Looking back a couple months ago there is a reason why the Jeskai decks decided to start splashing black, and it was because of the power of Crackling Doom. Now it is as if this card is old news almost, and players are moving away from Jeskai Black and onto decks that are very vulnerable to getting blown out by a single copy of Crackling Doom. I am not merely advocating to play Jeskai Black as that is clearly a strong deck choice, but there are other Crackling Doom decks that are well positioned right now as well. Going into this coming weekend and the TCGplayer MaxPoint Championship this is the card I am most interested in playing with, and there a few strategies that are able to do so.

There are a few different variants of straight up Mardu decks that have been seeing some play, but there hasn't been one specific version of Mardu that has gained a lot of traction. When an archetype is doing well but keeps changing from week to week it is definitely something worth working on. This should indicate that it is possible to build a Mardu list to personal taste and around the metagame, or simply try to improve on another player's list who has already found success with the strategy. Here is a look at Mardu Tokens which made Top 8 of a recent Magic Online PTQ and was played by _LSN_ :

DECKID=1254627

When looking at this particular list there are a lot of good things about it, yet if I were going to play this deck I would make some changes. With that being said it is hard to say whether any change made to the deck would be better than the choices _LSN_ made, without testing both versions extensively. The creature base is what stands out the most here. Mardu decks traditionally have more spells than creatures, like we are seeing here, but there are a number of good creatures in the colors to choose from. Starting with choosing a two-drop, the only one here is Hangarback Walker, and there aren't any three-drop creatures either.

While the Mardu Tokens deck isn't built to put pressure on the opponent quickly, that doesn't mean you can afford to get Overrun by a deck like Atarka Red. Personally I have found Seeker of the Way to be a strong early play so that is a card I am interested in trying to fit into the mix of creatures. However while Seeker of the Way is extremely powerful it is liable to trading with a variety of opposing removal spells the opponent could be playing. The good thing about the current creature base is that a lot of the creatures are able to make tokens, and can't be easily dealt with on a one-for-one axis. The card that stands out the most here is Pia and Kiran Nalaar, as there are a full four copies.

What many players may not realize about Pia and Kiran Nalaar is that it is legendary, which means playing a full playset is a bit aggressive. With that being said, even if you do need to sacrifice a copy because of playing a second Pia and Kiran Nalaar the two extra Thopter Tokens come along no matter what. Pia and Kiran Nalaar is a card that is starting to see play in Modern, yet somehow it is still very underrepresented in Standard despite continuously putting up strong results. Pia and Kiran Nalaar is not only a similar card to Wingmate Roc, it plays alongside Wingmate Roc quite nicely, as turn four Pia and Kiran Nalaar followed by Wingmate Roc is an incredible sequence. In fact I would definitely be playing more copies of Wingmate Roc here.

Some of the creature choices here are a bit underwhelming and, since the deck can't play a ton of creatures, choosing which ones you do play is very important. Tasigur, the Golden Fang is a strong card but really has no place here. First of all this deck can't actually pay the activation cost on Tasigur, the Golden Fang which means it is comparable to Gurmag Angler here. There is also another card that requires delving in Murderous Cut, and this deck doesn't put cards in the graveyard very quickly. The other creature which I still don't know about is Butcher of Horde.

Butcher of the Horde is great at being able to pressure an opposing planeswalker and put a flying threat into play. This card is also one of the few ways Mardu decks can gain life so the card is definitely versatile. The question becomes whether Butcher of the Horde is better than the other available options. For instance, should this deck actually be running Gideon, Ally of Zendikar? When it comes to the four-drop slot there are a number of powerful cards you can play, and Butcher of the Horde is one of the easier threats to deal with. Without having Butcher of the Horde to gain life it puts a lot more pressure on making good use out of Shambling Vent and not falling behind versus the red decks.

Since this deck doesn't play a lot of early creatures it does need a variety of removal for the early turns. Fiery Impulse is usually better than Wild Slash here, as it is possible to turn on spell mastery and dealing two to your opponents face doesn't normally come up. However playing four copies of Fiery Impulse is a lot as the card does next to nothing against certain control decks. At two mana there are three Silkwraps which is a bit of a gamble. The reason why running Silkwrap is a gamble is that is makes your deck much more susceptible to Dromoka's Command. If this deck didn't have Silkwrap then Dromoka's Command would be very bad against it.

