I have a puzzle for you. How in Standard can you attack for 20+ damage by the third turn without using any red, black, green, or blue cards?
Turn 1: Consulate Dreadnought
Turn 2: 2x Toolcraft Exemplar, crew boat, attack for 7
Turn 3: Lupine Prototype, Topplegeist, tap your blocker, crew the boat, attack for 13
The third turn can involve nearly any card in the deck in conjunction with the Lupine Prototype since all you need is to produce one power for one mana. The first two turns of the game are the same though. Imagine your opponent opening with Toolcraft Exemplar into Heart of Kiran and then dying immediately – or Hissing Quagmire into Winding Constrictor with a stacked hand, only to die before ever getting to cast the Rishkar, Peema Renegade they were planning to cast on the third turn they never lived to. Now imagine doing that with cards everyone else wrote off as unplayable trash. Pretty sweet, huh?
I spent quite a bit of time figuring out the optimal build of this deck and came VERY close to playing it at the Pro Tour (and also convincing my teammates to play it)! Today I'm going to talk about two builds of the deck I've been calling "Dogs in Boats" as well as offer a bonus update for Green-White Humans, another deck I put some work into in preparation for the Pro Tour. I also made a video for each of the three decks to give you a sense of how each one plays out! I ended up playing Mardu Vehicles in the Pro Tour (like everyone else), but if style points were more important to me than Pro Points, I would have definitely sleeved up my Lupine Prototypes!
This list has a lot of things going on. It's primarily an aggressive creature deck using white mana to power out under-costed creatures and attack with them. [Honestly, I feel like I can just copy + paste that description to every deck I build]. This one powers out very large creatures and is quite adept at getting through blockers and dodging removal spells.
Toolcraft Exemplar is the card you want in your opening hand more than any other card. I mulligan pretty aggressively to find it since even a five-card hand can be perfectly fine with this deck. You really want to come out of the gates swinging hard and Toolcraft Exemplar is the lynchpin for making that happen. Another reason this deck can afford to mulligan so aggressively is because of the second most important card in the deck: Lupine Prototype.
Lupine Prototype is the most under-costed two drop in Standard, but it comes at a pretty steep cost of having to empty your hand. So when we mulligan, we actually work toward one of our primary game plans of emptying our hand for the doggie. In testing, on the play, I mulliganed to the following four-card hand: Concealed Courtyard, Inspiring Vantage, Toolcraft Exemplar, Lupine Prototype – and won the game very easily! The deck wants to empty its hand quickly to let the doggie attack, so it's filled with one-mana cards and also Bone Saw so that the doggie is actually a fast and efficient threat instead of just a way to crew the boat. This brings us to our most efficient way of emptying our hand and one of the keys to the deck: Key to the City.
Key to the City helps to empty our hand for the Lupine Prototype while also making our 7/11 Consulate Dreadnought or our 5/5 Lupine Prototype unblockable each turn. It's also a way to cycle through excess lands in scenarios where the opponent is using tons of removal spells on our creatures and we just need to continually find more threats. This is often what happens in post-sideboard games. There is no hard and fast rule about when to draw a card off Key to the City and when not to, but in general if I'm trying to empty my hand for Lupine Prototype, I discard the most clunky card in hand (land, Always Watching or a two-mana card) and decline to draw the card the following turn. If instead I'm just trying to make a creature unblockable, I'll generally draw the card. If I have the lands in play and I don't have a land already stranded in hand, I'll almost always draw the card since whatever combination of two cards we draw between Key to the City and our draw step we can empty out of our hand by discarding one to the key and playing the other.
Gryff's Boon is our other way of sneaking in damage from our giant monsters. Green-black decks often have a difficult time blocking flyers, especially if they are not the delirium version. Mardu Vehicles also has a tough time blocking flyers since they only have Heart of Kiran and Aethersphere Harvester for that and it's not always easy for them to play defense or even size up against our boats and doggies. The fact that we can pay four mana to bring Gryff's Boon back from the graveyard each turn means it's not unheard of for us to keep attaching it to the boat each turn and flying in for eight damage. That's basically a fully powered Figure of Destiny!
While Lupine Prototype is the primary boat pilot, he has some friends that do a great job helping out, most notably Scrapheap Scrounger. Scrapheap Scrounger is one of the strongest cards in Standard and a centerpiece to any vehicle strategy, including ours. It dodges removal with its recursive ability and provides three power to attack with. It also provides half the needed crewing power for the Consulate Dreadnought, which means it can join up with Toolcraft Exemplar or another Scrapheap Scrounger to row the boat. Another line that comes up is the opponent wipes our board with Fumigate or whatever, leaving us with only our vehicles and our equipment. No problem! We simply bring back the Scrapheap Scrounger from the graveyard, equip Stitcher's Graft to it, and use our 6/5 Scrounger to immediately crew the boat and attack for 7! If the opponent is at 10 life and we have the mana available to bring the Scrounger back on the opponent's end step (or if we happen to have six mana available on our turn), we can even move the Stitcher's Graft over to the boat after the equipped Scrounger crews it and we can attack for 10! Remember, though, only do this if the opponent is at 10 or less life, since the boat will die at the end of turn when it stops being a creature an the equipment falls off (due to Stitcher's Graft's "unequip" clause).
Stitcher's Graft and Bone Saw are ways to make all our one-power creatures larger. Lupine Prototype holding a Bone Saw or a Gryff's Boon is enough by itself to crew the boat. The other pump spells in the deck are Always Watching and Built to Last. Always Watching is mostly a concession to Walking Ballista, but we can't afford to have too many cards in the deck that cost this much mana or our Lupine Prototypes will never get to attack. Built to Last is our way to keep the boat from dying to Fatal Push since it makes our artifact creature indestructible. It also functions as a simple pump spell in combat when opposing Winding Constrictors and company try to block our Bomat Couriers and such. It doesn't line up perfectly with Lupine Prototype, though, since you have to cast it pre-combat to get it out of your hand in order to attack with the doggie, but even in that scenario you can usually figure out which creature to target to make blocking as difficult as possible for the opponent.
Thraben Inspector, Bomat Courier, and Topplegiest round out the deck. Thraben Inspector is a cheap threat that keeps a card in reserve as a clue on the board, which is important considering Lupine Prototype, while also providing an artifact for Toolcraft Exemplar and Spire of Industry. Bomat Courier can empty our hand in a pinch for Lupine Prototype or can refill it in times when we want cards. He is usually the least-threatening creature on our board since many of our other creatures demand a more immediate removal spell, which often allows the Bro-mat to get in a few attacks, exiling cards underneath him in the process. Then, once our hand is emptied, we can attack one final time for a third or fourth card and then sacrifice him to cash him in for cards. This will often result in the equivalent of a Lightning Bolt and an Ancestral Recall off just a two-mana investment! That's quite the payoff for a one-drop that also incidentally turns on Toolcraft Exemplar and Spire of Industry.
Topplegeist also does some work. Its primary function is to tap a blocker to clear the way for our giant monsters, but it also has a few other applications. It flies, so attaching Stitcher's Graft or Bone Saw to it can add evasive points to our clock or to block opposing Heart of Kirans or Aethersphere Harvesters if needed. In conjunction with another creature holding a Gryff's Boon or a Key to the City, this incidental extra flying damage can add up and increase our clock by a whole turn sometimes. The other function of Topplegeist in this deck is tapping down a creature every turn when we get delirium, which happens pretty frequently! We have artifacts and creatures constantly going to the graveyard, and if any of them wore a Gryff's Boon, we also have enchantment. If we cast Built to Last, we have an instant, and if we pitched a land to Key to the City, we can have five types, any four of which are sufficient to turn on delirium.
The mana in this version is very good and the "splash" is only to bring back Scrapheap Scrounger from the graveyard and activate Bomat Courier. The mana can also be extended though to include other colors. It becomes a bit weaker, but is still on par with many other decks in the format. Here is the four-color version that maxes out the mana:
The biggest advantage of this version is that we get Inventor's Apprentice, which means we don't need to mulligan as aggressively to find Toolcraft Exemplar. We also get a strong card in Siege Modification to put on our Consulate Dreadnought. The sideboard also gives us access to Metallic Rebuke and Unlicensed Disintegration. I prefer the first version since it is more consistent, but this one has a higher density of explosive draws. So if you bring it to Friday Night Magic, you'll get more turn four kills with this version.
The last deck I want to briefly mention is Green-White Humans.
I'm not confident enough in Green-White's matchups against the top decks to recommend it right now. The black-green decks are too aggressive, Walking Ballista is too much of a problem, and Mardu Vehicles is tough to out-power. We have the tools to beat Mardu and Saheeli post-board, but overall I think those other decks are doing slightly more powerful things than we are and have individually more powerful cards. With that said, we can race very well with Heron's Grace Champion and we can grind hard with Tireless Tracker and Duskwatch Recruiter. And we have a nice combo in Rishkar, Peema Renegade + Duskwatch Recruiter, allowing us to tap our creatures for mana to activate Duskwatch Recruiter to grow our board very quickly. Add in Always Watching and we can even attack with our creatures and wait until the opponent's end step to tap them for mana to activate the Duskwatch Recruiter. Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter also works great as a replacement for Duskwatch Recruiter in this combo since you tap all your other creatures for mana and make a giant Golem Token each turn on the opponent's end step.
Of these three decks, any are ready for FNM and they are all very fun. My favorite is the first one. If your only goal is to win the tournament, you should probably play Mardu Vehicles. If your goal is to have the most fun of anyone in the tournament while also giving yourself a realistic shot at winning the tournament, then you should definitely use some dogs to crew some boats!