Brewing with Amonkhet

Hey everyone!

Today I’m going to share where my current lists of decks I am exploring for Pro Tour: Amonkhet. Unfortunately we don’t know which cards will be banned until Monday and it’s highly likely there will be a change.

The common thought is at least one of these cards will be banned, but it might be all three if we’re lucky:

Felidar Guardian
Heart of Kiran
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

Since Mardu Vehicles is my current favorite deck in Standard I have multiple versions depending on the outcome of Monday’s bannings. I have some new archetypes that are less refined and are more exploratory in nature. Brad Nelson took this approach to discussing Mardu Vehicles in an article last week and I think it’s the only way to discuss Standard intelligently before April 24.

Buckle up, buckaroos!

Gideon of the Trials
Don’t you just hate it when the best deck keeps getting better? We get some nice pick-ups as the deck moves from aggro to control.

Gideon of the Trials is currently getting mixed reviews, but I think it’s great. It’s not as powerful as the Ally of Zendikar, but what is? Mardu Vehicles also has plenty of great options at 4 mana, but not so much at three.

The +1 is fantastic in control decks because it acts as an Icy Manipulator that can attack your opponent. I also like the +1 ability in aggressive decks and Mardu has the ability to play both sides. What happens when you +1 their blocker and alpha strike? They likely block your smallest creature and can’t attack you on the following turn because the damage is still prevented.

Clearly the biggest downside to Gideon of the Trials is that he is hard to kill off in a pinch which can ruin your curve into the Ally of Zendikar. This isn’t a huge deal because Chandra, Torch of Defiance is a fine substitute. I won the last RPTQ with Mardu Vehicles and played three Gideon and one Chandra because drawing multiples was awkward. Both of these Planeswalkers are extremely powerful if left unchecked. A little variety never killed anybody.

Depending on the ban outcome I will play different 5-drops. I prefer Archangel Avacyn here because she works well with Walking Ballista. It’s not wise to tap out against 4-Color Saheeli so I want flash creatures when possible. It also makes opposing Glorybringers look pretty silly.

The mana base gets an upgrade as Canyon Slough helps cast the Black cards. I was overweight on White mana so I’m all right cutting the creature-land and the fourth Aether Hub. At first I played four Sloughs, but they were too clunky.

Cast Out can easily be too good not to play more copies. Mardu Vehicles is a very tight deck and has plenty of 4-drops already. We get an embarrassment of riches as Unlicensed Disintegration could already answer Planeswalkers and creatures effectively. They get better post-board as games slow down and many players opt to board in grindy cards to gain traction.

Since I can get upgrades to my card advantage game in the form of Glorybringer I don’t want as many Planeswalkers in the board. Nahiri, the Harbinger is the exception because the -2 exiling Cast Outs will be a critical interaction.

Lay Bare the Heart is my experiment because I like Coercion effects in slower matchups. This can change if there are too many legends seeing play, Heart of Kiran, and Archangel Avacyn out of the mirror is the major shortfall.

I see the Planeswalkers becoming more important in the new world to fight the slew of Manglehorns. It will be more difficult to race with Heart of Kiran which will drag out the games.

I expect many different decks to come out of the woodwork should something be banned. This makes me want to move away from the heavily metagamed version of the deck featuring Walking Ballista to a more traditional beatdown approach.

Glorybringer gets the nod over Archangel Avacyn once Walking Ballista is moved to the sideboard and I cut a Chandra. I don’t want too many Flametongue Kavu effects in the main deck. Gideon of the Trials works well with Veteran Motorist because a 3/1 can get chumped easily. I can use the +1 on the smallest creature to make the motorist trade up. Since I added a Mountain for an Aether Hub I have less White mana to cast Gideon consistently on turn three. I also want to play Cultivator’s Caravan on turn three to cast Glorybringer on 4. Since I have one Gideon of the Trials I can go back up to three Ally of Zendikars.

I’ll need to be scrappier in this version because it attempts to end the game quicker and swapped a Canyon Slough for a Needle Spires.

There are plenty of powerful legends to choose from at three mana so I have one Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Pia Nalaar. This is because Felidar Guardian is banned under this assumption, which means I can play less than two Thalia as she is weaker against control. Thalia will not be useless as she makes opposing Glorybringers enter the battlefield tapped.

