Going Dark

Last weekend, I got to play in the first event of the new Standard format at SCG Atlanta. I’d like to say I broke the format, but in reality I played a boring ol’ Jeskai Black deck. Two copies of Wandering Fumarole and a lone Chandra, Flamecaller in my sideboard were my only touches of Oath of the Gatewatch.

With an upcoming Modern Pro Tour on the horizon, I had other things occupying my mind than preparing for a new Standard. Important things. Powerful things. Without me, how could all of these Tron pilots on Magic Online get free wins? I’m providing a service here. I provide playpoints and a bad Modern deck. They provide Tron and a turn-3 Karn. It’s not a healthy relationship, but it works. I do it for the community. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment with my therapist.

I figured I could fall back on an old trusty deck like J. Black and ride it dirty all the way through the tournament, but that’s not quite how it worked out. A couple of high fives and a few match slips later and I was locked up for a mediocre Top 64 finish.

One would think “Dark Jeskai” would be dark enough. It wasn’t. My insatiable hunger for power couldn’t possibly be satisfied by a deck like Dark Jeskai. It’s the diet lemonade of darkness. It’s not enough. I needed something darker, more powerful, and I think I’ve found it.

Goblin Double-Decker is exactly the kind of darkness I can get behind. I believe in a thing called love, and he speaks to the rhythm of my heart. I didn’t play Goblin Double Deez in my Jeskai Black deck last weekend because I didn’t think he was a good fit for the kind of strategy I was playing. Jeskai Black thrives off of playing cheap 2-for-1s and efficient removal that snowball into an advantage as the game progresses. Having too many clunky and expensive cards like Goblin Dark-Dwellers in your deck takes away from your ability to even develop the game to a state where Dark-Dwellers can take over the game.

But just because I don’t think the card fits into an existing Dark Jeskai shell doesn’t mean that it’s bad. Far from it. I think the card is phenomenal in a Mardu Green strategy, for example.

Mardu Green

While Jeskai Black is more of a finesse deck, Mardu Green thrives off of pushing your opponent out of the game with brute force. You smash them in the mouth with enough 2-for-1s and Siege Rhinos and they eventually lose the game. Goblin Dark-Dwellers is a perfect fit in this strategy. The 4/4 menace body is super relevant, and being able to flash back a Crackling Doom or Kolaghan’s Command the turn after you force your opponent to react to a Siege Rhino is pretty backbreaking. The difference between Jeskai Black’s Dark-Dwellers and the ones in Mardu Green is that Mardu Green is looking to play a more proactive role, and therefore it gets value from Dark-Dwellers in both an offensive and defensive role, whereas J. Black only gets to utilize them defensively.

But I’m not here to extoll the virtues of Mardu Green. There’s actually another Goblin Dark-Dwellers deck that has me hyped, based on a deck I watched at the event last weekend. Ladies and gentlemen, let me present to you:

I call the deck: “Mardu Mardu.” There are all these Mardu variants rolling around, from Mardu Blue to Mardu Green to Mardudu. I’m not about that life. I’m not that kind of Mardude. I think it’s time we dialed things back to a simpler time. A time where Nomad Outpost was a card. A time where people played a mere three colors. A time where you didn’t just mash together the best cards across all 5 colors and call it a day. Instead, you mashed together the best cards across 3 colors and called it a day, but only because the mana didn’t support doing more. Otherwise you totally would have.

But you can’t simply say “Mardu” and have people know what you’re talking about anymore, as it could be any number of Mardu variations. Therefore, I believe “Mardu Mardu” is the simplest deck name to fully encapsulate what I’m trying to Mar-do here. And what is that? I’m glad you asked. I’m trying to play a Mardu deck that focuses solely on being Mardu. I’m trying to Mardu Mardu my opponents.

This deck offers a combination of pressure, card advantage, and resilience, much akin to what Mardu Green is trying to do. Thought-Knot Seer and Goblin Dark-Dwellers both put a lot of pressure on the opponent, but they can also heavily disrupt them at the same time. Soulfire Grand Master and Eldrazi Displacer are early plays that contribute to the deck being able to grind late by providing a repeatable source of advantage.

I think this deck needs a lot of work, but I’m excited by a lot of the cards and synergy it offers.

For one, Chandra, Flamecaller is a busted card, and I imagine this card will end up seeing the level of play that Elspeth, Sun’s Champion once did. I had a match last weekend where Chandra wrathed my opponent, drew about 20 cards over 3 turns until I found a Negate, and then went upstairs with the +1 until my Rally opponent died. Few cards can utterly dominate a game the way Chandra can.

This card is underrated. It seems innocuous on the stats front, but one does not live on stats alone. It actually threatens to take over a game if left unchecked. Not only can it completely dominate combat with its ability, but in this deck it creates huge advantages by flickering Thought-Knot Seer to “reverse loot” your opponent and flickering Goblin Dark-Dwellers to replay spells over and over again. It also combos very well with a number of other cards we could be playing, like Linvala, the Preserver, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, and even Wall of Resurgence. I really like that you can play a Dark-Dwellers on turn 5, and play and use Eldrazi Displacer on it turn 6.

Dark-Dwellers is the perfect followup to a Thought-Knot Seer to continue to press an advantage and also provide another source of card advantage. Dark-Dwellers offers a lot of abilities: card draw, hand disruption, removal, and it can also combine with Kolaghan’s Command to even recycle other Dark-Dwellers to chain them together. I think this could easily become a defining card of this Standard format.

I won’t be playing Standard again until after the Pro Tour, but playing this format last weekend really whet my appetite and fueled me with a lot of ideas I can’t wait to explore when I return to the format. Let’s just say that there are a lot of juicy spells to flash back with Goblin Dark-Dwellers and a lot of powerful creatures to flicker with Eldrazi Displacer, and I aim to try them all.

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