Black-Green Delirium. Jeskai Saheeli. Four-Color Saheeli. A few decks have stood out from the crowd as the most successful and popular during the first two weekends of Aether Revolt Standard tournaments. These decks are at the forefront of the metagame, but we're still waiting for the pros to take on Standard this weekend at Pro Tour Aether Revolt. Things can and will change as new strategies enter the metagame, and it's already happening in tournaments online and around the world. Aether Revolt has now been on Magic Online for a week, and it has provided a wealth of new decklists and information about the metagame. As you would expect, the best decklists are now rising to the top.
Today I'll explore decks we haven't seen populating the SCG Open results – each has finished highly in another paper event or finished 5-0 in a Magic Online Competitive League. A few weeks ago I was really excited to write about Magic-League decks before Aether Revolt was officially released because they were so novel, but these decks are more refined and proven in more competitive play.
After the banning of Emrakul, the Promised End I identified Bruna, the Fading Light, and specifically its meld with Gisela, the Broken Blade into Brisela, Voice of Nightmares, as a candidate for taking its place as the best top-end finisher of Standard. Unlike the more powerful Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, it can realistically be cast, which is an important distinction for Aetherworks Marvel decks looking to play fair as an alternative to winning with their namesake.
The following deck combines the Brisela, Voice of Nightmares plan with an Aetherworks Marvel shell to create a spiritual successor to Red-Green Marvel.
Thalia's Lancers provides another way to find the meld pieces, or even Ishkanah, Grafwidow or Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. The deck does keep a few Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to immediately end games with Aetherworks Marvel, and it can even be put into play for a quick attack by Nahiri, the Harbinger. Aetherworks Marvel decks have struggled to establish themselves in the new metagame, but a deck like this could be a winning direction to take the strategy.
Next, we have the best Tezzeret the Schemer deck I have seen yet.
At its core this is a typical Metalwork Colossus deck, but some specific card choices allow it to play an effective midrange game that's capable of winning in a variety of ways. It makes great use of Servo Schematic, which adds towards the artifact count while producing a creature to crew Aethersphere Harvester, which is central to the midrange plan. It will beat some aggressive draws as a race-winning lifelink threat, and it can be supercharged by the -2 ability of Tezzeret, the Schemer up to a 7/1 creature. I've always thought the best way to use this planeswalker would be in a deck capable of using its -2 ability not only as a removal spell but as a pump spell on a high toughness creature like Cultivator's Caravan, and Aethersphere Harvester is about the juiciest target imaginable.
The deck supports the midrange plan with disruption like Fatal Push and Metallic Rebuke, and after sideboard it gets access to potent disruption against specific opponents, including Battle at the Bridge against aggressive decks and an assortment of counters against control decks. This deck looks like a positive direction for the Metalwork Colossus strategy and a look at how to use Tezzeret, the Schemer to its full potential, so I recommend it to anyone looking to explore either of those cards.
Some of the best decks I've seen on Magic Online are adaptations of existing strategies, like this Black-Green Delirium deck that moves squarely into blue for Torrential Gearhulk.
Rather than play the typical Delirium game plan of being aggressive with Grim Flayer and Mindwrack Demon, this deck instead plays a control game and builds up to Torrential Gearhulk, which it can return to hand with Liliana, the Last Hope or Grapple with the Past for more value.
Disallow gives the Delirium strategy a new angle with a counter, which helps immensely against combo strategies like Jeskai Saheeli, and solves the troublesome Aetherworks Marvel matchup at the same time. Glimmer of Genius adds card advantage, which Black-Green Delirium lacked and could struggle with over long games, especially so now without Emrakul, the Promised End to clean up games.
