Ravnica Allegiance is bringing many exciting new cards to Standard, but one that isn't generating as much hype as it should be is Biomancer's Familiar. At first glance it might appear to be just an adapt support card, which isn't extremely exciting, but it's the passive cost-reducing effect that makes the card potentially broken. Any sort of cost-reducing effect in Magic is always worth a second look because who knows what powerful interactions or even degenerate combos are lurking. There are wealth of possibilities for Biomancer's Familiar in Modern (and Modern combo expert Sam Pardee shared some great interactions he found that could make Biomancer's Familiar a player in the format). There are obviously fewer combo options in Standard, but it turns out that Biomancer's Familiar actually does bring Standard a game-winning infinite combo.
The key pieces of this combo deck are Ruthless Knave and Slimefoot, the Stowaway, each which benefit significantly from Biomancer's Familiar. Together these three create an interaction that converts every available mana into draining one life – a strong engine, but no true combo. The life drain goes infinite when a second copy of Biomancer's Familiar is added to reduce Slimefoot, the Stowaway's ability down to one mana. Note that Pitiless Plunderer can be substituted in for the second Biomancer's Familiar and might be worthwhile, but it didn't make the cut in my decklist.
I like the idea of this combo because it can do some powerful things without the full combo assembled, even if it's simply generating discounted Saproling Tokens with Slimefoot, the Stowaway. Ruthless Knave in particular is impressive with Biomancer's Familiar because its ability can turn one mana into two, which is inherently broken. It's limited only by the available supply of creatures, which is why Slimefoot, the Stowaway comes into to create an infinite combo. When the Biomancer's Familiar and Ruthless Knave combination is supported by expendable creatures it becomes a legitimate mana engine, and it can help the deck quickly assemble its combo.
Ruthless Knave is a great sacrifice outlet for Stitcher's Supplier, which joins Glowspore Shaman to give the deck a graveyard engine able to dig into combo pieces. The graveyard enablers are worthwhile because they enable Gruesome Menagerie, which really forms the centerpiece of this decklist, similarly to how – dare I say – Rally the Ancestors held together its namesake creature-engine deck three years ago. Gruesome Menagerie might not be quite so powerful, but its ability to put a Biomancer's Apprentice and one of the three mana combo pieces into play make it something like Collected Company, another critical component of the Rally the Ancestors deck. The ability to return a one-mana creature as well means Llanowar Elves or Sticher's Apprentice can come along for more value. I wonder if Siren Stormtamer might not be effective here too, since it can help protect the combo and would make it quite difficult for the opponent to disrupt.
Lazav, the Multifarious further benefits from the graveyard enablers, and its versatility makes the combo more consistent. This deck and strategy provide a great home for the card that until now has not found a suitable home. As a two-mana mythic with a powerful ability itis actually one of the more impressive cards in Guilds to Ravnica and clearly pushed from a design standpoint, and this deck will show why.
The new split card Incubation // Incongruity is the perfect support card here. Its first half helps dig into whatever part of the combo is missing, while the second half gives the otherwise all-creature deck a removal spell. Find // Finality is a proven Golgari staple, and it makes sense to take advantage of it here. It's another removal option and provides more card selection from the graveyard as an alternative to Gruesome Menagerie.
When I saw Biomancer's Familiar, my obvious first thought was Growth-Chamber Guardian. Three total mana is a good rate for a 4/4 creature, especially when they come in multiples. Growth-Chamber Guardian also gives Biomancer's Familiar a strong target for its own activated ability, allowing Growth-Chamber Guardian to grow even larger. All this extra value sort of value is quite strong, so I expect Growth-Chamber Guardian will be played alongside Biomancer's Familiar wherever it is found. It seems like a great option for the sideboard of this Biomancer's Familiar combo deck, since it will be susceptible to various forms of disruption. Growth-Chamber Guardian's ability to replicate itself will give the deck a robust alternative plan against Azorius and Orzhov control decks with sweepers and Rakdos decks with Bedevil.
The interaction between Biomancer's Familiar and Growth-Chamber Guardian could also form the backbone of a fairer deck. One piece of this puzzle might be Shapers of Nature, which is one of the more impressive cards I've found to combine with Biomancer's Familiar. Growth-Chamber Guardian is an ideal source of +1/+1 counters to be converted into card drawing, which Shapers of Nature does for just one mana when helped by Biomancer's Familiar. Shapers of Nature is also a +1/+1 counter engine, a potent effect in its own right. To help all these +1/+1 counter-bearing creatures finish the game, Zegana, Utopian Speaker comes in to provide trample, while also being a beneficiary of Biomancer's Familiar.
