Today's deck is a Standard version of the old Modern favorite, Takin' Turns. I've always liked playing Takin' Turns in Modern. Maybe it's because I like being in control of the game, or maybe it's because I like big blue spells, but there's something special about never passing your turn over to your opponent. Here's what a Modern Takin' Turns deck looks like.
This deck is pretty simple to play. First, land a Howling Mine or a Dictate of Kruphix onto the battlefield, then get yourself into a position where your opponent can't do anything. Usually this means casting a Gigadrowse to tap them out or a Cryptic Command to bounce an important land. Once they are in a vulnerable position, just start casting "Time Walks". Since you're drawing an extra card every turn, it's very likely that you can chain them together. Finally, the win condition is either your lone Jace Beleren used to deck your opponent, or an awakened Part the Waterveil. Once you start taking turns, your opponent is never getting another turn for the rest of the game, which means that you can tick up your Planeswalkers or attack with creatures until they die.
We're going to be doing this in Standard!
If you assumed that it seems unlikely that we can play a Takin' Turns in Standard, you'd be close to right! Not only does Standard not have access to the amount of Time Walks that Modern has, but it's also missing ways to get extra cards into your hand every turn for no cost. In Standard we have two Time Walk variants, Part the Waterveil and Temporal Trespass. Both of these spells are super expensive, so it's hard to imagine that we can cast them and still have leftover mana to do meaningful things. However, if there was a way to cast them for free, that's a whole different story.
Back when I was at Wizards, I was on the Future Future League Team. This team's job was to build Standard decks and try out many different cards to make sure decks were fun, no cards were broken, and there was a reasonable amount of variety in the metagame. There was a concern that chaining Part the Waterveils together may be broken, especially when awakened, but I was sure that nine mana made this spell quite reasonable. However, if there was a way to chain expensive Time Walks together for free, that's much different. I was determined to break the format and I built a deck that looked to exploit casting free expensive spells. The deck ended up being anything but broken but I did find it to be pretty cool and interesting.
I ended up putting that deck on the back burner for a while but last week a reader Gavin Amari messaged me and gave me the idea to build a deck around Narset, Enlightened Master. His message reminded me of the old deck I built and I quickly put a new version of Takin' Turns together on Magic Online.
This list is much different than the list I built a year ago for the FFL. The choices in this deck were made based on today's metagame, which is much different than R&D's. Last year I found the deck to be quite fun and this new version is no different. There are times where the deck does exactly what you want it to do. You attack with Narset, Enlightened Master, reveal a couple of Planeswalkers and a Part the Waterveil, take another turn, rinse and repeat. Then there are other times where you reveal three lands and a Duress. There are also times where you get run over by a much faster deck. However, this I can assure you: This deck is super fun and works more often than not.
Just last night I ran this deck through a few Standard two-man queues on Magic Online. I won one match by revealing a Chandra, Flamecaller off of Narset, Enlightened Master, cast it, and discarded my hand to draw a new one. The new hand revealed a Temporal Trespass, and the discarded cards gave me enough fuel to cast the Temporal Trespass along with a bunch of other spells. The second Narset, Enlightened Master attack showed me a pair of Time Walks, and with Chandra, Flamecaller producing 3/1 haste tokens every turn, the game was over very quickly. I won a second match by playing a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar on turn four and then a Narset, Enlightened Master on turn six. Narset, Enlightened Master's next attack revealed double Time Walks. With Gideon, Ally of Zendikar hitting for five a turn, the game was essentially over. I lost a third match to a bunch of Mantis Riders and burn. You can't win 'em all.
So now that i've overwhelmed you with all of this information, how do you play this deck? The deck functions similarly to Jeskai Black. The early turns will consist of you fetching for the lands you need and getting your mana base set up. Efficient removal spells like Fiery Impulse and Crackling Doom help you survive the early stages of the game. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy filters out the stuff you don't need and also provides you with some great card advantage. Painful Truths helps you refill your hand so you don't miss land drops. The deck is basically Jeskai Black with a different win condition.
The big difference here is that that with Jeskai Black, you just control the board and gain a small advantage over time. After many, many turns, you can finally win by whittling down your opponent's life with a tiny creature such as Soulfire Grand Master. What I'm saying is that sometimes Jeskai Black will take forever to win and you are usually boring your opponent (and sometimes even yourself) to death. This deck is anything but boring. While it has a similar playstyle to Jeskai Black it is trying to win the game in one giant turn (or many turns taken by you!).
