Going into Pro Tour Kaladesh this weekend, there are a few cards on everyone's mind. Aether Hub is one of those; it enables a lot of strategies and I expect it to easily be the most played non-basic land in Standard. There are a couple different energy-based decks which have popped up and have been doing well.
Aetherworks Marvel is a new card that is extremely powerful, and could even be broken. This is a card I have been working on for the Pro Tour, and here I am divulging my secrets. There have been a few Aetherworks Marvel lists which have been doing well, but there hasn't been one breakout performance. With so much talk around the card, I have been asked by players if I expect Aetherworks Marvel decks to make an impact at the Pro Tour.
The answer is yes.
Aetherworks Marvel is a build-around card. This means it is the centerpiece of your deck, and it is a card you almost need to get into play if you are going to win the game. The entire gameplan is to put Aetherworks Marvel into play and make a ton of energy, while also not getting killed in the meantime. Assuming you can solve that issue, the question becomes if you're alive to activate the Aetherworks Marvel, what can be done once you are able to start casting cards for free?
When thinking about the most powerful cards to cast in Standard, that means going as big as possible! Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Emrakul, the Promised End are exactly the type of cards to be casting for free.
Let's go ahead and look at one of the typical Aetherworks Marvel lists that has done well. This is what Daniel Weiser finished in top 32 of the Indianapolis Open with.
This is a blue-green base with a red splash. What I have found is that this deck definitely wants to be base green and can dabble in blue or red as necessary. Daniel came to the same conclusion, and it is clear he is on to something. The mana base is solid with Aether Hub being clearly the most important land, and while there are a bunch of decks right now that are playing Aether Hub this one is arguably able to use it better than any other deck. Attune with Aether is also another way to smooth out the mana and provide extra energy.
Here is where cards that produce energy and provide an additional effect really shine. Attune with Aether is exactly the type of card I am talking about. Grabbing a land and energy for only one mana is perfect, and helps get you closer to the six energy for Aetherworks Marvel. Six energy initially seems like a lot, but the deck can get there pretty easily. The Puzzleknots play an important role of providing energy since a single Puzzleknot can generate enough energy by itself to activate Aetherworks Marvel. Glassblower's Puzzleknot allowing you to Scry also makes it easier to find Aetherworks Marvel by the fourth turn.
This deck really wants to dig through the deck as quickly as possible, so as to find Aetherworks Marvel by turn four. Woodweaver's Puzzleknot on the other hand helps provide lifegain which can allow you to stay alive just long enough to win. The deck is a delicate balance between interactive elements, ways to find the Aetherworks Marvel and then big creatures once Aetherworks Marvel enters play. This is essentially one of the premier combo decks of the format, as the idea is very similar to cheating a big creature into play with Goryo's Vengeance or Through the Breach in Modern.
The interactive cards we see here are Kozilek's Return and Harnessed Lightning. Kozilek's Return is a sweeper, and we can rebuy it to deal everything five damage once activating Aetherworks Marvel and cheating a big creature into play. Kozilek's Return shouldn't be too surprising here considering the amount of success it has had in the Emerge decks. Harnessed Lightning, on the other hand, is simply one for one removal. Being able to get energy and kill an opposing creature is pretty nice. When the creature has less than three toughness you net energy, plus Harnessed Lightning can still kill a bigger creature by using additional energy saved from before the Harnessed Lightning was cast.
Sometimes there will be awkward draws involving multiple Eldrazi creatures that are very difficult to hardcast in the deck. It is not impossible to hard cast a big Eldrazi, but it is rare and not the primary gameplan at all. So if either Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Emrakul, the Promises End is drawn early in the game it's nice to have a way to get them out of your hand. This is where Cathartic Reunion enters the equation by trading them into cards you want to see. Both Vessel of Nascency and Cathartic Reunion are ways dig through your deck early for Aetherworks Marvel, which is an important, redundant effect.
