Last week I discussed how players were breaking the Standard Stranglehold of White-Blue Flash and Black-Green Delirium with a Red-Green Aetherworks Marvel deck that plays a midrange game with Ishkanah, Grafwidow and Chandra, Torch of Defiance in addition to the Aetherworks Marvel plan. This strategy has exploded in popularity on Magic Online after winning the Kaladesh Standard Championships, and is now the fourth most popular deck after Mardu Vehicles. The deck continues to evolve as more people play with and tune the deck.
This version removes Tormenting Voice to add a pair of World Breaker, which makes the midrange plan of the deck even more robust. World Breaker provides a large battlefield presence and great disruption, but it's particularly synergistic here because it can trigger Kozilek's Return from the graveyard, which the deck couldn't otherwise do without casting Emrakul, the Promised End. The two extra game-breaking cards also add some some extra consistency to Aetherworks Marvel. There's certainly a trade-off that comes with making the deck slower and clunkier, but it's a fantastic fit into the game plan and has synergy with the deck, so it's a change that looks great on paper and one I'd recommend testing.The typical sideboard plan for Red-Green Aetherworks is to play a few Tireless Tracker to help play a grindier midrange game after sideboard when opponents will bring in disruption.This deck doubles down on that by playing the full four copies and then adding Bristling Hydra. Bristling Hydra plays off of the energy enablers for Aetherworks Marvel, which will presumably be sided out when the creatures come in, so it's a natural swap. Bristing Hydra is very difficult to deal with once it hits the table, and it's capable of winning the game by itself in a few short turns, so it's the perfect way to one-up the opponent and leave them wondering what went wrong.
As Aetherworks Marvel decks grow in popularity so too will the sideboard cards being used against them as players begin to adapt. The original combo-focused Temur Aetherworks deck relied on Counterspells to fight back, and at least one Red-Green player has splashed these into the sideboard
Negate is fantastic against control decks and stops disruption like discard and Counterspells. It's also effective in the mirror match, which is becoming a greater concern now that Red-Green Aetherworks Marvel decks are performing well and gaining ground. Ceremonious Rejection in the sideboard ensures this decklist will have a large advantage against any other Aetherworks Marvel decks.
White-Blue Flash is the most popular deck in Standard, and its options have mostly been explored, but it continues to adapt to the ever-changing metagame and find new tools to one-up the opposition. The latest technology is Always Watching.
Always Watching is an easy fit into a white-based aggressive deck where it finds many creatures to pump, but it's not played simply because it's a good card, but because it's uniquely effective against the metagame. Always Watching provides an edge in the mirror match, where creatures of the same size often stare at each other in stalemates if they don't trade in combat. Vigilance is also important as a way to control combat and win races. Against Black-Green Delirium, Always Watching helps to lessen the impact of their power/toughness-altering removal spells, including Liliana, the Last Hope, and specifically allowing Archangel Avacyn to survive Grasp of Darkness. Always Watching also seems effective as a way to boost toughness against any red-based control decks that use burn spells or Dynavolt Tower to destroy creatures.
Another piece of White-Blue Flash tech is Elder Deep-Fiend.
Playing a single Elder Deep-Fiend is something that has been seen before, but it has mostly been discarded in favor of more efficient cards. It's a natural fit into the deck's flash plan, but including this powerful haymaker comes with some risk, particularly because this deck doesn't really have any creatures it can sacrifice for a profit. When it does prove effective, the massive impact of Elder Deep-Fiend can't be understated, even moreso when opponents are not expecting it. It surely stole some game wins on the day, and it highlights the value of catching opponents off-guard.
A few White-Blue Flash players online have began including a singleton Skysovereign, Consul Flagship in their sideboard as a way to break the mirror match.
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is used in the sideboards of Mardu Vehicles decks to specifically attack White-Blue Flash, so it makes sense that White-Blue Flash could use it to gain an edge in the mirror match. It gets around Spell Queller and Fragmentize, and its trigger is an immediate source of value that can destroy the majority of the opponent's creatures, even the Gisela, the Broken Blade that most decks will sideboard in for the mirror. It's also very difficult to deal with once resolved, demanding Stasis Snare or a well-timed Archangel Avacyn in combat to remove it from the table. Thalia's Lancers makes finding the singleton copy easier without having to play multiples.
A different plan for White-Blue is to take it in a "combo" direction of sorts. Panharmonicon as a constant source of value that will break any games that go long. I've discussed the promise of this strategy before after seeing preliminary versions online, but last weekend it further proved its potential by finishing second second place in a 100+ player tournament in Japan.
Starting with four Smuggler's Copter means this deck shares some similarities with White-Blue Flash. Instead of building off of Thraben Inspector and Reflector Mage, which with Panharmonicon in play can make two clues or bounce two creatures, the deck takes a more Brute Force tap-out approach, and the the finesse flash creatures have been replaced by the value of Pilgrim's Eye and Cloudblazer. Eldrazi Displacer can blink any of the other creatures for additional triggers, and combining it with Drowner of Hope is the deck's endgame plan. Essence Flux is at its best here with no lack of targets to blink for value and Panharmonicon to double the impact. The White-Blue Panharmonicon deck continues to impress me, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a change of pace with their White-Blue deck.
