Team Ultra PRO tested with Team ChannelFireball for the Pro Tour. Fortunately, the format was significantly older than it normally would be for a Pro Tour, so we had plenty of time to test online. I focused on testing Tokens, since it was the deck that seemed to have the most potential to beat Temur. While it was effective at beating Temur in game 1, winning the games after they have access to Negate and enchantment removal was a lot tougher. I thought that adding blue to the deck might be the answer as Champion of Wits and Vizier of Many Faces allow you to grind out longer games (and work well with Anointed Procession). Unfortunately, in the end it was not good enough to justify playing over Temur.

Tokens

I did manage to make it to Luis’s place once before the PT for some live battles. The day went well, and as it got late, Wrapter, Ben Lundquist, and I were all ready to go home. Andrew Baeckstrom (a.k.a. BK for some reason) was finishing up a Draft and asked that someone stick around to split an Uber with him. I reluctantly agreed, and waited for BK to finish his match. After a bit, I look over and BK is playing against a different deck. By instinct, BK had joined a new match. After that match, we finally headed out.

While BK kindly offered to pick up the Uber for us, he wasn’t quite generous enough to get an UberX, settling for an UberPool instead. Uber suggested that if we walked over to a side street, it would be much faster. Of course, BK led us in the wrong direction and we had to walk all the way back to find the Uber. It was Halloween weekend, and our poolmates were unsurprisingly drunk. Also of course, BK stuck me in the back alongside them. After an unpleasant car ride, we got to BK’s place, and soon realized that you can’t change the address to a new location in a pool, so I had to walk from BK’s place to mine.

Once I had decided that I was going to play an energy deck, it was time to decide what the list should look like. Fortunately, my team Ultra PRO teammate Ivan Floch had spent a ton of time jamming Temur on Magic Online and came to a few important conclusions. First, Chandra is great. You can play her on turn 3 off a Servant, and you have a lot of cheap red removal so you can often plus Chandra for mana and play a removal spell on their creature. Whirler also protects Chandra well—I’ve never used Chandra’s ultimate as much as I did with Temur Energy.

Ivan also did a good job figuring out which sideboard cards were good and which cards to board out in each matchup. While this is always important, it’s particularly important for midrange decks like Temur Energy that expect to win a lot of their post-board games.

Next we looked at whether there were any other cards we could try in the main deck. While there are some card choice options in Temur colors, if you want to play different cards, your best bet is to play more colors. Fortunately, the energy package makes that pretty easy with Attune with Aether, Servant of the Conduit, and Aether Hub. 1 Swamp is enough to splash some powerful late-game cards like The Scarab God and Vraska.

The question is, is it worth the cost? While Temur’s mana is pretty great, you are still paying some price for the splash. First, the Swamp is often a horrible draw. Also, in cases where you have to Attune for a Swamp, it means that you can’t use Attune to fix your other colors. Even if you’re able to cast all of your spells in a game, you may have to spend more energy from Aether Hub and Servant of the Conduit to do it.

Vraska and The Scarab God would replace the traditional Temur top end. Where normal Temur plays 4 Glorybringer and 2 Confiscation Coup, the black version plays 2 Vraska, 2 The Scarab God, and 2 Glorybringer. Vraska gives you the potential to steal game 1s from Tokens, and proved solid in the mirror. It’s also a good followup when your opponent Confiscation Coups the Scarab God. On the other hand, not having Confiscation Coup can make you more vulnerable to Hazoret. Playing no splash also makes you more vulnerable to Chandra’s Defeat, whereas splashing may expose you to Negate.

Overall, I think it’s very close as to whether or not it’s correct to splash the black. There are a million valid points on each side, and our team had many arguments that felt increasingly circular. In the end, everyone else on our team (except Martin, who played Mono-Red) decided to play the black version of Temur. That said, most people agreed that it was a very close decision, and to me it didn’t quite seem worth it. I stuck to my guns and played straight Temur. While it was a little scary to play the most stock deck possible and differ from the rest of the team, the combination of good sideboard plans and lots of Chandras felt like I still had some edge on the field.

Temur Energy

Sideboard Guide

Here’s how I would sideboard in the major matchups. Obviously, these should be adapted somewhat based on the cards you see. A lot of Temur’s cards are interchangeable, so make sure to really think about what may be different about your opponent’s exact list.

Mirror on the Play

Out

In

If Chandra’s Defeat is good (you think they have lots of Glorybringers and Chandras).

Out

In

Mirror on the Draw

Out

In

If Defeat is good:

Out

In

U/B

Out

In

Versus U/W, it’s the same, except for:

Out

In

Mono-Red

Out

In

Mardu

Out

In

Tokens

Out

In

I would love to board out two Hydras but I’m short a slot.

God-Pharaoh’s Gift

Out

In

On the play, perhaps:

Out

In

I finished 8-2 in the Standard portion, which combined with my 4-2 in Draft led to a 12-4 record. In the last round, I actually defeated a player with a 10-4-1 record. This made me think that I had the worst tiebreakers of the 12-4 players. When I found out that the 12-4s went down to 17th place, I was really scared since Top 16 is worth $2,000 more than 17th. Fortunately, teammate Alex Hayne and I managed to sneak in to 15th and 16th respectively.

While my individual games weren’t too interesting, I did want to talk a bit about some general things you may run into with the deck. Most of these are general rules that have some exceptions.

  • If you have a removal spell in hand, it is better to plus Chandra for mana and use it than -3 Chandra. The main exception is if you think your opponent has Chandra’s Defeat in hand. Chandra ultimate is a very real threat in this deck.
  • If you have a Whirler Virtuoso and a Cub, it is better to use energy on Thopters than Cub counters. While the Cub has a better energy-to-stats ratio, it makes you much more vulnerable to removal.
  • If you are planning to cast Harness Lightning on The Scarab God, you can do it in your own end step so that your opponent doesn’t get the God back until their end step.
  • Magma Spray can exile The Scarab God in key spots.
  • Nissa and Chandra synergize nicely. You can scry something you want to cast to the top, and then exile and cast it with Chandra immediately.
  • If you have the choice between Rogue Refiner or Whirler Virtuoso, Rogue Refiner is the better lead. You’d much rather use Rogue Refiner in combat, so it’s better to get it down faster. The exception is when you have a Chandra in hand—you may want to play Whirler for some protection.
  • In the mirror on the draw, it is better to kill their 2-drop with a removal spell than play your own.
  • Play Glorybringer as soon as possible.
  • If you’re using Hub to cast Attune, get a Forest.
  • While saving energy to give you more flexibility is often a good strategy, make sure to pay attention to your opponent’s life total. Sometimes converting energy into damage is really important.

Like last year, I managed to start off the season with a good finish. I’m hoping that this time, I can convert it into Platinum and  an invitation to the World Championship. Despite having no one in the top 8, Team Ultra PRO finished with 50 Team Series points, good for 3rd place in the Team Series standings. We’re just 2 points behind team Genesis in first, and 1 point behind our testing partners Team ChannelFireball in second, so it’s still anyone’s game. Until next time, make like Ben Franklin and harness some lightning!