Well, Pro Tour Kaladesh is over and the metagame is in a state of chaos. On the one hand, you have people just picking up lists from the Top 8 and joining queues, but on the other hand you have individuals trying to attack the expected metagame. This makes any Standard queue feel random in nature. One round you might play against Shota's exact 75 and then the next round you square off against mono-artifact aggro. In this chaos, I prefer to sleeve up proactive decks that want to be doing something mildly unfair themselves.
Combo decks are always wanting to do something extremely unfair but as a result, they fall apart to the right hate. Matt Nass experienced this in the Top 8 when he took his amazingly consistent Aetherworks Marvel deck and ran it head first into counterspells, resulting in a quick 0-3 loss for him. I don't want to be that far down the proactive scale because, again, any and everything is getting played and that includes counterspells or whatever else gives your combo deck problems.
Instead, I want to dial it back a few notches and play something that puts the opponent under pressure but doesn't fold to any particular card or strategy. This most commonly takes the form of midrange, which is certainly what I would consider both of the decks I'm going to discuss today. The decks below feature Gearhulks which are just value machines, giving us big bodies and great enters-the-battlefield effects. They make sense in many control or midrange decks all by themselves, but — in true Conley fashion — I want to spice the Hulks up a bit by cheating them out early.
Originally, reanimation seemed like the most reasonable way to do this, especially considering the reprinting of Refurbish. I have explored Ever After in the past and it usually just wins the game when targeting a pair of Gearhulks. This strategy seems solid until we look at the other side.
In the scenario where I Refurbish a Gearhulk on Turn 4, I needed to draw the Gearhulk, the Refurbish, and some method to get the Gearhulk into the graveyard. That plan comes together some amount of the time, but I don't believe it to be reliable; I would rather have something reliable with drawbacks elsewhere.
Madcap Experiment comes in. With just one card and some life points, you get a Gearhulk on the fourth turn. If that sounds like it happens a lot more than the Refurbish line, that's because it does. Here is the list:
Of course, Madcap Experiment comes with its own set of risks. We only take about five or six damage on average to find a Gearhulk, but there are times when that number can be much higher. Because of this, we tried to pad the deck with as many bits of life gains as we could. This allows for safer castings of Madcap Experiment or the ability to recover from one gone awry.
No matter how much life gain you have though, copies of Madcap Experiment are going to be rather bad later in the game. This is where cards like Collective Brutality and Nahiri come in handy as they give us other outlets for dead cards. In one way or another, Madcap Experiment has a big effect on the molding of this particular list, but it certainly is not the only way to get to Gearhulks.
Before I go, I want to add a separate suggestion for the Gearhulk shell that does not put you at risk of Madcap shenanigans. The simple solution to this problem is to ramp to the Gearhulks naturally. We don't have access to green, but there are still some artifacts to ramp, namely Cultivator's Caravan. Caravan ramps us from three mana to five, the first important point for our Gearhulks. Additionally, it provides a sort of hasted threat against planeswalkers when combined with any of our Gearhulks. One thing to note is that we need to be careful when casting Cataclysmic Gearhulk as the additional artifact may need to be sacrificed occasionally.
We also manage to cut a few lands in the process and get to move around our spells a bit too. This allows room for Chandra, Ob Nixilis, and Fumigate to sneak into the main deck.
Chances are strong that you don't actually want 10 Gearhulks in this list without Madcap Experiment demanding it anymore. I left them as is for now, but a variety of threats including planeswalkers and other large creatures should be considered for the job. Here is the list:
Until next week, thanks for reading!