I think Mardu Vehicles will actually be the most powerful deck with this ban scenario because it will be slightly under the radar without Ally of Zendikar. Since I’m not juggling Gideons, I can play as many of the 3-drop as I please. I need my mana to play nice with the {W}{W} casting cost so I went away from the Veteran Motorist shell.

Since I have less 4-drops without Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in my deck, it’s possible to play an additional Cast Out and Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Fatal Push will be weaker in the short run in this scenario because there will be so many different archetypes that emerge and they aren’t all centered around creatures.

I think the defensive curve of Gideon of the Trials into Chandra lends itself well to the Walking Ballista/Avacyn shell.

All of these shells are able to be played regardless of the outcome on the banned and restricted announcement, but I would make sure to play at least two Gideon, Ally of Zendikar assuming it’s still allowed.

If Heart of Kiran is banned I’ll likely play a different deck.

Now that Mardu Vehicles is out of the way here are some other decks I’ve been working on:

W/U Control

I did some brewing with Ryan Hovis last week I arrived at this list:

Pull from Tomorrow
Hieroglyphic Illumination is taking the place of Glimmer of Genius because it can go to the graveyard easier thanks to the cycling. This actually comes up because I don’t want to skip casting Torrential Gearhulk because there are only counters in the graveyard. Since I want to spend my early turns interacting I may not have time to cast the Glimmer of Genius. The Scry 2 is less valuable in this version because I have three Pull from Tomorrow; I want a large number of lands to chain them together. If I draw more spells then I can use them to interact with my opponent.

Pull from Tomorrow allows me to cut down on the amount of win conditions because I can kill them with card advantage. Eventually I’ll find a Torrential Gearhulk to ride to victory.

Gideon of the Trials is very strong in this deck because the +1 can act like a Stasis Snare on their best threat. This allows the opponent to play into my Fumigate. I can tick up Gideon to a large number which makes the emblem relevant in the late game. It takes a lot of damage to kill an early Gideon which makes the game drag out. This play pattern is very favorable for the {W}{U} Control deck.

Drake Haven
Gideon occupies a similar space as Drake Haven and I’m happy not playing the enchantment. I don’t want to tap out on turn three for something that doesn’t immediately impact the battlefield. I imagine enchantment hate will be high to fight Cast Out.

I was very excited when Censor was spoiled, but I’ve calmed down a bit. It’s stronger than Essence Scatter and the threat of countering a spell is very potent much like Daze in Legacy.

I’ve seen many articles in the last couple weeks with a similar ally-colored mana base as this. The Zendikar “Buddy Lands” come into play tapped too often to justify a playset. I don’t want to skimp on lands despite the large number of cards with cycling. It’s rough when you cycle in the early game to find lands while staring at Void Shatter and Negate in hand.

Blessed Alliance will be able to answer opposing Gideon of the Trials where Immolating Glare will fall short.

There’s a transformational sideboard that is designed to attack all of the traction effects opponents will bring in against control such as Planeswalkers and Tireless Tracker. I don’t want to maindeck Spell Queller and Angel of Sanctions because a removal spell will set me far back. Gideon is good in the sideboard, but can be easily replaced with the last Angel of Sanctions for additional post-board threats if he’s banned.

Naya Planeswalkers

I worked on this deck with Rudy Briksza. It’s a thought experiment on how to push the powerful 5-drops that will be released that has played well so far.

Channeler Initiate
This deck pushes the new midrange cards to the next level. Channeler Initiate allows you to be a turn ahead to cast these absurd bombs. Glorybringer has been the most powerful in this list. Cast it once and you will be a believer. I pre-ordered a playset for $1.99 each. How absurd!

Samut, Voice of Dissent is able to play offense and defense which is very valuable for a midrange deck. It can come down on turn four to attack for six damage. Against aggressive decks I can flash it in to surprise block. The ability to untap a creature can play nicely with Glorybringer’s exert ability and remove extra -1-1 counters from Channeler Initiate.

Harnessed Lightning kills the powerful 5-drops which makes playing Red a boon. I needed an energy sub-theme of Aether Hub and Attune with Aether to make Harnessed Lightning consistently deal at least four damage to fight opposing Glorybringers. If the energy sub-theme isn’t exciting you can try a mix Oath of Chandra and Declaration in Stone.

