If they cut off one head, two more shall take its place. Hail Hydra! – Red Skull, Captain America
I’m not done with brewing decks for Theros standard yet. Most people are taking old decks and just replacing rotated cards with Theros cards in them, but that’s too predictable. Esper control is still Esper control. mono red is still mono red. I know which cards you’re playing or going to play, and I’ll have the upperhand if I’m playing an entirely new deck that is designed to beat yours. Today I have two more decks I’d like to share with you. They aren’t net decked, they aren’t updates to decks from the previous standard metagame, they are entirely new (at least to my knowledge).
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
|2 Bow of Nylea
4 Time to Feed
6 other spells
15 sideboard cards
I’ve been wanting to exploit Kalonian Hydra ever since the card came out. It seems incredibly strong as long as it can stay on the battlefield. The problem is that it was always the biggest threat on the table and it always received the best removal card from your opponent the turn you played it. Looking at this deck list, you’re probably wondering why I chose to go mono green. GR gives you burn and cards like Ghor-Clan Rampager to push damage through, GW gives you powerful cards like Loxodon Smiter and Voice of Resurgence, and GB lets you kill at will with cards like Abrupt Decay and Putrefy. So why go green?
Because I love powerful, gigantic creatures.
The creatures in this deck are nothing to scoff at. Experiment One is an aggressive one drop in this deck, hitting 2 power on turn 2 85% of the time, and reaching 3/3 about 60% of the time on turn 3. Gyre Sage is another card that your opponent is going to have a difficult time shutting down. Only 8 of the 30 creatures in this deck have 1 power, which means dropping him on turn 2 will most likely create a 2/3 the following turn due to the decks bigger creatures. Kalonian Tusker is a beating against slow decks starting on turn 3 and it evolves both of the previously mentioned cards easily. Scavenging Ooze has proved it’s worth in Innistrad standard in almost every green deck, and its life gain will become necessary against more aggressive decks like mono red if they somehow kill your army of 3 toughness creatures. Boon Satyr has proven to be a great combat mechanic, letting you play it at instant speed on turn 3 to immediately evolve your creatures, or to hold it for turn 5 so you can push an extra 4 damage through on top of your 2 or 3 toughness creature that wasn’t blocked.
With green, you’re going to outclass your opponent’s creatures most of the time, and aside from a well timed Lifebane Zombie, there aren’t a lot of anti-green cards in standard. If you’re thinking green can’t do anything but attack slowly and heavily each turn, you’re wrong. While most people are debating the usefulness of Mistcutter Hydra, I’m promoting it. I built this deck to give you tons of mana while not sacrificing power too much. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Gyre Sage can create a dangerous Hydra with haste, and it doesn’t stop there. I’ve already mentioned 3 creatures (12 of the 30 in the deck) that can get counters. Kalonian Hydra gives all of those cards you think topped out at 2 or 3 counters new purpose, doubling their power each attack phase. A 6/6 Experiment One? A 6/7 Gyre Sage? Thanks, don’t mind if I do.
Ok, so you have all of these big creatures to play, but what’s going to stop a player from chump blocking your giant creatures with 1/1 tokens solidiers all day long? That’s where your support team and removal come in. The most important card in a support role is Nylea, God of the Hunt. She’s a 6/6 indestructible enchantment creature that gives trample to everybody. Suddenly, using an Aetherling to block doesn’t seem like such a good idea. They can blink it, but all that damage is going to still hit. She can also pump up your creatures with any mana floating around from Gyre Sage and the devotion to the shrine. Speaking of Devotion, if you’re lucky enough to draw her early, there is a good chance she’ll become a 6/6 creature for you as soon as turn 4 due to all the green mana symbols in your early drops (Experiment One T1 – Gyre Sage T2, Boon Satyr T3, Nylea turn 4). Removal has always been hard for green, but it’s not impossible. Time to Feed fills a much needed gap for green mages, using the size of their creatures as an advantage to fight with and kill others smaller than them. The life gain is a nice side effect, but not totally needed. The Bow of Nylea is yet another card your opponent doesn’t want to see. Deathtouch to all creatures, gain 3 life a turn, put counters on creatures, return cards that were destroyed or countered back to your library – each of these give you an advantage over a wide variety of opponents.
Oh, and don’t forget Polukranos, World Eater.
