
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Spells (25)
Fatal Push
Abrade
Kolaghan’s Command
Vessel of Nascency
Grapple with the Past
Vraska’s Contempt
Liliana, the Last Hope
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Languish
Sideboard (15)
Tormod’s Crypt
Sorcerous Spyglass
Radiant Flames
Crux of Fate
Tireless Tracker
Infinite Obliteration
Transgress the Mind
Duress

 

So the first thing that should be pretty clear is that this is not the kind of deck you can just just pick up and play. I made a significant number of misplays, and especially the Emrakul turns can be really hard. Overall, I think the deck performed quite well, and I could’ve won a lot more games if I had played better. For example, in the first game versus Jeskai Saheeli, I would’ve had at least one more chance to draw into an answer if I had not flickered his Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. I also made a bunch of mistakes in the games that I failed to record, but suffice it to say that some plays aren’t that intuitive when you are playing their deck against them. I also did not quite feel comfortable in my sideboarding strategies with the deck, and I think that showed in post-sideboard games: for a lot of matchups, I just didn’t quite know what to board in or out.

The deck has the ability to grind out games pretty well, and is also able to quickly close out games with Emrakul. I think most of the matches I lost were due to misplays on my side, and not the deck’s failure to function as intended. I lost to different Saheeli decks (I only managed to record one match, though) pretty badly, and while I don’t think that Saheeli is a great matchup for you, I also think that the matchup should be less lopsided than these games show.


I now want to take an in-depth look into Game 1 versus Jeskai Black, our opening seven consisted of Abrade, Smoldering Marsh, Vessel of Nascency, Vraska’s Contempt, Bloodstained Mire, Forest and Liliana, the Last Hope. All in all, I think this is a pretty good hand and there is no reason to mulligan, it will match up quite nicely versus the aggressive decks, while Liliana also puts in work versus both aggro and the slower decks, and Vessel should be able to find us some more cards to compete in the later stages of the game.

Our opponent leads with a Prairie Stream, which would most often indicate Saheeli or some form of control deck, although it could also be a slower opener out of either Esper Vehicles, UW humans or Bant Humans. Jeskai Black certainly wasn’t a deck that I had in mind at all, though.

Our draw for the turn is a Satyr Wayfinder, and our turn one is relatively straightforward, we play a Forest and our Vessel of Nascency. My opponent’s Turn Two is nothing special either, he plays a Plains and a Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. This makes me hedge my predictions towards Control, as 4c Saheeli would’ve most likely shown another colour by now.

On our Turn Two, we have the decision to either play Satyr Wayfinder, or crack our Vessel of Nascency. Considering we’re not quite sure what we are looking for with Vessel, I think that Wayfinder is the safer choice.

On our opponent’s Turn Three, he misses his land drop and plays a Soulfire Grandmaster. This screams ‘Jeskai Black’ to me, since there are very little other decks where this card is played.

I drew into Languish for the turn, which makes playing Liliana, the Last Hope a pretty obvious choice, as I’m almost guaranteed a two-for-one with my boardwipe next turn. I make a small misplay here by not attacking with the Wayfinder, which loses me a free point of damage. I have a lot of respect for Mussie’s skill, and I think there is no way he would’ve blocked there, considering he knew I was at three mana, and that I most likely played three Lilianas.

Next turn, he hits his third land drop and plays a Mantis Rider, hitting my Liliana down to 1. Attacking with my Wayfinder on my turn was yet another mistake I made, since the Soulfire Grandmaster has lifelink and there is nothing I could have that would make him not want to block with his Grandmaster. I then continue to wipe the board with Languish and tick up my Liliana.

On his next turn, he plays a Nahiri, the Harbinger and downticks her to get rid of my Vessel. On my turn, I make a huge, mistake, that ends up losing me the game a couple of turns later, Vraska’s Contempt is about ten times as valuable as Walking Ballista is in this matchup, and in hindsight, there is absolutely no reason not to kill Nahiri with Ballista instead, especially because that will enable Delirium for Traverse the Ulvenwald or  Ishkanah, Grafwidow.

My Liliana gets hit by his Utter End, and I now have no play the turn after. He proceeds to get back his Jace, and kill my Ballista with Kolaghan’s Command. I kill the Jace with a Fatal Push off of my Goblin Dark-Dwellers. Next turn, he plays The Scarab God, and left without an answer, I die because I threw away my Contempt.

There are a few things to be learned from this game. First up, it is incredibly important to be aware of what your opponent can throw at you when playing this deck, and how you want to sequence your removal to answer those threats. You often have multiple ways of dealing with a problem, and finding the best one is what makes or breaks this deck. Furthermore, this deck has the potential to go long and grind out games quite easily; Imagine for a moment if I still had the Vraska’s Contempt for The Scarab God. I had a ton of live draws there, Traverse the Ulvenwald and Emrakul, the Promised End both probably would have won the game on the spot, Ishkanah, Grafwidow would have been a great draw, just as much as a Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet would’ve been. The fact that even after I threw away my Vraska’s Contempt, I still could’ve won that game, goes to show how powerful the lategame of this deck can be.
Game two of this match was much less eventful, we both got stuck on mana and he drew out of it first, but things like that happen in Magic and there isn’t much you can do about it but accept the variance.

Let’s now have a quick look at the other matches I played. The Jeskai Saheeli deck completely caught me off guard; I did not for a minute expect Spell Queller and Monastery Mentor, and I got punished accordingly. I still think I could’ve won these games with tighter play, though.