Fatal Push serves as an efficient piece of removal, and Walking Ballista is insurance against Jeskai Saheeli that gets halfway to Delirium on its own. As far as Delirium payoffs, the strategy still leans on Ishkanah, Grafiwdow to hold down the battlefield, and this version uses To the Slaughter to fend off planeswalkers. This deck gets a lot of mileage out of Traverse the Ulvenwald as a mana-fixer, and it provides access to a utility creature toolbox that's better than ever in a three-color shell. It's best after sideboard, when the deck gets access to silver-bullet creatures to crush certain strategies, like Sphinx of the Final Word against control and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet against aggressive decks. A set of Grim Flayer in the sideboard is a perfect juke that allows the deck to get more aggressive and catch opponents by surprise.
Delirium decks from before Aether Revolt haven't been able to survive the banning of Emrakul, the Promised End,and while Winding Constrictor builds have risen to prominence, the metagame is already pushing back with good matchups disappearing and Jeskai Saheeli fixing the matchups with choices like shifting away from Radiant Flames and towards Fumigate. Merging the strong Delirium control shell with the best control card in Standard, Torrential Gearhulk, could allow it to become a force in the new metagame.
Deckbuilders continue to try different variations of the Saheeli Rai-Felidar Guardian combo, like this version of Four-Color Saheeli that's built to protect the combo against disruption with Elder Deep-Fiend:
Tapping out the opponent with cards like Turnabout, Mana Short or Gigadrowse has always been a potent tool in the arsenal of combo decks for combatting counterspells and other instant-speed disruption, and Elder Deep-Fiend provides a taste of that ability to the Saheeli Rai-Felidar Guardian combo. Protecting the combo against the multitude of spells people are playing to stop it is an attractive proposition, especially when the best creatures to blink with Felidar Guardian or copy with Saheeli Rai are perfect Emerge enablers. Rogue Refiner and Whirler Virtuoso provide value, and Servant of Conduit accelerates, just like in the typical Four-Color Saheeli deck. Instead of including Cloudblazer or extra planeswalkers, the top-end here is a set of Elder Deep-Fiend, which protects the combo from any sort of disruption that requires mana, which turns off spells and even Implement of Combustion.
What Elder Deep-Fiend doesn't stop is permanent-based disruption like Walking Ballista and Thalia, Heretic Cathar, so Incendiary Flow supplements Harnessed Lighting to take them off the table. After sideboard, when the opponent might have more disruption and hosers like Authority of the Consuls, the deck can shift gears and get more aggressive with Tireless Tracker and Nissa, Vital Force.
It seems like a no-brainer to include Elder Deep-Fiend in a deck with a combo to protect and so many expendable creatures ripe for sacrifice, and it one-ups a metagame fighting back against the combo, so it looks to be a real improvement going forward.
Another version of the Four-Color Saheeli deck takes a more aggressive approach by branching into the +1/+1 counter theme:
Rishkar, Peema Renegade and Verdurous Gearhulk are each fantastic cards to blink with Felidar Guardian or copy with Saheeli Rai, so they fit seamlessly into the strategy. The ability to generate value from creatures is central to the Four-Color Saheeli game plan, and this version stays true to that while being more aggressive and focused on battlefield presence. It's an attractive change considering the synergy with Walking Ballista, which the deck uses a playset of to hold all the extra +1/+1 counters it can. Walking Ballista is fantastic in this deck because it provides a simple and effective main deck way to break up opposing Saheeli Rai-Felidar Guardian combos, against which the stock Four-Color Saheeli deck struggles. If beating other combo decks is the name of the game, then coming prepared with Walking Ballista seems a lot better than playing a similar deck without.
The craziest take on Saheeli Rai-Felidar Guardian I've seen yet combines it with another combo entirely.
Combining Metallic Mimic and Animation Module will set up a Chain Reaction of creating a 2/2 Servo for each mana spent as something like a Standard Sword of the Meek-Thopter Foundry combo. Putting these two combos together in a deck is a strange pairing, but they are held together in a few ways. One, Saheeli Rai's ultimate ability searches for multiple artifacts, so it can assemble both pieces of the secondary combo on its own. Two, Maverick Thopterist serves as a bridge between the two combos by being a fantastic creature to blink with Felidar Guardian or copy with Saheeli Rai that also combines well with Metallic Mimic as a source of Servo tokens. Animation Module won't actually start a token Chain Reaction with Metallic Mimic until another Servo comes into play, and Maverick Thopterist makes that happen.
