Nationals was a crash test for the Team Pro Tour. When my teammates and I decided that I would be playing Standard, I looked for a good deck I would enjoy playing. Storm was my first choice, but I discarded it right after the tournament as I believed it wasn't good enough.
In one of the last rounds of Nationals, Gabriel Nassif was paired against Florian Trotte, an inventive French player that I got to work with for Pro Tour Ixalan.Gabe was intrigued by his deck choice and at the end of the tournament, Florian showed us his list of what would become the talk of Pro Tour 25thAnniversary: Turbo Fog.
Gabe stayed at my place the following night and we barely talked about Magic. It turned out, we both had the same idea in mind: tune Turbo Fog to make it super competitive.
I built it on Magic Onlineand 4-1'd a few leagues in a row. The results were promising but the deck needed a little bit of work. The idea is to stick a Teferi in play and protect it with a Fog effect on the following turn. That's made possible by the two lands you untap at the end of your turn and the eight available Fogs in the format: Haze of Pollen and Root Snare. In the best-case scenario, when you get the turn back, you'll never pass it again. Nexus of Fate can be cast in on the following turn with six lands in play: float mana during your end step, untap two lands, pay seven for a Time Walk, play again. The idea is to use these turns to up your planeswalkers (Karn and Teferi) while drawing cards and making your deck thinner and thinner so that your chances of finding a Nexus of Fate every turn get closer and closer to 100%. Worst-case scenario, you pass the turn with a Fog backup.
I shared the idea with the team, and it was mostly welcomed by a mix of "Lol" and "surprised" emojis. "Nexus of Fate is gonna to be hard to find!" Simon Nielsen said as he was trying to figure out how to build it on Magic Online. As you probably know by now, Nexus of Fate is an card that doesn't appear in booster packs. It's the buy-a-box promo stores give away. Needless to say, if the deck was to be played, it would be a pain to find them. So before I left, I made sure I found a playset, just in case.
Fast forward to the Sunday before the Pro Tour. I joined the Mintcard crew of Lee Shi Tian to test in Minneapolis. We had the gauntlet decks built and I showed the deck in action. It got all the Standard players interested: Christian Calcano, Yam Wing Chun and Lee Shi Tian. You know your deck has potential when these guys take some time to look into it.
Turbo Fog had a great game one matchup against Red-Black Aggro, a deck we expected to be played a lot. It also had a good matchup against green decks that we expected to show up in masses as well. Basically, creature decks with little to no disruption or direct damage were easy matchups.
Surprisingly, control matchups (Esper, White-Blue and Blue-Black) were not actually that much of a problem either, especially when it was the first couple of games you were playing against an unprepared opponent (they didn't know what to counter or what to play around). Grixis Midrange was also a good matchup... So yeah, basically we were up against pretty much everything in the format.
The first thing we did was fix the mana base. We wanted a lot more lands that came into play untapped and we didn't need as many white sources. Our choice for ramp spell ended up being Beneath the Sands. Elvish Rejuvenator was the only target for Unlicensed Disintegration, and the few times you missed on the land was a disaster. Cycling on most of your cards makes it easier to find the key spells you need to win.
Once you started going off, the game was easy to win, however, we needed to draw Teferi as early as possible and the deck was missing plays on turn two. We started cutting a Karn for an Anticipate, then two, then started to cut on Karn's Temporal Sundering to find room for four Anticipate. We ended up cutting all the Karn's Temporal Sundering as ending the game wasn't as much a problem as surviving the first couple of turns and drawing too many of them in the opening hand was horrible (also making mulliganing even worse). It was a good way to get rid of a Chandra with seven loyalty counters, but we preferred to rely on Teferi for that job.
We tried Nissa and loved it. In the early game, it's unlikely to survive against aggressive decks, but sometimes, it's just the extra turn you need to setup your combo. Against slower decks that can't kill her, she allows you to scry every turn. She became the win condition of choice to close games quickly, and scrying before drawing with Teferi was a nice synergy.
The last card we tried and loved to make up for the loss of four Time Walks was Oath of Teferi. Its blink ability allowed us to get some of its cost back (you can blink one of your lands that will come back untapped at the end of the turn), or a Gift of Paradise to attach on an untapped land to gain an extra three life.
I don't think there's a better feeling than activating Teferi twice a turn. You draw two cards and untap four lands at the end of the turn, so if you have seven lands Oath is basically free to play (one mana from the blinked land, plus the four mana from Teferi, even more mana if you have a Gift attached to one of your lands), allowing you to cast a Nexus of Fate on the same turn. Along with Karn and Nissa, it makes it much easier to find another Nexus or Fog and therefore never pass the turn again. Along with Karn, it allows you to either draw two cards a turn or make your deck thinner much faster. It also allows you to ultimate Teferi faster or use both his abilities on the same turn.
