Runechanter’s Rancor

Delver of Secrets and Runechanter's Pike were the terror of the pre-rotation format for a time, but both of them have dropped off the map with the rotation of Scars of Mirrodin block. Combined with a few other tools, however, I think Runechanter's Pike in particular is ready for a comeback. Here's the deck I put together for it:

The Guys

Quirion Dryad
Quirion Dryad shares Runechanter's Pike's love of blue cantrips and its affinity for Rancor. Since the only green spells in the deck are the Dryad and Rancor, nearly every spell you cast will make the Dryad larger. In addition, many of these spells replace themselves with another card, allowing you to chain together cheap blue instants to pump up your Dryad. Rancor will help your now-giant creature crash through blockers, and spells such as Inaction Injunction, Unsummon, and Silent Departure will clear the way for you to push in some major damage.

Invisible Stalker and Runechanter's Pike combine to provide an extremely fast and fairly difficult-to-deal-with clock. With these two cards, you can easily be swinging for 5 unblockable damage as early as turn four. If you have the mana, you can even equip the Pike to a Stalker to attack for a bunch of damage and then equip it to another creature to leave a deadly blocker ready to defend you. Rancor can also pump up the Stalker if you need to finish off your opponent more quickly. Although trample won't matter on an unblockable creature, the extra 2 damage pet turn is often worth it.

Augur of Bolas gives you a decent blocker to defend yourself with, and it lets you grab an instant or sorcery from the top of your deck as well. Since the deck is just over one-third instants and sorceries, you should be able to find one in the top three most of the time.

The Gear

Runechanter's Pike can help your creatures deal massive amounts of damage as long as you've been able to put a few instants and sorceries in the bin. Although creatures other than Invisible Stalker will still be vulnerable to chump-blocking, putting a Rancor on one will get rid of that problem straight away.

Rancor gives trample to giant Quirion Dryads and Augurs with Pikes, and it can also be used to make an Invisible Stalker even more threatening in a pinch. As an extra bonus, if that creature is killed by a removal spell or board wipe, Rancor will go right back to your hand, ready to make your next threat bigger and badder.

The Spells

Inaction Injunction
Inaction Injunction clears the way for your threat to come crashing in, prevents your opponent from attacking you back for revenge, and even draws a card to boot. Although that creature will still be on the battlefield, you will have bought yourself a good bit of damage and some extra time.

Unsummon and Cyclonic Rift often function as a Time Walk against creature decks, forcing your opponent to spend his next turn casting that Loxodon Smiter again or making him waste an attack with Sublime Archangel. Like Inaction Injunction, these are temporary answers, but if you can put a fast enough clock on the board, these solutions suddenly don't seem so temporary anymore.

Syncopate is often some combination of an expensive Force Spike and a bad Mana Leak, but that's often good enough. With so many decks tapping out turn after turn to curve out with threats such as Silverblade Paladin and Sublime Archangel, you can frequently deal with problem spells for just 2 mana.

Thought Scour
Thought Scour is a cheap cantrip that pumps up both Quirion Dryad and Runechanter's Pike. It also has the potential to put another instant or sorcery or two into your graveyard to make the Pike even more powerful. Since it's an instant, it can often serve as a makeshift combat trick, making your opponent unsure of how big your creature will be when it comes time for damage.

Although not as effective as Thought Scour, Fleeting Distraction is another 1-mana cantrip to help you dig through your deck while making your creatures bigger. Although its effect is undoubtedly marginal, it will usually at least gain you 1 life, and sometimes much more than that. When a Silverblade Paladin comes charging in for 4 damage, a Fleeting Distraction will not only cut that in half, but it will allow you to throw an Augur of Bolas in front of it without having to sacrifice your blocker. Although this situation may not come up terribly often, gaining 2 to 4 life and drawing a card is a fairly powerful effect for 1 mana. Back in the day, cycling Renewed Faith was often good enough for Standard, and this will frequently be much better than that.

Playtesting

Azorius Aggro – Game 1

Champion of the Parish
I lost the roll and kept a hand of two Islands, Evolving Wilds, Quirion Dryad, Invisible Stalker, Inaction Injunction, and Syncopate. My opponent played a Plains, cast Champion of the Parish, and passed the turn. I drew another Quirion Dryad, played Evolving Wilds, and passed back.

My opponent played Glacial Fortress and cast Precinct Captain, putting a counter on the Champion. He attacked for 2 and ended his turn. I drew Fleeting Distraction, played an Island, and cast a Quirion Dryad. I ended my turn.

My opponent paid 2 life to play a Hallowed Fountain untapped and cast Silverblade Paladin, pairing it with the Precinct Captain and putting another counter on Champion of the Parish. He attacked with both creatures, and I took 7. Precinct Captain made two Soldier tokens, and he ended his turn. I drew Syncopate, played an Island, and passed the turn.