I feel bad for my Hardened Scales opponent; he never drew a single Scales effect and Kalitas completely destroyed him in Game Two. From my experience with the deck, matchups like these are generally good for you they don’t have the ‘I win’ combo that the Saheeli decks have, nor the extremely fast starts of Atarka Red. Their best draws will still give you a bunch of trouble, but the matchup is extremely lopsided if they don’t have it.  

The matchup against UW Humans, I think, is closer than Games One and Three showed you. Liliana, the Last Hope is obviously very good versus Humans, as are Ishkanah, Grafwidow and Fatal Push, but I think that Game Two clearly showed why this matchup can still give you problems. I got completely destroyed by Always Watching, and although I might’ve had a shot if I hadn’t mulliganed to 5, my hand still wasn’t bad enough to be considered an auto-loss.

Let’s discuss the list for a bit. I was testing Cast Down in the first match against Jeskai Saheeli, but in all the other matches, I ran Vraska’s Contempt. Between those two matches, I did some more testing, and found that the ability to kill planeswalkers combined with the lifegain definitely makes Contempt the better choice, even more so if you factor in the enormous amount of Saheeli decks I’ve been playing against. After the match versus Jeskai Black I also switched from Blooming Marsh to Woodland Cemetery, which, as my opponent said, is a lot better. I think that the last 2 matches quite clearly showed why this is the case.

As far as changes to the list from Thomas’ article are concerned, the deck’s core is still very much the same. I updated some card choices, as Vraska’s Contempt is a much better removal spell than Unlicensed Disintegration, To the Slaughter, and Grasp of Darkness are, and the extra -1/-1 on Languish is enough to play it over Yahenni’s Expertise despite the possible upsides of casting a spell for free. I also switched the creature package around a bit, opting for an extra Emrakul and more removal over the second copies of both Ishkanah and Kalitas.

Overall, I was quite happy with how the deck performed, and while losing two out of four matches and 5 out of 9 games certainly isn’t great, most of the games I lost were fairly close. I’m by no means an expert on this deck, but it played smoothly, and there were no cards that seemed out of place to me. I hope you all enjoyed this in-depth look at one game, you can expect more content like this from me in the coming months. Join us next Wednesday as Somnus will give you a look at what he thinks will break into Frontier’s top tiers with Dominaria’s release, only here at Matchup Guru. .

What is the Pauper Deck for You?

Introduction:

Like much of the MTG community I have been swept up by the recent pauper craze mainly pushed by Tolarian Community College. Pauper is a genuinely fantastic format that is well balanced with all of the different types of decks being viable. However, getting into a new format can be extremely overwhelming and I want to counteract that with this article. I will do a brief overview a top tier deck from each category that would all be a fantastic choice for pauper play, both competitive and casual.

Aggro – Mono W Heroic: (jthfortyone 5-0 in Competitive Pauper League)

Creatures:  (16)
Akroan Skyguard
Lagonna-Band Trailblazer
Seeker of the Way
Deftblade Elite
Sacred Cat

Enchantments: (15)
Cartouche of Solidarity
Ethereal Armor
Hyena Umbra
Cho-Manno’s Blessing

Instants: (11)
Defiant Strike
Mutagenic Growth
Emerge Unscathed
Lands: (18)
16 Plains
Secluded Steppe

Sideboard: (15)
Celestial Flare
Cho-Manno’s Blessing
Dust to Dust
Fragmentize
Holy Light
Lifelink
Obsidian Acolyte
Rune of Protection: Red
Rune of Protection: White
Standard Bearer

So, you want to go fast? Well, mono-white heroic is a fantastic deck for you. It uses both enchantments and instants to make a large heroic creature like Lagonna-Band Trailblazer or Akroan Skyguard. While you are doing this you can also gain a bunch of life off seeker of the way and sacred cat and help get these creatures through with Deftblade Elite.

Getting in damage by making one large creature does have its issues, with bounce and removal being heavily represented in the metagame you need ways to counteract them. These come in the form of protection spells like Emerge Unscathed and Cho Manno’s Blessing. Also, Hyena Umbra both makes your creature huge and offers a form of protection. Much like Bogles you load up one creature with a number of auras and so Ethereal Armor can get really out of hand. Cartouche of Solidarity may look like a poor card but it has a hidden purpose. If you only have one creature that you are making massive it helps you get around edict effects out of control decks.

To round out the deck you have two playsets of instant speed combat tricks, Mutagenic Growth and Defiant Strike. This is an aggro deck so you run a low land count with 16 Plains and 2 Secluded Steppe to prevent flooding.

Pauper is extremely diverse and your sideboard should hugely depend on the metagame that you play in. Lifelink, Fragmentise and some amount of Rune of Protections seem like auto-includes but other than that your sideboard is very customizable.

I think that Mono White Heroic balances consistency with power very well and is in my opinion currently the best aggro deck in the format. If you want to have a consistently good deck which can be extremely explosive and will almost never fall flat on its face then Mono White Heroic could be a great choice.

 

Midrange – Kuldotha Boros:  (Zen -Untap.in Pauper League Winner)

Creatures:  (15)
Glint Hawk
Thraben Inspector
Kor Skyfisher
Palace Sentinels

Instants & Sorceries:  (12)
Lightning Bolt
Galvanic Blast
Battle Screech
Firebolt

Enchantments:  (3)
Journey to Nowhere

Artifacts:  (8)
Alchemist's Vial
Prophetic Prism
Lands:  (22)
Ancient Den
Great Furnace
Boros Garrison
Radiant Fountain
Wind-Scarred Crag
Secluded Steppe
Forgotten Cave

Sideboard: (15)
Pyroblast
Electrickery
Relic of Progenitus
Prismatic Strand
Gorilla Shaman
Standard Bearer
Enlightened Ascetic

Boros Monarch is a deck of three parts: removal, card draw, and land. However, since your card draw engine is based around creatures and your removal is mostly burn, you can surprise your opponent by killing them in one massive swing with your creatures and finishing them with burn. Of course, this won’t happen every game; sometimes you’ll just chip and chip until they’re dead on board but bearing in mind this alpha strike strategy will help you play the deck more effectively.

