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UR Prowess

I decided to cancel my trip to GP Houston for a work event, so I didn’t have a chance to roll out my UR Prowess deck. I’m writing today to tell you about that deck and why it has made Standard fun to play.

Sometimes you need a break from the monotony of established decks. Scratching the “brewer’s itch” and catching opponents by surprise is fun. But none of that fun, for me, is worth it if you aren’t actually winning. With the UR Prowess deck below, I’ve been having fun and winning a lot.

UR Prowess

1) No Jace

This wasn’t intended to be a budget deck. It happens to be one (if you own the fetches, which I assume you must in order to play Magic: The Gathering in 2016), but when I first made this deck, I had 4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy in the main deck. Then I had 2 main 2 sideboard. Then I had 2 sideboard. And now I don’t use any copies of Standard’s $100 bill.

Elusive Spellfist did more to help me win the game when it survived, and was harder to kill. With the Magmatic Insights, you don’t need the looting as much as you can rid yourself of extra lands and fill the graveyard quickly. The problem with Jace is that he is super easy to interact with (especially with shocks or sweepers like Kozilek’s Return in a post-board game), and when they don’t interact with it, your spells aren’t actually powerful flashback targets. It’s a fine card, but this deck kills people, and Jace is best in those games when they can’t kill your creatures and you have other threats to attack with as you flashback support cards—a classic win-more. But when you have just one more creature than the opponent has removal, I’ll take the Elusive Spellfist who can kill the opponent.

2) The Key Insight (of Magma)

I posted an early list of UR Prowess to the Team Ultra PRO forums with 21 land and 1 Magmatic Insight, and Patrick Chapin took a look and asked, “why only 1 Magmatic Insight?” Um, I don’t know. I tried 23 land 3 Magmatic Insight to test the concept and wow, it was a clear breakthrough. The deck was finally humming along as I was mulliganning less, flooding less, and Treasure Cruising more. It turns out that getting to bounce ideas off The Innovator speeds up the brewing/tuning process.

3) The Nature of Current Standard

You can do a lot of things in Standard right now. The mana is too good, the spells are powerful, and the creatures are efficient. But killing creatures cheaply and consistently (not just once in a game but multiple times) is very difficult. You can bounce creatures efficiently, but if those creatures cost 1 or 2 mana and pseudo-cantrip or have haste, bouncing isn’t exactly a big win.

4) Treasure Cruise Is Too Powerful Not to Have a Home

I don’t have to sell you Treasure Cruise any more than I have to sell you on fetchlands, but this deck doesn’t feel the pain of drawing 2 Treasure Cruise, even in the opening hand. Cantrips and fetchlands aplenty alongside Magmatic Insight mean that the graveyard is full and it’s full fast.

Ben Stark helped me see the light on sideboarding Painful Truths, which turns the deck into a card-drawing machine that just shrugs off Murderous Cut and Crackling Doom by having more cards and thus more creatures (and Dispels) than the opponent can reasonably handle without keeping pace. One “aha moment” I had in testing was realizing that I loved when my opponents took their turn 3 off to Painful Truths or Read the Bones, and I was crushing people by doing the same thing myself. There was an imbalance here….

5) Real 1- and 2-drops in the Land of 3- and 4-drops

That was the imbalance—my Painful Truths and Treasure Cruise were a refill, and one that pumped my creatures, and my opponent’s life totals were under pressure in a way that mine rarely is. My opponent’s card draw was basically too tempo-negative to even leave in their deck after game 1. I’ve had opponents get a 4-for-1 with a sideboarded Radiant Flames only to fuel a Treasure Cruise that pumps or finds the next super-cheap threat. And believe me, it only takes one threat to kill someone.

6) The Pump—Titan’s Strength (and Temur Battle Rage)

Ben Stark and I worked together on this archetype but never saw eye-to-eye on whether it should be a card advantage deck or a tempo/race deck. I like racing because I find it easy to force the opponent to tap out. If not this turn, next turn. Eventually they have to (and killing something at instant speed in combat counts) and Titan’s Strength is going to get you 4, 5, 6, or even 10 damage in the context of Temur Battle Rage, which is a nice way to make blocking a risky way to “deal with” your creatures. Pump also makes you harder to play against and gives you wins where the opponent’s hand is a couple scary 5-drops of whatever variety their deck deploys. Dead men tell no tales, and dead men cast no Goblin Dark-Dwellers to get back into the card advantage battle.

7) Sideboarding

The deck is somewhat linear, so sideboarding feels strange. But it’s not as linear as something like Affinity where you can bust up your own synergy if you’re not careful. After all, prowess triggers on any non-creature spell, so there is some interchangeability of parts, such as adding Roast to your deck to kill Rhinos and Anafenzas.

• Against targeted removal, trim some of the cantrips that target a creature and that have to resolve to draw you a card. Dispel serves you better.

• Against someone who doesn’t plan on blocking, Temur Battle Rage isn’t necessary. Exception: Ramp, where you want TBR to just “goldfish” better.

• There are few sacred cows. Try different sideboard plans and trim a little of this and a little of that when you aren’t sure what to cut. Trimming Abbots is wise when you have Disdainful Strokes in your deck. Strokes in hand or on top of the library both reduce the value of Abbot, who is mana hungry and non-bos with counterspells. Abbot is worse than Elusive Spellfist when the opponent is likely to have Wild Slash, Kozilek’s Return, Flaying Tendrils, or a similar effect that makes low toughness a liability. It’s never that bad, but you can trim and Elusive Spellfist might overperform.

• On the draw, when boarding in Painful Truths (which I do in any attrition matchup), I cut a Wandering Fumarole (which is weaker on the draw as it’s hard to have time to activate it, and I want to cut a land since I have so much card draw). Fumarole, in general, is weak in this deck. It’s okay, but the cost is real and activations are rarer than you might think.

8) Have fun

At the risk of coming off like a youth sports coach, one of the perks of this deck is fast rounds, explosive draws, 14+ damage turns with 1 or 2 creatures, etc. This is fun Magic and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have.

Bonus Section—Vintage

Last weekend, I took 3rd in the Power 9 Challenge on Magic Online (good enough to win a Mox Sapphire and a Wasteland) with the following Shops list:

I wanted to find a reason and a way to use Null Rod to make people’s Arcbound Ravagers and equipment look stupid, and I did that in many games. If anything, I didn’t go far enough with this line of thinking, and my sideboard was weak as a result.

If the tournament were happening again today, I’d cut the Tangle Wire for a 3rd Crucible main, and add the 4th Null Rod and 4th Crucible to the sideboard, alongside some experimental “mirror breaking” tech like 2 Smokestack and 2 Spine of Ish Sah or whatever else I felt gave me an advantage against the other Mishra’s Workshop decks.

Mishra’s Workshop seems too powerful to me at the moment, and a winner’s metagame in this format is likely at or above 50% Shops in the later rounds if everyone is trying to maximize their win percentage. Randy Beuhler thinks Lodestone Golem may need to be restricted, and I agree. If you don’t play Vintage, Shops is like Eldrazi in other formats. You get to play lands other decks don’t get to play that make 2 or (gasp) 3 mana, so somewhat innocent looking “4-drops” like Lodestone Golem or Thought-Knot Seer become absolute monsters.

I had a lot of fun being the bad guy with Spheres and Golems aplenty, but I don’t know if that model of fun is sustainable at the power level it’s at. But hey, at least the creatures aren’t Eldrazi…

Thanks for reading!

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