Cause brewers be brewin' like every day.
Did we all watch the Pro Tour? Nothing to reenergize the Magical part of your brain like watching some of the best going up against each other in a relatively new format. I will admit that the amount of brand new tech that I would have liked did not really show up, but some older favorites, a few with a twist even, did make the Pro Tour an enjoyable event in my opinion.
In the wake of the Pro Tour, plenty of people are going to be exploring just how all of the new pieces fall into place. We are never going to hear from some decks again while others might unexpectedly jump to the top of the metagame. In general, I want the metagame to stabilize a little bit before committing to brew for it myself. Right now, anything you come up with could be made obsolete by a rotating cast of decks. Instead, I figured I would revisit the format in a few weeks when Magic Online has had time to catch up. In the meantime, there is always Standard to be brewing for!
Last week I ended up going pretty deep with Humble Defector. Between Chord of Calling, Jeskai Ascendancy, and Polymorphous Rush, we touched on a lot of different ways to use and abuse the Defector, but it turns out there are even more! Viewers of the Pro Tour may have seen Humble Defector doing some fancy things in Modern Splinter Twin, for example. Pestermite and Deceiver Exarch give you free activations while a card like Kiki Jiki gives you two free cards a turn when combined with Defector. While there isn't really anything that abusive in Standard, the idea of a little Grixis shell set up to capitalize on the draw engine seemed appealing to me.
I decided to look at the simplest form of a Humble Defector synergy- killing the Defector after it activates.
Now, aiming a Lightning Strike or Bile Blight at the card is not very efficient. In essence, all you do in this scenario is turn your Defector into a two mana slow-trip as you are trading two cards (and four mana) for two cards. Ideally, rather than aiming a low EV removal spell at the Defector, we want to get rid of the Defector while gaining additional value.
I ended up on a search for all of the sacrifice effects in the format. Cards like Collateral Damage came up and is probably fine, but four one-shot ways to synergize with Defector does not a deck make. Luckily, an old friend of mine seemed up to the challenge of murdering a Humble Defector before it would get the chance to betray me: Tymaret, the Murder King.
Tymaret is a card that looks rather nonthreatening. Here is a Bear in Rakdos colors. It has a few other lines of text, but remember that Tymaret cannot sacrifice itself to shock the opponent, a fact that has probably kept it from seeing any play. If we had a reason to be sacrificing our other creatures though, all of a sudden Tymaret gets a little more appealing. The interaction with Humble Defector is a nice start, but I do feel we want something a little extra beyond that.
Among the discarded commons and uncommons from Fate Reforged was my answer though. I wanted access to a creature that could be reliable fodder for Tymaret, which includes both being Shock and being Raise Dead for our legendary zombie. Marang River Prowler does just that.
Basically, having a combination of Marang River Prowler and Tymaret the Murder King sets up a cascade of inevitability that fights through most removal, countermagic, and even blockers. Essentially, all you need to do is to get one of these cards into play. From there, the other half can either be in your hand or your graveyard (it will eventually end up in the yard but can begin anywhere). Tymaret naturally sacrifices the Prowler for two damage to the opponent. I can then recast the Prowler from my yard thanks to Tymaret being black and repeat this process. Every five mana nets you two direct damage, but more than likely will also get in two damage from the unblocked Prowler before being sacrificed, turning this into four or more unblockable damage per turn.
Should your Tymaret ever become murdered himself, you can then use his second ability to return him and start the cycle. Hopefully you are sacrificing Marang River Prowler to keep the loop entirely contained within these two cards, but resetting the loop using anything is acceptable.
For example, what happens when we add Bloodsoaked Champion to this list? Now we have an additional resilient black creature to rebuy our River Prowler as well as a great sacrifice outlet for our Murder King. Now our two damage slingshot only costs four total mana to loop, although we would have had to make it through an attack first, of course.Bringing It Together
Thus far, we have a lot of great synergies all starting to line up, but we need some glue to keep everything together. Tymaret has nice interactions with Marang River Prowler and Bloodsoaked Champion, but those 12 cards are hardly a deck. While we were clearly going to have some sacrifice effects to get desired cards into our graveyard, I wanted a few other ways as well.
Remember that Champion, River Prowler, and the Murder King himself all get plenty of value from the graveyard without ever having been cast. This means we should probably be looking to use Commune with the Gods and such to cheat them straight to the bin where we can accrue card advantage. The issue here is that I really do not want to add a fourth color to this brew, so what do we have to work with within Grixis?