Boros draws more cards than many control decks owing to its signature four-drop, Palace Sentinels. Becoming the monarch allows you to draw an extra card on your end step, allowing you to trade one for one with your opponent and come out on top of the exchange.  The only downside is that if you ever take combat damage, your opponent takes the throne, but you can steal the crown back with your flyers, and your opponent will have a hard time getting a threat to stick due to all your removal.

Your monarchy, while powerful, isn’t sacred. Boarding out the clunky four drop against aggressive decks that can overload your removal and blockers is often a smart choice, and your other card-advantage engine is just as potent. Prophetic Prism and Alchemist’s Vial draw a card upon hitting the table, which they’ll do a fair few times owing to Glint Hawk and Kor Skyfisher allowing you to pick them up again. Kor Skyfisher can even scoop up Thraben Inspector to find yourself another clue. But not even this is sacred. Against the few decks that can go over the top of your card draw, you’ll often pick up lands with these undercosted fliers and get frisky, and against burn decks, Kor Skyfisher can pick up Radiant Fountain to give you more incidental life gain.

The closest comparison to Boros is something like the classic Jund in Modern, an attrition-based deck that builds card advantage with two and four-drop creatures, controlling the board while chipping away at opposing life totals, and lastly using utility lands to give the deck a little extra gas. Monarch is also reminiscent of 4C Control in Legacy, a grindy deck saturated with some of the most efficient spells in the format and drowning in card draw. Monarch shares its grind with 4C Control with none of the blue. If you like grindy fair magic but don’t like unintentional draws, Boros Monarch might be your thing.

 

Control – 5 Color Murasa Tron: (jsiri84 6-0 pauper challenge)

Creatures:  (6)
Mnemonic Wall
Mulldrifter

Instants & Sorceries: (25)
Impulse
Lightning Bolt
Compulsive Research
Condescend
Crop Rotation
Doom Blade
Electrickery
Flame Slash
Ghostly Flicker
Lightning Axe
Mystical Teachings
Prohibit
Pulse of Murasa
Remove Soul
Rolling Thunder
Terminate
Capsize

Artifacts:  (6)
Prophetic Prism
Expedition Map
Serrated Arrows
Lands: (23)
Urza’s Mine
Urza’s Power Plant
Urza’s Tower
Swiftwater Cliffs
Shimmering Grotto
Dismal Backwater
Haunted Fengraf
Izzet Guildgate

Sideboard:  (15)
Coalition Honor Guard
Dinrova Horror
Dispel
Exclude
Flame Slash
Hydroblast
Magma Spray
Pulse of Murasa
Pyroblast
Serrated Arrows
Stonehorn Dignitary
Thorn of the Black Rose
Ulamog’s Crusher

Frankly, I don’t know where to start. Using the most powerful colorless-producing lands in magic’s history and jamming them into a 5 color deck may seem, well, insane. However, with the use of prophetic prism and shimmering grotto you can filter your wealth of colorless mana into whatever you want to be able to cast some of the best cards the common rarity level has to offer. You can play a lot of great narrow cards which you can find with Mystical Teachings and recycle with both Mnemonic Wall and Pulse of Murasa. You do need to get to the late game though and you do so with a lot of early interaction, namely Terminate, Lightning Bolt, Flame Slash, Electrickery, Prohibit and Condescend. Combining creatures with enter the battlefield effects and ghostly flicker allows you to gain card advantage with Ghostly Flicker. Relying on drawing your three Tron land ‘Au natural’ is a bit optimistic so finding them with card draw in Mulldrifter and Impulse, tutoring them up with Expedition Map or Crop Rotation. Now onto the boring part. Winning. The main way to close out the game is by casting Lightning Axe quite a few times with your recursion cards to eventually whittle down their life total. You also have Lightning Bolts to fill this role if your opponent somehow deals with your Lightning Axe.

The sideboard has a number more creatures with game warping enter the battlefield effects like Dinrova Horror, Thorn of the Black Rose, and Stonehorn Dignitary. You get an alternative win condition in Ulamog’s Crusher; Coalition Honor Guard to distract against control decks and a massive amount more narrow interaction cards like Pyroblast, Magma Spray, Hydroblast, Dispel and more. This deck is massively customizable depending on your local metagame as you are playing one copy of lots of niche cards. For example, if everyone seems to be playing tortured existence or delve then you could slot in a crypt incursion into the main deck.

Overall, if you think you are the next Gabe Nassif and want to pilot a complicated control deck with lots of subtle sequencing and decision making and a card for every matchup then you might just want to sleeve up (or trade some tix for) 5 Color Murasa Tron. Also, note that there are a couple of other variants of this deck in both Dinrova Tron and Stonehorn Dignitary to lock your opponents out but Murasa Tron is currently the most represented version of the deck.

