Between Energy and Ramunap Red, white is wide open in Unified Standard as the fifth-favorite color in the format. White-Blue Cycling has tried so hard, and got so far – but in the end, it doesn't really matter as it just hasn't put up consistent enough results. In the hands of Eliott Boussaud and Corey Burkhart, Drake Haven has powered towards the yellow jersey, but just like poor old mate Stuart O'Grady, has never quite got there. Seth suggested this week that it's worth keeping on the radar, and I happen to agree with him.
Burkhart's recent twist on the deck was a little counterintuitive, as he added both creatures and Wrath of God effects. Hm. All the same, Curator of Mysteries is an undercosted flyer that helps you gain new levels of consistency by adding a scry to every cycle, and can even rise from the dead with the help of an Abandoned Sarcophagus!
Six Wrath effects are at their best against Temur Energy, and if Drake Haven ever gets going it is the arrow to Temur's Achilles' Heel. But if we're talking about main deck cards that crush an expected matchup, what about the four copies of Renewed Faith? Ramunap Red can't hope to keep up with that much life gain.
I reckon that the only reason this deck isn't seeing more play is because the argument "just play Temur" trumps it every time. And yes, Temur is likely a better deck – but that argument becomes irrelevant at the World Magic Cup. This deck makes a strong case for being one of the best non-Energy, non-Hazoret decks, and for that reason it's worthy of consideration for this Unified Standard event.
Obviously when looking for decks that don't overlap with either Energy or Ramunap Red, the first Impulse is to think about white decks – after all, no configuration of either deck runs a single white card. There's another angle entirely, however, that takes advantage of an archetype that has been lurking under the surface, waiting for its time to strike: Mono-Black Aggro.
While it lacks the resilience and Staying Power of Gerry Thompson's Pro Tour-winning Zombies list, it has all the speed and aggression, and is backed up with some pretty tasty combos. The wombo-iest of these combos is of course the interaction between Yahenni and Bontu's Last Reckoning - you wipe their board and are left with an indestructible million/billion creature.
Kitesail Freebooter interacts powerfully while Glint-Sleeve Siphoner keeps the cards flowing. Additionally, given that this deck has an Aristocrats-esque flair for sacrificing its own creatures, it's unsurprising to see Dread Wanderer and Scrapheap Scrounger. These synergies go a lot farther, powering up big bad Bontu herself as well as snagging that Black Friday discount on Bone Picker.
With a zero card overlap and access to Gifted Aetherborn, which shines against Temur and Red, Mono-Black Aggro is in a spot to get it done this weekend at the World Magic Cup!
After 15 minutes – well, more like an hour and fifteen minutes, it was a long one – of fame at Pro Tour Ixalan, Token decks haven't made much of an appearance in recent weeks. These decks are difficult to play well and require a lot of things to go right, but jeezy creezy lemon squeezy, when they go off, they go off hard.
The entire deck is either enabler or payoff cards, the most important of which are Hidden Stockpile and Anointed Procession. Procession leads to busted board states and locks up the late game like few other cards can. Innocuous cards like Renegade Map and Start // Finish also do a lot of heavy lifting, flooding the board with 1/1s to eventually overwhelm your opponent.
When it comes to compatibility with Energy and Ramunap Red, the Esper build of Tokens is ruled out if you're wishing to play Four-Color Energy as both decks fight over The Scarab God. In Abzan, Vraska, Relic Seeker is a bit less of an issue as Four-Color Energy doesn't need her in 100% of cases – we've recently seen some Energy lists go as big as Nicol Bolas!
This deck matches up reasonably well against Energy, and cards like Anointer Priest and Sunscourge Champion crush Ramunap Red - as long as there isn't a Rampaging Ferocidon to worry about! Unlike White-Blue Cycling, however, Token strategies suffer from consistency issues and don't always manage to get off the line. Still, the power level is there, and Tokens fits in nicely alongside Energy and Red!
There will doubtless be some teams that go very deep this weekend at the World Magic Cup, so just for a moment let's consider what that might mean for the format. If you're expecting a field that is 33% Energy and 33% Ramunap Red, how about playing a deck that is almost a lock to win against at least one of them? We've talked about Crested Sunmare in the past, and any deck built around it is bound to put out the fires of a deck like Ramunap Red.
Oketra's Monument is no less powerful than it was before, and key synergies with the artifact remain as potent as ever. Paying two mana for a Sunscourge Champion – that comes with a 1/1 to boot – is pretty hot, and doing it again with an Aviary Mechanic seems pretty good too. There is no end to the life gain in this deck, from Glory-Bound Initiate to Aethersphere Harvester, not to mention Crypt of the Eternals. This means there'll always be a herd of broncos charging across the battlefield once your Sunmare comes down!
This list is just a rough draft and requires a fair bit of refinement, but it's an example of something I'm interested to see this weekend: players rolling the dice on crushing an anticipated matchup, and potentially giving up percentage points on other matchups in the process. Energy is somewhat difficult to contend with due its position as a 55% deck, but Ramunap Red is easy enough to target.
Generally speaking, as a mono-white deck there's obviously no question of card overlap with either Energy or Ramunap Red. In all honesty, this list could be something a little more proven such as the Mono-White Vampires list we saw in the hands of Wilson Hunter at Pro Tour Ixalan. Given that all the white cards are absolutely up for grabs in this tournament, don't be surprised to see some mono-white decks get up and about this weekend.
- Riley Knight