Two Looks at Mardu Destroyer

What’s inside:

  • Design Theory: Extremes in Metagaming
  • Azor’s Gateway . . .  It’s not just for combo any more
  • Critical Play Pattern
  • Good, Bad, Ugly
  • The Ill-Fated Primal Wellspring Deck

Design Theory: Extremes in Metagaming

Welcome to Mardu Destroyer:


Vraska's Contempt
Confused?

I guess it does kind of sound like a deck that destroys Mardu [Vehicles]. I don’t know that that would be quite accurate . . .  But no. It’s just Mardu-colored. It’s meant to destroy others; certain kinds of other kinds of decks. Lots of kinds of other decks.

It might look like Mardu Destroyer is just supposed to be an anti-Red Deck Deck; it does in fact play all four copies of Vraska’s Contempt (life gain) in the main, as well as fast anti-Earthshaker Khenra cards like Fatal Push, with the capacity to side into the Maximum Number of Moment of Craving.

But it isn’t just an anti-Red Deck Deck! Yes, yes, Mardu Destroyer is also an effective anti-Vampires (or other beatdown) deck. It is the kind of deck that rides extremes in metagaming. It focuses not at all around the middle; rather, aims at crushing the opposite ends of the format with the assumption that if it is successful at those extremes, it can sweep up much of what is in-between.

Check out those Vraska’s Contempts. Check out those three copies of Profane Procession. This isn’t just an anti-Red Deck Deck; it’s also [secretly] an anti-{U}{B} Control deck! Mardu Destroyer has never met a The Scarab God that didn’t leave the battlefield quaking in fear.

How might that work?

Yes, it could potentially be difficult to resolve a seven mana sorcery (twice) against a deck with more Dissolves than you have ways to win . . .  But You are set up to cut off all their ways to win!

Speaking of “ways to win” this deck has two-and-a-half actual paths to victory.

The first one is Approach of the Second Sun. Not only are there three copies, there are three plus one copies. The fourth copy in the sideboard is there for redundancy . . .  You can find it with Mastermind’s Acquisition if you don’t already have one. If you have Sunbird’s Invocation already in play, more exciting stuff might happen as well.

But why keep a copy in the sideboard? If you are going to play four, doesn’t the fourth in the main make more sense if you’re a Sunbird’s Invocation deck, to increase the likelihood of a random flip? The distinction is small, but in addition to curve considerations, playing one Approach of the Second Sun in the sideboard gives you a subtle measure of Lost Legacy protection. We are not the only deck in the room to be able to Mastermind’s Acquisition for Lost Legacy Game 1! To that end, I would recommend you always keep at least one Approach of the Second Sun in the sideboard, at least against decks that can tap for Black.

A second way to win that is really just a variation of the first is to set up with Sunbird’s Invocation on six mana and then play Approach of the Second Sun on seven mana the next turn. Sunbird’s Invocation will at least sometimes cast another Approach of the Second Sun before your original resolves; when it does, and checks if you’ve cast an Approach yet this game . . .  You win the game on the spot!

The other main way to win, which is rarer but still happens relatively often, is Cut // Ribbons + Azor’s Gateway. Basically, you get Cut // Ribbons into the graveyard somehow (usually by destroying one of the opponent’s creatures) and then play Ribbons for the opponent’s life total, powered by the mighty Sanctum of the Sun.

There are some cool corner wins, too. No, I’m not talking about with Profane Procession; I think I’ve won like one match total that way. I mean when the opponent thinks he’s going to abuse the naive no-creature board control deck with Arguel’s Blood Fast in Game 1. Literally show them a Ribbons for X=2 or X=4 or so sometime.

Azor’s Gateway . . .  It’s not just for combo any more

Azor’s Gateway is a generally underrated card. Not only can it go off in a deck with lots of different casting costs, in a deck like this one, lousy with very specific answers, it can fix your hand. Moment of Craving is just bad against a traditional Approach of the Second Sun deck. Under pressure from Vampires you might need to cash a Sunbird’s Invocation in to get one card closer to your Fumigate. Azor’s Gateway can turn just about anything into a useful land drop for the tidy cost of just one mana!

Between Azor’s Gateway and Treasure Map, this deck has a surprisingly good system for digging to a second Approach of the Second Sun, even when you haven’t gotten off the Sunbird’s Invocation combo.

Critical Play Pattern

Speaking of Treasure Map, one of the common play patterns — that is important to know — comes up a lot when you’ve played a second turn Treasure Map. Let’s assume you tap out for Treasure Map on turn two, and then use Treasure Map to ensure your next couple of land drops on upkeep.

  • Turn two: 2 total mana, no counters on Treasure Map
  • Turn three: 3 total mana, one counter on Treasure Map
  • Turn four: 4 total mana, two counters on Treasure Map
  • Turn five: Yowza! This might demand a little discussion...