 

Combo – Inside Out Combo: (JessNES 6-0 Pauper challenge)

Creatures:  (7)
Tireless Tribe
Augur of Bolas

Instants & Sorceries: (35)
Brainstorm
Circular Logic
Daze
Dispel
Dizzy Spell
Gigadrowse
Gitaxian Probe
Gush
Inside Out
Ponder
Preordain
Repeal
Shadow Rift
Lands: (18)
Evolving Wilds
Ash Barrens
10 Island
Plains

Sideboard: (15)
Deep Analysis
Dispel
Hydroblast
Journey to Nowhere
Piracy Charm
Serrated Arrows
Spire Golem
Stormbound Geist

If you were to say that Inside Out was the most explosive decks in pauper, there would not be many players who would argue against you. The combo works by casting Inside Out on Tireless Tribe to switch its power and toughness and discard a lot of your hand to give it about 21 power. Outside of this, you have efficient blue card draw and tutors to your combo pieces and ways to protect your combo by countering interaction and bypassing blockers.

To draw cards you have BrainstormPonder, Preordain, and Gush, with Ash Barrens and Evolving Wilds to shuffle. These draw spells are amongst the most powerful cards in the whole of Magic, being staples in formats like legacy, and this deck utilizes that extremely well. You also have Dizzy Spell to tutor up the Tireless Tribe. When it comes to protecting the combo you can discard Circular Logic to Tireless Tribe to get a one mana counterspell while going off. Dispel, counters almost anything that interacts with you while you are comboing and Daze works well when you are trying to win while choked on mana. Gitaxian Probe lets you see if going off is safe when you feel like you are holding a lack of interaction. Repeal, Gigadrowse, and Shadow Rift let you avoid blockers. The fact that you need to keep five cards to discard to Tireless Tribe, making Shadow Rift and Repeal desirable as they do not put you down cards.

The sideboard has some alternate win conditions in Stormbound Geist and Spire Golem if you feel like you opponent’s deck matches up well against the combo. Serrated Arrows is quite a popular pauper sideboard card allowing you to gun down any small creatures such as elves. Journey to Nowhere helps if your opponent has some key creatures you need to remove. More interaction against people trying to stop your combo comes in the form of Dispel and Hydroblast. Deep Analysis lets you dig out of a losing position and Piracy Charm is just a very versatile sideboard option.

I myself am a huge fan of combo decks and this is likely the best one in pauper, being able to kill as early as turn two. I think the main merit of this combo over others like blitz and elves is that it is in blue and therefore has all the best card draw and counterspells to deal with interaction. If you are looking for an oops I win strategy with startling consistency and power then look no further than Inside Out combo.

Tempo – Izzet Delver: (EightSixEightSix 6-0 Pauper challenge)

Creatures: (20)
Delver of Secrets
Faerie Miscreant
Ninja of the Deep Hours
Spellstutter Sprite
Augur of Bolas

Instants & Sorceries: (22)
Ponder
Counterspell
Preordain
Skred
Lightning Bolt
Gush
Brainstorm
Vapor Snag
Lands:  (18)
Evolving Wilds
Ash Barrens
Snow-covered Island
Snow-covered Mountain

Sideboard: (15)
Hydroblast
Pyroblast
Electrickery
Stormbound Geist
Swirling Sandstorm
Vapor Snag
Relic of Progenitus

I think most players would agree that I likely saved the best for last but I think that this is why I love pauper so much. Both Izzet Delver and Mono-Blue Delver take up less than 20% of the metagame combined. So a deck that many are complaining about for being too powerful you will play an average of once per league. While Standard is very diverse right now it has not been able to maintain this consistently and pauper has, one of the many reasons I think it is a fantastic format.

In this section I will be talking about the Izzet Delver version but please do not there is also a mono-blue strategy which is basically the same with better mana but worse on board interaction.Tangent aside, this deck is your classic tempo deck trying to stick a threat and close out the game by controlling your opponent. All of the creatures outside of Delver of Secrets also draw you cards or are counterspells: Augur of Bolas, Spellstutter Sprite, Faerie Miscreant , and Ninja of the Deep Hours.

So you have your tempo creature spread and now what do you do? Unfortunately, this question does not have a complicated answer that might make me sound smart – you just jam all the best counters, removal and card draw into your deck and there you have it, the best deck in the format. Outside of the creatures, you might as well be playing legacy with: Gush, Preordain, Ponder, Counterspell , and Lightning Bolt to name just a few. You might be thinking this list just has snow covered lands for the artwork and style points, but you would be wrong as the red splashes include Skred which you may know from modern as an awesome creature removal spell and is one of the few ways that Izzet can deal with resolved big creatures like Gurmag Angler.

The sideboard is where you get another big payoff for splashing red. Pyroblast is incredible in the mirror or against control decks at both countering and removing threats. Electrickery puts a rather downtrodden face on any elves player and is also great against rogue token decks. Swirling Sandstorm is one of the few board wipes you’ll have access to in pauper and works well against any go wide opponent. Water does beat fire an Hydroblast is a must include against almost any red deck in the format. Stormbound Geist provides a threat that is very hard to interact with and Vapor Snag can give you a tempo advantage and also has ruined many a blitz player’s days.

Delver has been considered the deck to beat for a long time and is the best ‘play from ahead’ deck in pauper. Some players are calling for a blue ban like Gush but I really don’t think this is necessary. If you want to beat Delver you certainly can tailor your deck against it and also there is no one card ban that would really do much to the deck. It has such a wealth of card draw spells, I think Ponder becoming Serum Visions or something along these lines does not hurt the deck massively. There is no doubt that this is the deck with the highest concentration of busted blue cards in pauper and if you are into that kind of thing (not many aren’t) then you might want to consider jumping on the bandwagon.

Honorable Mentions – Affinity, Elves and UB Control:

Above is what I think is the best deck in each traditional category but there are a few decks that just got beat out and I don’t think this article would be a fair representation of the pauper metagame without at least mentioning them. In this section, I will give a sample list and a brief overview of what the deck does without going into too much depth.

