The Moore Report - My First Fan Mail...
It feels great to have a fan. At this stage he is probably my only one, but you have to start somewhere, right? I got an email from Nick a while ago, which he’d forwarded to me from a fellow down country who has been reading my articles. He had a standard deck that he wanted some advice on, and I was only too happy to oblige. Nick suggested that I turn the process into an article, so here we are! The following is the list I was sent, along with some restrictions that I had to work with. Here it is:
2 Shipwreck Singer
3 Nyx Weaver
2 Nemesis of Mortals
1 Pearl Lake Ancient
3 Bile Blight
2 Taigam's Scheming
2 Sultai Charm
4 Treasure Cruise
2 In Garruk's Wake
3 Sultai Ascendancy
2 Whip of Erebos
2 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
1 Garruk, Apex Predator
2 Jace, The Living Guildpact
My fan (as he will be known henceforth, to remind myself that I have one) wasn’t too keen on forking out for things like Hero’s Downfall, Thoughtseize, fetch lands or Sylvan Caryatid, so while I was looking at this list I was trying to figure out how to improve it without the process costing an arm and a leg. If we look at this list, it’s clear that the strategy is in the midrange/control range of the spectrum, filling its graveyard with schemings, ascendancys and spiders, all the while controlling the board with removal and counterspells. It’s a noble cause, that’s for sure. The first thing that stuck out to me here was a couple of cards that are missing (both of which are commons, so they fit the budget).
The first is Commune with the Gods. If you’re looking to fill your graveyard with goodies, commune is great. At first glance, it might look a bit out of place in a deck with only thirteen targets, but we’ll get to that. Compare it to Taigam’s Scheming, for example. Scheming will always cost you a card. You get to filter your draws, but you don’t actually get to draw a card, which means that you’re going to run out eventually (which isn’t where a control deck wants to be). Scheming is a fine card in a deck that requires very specific cards to win, such as the Jeskai Ascendancy combo deck, but this is not that deck. Commune with the Gods will always mill 5, which might be gross if you really wanted one of the top five cards that isn’t a creature or enchantment, but that’s just something that comes with the territory when you play self-mill decks. Worst comes to worst you can always Nyx Weaver something back. If you get to draw a card from commune, you’ve kept your hand size the same while also advancing your graveyard plan. The same issue can be laid at the feet of Sultai Ascendancy. While it’s great for card selection, it doesn’t actually ever draw you a card, and if you run out of cards as a control deck, you’re not going to win many matches. Let’s start by cutting all of the Sultai Ascendancy and Taigam’s Scheming.
The next missing card that I think has to be in every graveyard deck in standard is Satyr Wayfinder. The satyr does a huge amount of work in decks like this. For two mana you get a 1/1 which can get some cheeky damage in early then sit back to block a big dumb beasty along the road. You also get 3-4 cards in your graveyard, which advances your game plan, and last but definitely not least: you get a land. That’s huge. There is nothing worse than playing a midrange deck that needs upwards of four mana to function, only to end the game on zero life with 2-3 lands in play. Wayfinder is absolutely the perfect card for this strategy, so we definitely want to fit the full playset in here if we can.
Speaking of finding lands, I think twenty six is a few too many. Unfortunately, control decks don’t have Sphinx’s Revelation anymore, which would help counter the fact that you might flood out on twenty six lands. Sure, we have Treasure Cruise, but it’s a lot worse. Considering that we intend to add four is Satyr Wayfinder to the deck, we can afford to cut two lands. The Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, while one of my favourite lands from the Yisan era, probably won’t do much in this deck, so we can cut that. The other land cut is difficult, because it depends on the distribution of coloured mana in the spells, so I’ll let my fan figure that one out!
I think we can add some more powerful creatures to this brew. Shipwreck Singer is a very interesting one. It functions similarly to Doomwake Giant, except that it’s very fragile and you have to hold up mana to use the ability. Since you definitely want an effect in this deck which shrinks creatures, a good direction to go would be to swap out the singers for giants. Giants are very cheap, so it also makes sense budget wise. Additionally, I think this deck could benefit from the services of Hornet Queen. She’s budget friendly, and she works very well with Whip of Erebos. The queen just dominates any board that you cast her into, which is exactly the type of card you want in this type of strategy. I’m not a huge fan of the Pearl Lake Ancient, because it doesn’t really synergise with the rest of the deck and it’s worse than Hornet Queen as far as board presence goes. I think the ancient can become a queen, and we’ll find another slot for another one somewhere.
