Focus on Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is the preferred way to win

Four Copies of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Earlier in this still-young format, players would run maybe three copies of Teferi.

Now — despite the “Legend rule” disadvantage of diminishing returns — four copies has become absolutely stock. In contrast to versions that ran Torrential Gearhulk or Gideon of the Trials to ultimately deal 20 points of damage… Now all that pressure falls on Teferi to actually win the game.

Torrential Gearhulk is the worst test spell!” claims Patrick. You can’t really pretend the opponent doesn’t have Essence Scatter. Playing a creature — especially an artifact creature — will turn on the opponent’s removal in a way a card like Pull from Tomorrow won’t.

How to win with “Just” Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

The one Commit // Memory can potentially be valuable… But it is presumably not essential.

Teferi is a great realization of control elements. It is this card that largely is there to build advantages; but can ultimately ensure the game going very, very long.

Imagine you have built lots of card advantage primarily through card draw. Then you have the emblem going. Then drawing cards (regardless of how they get drawn) you trigger the opponent down to a small number of permanents.

Maybe that number is even zero!

At this point you can start using the [-3] ability just to not lose the game.

There is nothing stopping you from targeting the Teferi itself, then playing a Teferi out of your hand. You can draw, exile, and library-push / repeat indefinitely with your Teferi[s]. Meanwhile your opponent keeps drawing one card per turn… Until his library is depleted. Yours may go low, but never goes to zero due to all those planeswalkers.

Given a very long game, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria requires no sidekick.

But Can Teferi Beat a Lich’s Mastery?

Don’t get me wrong.

It is not yet the right time for Lich’s Mastery to contend in Standard.

Part of that is the popularity of Teferi decks.

More important, Teferi typically comes alongside Negate, Disallow, etc.

But if you are in the unfortunate position of the opponent actually resolving Lich’s Mastery… The game will probably end in a stalemate.

You can grind the opponent down to no [other] permanents.

You can prevent your self from decking out.

But you still can’t win-win unless you have a direct way of removing the Lich’s Mastery.

It’s a spot like this where Gideon becomes a nice one-of. Cripple the opponent’s resources first, then winning becomes trivial, six cost enchantment or no.

If you’re considering a weird one-of like River’s Rebuke, or playing an actual damage source… Don’t make it because of Lich’s Mastery, though. Please.

Check “Focus on Teferi, Hero of Dominaria” out here:

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Goblin Chainwhirler Against the World!

Goblin Chainwhirler
Despite a prohibitive RRR, Goblin Chainwhirler has been ubiquitous in one- two- or even three-color Red Decks

“Goblin Chainwhirler is the kind of card that gets me to play Unlicensed Disintegration.”
-Patrick Chapin

Goblin Chainwhirler + Soul-Scar Mage

Grand Prix Birmingham’s Top 8 was a wall of Rakdos decks!

While the decks had many cards in common, one could argue that there were two or more sub-archetypes represented, not just one. While most of the B/R decks played four copies of Unlicensed Disintegration, the GP champion himself played only three.

Superficially, we might all look at the Scrapheap Scroungers, vehicles, and burn cards and say “beatdown” … We might be wrong.

Case in point: Some folks played Bomat Courier, some didn’t.

Bomat Courier, a hasty one-drop, is the kind of card you might expect to see when pairing red cards with Unlicensed Disintegration. After all, though Bomat Courier is an artifact, it’s basically a red card… But being an artifact, turns on the enviable instant.

Bomat Courier’s haste lets you hustle out early. Its card advantage long-term has made it a favorite of aggressive red mages.

Why then did it get cut (in some Red Decks)?

There is no one, no one great, answer. But we do know that some Rakdos mages embraced Soul-Scar Mage at the one. This “one-two punch” [really one-three punch] makes the already great Goblin Chainwhirler even more messed up. The ability to spread -1/-1 counters across all the opponent’s creatures is potentially a really big deal.

Goblin Chainwhirler Rounds Out an Eclectic Removal Suite

The Rakdos decks of the Grand Prix Birmingham Top 8 played a wide variety of point removal cards. As we’ve already noted, not all of them even played four copies of Unlicensed Disintegration!

Some played Magma Spray; most “only” Abrade. There was a Cut // Ribbons hither or thither.

Sideboard cards included everything from Fatal Push to Doomfall. Four mana black removal was up for debate, with a split between Vraska’s Contempt and Hour of Glory. And at five? Get ready for The Eldest Reborn!

