U/W Flash is a bad deck.
Now, I’m certainly not the first person to say this. There have been many top players who have pointed this out, and then been told how wrong they were. I mean, how can a deck with so many great results be a “bad deck”? Good question!
A “bad deck” isn’t necessarily a deck that can’t win. U/W Flash can win lots of games, and it has. So then why is it a poor choice?
I don’t like any of the matchups. If you believe that U/W Flash is favored against G/B Delirium, it’s going to make the deck look far more appealing. I strongly believe that not to be the case, especially if both pilots are capable of playing their respective decks well. G/B is a pretty decent-sized favorite in that matchup and I have lots of games to back that up.
I don’t think anybody feels like U/W Flash is favored against the aggro decks in the format. The cool tempo plays and Gideon are strong cards, but they all can look anemic against aggro openings.
The real point of contention, however, is against the Marvel decks. The great Marvel matchup is the biggest draw to playing U/W Flash in a world where G/B Delirium and aggro decks aren’t good matchups.
Agree with Sam here.
— Michael Sigrist (@MSigrist83) December 5, 2016
Top players who have played the matchups extensively believe that U/W Flash is not favored against Marvel. So what, exactly, are we playing U/W Flash for? The deck is fine but not favored against almost the entire format!
Now, being 40-50% against the room means you can still win lots of games. And when you’re talking about a deck that’s one of the most heavily represented in nearly every tournament, you almost have to win. There are just too many copies of the deck to not show some success in every single event.
Those most proficient playing the U/W side will still see more success with some level of consistency. There are many ways to squeak out your own edges, not to mention ways to capitalize on your opponent’s mistakes, which will add to your win percentage.
But you can likely find even more percentage points playing a better deck!
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is the reason to play U/W Flash. A huge percentage of U/W Flash’s wins come on back of this card. It’s one of the very best cards in Standard and will remain so for his duration in the format.
Thraben Inspector and Smuggler’s Copter can also go a long way toward winning games. These form the backbones of many aggro decks, and with good reason. They’re very powerful, but U/W Flash doesn’t do the best job in the format of capitalizing on them. Flash is more of a tempo deck and not an aggro deck, so a deck that can also play Toolcraft Exemplar can take even more advantage of these cards.
The tempo elements of Spell Queller and Reflector Mage are solid, but they aren’t game-winning. You’re paying 3 mana in a deck that can’t fully take advantage of tempo due to the weaker early drops. You’re still just relying on Gideon to get the job done.
This deck is inherently flawed in so many ways that I can’t advocate playing it in any tournament against high-level competition. You’ll just be outclassed. Don’t even get me started on decks like U/W Humans that are starting to crop up. You’re taking the best elements of U/W Flash and cutting them! To replace them, you’re adding Town Gossipmongers and Thalia’s Lieutenants that hit very few total Humans in your deck. You’re basically the worst of both worlds from a U/W Flash and white aggro deck.
The white aggro decks are fine choices because they can successfully go under the midrange decks like U/W Flash. By jamming both of those decks together, you’re looking at a deck that wants to go under but really can’t. This is the mistake I made at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad when I played U/W Humans. White aggro was a good deck, but slowing yourself down for some slower tempo plays and additional “power” actually weakens your overall strategy.
So now that my rant on why these U/W decks are not good is over, let’s talk about U/W! While I really dislike Flash and Humans, there are ways to play the tempo game to go over the top of the format. When you know your opponents are going to be playing Flash and Delirium, Panharmonicon has the time to set up and exploit this metagame. Here’s the list Seth Manfield used to Top 8 Grand Prix Denver last weekend:
Seth Manfield, Top 8 at Grand Prix Denver
There are some similarities here to U/W Flash before things go wild in different directions. Let’s break it down.
First off, you have Thraben Inspector and Smuggler’s Copter. These cards can go aggro, as they can in U/W Flash, but you’re also going to get a good look deeper into your deck. Inspector and Copter help to make sure that you find the pieces of the puzzle you need when you need them. This deck is not expecting Smuggler’s Copters to go all the way, but rather set the table for degenerate things when the time comes.