Here's the deck Yam Wing Chun, Lee Shi Tian and myself ended up playing:
With this polished list, we were ready to face aggressive the whole day, which is, to the surprise of no one, pretty much what happened to every one of us.
The matchup against Red-Black is good, but not unloseable. It depends on two factors: how much pressure they can put on you, and if you can set up a Teferi / Fog combination before you're dead.
In most cases, you're fine. But when they're on the play and have a turn-four Hazoret draw, you're in trouble as you need your perfect hand to beat that – a turn-four Teferi with a Fog backup. They have a lot of dead cards in game one, which makes the game that much easier. After board, they usually board in two or three Duress and a pair of Doomfalls, but you should still be fine. Your Game Plan doesn't change, and there's nothing really that would improve your strategy, so you don't need to change anything in the deck.
Just like against Red-Black, it's about how much pressure they have on turn four and five and how fast you can set up your Teferi. Once again, you should be a favorite and since they have very little disruption, your Game Plan doesn't change in game two.
While your plan isn't too affected by Duress from Mono-Green with a black splash, it's much harder to beat Negate. You usually need to Fog on the turn you play Teferi as they have between 15 and 24 points of power on the board. A Negate for your Fog is usually lethal. Against that, you can only hope that they don't draw a counter.
Your opponents will play around Settle the Wreckage (which is a good thing since you're not running any). They usually don't need to attack with all their creatures to win, so the ones that are staying back will just kill you on the following turn. It turns Settle the Wreckage into an expensive Fog.
The reason we're not playing Fumigate is that it's just not good enough in the metagame. Against Red-Black, you might be facing Heart of Kiran, Scrapheap Scrounger or Hazoret. Against Stompy, it's Rhonas and Heart of Kiran. You'd tap out to kill two or three creatures and die to the ones that survived. Both also match up poorly against Duress after sideboarding.
The matchup isn't as hard as you might think. Game one should be hard, but sometimes jamming planeswalkers just works. They have to keep in mind that they have to play carefully at the end of your turn, as if they tap out for a Torrential Gearhulk for example, they might never see another turn as you can play Nexus.
Keep in mind that against the build that relies solely on Teferi to win, you can't lose game one. You might not be able to win, but you can't lose since they won't be able to mill you out. Just keep eight cards in your hand, and even if you don't have any permanents in play you can discard Nexus of Fate to shuffle back in. If you're falling behind, ask them what their win condition is, and if they don't have any, offer a draw for game one and start sideboarding. If they show you a Torrential Gearhulk, an Approach of the Second Sun, a Gideon of the Trials or even a Sacred Cat or whatever, just scoop.
Your Game Plan changes radically after board:
-4 Haze of Pollen
-4 Root Snare
-4 Gift of Paradise
-2 Beneath the Sands
+4 Jace's Defeat
+3 Cast Out
+4 Carnage Tyrant
For game two at least, they will be taking out their Fumigates and Settle the Wreckage for counters. At that point, you'll basically be playing a control mirror, except that you have more threats, uncounterable creatures and a way to punish them if they tap out at any time. However, you will still lose the games when they resolve a Teferi early and you don't have an answer for it and can't get through with Carnage Tyrant.
Boarding in Lyra Dawnbringer for them won't be of much help since you still have a lot of answers for it (Teferi and Cast Out), and tapping five mana at sorcery speed is a recipe for disaster.
The same Game Plan applies to Esper, Blue-Black Control and Grixis Midrange. Basically, you'll board in the Carnage Tyrant plan against all the decks that will have a lot of counters and ways to deal with your planeswalkers like Vraska's Contempt. Except for Doomfall in black decks, they won't have that many answers to Tyrant, and you can make a construct with Karn to protect from the edict half of Doomfall.
We had Nezahal, Primal Tide in our board for a long time, but after testing, the difference between six and seven mana proved to matter a lot, especially against Grixis when you sometimes had to race Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. It wasn't as efficient against White-Blue either as they could play Cast Out and use Disallow to counter the trigger at the end of turn.
We have a tough game one against Storm. We don't care so much about the Thopters tokens since we have Fogs, but we have almost no way to interact with Aetherflux Reservoir. Our best plan is to try to go off before them, which is going to be hard since they have Metallic Rebuke and Commit // Memory to disrupt us. After board, we'll be playing a more controlling game with counters.
They'll be doing the same, but except for Paradoxical Outcome, they don't have many ways to generate card advantage. Search for Azcanta will be your best weapon to get ahead. The post board games can be very long, so make sure you have time to play a game three...
-4 Haze of Pollen
-4 Root Snare
-1 Gift of Paradise
-2 Beneath the Sands
+4 Jace's Defeat
+3 Cast Out
The deck has two unwinnable matchups: Mono-Red Wizards and The Flame of Keld Burn (any deck that's running 12 burn spells basically), and Black-Green Constrictor.