Point being, there is no consensus among B/R mages as to how they will kill creatures (other than, largely, Unlicensed Disintegration). But even more ubiquitous is Goblin Chainwhirler… a four-of top to bottom. And with good reason…

Goblin Chainwhirler Beats Up Llanowar Elves

Llanowar Elves may be the most important card to come out of Dominaria.

It was heralded as possibly the best card in Standard.

Llanowar Elves gets its butt absolutely kicked by Goblin Chainwhirler. Multiple Llanowar Elves draw? More butt kicking. Possible teammates like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, and oftentimes Jadelight Ranger / Merfolk Branchwalker can all be swept up in the Chainwhirler’s sweep as well.

If anything limits the power and popularity of the Winding Constrictor decks, it may well be this mighty red three drop.

Not for Nothin’ but Goblin Chainwhirler Crews Heart of Kiran

Consequently, this is a powerful pairing of two cards that can both play offense, and both also play defense.

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Lyra Dawnbringer Debuts!

Lyra Dawnbringer
Lyra Dawnbringer was at least the second most successful Dominaria card of the set’s first sanctioned weekend.

Lyra Dawnbringer and Llanowar Elves

The Legendary Angel wasn’t the most successful Dominaria card to debut this past week. That honor would belong to Llanowar Elves… But in at least one MTGO 5-0 deck, Angel and Elf Druid worked hand in hand.

Lyra represents a powerful top end. Not only does this card pay you off for your commitment to cards like Merfolk Branchwalker (that can help dig you to five or more lands), but Llanowar Elves can get you to your powerful 5/5 ahead of schedule.

And what is better than Shalai, Voice of Penty followed by the Dawnbringer? In times past, tapping out for an awesome 5/5 creature might be good defense… But it can stink when the opponent removes it and crushes you with an attack. If you lead off with Shalai, Lyra will have hexproof. So not only will she not be going anywhere (unless the opponent removes your other Angel), but Shalai will crush in with lifelink. Par-tay.

Lyra Dawnbringer and Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage

Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage changes everything!

Leading off with this creature on turn four (presumably at the end of the opponent’s turn, ideally when the coast is clear), you will be able to play cards like Lyra at instant speed!

Instant speed Walking Ballista?

Instant speed Teferi, Hero of Dominaria? It may seem counterintuitive to play a planeswalker on the opponent’s turn, but the ability to guarantee it resolves may be worth one lost activation. If there is a card that will have zero trouble recouping the lost utility, it is the card-advantageous Teferi.

How about instant speed History of Benalia? How top notch is this potential move? You can make a token at instant speed (potentially blocking with it) and then still get the next 2/2 on your own next turn! This will feel very much like getting both Chapter One and Chapter Two immediately (though only one will be allowed to attack).

Lyra Dawnbringer, Sideboard Superstar

One of the cool things about Lyra is that she isn’t even played main deck all the time! U/W decks in the market for creatures might play it main (or they might play only Torrential Gearhulk). But Approach of the Second Sun decks probably wouldn’t. Neither would Orzhov Tokens or white Swarm decks.

You know what they all have in common?

2-3 copies of Lyra Dawnbringer coming in after sideboards.

Here.

To.

Stay.

Check out 106:49 on Lyra Dawnbringer now!

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Mastering Lich’s Mastery

Lich's Mastery
Will Lich’s Mastery be THE ONLY viable strategy in Standard?
This card is poised to completely warp Standard! It is a draw engine of unprecedented power. Imagine for a moment you were playing a big format and ran Lich’s Mastery alongside Nourishing Shoal… The ability to draw cards with little to no incremental mana investment (after the initial six mana investment, of course) is unprecedented!

  • Yawgmoth’s Will limits access to your graveyard.
  • Yawgmoth’s Agenda locks you down to one spell per turn

This Legendary Enchantment has no such limitations.

Lich’s Mastery + Gideon of the Trials

Gideon of the Trials
White is a natural pair to Lich’s Mastery in Standard. Renewed Faith is one of the most obvious best buddies. It cycles to help you hit land drops early. Later on, you can draw six — count ’em six — extra cards for just one card!

Fumigate is also an awesome addition. The ability to gain one life per creature killed takes on new meaning when each of those creatures represents even more card advantage.

But what about Gideon of the Trials?

Is there a particular synergy with this Planeswalker that can also prevent you from losing the game? Yes!

Not only does Gideon rumble (giving your combo-control deck a way to win) but it can protect you from losing the game by losing your Lich’s Mastery. Further, it gives you a redundant synergy with Glorious End.

Any two of the three — Lich’s Mastery, Gideon of the Trials, and Glorious End — are great together!

