Bringing Next Level Energy to Coal Country

Aethersphere Harvester
Fresh off a disappointing GP Prague and Pro Tour: Aether Revolt, I had a week to decompress before hitting the road once again to battle at GP Pittsburgh. Like most of the participants in the tournament, I decided early on that B/G Energy was the deck for me, as that was the only one I seemed to win with on Magic Online. Despite Mardu Vehicles’ dominance at the Pro Tour, I believed that the various G/B decks had a favorable matchup with the aggressive menace via the tried-and-true formula of “cheap removal and large creatures”. No one said anything to dissuade me from this conclusion, and everyone expected the Jeskai decks to be at an absolute nadir of popularity, so the quest was on to break open the G/B mirror match. As Brad Nelson put it so eloquently in his recent article on the archetype, “Nothing makes me happier than tuning my durdly Green midrange decks to beat other durdly Green midrange decks.”

Now, I prefer outfoxing my opponents in Blue midrange mirrors (Snapcaster Mage 4 Lyfe!), but the core sentiment is the same. If there is a consensus best deck, you can bet that I’ll have an angle for the mirror. I’ll be the one prepared to grind out just a hair more than my opponents, and when they are sitting with a useless removal spell in hand, I’ll be turning the corner with a card-draw engine or unexpected hard-to-answer threat. Call me the five-star general of midrange mirrors, because I won’t be out-flanked or out-attritioned.

With that goal in mind, our East-West Bowl group chat buzzed with activity, conflicting information, and the general hubbub of nervous energy prior to any tournament. Pascal Maynard, as the most vocal member of the “never satisfied” contingent, kept changing things around, posting screenshots of different variations of B/G Energy/Delirium/whatever in the futile hope that one of his creations might lead to a string of 5-0 finishes in a MTGO League. As expected, nothing else would soothe his nerves before the GP. Classic Pascal!

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
Of course, if it weren’t for Pascal’s inability to embrace Pro Tour Zen and settle down with a tolerable decklist, he would never have posted his crazy list with a certain overlooked removal spell, and it never would have piqued my interest as a potential way to gain an edge in the mirror match. So here’s to you, Pascal, and your ceaseless hunger for perfection in your decks.

What, exactly, did Pascal post that was so different? Well, if you’ve been looking at the various B/G lists floating around from the Pro Tour, you might notice that the removal suite looked a little patchy and awkward. I hate, hate, hate casting Grasp of Darkness in the same deck as Greenbelt Rampager. At 3 mana, Murder is just too expensive for my tastes. Double Black mana rears its ugly head and makes it nearly impossible to execute sequences like “Cast Gonti, hold up a removal spell” or even just “Cast Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, hold up a removal spell”. The next time you have a hand with Forest, Hissing Quagmire, Attune with Aether, and Grasp of Darkness, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Waiting until turn three to cast your two-mana removal spell is, as our inimitable President would say, “Sad!” Additionally, because Grasp of Darkness only hits creatures with 4 toughness or less, you are forced to mix it up between Fatal Push, Grasp of Darkness, and Murder. I always hate having the wrong removal spell for the job, and the fact that only two removal spells in your entire deck actually answer an 8/8 Gearhulk in the mirror makes me very unhappy. The fact that only a Revolt-enabled Fatal Push (or one of your two Murders) answers a simple Aethersphere Harvester in the mirror also pains me to no end. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have a Grasp of Darkness in hand while I get smacked around by a giant flying Vehicle!

Okay, so we hate Grasp of Darkness now. I’ve beaten the subject to death at this point. It’s easy to hate on that card, but what’s the solution? Those three aforementioned instants are the playable removal spells in those colors, which would seem to be the end of it. Sometimes you have to suck it up and play the narrower removal spells, hoping to draw the correct mix at the correct time. Fortunately, this is not one of those situations, and we can thank Attune with Aether and Aether Hub for that.

Harnessed Lightning
A single Mountain, a set of Aether Hubs, a set of Attune with Aether, and a set of Servant of the Conduit makes thirteen Red sources by my count. Thirteen Red sources for a set of splashed Harnessed Lightning versus nineteen Black sources in Ken Yukuhiro’s B/G deck for the double-Black Grasp of Darkness seems like a fairly comparable level of consistency, no? Some preliminary testing indicated that the splashed Harnessed Lightning was way closer to Terminate than Grasp of Darkness ever was, while allowing for significantly easier double-spell turns on four or five. As an added benefit, by going up to eight maindeck removal spells, I was significantly less likely to get run over by a start of Winding Constrictor into Rishkar, Peema Renegade or Walking Ballista. Eight removal spells that cost one or 2 mana versus Brad Nelson’s five is a significant difference, one that I anticipated would pay dividends against both the mirror match and Mardu Vehicles.

Additionally, everyone in our group chat agreed that Gonti, Lord of Luxury was absolutely unreal in the B/G mirror matches, and that two or three copies were correct. I anticipated few people trusting Brad Nelson’s advice to play the Lord of Luxury, but if I wanted to go long in the mirror matches, three was non-negotiable for me. The under-appreciated feature of Gonti is the same undervalued aspect of Snapcaster Mage, where it increases your density of removal or threats, depending on which you need in a given matchup. Gonti, for the mirror matches, functioned as additional removal spells that came with a 2/3 Deathtouch body attached. Often it stole a Verdurous Gearhulk or an Ob Nixilis Reignited, especially if I had an abundance of removal spells in hand, and there is no easier way to win in the mirror match than Gearhulk advantage.

