3 Decks We Didn’t Play

After two weeks of testing together with ChannelFireball Ice and friends, almost all of us ended up playing Mardu Vehicles. Why? Because it was the best positioned deck against the Jeskai Saheeli combo, as well as not having bad matchups overall against the other decks. It also had a proactive game plan, which can be a saving grace when you play against something you didn’t predict. But this article isn’t about Mardu Vehicles, but rather some of the most interesting decks we didn’t play, and why.

Colossus

The Colossus deck was probably the one I worked on most. To understand how and why it was built I’ll give you some context. In Constructed testing, Eric Froehlich built a G/B Energy Aggro deck that was at that point the best thing we had. It was smooth, had nut draws, and could even win the late game on the shoulders of Verdurous Gearhulk and Bristling Hydra. That deck would have trouble dealing with Colossus and couldn’t disrupt the early artifacts, so eventually you’d go over the top of them. It did so with ease, and for a long time Colossus was my choice for the Pro Tour since it started to beat the other decks too.

But the Jeskai Saheeli decks kept improving. Colossus beat the earlier iterations of Jeskai Saheeli, but the last stock list from the SCG tour was a bad matchup, since anyone gearing up for the mirror had heavy splash hate for the Colossus deck, and all of a sudden the Jeskai decks had no bad cards post-sideboard, meaning that I eventually gave up on the deck for fear of playing against that exact list.

So what’s different now?

Pros

  • The metagame has shifted toward aggressive decks being the boogeyman, which means there are fewer counterspells. More aggressive decks also means more cheap removal, which means more dead cards against you.

Cons

  • Splash damage from artifact removal for Mardu Vehicles, the new boogeyman.
  • Mardu Vehicles is a close matchup.

Summary: I believe that Colossus could be a contender now that the metagame has shifted. The deck was close to being good before and now it’s even better. But be ready for sideboard cards.

4-Color Improvise

With the plan to be an aggressively tilted improvise deck, powering out Maverick Thopterists and Herald of Anguish on the back of the early white artifacts, 4-Color Improvise was impressive at first. Early aggressive creatures like Scrapheap Scrounger and Maverick Thopterist were hard to answer, and following that up with Herald of Anguish or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar was a winning recipe. The problem was that it was a recipe, and a recipe has to be followed step-by-step. This is much easier when you are cooking food, but when you randomize it as you do with you deck, sometimes there are inconsistencies.

The deck needs a lot of things to go right, and when it does it’s powerful. But when you cast your third Servo Exhibition looking down at a 2/2, you’re not winning the game. The most important reason we dropped the deck in the end was that even though it did everything it needed to, it was comparable to what B/G Aggro was already doing with Winding Constrictor, meaning it was similar in power level but not in consistency.

Pros

  • Diversified threats, meaning it can attack from different angles.
  • Main-deck counterspells versus an open metagame with combo potential.
  • Can be tuned to beat Mardu Vehicles.

Cons

  • Poor consistency.
  • Bad B/G matchup.
  • Splash damage from artifact removal for Mardu Vehicles.

Summary: If B/G is the answer to the new Mardu menace, this is not the place to be. The more you have to answer their game plan, the harder it becomes. But if it’s Jeskai Saheeli and Mardu you are worried about, 4-Color Improvise can be tuned to beat both.

Saheeli Aggro Combo

Well, lo and behold, I didn’t break it. With the new bannings and the addition of Aether Revolt, Standard was a new and open format. That also meant that older cards had another chance at glory and one of those powerful cards to try again was Tamiyo, Field Researcher. Tamiyo works especially well with Heart of Kiran, a new and exciting card. Along the same lines, Saheeli Rai was another cheap planeswalker to crew it with. All of this together spawned the idea for a deck that put the combo in a proactive shell, meaning your opponent’s reactive cards will be taxed so much that they won’t have anything left to stop it. This worked to a certain extent. Our best deck was a Marvel deck infused with the Saheeli Rai/Felidar Guardian combo, which this deck was crushing. But when the deck found itself in a race, it had much more trouble, because it was inherently flawed. The cards were too different. The aggressive creatures and the combo care about different things. One cares about every single point of damage, while the other doesn’t care at all. So if your opponent was careful enough to play around the combo while using their life total to stabilize against the aggression, the combo pieces weren’t the right followup to win the game. Felidar Guardian isn’t what you want to slam on the board with your opponent at 5 life.

Heart of Kiran took a lot of space, wanting enough cards to crew it, and an aggressive enough plan to make the damage matter. The combo also took up a lot of space. This didn’t leave enough room for reactive cards to help you get back into the game. A lot of creatures that aren’t great at blocking on top of that meant that falling behind was too easy and too hard to come back from. These reasons together spelled doom for the Saheeli Aggro Combo deck.

Pros

  • The best proactive deck versus other unfair decks such as Colossus, Marvel, etc.
  • Hard to play around your different game plans correctly.

Cons

  • Bad versus reactive game plans that can poke holes in each of your game plans.
  • Bad against other aggressive decks that are faster than you are.
  • Hard to come back.

Summary: I would not advise playing the deck in a regular metagame. If the format becomes based around unfair decks, it might have a chance, but I doubt it.

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