Once Aetherworks Marvel enters the battlefield it shouldn't be too difficult to activate it multiple times even if an eldrazi isn't found off the first activation. Remember that once Aetherworks Marvel is in play each time a Puzzleknot is sacrificed it nets an additional energy because of the clause on Aetherworks Marvel about when permanents go to the graveyard. Daniel's list is quite solid for the first week and has a lot of the elements that this strategy needs. The sideboard may not be developed enough, since it is vital to have ways to win after sideboarding, when your opponent will likely be boarding in artifact destruction. But even if they have that destruction spell, oftentimes you can get off a single activation, which is all Aetherworks Marvel can need to win the game.
So we've determined Aetherworks Marvel is one direction to go for energy-based strategies, but let's go in a different direction and talk about a much more aggressive deck. The deck is Red-Green Aggro with an energy element and pump effects. The deck has been putting up great results lately and it is super hard to play against. This is a deck which actually reminds me a lot of Infect.
Here's what the deck looks like, in the hands of Magic Online player Nichoras.
Similar to Infect, there are actually not that many creatures because there needs to be enough pump spells. The deck aims to get a bunch of energy and then use the energy on the creatures in order to make them bigger. In fact, every single creature in the deck has energy-related abilities, so there really is a lot of synergy. Servant of the Conduit helps play a Turn 3 Bristling Hydra, and Bristling Hydra is basically an unkillable threat. The fact that the deck has ways of giving its creatures hexproof is very important considering its vulnerability to opposing removal.
This deck that can actually goldfish a win on the fourth turn fairly easily, but it does need to have a good curve of creatures backed up by pump spells. Optimally Turn 1 consists of casting Attune with Aether, which is spectacular here just like it is in the Aetherworks Marvel deck.
Most importantly, the deck really wants to have a creature on Turn 2, and there are 10 of them. Voltaic Brawler is the signature red-green threat of Kaladesh, and this is where it shines. The card is a four-power beatstick that only costs two mana and can give itself trample. Alongside a card like Uncaged Fury, being able to provide trample to your creatures is super important in order to prevent chump blocking.
Longtusk Cub is only a two-of because drawing multiples isn't that great since you can run out of energy and be unable to pump them. When Longtusk Cub does hit the opponent, though, the feeling is great because the energy gained can snowball and the Longtusk Cub can become huge. Starting with one of these two-drops is going to be important to ensure you are putting enough pressure on the opponent.
While two-drops are key, it's at three mana we find the deck's signature creature: Electrostatic Pummeler. Initially this card may seem underwhelming because it is a three-mana 1/1 creature, but in this deck it really is so much more. Alongside a pump effect or two and some energy Electrostatic Pummeler can realistically take the opponent from 20 to zero by itself. The card is absolutely ridiculous, and is the reason why this deck is so good. For instance, simply casting one Larger Than Life on an Electrostatic Pummeler and then paying six energy to double its power and toughness twice is 20 damage! Besides Larger Than Life, Built to Smash is another way to give Electrostatic Pummeler trample. Most of the time the opponent will block Electrostatic Pummeler if they can, so having a way to force through a bunch of additional trample damage is important.
This is not a burn deck, and there is no direct burn to the face; the deck needs to have a creature in play and attack to win. The idea is that one big creature combined with a couple of pump effects actually leads to a lot more damage than just playing burn spells would. The only type of burn in the main is Harnessed Lightning, but that is here for its energy synergy more than anything else. There are a total of 16 pump spells because they work better when you draw more than one. For example, Uncaged Fury is nice but alongside Larger Than Life it is just absurd. The combo reminds me a lot of Become Immense plus Temur Battle Rage.
Each pump spell has its importance. Blossoming Defense is needed to protect your creatures and allows you to win through removal without having Bristling Hydra in play. Built to Smash is pretty good, but is really in the deck because it can provide trample at instant speed for Electrostatic Pummeler. Larger Than Life may be sorcery-speed pump, bit the trample and big boost make it more than worthwhile. Each card has a unique use, and Uncaged Fury giving double strike helps kill the opponent with one big attack.
Overall the Red/Green Energy Aggro deck wants to draw the right combination of creatures and pump spells, but when it does the deck is almost unbeatable. Having experienced this deck first hand while it is new, the deck is very real, and Electrostatic Pummeler's price tag continues to shoot up. It will show up at the Pro Tour, that much I know for sure.
Thanks for reading,