To help round out this strategy, there is really nothing better than Hadana's Climb. The continuous stream of +1/+1 counters it creates are perfect for a guild that is all about them and for a deck with many ways to benefit. It's excellent with Growth-Chamber Guardian, which triggers to search for another copy whenever it gains a counter – not just when it adapts. It's even better with Incubation Druid, which will add three mana after getting a +1/+1 counter, meaning the curve of these cards on turn two and three is now one of the very best draws in Standard. Not only does Hadana's Climb comb down for effectively one mana because that turn Incubation Druid can add three instead of one, but the next turn there will be up to seven mana available. This deck has no shortage of activated abilities to spend it on.
One of Growth-Chamber Guardian's impressive three creature types is Elf, which means it adds a very strong element to Standard's Elf tribe. So far, the tribe has not proven to be more than a novelty, but it has put up Magic Online league 5-0 finishes since Guilds of Ravnica was released, so it has potential. The most successful Elves decks are aggressive to take advantage of quality Elf cards like Steel Leaf Champion, and Growth-Chamber Guardian would seem to fit right in. A consistent mono-green approach is most sensible, but I can't ignore that a significant amount of Elf cards actually benefit from Biomancer's Familiar. Most notably, Elvish Clancaller become more attractive with its cost reduced, and even Thorn Lieutenant becomes better.
The biggest beneficiary is another new Elf, Incubation Druid. Before being Adapted it's a small downgrade from Druid of the Cowl, but it turns into a large body that provides a large amount of mana, perfect for fueling the other activated abilities in the deck. Playing blue for Biomancer's Familiar would likely mean giving up Steel Leaf Champion, but the deck will be able to better utilize its card advantage elements.
Elves also benefits from the new Silhanna Wayfinder. A 2/1 body attached to an Adventurous Impulse-like effect is a good deal in a tribal deck with powerful synergies to dig into. Elves is hungry for any quality tribal members it can get, and this card does the job. It's best of all in a multi-color elf deck like this one, where it can help dig into blue mana. The Elf tribe does gain another new member in Frilled Mystic, but I can't in good conscious add it to the deck because the mana is too difficult to manage.
Pairing Biomancer's Familiar with red is an interesting avenue to explore. For one, it opens up synergy with Skarrgan Hellkite, which becomes twice as potent with Biomancer's Familiar in play, and twice as potent again from the second copy if there is enough red mana available. Available red mana is a recurring theme for Temur Biomancer's Familiar decks. Its most exciting combination is with Firebreathing creatures Goblin Banneret and especially Sun-Collared Raptor, which together with Biomancer's Familiar converts each red mana into an impressive three power, all with trample. It does feel a bit gimmicky, but it has the potential for some brutal draws.
Uncontested, the simple curve of Goblin Banneret into Biomancer's Familiar is a turn-four kill.
The deck is supercharged by Rhythm of the Wild. Riot turns on the adapt creatures just like Hadana's Climb, which makes Growth-Chamber Guard and Incubation Druid amazing with Rhythm of the Wild. The Firebreathing creatures benefit from being as large as possible, or alternatively can come in hasted and kill out of nowhere.
White doesn't offer many creatures to pair with Biomancer's Familiar, but it does have two attractive options in Resplendent Angel and Shalai, Voice of Plenty. Resplendent Angel is intriguing mostly because of the great curve potential it offers, able to activate and create an angel on turn four with the help of Biomancer's Familiar. Shalai, Voice of Plenty has a strong but expensive effect, and Biomancer's Familiar makes it a bit more palatable. The white cards alone aren't worth building a Biomancer's Familiar deck around, but along with Growth-Chamber Guardian and Incubation Druid as additional payoffs, there might be enough of incentive for a blue splash in a Selesnya Angels deck.
Blue also gives access to the new Deputy of Detention, which seems like the perfect card for the deck. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is another big payoff for blue, and ramping into with Llanowar Elves and Incubation Druid must be a real treat.
Whether it is enabling combos or just getting tricky with Adapt, Biomancer's Familiar has a lot of potential. It's all wrapped up in an efficient 2/2 body, which makes it an upgrade over Training Grounds. There was a time when being a creature was considered a liability, but in 2019 it comes with endless benefits, like being found with Chord of Calling (or helping to convoke it) in Modern, or Incubation // Incongruity in Standard, or just attacking for two.