This past week I have been playing Standard pretty much nonstop in preparation for Pro Tour M15. While I ended up playing Black/White Control at the Pro Tour there are a number of unique decks I was working on that I definitely came close to playing. Black/White Control should be an archetype most players are familiar with, so I'm not going to talk about that deck.
I wanted to find cards from M15 that are capable of creating new archetypes by themselves. My fellow teammate and writer for TCGplayer Conley Woods came up with a Necromancer's Stockpile deck that I think is really cool, but that was his innovation. One card from M15 that I think could be a key card advantage engine in Standard is Aggressive Mining. Playing Aggressive Mining is certainly high risk though, so having a low curve and nonland ways of producing mana is important. Here is a list that has a lot going on but it is pretty sweet:
So I didn't get around to creating a sideboard for the deck yet as it still needs to be developed a bit more. That being said I have really liked where the list is going even though there are a lot of different interactions here.
I wanted to build a deck that is easily capable of playing a second turn Illusory Angel with other creatures in play to avoid running into Devour Flesh, and the Angel also dodges Bile Blight. After a turn one Elvish Mystic or Springleaf Drum, Illusory Angel can be cast off an Ornithopter or Burning-Tree Emissary being cast on the second turn. Sometimes you can just ride an Illusory Angel to victory off of an explosive start.
When looking at the list one of the most obvious decisions is what the correct number of lands to play is. This deck is sort of like an Affinity strategy because it doesn't play a lot of lands and has a low curve. There are actually only 16 lands right now, with two of them being Darksteel Citadels, so yes there are only 14 lands that are colored sources.
That being said besides the lands there are 10 additional mana sources. The four copies of Springleaf Drum and Elvish Mystic are necessary to ramp into one of the three-drop creatures, or an early Genesis Hydra. There are also two copies of Sylvan Caryatid which are important because they can be cast off Burning-Tree Emissary.
So there are 26 mana sources total, and while Aggressive Mining may not seem like an obvious include here, I have played with the card, and it has been very good. The deck doesn't need excess land and in some cases it is even okay to have zero or one land in play! Once you draw a few cards off Aggressive Mining, the time may come to Reclamation Sage your own Aggressive Mining and continue playing lands.
Reclamation Sage is one of those creatures that can be very good with all of the artifacts and enchantments running around, so maindecking Reclamation Sage has been quite reasonable. Oftentimes this guy will simply be a one-mana two-power flyer, and returning a creature isn't usually a drawback with card like Ornithopter to pick up for free. The Faerie Impostors also allow the deck the ability to rebuy creatures with come into play effects like Reclamation Sage.
Genesis Hydra is one of those value creatures that has the ability to end the game, and be rebought with Faerie Imposter. The highest casting cost permanent in the deck is four, so oftentimes playing Genesis Hydra for a low number early is reasonable as there are a number of permanents that cost two or less to hit. Genesis Hydra is the best late game finisher here, in my experience, but there are other ways of winning the game in a quicker fashion.
Sometimes it can be hard to present enough threatening creatures to finish off the opponent. Cloudfin Raptor is a key creature that can evolve very quickly, as even a creature like Ornithopter evolves the Raptor. Speaking of Ornithopter, while it serves the purpose of being a useful creature to tap with Springleaf Drum, and a card that works well with Illusory Angel, it can also become a 5/5 flyer.
Since Springleaf Drum and Ornithopter work so well with Illusory Angel it became easy to include a bit more of an artifact theme. Ornithopter and Springleaf Drum can be very good early in the game, but generally have very little value as the game progresses. Ensoul Artifact is a card that could have a large impact on Standard, and it helps create legitimate threats. Ensoul Artifact can be used on Ornithopter, Springleaf Drum, or the Darksteel Citadels. For the same reason that Ensoul Artifact is good, Shrapnel Blast can be very useful and there is usually an artifact that isn't terribly relevant to sacrifice.
Looking for a more straightforward approach to building around Illusory Angel and Ensoul Artifact, with a couple less colors? There is also the option of trying to fit Illusory Angel in a monoblue deck. Here is a list posted by Tomoharu Saito:
This is a very different approach to building a monoblue deck, as it is not a devotion based strategy. This deck is actually a bit faster than Monoblue Devotion, as it has more early drops. The deck is a pretty straightforward concept of beating down with flyers in the air, with a built in artifact theme. Hall of Triumph plays the role of both a Glorious Anthem effect and a card that can targeted with Ensoul Artifact.