Unsummon
My opponent cast Ajani, Caller of the Pride, and I countered it with a Syncopate for 1, putting a counter on my Dryad. He attacked with everything, and I blocked Precinct Captain with Quirion Dryad, casting Fleeting Distraction to pump it up and give Silverblade Paladin -1/-0. I drew Thought Scour and dropped to 4 life, and my opponent passed the turn. I drew Unsummon, cast Inaction Injunction on Champion of the Parish, drawing a Rancor, and passed the turn.

My opponent cast Sublime Archangel, paired it with Silverblade Paladin, and attacked with the Paladin for 14. I Unsummoned it, and he passed the turn. I drew Syncopate and cast Thought Scour, drawing a Cyclonic Rift. I passed the turn.

My opponent cast Lyev Skyknight, detaining my Dryad. He attacked with everything, and the Cyclonic Rift wasn't enough to save me.

Sideboarding:
−2 Rancor
+2 Cyclonic Rift

Game 2

Augur of Bolas
I kept a hand of Evolving Wilds, Forest, Quirion Dryad, Augur of Bolas, Rancor, Syncopate, and Thought Scour. I played the Evolving Wilds and passed the turn. My opponent played a Plains and cast War Falcon. He ended his turn, and I cracked Evolving Wilds for an Island.

I drew Rancor, played my Forest, and cast Quirion Dryad. I passed the turn. My opponent played a Plains and cast Champion of the Parish, then attacked for 2 with his Falcon. I took the damage, and he ended his turn.

I drew Unsummon and cast Augur of Bolas, putting a counter on the Dryad. I grabbed a Cyclonic Rift off the top and attacked for 2 with my Dryad before passing the turn. My opponent cast Precinct Captain, putting a counter on Champion of the Parish. He attacked for 2 with War Falcon and passed the turn.

Inaction Injunction
I drew Runechanter's Pike, cast Rancor on my Dryad, and attacked for 4. My opponent took the damage, and I passed the turn. He cast another Precinct Captain, making Champion of the Parish a 3/3. He attacked with the Champion and War Falcon, and I cast Unsummon on the former, taking another 2 from the Falcon and giving my Dryad a counter. He ended his turn.

I drew Unsummon, put another Rancor on the Dryad, and attacked for 7. My opponent blocked with both Precinct Captains, and I cast Unsummon on one, pumping the Dryad up to an 8/4 and dropping my opponent to 8 after killing the remaining Captain. I passed the turn. My opponent recast Precinct Captain and passed the turn. I drew Inaction Injunction, detained the Captain, and attacked for lethal damage.

Game 3

Cyclonic Rift
I kept a hand of two Forests, an Island, Invisible Stalker, two Runechanter's Pikes, and a Cyclonic Rift. My opponent led off with a Plains and a War Falcon, and I drew Unsummon. I played my Island and passed the turn.

My opponent played an Island and passed the turn. I drew Fleeting Distraction, played a Forest, and cast Invisible Stalker. I ended my turn.

My opponent played a Plains and cast Silverblade Paladin, pairing it with the Falcon. He attacked me for 4 and passed the turn. I drew Thought Scour, played a Forest, and cast Runechanter's Pike. I attacked for 1 with Invisible Stalker and passed the turn.

Invisible Stalker
My opponent played a Plains and cast Sublime Archangel. He attacked for 10 with War Falcon, and I cast Unsummon on it. He ended his turn. I drew Thought Scour, attacked for 1 with Invisible Stalker, and passed the turn.

My opponent put a Hallowed Fountain into play tapped and cast two War Falcons, pairing one with Silverblade Paladin, and he attacked for 8 with his Angel. I bounced it with Cyclonic Rift, and he passed the turn. I drew an Island, played it, and equipped Runechanter's Pike to Invisible Stalker. I cast Thought Scour, milling two more Thought Scours and drawing an Evolving Wilds. I dropped my opponent to 12 with Invisible Stalker and passed the turn.

My opponent played a Plains and cast Sublime Archangel. He attacked for 12 with the paired War Falcon, and I dropped to 4. He ended his turn, and I cast my other Thought Scour, milling an Unsummon and an Inaction Injunction and drawing another Invisible Stalker. On my turn, I drew an Island, played it, then cast and equipped my Runechanter's Pike. I attacked with a 17/1 Invisible Stalker, and that was the end of it.

Wrap-Up

This deck seems to work much betting when you draw multiple bounce spells, and as such, I would consider putting the full set of Cyclonic Rift in the main deck, possibly over a Syncopate and a Fleeting Distraction. I was very happy with Invisible Stalker's ability to race when equipped with a Runechanter's Pike, and although it took longer to get going than I would have liked, Quirion Dryad was fairly effective, especially with a Rancor or two. If you miss killing your opponents with giant Runechanter's Pikes or if you just want to infuriate your opponent with an endless stream of Unsummons, be sure to give this deck a try.