You can get value with the Pact, and sacrifice it to Doom Foretold before it costs you the game. Or for that matter, just Emblem up Gideon of the Trials to prevent losing on the spot.
Of course playing especially multiple copies of Demonic Pact or other exciting reset-able permanents and then slamming Yorion, Sky Nomad makes for a really exciting strategy. Of course you’re ALWAYS going to be able to play Yorion on demand (provided you’ve hit five land drops)… So the downside risk on Demonic Pact is a lot lower than it has historically been in previous formats.
People are exploring the new seven mana Ultimatum cycle from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths… But this card gives you basically a delayed blast Ultimatum for only four.
Now for our scheduled Keruga, the Macrosage admiration session…
Keruga in the Fires of Invention deck was absolutely dominant last week.
Not only did it occupy 15 of the Top 32 slots in the MTGO Super Qualifier, it took both first and second place, posted five of the Top 8, and claimed six of the sevenwins in that Top 8.
Mike could not remember so dominant a performance in Standard.
It did not take long for Patrick to remind him:
The Best of the Rest…
Simic Mutate Linear
Jeskai Cycling… Also Linear (and how to improve it)
Companions from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths are Taking Over Every Format
The Companion mechanic is extraordinarily powerful. While the deck building cost to use a particular companion can vary, the combination of consistency and the so-called “eighth card” cannot be exaggerated.
Lurrus of the Dream-Den seems to be the best companion on rate so far, and has already successfully crushed large events in Modern, Pioneer, Vintage, and Legacy.
We’re sure Lurrus will be even better in Standard.
Lurrus of the Dream-Den in Rakdos Sacrifice
Companions are so good it isn’t even clear which ones should go in which established archetypes! There are at least four Companions that might make sense in Rakdos Sacrifice, but two have risen to the top so far.
The Lurrus build of Rakdos Sacrifice forces some hard cuts. Woe Strider, Midnight Reaper, and the iconic Mayhem Devil all cost too much. Look for the Lurrus build to play a lot of two mana haste attackers like Dreadhorde Butcher or Robber of the Rich instead.
Perhaps more importantly, this build can [still] use Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger. Because Kroxa is technically only two mana, it is not only eligible to be played, but can work a two-man game with Lurrus itself.
Other notable additions from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths include Whisper Squad and Serrated Scorpion.
Whisper Squad starts on one but fills many additional, important, roles. If you do nothing else on turn two, you can activate the Whisper Squad to Squadron Hawk up another copy. It’s also a great “virtual three drop” for a deck that can’t play any real three drops… Kind of like a Wood Elves for Whisper Squads. And of course, if you have a ton of mana already on the battlefield, it can become a one-card army on the quick.
Serrated Scorpion is a great card to start with in this strategy, and awesome to sacrifice (even through combat) and re-buy with Lurrus. Patrick believes this card will inspire a Rakdos Burn deck in Modern.
Obosh, the Preypiercer in Rakdos Sacrifice
Competing for the allegiance of the resilient and resurgent Rakdos archetype is Obosh, the Preypiercer.
Obviously more expensive than Lurrus, Obosh offers immediate payoff the turn it hits the battlefield, but a harsh deck building cost.
No even costed cards means no Priest of the Forgotten Gods (making it a little harder to summon a five drop). The fact that three mana cards are available to this build (unlike the Lurrus one) makes the curve quite a bit higher. That is something to watch out for as these builds settle.
Gyruda, Doom of Depths Delivers a Whole-New Archetype
Here’s the thing: Lots of good mana acceleration is even-costed. Growth Spiral, Paradise Druid, new stuff.
If you get to six, you can pretty much always cast Gyruda… Because it’s a Companion and that’s how Companions work. You never have to draw it!
When you play Gyruda in this new deck / world / disaster for the opponent look for cards like Spark Double and Charming Prince to keep the party going. Your expectation will usually be to attack for lethal if you’re given the opportunity to untap.
Believe it or not… There is even more Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths in this week’s podcast!
Kogla, the Titan Ape is Our Kind of Desert Twister
Mike has been joking forever how much we like six mana Desert Twisters.