Since our deck is built around Narset, Enlightened Master, we are going to want expensive Planeswalkers that can be cast off of her ability, yet we don't want to be playing only expensive Planeswalkers, otherwise we'd die before we got anything going. We have two Planeswalkers that help us to survive the early game: Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is a Standard staple and doesn't need an explanation of why he's in the deck. What I like most about Jace, Vryn's Prodigy in this deck in particular is that you can discard an expensive Time Walk early in the game and then flash it back later. He also helps fill up your graveyard, making casting Temporal Trespass much easier.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar does two things in this deck. First, he provides protection by giving us creature tokens. Usually opponents will attack Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and do what they can to kill him. This will usually buy us some turns so that we can land a Narset, Enlightened Master. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is also one of our win conditions. Once we start taking turns, he will be attacking for five and is really hard to kill.
Our late-game Planeswalkers are two Chandra, Flamecaller and one Ob Nixilis Reignited. Chandra, Flamecaller, while expensive, is amazing in this deck. She clears the board if we need to, improves our hand, and is even a win condition by herself. At six mana, we really don't want to play more than two copies. The best-case scenario is to just cast her for free off of a Narset, Enlightened Master, but I'm also more than happy to pay six mana; she is always worth it.
Ob Nixilis Reignited is only a one-of and while it can be a win condition, it's not really an ideal one. Once you are going off it is pretty reasonable to ultimate him, but there are other win conditions in the deck that are much more efficient. Ob Nixilis Reignited's role here is more to just get their last creature off the board or draw some cards.
If you are a Standard player you are probably familiar with the spells in this deck. Since our deck is pretty slow it's really important to have Fiery Impulse. It not only kills Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, a card that we will have a hard time dealing with once it's transformed, but it's also great at killing most aggressive creatures. We also have Crackling Doom, probably the best removal spell in Standard. It kills the biggest thing, which is usually the thing you want to be killing anyway. Kolaghan's Command is another great removal spell that also functions as an anti-control card. You'll be using this to return a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy to your hand more often than not.
Duress is one of our most important cards. Since we're playing a fragile combo deck, having a card like Duress to remove your opponent's answers is crucial. Although Narset, Enlightened Master has hexproof, at times you'll be playing against cards like Crackling Doom and Foul-Tongue Invocation, and you need to have answers to those cards.
Painful Truths is one of the more awkward cards to reveal off of a Narset, Enlightened Master, but it's one of the best ones to cast on turn three, and that certainly outweighs the downside.
We're playing four Part the Waterveil and two Temporal Trespass. I had a really hard time fitting in a third Temporal Trespass because the card is really weak early in the game. With twelve fetchlands, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, and lots of instants and sorceries, Temporal Trespass can be cast as early as turn four. In fact, in one of my playtest games I did cast a turn four Temporal Trespass to ramp into a Narset, Enlightened Master on turn five.
The Time Walks also have great synergy with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. You don't need them early so they are the perfect card to discard to his loot ability and be cast again later. Of course, the main purpose of the Time Walks is to reveal them off of a Narset, Enlightened Master trigger. You're very likely to take a few turns in a row when playing this deck. My record so far is six, and I didn't even need all six turns to win.
I've tried a few variations on the sideboard including a suite of counters against control decks and Rally decks. After some testing, I've learned that countermagic is definitely not the way to go. Flipping countermagic off of Narset, Enlightened Master is one of the most embarrassing things you can do with this deck so it's best to avoid it if possible.
Instead, the sideboard is full of proactive spells that you won't mind revealing off of Narset, Enlightened Master. Hallowed Moonlight is the only reactive card in the sideboard but it's a necessary evil if you want to beat Rally.
Again, since the shell of our deck is Jeskai Black, you will see a lot of the same card choices. If you are a Jeskai Back player and want to give this deck a try, feel free to make changes as you see necessary.
Before we conclude for today I'd like to thank Gavin Amari for giving me the idea to build around Narset, Enlightened Master. If there's a card that you'd like me to build around for a future article, please send the idea to my Facebook page. I do get a lot of messages so I can't promise that I'll reply to everyone but if you give me a cool idea I will try to use it.
I've also received a lot of requests to create videos on the decks I write about each week, and I'm working on that so stay tuned!
Thanks for reading and for the continuous support!