If you use your Treasure Map on upkeep, you will go down from 4 to 3 available mana, but flip the Treasure Map. You will obtain three Treasures. Now assuming you have an open land drop on turn five, you go up from 3 to 4 . . .  But have the three Treasures.

Generally speaking you should cast Sunbird’s Invocation or Approach of the Second Sun that turn.

If you cast Sunbird’s Invocation, you will get to keep one Treasure; your flipped Treasure Cove may help you win on the spot the next turn!

Long story short: Treasure Map is a great scalpel; it’s also a great broadsword when you need it to be.

Good, Bad, Ugly

Profane Procession
Like every viable deck, Mardu Destroyer has decks it wants to fight against and decks it doesn’t.

You have a very solid matchup against most beatdown decks, and the ability to side into four copies of Authority of the Consuls can help slow the pace of the game to a point where seven mana sorceries seem downright reasonable. With Rampaging Ferocidon out of the mix, you can present an overwhelming amount of removal, time control, and life gain. All good. Intuitive, too!

But like we said before, Profane Procession can essentially shut some decks off. If you can clear the board and untap with five mana in play, it becomes really difficult to lose to God-Pharaoh’s Gift. You can in fact nuke as many token creatures as you like without any fear of “accidentally” flipping over your executioner’s enchantment. This goes double for {U}{B} Control and its cousins. Enchantments are notoriously difficult for {U}{B} to remove, so simply resolving the enchantment (quite possible if the opponent, say, taps for a Search for Azcanta) probably means you’ll win the game. They just don’t have enough dudes.

A {U}{W} Approach deck is an interesting opponent. You both have similar end games. If they tap funny you might just kill them. If they tap seven on turn seven, you might just go four into three, and use Mastermind’s Acquisition to find Lost Legacy, ending them.

Then again, they are kind of like the mirror match with permission. After boards, though, you can go Arguel’s Blood Fast and Duress, and still leave a few Vraska’s Contempts to defend yourself against Torrential Gearhulk or Regal Caracal.

More problematic might be Grixis Energy.

Why might this be? You have such focused plans against the far left and far right . . .  What makes the middle (or middle-right) so much harder?

Grixis Energy is the classic deck that can grind back. That isn’t so bad generally, because even decks with value-creatures hit a terminal number of them against Mardu Destroyer’s many elimination cards; it’s more the inherent value of so many of them + Grixis Energy’s diversified threat base.

The Scarab God is The Scarab God (and why so many black decks, this one included, are packing all the Vraska’s Contempts they can) . . .  But sometimes you need to use Vraska’s Contempt on a Glorybringer. Worse, most versions play some kind of Chandra . . .  Or even some kind of Vraska! Opposing Planeswalkers put tons of pressure on a comparatively small number of Vraska’s Contempts. It’s not that you don’t have answers . . .  You might just run out.

Add to this the speed of Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and how Whirler Virtuoso can go wide . . .  You just have a tougher road than against singularly focused offenses.

Still, it’s hard to exaggerate how much I like Mardu Destroyer in Standard (especially against very focused opponents). It’s great!

The Ill-Fated Primal Wellspring Deck

“I like Mardu Destroyer in Standard,” I said to myself. “It’s great!”

“If it’s this great with Sunbird’s Invocation . . .  Can I make it faster? Can I streamline the mana some? I kind of hate those Forsaken Sanctuaries . . . ”

“What if I play that flip artifact?” [looks up the name of “that flip artifact”]

Primal Amulet
Primal Wellspring

My thinking was that Primal Wellspring would be potentially faster, and that if I didn’t need Red on demand, I could play a more effective mana base. Primal Wellspring does stuff when you’re not going to just win, doubling down on the board control rather than combo-combo half of the deck.

Plus, I couldn’t wait to flip both Primal Wellspring and Azor’s Gateway on the same turn! Still a lof of Jonny in this Spike, if you grok.

This is another theoretically Mardu build; its Red is to finish but you can still Cut defensively in a pinch.


With Primal Wellspring taking the place of Sunbird’s Invocation, my artifact count went up enough to use Spire of Industry and even Inventors’ Fair. With less reliance on Red, I got Field of Ruin (which can itself fix mana). All good, right?

So I did it.

I flipped both my artifacts and made a bunch of {W}.

The problem is . . .  Apparently it doesn’t work that way?

Sunbird's Invocation

“You may cast a card revealed this way . . . ”

Primal Wellspring

“ . . .  copy that spell . . .  “

Sunbird’s Invocation actually casts Approach of the Second Sun, while Primal Wellspring only copies it.

It might seem odd to have a whole section on a “deck” that doesn’t even work the way it is supposed to. The funny thing is that I won a ton with it anyway! Just not the way I planned (I was convinced for a while that I was putting things on the stack wrong on MTGO).

For serious exploration, try the version at the top of the article.

LOVE
MIKE


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