Tormenting Voice is the first card to jump out as it has been a pretty solid card in other lists that were only looking to delve. In this list, the card we discard is often as good in the yard as it is in hand, making Tormenting Voice into a draw two most of the time. That said, the single card discard off of Tormenting Voice is nowhere near as strong as something like Commune with the Gods when it comes to filling up the yard.
Aside from turning to Grave Strength (a fine card, but likely lacking the creature count necessary to be strong here), black does not really mill the top of its deck with anything. Instead, I decided to turn to another discard outlet that could also chain our combo together: Disciple of Deceit.
Disciple is a strong card that has never really found the home I was hoping it could. It is a pretty solid body for a two-drop and in this list it brings a lot of elements that we can appreciate. Being black is beneficial for our River Prowler. Discarding our various graveyard elements allows us to get value from this as a source of card advantage. And because all of our important cards fit into a tight pocket of mana, we can actually string together meaningful chains of discarded cards or we can use the mana cost checker to simply grab powerful one-ofs when they are needed.
Clearly there are some experimental cards in this list that might not make it all the way through to Game Day, but I love a lot of what is going on here. Our inevitability against control and removal heavy strategies is really strong and we can play out like a more aggressive deck when we need to race.
To attack the more fair midrange decks and to a lesser extent, the hyper aggressive decks, we mostly turn to our sideboard.
Most of the sideboard here is designed to work off of the Disciple of Deceit engine that is found in the maindeck. Single copies of Scouring Sands and Drown in Sorrow sort of exemplify this but as we will discuss shortly, mana cost considerations were made throughout the entire board.
Merciless Executioner is supposed to be our Edict of choice. It is able to fight off UW Heroic just as Crackling Doom can and our deck is pretty good at sidestepping any sort of disadvantage it might naturally have
There are a few cards I wanted to call out specifically though. Some of these made the deck while others did not, but they have some interesting use-cases in this deck.
Dictate of Erebos
This is one of those cards that I feel is extremely powerful but keeps flying under the radar. In theory, with Flash this can completely take over a game when just one or two of your creatures trade in combat. Against any midrange deck, like Abzan, you are going to take over a game that way. Within the engines in this deck though, we can easily turn Dictate into The Abyss that can devour two to three guys per turn pretty easily.
Admittedly, that is a little too slow against the likes of an aggressive token deck or something, but against midrange, or after you have dealt with an aggressive first wave, Dictate can lock the game out in your favor pretty easily.
And while we have no fives in our maindeck to keep things slim and trim, we do have Murderous Cut to accompany Dictate in the sideboard to give us a few ways to tutor up the backbreaking enchantment. Liliana and Burn Away round out that small package as a cute little sideboard adaptation.
This is a card I did not include but was very close to adding a single copy. In theory this can be tutored up as a one-of and then used in combination with Tymaret to create a tome. You pay two mana to discard Tymaret which makes a 2/2 zombie and draws you a card. You then spend two mana and sacrifice the zombie to return Tymaret to your hand. The end result of this is that you have spent four mana and have drawn a card.
If you instead are sacrificing something like Bloodsoaked Champion and replaying it over and over, you can actually use Stockpile to amass an army of 2/2s. Only Tymaret is a zombie in this list though, so I think we probably need one or two more before this becomes a real consideration.
In a very similar role to Stockpile, there is Hero's Blade. Blade is again a two-mana card that can easily be tutored up. Once cast, it allows for your undying Tymarets to just be 5/4s instead of 2/2s, which is a considerable upgrade. That even gets around the likes of Anger of the Gods.
Additionally, if you were ever flooded or had the time, you could simply spend four mana and equip this. A 5/3 unblockable is kind of nifty, for example.
Ultimately, I think that we need a few more legends in here for this to actually be worth the effort. Perhaps if we boost up to about three copies of Alesha this would be a little more attractive?
To add to this list, here are a few more options and one-ofs that did not make the above list, but easily could be correct for future or alternative builds:
Monastery SiegeDark DealPain SeerCrater's ClawsGrave StrengthNighthowlerPhyrexian RevokerQarsi High Priest
If nothing else, I am having a blast exploring Standard from a deck building angle. There are a ton of cards and synergies that are simply not being looked at and many of these are quite powerful. Casting Siege Rhino might be easy mode, but it is not the only mode and I think Standard could use a little boost in innovation. So get out there, brew, and report back! We could always use a little inspiration! Thanks for reading!