Today I'm going to share three decks I've been working on. The first is an aggressive take on the Saheeli Rai-Felidar Guardian combo which I believe has several advantages over the other versions of Saheeli Combo. Second is a White-Black Planeswalker strategy that preys on Winding Constrictor and other creature strategies. Third is a hybrid between Green-White Humans and Green-White Tokens which aims to combat the predicted rise of heavy anti-creature control/midrange strategies that are looking to prey on Winding Constrictor decks. Whichever level of the metagame you want to be playing on, I have something spicy for you to play this weekend!
I tried a few versions of the Saheeli combo, but they each had weaknesses. The control versions felt awkward because most of your deck is a control deck but then you also have these underpowered combo pieces that you would have to work into your game plan somehow. Felidar Guardian is not exactly great on its own, nor is Saheeli Rai. The heavy artifact version had the problem of having too many cards that didn't do anything and was heavily reliant on finding the combo quickly and having it resolve. I attempted to solve this problem by being aggressive and not relying so heavily on finding and resolving the combo. Given the amount of Walking Ballista I expect to face moving forward, this might be the approach to playing the Saheeli combo.
Felidar Guardian is actually a reasonable Magic card in this deck. It can blink a Prophetic Prism to draw a card, allowing it to replace itself right away. It can also blink Maverick Thopterist for value, producing two extra Thopter Tokens. You can also blink Thraben Inspector to get an extra clue token or a land to give you the extra mana to emerge Elder Deep-Fiend.
Speaking of Elder Deep-Fiend, that's another card that fits perfectly into this deck. We're primarily an aggro deck, so being able to tap down the opponent's board on their turn (or during combat for the surprise value block) is a quite welcomed ability, functioning as a Cryptic Command of sorts that taps down all the opponent's blockers so we can attack for lethal. It also acts as a Mana Short, tapping down all the opponent's untapped lands so we can untap and combo off without any threat of our combo getting countered or disrupted by a Shock or Grasp of Darkness. We also have plenty of great ways to emerge it out, the best of which is Maverick Thopterist since we only have to pay two additional mana for the emerge cost of Elder Deep-Fiend when we sacrifice the thopterist. Sacrificing a Scrapheap Scrounger is also fine since we can pay 1B to bring back the Scrounger. Or we can sacrifice a spare Felidar Guardian or Thraben Inspector.
Metallic Rebuke is a good way to defend the combo since we have so many artifacts lying around for improvise. Thraben Inspector makes clues, Prophetic Prism sticks around after replacing itself, and Maverick Thopterist makes two Thopter Tokens when it enters the battlefield. Walking Ballista is another card that gives us more interaction. It allows us to kill opposing Walking Ballistas or to disrupt opposing Saheeli combos. Direct damage is also very good in this deck since we are still an aggro deck at heart and many of our games will be won by regular damage.
In addition to not being so reliant on finding and resolving the combo, which incidentally makes us better against disruption, we also force the opponent to act first with this build. Toolcraft Exemplar into Scrapheap Scrounger can't just be ignored. You will literally die by turn five from these two cards alone! These creatures combined with Maverick Thopterist can make for some very aggressive starts that will force the opponent to tap out for removal spells or blockers or to even sacrifice their Walking Ballista in an attempt to survive the pressure. All this opens the door for us to combo kill the opponent.
When we're on the aggro plan, even Saheeli Rai is a fine card. Copying Maverick Thopterist makes extra Thopter Tokens and gets in more damage. Copying Scrapheap Scrounger deals three damage to the opponent. And casting Elder Deep-Fiend on the opponent's turn and then untapping and copying it gives as a 10-point attack just from the Eldrazi pair alone! And the one damage Saheeli Rai deals when you scry is much more relevant in a deck with Toolcraft Exemplar and Scrapheap Scrounger.
Out of the sideboard we have more Elder Deep-Fiends for the matchups where those shine, including any time where the game goes long and the opponent's forms of disruption require them to keep mana open. Negate is great against control decks, planeswalker decks, Aetherworks Marvel, and some other combo decks. Shock comes in against all the aggro decks and also against Saheeli Combo since it breaks it up. Essence Flux is a perfect way to protect either part of our combo since we can blink the Felidar Guardian in response to a removal spell to protect itself or to protect Saheeli since Felidar Guardian's ability will then blink the Saheeli. It can also save our Elder Deep-Fiend in a pinch or blink Maverick Thopterist to get a pair of Thopter Tokens. Fragmentize is a catch-all against Authority of the Consuls, Vehicles, and Aetherworks Marvel and whatever else might show up. Felidar Cub is specifically for Authority of the Consuls since we can copy it with Saheeli to blow up multiple copies of the problematic enchantment. It's also useful against Stasis Snare and Quarantine Field and we can generally make good use of the 2/2 body since we are an aggro deck. The one card I would like to fit into the sideboard is Fevered Visions. It is great against slow controlling decks and puts additional pressure on the opponent to do stuff instead of sitting on a hand of disruption. Not sure what to cut to make room, but I feel like we want a few copies of that card in our sideboard.