Ugin, the Ineffable provides a Desert Twister-like effect (at least against colored permanents) that will leave you a one loyalty Planeswalker.
Garruk, Cursed Huntsman does you one better… two different ways! Still for six mana, you get to destroy a permanent (as long as it’s a creature) AND draw a card AND are even left with one more loyalty than Ugin!
Casualties of War is like five Desert Twisters! (at least as long as your opponent cooperates by playing enough permanents) Fail state? Regular-old Desert Twister.
Kogla, the Titan Ape fights a creature when it enters the battlefield. As long as that creature has toughness of seven — seven! — or less, Kogla will destroy it. Even if Kogla doesn’t survive, that’s six mana to destroy a key permanent.
… But it’s so much more! Like, whenever the opponent’s creature isn’t big enough to win, you get to keep a sweet 7/6.
THAT ALSO HAS OTHER ABILITIES!
Don’t be surprised to see Kogla, the Titan Ape in powered formats.
Because it destroys an artifact or enchantment every time it swings, Kogla might see play in formats where people play powerful artifacts and enchantments.
Might that be surprising to see? Maybe a little bit. But don’t sleep on how useful this Legendary Ape might be. Not only does it provide potential card advantage, a 7/6 is a pretty fast way to win.
They even gave it an activated ability for Zirda, the Dawnwalker
If a huge body… and a sick fight ability… and a persistent nuisance for expensive permanents weren’t good enough…
You can even play Kogla with Zirda!
But that’s not all!
Since you will often be playing Kogla with Nissa, Who Shakes the World already in play, you’ll often have 1G open to defend it.
Besides which… There is no shortage of humans you might want to return to your hand. Examples include everything from Charming Prince (which works coming or going) to Agent of Treachery
Lots and lots of other cards, brewing ideas, and good fun from Ikoria: Lair of the Behemoths, of course. Give Kogla, the Titan Ape a little love now:
Go with us here… Lurrus of the Dream-Den in Vintage
Imagine for a moment you look at your opening hand and see a Black Lotus.
So the way Companion works is that if you can cast the Lurrus… You can cast the Lurrus. You don’t have to draw it; it’s just there waiting for you.
Thus, if you have a Black Lotus in your opening hand, you can simply play it, sacrifice it for BBB (or WWW if you please) and make yourself a Cat Nightmare.
Is a 3/2 Lifelink that impressive on the first turn in Vintage? It’s certainly not “bad” per se… I mean it’s probably better than the odd Slash Panther… But that’s not the point.
Why? Because of this clause:
During each of your turns, you may cast one permanent spell with converted mana cost 2 or less from your graveyard.
What’s in your graveyard? A Black Lotus! So you can immediately re-play the iconic artifact. And not just that, starting on turn two, presuming you make your land drop, you will have access to at least eight mana.
Land #1 (1)
Land #2 (2)
Sacrifice Black Lotus (5)
Re-play and Black Lotus with your Legendary Cat Nightmare; sacrifice it (8)
Also you can get in for the 23-17 advantage. hash tag lifelink
Lurrus of the Dream-Den in Modern
Now obviously this is not a card most players think about for Vintage, first.
Not surprisingly, Mike’s mind went straight to his favorite: The Modern Red Deck. Though he has recently switched allegiance to Mono-Red, Mike was the innovator of not playing Wild Nacatl, the early advancer of Inspiring Vantage, and even dipped his toe in the Bump in the Night waters. Lurrus can obviously work in the sideboard of either a Boros or a Rakdos Red Deck.
What makes this card so compelling is that it requires very little compromise in terms of main deck design. Not “no” compromise, maybe… But little. Look at Mike’s most recent build of Mono-Red:
This deck has three mana cards like Light Up the Stage, Skewer the Critics, and Rift Bolt… But not only are they all essentially one mana spells… They are all non-permanent spells! Besides a lone Bonecrusher Giant main deck, all the other permanents are one mana. Even when Mike would bring in Eidolon of the Great Revel, that card would happily fit the Companion cost of Lurrus of the Dream-Den.
But Lurrus [in Modern, that is…We saw how different it would be in Vintage] is more than a virtual eighth card in a Red Deck’s opener, that might save it from mana flood, or buy some life points in a fiery mirror. There is that “each of your turns” line. What do you think about this?
