Magic-League is a group of people that play Magic online using third-party software, and they've been at it for well over a decade. What always brings me back to their decklists is the fact that they play with the new cards immediately when the full spoiler is released, so while everyone else is just theorizing, they are putting cards into play. With no restrictions on card access and full control of the creative reigns, these tournaments consistently Winnow the chaff and reveal top-tier strategies. I remember fondly seeing Mono-Black and Mono-Blue Devotion for the first time on Magic-League, and then writing about them before they broke out at Pro Tour Theros. There are countless other examples of players figuring out decks before the general populace, including the broken and beloved Elfball combo deck. These decks aren't necessarily finely tuned, but the ideas are worth their weight in gold
Magic-League already has over a week of Kaladesh tournaments under its belt, including a more serious one for prizes last weekend called a Master, and I was excited to get into the decklists. The tournament wasn't large, only 20 people, so I'm not paying much stock to the rankings so much as the records, and the top few performers had great records piloting fantastic concepts.
Aetherworks Marvel is the most exciting card in Kaladesh for Standard because it holds the most promise for doing something busted quickly, in theory enabling turn four Emrakul, the Promised End or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. This deck attempts to do just that, and attempts to have six energy available immediately upon playing Aetherworks Marvel by playing all of the best energy enablers in blue and green.
Things start at the bottom of the curve, with Thriving Turtle producing two energy and working as a blocker, where it stops Inventor's Apprentice or Sylvan Advocate, and after an attack it's a 1 / 4 that matches up well against Toolcraft Exemplar. It's important that the deck is always working towards six energy, so Attune with Aether works as another one-mana play that produces energy. As a replacement for land it's largely free besides the mana spent, with the upside of being able to find an Island.
Servant of the Conduit speeds things up, and as one of the best new cards and a defining card of Standard, it's a big draw to playing a green Aetherworks Marvel deck. Aether Theorist is a solid blocker, and it's surprisingly effective as source of card selection that helps this deck dig for Aetherworks Marvel or whatever else it requires. Sage of Shaila's Claim is a powerful and efficient energy source with a body attached. Architect of the Untamed is a slower source of energy, but it's great over the course of a longer game, and it comes with the upside of being an alternate energy dump and win condition to supplement Aetherworks Marvel, which this deck will only have on turn four in about half of its games.
Multiform Wonder is another path to victory; it threatens to quickly end the game by flying over blockers and pumping itself, and with lifelink and vigilance it will dominate aggressive decks. Confiscation Coup functions as a great energy source and a great outlet that, with help, can even steal larger creatures like Verdurous Gearhulk, and it will help this deck win the fair way more often.
To add another angle of attack, the deck takes advantage of these cheap creature energy enablers by adding a Westvale Abbey backup plan that can easily convert them into a game-winning threat. It's great innovation and a reminder that this powerful card is still around. Nissa, Vital Force is yet another backup win condition, but its primary use will be as a source of card advantage.
This deck is able to consistently activate Aetherworks Marvel, and when it doesn't hit an Eldrazi, it will hit another source of energy and enable another activation on the following turn, and so on. It's not imperative that the deck plays the full amount of Eldrazi, and I like this approach of playing a balanced game plan.
My issue is the consistency, specifically that it won't have Aetherworks Marvel every time, so the backup plans need to be proven sufficient against the metagame. It will further struggle against opponents with disruption like discard and Counterspells, so it will need to adapt countermeasures. One way avoid this is with alternate plans, which this deck does do well with Westvale Abbey, Planeswalker like Nissa, Vital Force, and alternate energy outlets like Multiform Wonder. It could further use the sideboard to transform, so I like the extra Confiscation Coup and the Planeswalker in Jace, Unraveler of Secrets. I wouldn't be opposed to sideboarding more Multiform Wonder or even Bristling Hydra and/or Longtusk Cub to really get aggressive.
Against aggressive decks, Aether Meltdown is ideal as a removal spell that generates value, but it's poor against vehicles. Woodweaver's Puzzleknot as a source of energy and lifegain is fantastic against U/R Thermo-Burn that should prove useful against W/R Aggro.
