I've been meaning to play a Temur list ever since Khans was legal on Magic Online. I even pre-built a version to take to a win-a-box when the set was first released in paper. You can check it out and see how that worked out for me in this article where I go over the details. (Spoiler: it worked out well.)
After the format began to define itself we began to see decks like Jeskai, Abzan, and UB Control at the front of the pack with no Temur in sight. This was sad, because in my experience cards like Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, Savage Knuckleblade, and Rattleclaw Mystic were all very powerful and deserving of a spot in the metagame.
Well, lo and behold, Grand Prix Los Angeles...
Brian Kibler managed to take Temur Midrange to a Top 16 finish, one match away from a Top 8. I knew the deck was strong because I had tested it a bunch myself; I was just waiting for everyone else to catch on, and I'll tell you, I'm not surprised it was Brian who did first. Especially with his love of all things green.
I was looking for a baseline Temur list to pilot in a video article about it, and Brian's pseudo-victory in Los Angeles couldn't have come at a better time. I now had a list I wanted to try out. While it wasn't exactly the same as the Superfriend-esque list I proposed, with several more planeswalkers than Brian's...one...the list is still solid and has a very similar spirit to the one I piloted. Let's check it out.
Temur Midrange vs. RG Midrange
Temur Midrange vs. Heroic Red
Temur Midrange vs. Mardu Midrange
Temur Midrange vs. Naya Superfriends
Yeah, just as good as I remembered it. Temur Charm was a card that I didn't mention before we cut to the videos, but I'm super impressed by it. The fact that the deck can land a few early threats then just play keep-away with a Mana Leak is just huge. The +1/+1 and fight is also big game as it allows for a ton of tricks. I know it seems like I'm just going over all of the abilities (and I kind of am) but even the third mode can simply win games on its own. Against decks like GB Devotion we can usually nuke their biggest threat then slip past all their 1/1, 1/2, and 0/3 creatures for a win.
Ashcloud Phoenix, oh what can I say about this guy. I didn't evaluate this card properly the first time. I looked at it as a 4/1 flier that would become a miniscule 2/2 morph creature that I probably wouldn't get a lot of value out of because I probably wasn't super likely to ever flip it. That's the exact kind of outlook that prevents us from discovering really powerful cards: by looking at every aspect of the card and considering it weaker if we can't use all of them. A similar judgment is when you look at a card like Frontier Bivouac and say, "this wouldn't go great in my red and green deck because I'm not playing blue and would never use that mana." But it would still go great in that deck, because simply take the blue part off! Now it's a green/red dual land! We have this tendency as Magic players to downgrade a card when all of its abilities aren't going to get used as frequently as we would like or expect. This is what I did with Ashcloud Phoenix. Despite being on my Top 10 Sleepers list for Khans of Tarkir, I was afraid to brew with him in a deck that wasn't likely to flip him consistently. Unless I got that super-unbeatable chain going where I flipped, and you killed, and I flipped again, Ad Nauseam, the Phoenix simply wasn't as powerful as it could be. So here is where we need to be with the Phoe Nix:
Compare it to Rotlung Reanimator. Or Xathrid Necromancer. Then think about how good this card is.
What if the Phoenix said, "When this dies, put a 2/2 onto the battlefield." It would be amazing! Every creature ever with that ability has seen play; this one is a four power flier that can do more. And that was how I should have read the card to begin with. Flipping it is just upside at that point.
The last individual card I wanted to cover was Heir of the Wilds. This card has become a pretty obviously inclusion, despite being one that I avoided myself. He's seen play in RG Midrange, Abzan Aggro, and now Temur. The deathtouch is huge and makes it pretty tricky to attack into. He also attacks for three pretty often with our suite of huge creatures and coupled with Temur Charm we can take down virtually any creature that crosses out path, even if it sometimes means a two-for-one. After all, dem's da breaks.
You know, most times I rely on the community - or rather the professionals - to figure out the good decks, I think we all do, and sometimes, even when no one else is playing them, if one person steps forward with an unconventional list, they might show us exactly what we're doing wrong. This isn't to say that all the other great decks in the format aren't great; but it should be a lesson for us not to stop looking simply because a few events have handed us a couple of powerful decks that have seemingly "solved" the format. As someone who was also an advocate for the deck, the fact that Brian went against that mentality and felt that Temur was a great choice for the event...and it was...well, it tells us that we should never stop looking. At least that's my takeaway, and I believe it's a great one, because it's what I've been trying to do for the past four years here if not my entire Magic career.
This weekend is the TCGplayer MaxPoint Championship in Indianapolis and I hope to see you all there, and if you're not playing, I hope to see you following along at home as Marshall Sutcliff and I provide live coverage all weekend long. You can also Tweet at us using the #TCG50k hashtag. With $50,000 on the line, you can be sure you're going to see some good Magic. I'll even promise to put some Temur battles on the big screen if we come across them.
Thanks for reading, and I'll see see ya this weekend!
Frank Lepore@FrankLepore on TwitterFrankLepore on TwitchTV