Seal of Fire isn’t quite Black Lotus… But it’s not a bad get from your graveyard, turn after turn after turn.
A Boros Burn deck isn’t the only way to exploit Lurrus; just the most obvious out the gate.
Tons and Tons more from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths
Little Lurrus isn’t even quite a “behemoth” … But it’s a pretty good illustration of Ikoria mechanic Companion.
We talk tons of Mutate, where you might want to stick your odd Brokkos, Apex of Forever, and why you don’t want to go too tall, whatever the incentives in this week’s podcast! Check it out now:
In Sultai Escape, Cavalier of Thorns both highlights the deck’s strengths… And helps to shore up its weaknesses.
Cavalier of Thorns as Engine
The Elemental Knight will put four (and in rare cases five) cards into your graveyard, directly from your library when it enters the battlefield. One of those four cards might be…
… or better yet…
Putting one of those cards directly into the graveyard is like drawing an extra card. The Escape mechanic allows you to play either Polukranos or Uro out of the graveyard; and in Uro’s case it’s even better than drawing the card normally.
This is on top of (probably) getting an extra land; and on top of the expected re-buy later on in the game.
If you “whiff” on either Escape creature; rest assured that the four cards you’re putting directly into the graveyard can help you to pay for Escape some time in the future. So Cavalier of Thorns is always doing something nice for your development.
Cavalier of Thorns in Context
Mike in particular has always been a Bant > Sultai guy.
Both decks have similar advantages… Growth Spiral to get out of the gate; Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath as the persistent powerhouse; Hydroid Krasis to take huge advantage of all that extra mana.
Teferi, Time Raveler and Narset, Parter of Veils are two of the strongest Planeswalkers in Standard; both are game-altering and easy on the mana… At least one is a four-of in Bant while neither sees much (if any) play in Sultai. But that’s not the main reason for the aforementioned Bant bias. It’s really just about this creature:
Dream Trawler is difficult to counter for Sultai, and thanks to its floating Hexproof ability… Notoriously difficult to remove. It isn’t just that Bant had Dream Trawler and Sultai didn’t… It’s so tough for Sultai to deal with one.
Well… That was before the days of Cavalier of Thorns.
Today, the six toughness Elemental Knight WITH REACH can guard a Sultai mage’s life total against Dream Trawler; and in the case that the Dream Trawler accumulates sufficient power to trade… Cavalier of Thorns can redeploy one of Sultai Escape’s other mighty threats.
#mtgtogether gives us a window to this weekend’s Arena “Grand Prix”
In light of what’s going on in “the real world” (and the wide scale cancellations of large paper Magic tournaments) CFB Events are trying — for the first time — to run a Grand Prix on Magic: The Gathering Arena.
The simple rules…
CFB Events runs multiple flights per day
Anyone going 5-1 or better (generally 5-1 or 6-0) qualifies for the Grand Prix this weekend
What was amazing and inspiring to us?
There is all kinds of legitimate great new tech popping up as a result of #mtgtogether!
To date there hasn’t been one reliable repository for the performing lists; so we thought we’d curate some of the Tweets from qualifying players and discuss their deck lists in this week’s episode.
Ral’s Outburst in Temur Reclamation…
… is not even the craziest thing about this qualifying list!
5-1 in my first Magic Fest Online Qualifier! I’ve took the idea of Ral’s outburst and 29 lands from @crokeyz, which I think is a great deck builder and those changes are pure gas! I’m playing Temur reclamation from a while and I still enjoy play this deck a lot 💕#MTGTogetherpic.twitter.com/0FW06uj82v
This is a Wilderness Reclamation deck… Crossed with Draw-Go? In addition to two copies of Thassa’s Intervention, the miser’s Aether Gust, and a couple of Negates… Temur Reclamation now packs four — count ’em four — Mystical Disputes in the main!
Pair that with a legitimate transformational sideboard bringing in the Full Four copies of Nightpack Ambusher and you have a meaningfully different look at the archetype.
Who needs Storm’s Wrath or Nissa, Who Shakes the World? Am I right?
