This past weekend I ended up playing in a Standard Win-A-Box at Learn2Play Games in Tampa. I didn't make it to FNM and I knew I wanted to play some Standard since the format was brand new and I had a ton of new cards to use, so I thought about all the cards I wanted to play with and created a little list here. The cards I was excited about looked something like this:
Butcher of the HordeClever ImpersonatorDig Through TimeEmpty the PitsMindswipeNecropolis FiendPearl Lake AncientRakshasa DeathdealerRattleclaw MysticSagu MaulerSarkhan, the DragonspeakerSavage KnucklebladeSidisi, Brood TyrantSiege RhinoSorin, Solemn VisitorSultai AscendancySurrak DragonclawVillainous WealthWingmate Roc
Okay, maybe See the Unwritten as well because that card is kind of cool too. And this list is just the rares and mythics!
I had to prioritize and find a way to choose which of these cards were at the top of my list. I realized that one metric I could use was to choose which of the cards weren't getting as much love as I felt they should and try out some of those to see how powerful they actually were.
I settled on Temur because, despite Savage Knuckleblade (Or "Knuckleborn Savage" as Melissa calls it) and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker being obviously powerful cards, I still wasn't sure how cards like Temur Charm, Surrak Dragonclaw, Sagu Mauler, and Rattleclaw Mystic would fare in action.
I began taking cards out of my boxes based on what I knew about previous midrange lists from the previous format and this was the initial build I began with:
I wanted to have a bunch of removal since black aggro decks seemed to be pretty popular in the Burgeoning format and aggro decks in general are often some of the most popular in new formats. I also knew I needed quite a few ramp creatures in order to cast our five and six-drops.
I played a few games against a UB Control list that Melissa put together and I learned a few things from our testing. These weren't really matches to see how the decks fared in the metagame (as that would be impossible with the metagame being completely undefined at this point), but rather just some games to get comfortable with casting and interacting with the new cards.
The first thing I realized was that Magma Jet, while good against the aggro decks, is a little too low impact against other decks. We would rather be drawing higher impact cards...like planeswalkers, basically. You don't really get much higher impact than that
Another problem we had was the same problem that every deck with a ton of mana accelerators has: drawing too many mana accelerators. Now, this is often something that is easy to overcome, as we frequently see people playing eight to twelve of these in their decks. I'm not really a fan of that. I would rather draw less of these and more of the higher power cards in our deck, so I figured I would Remove one of the two-drops. I decided on taking out a Rattleclaw Mystic because our deck is already pretty good against the opponent's burn spells and removal. Most of our guys have hexproof or four toughness, so things like Lightning Strike and Magma Jets aren't that big of a threat to our plan. Seeing how susceptible Rattleclaw Mystic is to those cards was the reason I felt that keeping the full set of Sylvan Caryatids in the deck was the better choice.
The other cut I made was one Nissa, Worldwaker. I love Nissa. I think she's one of the strongest cards in the format, but unless she's being attacked (which her own abilities make a rather difficult prospect) she is usually able to remain at a fairly high loyalty. This is in opposition to a card like Sarkhan who immediately drops to one loyalty if we use his second ability. There were also times where you could attack with Sarkhan, then have him hit with an Utter End or a Silence the Believers, etc. The fact that Sarkhan is the permanent that is attacking, rather than lands (Nissa) or tokens (Sorin, for example) means that we don't usually mind having multiples, whereas even if the opponent somehow Removes Nissa, Worldwaker from the board, we still have the powerful effect she left behind (an army of 4/4s).
I also felt like I wanted more forms of card advantage since, despite being a blue deck, we really didn't have many. The more I've played with her, the more I've liked the -1 ability of Kiora, the Crashing Wave. I used to use her exclusively for krakens, but the ramp is usually quite relevant, and being able to draw an extra card every other turn is pretty strong. Furthermore, she can also take care of some unique threats like Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker himself if need be. Kiora was one of the exact cards that I was looking for and she ended up working out perfectly.
The other card that I decided to add was two Chandra, Pyromaster. Her +1 ability is huge at not only picking off a lot of the aggressive creatures in the format with one toughness, but it also prevents things like Courser of Kruphix from blocking our creatures, which could be just what we need at times. Additionally, the one damage actually goes great with our Lightning Strikes, allowing us to take out four toughness creatures, such as the aforementioned Courser of Kruphix. Furthermore she's another form of card advantage with her zero ability that combines incredibly well with the Foresight from a Courser of Kruphix.
After the changes, this was the list I ended up at:
The deck had a lot more reach after the changes and even now there are only a few tweaks I would make.