Easy to cast by turn 4 in an all green deck, he’ll evolve your smaller creatures, and he’ll eat any and all small blockers in his way prior to the attack phase. Think of him as a limited area board wipe in the middle of the game. You can pool together Gyre Sage’s extra mana and the Shrine to Nyx to turn him into one hell of a monster, taking out anything that he can fit into one of his mouths. He is absolutely AMAZING when comboed with Bow of Nylea. That one point of damage suddenly becomes the touch of death and your opponent is left with nothing but ashes to be stomped over by your stampede (when attacking of course!).
Control is going to be the biggest challenge for this deck. People said it’s not as resilient as GW is to cards like Supreme Verdict, but it does have a few tricks. Witchstalker is good against Red, Blue, and Black control decks using removal spells like Doom Blade or Lightning Strike, and he punishes counterspells on your turn by getting stronger. Primeval Bounty should help you to build a board presence and to put pressure on control players while not overextending too much, and Ratchet Bomb will hit tokens and anything else you can’t deal with outside of your colors. With a meta heavy with Planeswalkers and monstrous creatures, Pithing Needle is an absolute must. Stopping an Ashiok or Jace, Architect on turn 1 before either come into play is debilitating against a control player. Both could otherwise throw a wrench into your plans if you don’t take care of them early. Speaking of Planeswalkers, this deck needed a way to deal with those type of cards. Since there is no burn, tempo, or exile effects in green, the only card I could think of with my friends was Bramblecrush. You know what? It’s not that bad. It hits planeswalkers, lands, enchantments, and anything else a giant creature can’t deal with. The last card I put in the sideboard was Fade into Antiquity. This is mostly due to Gods. If you don’t have an out against them, things can turn against you quickly.
If you decide to play this deck, go all out. Hit your opponent hard and hit them repeatedly over the head until their appendages stop moving. That’s what green does best. This deck is built to completely demoralize and overwhelm your opponent with huge creatures, so don’t hold anything back.
Addressing the Metagame
As I said in my previous article, Esper control and other control decks dominated the first week of Magic here in Nagoya, Japan. With 3 of the top 8 spots at the first Star City Games Open this season going to control decks, I think the deck will continue to be a menace for the next few weeks. To not address it, to treat it like it’s not there, will mean you are planning to forfeit those matches to the other player. Let’s face the facts.
- UW, UB, and Esper control are the real deal. The decks are chock full of removal and aside from UB, they have access to board wipes that can clear your board by turn 4.
- Jace, Architect of Thought, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion are going to be mainstays of these decks for the whole of Theros standard. It’s the return of “Super Friends” from before the Return the Ravnica block.
- These decks don’t draw cards as well as their predecessors did in previous blocks. No Think Twice, no Thought Scour, etc.
- The only life gain the decks have are Sphinx’s Revelation. If you can negate that effect, you can have a huge advantage against your opponent.
With this in mind, I didn’t find a deck and stuff its sideboard full of anti control cards (which would leave it open to other deck strategies), I built a deck to shut Esper down and to nullify its advantages.
|Fear The Gods|
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
|4 Blood Crypt
4 Rakdos Guildgate
|2 Hero’s Downfall
2 Hammer of Purphoros
4 Magma Jet
2 Whip of Erebos
4 Read the Bones
2 Mizzium Mortars
20 other spells
15 sideboard cards
I basically took my Izzet Pyromancer build from the other week and switched out the blue for black. Instead of tempo cards, card draw, and counterspells, I filled this deck heavily with removal spells. It still has the previous (and deadly combo) of Purphoros, God of the Forge, Guttersnipe, and Young Pyromancer. If you cast a spell, it will put a creature into play, the spell will deal 2 damage from Guttersnipe, and deal 2 damage when the elemental token enters the battlefield thanks to Purphoros. However, there are now less spells which means the effect won’t trigger as much. If the metagame wasn’t filled with so much control I’d probably play all of the Guttersnipes in the sideboard, but since that currently isn’t the case I think 2 in the mainboard is fine.