 

Affinity: (bkm 5-0 Competetive Pauper League)

Creatures: (18)
Atog
Carapace Forger
Frogmite
Myr enforcer
Gearseeker Serpent

Instants & Sorceries: (12)
Galvanic Blast
Thoughtcast
Metallic Rebuke
Fling
Temur Battle Rage

Artifacts:  (14)
Springleaf Drum
Chromatic Star
Flayer Husk
Prophetic Prism
Lands:  (16)
Darksteel Citadel
Seat of the Synod
Tree of Tales
Great Furnace

Sideboard:  (15)
Krark-Clan Shaman
Dispel
Hydroblast
Relic of Progenitus
Pyroblast
Relic of Progenitus
Feed the Clan

You may know about affinity in modern – an artifact based deck that makes massive creatures very early on in the game. The pauper deck does a similar thing using the artifact land cycle and low costed artifacts to break the ‘affinity for artifacts’ mechanic, casting cards like Myr Enforcer and Gearseeker Serpent as early as turn two. However, despite this line of play being powerful, this is not the deck’s primary strategy. What you really want to do is make an incredibly huge Atog to one shot your opponent. You may think that you can just chump block but this is why the deck uses Galvanic Blast to get rid of blockers, Fling to ignore them and Temur Battle Rage to smash through anything that tries to stop the crazy big alien.

Affinity is a very powerful linear strategy in pauper but will likely never be the top deck as it can be hated out with some great sideboard cards: Ancient Grudge, Gorilla Shaman and Smash to Smithereens to name just a few. If you like artifacts and your local meta is running low on sideboard cards to stop you then affinity might just be a great choice. If you think this is the deck for you LSV recently did a video with it on the Channel Fireball youtube channel and I’m sure he can show you how to pilot this far better than I ever could!

 

Elves: (ATMmachien50 5-0 Competetive Pauper League)

Creatures: (42)
Elvish Vanguard
Elvish Visionary
Lys Alana Huntmaster
Nettle Sentinel
Quirion Ranger
Timberwatch Elf
Wellwisher
Priest of Titania
Fyndhorn Elves
Llanowar Elves
Birchlore Rangers
Elvish Mystic

Instants & Sorceries: (4)
Lead the Stampede

Artifacts:  (1)
Viridian Longbow
Lands: (18)
18 Forest

Sideboard: (15)
Magnify
Natural State
Penumbra Spider
Luminescent Rain
Relic of Progenitus
Scattershot Archer
Viridian Longbow

If you are familiar with modern elves this deck might not be quite as confusing but it is pretty crazy! You want to flood the board with elves most of which will give you extra mana in the early turns. Once you have flooded the board you have three main payoffs: Timberwatch Elf, Wellwisher, and Priest of Titania. Also, you have Elvish Vanguard and Lys Alana Huntmaster to massively increase your incentive to drop your elves. This deck can run out of gas very quickly which is why you have the 4 Lead the Stampede and why some decks even splash blue for Distant Melody.

Much like Affinity Elves is very explosive and powerful but can easily be hated out by sideboard or in some case even main deck cards. Anything that deals one damage for a cheap cost or mass removals like Electrickery, Gut Shot, and Evincar’s Justice.

UB Teachings Control: (My Deck!)

Creatures:  (8)
Mulldrifter
Chittering Rats

Instants & Sorceries:  (26)
Counterspell
Preordain
Accumulated Knowledge
Mystical Teachings
Disfigure
Diabolic Edict
Evincar's Justice
Doom Blade
Echoing Decay
Crypt Incursion
Ghostly Flicker
Capsize

Artifacts: (2)
Pristine Talisman

Enchantments:  (1)
Curse of the Bloody Tome
Lands: (23)
Dismal backwater
Dimir Aqueduct
Radiant Fountain
Barren Moor
Remote Isle
Bojuka Bog
Island
Swamp

This is one of the pauper decks that I own – both in paper and online. I managed to go 5-0 about a month ago with a similar list and also went 3-0 in the biggest ever pauper event at GP London. This combines a powerful Mystical Teachings engine with good early interaction. You can also Ghostly Flicker both Chittering Rats and Mulldrifter to get insane value. You eventually win the game by outracing your opponent with Evincar’s Justice and Pristine Talisman or just by eventually grinding them out with Curse of the Bloody Tome or just beating down with bears.

This deck is really great in my opinion but people can go under it. The delver decks are not a favorable matchup but you can basically keep up with almost anything else. If you are a bad person and like making your opponent miserable then teachings is for you!

Conclusion:

That concludes this pauper article and I hope you all enjoyed. I think pauper is a fantastic format and there is a deck for every single player in here. Bear in mind that this is a tiny snapshot of the possibilities in pauper. Brewing is one of the most fun parts of this format and with all the cards being common building a bad deck does not cost you much. If you want to see one of my brews be sure to check out my mono red blitz primer on Reddit – a deck that can kill as early as turn two. I also wanted to thank zentheglomper for helping me with the Boros Monarch section. Be sure to keep your eyes on Reddit /r/spikes for more articles from me, /u/MTGMarmot, or grab a game of Pauper with me on the UOL Discord. This is MTGMarmot signing out.

Dominaria Spoilers in Modern: Part One

Preview season has started for the newest Magic: the Gathering set, Dominaria. Today, I want to take some time to talk about what from them I believe will break into Modern. So far, the set looks sweet; it has one of the best removal spells we’ve seen in a while in Cast Down, and a very powerful hate piece in Damping Stone. Some lower-tier decks will get more tools, as usual, although not enough to push them into the top tier. This set looks great across the board, especially when coming after Ixalan block, which was very underpowered overall.