In terms of support spells, Reverse Engineer is quality card drawing unlike any we have seen in years, and it's a great way to assemble by brute force Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian. Whir of Invention is an easy way to put Metallic Mimic and Animation Module together. A playset of Metallic Rebuke protects the combos and disrupts the opponent's plan, and Fatal Push puts a stop to aggressive creatures and opposing Felidar Guardians. Battle at the Bridge is a powerful way to stop aggressive decks, and more sit in the sideboard along with an assortment of other disruption. The mana is stretched, but Spire of Industries helps the deck to support everything it needs, and Renegade Map makes sure no color is out of reach. It's hard to say exactly how good this deck is or where it sits in the metagame, but its 5-0 performance in a league is a promising start.
This next deck is based on the premise that Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is still the single best card in Standard.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is supported by cast of disruptive creatures, including Thalia, Heretic Cathar to stop the Saheeli Rai-Felidar Guardian combo. Thought-Knot Seer can break up the combo preemptively, and it's effective against every other broken strategy in Standard. Eldrazi Displacer does a lot of work against aggressive and midrange opponents. Selfless Spirit helps to keep these disruptive creatures alive, usually by demanding removal itself. It's also a great way to trigger Archangel Avacyn, which in this deck fills its usual role of Guardian Angel flashing in to protect something while adding an even bigger threat to the battlefield.
Heart of Kiran gives the deck very aggressive starts and plays well with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and the many three-power creatures. White offers a strong removal suite, and Spatial Contortion stops many creatures in the metagame – specifically Winding Constrictor – and it doubles as a pump spell on large creatures that can help close out the game faster. I could see replacing it with Declaration in Stone if the metagame dictated. From the sideboard, the deck gets more controlling and can go long with the Bruna, the Fading Light and Gisela, the Broken Blade meld combo.
The deck is positioned to exploit a metagame heavy in combo decks with its suite of disruptive creatures, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar gives it enough firepower to get through control decks. This midrange creature deck heavy on removal should play well against creature strategies.
The last deck today is a concept too unique and cool not to share.
This deck manages to seamlessly combine a wolf tribal theme with a spirit tribal theme, and the combination creates some strategic synergies that might not be obvious. The deck's flash spirits allow it to routinely pass the turn without a play, triggering werewolf creatures like Lambholt Pacifist to flip, but still build board presence by playing a creature on the opponent's turn. Spirit of the Hunt, a wolf spirit, is the centerpiece of the strategy, and it helps keep creatures alive. Pack Guardian is another wolf spirit with flash, and it's best of all on turn three after flipping Duskwatch Recruiter. Rattlechains fights off removal spells, and Nebelgast Herald contains creature strategies. Verdurous Gearhulk doesn't have tribal synergy, but it sits at the top of the curve as a way to power through the late game, and its counters are especially potent on the many fliers in the deck.
Counters support the flash creatures and give the deck more options on the opponent's turn. They interfere with all of the powerful strategies used in Standard, including the Saheeli Rai-Felidar Guardian combo. These counterspells are especially important in a deck without any traditional creature removal to speak of. This weakness is manageable in a format populated by midrange and combo decks where hyper-aggressive creature decks are in steep decline. This deck exists now as an aggressive deck with disruption, similar to the niche White-Blue Flash filled before the banning of Smuggler's Copter. It looks like an effective deck in a metagame filled with combo and control decks where the fastest creature decks are a rarity.
What do you think of the decks I shared today? What are the best Aether Revolt Standard decks you've seen? What do you have brewing? Share your ideas in the comments, and I'll answer any questions!