As is always the case, we try a lot of different decks throughout testing. Here are some of the more interesting ones, what was good about them, why they didn’t work, and whether I think they have a future in Standard.
The key card in this deck is Baral, Chief of Compliance. By making all of your spells cost 1 less, he ensures that you can cast multiple spells in a turn (such as a creature and a Negate to protect it), and the cycling ability is excellent in a deck that doesn’t need a lot of lands in play to operate. Baral is also a good blocker against some red decks (blocks Bomat, Soul-Scar Mage, Khenra, Kari-Zev tokens), and attacks to enable raided Chart a Course. It’s not a problem that you’re running four of a legendary card since you can always loot excess ones.
The best part of Baral is that it allows you to run many copies of Negate and Essence Scatter. With Baral in play, they cost only 1 mana, and the loot ability lets you cycle whichever one ends up being bad. Normal decks can’t play this many Negates main, for example, because they might be dead in certain matchups, but this deck doesn’t have a problem with that.
The two threats in the deck—Tempest Djinn and Cryptic Serpent—are also powerful and kill very quickly. Sometimes your opponent thinks that you’re on defense, then all of a sudden you attack with a 6-power Djinn, play another Djinn, and they are dead next turn.
That said, there were a couple of problems with the deck. The first was that some of your draws were simply underpowered. You’d bounce some stuff, cantrip here and there, and then they’d kill your first threat and you’d just die. B/W, for example, was a bad matchup because they had Fatal Push, Ixalan’s Binding, Vraska’s Contempt, and Cast Out, on top of aggressive drops that you couldn’t block with Baral. If someone leads with Bomat + Kari Zev, playing a Baral means that you take 1 damage a turn, but if someone leads with Toolcraft Exemplar + Scrapheap Scrounger, then you’re taking 6 a turn.
Another problem was that there were no good sideboard cards versus red. I had the idea of a Drake Haven + Countervailing Winds sideboard versus control that I thought was pretty good—you’d have Censor, Illumination, and Countervailing Winds for cyclers, and then also Baral and Chart a Course to trigger it via discard, which would let you play the “play a threat and counter everything they do” game very well. But for Red and other aggressive decks, the sideboard options are really lacking in Mono-Blue. I’d have settled for a 1/4 creature for 2 with a bad ability (like a mono-blue Contraband Kingpin), but we don’t even have that as a cheap blocker. So, what do we play? We thought about Labyrinth Guardian, but I think it has to be something that blocks Scrounger and Chainwhirler.
I think game 1 you’re actually good versus Mono-Red, but game 2 becomes a problem because they bring in better removal. In game 1, you just slam a Djinn or a Serpent and they often have no answer, but in game 2 they can just cast Fight with Fire, and that’s a problem.
Right now, the main deck is pretty tight—you want the threats, the counterspells, and the bounce—so it’s hard to imagine that there’s something you’d want that is not just an upgrade over what you already have because you can’t really cut anything. So, for example, you’d welcome a better Blink of an Eye or a better Disallow, but that’s probably about it. Most of the improvement can be done in the sideboarding, if they release a sideboard card that’s actually good versus red decks so you can match their improvements.
Overall, I thought this deck was a blast to play, and it reminded me of Faeries. Of all the decks we tried, this was the one I enjoyed the most, and, if you like the playstyle, I recommend you give it a try. It might not be the best deck in the world (that’s probably a version of Red), but it can definitely win.
U/B Mirari Conjecture
Early on in testing, we assumed that Black/Red and U/W would be the most played decks. This led us to explore one of Sam Black’s ideas: U/B Mirari Conjecture. This was our build:
This is a tapout control deck that relies on Mirari Conjecture to overwhelm the opponent in card advantage. Blink of an Eye is an all-star here, allowing you to return your own Mirari Conjecture to your hand if you want to, as well as bounce permanents so that you can Duress or Downfall them. Commit // Memory has the unique property of being both an instant and a sorcery, so you can return it with either chapter of The Mirari Conjecture.
This deck was quite good versus U/W, since you basically just ran them out of threats. It’s not uncommon for you to exile all of their planeswalkers, at which point they can no longer win, no matter how many times graveyards get shuffled back.
It was also quite good versus B/R. The abundance of removal meant that you could take the game to the later stages, at which point all of their dead removal would catch up to them.