Damping Sphere

This is obviously one of the most powerful hate pieces we’ve seen in years. For two colorless mana, it helps against Tron, Storm, Living End, Ad Nauseum, and other decks trying to cast multiple spells in one turn or generate multiple mana off of one land. I expect this to be a sideboard staple in Modern. Because of the colorless cost, it goes in every deck, and it does a lot against multiple different decks in the format. This may even make splashes in Eternal formats; in Legacy, it helps fight against Storm, Ancient Tomb decks, and 12 Post. In Vintage, it will fit easily into Shops, despite the fact that it hurts the controller when in that deck.

This isn’t, however, going to kill off Tron and Storm as some people seem to think. Storm deals with it easily using one of their bounce spells. Sure, Echoing Truth adds two extra mana that is necessary before Storm can go off, and so it will usually gain you a couple turns, but that doesn’t mean the deck is dead at all. Storm is already well equipped to fight through hate, and this just gives more decks a way to hate them out. The deck might add a couple extra bounce spells or Artifact destruction spells, and Ad Nauseum, Living End, and other similar decks will be forced to do the same thing; other than that, I don’t expect this to change Storm and other combo decks that much.

The reason this card is so good, however, is because it can see play against multiple decks. It also hates out Tron and Eldrazi variants, by making their lands produce only a single colorless mana when tapped. Green Tron almost always plays three Natural State in it’s sideboard, but Eldrazi Tron will be weakened. This doesn’t really impact RG Eldrazi too much; they only have one Sol land, so it’s usually similar to a Stone Rain against other decks, in that it sets them back one mana. Overall, this card isn’t the best hate card out there, but it’s a solid role player that will see play in many decks.

Merfolk Trickster

This card seems very good in Merfolk. It can shrink Tarmogoyf, allows you to attack through the creatures in Tron, can kill Flameblade Adept by itself, kills Phantasmal Image, and has many other uses against some top tier decks.

The problem here is what to cut. Merfolk doesn’t have many slots that aren’t either for Lords or already locked; you aren’t going to cut Silvergill Adept for this, for example. I think Mono Blue Merfolk will cut two Spell Pierce and cut down on Harbinger of the Tides, which is a very similar effect without some niche applications like killing the Adept mentioned above, and one that doesn’t have Flash unless you use Aether Vial or pay extra mana. Tropical Fish will most likely make similar cuts. Obviously any lists running Watertrap Weaver will replace them quickly.

This won’t elevate Fish to a tier one strategy. It’s a good card, but it doesn’t solve some of the deck’s worst matchups; Affinity and Lantern will still have almost a bye against Fish, Elves will still be insanely favored (although it doesn’t see much play right now). However, it’s a great card that will definitely see play.

An example deck that I think we might end up seeing:

Creatures (30)
Cursecatcher
Harbinger of the Tides
Lord of Atlantis
Master of the Pearl Trident
Master of Waves
Merrow Reejerey
Phantasmal Image
Silvergill Adept
Merfolk Trickster

Artifacts (4)
Aether Vial

Enchantments (4)
Spreading Seas

Instants (2)
Dismember

Land (20)
13 Island
Cavern of Souls
Mutavault
Gemstone Caverns
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Sideboard (15)
Relic of Progenitus
Ceremonious Rejection
Disdainful Stroke
Echoing Truth
Flashfreeze
Gut Shot
Damping Sphere

Cast Down

Although this will be one of the best Standard removal spells since Lightning Bolt, I doubt it will have much of a home in Modern; BR decks will prefer Terminate, BW decks will want Path to Exile, and BG decks will get Abrupt Decay. This leaves UB Control, which Thomas wrote about last week, and Mono Black decks, as the only decks that may want it, and even there it will be a meta call between this and Go for the Throat.

Some of the most relevant creatures this misses include Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Vendilion Clique, and, of course, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. In the end, this card will most likely be confined to Standard play, but it might be an interesting meta call in certain decks.

One deck I think this could see play in, as I said earlier, is the UB Control deck Thomas talked about last week. It might look something like this:

Creatures (7)
Snapcaster Mage
Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Instants (13)
Thought Scour
Fatal Push
Cast Down
Go for the Throat
Remand
Cryptic Command

Sorceries (11)
Serum Visions
Inquisition of Kozilek
Thoughtseize
Damnation

Planeswalkers (6)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Liliana of the Veil
Liliana, the Last Hope
Lands (23)
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Verdant Catacomb
Darkslick Shores
Creeping Tar Pit
Watery Grave
Island
Swamp
Field of Ruin

Sideboard (15)
Damnation
Collective Brutality
Go for the Throat
Pithing Needle
Dispel
Engineered Explosives
Fulminator Mage
Surgical Extraction

Steel-Leaf Champion

Mono Green Stompy will love this guy. I’ve seen him discussed in Elves too, but I don’t think he will take off there. Elves really doesn’t have room for such a vanilla beater, even one this powerful. The deck is, first and foremost, a combo deck, which doesn’t have room for another combat-based elf that does nothing else; even Dwynen’s Elite, arguably the most combat-focused elf in the deck (not counting Ezuri, Renegade Leader, which tends to be more of an “I win” button), helps the combo by ramping you to three mana on turn two alongside a Heritage Druid and making tokens for Heritage and Elvish Archdruid, whereas this does neither.

One place I could see this is Mono Green Devotion. They’re always happy for another GGG-costed card, and most GGG cards are at least worth looking at there. With the ability to power it out turn one with an Arbor Elf or another dork, this could even lead to Green Devotion gaining a good aggro plan. A turn two 5/4 can be hard to beat for many decks, of course!