Sagu Mauler was huge. He was hard to block and impossible to kill. The only problem is that if the opponent had a Polukranos, World Eater and a Courser of Kruphix for example, they could easily double block. And if Polukranos, World Eater managed to monstrous for two, it could block the Mauler all on its own. I don't think the Mauler is a bad card. In fact quite the opposite. But I do think he could easily be replaced by Stormbreath Dragon in the deck. At first I deliberately avoided adding Stormbreath because I wanted to make sure we didn't clog up our five-drop slot and I wanted to try new things, not build a deck with the same five or six mythics from every previous midrange list. I told myself that Sagu Mauler was either a three-drop or a six-drop. But seriously, there were times where I paid five mana to unmorph him, which is the same as being a five-drop, and if we're casting him for six, that's the same as being a five-drop that we can't cast on turn five!
Ultimately there were a couple games where I needed to punch through some damage, and while I was eventually able to, I could have done so a little easier with Stormbreath Dragon I believe. Additionally, there's also the bonus of being able to easily monstrous Stormbreath Dragon with all the extra mana we have from things like Rattleclaw Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid, and Kiora, the Crashing Wave.
Other than that, the only other thing I wish I could do would be to add another Temur Charm to the maindeck. It was incredibly solid and I was super impressed with it every time I drew it. There was one time when my opponent was stuck on two lands but had a Sylvan Caryatid and an Elvish Mystic helping him out. I swung in with my Courser of Kruphix to, you know, cheat a couple of points of damage if he didn't block. Of course he does block with his Sylvan Caryatid and I end up casting Temur Charm, making my Courser a 3/5 to fight his 1/1 and kill his Sylvan Caryatid in combat. Needless to say my opponent did not come back from this. The worst mode was easily the third and even that won me games with so many small creatures being present in the format. There are entire decks, multiple decks even, that don't even contain creatures with power greater than three. Sometimes even two of our creatures can deal an incredible nine damage if left unblocked.The Sideboard
I threw the sideboard together with consideration to what I felt like I would be facing. I'll go over my reasoning for each card and their uses.
Stubborn Denial: This is basically a hard counter nine times out of ten (don't quote me on that statistic). It was huge when you want to play a big creature and protect it with only one mana up. There were games where I would cast Nissa, Worldwaker and make my Mana Confluence a 4/4 creature, only to tap it for a blue mana and cast Stubborn Denial when my opponent cast their Hero's Downfall.
Magma Spray, Magma Jet, and Anger of the Gods: These were concessions to the aggro decks in the format. When about half of your lands have the same line of text ("enters the battlefield tapped"), it's nice to have a turn two removal spell if your first and second lands enter the battlefield tapped. There is also the Jeskai Ascendancy combo deck floating around that relies on things like Kiora's Follower and Sylvan Caryatid, so it's nice to have a way to clear their board when they can't actually win without their mana creature engine.
Clever Impersonator: This was a card I was thrilled about adding. I didn't get to cast it in any of my matches, but I knew it would be amazing at copying a Stormbreath Dragon, or an Elspeth, Sun's Champion, or even an opposing Nissa, Worldwaker or Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker. Heck, we could even copy an Banishing Light if we wanted to. This was basically a way to deal with the cards that blue, red, and green don't have many ways of dealing with otherwise (for example, Master of Waves gave me some trouble before my changes). I didn't really want this in the maindeck, however, because there are certain matches where it's just not going to be that impressive and you're going to end up copying a 2/1.
Reclamation Sage: Another obvious choice, this is great at getting rid of things like Courser of Kruphix, Herald of Torment, Gnarled Scarhide, Jeskai Ascendancy, Nyx Weaver, Whip of Erebos, and Banishing Light. Not much needs to be said about this guy. Just an efficient creature that does a great job.
I also took the Jeskai Burn deck that won the SCG Open to a Win-A-Box on Monday, and I didn't end up losing a match there either. I'm currently undefeated in this new Standard format it seems. That deck is the real deal as well (albeit the winning list needs some real changes), and if there was one thing I wished the Temur deck could do, it would be gain life more efficiently. Seeker of the Way and, to a lesser extent, Jeskai Charm did a great job of gaining incremental life over the course of a game if necessary. Without white in the deck, we're restricted to the ways of green to actually gain life, and unfortunately green just hasn't really stacked up recently in the life gain department. The first thing I thought of was Nylea's Disciple, but it wasn't even really worth it. I guess Bow of Nylea is an option, but mostly we'll probably just end up relying on Courser of Kruphix; it isn't like our aggro matchup is that terrible anyway.
This weekend is the TCGplayer Standard State Championships and I would definitely recommend this deck. It's super powerful and it plays some incredibly fun cards. If you make it out there in an attempt to claim the title of State Champion, you could do a lot worse than sleeving this bad boy up. Maybe I'll even try it out on Magic Online next week once the cards are legal! That's about all I have for today though. Thanks for reading, and I'll catch you on Monday!
Frank Lepore@FrankLepore on TwitterFrankLepore on TwitchTV