Lich’s Mastery + Glorious End

Glorious End
Glorious End + Gideon of the Trials was a combo that never quite hit in Standard. Is it awesome? Probably… But it never quite hit.

What happens when you add a third leg to the stool?

What happens when that third leg has hexproof?

Glorious End is just awesome with Lich’s Mastery. Can you just Time Walk your opponent with Lich’s Mastery in play? Sure. You can also Fog them, Counterspell them, and generally laugh at them from behind your Legendary Enchantment while they expend resources.

But did you ever think about this?

Cast Glorious End on their Turn Five. Maybe on their upkeep?

Untap and play the Lich’s Mastery in your hand!

Cool, right?

What if you don’t have a Lich’s Mastery in your hand… yet? The planned End-Mastery play is a big game, but what might be even more fun is the desperate Glorious End-into-praying-to-draw-Lich’s-Mastery. All part of the range.

All Kinds of Lich’s Mastery Decks

In this episode of Top Level Podcast, Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores discuss all manner of builds around and including this seductive six drop.

Black-White, Mardu, and even straight black takes are on the table.

Gifted Aetherborn? Creatureless? A couple of big guys? A ton of lifelinking Knights? Give this one a listen and figure out how you want your BBB3 to go in the coming months.

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Racing with Tempest Djinn

Tempest Djinn
Tempest Djinn is one of blue’s signature cards from Dominaria

Tempest Djinn is Much Stronger Than Serendib Efreet (in the right deck)

Serendib Efreet
Despite its initial appearance, Serendib Efreet was a blue card.
A good place to think about this most respected of Djinn is the Revised misprint, Serendib Efreet. Serendib Efreet was a 3/4 flying creature for U2 (blue, despite the card frame)… With a drawback!

Serendib Efreet saw play in a variety of decks, and fast multicolored aggressive mages would often dip into blue to play it. Again, despite the self-inflicted damage.

Dominaria’s Djinn is much harder to cast, sure. That is a lot of blue pips in the top-right!

But, the payoff is also much greater. In a deck with, say, twenty-five Islands, Tempest Djinn’s floor is a Serendib Efreet with no drawback. Each and every incremental Island will make it a faster and faster racer.

Tempest Djinn is Like the World’s Greatest Rishadan Airship (in the right deck)

Rishadan Airship
Unlike Rishadan Airship, Tempest Djinn can block
In its era, Rishadan Airship was one of the most important creatures played in the Blue Skies archetype.

Rishadan Airship was not great in very many other decks; it could not block consistently, and even when it could block, it would probably die. But offense-wise? Blue Skies was one of the best decks in Masques Block Constructed + was a favorite of some of the best Hall of Famers in Standard.

Tempest Djinn is like a more flexible Rishadan Airship. Again assuming an Islands-heavy (if not Islands-only) mana base, Tempest Djinn presents the same offense as Rishadan Airship — at least — but can also block. Not only that: It can block and often survive!

This flexibility is one of the most important aspects of Tempest Djinn. You can tap out for it on turn three, Skies-style to race… Or you can tap out for it on turn three to block a Red Deck’s 3/2 attackers.

Or — get this — you can tap out for Tempest Djinn, block… And then back over itself (and generally for four damage).

Tempest Djinn will Redefine Blue in Standard

Patrick made a deck.

Mike is wild about it.

Check out how our intrepid duo thinks Tempest Djinn will be played in Standard right here:

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Warkite Marauder Breaks Out

Warkite Marauder
Warkite Marauder is a heck of a Magic Card

Playing Fair with Warkite Marauder

Let’s start with the basics: Warkite Marauder is a pretty cool Magic: The Gathering Card. We’ve seen people play cards on the order of Welkin Tern — a blue 2/1 flyer for two mana with a disadvantage — in Standard Pro Tours.

Warkite Marauder is loads better than the best Vaporkin! It simply doesn’t have the disadvantage. Meaning, Warkite Marauder can block whomever it wants.

But that’s not all! As a 2/1 creature with flying, Warkite Marauder is not particularly resilient. It’s cheap — evasive maybe — but also small. Basically anything will kill a Warkite Marauder in combat.

So, the ability to remove flying from a potential blocker is very useful. Get in there for two!

Who Plays Fair? God-Pharaoh’s Gift

Here’s the thing: A fair Warkite Marauder is pretty good. Better, in fact, than cards good players have played in recent years.

But no one is saying you should “play fair” with it. No sir!

The new style of U/R God-Pharaoh’s Gift is basically a Red Aggro deck… But with a graveyard-combo twist. God-Pharaoh’s Gift can correct the solo toughness of this Human Pirate, and haste enhances its combat trigger.