The downside is the need to cut a card, however. I don’t see them wanting to cut Wistful Selkie, so maybe Carven Caryatid or another three drop can take a seat for now? Although a possibility, I would expect this card to end up in Stompy and not many other places.

Here’s an example of what Mono Green Stompy will probably look like once Dominaria releases:

Creatures (26)
Strangleroot Geist
Avatar of the Resolute
Steel-Leaf Champion
Leatherback Baloth
Kalonian Tusker
Dryad Militant
Experiment One

Instants (8)
Vines of Vastwood
Aspect of Hydra

Enchantments (4)
Rancor
Lands (22)
Treetop Village
20 Forest

Sideboard (15)
Dismember
Scavenging Ooze
Oxidize
Deglamer
Spellskite
Unravel the Aether
Collected Company
Creeping Corrosion
Grafdigger’s Cage
Choke

Overall, Dominaria is a very exciting set across many formats. Although my early assessments may not be right, I’m looking forward to seeing what these cards do! I’ll be back next week with part two of this article, so stay tuned for that, and if you want to talk more about this, find me on Twitter @filthyc4sual1.

Exploring the Frontier: Four-Color Marvelli

Hello! I am Aaron Torres, more commonly known around the online Frontier scene as Somnus21, and this is the second installation of my column: Exploring the Frontier! These articles will be centered around my newest attempts at building an innovative spin-off of Frontier’s top decks. With so many unexplored interactions in this format, you can expect to see one of these from me every now and then. Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

When I started playing Frontier, I was immediately looking to do broken things in the format. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of post-sideboard preparation everyone had against both of the format’s premier Combo decks in Temur Marvel and 4c Saheeli. What I noticed, however, was that at the time, the hate that most of the metagame packed against either of the combo decks were largely ineffective against the other. That is, there are some that are always good against either, like Duress and Negate, but the more combo-specific cards like Rending Volley, Naturalize, Thalia, Heretic Cathar, and similar hate cards were either good against Saheeli and bad against Marvel, and vice versa. This meant that most decks were only fully prepared for one of the combos, but almost never both, as preparing heavily to win against both dilutes their game plan. That, and a rise in Saheeli’s popularity only meant a recessing trend for Marvel decks, so only one of the decks was really going to be commonplace at any given time. With that in mind, this deck was made to capitalize on the opponents’ narrow hate cards and uninformed sideboarding. Furthermore, having one-third of its maindeck banned in Standard stands as a testament to the raw power level the deck packs.

Marvelli

Creatures (12)
Felidar Guardian
Rogue Refiner
Emrakul, the Promised End
Whirler Virtuoso

Spells (25)
Aetherworks Marvel
Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot
Search for Azcanta
Harnessed Lightning
Abrade
Saheeli Rai
Attune with Aether
Hour of Devastation
Lands (23)
Botanical Sanctum
Aether Hub
Forest
Spirebluff Canal
Island
Plains
Mountain
Inspiring Vantage
Wooded Foothills
Canopy Vista

Sideboard (15)
Sorcerous Spyglass
Bristling Hydra
Glorybringer
Negate
Kozilek’s Return
Abrade
Hour of Devastation

The Core Strategy

   

At face value, anyone can tell that Marvelli is not looking to play a fair game of Magic. With two of Standard past’s banned combos, the deck plans to create a fast win by setting up either the Saheeli Rai + Felidar Guardian combo, or create enough energy for a Turn 4 Aetherworks Marvel spin into Emrakul, the Promised End, which while not exactly creating an instant win, puts your opponent in a near-unwinnable situation. That being said, there is disruption that exists to stop the fast combo plan, and aggro decks like Atarka Red can kill you just as fast if you stumble, which brings me to the question, “What’s the plan when that happens?”

   

Without a shadow of the doubt, the combos are the deck’s core win conditions, but these are the two cards that truly give the deck a fighting chance against a large number of matchups. Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot creates large amounts of energy, which works great with our Marvel plan, but the six-life buffer it gives us more often than not makes a huge difference in our ability to stay alive long enough to set up. Rogue Refiner is banned in Standard and its power level is insane in this deck, providing a great value play that allows you to dig deeper into the deck to find your important cards, and also works toward the energy you need to power Marvel.

   

Another element the deck has is inevitability. Between the card advantage a flipped Search for Azcanta can bring, and three Mindslaver effects attached to a near-unkillable body in Emrakul, the Promised End, the opponent cannot just rejoice once your early combo doesn’t go off; immediately, the clock starts ticking, and your opponent is in a race to kill you before your unbeatable cards in the later stages of the game kick in, and eventually grab the win from under the rug.

   

Of course, we can’t just rely on our combos and stall cards to eventually put us into a winning position; there are threats that can take over games in the matter of a few turns, and removal is almost always necessary to prevent yourself from being overrun. Harnessed Lightning is practically a damage-based Terminate in this deck with all the spare energy it has, while also doubling as a Ritual for energy in a pinch. Abrade is simply just a solid removal spell, especially against pesky vehicles above x/3 such as Aethersphere Harvester and Heart of Kiran, and is especially important in sideboard matches, for reasons I will go over later.

   

These one-ofs in the deck are rather situational in nature, and are thus mostly useful in specific situations. Whirler Virtuoso, for one, is just a 2/3 that builds toward our Marvel plan, but when that option isn’t present to us, Virtuoso provides us another potential energy sink, creating 1/1 fliers that can be used to pressure planeswalkers, chump block, or simply swing in. Hour of Devastation is just a wipe that Marvel can spin into, that deals with planeswalkers and indestructible creatures, both being things that Marvelli traditionally has difficulty dealing with.