Bonecrusher Giant in <strike>Simic</strike> Temur Flash
Two-thirds Simic Flash… One-third Temur Reclamation?
This deck has a lot of what made Simic Flash the first time around — including Spectral Sailor — but added sweet red cards like Bonecrusher Giant and Expansion // Explosion. And Wilderness Reclamation!
We see the Nightpack Ambushers main deck here… But very low permission (relative to past Simic Flash decks). But who doesn’t love Wilderness Reclamation powering up those Sailors?
And Matt Sperling’s near-perfect Bant List
Mike’s friend Roman Fusco took down an #mtgtogether event 6-0 packing what might be the mathematically perfect Bant list:
Four (!) copies of Elspeth Conquers Death (4!) [as it is the best]
Mike would have liked a second Dream Trawler; but Patrick thinks that’s a mere security blanket. The pair agree that Bant is the best deck in Standard, and the list that Sperling came up with (and Roman qualified with) is very — very — close to what they would both play right now.
And Finally… Cavalier of Thorns in Sultai!
Mike has been really low on Sultai, at least relative to the availability of Bant in Standard. His main reason? Not only does it not play Dream Trawler, it couldn’t historically stop it, really.
Daily Qualifier 5-1.Cavalier Sultai is still great. I don’t like to play Mystical Dispute in grinding game. Love Negate.
But Yuta Takahashi’s Cavalier of Thorns has enormous toughness that is difficult (though admittedly not impossible) for Dream Trawler to get through; and with Reach, it can kill Dream Trawler in combat.
And of course, Cavalier of Thorns can help power up the Escape routes on Uro and Polukranos!
Patrick’s favorite feature? Cutting Agonizing Remorse for the last two copies of Growth Spiral. Mike heartily agrees. This is a substantial improvement on the Sultai archetype.
But… Phoenix of Ash Roars Back to Win Grand Prix Lyon
So what happened here?
Phoenix of Ash was a medium-popular card in the pre-Worlds Red Decks. Yet it did not crack the starting sixty of a single deck in Hawaii (by our count there was a single copy in a single sideboard).
And to be fair, for a tournament where Azorius Control ended up on top, Phoenix of Ash is only pretty good.
Aether Gust, Devout Decree, Glass Casket… and even Cerulean Drake saw play at the two at Worlds; all those cards are faster than Phoenix of Ash and all of them foil its natural card advantage in some way.
But Phoenix of Ash is hitting not only sideboards but main decks nowadays… How did it get better?
Phoenix of Ash… Flies?
Believe it or not, “flying” is one of the main things that Phoenix of Ash has going for it. At the time of Grand Prix Lyon, one of the most popular decks in Standard was Temur Adventures… And for a deck with 8+ flying creatures itself, Temur Adventures is embarrassingly bad at defending itself in the air.
But flying is the only thing going for the 2/2.
It’s “firebreathing”-type ability allows Phoenix of Ash to not only mow down certain blockers, it scales very well with Embercleave.
The card is a great way to set up Spectacle for Light Up the Stage
It reinforces both the Red Deck’s haste sub-theme and its two-for-one sub-theme.
We might even play more!
But wait! There’s more!
Why Mike likes Bant the best in Standard
How Patrick convinced Mike to play Knight of Autumn (you know, like everyone else already does)
What’s wrong with the structure of Sultai Ramp (spoilers! we’d run more copies of Growth Spiral)
You’ll notice that Maynard’s deck looks a lot like… “a real deck” with far less fancy than we might have looked at last week. The presence of cards like Teferi, Time Raveler can bounce hate cards like Leyline of the Void to help win through resistance.
Everything You’d Ever Wanted to Do with a Muddle the Mixture
One of the key additions of this build is Muddle the Mixture.
Muddle the Mixture can get two mana spells like — you guessed it — Grinding Station OR Underworld Breach! This can help set up your combo… Or in a pinch, protect it.
But that’s not all!
Did you see the one-of Dance of the Manse?
Not just a Standard playmate to Doom Foretold any more, Dance of the Manse is a cool backup in this build. If your opponent has answered both your Grinding Station and Underworld Breach, searing up Dance of the Manse [with Muddle the Mixture] can get you back on track… All at once!