I don't know what the format will look like for sure moving forward, but this deck does a lot of things that fit together really well and it has enough generic interaction to put up a fight against whatever the opponent is doing. I think it's an excellent approach to the format right now. If you didn't think I'd figure out a way to fit Toolcraft Exemplar and Thraben Inspector into the Saheeli Combo deck, then you must be new to my strategy column. Welcome!
In case aggro isn't your thing, don't worry. I have an anti-aggro deck for you today too!
Originally this was a gauntlet deck that I got from a Michael Majors article, but after changing some things around and adapting to the rise of Winding Constrictor decks, this deck has moved from gauntlet to one of the decks I least want to face in a tournament!
The deck certainly does not skimp on removal spells, which is partly (okay, largely) why I specifically do not want to face it, but it's generally a good deck across many matchups. It has instant-speed interaction and discard to fight the Saheeli combo, in addition to Authority of the Consuls out of the sideboard. It has plenty of removal spells for creature decks, including Fumigates which are great against all the black-green decks. It also has planeswalkers, which are great against other midrange and control decks and work great with all the Wrath effects. Between Kalitas, Sorin, Noxious Gearhulk, and Shambling Vent we also have a decent amount of life gain.
One matchup that is not very good is Green-White Tokens since our spot removal spells line up so poorly against their token threats. Our deck is not designed to deal with a board that goes wide by making tokens from planeswalkers since they can just rebuild from our Wraths and ignore our Fatal Pushes and Grasp of Darkness. Anguished Unmaking, Quarantine Field and Ruinous Path are our keys to victory in that matchup, but game one is very hard. Given that the green-white deck has such a bad matchup against Winding Constrictor decks, I suspect that deck will be on the decline, which makes this white-black planeswalker strategy even more appealing.
The basis of the deck is to kill everything and then take over the game with planeswalkers. It's essentially the same strategy Lukas Blohon used to win Pro Tour Eldritch Moon. The deck fell off the map when Languish rotated out of Standard, but now that Yahenni's Expertise is around and Fumigate is well-positioned, the deck has legs once again. Even though Lukas won the Pro Tour during Emrakul, the Promised End's debut, the deck really doesn't want to have to face Emrakul. So now that Emrakul is banned, there is nothing that can really go over the top of this deck to punish it for trying to play a slow grindy game of Magic.
This deck really preys on all the creature decks of the format. The cheap instant-speed black removal spells backed by efficient board sweepers is a very tough combination to overcome for any aggro deck. Add in the planeswalker dimension and the aggro decks have little means to recover. They will get buried in card advantage while seeing all their creatures die agonizing deaths. There is basically nothing an aggro deck can do to combat this strategy…. Right?
Admittedly, it takes a lot for an aggro deck to adapt to a deck with as much removal as the white-black deck has, but I've managed to do just that! They key is taking a page out of the Green-White Tokens playbook and going wide with planeswalkers that make us more resilient to the point removal spells and the Wrath effects of the white-black deck! They also allow us to pressure the opposing planeswalkers much more efficiently. After all, what better way to combat Gideon, Ally of Zendikar than with your own copy?
This deck is based on the Green-White Humans deck I played at GP Denver a couple months ago but instead of playing Declaration in Stone and Smuggler's Copter I play Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. These planeswalkers gives us much more reach against the midrange and control decks of the format while playing nicely with our theme of aggressively attacking the opponent's life total with creatures. By moving Declaration in Stone to the sideboard, we make ourselves a little worse against creature-heavy decks, but we still have plenty of game against them. We just need to make more trades in combat than we otherwise would. We have plenty of grinding power to overcome them in the midgame between all our planeswalkers, Tireless Trackers, Duskwatch Recruiters, and Sigarda, Heron's Grace. Even our one-drop Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter can take over a game in the later stages!
Black-green decks based around Winding Constrictor synergies are the new big thing, but Saheeli combo decks are also new and demand respect. Any deck you bring to the tournament needs to have a plan against these two strategies. Beyond these, there is also Mardu Vehicles, Green-White Tokens, and a plethora of control decks based around Torrential Gearhulk. Aetherworks Marvel lost Emrakul, the Promised End, but it still has Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger as a powerful haymaker and we got many new and powerful energy producers to make setting up the Aetherworks Marvel much easier! Sleeping on that deck could prove disastrous.
There are also various aggro decks besides Mardu Vehicles. We have Human-themed aggro decks as well as Red-Green Energy decks. Some of these will be based on combo killing with Electrostatic Pummeler combined with pump spells while others will be more value-oriented, utilizing cards like Rogue Refiner to generate card advantage and energy to fuel their other energy spells. None of this even mentions Tezzeret the Schemer, which in my opinion is one of the most powerful cards in Aether Revolt!
While black-green decks and Saheeli Combo decks are certainly atop the decks to consider this weekend, there are plenty of other strategies that can hold their own – and plenty of room for innovation and invention!