In the end, the deck had two problems. The first was Mono-Red, which played out very differently from Red-Black. Mono-Red was faster, had more burn and, more importantly, had more haste creatures. A lot of our removal was sorcery speed because of Mirari Conjecture, and having to take a hit before you killed a creature was pretty bad. Hazoret was also much harder to deal with than Chandra, Torch of Defiance, in part because you couldn’t just Duress it away.
The second was green decks. Against Red, you relied on some of their cards being dead or nearly useless (all the removal). Green decks didn’t have those cards—all they had were threats, and diverse threats at that (Vehicles, planeswalkers, indestructible Gods, legendary creatures, Lifecrafter’s Bestiary), which meant that it was hard to deal with everything. Your best bet was probably to side into The Scarab God, but that didn’t always work.
Ultimately, if your metagame has a lot of black-red and U/W, you can give this a try. If it has a lot of green or mono-red, then you shouldn’t.
At one point in testing, we really liked Karn’s Temporal Sundering. Our idea was to make a deck that could rely on chaining them together, through the use of Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain and Weatherlight. If you have Weatherlight in play, you can crew it, attack, cast Karn’s Temporal Sundering, and attack again, which gives you an extra ten looks to find a second copy of Temporal Sundering. In an emergency, you could return your own Mox Amber to your hand, which would draw you an extra card with Jhoira and also add an extra mana.
The final build we got to utilized Song of Freyalise as a way to generate mana to go through a lot of your deck in a Jhoira turn:
The main problem with this deck was, well, Red. The combination of easy ways to kill Jhoira (Abrade, Lightning Strike) plus Goblin Chainwhirler, which was just devastating, made the matchup very hard. You could reasonably cut Saproling Migration (we tried Servant of the Conduit as well, or more Branchwalkers), but Chainwhirler would still kill Llanowar Elves, tokens from Pia, and tokens from Oviya Pashiri. In the end, Chainwhirler proved to be too oppressive and we abandoned the deck.
Since Goblin Chainwhirler is so popular, I don’t think this is a deck you can play. If it gets banned, however, I’ll be revisiting Temur Jhoira.
This was a deck that showed up on Magic Online and, for a while, we took as a serious contender:
The main appeal of this deck is that Baral, Chief of Compliance is just a very good card. It was great at enabling—and accelerating—Karn’s Temporal Sundering, and if you ever cast a Time Walk with any of the deck’s planeswalkers in play, you felt pretty good.
Our list was mostly the same as the one on Magic Online, except we added Squee, the Immortal. We really liked the one Squee as a way of having a reliable legend, and it kind of worked as a blocker.
Ultimately, though, the deck was just a little too weak. The planeswalkers by themselves weren’t truly capable of winning the game (Karn was just bad) and we often had Karn’s Temporal Sundering stuck in hand. I don’t think this deck has anywhere to go, unfortunately.
This was yet another attempt at making Karn’s Temporal Sundering work in conjunction with Baral. This was the deck Steve Rubin initially built:
In the end, I liked some of what this deck was doing, but I wasn’t a fan of Karn’s Temporal Sundering specifically. It just wasn’t good enough when it worked to justify the times it didn’t.
Instead, I wanted to make a more aggro-control approach happen, similar to how decks were configured when the format first started being played. The card I wanted in particular was History of Benalia, as it’s good against aggro (two blockers, and vigilance helps with racing) and good against control (two attackers that can’t be hit by Seal Away). Playing one or two threats and then mostly reacting to what they were doing seemed pretty good to me. This is the best version of what I tried:
There is also a different version, with Heart of Kiran and more Karns/Gideons, but I think this is the best one. In the end, this deck still felt weak to red-black, especially to Goblin Chainwhirler, but not for the reasons you’d expect—it was weak versus Chainwhirler because it had first strike. As a 3/3 first striker, it could block History of Benalia tokens all day long. Rekindling Phoenix was similarly problematic, except that it could also block Raff Capashen. The fact that your removal required them to attack was an issue, and I found myself having to rely on keeping a Lyra Dawnbringer in play to beat this type of deck. If they had a way to kill it, you often just lost the game, which was a problem.
Still, I thought this deck was great versus the control decks, and it wasn’t actually bad versus Red, which makes me think it can be worked on some more. It’s similar in playstyle to the Mono-Blue deck, except that I know the cards to make it different exist. For Mono-Blue, they have to be printed, and for U/W Historic they just have to be found. For this reason, this is the deck I am still trying to make work, and if you like the play style I urge you to try some games with it to see if you can find improvement somewhere.