The U/R deck can act like Red Aggro (starting with Bomat Courier on turn one, but just happens to have a more explosive relentless end game.

The Real Value of Warkite Marauder

Good by itself.

Good with God-Pharaoh’s Gift.

But the real value of this Human Pirate?

Teaming up with Walking Ballista and Fanatical Firebrand, Warkite Marauder can “build a Terminate” … But it’s better than that! This is a “Terminate” that can take care of The Scarab God!

Not only will Warkite Marauder pull The Scarab God’s toughness down to one (where it will be easy prey for one direct damage)… But because The Scarab God will lose all abilities, it won’t come back.

Boom!

Warkite Marauder is just one of dozens of cards discussed in this episode! Most of the time is actually devoted to Dominaria. Check it out!

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Breaking Branchwalker: New Technology in Standard

Merfolk Branchwalker
Merfolk Branchwalker is great on two
Think you know what’s going on in Standard? Mono-Red Beatdown, some vanilla Sultai with The Scarab God, maybe some B/U Control?

Have we got a GP for you…

Merfolk Branchwalker, Ajani Unyeilding, and Carnage Tyrant?

PT Champion Ari Lax just missed the Top 8 with his Naya Monsters deck. A surprising take on a relatively intuitive build, Ari opted to play Ajani Unyeilding, Cast Out, and Thopter Arrest as white splashes.

Merfolk Branchwalker teams up with multiple 2/x buddies to build towards ambitious mana.

  • Servant of the Conduit at the two – One taps for mana, one digs towards it
  • Jadelight Ranger – co-explore creatures as an explore creature to help build towards ambitious mana.

Lax’s take played tons of cards that cost four mana or more between deck and sideboard, topping up with some powerful, game-winning, six drops.

I mean come on. Carnage Tyrant! Rawr.

The Khenra Technology: Merfolk Branchwalker in G/R Monsters

Tyler Schroeder won Grand Prix Memphis with a brand new take on Gruul creatures.

We’ve seen similar shells before. After all Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger make a lot of sense together. Twos and threes, these creatures attack, block, fix the top of your library, and generate card advantage.

By the same token, Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer represent a similar thematic duo. Great red flyers with built-in card advantage capabilities, these 4/x creatures represent the kind of high end payoff that you really want to get to with your green explorers.

So where is the innovation?

Adding Earthshaker Khenra and Resilient Khenra as a third pair creates a whole new dimension to the deck. Because “explore” creatures like Jadelight Ranger and Merfolk Branchwalker can put cards into the graveyard, they can imply future card advantage because you can play the respective Khenra cards out of the graveyard.

This is new technology!

Often when Merfolk Branchwalker flips a land, we call that card advantage; now if it flips a Khenra — and puts it into the graveyard — it is stockpiling future card advantage!

Will this become an industry standard way to play Standard?

Maybe?

Find out more in this week’s podcast:

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Half Hazoret the Fervent

Hazoret the Fervent (Invocation)
The Hazoret the Fervent Invocation

Hazoret the Fervent in Modern?

Tell ya what, Top Level Podcast fans: We’re skipping Modern for the week. Patrick intends to “activate the [0] ability” … Starting next week.

Were there multiple Modern events last weekend? Yes.

But the world is about to change, officially, and soon.

That Gruul Eldrazi deck? How do you think that is going to run once Bloodbraid Elf starts pumping out Eldrazi Obligator? Exactly.

So for now: Innovations in Standard!

Half Hazoret the Fervent Decks

The SCG win by Todd Stevens with Dimir Control may throw you off. And Ali Aintrazi’s Four-color Mastermind’s Acquisition in third place is certainly exciting. But make no mistake: Hazoret the Fervent is a fixture of something like half of the top performing players, whether Mardu Vehicles or Red Decks (including, I guess, Boros Path of Mettle decks).

Fear not! The control decks are aware, playing cards like Moment of Craving, Vraska’s Contempt, or even Gift of Paradise to defend their life totals.

The Price of Hazoret the Fervent

Hazoret is a powerful threat. And not just in the mirror! (But particularly in the mirror.)

Generally, we think four Hazorets is mandatory. There are other powerful four drops in red, but Hazoret is often completely unstoppable. Further, redundant copies can always be tossed for two damage.

Hazoret doesn’t come cheap, though: This God demands sacrifice! In deck building an otherwise (“take two”). Not only is it an expensive card (in more ways than one) but Hazoret generally implies playing with cheap set up cards. Bomat Courier is almost always on board. There are a smattering of other one drops, removal cards, and so on in every successful Hazoret deck… You need to drop your hand in order to get this card online.

