Hello and welcome to a new regular column: Brew of the Week. In this series, I’m going to focus on sweet Standard brews that (a) look like they are a blast to play and (b) performed well at a recent major event. I’ll try them out, offer some ideas for improvement, and hopefully push them into competitive territory.
This week, I’ll start with Soulflayer Chromanticore. While doing coverage at Grand Prix Seville last week, I was thrilled to see it among the Day 2 deck lists. It’s exciting, it’s fun, and it does something different.
Soulflayer Chromanticore by Hector Carceles Mendez (Day 2 at Grand Prix Seville)
Game Plan and Card Choices
This deck uses Commune with the Gods and Satyr Wayfinder to get Sylvan Caryatid or Sagu Mauler (hexproof), Shaman of the Great Hunt (haste), Keranos or Pharika (indestructible), and Chromanticore (flying, first strike, vigilance, trample, and lifelink) in the graveyard. Then, ideally exiling all four of those creatures, a Soulflayer comes down for BB, and the cheap 4/4 with eight abilities can win the game from there.
Alternatively, the deck can use Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid to ramp into a turn-4 Sagu Mauler, turn-5 bestow Chromanticore. Barring a perfect answer like End Hostilities, the resulting 10/10 hexproof, flying, lifelink creature will easily be victorious.
Playtest Results and Observations
I played several matches with this deck on Magic Online, mostly in 2-mans. Making some tweaks along the way, as described in the next section, I went 8-2 in total. That was much better than I had expected! So the initial results are promising, and I was surprised at how competitive the deck was.
It plays like a mix between Sidisi Whip and Hexproof. After setting up your graveyard, you often end up with a complete Soulflayer or a Sagu Mauler carrying a Chromanticore. Remarkably often, bestow was key. And in contrast to Hornet Queen, Stormbreath Dragon, or other late-game threats, these bestowed-upon hexproof creatures cannot be answered by Hero’s Downfall, Bile Blight, or other commonly played removal spells. An indestructible Soulflayer cannot be answered by Elspeth, Sun’s Champion or Crux of Fate either. It’s like playing Slippery Bogle and Unflinching Courage, except that it’s Standard, they cost 4GU or 4BB and 2WUBRG, and they are a little bigger.
With this game plan, you can easily go over the top of other midrange decks. Their late game simply doesn’t match up to yours. However, the deck does have trouble against Disdainful Stroke, Crackling Doom, and Ugin. Going forward, if these cards remain popular, then Chromanticore Soulflayer may not be ideally positioned, but the deck felt pretty good against other midrange decks and I was able to defeat several Goblin Rabblemaster decks as well.
Looking for Improvements
While the core of the deck functioned nicely, I wasn’t happy with the following aspects of the deck:
- Monastery Siege is slow and unnecessary when you already have Satyr Wayfinder and Sylvan Caryatid. Sultai Charm is more versatile and better in that slot.
- Keranos is hard to turn on, high on the curve, and difficult to cast. Pharika was more useful in the games I played.
- Banishing Light is difficult to cast, slow, and weak versus Glare of Heresy. I’d much rather cast Murderous Cut to gain back tempo in this deck.
- Shaman of the Great Hunt is taxing on the mana base and doesn’t match up well against Siege Rhino.
- The mana base is very ambitious. It could afford more taplands, and I ran out of basics on several occasions.
- I never wanted to board in Swan Song. Stubborn Denial does the same thing, but better.
- The best way to fight back against Disdainful Stroke, Ugin, and Crackling Doom is with discard or counters, and the deck was lacking those.
To fix these issues, I cut some of the weaker cards for mana-efficient interactive cards. I also upped the number of hexproof creatures because they kept on winning games. Finally, I smoothed out the mana base to end up with a more consistent 3-color deck that only splashed white and red for Chromanticore. The best non-red haste creature that I could find was Mistcutter Hydra. I also added Courser of Kruphix for board presence and card advantage.
The deck can surely use more tuning, but here’s what I would recommend for now:
Soulflayer Chromanticore by Frank Karsten
Despite the addition of Stubborn Denial, U/B(/g) Control remains a tough matchup, so now may not be the ideal time to pick up this deck. However, if U/B(/g) Control falls in popularity, then a well-tuned Chromanticore Soulflayer list might have the right tools for the metagame to take down a competitive event!
Next week, I’ll probably take a look at Tomoharu Saito’s Mono-Black Humans deck from Grand Prix Memphis, unless a more enticing deck presents itself. Brew on!