It has been getting trickier and trickier to find unique and interesting decks to show off in Standard. At first we were good, as we could show off a lot of the more obscure options, like Villainous Wealth and UR Control. But now most of the changes or innovations include "adding four Bloodsoaked Champions to Mardu Midrange,"and while this isn't the worst for our goals, we can definitely look a little deeper.
Today we did just that. I took a look at the results of the most recent TCGplayer Diamond Open from Richmond, KY and found an interesting little UR Ensoul Artifact list in the Top 16.
Ghostfire Blade was one of my sleepers from the set, so it's nice to see it making an appearance as a four-of in the deck. I've also seen it showing up in certain Affinity lists, so it seems I wasn't completely off there. Otherwise the deck has most things you would expect from the Ensoul Artifact strategy, only we're including four Stubborn Denial and four Monastery Swiftspear as well, which are both fairly interesting and versatile additions.
I'm curious to see how the deck plays out and how Justin Atwood made his way to the Top 16 with this little brew. Let's take a look.
UR Ensoul Artifact vs. Naya Midrange
UR Ensoul Artifact vs. Jeskai Tempo
UR Ensoul Artifact vs. Mardu Midrange
UR Ensoul Artifact vs. Temur Midrange
So what we've discovered is that this is basically a burn deck that tries to maximize every point of damage we can deal. Our deck is packed with fifteen burn spells (not including Ensoul Artifact) and eight creatures that essentially have haste. With this strategy our Ensoul Artifacts are basically Shrapnel Blasts five through eight, which is great, because sometimes you're going to be able to attack more than once and even keep up Stubborn Denial to protect your potentially indestructible or flying 5/5. Even without Stubborn Denial back up, the potential to use the creature as Shrapnel Blast fodder in response to a removal spell is pretty huge.
Unfortunately Crackling Doom is ridiculously good against us. I hate to say it because it's pretty popular in the Mardu deck that is also pretty popular, but that's the way it is. It will always hit ou Ensouled creature and it will always force us to sacrifice it, Indestructibility be damned. While we only played against it once, I would wager that because of this and their lifegain from things like Sorin, Solemn Visitor and Butcher of the Horde, that the Mardu matchup might be one of our toughest. This is somewhat annoying, because the deck is pretty popular, but it isn't impossible to win, just a little more difficult.
Hornet Nest also proved pretty problematic for us against the Temur deck. I would even wager that we could have won that game if not for the Hornet Nest shutting us down for several turns. It simply gave our opponent virtually infinite turns to set up some pressure. Had I predicted they were bringing in or had access to Hornet Nest I would have brought in the Singing Bell Strike to use against it, as they rarely have six mana until way later in the game, especially if the version we were facing didn't have any mana creatures (which we didn't see). The big creatures seem to come down a little late and are generally a little too slow to race our 5/5s and our burn
As I mentioned Ghostfire Blade is an interesting inclusion, especially as a four-of. I was wondering why we had so many, seeing as if we're not equipping it to an Ornithopter it's fairly expensive, but then you have to consider that we're also running eight cards that need access to cheap artifacts. Ghostfire Blade is a great artifact to sacrifice to a Shrapnel Blast or to play on turn one and follow up with a second turn Ensoul Artifact. We were also able to equip it to a goblin in one game and attack for three pretty consistently, getting the opponent into burn range.
I looked at all the legal artifacts in Standard that were cheap enough for our cause, and there weren't many, so Ghostfire Blade is actually as good as any. And truth be told, we can actually equip it to an Ornithopter for a 2/4 flier or even equip it to an Darksteel Citadel with an Ensoul Artifact on it for a 7/7. Springleaf Drum was another option which some of the other lists were using, and there's a part of me that could see adding Scuttling Doom Engine if we had more lands in the deck, or maybe if we did incorporate Springleaf Drum somehow. It's definitely one of our best options for Shrapnel Blast (eleven damage!) and attacking with it isn't so bad either.
If we want to go real deep, we could be Shrapnel Blasting an Ugin's Nexus or two. That's right: Time Walking in Standard. Now I'm not saying I would advocate this, but...I kind of advocate this. Can you imagine the look on the opponent's face when we cast a Ugin's Nexus on turn five, then Shrapnel Blast it the following turn, taking an extra turn in Standard? I can, which is kind of why I want to do it so badly!
That's about all I have for this week. While we didn't win every match, this deck proved to be a fun alternative to what's going on in Standard right now, and I think it's actually pretty ripe for customization. And it's only around $130 at the TCGplayer low price! Thanks for reading, guys, and have an awesome holiday. Stay safe and I'll see you on Monday.
Frank Lepore@FrankLepore on TwitterFrankLepore on TwitchTV