Unfortunately the best removal spells cost more than two mana, and this deck needs enough one- and two-mana removal so that during the later turns the board is relatively stable when casting creatures. The expensive removal is great though, as Crackling Doom is probably the best removal spell in the format right now. Since Esper Dragons is so popular, having a way of dealing with Dragonlord Ojutai when it is untapped is great. This is something that many of the other midrange decks in the format have struggled to do. Here, though, there is removal for just about any possible threat - it is just a matter of drawing the answers on time.

Utter End is a card that most decks with black and white in them are playing some number of. Here there are two copies as a way of dealing with just about any problem card and, along with the one Ruinous Path, there are enough ways to kill a planeswalker. The deck also has Murderous Cut as another way to kill an opposing dude on a key turn when you can set up playing two spells in the same turn. Other than that, the noncreature spells are not only removal spells. A card like Kolaghan's Command is very versatile as it is much more than a removal spell, as bringing back a creature comes up quite a bit. Having access to discard is also important so we see Despise in the main and Duress in the board, though it could be right that there should be some Duress in the main. Versus other midrange decks it often comes down to who can gain more card advantage.

Being able to make an opponent discard a Dig Through Time is great but the same can be said for taking your opponents Den Protector with a Despise. While the Mardu Tokens deck does create some card advantage by generating tokens, there are only a few cards in the deck that allow you to draw extra cards. This list has two copies of Read the Bones over Painful Truths. The cards are very similar to each other though I believe most players believe Painful Truths to be slightly better, as drawing the additional card is nice. Overall the list of _LSN_'s Mardu Tokens deck stands out to me, and expect to see my updated version of Mardu Tokens soon as it is something I have been doing a lot of work on.

Mardu Tokens, is a bit different from straight Mardu Midrange, but the differences aren't that significant. Mardu Dragons however has some of the same cards but the threat base is very different. This is Jason Abong's list from a recent MaxPoint Platinum event:

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When looking at the creature base here, in comparison to Mardu Tokens there are many more two-drops. Hangarback Walker seems to be a given, as it is one of the best two-drops in the format, undoubtedly. Jason does in fact also have Seeker of the Way and Soulfire Grandmaster as ways of gaining life and having more early attackers. These two-drops help to make the matchup versus red aggro much better, and now there are not any copies of Fiery Impulse. Jason only has two copies of Pia and Kiran Nalaar as he has made room for the dragon package.

Mardu Dragons likely has the best removal spells in the format as alongside Crackling Doom it gets to play Draconic Roar with enough dragons to turn it on. Four Thunderbreak Regent and two Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury to dash in means that a lot of the attackers have flying. This deck isn't just playing a straight control game, as it hopes to race decks like Abzan Aggro rather than seeing who has more card advantage. Mardu Dragons would also rather be playing Wild Slash than Fiery Impulse as burning the opponent out can realistically happen.

There are a couple of planeswalkers here, which makes sense. There are no Butcher of the Horde but Sorin, Solemn Visitor allows you to have another way to gain life. The dragons deck doesn't have any maindeck copies of Painful Truths or Read the Bones though, which means its late game will suffer a little bit. Outpost Siege is in the sideboard though to create a stream of card advantage against control decks. Clearly there are a variety of different Mardu decks, and there aren't really enough results to show which Mardu deck is the best, which is what makes the color combination so intriguing.

While Mardu and Jeskai Black are the most obvious homes for Crackling Doom there are other four and five color homes for the card. Crackling Doom is the best edict effect in the format and, with people starting to maindeck Self-Inflicted Wound, playing a deck with Crackling Doom should be a no brainer. Here is an updated Bring to Light Control build played by Stephen Mann on Magic Online:

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Seeker of the Way is not a card typically found in control decks, especially when they are five colors, but it makes sense. Seeker of the Way and Soulfire Grandmaster make Crackling Doom and Fiery Impulse even better here. The creatures are, of course, fantastic since there are so many colors, and the mana, while a little shaky, is good enough. This isn't the typical Bring to Light deck as there are only two actual Bring to Lights without many silver bullets to search for, making the deck more of a five-color good stuff deck. Once choosing to play five colors there are clearly a number of options though, even here we see the full four Crackling Dooms.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield