Lately, I've taken a liking to one of Standard's most historically hated archetypes, Turbo Fog. Normally, I've been on the side of hating even the thought of decks like Turbo Fog, but I was surprised to realize that I actually thoroughly enjoyed the deck when I began to play with it. In fact, I enjoyed Turbo Fog so much that I put a lot of time into trying to improve the list, even though I wasn't planning on playing the deck in any upcoming tournaments. To me it was a labor of love. And to all of my opponents, it was a laborious grind. A labor of hate, some might say.
Unfortunately, documenting my discoveries with Turbo Fog would be a bit pointless right now as Standard rotation is about to happen, so instead I've decided to look forward and think about how a deck like Turbo Fog could possibly survive rotation and be a deck in the next Standard format as well.
To start with, I'd like to provide some background on the deck. Turbo Fog was a breakout deck at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, where a small amount of players piloted the deck to an astronomical win rate in the Standard portion. After that point, the deck received a lot of hate, as players adapted with cards like Insult // Injury to punish Turbo Fog players. Despite that, Eric Froehlich ended up making the Top 8 of Grand Prix Los Angeles with the deck last month, which is the last time Turbo Fog has put up significant results.
This is my most recent list. The core of this deck is built around three cards, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Nexus of Fate, and Gift of Paradise. Those are the three powerhouses of the cell that provide the main engine upon which everything else functions.
The basic Game Plan of the deck is simple. Resolve a Teferi, use Teferi's plus ability to draw a card and then at the end of turn untap two lands, which you can use to cast a Fog effect like Haze of Pollen or Root Snare to protect Teferi. Being able to tap out for Teferi and then easily protect it is a pretty fogged up interaction.
Once you've untapped with a Teferi in play, the fun begins...for you. I want to make it clear that you will be the only one having fun. If that's cool with you, proceed. If not, then unfortunately, we might have some problems. Conveniently, Teferi costs five mana and Nexus of Fate costs seven mana and is an instant, which means that if you had the mana to cast Teferi, you will have the mana to cast Nexus of Fate and take an extra turn afterward. Convenient, indeed. This works by factoring in Teferi's ability to untap two lands and effectively generate two extra mana in your end step. You can float two mana in your end step, and then untap those two lands and cast Nexus of Fate off the two floating mana, plus the rest of the mana your lands can produce. Teferi and Nexus of Fate is a real 5/7, perfect score.
So if step one of the deck is to get Teferi in play and protect it long enough to untap with it, then step two is to abuse Teferi while it's in play as much as possible, and this involves using your cards to dig as deep through your deck as you can to find and cast Nexus of Fate and take as many extra turns as you can. Any time you can cast a Nexus of Fate with a Teferi in play, you should use that opportunity, as it will provide you with another turn to use Teferi to draw more cards and inch closer to his ultimate.
That's where Gift of Paradise factors in. Gift of Paradise providing two mana is busted with Teferi being unable to untap lands. For example, if you have Gift of Paradise on a land, all it takes is an untapped land with Gift on it and two other untapped lands to be able to cast Nexus of Fate in the end step. You tap the Gifted land and one other land to generate three mana, untap those two lands, generate three more mana and then tap the last land to get to seven mana to take an extra turn with Nexus of Fate.
If you have two Gift of Paradises in play on different lands, then just the two lands with Gift of Paradise by themselves will generate eight mana on your end step with Teferi. It escalates quickly and as you use draw spells to dig through your deck, the contents of your library quickly become more and more dense with Nexus of Fate. Since Nexus of Fate shuffles back in regardless of how it ends up in your graveyard, the more you dig through your deck, the closer and closer your deck becomes to just being four copies of Nexus of Fate.
It's not unrealistic to have sequences where the turn after you cast Teferi, you play a Nexus of Fate, and then the next turn you play a Chart of Course and a Nexus of Fate, and then you play a Divination and a Nexus of Fate, and you churn through your library while drawing four cards a turn until you can effectively take every single turn the rest of the game. Once you reach total control like that, you can ultimate Teferi and exile all of your opponent's permanents and then wait for them to mill out while you loop Teferi to his own -3 ability so you don't mill out yourself, or you can discard Nexus of Fates to hand size to prevent from milling out as well. You can also use alternate win conditions like Karn, Scion of Urza to make constructs and attack for the win while taking every turn.
Generally speaking, it's not particularly valuable to cast a Nexus of Fate if you don't generate any advantage out of the extra turn, because you typically have to spend your entire turn casting the card and thus don't get to do other things on that turn. You want to be able to use that extra turn either to activate abilities of planeswalkers or draw extra cards or sometimes even use Search for Azcanta. With that said, Nexus of Fate is an instant, which means that a powerful play is to cast a Nexus of Fate on your opponent's turn, and if it resolves you will then take the next two turns in a row, with access to all of your mana on both turns, and oftentimes you can use those two turns to do a lot of powerful things.
This must be a flashback episode of Marvel's hit Netflix show, Daredevil, because things are about to get real Foggy in here.
