The Deathmist Raptor/Den Protector/Satyr Wayfinder package is one of the most important aspects of Standard. This trio of cards does everything—provides early defense against aggro, a midgame board presence and card advantage against midrange decks, and inevitability and resilient threats against control decks. In many ways, Den Protector functions similarly to Snapcaster Mage by giving you redundant copies of your most powerful effects against each strategy without having to heavily focus on beating one archetype. The “Den Protector loop” also makes it so that people can’t really combat your offense with removal—making some games feel hopeless.
Thus far we’ve seen this used mostly in Abzan and 5c Dragons shells, but at Grand Prix Providence last weekend, myself, Owen Turtenwald, Dave Shiels, and Chase Kovac played a slightly different version, with Chase and Owen finishing in the money.
The main inspiration for this deck over Abzan Mega morph was the popularity of RG Devotion, historically a tough matchup for that deck. By taking a more controlling posture and playing Disdainful Stroke, that matchup became a lot better.
One of the issues I’ve had with previous Dig Through Time control decks in Standard is the win condition problem. There are decks like Esper Dragons which play 4 Dig Through Time, 4 Ojutai, an Ugin, and a Silumgar. That is A LOT of late-game cards that get clogged in your hand early. Deckbuilding in that manner inevitably leads to inconsistency, and makes missing land drops or mulliganing that much more problematic.
On the other side of the coin, you have UB Control decks that play 4 Dig and very few traditional win conditions. The issue with these decks is that they can’t close out the game—your 1 Ugin gets Downfalled or your Ashiok Thoughtseized, and the opponent gets a ton of time to draw out of it. You simply don’t have inevitability when you choose to build your deck in this way—Standard decks have too many powerful spells to play a control deck that doesn’t have a slam-dunk, unanswerable win condition (something like Nephalia Drownyard comes to mind).
The Sultai Megamorph deck offers the best of both worlds: robust, difficult-to-answer late-game inevitability in the form of the Den Protector/Raptor engine, and only 4 Dig Through Time and 1 Ugin as dead draws in the early game. With Wayfinders, Dig is also less likely to be stuck in your hand for a long time like in some of the other control decks.
This deck is my favorite style of control deck, where even the win conditions are answers and impact the board. The Raptor/Protector engine reminds me very slightly of Snapcaster/Restoration Angel in terms of their ability to turn the corner and kill quickly once you have stabilized. Some games you play them on turn 3 and attack and play a tempo game, and other games you settle into a complete defensive posture and try to get ahead by as many cards as possible.
Another big incentive for this deck is that the best answer to Deathmist Raptor is Deathmist Raptor—and this deck has that package but also a stronger late game than the Abzan decks, mostly because of the ability to Dig Through Time and reliably find and recycle Ugin, the ultimate trump card..One factor we didn’t consider for the Grand Prix was the popularity of Abzan Aggro, which is a pretty tough matchup. Given this, I would cut an Ultimate Price and Omenspeaker for 2 more Self-Inflicted Wound in the sideboard. Having a 2-mana answer is absolutely key against them.
One of the main incentives to play the deck. You have a ton of answers to big creatures and planeswalkers, and Disdainful Stroke which is particularly good against Xenagos, Nissa and Atarka. Between Crux of Fate and Ugin, you can win games from behind—and Dig Through Time helps you find these cards more reliably.
If they have Raptors of their own, I would recommend keeping in all 4 Raptors and cutting an additional Courser and the Sultai Charm.
Another great matchup. You have discard, counterspells, Raptors, and a competitive long game. The ability to rebuy Thoughtseize and Disdainful Stroke is a hugely disruptive element for them to deal with. For the most part I think you really only lose to a fast and well protected Ojutai, so I would recommend playing conservatively and leaving up Stroke in the middle turns of the game unless you already have a Crux to power through.
Their best strategy in the post-board games is to beat you with Ashiok and Tasigur rather than Ojutai, which is why I leave all 4 Downfall in and only bring in 1 Self-Inflicted Wound. They are better off as a threat-dense deck than a control deck in the matchup, so you don’t want to get stranded with the wrong answer to whatever threat they draw. Stratus Dancer is absolutely key by playing as a 2-for-1 that protects your good cards from counterspells, and as an additional morph to bring back Raptor in the late game.
This matchup is focused on the similarity between the two decks, but you should be advantaged. The games often come down to Raptor fights and Den Protector loops, so Abzan Charm is good on their end. Typically your plan in game 1 is to disrupt the loop by using removal on a face-down Den Protector once they have started looping and then Thoughtseize away the one they bring back. Setting up Crux + Thoughtseize is really important, so focus on finding those cards off of Dig Through Time in addition to the normal targets. The fact that you have access to more mana than they do is a huge boon, and Ugin is one of the tipping points in the matchup.
If you know they have Mastery of the Unseen, I would bring in Sultai Charm instead of the Bile Blight. The post-board games play out fairly similarly to game 1, except your Downfalls are a bit better since they likely have a few more planeswalkers.
Definitely your toughest matchup. They have Anafenza and difficult-to-answer 2-drops, along with a reasonable amount of disruption and good topdecks in the late game. Self-Inflicted Wound is an absolute all-star here.
I don’t love Disdainful Stroke in this matchup, but protection from a topdecked Siege Rhino or Nissa is usually worth leaving a couple in. Crux is a pretty good game-1 card against them, but much worse when you have such a high density of removal. Spending your mana that inefficiently against them only to open yourself up to Nissa is a big issue.
Similar to playing against Megamorph but they have more cards you want to Disdainful Stroke and don’t have Raptors. The main difference is that you don’t really want Crux of Fate against them. This is the easiest matchup of all the Abzan decks. They often have Fleecemane Lion, so I like Self-Inflicted Wound here.
I would happily bring in Sultai Charm if I expected them to have Mastery of the Unseen and Tasigur, or if they are playing some number of cards like Satyr Wayfinder that make your Self-Inflicted Wounds worse.
This matchup is very, very easy. Their removal lines up very poorly against Raptor and Protector—and you have access to all of the best cards against their threats: Ultimate Price, Disdainful Stroke, and Hero’s Downfall. The easiest way to lose is by getting burned out, so I like cutting Thoughtseize.
I really like the Sultai Megamorph deck moving toward Standard with Magic Origins. I think it has a powerful core engine with room to customize for a changing metagame and potentially add new powerful cards. Give it a try!