At this point, we had the seeds of a decklist beginning to germinate. I sprinkled liberally from Brad Nelson’s playbook, while adding a few Blossoming Defense with the reasoning that people wouldn’t expect it, and if they did see it in Game 1, I could sideboard it out. Additionally, I liked the fact that I could use it to protect a giant Aethersphere Harvester in the mirror or against Mardu Vehicles, which would usually lead to a quick win. In retrospect, this may have been a small error in deck-building, as I was trying to play the control role in most matchups, but I recognized that there was potential for huge blowouts with the card, and the opportunity cost was low. I started to get pretty excited about the deck, and with a few last-minute tweaks, I locked in.

I’ll stop teasing at this point. Here’s the list I used at the GP:


Gonti, Lord of Luxury
I’ll say it once, just to be clear. This deck beats the classic B/G Energy archetype convincingly. I feel as advantaged against the straight two-color version as I did playing B/w Midrange against Mono-Black Devotion. In fact, the play patterns and strategic edge are quite similar. Just as Black Devotion had Thoughtseize + Pack Rat starts that could run over an unprepared opponent, B/G Energy has Winding Constrictor + Rishkar or Winding Constrictor + Walking Ballista starts that are difficult to overcome. Just as an uncontested Desecration Demon quickly put a game out of reach, a giant Verdurous Gearhulk does the same here. Just as I splashed Banishing Light to have a flexible answer that scaled well as the game went long, I splashed Harnessed Lightning here to answer any threat up and down the curve. I played against seven G/B decks in twelve rounds, and went 6-1 against them, losing only the one match where I flooded in Game 1 and mulliganned to five in Game 2. (Even then, my opponent topdecked a Gearhulk to put me away!)

That being said, I did lose both matches against Mardu Vehicles, and I’m not convinced that the matchup is as favorable as I was led to believe. Often, the Mardu deck morphs into a Planeswalker-based midrange deck that can go toe-to-toe with the B/G deck on card quality and removal, leading to wins via cards like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Skysovereign, Flagship. My version of Energy is a tad worse at developing a large battlefield position to contain opposing Planeswalkers, leading to a few more games where an out-of-control Gideon takes it away.

Additionally, I’m not confident in the Jeskai matchup, and I’d like to make a few tweaks to improve against that deck. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner underperformed as well, as it’s highly vulnerable to Walking Ballista in the mirror match, so I’d like to replace it with Longtusk Cub as my primary Energy sink. I’m not certain about this change, though, as the two cards have their own strengths and weaknesses. As I move forward in the testing process, though, my Jund Energy list will look slightly different. For the SCG Open in Baltimore this weekend, Adam Yurchick will be our Standard player, and I’m going to request that he play a list close to the following:


Scrapheap Scrounger
Scrapheap Scrounger should help against Jeskai, and the third Lifecrafter’s Bestiary is a bit unnecessary. It’s powerful, but quite slow, and I’m certain that you need to apply more pressure to actually have a favorable matchup against the control decks.

Duskwatch Recruiter (which Omar Beldon, who was my only mirror match loss, played in his list to great effect) serves a similar purpose to Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, while being way less vulnerable to a Ballista “freeroll ping”. Additionally, the flip side of the card allows for some absolutely killer turns. As a card that fills a role halfway between Siphoner and Tireless Tracker, I’m excited to try this one out, but if it fails to prove itself, I’ll settle for replacing it with a second maindeck Tireless Tracker and a fourth Servant of the Conduit. I just want to pay a bunch of mana and dig deep for a Verdurous Gearhulk or Gonti, though. Is that so wrong? (Incidentally, the addition of Scrounger and reduction of Ob Nixilis and Bestiary in the sideboard plan for control decks works well with Duskwatch Recruiter, as you can’t clog your deck up with too many non-creature spells without reducing Recruiter’s effectiveness significantly.)

Since everyone wants sideboard guides, I’ll try to give a brief explanation of how I’d sideboard for the most common matchups, but as always, take these with a grain of salt. As you all know, side-boarding is more art than science.

Semi-Mirror:

I’m still not sure about Natural Obsolescence in the mirror, as it’s super narrow. It’s possible you just don’t want it, and you’d rather keep in a Harvester. On the draw, you can keep in another Harvester and only board in one Bestiary. Up to you! Rishkar is better on the play and Servant of the Conduit is better on the draw, so you can switch those up depending on your position.

Mardu Vehicles:

You can keep in one Gonti, but I think they’re probably not very good in this matchup. Duskwatch Recruiter is also unimpressive here, as it has a mana-intensive ability, plus you’re cutting your creature count significantly. I’d consider keeping Tracker or Gonti in there over the Duskwatches.

Jeskai Saheeli:

If they have Dynavolt Tower, Natural Obsolescence is better than Harnessed Lightning. If not, stick with Lightning. There’s a good chance they bring in Thing in the Ice or Spell Queller, and you’ll need some removal to handle those, not to mention that Lightning kills the Felidar Guardian if you need it to.

4-Color Saheeli:

On the draw, Ob Nixilis and Tireless Tracker are worse, so you can keep in a couple of Fatal Pushes or bring in more Transgresses instead. This one is way more flexible and list-dependent, because they could have Aetherworks Marvel or Elder Deep-Fiend, and those require different answers. Be smart, be flexible, and you should be favored.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for the best energy-based strategy this side of solar power. It was a blast of irony to bring an energy themed deck to one of the great cities of the coal-powered era, and I look forward to taking this deck to Grand Prix New Jersey in a few weeks. If you have any questions, feel free to drop a note in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Ben


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