Copter is also a nice hit off of Glint-Nest Crane. If you want Cranes to help find your Panharmonicons, you’re going to need to play some additional artifacts to make sure your deck is still able to flow. While Crane is not overly likely to hit with just 11 artifacts in the main deck and a couple more in the sideboard, it’s a reasonable blocker and will always make sure you’re closer to actually hitting Panharmonicon. With the namesake card already in play, digging 8 cards deep to find a pair of artifacts is some serious value.
Panharmonicon is a strange and powerful card. It appears to be one of those cards that’s mainly used for casual play, like a Doubling Season, but that’s not the case. It still goes late in Draft packs, but it does so much.
First off, it’s a 4-mana artifact that doesn’t impact the board in any way the turn you play it. This is a huge downside and something that players are constantly taught to avoid like the plague. It’s hard to imagine scenarios where spending your entire fourth turn and a card is going to be worth it, but when you look at what Panharmonicon does, the potential is clear.
While your fourth turn is a bust, you’re going to have a boom immediately afterwards. Effects on creatures and artifacts you’re willing to put into your Constructed decks are immense. The tempo you lose on turn 4 is immediately made up for in spades on turn 5 and continues to spiral every turn thereafter with the following cards:
Reflector Mage is awesome the turn before you play your Panharmonicon. It insures that you can’t get run over and it can play a decent blocking game. The turn after Panharmonicon hits, however, you’re bouncing multiple creatures and they won’t be able to play half their hand on their next turn. It’s hard to lose when your opponent doesn’t have creatures and isn’t allowed to recast them.
Cloudblazer is pure value. Mulldrifter was a great card, but evoke was a huge part of that equation. You lose that here, but you’re gaining some life to help offset early pressure. With a Panharmonicon in play, you’re talking a full Sphinx’s Revelation that would have cost you 7 mana. Drawing 4 and gaining 4 life is going to be tough for your opponent to come back from, but with a Panharmonicon already in play it’s nearly impossible. You’re just going to find more Panharmonicons and value creatures to double and triple their abilities.
Eldrazi Displacer is just an awesome card in general. It’s a great answer to Eldrazi trying to attack you, can remove tokens, or just slow an opponent down. With so many enters-the-battlefield abilities in your deck to combo with Panharmonicon, Displacer will just continue to ooze out value turn after turn.
With a Displacer and a Panharmonicon, Drowner of Hope becomes an infinite combo. Drowner normally produces a pair of Scion tokens when it enters the battlefield, but Panharmonicon makes that 4 tokens. Displacer requires you to sacrifice 3 of them for mana to displace the Drowner, but that will just become 4 moreScions. Each cycle produces an additional Scion and you can continue doing this forever. You can then use Scions to tap down an opponent’s creatures if needed (assuming they had evasion, since otherwise your infinite blockers could probably get the job done) and win the game.
As mentioned earlier, you’ll get an extra Clue with your Inspectors and an extra dig with your Cranes, and then can continue withPilgrim’s Eye to find an additional land. Your Thought-Knot Seer can take an additional card, which is an awesome combo when displacing it or after you use Reflector Mage to bounce some creatures they aren’t allowed to cast again.
Sovereign, Consul Flagship is a nice way to offset any tempo lost when you took a turn off to play your Panharmonicon. The Flagship comes down and has a pair of 3 damage triggers to take out an opponent’s board of creatures or planeswalkers. With plenty of creatures in your deck, it’s not much of an issue to crew up a Flagship and continue to decimate an opponent.
Westvale Abbey can churn out tokens late or flip into Ormendahl when you have Cranes, Inspectors, and Copters laying around. This can be nice against cards like Ishkanah or just to make sure your life total stays high. While Emrakul is an answer to Ormendahl, you can still keep gaining life. With Reflector Mage, Displacer, Drowners, and Thought-Knot Seers, not to mention Stasis Snare, your deck actually has tons of answers to the Eldrazi.
You’re going to have to hope that these cards are good against Marvel, however, as there’s no permission in this deck. There are no Spell Quellers, and you aren’t able to put the same pressure on a Marvel opponent as a U/W Flash deck that has Gideon.
You do have more powerful cards in the matchup for your proactive game plan, however. Panharmonicon is a tough card for them to deal with and you can continue to churn out value each and every turn. An Ulamog or World Breaker can mess with your fun, especially with no main-deck answer to Aetherworks Marvel, but the matchup is winnable.