These decks aren't very popular in real-life tournaments but they're still around online. While these decks have totally different Game Plan, they threaten you in a similar way: your Fogs are inefficient against them. Mono-Red will deal the first 10 to 15 damage with fast creatures, and when you're finally ready to go off, they will burn you out.
Against Green-Black Constrictor, the problem will come from Walking Ballista. You won't be able to kill their Winding Constrictors, and they'll be able to pump their Construct at will, making it impossible for you to protect your planeswalkers from them. Unfortunately, there's not solution to these matchups, so you have to hope you don't play against them or that they have very poor draws against you.
Your focus will be to maximize your chances to loop Nexus of Fate, and to do that there are sequences of play that are not necessarily intuitive that you have to keep in mind.
- Play Nexus of Fate in the main phase.
Since you shuffle Nexus of Fate back in your deck after you play it, it is sometimes right to play it during your main phase. Using Nissa to scry two will then have more chances to find another Nexus and you'll then be able to draw it right away with Teferi.
- Proper sequencing of abilities
The Turbo Fog deck that I played at #PT25A— Yam Wing Chun (@walkingbye) August 5, 2018
Deck was super fun to play, for those who ask why I tap planeswalkers it was meant to show how many times I have activate it (esp when Oath of Teferi is in play)
The general order of activating should be Azcanta=Karn>Nissa>Teferi pic.twitter.com/GzRFzpBAhR
- Cycle during your upkeep
Sometimes you need to flip your Search for Azcanta as early as possible. Usually, when you have six cards in your graveyard, you know that you'll flip it whatever happens. But since Nexus of Fate goes back into your deck if you mill it, it won't be triggering Search for Azcanta and you won't get the extra land. Unless actually drawing a Nexus is beneficial, and if cycling in your upkeep isn't too costly, you should make sure Search flips. The most common scenario for this is when you have six lands on the board, a Teferi in play and a Nexus in hand: you'll tap two to cycle, flip Azcanta, untap two lands and play Nexus.
- Use reminders
It will sometimes be hard to keep track of everything you do: if you played a land, how many extra turns you have, which planeswalker you activated (especially when Oath of Teferi is out). As Yam suggests, find something that works for you to keep track of what you have and haven't used yet.
- Be aware of the clock
It doesn't actually take too long to win. Once you start looping Nexus of Fate, your fail rate will start dropping and after two or three turn as you'll see so many cards with Search of Azcanta, Nissa, Teferi and rebuys from Azcanta with Teferi that your opponent should be conceding. If not, just ultimate Teferi and get rid of their permanent one by one. Keep in mind that if time is called, you might be the one playing all the extra turns.
One way to win in a single turn when you're on your last extra turn (or if your opponent doesn't want to concede) is to have a Nissa with at least seven counters, a Teferi, 10 lands and Anticipate, which is a common scenario after going off. Float two mana, ultimate Nissa on the two tapped lands, use Teferi's -3 ability on Nissa, Anticipate to redraw Nissa, play it for 8 mana, ultimate again, and attack for 20.
It's funny that we didn't even know we were both working on the same deck and came up with different versions.
Here is the TurboFog deck David Williams and I played (5 or so cards different) to 11-3 records. I beat 3 GB Ghalta decks, SaiU, and a TurboFog mirror; Lost to Grixis and went 6-2 against RB. Great job David, and thanks for your help with final touches and sideboarding advice. pic.twitter.com/9G0DLSm3qX— benjamin rubin (@BenRubin_Magic) August 6, 2018
David Williams and Ben Rubin (who played the deck), ran Chart a Course instead of Anticipate. To me, it feels that digging deeper to find your key spells (Teferi or a Fog) is way more important to shape your hand. If you fail to find a timely Fog, you lose, it's as simple as that.
Oath of Teferi is a lot better than Bounty of the Luxa. Along with a planeswalker, you'll get a card right away, extra mana right away and it can gain you life... in a nutshell, I'm not a big fan of the enchantment.
It was a good deck for the Pro Tour as no one expected it nor knew how to beat it, as there are a lot of cards that are extremely strong against it like Sorcerous Spyglass or Insult // Injury, just to name a few. I could see a version with red instead of green with removal instead of Fogs to combat a more prepared field, though I haven't tested any other configuration yet.
Updated Jeskai Nexus! Lowered the base curve and improved interaction. pic.twitter.com/FSnoh0FsCj— MoxMoonstone (@MoxMoonstone) July 30, 2018
The deck performed really well at the Pro Tour. Both my playtest partners posted good records with it, while I only managed to go 7-7. I lost brutal games where I couldn't draw a Fog in 20 cards or an untapped land in 10 cards. These things happen, of course, but with this deck it's very unforgiving. So I would believe, considering the success of my teammates and the other players who played the deck, that I was on the wrong end of variance for this tournament. Had I had to play the tournament again, I'd probably submit the same list.
This article is super long already, so if you have any question, feel free to ask in the comments and I'll try my best to address it!