In Garruk's Wake is an interesting addition. I'm a bit sceptical of it simply because of its prohibitive mana cost. 9 is a lot, and we don't have any ramp spells or mana creatures to help us get there. If we’re in the market for a sweeper, I think more Doomwake Giants would be a good start. Giant clears out the small stuff, and it makes a lot of the bigger creatures irrelevant - being a 4/6 is just huge. If we want to deal with some bigger men, we could also consider some Silence the Believers. It functions similarly to wake, because you can spend a lot of mana to kill multiple big things, but it's also flexible because for a significant discount on 9 mana it can take out just one creature instead. It's a shame we can’t look to Hero’s Downfall, because that would be the perfect addition here (one of our problems is going to be resolved planeswalkers). While we're on the topic of removal, I’m a big fan of finding some room for Murderous Cut. Cut is very efficient at what it does, and it’s perfect in a deck that fills its graveyard. However, it does fight a bit with Treasure Cruise, and might make Nemesis of Mortals a bit worse. It's possible that we don’t want too many for this reason, but we’ll take a look at the final list and see how we’re looking.
My last and most unfortunate comment about cuts would be that Jace, the Living Guildpact. He probably isn’t the hero standard needs (or deserves) right now. While the art is super sweet, the abilities just don’t give us what we want for this deck. The card filtering is OK, but it suffers from the same issue that Sultai Ascendancy and Taigam’s Scheming do. The bounce effect is pretty good, but it’s more something that a tempo blue deck would want. The ultimate is very good, but you can’t really play a planeswalker just for the last ability.
Before I give a suggested list, I want to cover the cards that I do like, since I feel like I’m coming across a bit negative. I really like Nyx Weaver. It’s going to trigger Doomwake Giant, it’s going to fill our graveyard, and late in the game it’s going to function very similarly to Demonic Tutor. It’s important to have this card, especially considering that we can’t look to Courser of Kruphix (because $$). Nemesis of Mortals in this deck reminds me of when Tarmogoyf first started seeing play in blue control decks in extended. It was perfect in the deck because you could deploy a game-winning threat for the low cost of 1G and still hold up all the counterspells in the world. It’s for that reason that I like Tarmogoyf 2.0. Nemesis is going to allow the deck to play multiple spells on a key turn, which will help us get into the late game where the card advantage engines really shine. You can also turn it into a 10/10. Who doesn’t want a 10/10?
Bile Blight, Dissolve, Sultai Charm and Treasure Cruise are all great. They’re the pieces that you need to control what your opponents are doing while refilling your hand to continue doing so. I think the full four Treasure Cruise might be a few too many, because I do want to add some Murderous Cuts to this deck and we can’t have too much delve, but the card is clearly powerful. Sultai Charm is great right now. Everyone seems to have enchantments, and a lot of them are very good, so being able to destroy them at instant speed is quite desirable. I like the remaining planeswalkers too, but Garruk, Apex Predator might be a little too apex at seven mana. If I’m spending seven mana I think I want it to be on a Hornet Queen. Taking everything above into consideration, here is my suggested list:
2 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
As you can see, I’ve increased the creature package fairly substantially, to make Doomwake Giant, Whip of Erebos and Commune with the Gods better. I cut down on the planeswalkers and some of the spells that I felt could be improved on. We only have 2 Treasure Cruise now, so to make up for the loss of card advantage I turned to Eidolon of Blossoms. Eidolon has a lot of synergy with other cards in the deck, and it allows us to keep the supply of cards coming. Three might be too many, but refining that number will only come from testing this list a bunch.
I haven’t worked on the sideboard, because that’s another aspect that can only come through testing. However, I do have a list of cards that I would consider for the sideboard: Drown in Sorrow, Bile Blight, Disdainful Stroke, Negate, Reclamation Sage, Pharika, God of Affliction, Murderous Cut, Sultai Charm and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. Also, in match-ups where you don’t want the creature removal spells, you could consider more Treasure Cruise in the Sideboard (since taking out Murderous Cut leaves your graveyard more full for cruises).
That does it for this week. I had a lot of fun working on this deck, and I hope it does well in tournaments. If budget is no concern, there are cards that can definitely improve this deck further. Courser of Kruphix, Hero’s Downfall, Thoughtseize, fetch lands and Sylvan Caryatid all play a role in sultai decks such as this, but hopefully a little creative deckbuilding like what we’ve done today will make up the slack. I hope you all had a great holiday season, and feel free to send in an email if you’d like some advice on a deck (or anything else….Magic related…)!