Some additional novel ways to win…
Breach, Galvanic Blast you three times… That’s twelve!
Cards like Galvanic Blast are cheap to re-buy with Underworld Breach (I guess, assuming you have enough red mana), and can kill the opponent the good old fashioned way, seemingly out of nowhere. How much did they Shock themselves with fetchlands? Don’t miss that angle of attack.
Hall of Heliod’s Generosity is another weird way to win. More often you can force the opponent to have an answer to Underworld Breach over and over and over again… But in certain unusual games, you can deck the opponent if they don’t manage to kill you first. Again, make sure you know your ways to win! (Or in this case, kind of just not lose.)
The one copy of Mystic Sanctuary is a cool little wrinkle as well. Not only can you re-find your solo Dance of the Manse (and maybe in a situation where you can actually make a team of giant 4/4 creatures!) but buying back that sideboard Timely Reinforcements is sure to ruin Mike’s day [you know, if you happen to be playing against him.]
Brain Freeze largely replaces Grinding Station in this strategy.
While this deck can honestly still be optimized (probably via the addition of black mana for Infernal Tutor), the concept is very strong. Brain Freeze itself can get the deck moving… And it’s important to note that any subsequent Brain Freezes you play out of your graveyard will fire off Storm copies.
The ability to buy back Lion’s Eye Diamond for essentially no mana (but three cards) makes the Brain Freeze pairing truly outstanding… And the de-emphasis of Grinding Station for a card that can also kill the opponent makes the deck itself more streamlined.
There are a lot of possibilities still for Legacy Underworld Breach decks! And Patrick’s description of what is right around the corner has Mike ready to hang up his Basic Mountains in that format.
Get ready to share all this week’s excitement (and gear up for Modern Regionals) right now!
This deck doesn’t quite know what it wants to be yet… At least according to Mike. On the other hand, it has sweet new technology, like Unearth backing Lightning Skelemental for mad haste, more damage, and a shocking amount of card advantage.
Kroxa in Brand New Black-Red
By contrast there is a sweet new Rakdos list that inherits many of the same principles of the Jund — and previous Mardu — decks in Modern.
Was PV’s one of the most exciting lists of Worlds 2020?
Patrick in particular calls it well tuned.
Moving away from four copies of Dream Trawler to incorporate faster threats (or stabilization tools) like Archon of Sun’s Grace, PV’s winning list exploited a power enchantments sub-theme with cards like Banishing Light and Thirst for Meaning in addition to the ubiquitous Omen of the Sea and The Birth of Meletis.
Mike loved U/W coming into the tournament… But liked a different list.
Thoralf Severin added key innovations… Especially to the sideboard of Azorius Control
In the market for “some kind of Commence the Endgame”?
Thinking you might try to grind with Chemister’s Insight after sideboarding?
Thoralf Severin did you one better with his addition of Spectral Sailor.
Dodging Dovin’s Veto and largely sneaking under other types of permission spells, Spectral Sailor can act like a portable Chemister’s Insight… But one that skirts the rules of Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Time Raveler much better than some other card drawing options.
Speaking of powerful card draw, Severin also packed Emergency Powers!
One of the flashiest cards to see play a Worlds, Emergency Powers — at least when you have a Narset and they don’t — can have a spectacular impact on the the game.
A “Shock”-ing Number of Burn Spells at Worlds 2020
If I told you there would be four dedicated Mono-Red players in a field of sixteen; and you didn’t know much else about them…
How many Shocks do you imagine they would be packing between their decks?
That would have been my guess!
The real answer?
Three… Between the four of them! One mage didn’t even pack main deck Bonecrusher Giant!
The aspiring fire gods of Worlds 2020 had a really specific thought process on Shock… Don’t be bad against Azorius Control and Jeskai Fires.
At the very least… They largely beat up Temur.
Was Jeskai Fires the Deck of Worlds 2020?
The most pronounced sideboard card that Gabriel Nassif and Raphael Levy ran in their Jeskai Fires deck was of course Robber of the Rich. Quite simply, it can potentially single-handedly dominate Azorius Control.
But Robber was far from the only unique feature of their build! Check out this week’s podcast to find out all the reasons we think it might just have been the deck of Worlds 2020: