Today is all about the mark of the our new Phyrexian overlords and the return of fast paced combo kills and they may be able to actually beat Caw Blade! We’ll start things off with the most-talked about new combination from the new set, [card deceiver exarch]Exarch[/card]-[card splinter twin]Twin[/card]. You’ve likely heard about how this is a potential game changer and a pillar of the metagame we haven’t seen in some time, certainly the price tag spike from 25 cents to 8-10 bucks came as a a shock to some people. The good news is that Exarch-Twin is legit and I fully expect it to become a portion of the metagame in one form or another.
Here are two such examples of Exarch-Twin decks from Magic-League, your home for official unofficial tournaments before any set gets released.
Grixis Exarch-Twin by Weedmonkey
UR PyroTwin by Tel
Both of these decks really show off what the combo is capable of and a couple of the basic shells you’ll be seeing the first few weeks after New Phyrexia is legal for play. When making a Exarch-Twin deck the main parts are going to be the same between all shells, the combo itself, Preordain, Gitaxian Probe, Lightning Bolt, Into the Roil and a backup plan. The exact protection suite, extra search cards and backup plan will differ, but pretty much every single version will have those 18-22 cards and honestly it wouldn’t surprise me if Tezzeret’s Gambit also became a favorite of many builds for additional draw and assisting either the Pyromancer Ascension or planeswalker backup plan.
As it stands I prefer the simpler UR combination, but I have no doubt you could make any of the tri-color combinations work if you stick to the basics I outlined above. It mostly comes down to the amount of space you have left over in your deck and how easy it is to fit in a powerful backup plan. For example, while everyone automatically went to a Pyromancer deck with the combo as a secondary strategy you could move Exarch-Twin to the forefront and still have a great second plan. Here’s one such deck:
This is closer to the UR Control decks of old and could have the capability to swap out the combo entirely if necessary or protect it with a fair amount of consistency. Having [card koth of the hammer]Koth[/card] and Inferno Titan can put even more pressure on Caw Blade to have all the answers instead of their usual proactive gameplan. Of course this is only until everyone else in the room decides they’ve had enough and adapts to the new kid on the block.
That’s the bad news; right now Exarch-Twin looks very powerful and I’ve seen decks which look like they could consistently beat Caw Blade. The problem is that these Caw Blade decks aren’t really tuned to beat this new threat and instead are the old versions with a Batterskull and Sword of War and Peace thrown in. Once they start packing Celestial Purge which takes out both Ascension and Splinter Twin, things don’t look so rosy. Same goes for the possibility of Dismember which handily deals with the combo at a very reasonable mana cost. Without more testing and frankly better lists being developed, we just won’t know at first.
Speaking of other shells for the combo, there’s also different approaches available as well. What’s nice is that Splinter Twin still allows for some value to be gotten, it isn’t completely dead by itself the way Donate was in Trix. The same goes for Deceiver Exarch which can block and tap down an opponent’s crucial mana on the third or fourth turn or alternatively untap a Fauna Shaman. Hey there’s an idea…
With half the combo being a creature and the other half being a card that combos with creatures, it isn’t much of a stretch to take the combo and play it in a RUG aggro shell instead of a control or combo one. Sure you lose some of the raw draw power, but you gain a tutor for half your combo and the ability to fetch up a Titan and Splinter Twin it should win you a fair number of games. Having a built-in backup plan in the deck is also a nice touch as no longer have notably dead pieces such as Pyromancer Ascension or need to waste significant sideboard space to house a backup plan.