The deck has a lot going for it, and is a competitive concept that needs to be further explored. I wonder if Glimmer of Genius could be used a source of card advantage that adds energy. It's a bit slow but the energy production could push it over the top. The deck doesn't have much of any removal, being blue and green, so it could be a candidate for Deadlock Trap to buy time.
This deck attempts to make up for any consistency issues of blue/green with Madcap Experiment, which can only find Aetherworks Marvel, essentially giving the deck eight copies and giving the deck access to it on turn four the majority of the time. It's volatile, and will lose some games, but in theory maybe these are games would be lost anyways. As an essentially zero-mana tutor it's comparable to something like Summoner's Pact, and it's easy to see how it could be effective. Having extra copies of Aetherworks Marvel or Madcap Experiment in hand isn't even too bad because Tormenting Voice can cycle them.
One draw to blue/red is Whirler Virtuoso, which is an energy source and excellent backup energy outlet. It specifically supports the creature rush secondary plan of energy decks, so it's another win for this deck in terms of consistency.
Minister of Inquiries isn't much more than an energy source and a chump blocker in this deck, so I'd like to replace it for Harnessed Lightning and open up room the sideboard. It's critical as removal, and in a pinch can be cast on any creature to generate three energy. This deck could make great use of Confiscation Coup, so I'd like to add some to the 75, certainly in the sideboard and maybe maindeck. Chandra, Flamecaller gives this deck a fantastic alternate win condition that also controls the battlefield against aggressive decks or works as a card draw engine, so it's another benefit to playing red.
I knew the Crush of Tentacles deck would have to reinvent itself after rotation. Losing Explosive Vegetation and Nissa's Pilgrimage means it has to ramp another way, and the loss of Den Protector means it needs a new way to Recycle Crush of Tentacles. This deck adopts a graveyard theme to Refocus the deck around Splendid Reclamation as acceleration and Wildest Dreams as its Regrowth.
Splendid Reclamation allows the deck to ramp huge if it spends the early turns filling the graveyard, and Contingency Plans and Pieces of the Puzzle accomplish that while digging for the deck's payoff cards. They also enable Corrupted Grafstone, which doesn't have great synergy with Crush of Tentacles bouncing it, but it is a cheap spell to enable surge. It's great acceleration that fixes mana and pushes towards Part the Waterveil or Crush of Tentacles as soon as possible.
Nissa's Renewal provides another way to accelerate mana, and the lifegain is better now than ever. This deck needs all the mana it can get, because to replace Den Protector it has adopted Wildest Dreams, giving it massive ability to recur cards and keep going. Once this deck gets going it will be very hard for the opponent to stop. Seasons Past provides more graveyard access, and Rise from the Tides is ultimately the sole dedicated win condition in the deck, with Awakened lands from Part the Waterveil plus Lumbering Falls being the primary kill.
Jaddi Offshoot looks great in this aggressive metagame, and it can generate massive amount of life early in the game when combined with Splending Reclamation. Like the Aetherworks Marvel deck, this deck is vulnerable to disruption, but because it doesn't have the tools to support an alternative plan, it fights back with countermeasures like Invasive Surgery to stop discard and Negate against Counterspells.
It was expected that with the loss of painlands, Eldrazi decks would become one color, given that the colorless lands needed for Eldrazi are effectively a color in themselves. I didn't expect the Eldrazi to pair with black, but this decklist, played by the ultimate winner to an overall record of 6-1-1, makes it look obvious:
The new Standard format is going to be faster than before, with new fastlands and aggressive creatures to go with them including Toolcraft Exemplar, Inventor's Apprentice, and the ubiquitous Smuggler's Copter. This necessitates having access to plenty of ways to stop these creatures, specifically creature removal, and black has the best of it, with the instant-speed Grasp of Darkness efficiently trading with any opposing one or two-mana play, and many greater, like Verdurous Gearhulk.