If we take the list I posted above, there are actually surprisingly not that many cards that rotate out. From the main deck, we lose:
2 Glimmer of Genius
4 Haze of Pollen
1 Spring // Mind
1 Supreme Will
4 Irrigated Farmland
4 Scattered Groves
And from the sideboard, we lose:
3 Baral, Chief of Compliance
1 Forsake the Worldly
2 Dissenter's Deliverance
2 Jace's Defeat
2 Walking Ballista
While this may seem, on the surface, like a lot of cards, when you compare this to what other decks in the format are losing it's actually a pretty small amount. Let's face it, Kaladesh block and Amonkhet block are the dominant forces in today's standard environment, and this is one of the few decks that doesn't rely nearly as heavily on those sets as the rest of the format does.
The biggest losses, by far, are the cycle lands – which help you not flood out and find action spells – and Haze of Pollen, which provides a critical mass of Fog spells to protect Teferi from attacks if you jam the Teferi on turn five. Haze of Pollen also cycles effectively in matchups where it is a weak card, such as against other control strategies, making it a very well-rounded card and a big hit to the deck.
The other cards are all easily replaceable, or in the case of Walking Ballista, no longer have a primary reason to exist in the deck, as Glint-Sleeve Siphoner will also be going extinct with rotation. There is nothing we can really do about the cycle lands, except to add in other dual lands like the shock lands and hope that our reduction in consistency will be something that can be Overcome.
In the case of Haze of Pollen, the best option to replace that card is with Settle the Wreckage. Settle the Wreckage is a lot worse in that it doesn't immediately protect a Teferi cast off five mana. You will need to wait until you have either seven mana or six with a Gift of Paradise to be able to jam Teferi and protect him with Settle the Wreckage, but ultimately it provides nearly the same role in completely ruining your opponent's attack.
When it comes to the draw spells, fortunately there are a few solid replacement options. The one that I'm personally keen on is Think One And a Half Times, also known by its real name: Radical Idea. This Guilds of Ravnica Think Twice approximation allows us to have additional turn two plays, but can also filter through our deck, especially if we start to flood out later in the game to keep the spice flowing.
I also believe that now that our deck is more reliant on actual sweepers like Settle the Wreckage, a card like Cleansing Nova becomes way better than Fogs. Our opponents are going to be overextending into the board to play around Settle the Wreckage, and we can Settle the Score by wreckaging their board with a nice clean five-mana Wrath of God with no frills.
Also, keep in mind that cards like Heart of Kiran, Hazoret, The Scarab God, Scrapheap Scrounger, and other cards that completely punish actual Wrath of God effects are no longer going to be in Standard, and we are instead going to be playing against cards like Vine Mare and Carnage Tyrant that are going to easily get swept off their feet by the charm and grace of Cleansing Nova.
One thing I loved about Turbo Fog was the sideboard plan with Baral – it allowed for some degenerate turns, like casting two Chart a Courses on turn three and still holding up countermagic like Negate or being able to cast a six-mana Nexus of Fate on your opponent's end step to set up two turns in a row of sweet Barally goodness.
If you were about to say something like "well, it's unfortunate that he's rotating, since we can't get that effect anywhere else," I'm here to tell you that there is still hope. It just requires us to get a bit greedy, which I'm perfectly okay with.
Goblin Electromancer is back, baby. Goblin Electromancer provides almost the exact same effect as Baral but is not legendary and even attacks for more damage in the matchups where you would want the effect, such as against other control strategies. It just requires us to add some red mana to the deck, which, I'll admit, is a bit greedy, but I'm willing to pull the trigger on it.
In fact, I'm all in on the cheap spells done dirty strategy after board to the point where I'm interested in sniping them out, if you know what I mean. And I think you know what I mean.
When it's all said and done, I'm looking at a list that looks something like the following:
This is a rough draft, for sure. The mana base looks a bit awkward. I don't like how many shock lands the deck is playing and how much damage you might have to do to yourself to cast your spells on curve, negating some of the natural advantage of life gain that Gift of Paradise provides. I'm not sure that the Goblin Electromancer sideboard plan is worth it, especially with only seven natural red sources in the main deck, but I know how powerful the Baral sideboard plan was in the past so I'm interested in trying to replicate that glory.
One thing that is missing is a lot of basic lands. Basic lands provide two nice purposes. One is that they allow you to search up lands after getting hit by an Assassin's Trophy, which is something that you don't want to leave on the table, especially since that card will probably see a lot of play. More importantly, though, they should always be the primary target for a Gift of Paradise against any deck that could conceivably be playing Field of Ruin, because the worst thing that can happen is to cast a Gift of Paradise onto a land and then have it get stripped by a Field of Ruin afterward.
If you're not interested in the greed, then there is a more barebones straight Bant version of the deck.
Carnage Tyrant and Vine Mare are nice anti-control finishers, and without cards like Doomfall in the format anymore, they might have more of a chance to shine.
At any rate, regardless of which version you wish to play, and I imagine there are going to be much better and tuned versions of the deck than these two, I believe that the trifecta of Nexus of Fate, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and Gift of Paradise are extremely powerful and going to be the backbone of a playable Standard strategy for the year to come. I, for one, intend to be on the frontlines of this degenerate and tilt-inducing strategy.
- Brian Braun-Duin