Of course Pyromancer and combo weren’t the only archetypes to receive some buffs from NPH. Infect is the other kind of aggro-combo deck which can be brutally fast and frankly quite consistent with the additional creatures and dirt-cheap pump spells. Throw in the capability to leverage Mental Misstep against cards like Condemn and Lightning Bolt and suddenly life isn’t quite so rosy as when you could just kill the first Infect creature and then ride your deck to victory. That said we’ve been given tools to work around this inevitability and good ones at that. Here’s one of the lists to give you an idea of where I’m coming from:
I know what you’re thinking, obviously there’s no chance this deck can beat Caw Blade. I’ve even famously said in response to Infect as a deck, “What if they just block?” and Squadron Hawk does a rather amazing job of blocking. Well that’s the key really, between Tumble Magnet, Phyrexian Crusader, and Triumph of the Hordes you have reasonable ways to plow through a a flock of birds or a flurry of wings on the board.
Alternatively we can shoot for a slower infect deck and stick with the mono-black theme. Why would we ever want to do this though? What motivation is there to stick with a single color? Lashwrithe is the answer and not just for MBC or Vampires, in the infect deck it can turn any creature into a lethal attacker and unlike the green pump won’t be foiled by a single removal spell. I shouldn’t have to tell you what happens when you curve out with [card inquisition of kozilek]Inquisition[/card], Phyrexian Crusader, Lashwrithe against a Caw Blade player. You do give up some game in matches where you really lean on the speed of the other deck such as Valakut, but as that deck slowly fades out of the metagame I’m not too worried about it.
Of course if the above strategies were too close to good and not gimmicky enough, here’s one more sweet brew I’ve been working on in the meantime. This one featuring my favorite Timmy card of the set, Myr Superion. The drawback of Myr Superion is actually quite negotiable for the large body and retaining the ability to cheat it into play via other means. Considering I was a fan of olden time token Mono-Green Aggro with no such absurdities available, this makes me pretty happy. Let’s look at what gets around the drawback on Myr Superion.
Standard playable cards that can cast it:
Most of these cards are pretty good to begin with and I’d already be playing with most of them in an MGA deck so really playing Myr Tarmogoyf doesn’t look like the pipe dream I imagined it was going to be. Notably Birthing Pod can also turn any 1cc durdle into a 5/6 Hulk so suddenly a card I thought was firmly under too cute is pretty exciting in this deck. Taking this and the old MGA favorites of Fauna Shaman and Vengevine into account this is what I’ve got as an initial build.
Now the deck probably has little chance against Valakut or game one against an Exarch-Twin combo deck, but against Caw Blade it has a lot of obnoxious cards and Fauna Shaman plus Birthing Pod can get a lot of 5/6, 4/5 and 4/3′s on the table. Throw in Eldrazi Monument as a backup plan and you’ve good a great shot at beating all the Caw players not packing real creature hate. A split of Nature’s Claim and Dismember can also help keep Exarchs in line and the Phyrexian mana cards in general give you a real sideboard instead of the garbage we were forced to run before to get up to 15 cards. In fact that’s the biggest reason these types of mono-color decks are viable again, Phyrexian mana gives you access to all sorts of fun answers you would otherwise never have access too.
Sadly this version still has issues with Batterskull and Day of Judgment, but they don’t feel unsolvable like they did before and Batterskull still loses to Viridian Corrupter or Acidic Slime so you aren’t as hosed as certain decks. Day on the other hand is the usual song and dance, try to play around it to the best of your ability and hopefully you can leverage Fauna or Pod into a victory post-Wrath. This deck is also completely dead to RDW and any Arc Trail deck game one, but again I accept this since its a first draft and I’m seeing if the concept is strong enough to continue work on.
That’s all for now, enjoy New Phyrexia and if you plan on playing on MTGO PTQs before NPH comes out play Caw Blade or don’t bother entering. Not kidding. Congratulations to Andrew Cooperfauss who picked up Caw Blade, won our National Qualifier and the next day won a MTGO PTQ. Next week we’ll step back from the wackier and brewer side of the set and take a look at what happens to The Enemy and the potential of Red Deck Wins to live up to its namesake.
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom
Veggies> that should def. go in your next article PV
PV> OMG I have to write an article
PV> I’d forgotten
thror> the one thing pv does for cfb
thror> and he forgets