However, I’m not here to talk about that combo again. I’m here to to talk about how this deck can beat Esper control. This deck is built to deal with threats early on and to shut down any advantage that your opponent puts down on the board. Since it’s just a rough draft, I wouldn’t expect it to work perfectly the first few times, but as the deck gets tweaked I think it will be a good alternative to blue based control. I’d like to point out the removal spells first. With so many planeswalkers walking around like they own the place, I decided to play 4 Dreadbores in the main board and 2 Hero’s Downfall. This combo could switch to 3-3 and so forth, but the key point is that you want at least 6 forms of auto removal for the 4 Ashioks, 3-4 Jace, Archietct of Thoughts, and 2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion in Esper control. I think a Guttersnipe or Purphoros could take care of them as well if you redirect the damage to the planeswalker. Even if you aren’t playing against control, you can still use the cards to destroy anything on the board. It’s a good idea to point out the use of Mizzium Mortars in this deck. It’s going to be your sweeper, helping you to clear the path of tokens or hexproof creatures, so if possible hold onto it until the last possible moment. You should have enough removal to deal with large threats before turn 6, and then when you have the mana you can clear their board and attack with everything or stop them from an lethal strike.
Speaking of redirecting damage, I also added in Tymaret, the Murder King to take advantage of all of the elemental tokens you’ll be putting in play. Sometimes you’ll be able to attack with them and whittle away at your opponent’s life, but other times they become nothing more than chump blockers. Tymaret makes them a little more useful in their short lives. He can sac one to deal 2 damage to a player/planeswalker, or you can sac another one to return him from your graveyard to your hand. This is great if he gets killed or if you use him for a chump blocker early on. The real synergy with both him and Guttersnipe is Whip of Erebos though. If you have the Whip in play, any damage that Tymaret, Guttersnipe, or Purphoros do from their abilities should gain you life. You could basically sit back without attacking and just let these 3 bombard your opponent each turn while blocking with elemental tokens. Using the whip’s ability also gets more value out of Desecration Demon. If he dies, you can bring him back from the dead with haste to attack for 6 and at worse use him to force a sacrifice from your opponent.
Dropping blue from my deck also means that I lose a lot of card advantage from cards like Quicken and Steam Augury. In order to keep up with the card advantage from Jace or Sphinx’s Revelation, I need something in red or black to draw me cards. Therefore, I decided to go with Read the Bones, which I think is much better than Sign in Blood from the previous set. The loss of life should be negligible thanks to the Whip of Erebos, but be careful using this against aggressive decks. Smoothing out your draws is also the reason I went with Magma Jet over Thunderstrike in this situation. If I wanted the damage, I’d go with the Strike, but since this is more of a control deck, I think scry is much better to have as a benefit for casting the spell. Card draw is also the reason why I thought it would be good to have Erebos, God of the Dead in the deck. He draws you cards for two life, but also stops your control opponents from saving their lives with a last second Sphinx’s Revelation. By totally shutting down life gain, he puts your opponent on a clock where every point of damage must be calculated. It will force them to use their removal when they otherwise wouldn’t want to use.
Not all of the decks in the metagame are going to be control, so it’s important to know what you should take out of your deck when you play aggro or other midrange decks. Guttersnipe, Erebos, and a Hammer of Purphoros should probably be the first cards you take out against aggressive decks. In their place I would load up on removal. The Mizzium Mortars, Devour Flesh, and even Ratchet Bomb would be useful against fast aggro. A ratchet bomb with one counter on it could devastate a mono red or white weenie deck if you play it early. Lifebane Zombie is a good card to play against GW, or any midrange deck playing those colors like RW or Naya (GWR). Thoughtseize, Slaughter Games, and Rakdos’s Return are what you want to use against other control decks such as GB, UB, Grixis, and of course Esper. Taking out their win conditions, removing an early game planeswalker with a Thoughtseize, or using a Rakdos’s Return to empty their hand will all swing the game into your favor. It’s hard to say what I would switch out in those match ups, but the Mizzium Mortars, 2 Magma Jets, a Whip and a Hammer would be a start in control match ups.
It’s still too early to tell which of my 4 decks will do the best in the new metagame, but each one is solid and should serve you well if you decide to play them. After we get a few more Grand Prix, Opens, and other events under our belts we will know more, so until then, play what you enjoy playing. This is the best time to brew and to try things out.
Coming next weekend I’ll be starting my “Bang for your Buck” articles about investing in cards for the new standard metagame, but before that I’ll be putting up a treasure trove of store information from around Japan. I’ve been busy traveling these last few months, but I haven’t had any time to put the information on my blog yet. Look for my next post after the weekend! If you test out any of these decks, let me know how it worked for you and what you would do to change it!