Today I'd like to share deck with you based around cards recently spoiled from Aether Revolt – namely Esper Aggro! The deck has a high power level, a strong curve, a ton of resiliency, decent mana, and just enough disruption to get the job done. I also have an update for the Green-White Humans deck that I almost made Top 8 of GP Denver with this weekend, including specific sideboard plans against the top decks in the format.
Esper Aggro is an archetype that looks like it may become a thing with Aether Revolt. It picks up quite a few nice cards just from the few new ones previewed so far.
Trophy Hunter is a very interesting card that stood out to me. It's reminiscent of Trinket Mage, but able to find more powerful cards (since three mana cards are generally more powerful than one mana cards). There aren't a whole lot of powerful cards to find with it in Standard (yet), but there are enough to make it worth considering, such as: Filigree Familiar, Slayer's Plate, Deadlock Trap, or Cultivator's Caravan. The most enticing option, however, is another new card – Scrap Trawler.
Scrap Trawler is a cost-effective body – three power for three mana. It's a great follow-up to Smuggler's Copter or Heart of Kiran because it can immediately crew either one. And if the opponent then kills either vehicle, Scrap Trawler threatens to get the vehicle back when it dies! I expect Scrap Trawler to see a reasonable amount of play, given its synergies with the two-mana vehicles.
Heart of Kiran is one of the most powerful cards spoiled so far. It dodges Harnessed Lightning (at least without some help from another energy source) and hits hard on the third turn as long as you follow it up with a three-power creature or planeswalker. The fact that you can activate the ability of your planeswalker and remove a loyalty to crew the vehicle is quite powerful. This means if our opponent wipes our board and leaves us with a Smuggler's Copter and a Heart of Kiran, we can play Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Gideon can then make a 2/2 Ally Knight to crew the Smuggler's Copter and expend a loyalty to crew Heart of Kiran to immediately attack for seven damage while potentially leaving 13 points of power on the board for the following combat step!
Reflector Mage is another card that helps round out this deck. It's a great card on its own for generating tempo, especially in conjunction with our aggressive creatures. It's also a nice body for sacrificing to Elder Deep-Fiend.
Speaking of Johnny Depp-Fiend, we have some great fodder to emerge it with. Reflector Mage is old faithful when it comes to emergencies, but Trophy Mage and Scrap Trawler add a pair of excellent setup cards to pair with it since each leaves behind residual value. The eldrazi not only provides a big body but can clear the way for our attackers to finish off the opponent. It can also play pseudo defense by tapping down opposing attackers to allow us to win races or keeping Emrakul, the Promised End from wreaking too much havoc on our board. It's one of the cards I'm most excited about in this deck, mainly because of all the new support cards it gets from Aether Revolt.
Scrapheap Scrounger is another card that works great in this deck. It's an excellent follow-up to Toolcraft Exemplar (as it always has been), but it's also a great third-turn play following Smuggler's Copter or Heart of Kiran since it can crew either one. Our mana is a bit shaky, so a lot of the time we will want to pay a tapped land on the third turn. The fact that Scrapheap Scrounger only costs two mana to cast and can crew either vehicle means we can continue our game plan smoothly without needing to play an untapped land on the third turn. This allows us to save our untapped land to cast Gideon, Ally of Zendikar the following turn.
Elder Deep-Fiend is the primary "big thing" our deck does, but Gideon is a close second. This deck is extremely resilient to wrath effects. Gideon is great at rebuilding from wraths, vehicles survive wraths, Scrapheap Scrounger comes back from the graveyard, Scrap Trawler brings back fallen vehicles or scroungers when wrathed away, Thraben Inspector leaves behind a clue, Trophy Mage already replaced itself by finding a Scrap Trawler, and Elder Deep-Fiend has flash, so we never have to walk it into a wrath effect. In addition to providing wrath protection, Gideon provides fodder for crewing our vehicles and also acts as a giant body. Combined with Elder Deep-Fiend, the two can attack for 10 points of damage together!
As far as the sideboard is concerned, maybe I'm being too cute with giving us options for Trophy Mage, but this is where I'm starting out. In all likelihood the artifacts will prove to be more cute than necessary and they'll be replaced with more punishing sideboard cards such as more removal spells or counter-magic. It's early in spoiler season though, so a lot will change between now and the set's release. The crux of the main deck will likely remain intact though and it seems like it has a lot of promise just based on how I think it would hold up against the current decks in Standard. The mana might also need some tweaking, but it's good enough as is if you want to start testing the new cards against the current decks in Standard.
I discussed the deck ion more detail last week here, including a video of three matches and a deck tech. Sam Black and I worked on the deck a bit since then and decided on the following 75 for the Grand Prix where I lost in the final round playing for Top 8.
Sam wrote about the deck here. The only change to the main deck was cutting the three copies of Hanweir Militia Captain in favor of two Thalia, Heretic Cathar and the fourth Duskwatch Recruiter. The sideboard changed quite a bit though, so I'll update you with our plans.
In the event I had the following record:
3-0 vs Delirium
2-1 vs Aetherworks Marvel
1-2 vs Flash
3-0 vs everything else
I sideboarded wrong against White-Blue Flash, which hurt me, but I got a bit lucky to go 2-1 against Marvel, which we believe is probably our toughest matchup.
Moving forward, I think I want to cut the two Expedition Envoys and one of the Thalia, Heretic Cathars for a copy of Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter and the fourth Stasis Snare and fourth Tireless Tracker. I also want to add the fourth Declaration in Stone back into the sideboard along with a pair of Plummet to make the Flash matchup slightly better and the fourth Servant of the Conduit for matchups where we swap out Thalia's Lieutenant and Heron's Grace Champion for Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Servant of the Conduit. The fourth Fragmentize will also help against Aetherworks Marvel. Selfless Spirit was ok for me, but it is the least important card in the sideboard. This is the updated list I would run:
IN: 4 Servant of the Conduit, 4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, 1 Declaration in Stone
OUT: 4 Thalia's Lieutenant, 3 Heron's Grace Champion, 1 Stasis Snare, 1 Smuggler's Copter
IN: 4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, 4 Fragmentize, 4 Servant of the Conduit
OUT: 3 Declaration in Stone, 1 Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter, 4 Duskwatch Recruiter, 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
IN: 2 Fragmentize, 1 Declaration in Stone, 2 Plummet
OUT: 1 Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter, 1 Thalia, Heretic Cathar, 2 Tireless Tracker, 1 Smuggler's Copter
IN: 1 Declaration in Stone, 3 Fragmentize
OUT: 1 Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter, 2 Sigarda, Heron's Grace, 1 Westvale Abbey
Sam and I agree this deck is great and would play it again if given the opportunity. The two cards we've seen so far from Aether Revolt that I would consider for this deck are Heart of Kiran and Ajani Unyielding.
Heart of Kiran poses an interesting option for this deck. On the one hand, it does not count as a creature, so it makes Duskwatch Recruiter a bit worse. It also isn't as easy to crew in this build as it is in the Esper build. It may nevertheless still be good enough given its very high power level. I suspect that in order to make it work though, the deck would have to become more artifact-centric instead of human-centric. A better fit for the card would likely be in the Mono-White Aggro deck I played at Pro Tour Kaladesh. It would also likely be a good fit in Boros Vehicles since Depala, Pilot Exemplar and Veteran Motorist are great ways to crew it.
The card I am more optimistic about for the deck is Ajani Unyeilding. As is, the deck's curve currently tops out at five mana for Sigarda, Heron's Grace, but I could see making an exception for a pair of Ajanis somewhere in the 75. We already have the ability to grind pretty effectively, but approximately half the cards in our deck are hits for Ajani's +2 ability. I could easily see Ajani taking over games against any matchup where a board stall ensues. Maybe I'm just a little biased because Swords to Plowshares is my favorite card in Magic, but being able to exile creatures with the -2 seems very strong as well. Sigarda keeps Emrakul from triggering, but dealing with a 13/13 flying trampler is still a problem. Ajani takes care of that problem quite nicely while sticking around to draw cards and threaten to take out the next Emrakul.
One last thought on spoiled cards is that Yahenni's Expertise looks quite frightening to play against. Flaying Tendrils isn't effective enough and Fumigate costs too much. Radiant Flames and Kozilek's Return get blanked by Selfless Spirit, so right now creature decks are having a bit of a heyday.
This may soon come to an end as -3/-3 is essentially the Radiant Flames that can't be countered by Selfless Spirit (or Archangel Avacyn for that matter). Being able to cast a card with converted mana cost three or less for free just makes this card kind of bonkers. Usually that type of added bonus is reserved for jumping through hoops such as having delirium or some other requirement that keeps it from happening reliably on the fourth turn. Not so with this card. This means it's not only a medium sized wrath but also steals initiative by allowing you to also cast your Ruinous Path to kill the larger creature that survived the wrath, a Grasp of Darkness to finish off a 7/7, or what will likely be the most common option, play Liliana, the Last Hope for free and either finish off your four-toughness creature, get back a creature that died to the wrath effect or simply tick up and smile. Its one weakness is that it doesn't kill vehicles, but I still expect it to see plenty of play.