Plan A is pretty simple: kill your opponent quickly before they can enact their game plan. You do this with Ensoul Artifact on turn two, creating a hasty 5/5. This plan often ends with them at 5 life after three attacks, and you casting Shrapnel Blast to finish them off.
If that doesn’t work out, your next plan is to try and be aggressive with cheap creatures combined with Ghostfire Blade and Chief of the Foundry. This plan is surprisingly much more effective than it looks. Attacking on turn two with a Blade-equipped Ornithopter will go a long way.
Another way you will win games against decks create board stalls is with Hangarback Walker. Hangarback will hold off many of their creatures while growing each turn, until eventually you cast Shrapnel Blast to deal them 5 and make a bunch of 1/1 Thopters, which will in turn finish off your opponent.
Deck Difficulty: Average
While there isn’t a whole lot of interaction with your opponents, the sequencing in the deck can be tricky and can cost you a game if done incorrectly.
The biggest weakness would be fast decks with a way to disrupt Ensoul Artifact.
What Is a Favorable Metagame for this Deck?
One that consists of a lot of midrange and control decks. Your best matchups include UB Control, RG Devotion, and Abzan Midrange; while your bad matchups include decks like Abzan Aggro, Jeskai Aggro, or GW Aggro. Conveniently, your bad matchups are all pretty weak to the more popular RG, UB, and Abzan Midrange decks, which has lead to them being less popular recently.
Ornithopter is a cheap artifact, one of the best cards to put Ensoul Artifact on, and a great way to get through evasive damage with a Ghostfire Blade and Chief of the Foundry.
We played around with changing this number a lot, and in the end I would want at least 3. It’s important to have enough artifact creatures that can carry a Ghostfire Blade in the early game to make sure your Stubborn Denials are Negates way more often than Force Spikes.
Hangarback Walker makes the deck not embarrassing when you don’t draw Ensoul. It’s just a great card that really ties the deck together
Chief is another card that is good when you don’t have an Ensoul draw. It lets you almost combo kill your opponent with Hangarback by sacrificing it at end of turn to a Shrapnel Blast, then untapping and playing this guy for tons of damage out of nowhere.
Whirler Rogue kind of ties in to both plans. It’s a way to get in the last 5-10 points of damage after you’ve attacked on the early turns with an Ensoul Artifact but they’ve played some blockers. It’s also great in your non-Ensoul draws by creating multiple creatures out of just one card.
Ghostfire Blade is another card that plays into both plans. Having an artifact already in play on turn two to Ensoul is very important for the Ensoul plan, and when you don’t draw Ensoul, this lets all of your creatures be competitive in combat, or deal a reasonable amount of damage.
Springleaf Drum is a cheap artifact to Ensoul, while also helping you cast your more expensive spells.
Ensoul is the best card in the deck. Your entire plan A involves casting this on turn two. Ensoul is the Bitterblossom of this deck, and cutting any of them would be crazy.
Shrapnel Blast is a super-efficient burn spell. One Shrapnel Blast represents an entire 1/4th of your opponent’s life total. You can also use this to clear out Siege Rhinos or other large creatures if you’re playing a slower game.
Stubborn Denial gives you a way to protect your Ensouls from removal. These can be awkward when you don’t draw an Ensoul or Ghostfire Blade, so not playing the full 4 isn’t too crazy if you want to find room for something else.
4 Temple of Epiphany, 4 Shivan Reef, 6 Island, 1 Mountain
Pretty self-explanatory, you need to cast your spells, these are the best lands that allow you to do that.
Depending on the matchup, this can be the best possible card to Ensoul. Many decks have a tough time beating a 5/5 indestructible creature in the early game.
There really aren’t that many cards available to play in the deck. One of the reasons this deck is suddenly playable is that right now, at the very end of Standard, you have just enough cards that are good, so your options are fairly limited.
4th Phyrexian Revoker, 4th Chief of the Foundry, 4th Stubborn Denial, 3rd Springleaf Drum
I’ve already explained why the first 3 are in the deck, play the 4th copy of these cards if you decide you don’t want to play any of the other optional cards.
We played a single copy of this card in the deck for a while as basically a powered-down 5th Shrapnel Blast. The extra reach can be nice, and you often find yourself in need of sacrificing your Hangarback Walker.
Stratus Dancer is not the worst 2-drop to play on curve, and its megamorph ability can be great in some matchups. Note that you can equip a Ghostfire Blade to it for just 1 mana while it’s morphed. I could see this being a 1- or 2-of in a metagame that was heavily skewed toward UB and Abzan Control.
We considered some number of Cloudform over Chief of the Foundry for a little while. Similar to Stratus Dancer, Cloudform is good against decks that rely on spells rather than creatures.
You have room for one utility land in the deck outside of lands used for colored mana or Darksteel Citadels. This is the first option. Foundry is going to be good in attrition-based matchups and less about killing them on turn 4 or 5. Foundry really shines against decks with sweepers, like UB and Abzan Control.
Tomb is your other choice of utility land. Tomb is going to be good against decks where you are just trying to race, like Mono-Red.
Spy Network is important against decks where the games go longer and you need a way to stay in the game. It is very hard for a control deck without a way to race you, like UB control, to beat Spy Network.
Roast ties in with Thopter Spy Network as your plan post-board against Abzan Control. One way Abzan Control can beat a Thopter Spy Network is to pressure you with Siege Rhinos, which conveniently die to Roast.
Disdainful Stroke is a very important card that is almost exclusively in the deck for RG Devotion. The games you lose are almost always decided by Atarka. Having a card to stop that from happening helps the matchup a lot.
Seismic Rupture is for aggro decks with small creatures. It’s great against Mono-Red and Jeskai Aggro, while also being good against random tribal decks like Elves or Goblins.
Rending Volley is for Jeskai or Abzan Aggro. Anafenza is a very good card against you, and having a 1-mana removal spell for it is a nice option to have.
The Best Cards Against You
The best cards against you are generally going to specifically be cards that interact with Ensoul Artifact. Other problematic cards are those that create a quick clock.
Tips and Tricks
- Always try and do the math for how many turns it will take for you to deal lethal damage and plan accordingly. This is very important when your path to victory involves sacrificing a Hangarback to a Shrapnel Blast.
- Against RG Devotion, always be aware of when they can cast a Dragonlord Atarka, and try not to be vulnerable to it. Sometimes you will need to Shrapnel Blast an Elvish Mystic if it means you will avoid an Atarka for an extra turn.
- Another note about playing against Atarka, try to always get a Chief into play if you are racing with a 5/5 from Ensoul so they are unable to kill it. If they leave your 5/5 in play, you can always draw a Whirler Rogue which will allow you to keep attacking through the Dragon.
- Against Abzan, it is always important to keep Abzan Charm in mind when deciding what to do with Ghostfire Blade and Hangarback Walker. Often it won’t be correct to pump Hangarback to 3 power until you have either a Stubborn Denial to counter the Charm, or a Shrapnel Blast to sacrifice it in response.
- Against any deck with Languish, equip your Ghostfire Blade to your Chief of the Foundry before passing the turn, which makes it too large for a Languish to kill.
RG Devotion – Very Favorable
Abzan Megamorph/Control – Slightly Favorable
UB Control – Very Favorable
Jeskai Aggro – Slightly Unfavorable to Slightly Favorable
(Depending on whether or not they have Jeskai Charm.)
Abzan Aggro – Unfavorable
Heroic – Unfavorable
Rally the Ancestors – Very Favorable
Mono-Red – Even