The combination of Gisela, the Broken Blade and Bruna, the Fading Light to meld into the game-ending Brisela, Voice of Nightmares - often with Thalia's Lancers to find it - has proven to be a great way to go over the top of opponents in Standard. It's so effective that it's become commonplace in the sideboards of the White-Blue Flash decks. This combination also spawned a number of decks of its own, so when I wrote about my favorite decks from the TCGplayer State Championships I shared a few that were centered around this potent combination, including two aggressive white-black, a green-white deck and a four-color midrange deck. The Top 8 from Pennsylvania have come in since, and the winner was wielding a mono-white deck based around Thalia's Lancers
This deck utilizes Gisela, the Broken Blade in a very unique way by taking advantage of the lifegain ability to trigger Lone Rider, which is unexciting unflipped but overpowered when transformed. A set of Aerial Responder further pushes the lifegain theme as another way to flip Lone Rider. A singleton Odric, Lunarch Marshal as a Thalia's Lancers target is great in a deck full of keyword abilities, and it's yet another card that can combine with Lone Rider to flip it.
Blessed Alliance gives the deck a very convenient way to flip Lone Rider, but it's also an effective removal spell that can destroy Smuggler's Copter, something that Declaration in Stone - which is absent from the main deck - can not.
This deck also includes the technology of Always Watching, which helps its creatures gain an edge in combat. If it's good enough for White-Blue Flash, it's good enough here, where we can also find Smuggler's Copter. Angel of Invention serves as an additional anthem effect, and it's yet another lifelink creature that can flip Lone Rider. There's a lot of great technology in this deck, and it's a testament to parts of a deck summing together into something greater.
Andrew Tenjum always seems to be on the cutting-edge of Standard technology, and last weekend he built the meld combo into a White-Red Vehicles shell to create a midrange monster.
Planning to extend the game long enough to cast Bruna, the Fading Light requires slowing down and playing a more midrange game plan, which is in no place more notable than the space for main deck Gideon, Ally of Zendikar being filled by Nahiri, the Harbinger. Rather than play into the hands of Smuggler's Copter, it turns the tables as an answer to it or any other threat. It's also removal against enchantments like Stasis Snare, which can be devastating against opponents expecting their Snares to be permanent removal.
The slots reserved for Toolcraft Exemplar are instead filled by the legend package, which signifies the deck's shift away from aggression. Thalia's Lancers is better than ever here because it can fetch the singleton Skysovereign, Consul Skyship, which brings this potent piece of sideboard technology to the main deck to give the deck an extra edge against White-Blue Flash and Mardu Vehicles. Linvala, the Preserver is an additional sideboard card that gets moved to the main to make the legend toolbox even more versatile. In the spot usually held by Depala, Pilot Exemplar in a typical Red-White vehicles deck, Fairgrounds Warden gives this deck something like a Reflector Mage of its own as a disruptive creature to supplement the midrange plan.
From the sideboard, Fumigate allows this deck to firmly take a control stance and slow down the game long enough for its legends to take over. Alternatively, a set of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar allow the deck to shift towards the aggressive role.
Red-White Vehicles has some excellent tools, and it has proven itself as a top competitor, but it has mostly been edged out by the more versatile White-Blue Fash. Realizing that the deck needed to re-invent itself, Tenjum built a deck that used the best elements of the vehicles decks, but as a base for a bigger game plan rather than as an end in themselves. What is so special about this deck is how well it utilizes Veteran Motorist, which with a Scry 2 ability is essentially the sort of Serum Visions or Preordain effect that is so critical for midrange decks to operate smoothly and bring their various parts together. The same could be said for the looting ability of Smuggler's Copter, which is excellent card selection that helps this midrange deck operate smoothly. I'm a big fan of this direction for Red-White Vehicles and expect to see more of the strategy.
I couldn't wrap up today without mentioning the Eldrazi, specifically the Abzan Eldrazi deck that made it to the finals of the TCGplayer Standard State Champs in Pennsylvania.
This deck takes the best colorless Eldrazi in Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher, combines them with Eldrazi Displacer and then mashes that with a green creature core of Sylvan Advocate, Tireless Tracker and Verdurous Gearhulk. Black provides a wealth of removal including Noxious Gearhulk to top the curve. Aether Hub brings it all together. It's not exactly pretty to look at it, but it's easy to imagine the deck getting some impressive draws where it does nothing but play one of Standard's best creatures every turn.
What's your approach to this Standard metagame? Do you have any decklist innovations that have been working for you? Have you seen any unique decks? Share your ideas in the comments, and I'll answer any questions!