The card that stands out the most to me is Military Intelligence. For those familiar with M15 draft Military Intelligence can be a beating for the opponent when used correctly. In the right deck the card is just a two-mana enchantment that will draw you an extra card every turn. With very cheap creatures Military Intelligence comes online very quickly.
While Military Intelligence is one way of creating an advantage in the late game, in my experience it can be difficult for this style of deck to win a long and drawn out game. This is an aggressive strategy that is somewhat vulnerable to Supreme Verdict. The reason I say the deck is only somewhat vulnerable is that there are four copies of Darksteel Citadel. Being able to make a 5/5 indestructible creature can be very hard to beat especially early in the game. This deck does have a more consistent manabase than the previous list and can easily capitalize if your opponent has a slow start. Being able to run four Mutavault is a nice bonus here and oftentimes Mutavault is one of the better ways of ensuring Military Intelligence is turned on.
When I arrived at the Pro Tour this past weekend I heard that Obelisk of Urd was sold out. This didn't surprise me too much as I am aware that tribal strategies have become stronger. One of the decks I have been working on is Black/White Humans and I seriously considered playing the deck at the Pro Tour. Here is what the maindeck would have been:
This deck is similar to the Black/White Aggro strategy which was first popularized by some of the top players in the game, but it is more tribal oriented and the mana is better. The deck runs only humans in it which makes Xathrid Necromancer and Obelisk of Urd that much better. While these creatures are all humans they are important not just because of their creature type.
Having one-mana two-power creatures is necessary for the most aggressive decks in this format. Soldier of the Pantheon and Tormented Hero are the most straightforward one-drops to offer here. Previous versions of Black/White Aggro generally focused more on the heavy commitment to white, and couldn't afford to play one-drop black cards. Now the deck has both Caves of Koilos and Mana Confluence, so while there are a few more white sources, generally casting Tormented Hero on turn one isn't an issue.
The other one-drop in the deck is Boros Elite. Boros Elite is one of those tricky one-drop creatures that actually isn't at its best when played on the first turn of the game. The reason is that if you play Boros Elite on the first turn battalion won't be enabled yet. Of course if Boros Elite is the only one-drop in your hand it can still do some damage, getting in for one for a couple turns. In a format with a ton of removal spells, obtaining battalion can be difficult and makes generating extra creatures that much more important.
There are creatures in the deck which make creature tokens which help maintain a critical mass of creatures. Precinct Captain is one of the most efficient two-drop creatures in white, and creating tokens also help make Obelisk of Urd cost less through convoke. Like Precinct Captain, there are two copies of Imposing Sovereign in the deck. Imposing Sovereign is a card that seems to be seeing less play recently, as the popularity of white aggressive decks has declined. With that said the card can make things very difficult for an opponent relying on creature based strategies. Oftentimes for a deck like Monoblue Devotion or Monsters, having an Imposing Sovereign makes their deck a full turn slower.
There are 12 two-drops in the deck but the best of them is usually Pain Seer. Pain Seer helps provide card advantage, and is great with convoke which allows you to tap Pain Seer without needing to attack. It is true that you don't want to flip over Obelisk of Urd though. Many players may not realize that Pain Seer is a human, but he sure is.
The last two-drop creature in the deck is Daring Skyjek. Initially Daring Skyjek may seem unimpressive but having a two-mana three-power flyer that also happens to be a human is quite strong. Unlike Boros Elite though, if battalion isn't turned on Daring Skyjek doesn't get too much worse in most matchups. The casting cost on Daring Skyjek makes him less difficult on the mana, when compared to a creature like Precinct Captain.
Let's move onto the most powerful creatures in the deck: the three-drops. Xathrid Necromancer is the most important creature in the deck. Being able to have access to a guy who is very good against removal, especially mass removal like Supreme Verdict, is very important. As I mentioned earlier the tokens help enable both battalion and convoke. The other three-drop creature here is Banisher Priest. There will be matchups where this your best card, as having a creature that is both a human creature and removal spell is pretty sweet. Against decks like Monoblue Devotion that have trouble removing Banisher Priest from play is where it's at its best.
There aren't too many spells in the deck but they all serve a purpose. Orzhov Charm is an all-purpose Charm that is usually used as a removal spell but certainly has other applications and is often a hard card for the opponent to anticipate. Another all-purpose spell here is Thoughtseize. There are only two copies because it is important to have make sure to maintain a high creature count and not rely too heavily on utility spells.
Obelisk of Urd is the card that wins the lategame. I have already mentioned some of the sweet interactions, and this card makes sure that the humans will win any type of creature battle. It is also important to remember that Mutavault is a human, which is a favorable interaction with Xathrid Necromancer and Obelisk of Urd.
Thanks for reading,