Just like a few teams and some independent players, East West Bowl ended up registering a disaster: Aetherworks Marvel. My regret doesn’t stem from the deck’s inconsistency—that part is fine—but our metagame prediction simply did not pan out.
There were a lot more blue decks than we anticipated, and many more mirrors, because nobody else was expecting so many blue decks, either. Ceremonious Rejection, Negates, Spell Queller, with mirror-match coin flips everywhere was not a winning recipe for the 4-mana slot machine.
Our team only decided to play Marvel around Tuesday night. As you can imagine, there were many other contenders. In fact, a few members of our team did not play the team deck and decided to go with other options we considered: Mono-White Eldrazi, U/B Zombies, U/W Control, R/G Pummeler, and R/B Aggro. Exactly one copy of each of these decks was registered by EWB members.
Personally, there were 2 other decks that I liked a lot in testing.
“Prison” is a stretch. I don’t want to say “control” because the deck is not really trying to grind anyone—it only wants to gain tempo and get to turn 5-6 and then start chaining Torrential Gearhulk with Engulf the Shores. And if you’re lucky, also bounce Cloudblazer for some sort of inevitability. Anyhow, call it however you want, here’s what I know about it:
All of the above is possible thanks to one card.
I think I would’ve registered this deck in a heartbeat if we were allowed to play 8 Unsubstantiates. Generally, in a control deck, a card like this is terrible, but because your late game snowballs so much, gaining tempo in the early game accomplishes all you need. You just want to survive.
Neal Oliver built this deck very early in our testing process. The metagame was nowhere near defined yet and it was aiming at beating midrange decks, a strategy that is usually popular in Standard.
As we started gathering more information on the format, I became less and less attracted by the idea of a deck that preys on midrange because we kept seeing these aggressive decks doing well and combo decks (Aetherworks Marvel, Metalwork Colossus, and Aetherflux Reservoir) on the verge of playability.
Temurge, advocated for a long time by our teammate Andrew Brown, was also a terrible matchup and we felt like it would be a decent role-player at the Pro Tour. I stopped thinking that way later, but by then I was already off this blue-white deck.
Now that the dust has settled, and the Pro Tour and 2 Grand Prix are in the books, Standard is starting to look much more midrange again. B/G Delirium, Vehicles, R/B Zombies, U/W Flash, and U/R/x Control decks make up a huge chunk of the format. My testing process did not include U/W Flash, but I would think that it’s an okay matchup. The Vehicles matchup has not changed—it was close to even—and having early interaction is crucial. Mulligan for it.
As far as how the deck plays out, it’s quite simple. Make your land drops. If you don’t miss land drops and can cast a card from turn 3 to turn 10, you should win. Dynavolt Tower is obviously how the deck wins, but sometimes there’s a sub game where you have 5 or less Islands and just play a couple of Torrential Gearhulks that bounce the board but not themselves, and you quickly end the game with these 5-power threats.
Void Shatter vs. Scatter to the Winds. Awaken is not very relevant and you don’t want to lose your lands, so you’re rarely doing that. In theory Void Shatter would then be strictly better, but that’s not the case when Ceremonious Rejection is in the format. Technically, people should not bring it in against you since you only have the Tower as a target, but most decks will have a ton of dead cards and that might force them to bring in that counterspell.
If you’re interested in trying this deck out, the sideboard should have at least 2 Authority of the Consuls. It’s great against all the red decks and haste creatures to let you survive the early turns, then gives you more life when you bounce creatures with Engulf the Shores. The rest would be at minimum 3 Negate, 2 Dispel, 2 Summary Dismissal, and 2 Ceremonious Rejection.
This was our “fine tuned” red-black list. Nothing exciting, but a solid choice in case we didn’t find anything we thought was great. For a lot of us, it was our fall-back plan. We had about 70 cards cemented, but this was the 75 I liked.
I would play something along these lines.
[Editor’s Note: This article originally stated that Authority of the Consuls could stop Fleetwheel Cruiser, which is not actually a creature when it enters the battlefield.]