While ultimately Team Genesis ended up splitting off and playing either Temur or Sultai Energy at Pro Tour Ixalan, there were other decks we worked on, and showed a lot of promise. I am not lying when I say I was very close to playing a different deck, it wasn't until the very last minute when I decided on Sultai Energy. One of the other choices I was considering was Ramunap Red, but I won't be going into detail too much on that one. I'm going to go over the decks that most people won't be that familiar with. Some are decks I was working on closely, while others were creations of teammates.
Fellow writer and teammate Lukas Blohon had been working mostly with control decks. The idea was to find the most powerful deck with The Scarab God in it. First, he started playing the Blue-Black Midrange deck with lots of creatures in it. We were aiming to play something different, and with the fondness the team has for energy, the next step was trying to add green to the deck. While this is a Sultai Energy deck, it is a much more controlling version than the one I ended up playing:
This is yet another way to build an energy deck. The creatures are great, as you can play Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Servant of the Conduit together. Rogue Refiner is a staple in any energy deck, but this deck also has a critical mass of noncreature spells in order to execute its control gameplan. Supreme Will is key here as both a counter and a way to dig towards your game-winning cards.
While the early creatures are nice, much like Blue-Black Control, it is The Scarab God and Torrential Gearhulk that aim to actually close out the game. Removal spells like Fatal Push and Vraska's Contempt are flexible ways to deal with opposing early pressure, and countermagic allows you to control the game later on. Glimmer of Genius and Supreme Will provide card selection that give you inevitability.
This deck ended up having a better late game than our other energy decks, but is more vulnerable to opposing aggressive starts. We realized, for instance, that an opposing Glint-Sleeve Siphoner backed up by Blossoming Defense could be a huge problem. There isn't quite as much cheap removal here as there is in Temur Energy. We liked the Temur matchup but didn't like the Sultai or Ramunap Red matchups quite as much as we would have liked.
A good portion of the team was very high on the card Bontu's Last Reckoning going into the Pro Tour, and for good reason. This is a sweeper that aggressive decks can potentially play, and sweepers happen to match up very well against Temur Energy. Bontu's Last Reckoning started out in the sideboard of our black aggressive decks, but we quickly realized we needed to maindeck it to have good matchups against energy strategies. Most energy players were not playing around Bontu's Last Reckoning, but we needed to be able to cast it and still have enough gas to win the game afterwards.
This leads to the indestructible creatures. Yahenni, Undying Partisan had been showing up in a lot of the aggressive decks, so that is one we were familiar with. However, there is another creature that has been going under the radar, that is a big incentive to play white. I saw this post by Petr Sochurek in our team forum and I knew we were onto something when he said "Joel is crushing me with the two-mana True-Name Nemesis, maybe something's there." Say hello to Adanto Vanguard
We realized that we wanted the deck to be Mardu but were still unsure of a lot of the support cards. Then we saw Jack Keifer playing a deck very similar to the ones we had been experimenting with, and he was nice enough to share his list.
We hadn't thought too much about the plan of Cartouche of Solidarity plus Trial of Ambition, but as it turns out, those cards work really well together! The Cartouche makes a creature like Adanto Vanguard even more impressive. Vanguard is almost impossible to kill, and I recommend trying the card out, because it can be a nightmare to see it when playing Temur Energy. We did realize that it's not quite as good against Sultai Energy because that deck does actually have ways to exile it, and Walking Ballista to try and ping it.
This deck aims to play threats that are straight-up indestructible, don't mind going to the graveyard, or in the case of Aethersphere Harvester, don't care about a Wrath of God. This is the perfect home for Bontu's Last Reckoning. Unfortunately, main decking a full playset of Bontu's Last Reckoning is pretty risky when you might play against a control deck, so there are only two main. This is also a nice home for Hazoret the Fervent as you do want a way to close out games in a timely manner.
You also have an answer to opposing Hazorets. You haven't lived until your opponent has been forced to sacrifice a Hazoret thanks to Trial of Ambition. The deck has a lot of powerful cards, and even more synergy, so it is something we seriously considered playing. The mana base isn't great, but that is what you get when playing a three-color aggro deck. People eventually started gravitating towards other decks, but we didn't dismiss the deck because we thought it wasn't good.
The Mono-Black Aggro deck was something that Corey Baumeister picked up, and I shortly followed suit. We were working on it together and winning a lot in leagues online. At one point I was leaning towards playing it at the Pro Tour and posted the following in our group chat "Good thing we have deck builder extraordinaire Corey Baumeister, just took a beating from that trashy mono-black deck and bought a set of Night Market Lookouts." The deck was performing well and has a favorable matchup against most builds of energy decks. Our list is quite different from the ones that have been doing well online, and I like it more:
I like drawing cards and both Ruin Raider and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner allow you to do just that. Ruin Raider is just absurd, as it is one of your ways to crew Heart of Kiran, and the deck has such a low curve that you aren't going to lose that much life from it. We cut Bone Picker because it is pretty easy to play around, not very high-impact, and you don't want to reveal it off Ruin Raider. We built this deck in a way that it can grind out longer games, as Dread Wanderer and Scrapheap Scrounger give your creatures inevitability.
I like the Night Market Lookouts, as they work well with the vehicles, since you need something that is good for crewing. Supernatural Stamina also is a pretty nice combat trick and way to save a creature from a removal spell. The mana base is also very simple and we get to play Ifnir Deadlands, which is still great. Overall, I was pretty happy with the deck, but didn't play it because we realized there were specific cards the deck is very vulnerable to.
The first is Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. Brad Nelson had been playing an Energy list with two copies of Skysovereign for a lot of testing, and that card is virtually impossible to beat once the Energy player is able to untap with it. I wasn't sure how many Skysovereign would actually show up at the Pro Tour, but if there were a lot I knew Mono-Black Aggro wouldn't be a good choice. I was also worried about players packing lots of Magma Sprays in their 75, as that is the best removal spell against you.
There are ways you can make this matchup better from the Energy side, like adding more removal or cards like Appetite for the Unnatural, so I decided to respect the fact my opponents would have good lists of Energy decks, and as a result didn't play Mono-Black Aggro in the end.
The last deck that caught our attention – and put up some very impressive results – is a deck that Brian Braun-Duin was working on mostly by himself for a while. Early on in testing, most of the team had written off White-Blue Monument as a deck that has lost too much from the rotation, so we didn't think it was worth looking at, but not BBD. He was out there grinding and digging deep to find creatures that fit well in the deck, and eventually the deck got to a point where a lot of the team was interested in it.
The creatures here don't see much play in other decks, but they are great if you have Oketra's Monument, the centerpiece of the deck. There is synergy with Aviary Mechanic – the card is much more than just a Grizzly Bear. Being able to pick up a Legion's Landing, or something like a Cloudblazer later, feels pretty darn good. The creatures have a way of creating card advantage, and we see explore making its way to Standard in the case of Emissary of Sunrise.
The idea of the deck was to have a bunch of decent white creatures that work well together. Ixalan's Binding was also one of the major incentives to play this deck. Ixalan's Binding being able to not only answer a threat on the board but also deal with any future copies of the card the opponent might have is a very powerful effect. With Temur decks playing up to four copies of Glorybringer, hitting one with an Ixalan's Binding is huge. Since this deck aims to play the long game, being able to potentially strand important spells in the opponent's hand is a big deal.
At one point, BBD posted the following: "So far I haven't found a matchup that I am consistently losing to with White-Blue Monument." And by "so far" he meant after a handful of leagues on Magic Online. Unfortunately, the results were not quite as convincing once he stopped playing leagues and started playing against teammates. While White-Blue Monument was crushing the aggro decks, but it was only okay against a good player playing Temur Energy. Considering Energy decks were the number one enemy, this didn't seem like a great place to be.
If player's start shaving cards like Abrade that are good in other matchups, but also happen to answer Oketra's Monument, this is a deck that I will have in the back of my mind. It is extremely fun to play, and doesn't feel much worse than the old version of White-Blue Monument that took over Standard for a little while. In the end we made the boring decision, but sometimes the best decks are the best for a reason, and especially considering the Pro Tour was some weeks after the set release, there wasn't as much room for innovation.
Thanks for reading,