Where this deck can shine is against the perceived big 2 in the format. U/W Flash and G/B Delirium both give you plenty of time to set up. With Displacer, Panharmonicon, and tons of value creatures, it becomes easy to run away with the game.
Aggro decks are another story. The same weaknesses the U/W Flash deck has are prevalent here. Panharmonicon is a bigger turn-4 blank than Gideon, who at least gets to spit out a 2/2 token. If their draw isn’t explosive, your Reflector Mages can slow them down, Crane blocks well, and Cloudblazer allows you to start to pull away. None of that is extremely likely, however, and their good draws are tough to beat.
If you’re able to curve out well, there are plenty of good blockers and the late game is very powerful. Flagship will start to mow down their most powerful threats and turning the corner becomes academic. Missing a beat, or worse a land drop, can spell disaster.
Luckily, there are plenty of answers in the sideboard to help slow them down and make sure your late game comes to fruition. By removing some of the clunkers, you’re able to make sure your draw lines up with what they’re doing. Your Panharmonicons are great cards, but drawing multiples seems like a nightmare. The first couple copies seem like an easy cut, if not all of them. Thought-Knot is big, but it’s not the best at blocking anything in the air or Gideons. Pilgrim’s Eye is just too slow for an artifact creature, and drawing multiple Drowners seems like a recipe for disaster.
Instead, I’m looking at cards like Linvala, the Preserver to completely turn the tables on an aggressive start. Linvala plays well with Aether Meltdown to make sure their creature stays in play, despite not doing anything, and letting you get an Angel token. Filigree Familiar is a great hit off of Crane that can stem the bleeding early on. Gaining 2 life, drawing a card, and trading for an opposing Toolcraft Exemplar feels real good. Immolating Glare takes out their best attackers. And if they’re white-based with Copters, Stasis Snares, and Scrapheap Scroungers, Fragmentize can be a great tempo play.
Against Marvel decks, you have Fragmentize to deal with the Marvel, Thought-Knot Seer to help stop their big threats, and Spell Shrivels, Negate, and Summary Dismissal to stop any of their expensive spells.
Consul Flagship mows down some of their few creatures and planeswalkers, but tapping out for a 5-mana answer to a creature isn’t appealing. There are plenty of options to trim in this matchup that are all reasonable as none of your cards are all-stars here, save possibly the Eldrazi. Pilgrim’s Eye is a reasonable main-deck inclusion, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see it come out in nearly every matchup. With multiple artifacts coming out and no creatures to block, Crane looks even weaker.
Against U/W Flash and G/B Delirium, you’re already set up. You’re not going to be looking to rock the boat and make any sweeping changes, because your main deck is well suited to attack these matchups.
Fragmentize continues to be a decent answer to Copter and Stasis Snare, and Linvala, the Preserver can bring you back against an initial onslaught, can’t be Spell Queller’d, and threatens Gideon. Counters can be nice against G/B to deal with Ishkanah or Emrakul, but these aren’t the same level of threat against Panharmonicon as they are versus other midrange decks.
I would just look to trim anything that isn’t exciting. I’m looking at you, Glint-Nest Crane.
I hate to be the one raining on your parade as a lover of U/W decks, but I really think you’re making a mistake by playing U/W Flash, and a bigger mistake playing U/W Humans, at least for now. That certainly doesn’t mean that it will be a mistake in 2 weeks or a month to play these decks, but that’s where paying careful attention to the metagame shifts matters.
For the time being, if I’m playing U/W, I’m looking to play dedicated control with 4 Void Shatters or I’m going to play Panharmonicon. I think these decks have the tools to take down all of the big decks with enough sideboard options to shore up the tougher matchups.
There’s also no better feeling than drawing 4 and gaining 4 off of your turn 5 Cloudblazer.
Going forward, how wrong do you think I am about U/W Flash? I know many of you are going to love telling me how I don’t know what I’m talking about and U/W Flash is an amazing deck, and I look forward to hearing all of your thoughts and opinions! Where do you think Panharmonicon decks go from here? Will this be a major player going forward? Sound off in the comments!