Tips and Tricks

Four-Color Marvelli, as I may have stated a number of times in previous articles, is a very tricky deck to customize and pilot. There are many directions the deck can take, each having tradeoffs; this build, for instance, is built to play in a grindier metagame, where more planeswalkers and Torrential Gearhulks than usual are expected. The archetype is very adaptable, and knowing what the correct 75 is for the field your going into is very important, and its versatility is one of the deck’s key strengths.

As for gameplay, you may begin to notice after a few runs with it that it often presents the player with many decisions, all of which can be punishing if you choose the wrong move. There are also some lines that are either not easily seen or deceptively undesirable, and can easily cost you games for not knowing about them, and here are just a few:

1.) Saheeli Rai can use it’s -2 effect on Aetherworks Marvel, sacrificing the original one to create two energy and give you another spin. Be wary of artifact removal when doing this, however, as playing into it will leave you very much blown out.

2.) There are many times when using Saheeli Rai‘s -2 for value will be a desirable line, but targeting creatures may leave you open to being blown out by common removal. In situations where this could be a problem, using the minus on Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot may be correct, especially if you have the mana to sacrifice it, essentially gaining six life and energy off of a three-mana planeswalker’s ability, which is an amazing rate.

3.) Saheeli Rai‘s ultimate is not often useful in its stock lists, but in this deck it can grab Aetherworks Marvel and Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot, essentially setting you up for a spin.

4.) As with Saheeli decks of old, do not forget that Felidar Guardian can blink a land to virtually reduce its cost by one whenever necessary.

5.) During Game 1, when up against Saheeli combo hate such as Walking Ballista, using the -2 on a Rogue Refiner looks unappealing because they trade their Ballista for your combo piece, but it actually gets you ahead on cards and also works toward the Marvel plan, so don’t be hesitant to take that line when it does come up. There are situations when this is incorrect, and it will ultimately be up to your discernment of the game state to make that decision.

Sideboard

   

The deck’s sideboard strategy is yet another non-intuitive element of the deck. It’s easy to tell which of the cards in the sideboard are for which matchups, but the difficulty comes from what comes out. There are three main directions post-boarded games go, and they are as follows:

Full Marvel Plan

This is often the plan you are going to take to against the format’s control and disruptive midrange decks. These decks often carry a high amount of hand disruption, counterspells, removal, and the like, so keeping the more resilient combo in makes sense. You also bring in midrange elements yourself in the form of Bristling Hydras and Glorybringers, and the second Hour of Devastation comes in against midrange. Abrades may seem like an odd card to be running a lot of in grind matchups, but getting rid of Sorcerous Spyglass is very important. It’s also not as situational as meets the eye as it does deal with Torrential Gearhulks.

vs. Ux Control: -4 Saheeli Rai, -4 Felidar Guardian, -1 Harnessed Lightning, +2 Negate, +3 Bristling Hydra, +2 Glorybringer, +2 Abrade

vs. Midrange: -4 Saheeli Rai, -4 Felidar Guardian, +3 Bristling Hydra, +2 Glorybringer, +1 Abrade, +2 Negate

This is also more often than not the correct choice against go-wide aggressive decks, as the plan of sticking Turn 3 Saheeli into Turn 4 Felidar Guardian is very much an unlikely sequence in the face of a meaningful board presence, as well as the burn spells they have to stop the combo outright.

vs. Go-Wide Aggro/Burn: -4 Saheeli Rai, -4 Felidar Guardian, +3 Kozilek’s Return, +1 Hour of Devastation, +2 Negate, +2 Abrade

Full Saheeli Plan

This is the plan you usually take against decks that tend to tap out, like midrange decks that have a fair amount of planeswalkers. This is also an effective plan for decks you expect to side in artifact removal, and decks that have a scarcity of efficient targeted removal. You also side in midrange elements in this sideboard plan, and you have a better fair mid-game than the Full Marvel plan because of either half of the combo producing value with many of the cards in the deck. There are not many cases the Saheeli Combo does not come out post-board, but in certain situations, it can be a leg up over Aetherworks Marvel.

vs. Tap-out heavy decks: -4 Aetherworks Marvel, -4 Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot, -2 Emrakul, the Promised End, +3 Bristling Hydra, +2 Glorybringer, +2 Negate, +2 Abrade, +1 Hour of Devastation

Hybrid Plan

There are also times when you get the read that the opponent doesn’t really have many answers to either plan, nor do you need more than a few of your sideboard cards in the matchup. In these cases, siding out neither combo can be beneficial. Should you do this, however, assure that the deck’s fundamental game plans are not being altered to the point of inconsistency. Often the cuts in these game plans are the 2nd Search and some amount of our removal spells and one-ofs. Siding out either combo helps us prepare for the opponent without having a diluted game plan, but if you can adequately prepare for Game 2 with both combos in the deck without making the plan inconsistent, then it’s something you should look to do.

It is important to note, however, that none of these sideboard “guides” are in any way absolutes. For instance, in my first best-of-five series with the deck, I was able to make use of all three game plans in different games. Siding out both combos is also a possible plan to explore, but it is one that will have to be built around. Often, the key to playing this deck to its potential is to know exactly what you want from your sideboard, and what you assume your opponent will have for you.

Conclusion

Overall, I’ve run the deck through multiple leagues and have tinkered with many iterations, and the best thing about the deck is just how fun it can be, from exploring all the possibilities in the archetype’s variations, to simply just playing a deck that tests technical ability and decision-making skills with each game. This is no cakewalk, but rest assured, putting time into this deck can get you to a pretty high win-rate.

If you made it all the way here, then thank you for reading this article! Make sure to check back every Wednesday, as we will always have high-quality Frontier content for you right here, on MatchupGuru.