Mardu has its own concerns. In a sense Mardu is “an homage” to Toolcraft Exemplar + Unlicensed Disintegration. Don’t shave either down to three copies (ew). In fact some builds push redundancy with Inventor’s Apprentice.

None of this makes the Mana any easier BTW.

More in the cast!

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Gambling on Path of Mettle

Path of Mettle
Let’s get something out of the way:
Path of Mettle is actually awesome!

Path of Mettle is almost effortless to play

When Path of Mettle enters the battlefield, it triggers a Simoon-like effect, dealing a point of damage to every creature that lacks first strike, double strike, vigilance, and / or haste.

The solution is simple: Just play creatures with one or more of these abilities, and the “Simoon” trigger will be one-sided; largely a Simoon for the same amount of mana.

We can consider the deck played by US National Champion Craig Krempels to the Top 8 of last week’s Team Open as a model for this strategy, but many Red Deck creature shells can suffice.

All of Bomat Courier, Earthshaker Khenra, Ahn-Crop Crasher, Hazoret the Fervent, and Glorybringer (you know, just the creatures the old Ramunap Ruins deck played) start out with haste. This makes the first line on today’s enchantment “free”.

But flipping it is nearly free, also!

So long as you are playing such creatures, turning your Legendary Enchantment into a Legendary Land shouldn’t be too tough.

When you flip Path of Mettle, you’re doing it. You’re really DOING IT

Metzali, Tower of Triumph
When the Path becomes Metzali, Tower of Triumph, “Triumph” may be closer than it initially seems. This land is super disruptive to many different kinds of opponents.

The “red” ability largely serves as a stand-in for the now-banned Ramunap Ruins.

The “white” ability has a broad range of applications, including (but not limited to) cutting of the ability for many control decks to win. Attacking with one creature? How about “randomly” putting that creature into the graveyard? The “white” ability can also ignore hexproof, so it is potentially a problem for the Hydras out of Energy variants.

Okay, sold! Um… So what’s the gamble around Path of Mettle?

Why? The mana base of course!

Craig played a couple of Plains in his twenty-two land aggro deck. It was vital for him to play enough red (especially untapped) to be able to field some sixteen one drop creatures.

Will WotC print another Boros dual land? Will they just reprint one we already love?

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No Room for Longtusk Cub

Longtusk Cub
Unlike its friends Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner, Longtusk Cub was not banned.
It just isn’t getting played for some reason.

No Longtusk Cub in Temur Monsters

William Ho finished 5th in the Standard portion of the Team Open with Temur Monsters.

While he played a variety of both two drops and Energy themed cards… Longtusk Cub was not one of them.

“It’s surprising to me that Longtusk Cub wouldn’t make the cut in this deck with ten removal spells AND AN ENERGY THEME…”

That said, Thrashing Brontodon made an important debut in this deck. Per Patrick…

“Thrashing Brontodon is the Truth”

  • 3/4 for three mana is actually pretty solid right now. Believe it or not, the size alone is a positive consideration in this format.
  • Thrashing Brontodon gives you main deck ways to deal with Cast Out or specialty enchantments
  • It also lessens a deck’s potential reliance on Abrade. A deck like Temur Monsters can potentially lean on the side of Harnessed Lightning (to feed an Energy theme) instead of Abrade’s flexibility. You don’t need Abrade to be as flexible because Brontodon is.

“Does Voltaic Brawler make sense over Longtusk Cub?”

“No. Next question.”

No Longtusk Cub in Golgari Constrictor

Andreas Campion finished second in the Team Open with Golgari Constrictor.

Once again we have a deck with 12+ two drops (more, if you count Walking Ballista)… Again no Longtusk Cub.

Campion’s deck plays four copies of Merfolk Branchwalker but only three copies of Jadelight Ranger. Patrick suggests if you only have room for seven, tilt the other way (with four Rangers). Mike argues to play eight, and just cut a land. After all, that is a lot of Explore.

No Longtusk Cub in Sultai Energy

Were we always supposed to be playing four copies all along?

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Perhaps the best deck of the weekend was Dan Jessup’s Sultai Energy.

This deck is notable for its use of four — count ’em, four — copies of The Scarab God main deck! Were we supposed to be playing all four all along?

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner… Merfolk Branchwalker… Servant of the Conduit… Again twelve two drops, but no Longtusk Cub!

Did everyone just think the most dangerous Grizzly Bears from the last format got banned?

Where in the world?

Don’t worry, there is no shortage of deck discussion, just Cub appearances. Check out “No Room for Longtusk Cub” now:

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