Planeswalkers are also of critical important in the new format, with Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Nissa, Vital Force, and even Dovin Baan joining the metagame, and an expected surge in Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Arlinn Kord. Black is the color that destroys Planeswalkers, and Ruinous Path is the best option. Transgress the Mind provides further answers to Planeswalkers as well as the other part of the metagame that plays powerhouse cards like Elder-Deep Fiend, Ishkanah, Grafwidow, and Emrakul, the Promised End. Harsh Scrutiny may be a good replacement for Transgress the Mind if the metagame becomes creature heavy, and because it looks like that's where we are headed, I don't mind making this swap, especially because the deck has other discard to deal with the largest threats.
Rather than getting aggressive with Reality Smasher, this deck takes a more controlling approach that attempts to grind down its opponents. Its creature curve starts with Matter Reshaper as a way to generate value, but this deck doubles down on that plan by adding Filigree Familiar as another source of value that's especially great against an aggressive metagame. These support a top-end plan of Distended Mindbender, which gives the deck an additional way to disrupt the opponent while leaving them under pressure. Thought-Knot Seer, or Thoughtseize Seer as I like to call it, is a black card in disguise, and it gives this strategy another valuable piece of hand disruption.
The support creatures also enable Morbid Curiosity, which is certainly slow, but does seem quite powerful. It resembles Sphinx's Revelation in its ability to end the game when sacrificing something huge like Distended Mindbender or Noxious Gearhulk, which is an honorary Eldrazi and a perfect fit into the deck's attrition strategy.
The deck is rounded out by Planeswalkers that contain the opponent's creatures: Lilliana, the Last Hope and Ob Nixilis Reignited. These really help round out this deck's removal package, ensuring the deck doesn't need to waste removal on small X/1 creatures while providing extra protection against the largest threats. They will also generate value against other midrange decks and make the deck very difficult to grind out through traditional means.
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is going to be a powerhouse in the new metagame, which will see an increase in speed and aggression, making lifelink and the ability to churn out extra blockers a real asset. It's also relatively more robust with Dromoka's Command gone, and it matching up very well against Harnessed Lightning and Incendiary Flow. It's generally well-positioned against a format shifting to beat the three-toughness Smuggler's Copter, which pushes out sorcery speed removal like Declaration in Stone that would destroy it.
Demon of Dark Schemes is a bit slow, and it's reanimation ability isn't easy to use in this deck, but the value is in the huge flying body attached with the Infest effect, which is going to be great in a new format filled with decks like W/R Aggro and W/G Tokens. It's essentially an alternative to Noxious Gearhulk that goes wide instead of tall.
Aether Hub makes this deck possible, serving as a black source early but doubling as a colorless source for Eldrazi later on. Sea Gate Wreckage provides extra value in long games, cementing this deck's role as a grinding midrange deck. Blighted Fen is extra value and disruption that could help against the largest and most troublesome creatures, particularly Elder Deep-Fiend and Emrakul, the Promised End.
From the sideboard, Gonti, Lord of Luxury is a surprisingly good source of card advantage that will be great in any grindy matches, especially against opponent's where the deathtouch body will be strong, like the mirror match, and it also be sacrificed to Morbid Curiosity. Essence Extraction is one of the finest new tools for black decks that will buy a lot of time against the most aggressive decks in the format with its lifegain, and it answers all of their best threats, including Smuggler's Copter.
Overall this deck looks like the total package, with a solid proactive plan backed by loads of disruption. There's plenty of room to tune, and the deck can be shifted to beat whatever the metagame presents. For example, Bearer of Silence, Spatial Contortion, and perhaps Wasteland Strangler are all viable cards this deck could explore depending where the metagame heads.
Here's how I'd build this deck for this weekend:
Kaladesh changes the landscape of Standard. Collected Company, and by extension Reflector Mage and Spell Queller, along with Dromoka's Command, were more restrictive than most realize, and now the Floodgates are open to new ideas. The powerful new set makes things even more exciting, making it new world we have to approach from all directions, exploring the best new tools and re-examining the ones we're already familiar with. What do you think of these decks? What ideas are you exploring? Share your ideas in the comments, and I'll answer any questions!