I’m going to now investigate {B}{G} Delirium because Mindwrack Demon is good against Chandra and Glorybringer. It also gives me an excuse to play Grasp of Darkness which kills the good 5-drops.

Modern Update

Despite my best efforts brewing I’m still playing a slightly traditional version of Death’s Shadow. If I had a big tournament tomorrow I would register this list:

If you enjoy this deck, but don’t want to spend infinity dollars purchasing Mishra’s Baubles I would suggest a mix of Tarfire, Nihil Spellbomb, and Architects of Will instead. This functions like a rock deck so it’s not a huge deal if your deck slows down a bit. That being said, the card filtering between Bauble and fetchlands is great.

I’m only playing Red for two Tarfire because it’s the only irreplaceable effect the color offers. I tried Reid Duke’s {B}{G} version, but I was unhappy with four Fatal Push and Murderous Cut in the maindeck because they’re useless in some matchups. Tarfire can hit you or your opponent while making Tarmogoyf bigger and enabling Delirium. It’s a free splash because the rest of my spells are Black and Green. This is perfect because I can cut the horrible Stomping Ground that would mess with my mix of fetchlands. The Black fetchlands that aren’t Bloodstained Mire and Verdant Catacombs can’t fetch it which makes the traditional Jund Shadow lists play Wooded Foothills. This is an awkward solution when you want to play Godless Shrine for the White sideboard cards.

I have the second Godless Shrine because the savvy Modern players know that post board White spells can only be cast off of a single source. Since I only have two Red spells the Stomping Ground was the replacement. The second Godless Shrine can be in the sideboard, but I want five shock lands for Death’s Shadow. There have been a large number of games where I already found the four shock lands that created an awkward sequence.

Collective Brutality
Collective Brutality has been horrible for me. There was one in the maindeck that was moved to the board, but I noticed it was only coming in versus Burn. If I want something targeted against Burn I could play a Phyrexian Unlife. I found myself not wanting discard spells 9 and 10 against combo and control for fear of Leyline of Sanctity. Ethersworn Canonist is better against Ad Nauseam and Storm for this reason.

I added two Path to Exiles to the sideboard to kill Tasigur, the Golden Fang and big eldrazi. They come in versus all sorts of creature decks like Affinity, too. I need this effect against decks with big creatures and enough fodder to sacrifice to Liliana. The second Godless Shrine enables a powerful sideboard of White cards.

I also want to note that Condemn is not good against this deck. It’s the most suggested card to beat Shadow decks and I strongly disagree. Since there are 8 discard spells and three Liliana of the Veil I can trap Condemn in hand until I find an answer. Since I see the opponent’s hand so often it needs to be drawn shortly after Thoughtseize or Inquisition of Kozilek. Reactive spells that have more targets are much more effective. Celestial Purge can kill Liliana of the Veil and Death’s Shadow and that’s more scary to me.

Legacy Update

It’s been awhile since I shared my Miracles list and I have made some slight updates:

Entreat the Angels
I was happy to see Eli Kassis win the SCG Worcester without the help of Monastery Mentor. It has been a while since I wanted to play with that card in the main deck because it isn’t Blue and doesn’t have flash. Entreat the Angels is fantastic in the post board games when the opponent can interact with Counterbalance easier. I need ways to pull ahead when they bring in cards like Sylvan Library and Planeswalkers. I still want one Entreat in the maindeck because it’s a needed 3-drop to reveal to Counterbalance and it can help against Eldrazi and other fair decks.

The semi-legend package has still been going strong. I think it’s silly to play a second Venser before the third Jace for power level reasons. Vendilion Clique gets hit by removal so I don’t want a ton of creatures. The second Karakas was also awkward at times and I have been happy with one.

I’m trying a Disenchant over the second Wear // Tear because I was exposing my Volcanic Island to Wasteland against decks I would board in Blood Moon and From the Ashes. This happens particularly often against Mox Diamond decks; I need to kill that pesky artifact to color screw my opponent, but I want to slow roll my Red source. Yes, you can kill a Sylvan Library AND a Mox Diamond with Wear // Tear, but it has only happened once so far.

Whew! We went through a lot of different decks this week. I’m very happy playing the best deck in the major Constructed formats with some minor changes to get an edge.

I’m excited to continue testing for the Pro Tour! Team Ann Arbor/RIW Hobbies will be out in force and I hope for a good result.

Thanks for reading!

— Kyle

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