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A Return to Curiosity


After the release of Magic's Core Set 2020, I haven't just been brewing new decks, I've also been revisiting decks I've loved playing in the previous Standard - or even the Standard before that.

I've loved Curiosity-based decks for a very, very long time. When Curious Obsession was printed, I immediately worked on a deck with it, though I didn't feel like I got anywhere useful with it until Tempest Djinn was printed in Dominaria.

Heck, by the time Guilds of Ravnica was out, I was even running this little creature:

Mystic Archaeologist

Remind you of anyone?

Spectral Sailor

Now, Spectral Sailor was a clear auto-include for a lot of people when it came to the Curious Obsession decks (which, out of respect for history, I'm going to refer to as "George" for the remainder of this article). However, one thing that seems to have happened for many people that are playing this deck is that somehow they've gone all in on Spectral Sailor.

I love the card, but I don't think that's correct. So what are the things to be thinking about in Core Set 2020 in order to have the best update of the deck?

For the Main

Brineborn Cutthroat

This card is an absolutely reasonable card to finish the game with against many of the more controlling opponents, but it suffers when in a fight against opposing creatures. While the Simic Flash deck can make great use of this card, for a Mono-Blue build of George, this card feels like it is lacking, simply because I believe you need evasion for the archetype to make sense. This card could be marginally playable if you decided to go to two colors, but one of them had better be Black, like mentioned a while back by Autumn Burchett, so that you can straight up kill problem creatures that will get into the Merfolk Pirate's way.

Spectral Sailor

The Sailor is truly great, but it is intensely demanding of your mana. After starting four, I found that I was usually flooding on them, and even if I only had a single copy, I would sometimes not even cast it until I was at five mana, because I knew it was going to die.

Looking at other lists, I started noticing many people were cutting it back. I followed suit, and decided to start the other direction, beginning with one. I slowly built it up to a bit more than that.

Ultimately, I think this card is best as a two-point-five-of. You can't normally do that in Magic, but I'm using Surge Mare as an analog for it, and I've been quite happy with it. Not only is Surge Mare plus Curious Obsession usually game ending, but the huge body has mattered, as has its immunity to Green blockers.


Unsummon has long been a great card, and it is certainly in range for something that a George deck could consider. I currently have my own list hyper-focused on being able to handle the slower decks, and in that world, Unsummon is a somewhat poor pseudo-Counterspell, so I'm not planning on running it. Choosing to do so, however, is completely fine, given the excellent power level of this card.

Winged Words

I dislike Chart a Course a great deal. However, if you are looking for a Chart a Course-like card, I think Winged Words is the card you should be employing.

Sideboard Cards

Aether Gust

Aether Gust is a monster of a card. One of the most important things that it can do is get a permanent off of the table, and Red and Green are the most likely colors for frustrating permanents, be they Wilderness Reclamation or Experimental Frenzy and Rekindling Phoenix. Aside from that, though, it is wickedly important to stop a Shifting Ceratops from ruining the day, even if it is only for a single turn. The fact that this card can do all of that, while also being a semi-Memory Lapse is quite incredible, and it really lets you shave into cards that you might otherwise be forced to run.

Cerulean Drake

This card is a monster versus Mono-Red Aggro. One of the real issues with George has always been that it can struggle to stunt the early aggro draws of a Red deck. Another issue for the deck has been how nearly impossible Rekindling Phoenix is to manage. In the latter case, the combination of Cerulean Drake and Aether Gust have turned this matchup around to the point that I believe that it is very good, should you desire to win it.

The added benefit of having this card be somewhat like a Counterspell-Seal for cards that target you is relevant, but not common. Stopping a Thought Erasure isn't meaningless, but it also isn't good enough to put in the Drake for. Certainly, this activated sacrificial ability can come up, but it isn't the reason you're likely playing it, though you'll be happy to use it when it comes to that.

Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer

For some players, they may use Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer in the same way that people have used Jace, Cunning Castaway, as an engine against more controlling decks. However, it does feel like Mu Yanling is outmatched by Spectral Sailor. The lack of a mana-activation matters, but the biggest reason to use it is to avoid creature removal taking out your card advantage.

Tale's End

Is Tale's End worth it?

Maybe. The incredibly specific set of cards that it takes on is not very encouraging, and I say that as someone who has been happy to use Stifle and Interdict in years past. Ultimately, I think this card is good enough that you could justify a single copy, but I don't think you can justify two unless enough Legendary cards are in the metagame in decks also making use of copious activated or triggered abilities. Currently, I'm running zero, and will be surprised if one makes the cut.

Grafdigger's Cage

This card is so almost worth it, but just not quite. Command the Dreadhorde gets around this card too well, but if you find yourself getting torn up by Command the Dreadhorde/Elementals decks, perhaps you should find room for this one.


It might sound surprising, but I think this card is a worthile sideboard card. As an anti-Shifting Ceratops card, Scuttlemutt can make your larger creature trade with a Shifting Ceratops, which can be enough to finish a game, and if there isn't a Shifting Ceratops in play, Scuttlemutt's mana ability is actually relevant to potentially casting multiple spells in a turn. Transmogrifying Wand also exists, but Scuttlemutt can attack, which is worthwhile in a deck like this.

And that's it. Those are the only cards I'm really considering for George in Core Set 2020.

Here is where I'm at with my build.

The addition of Spectral Sailor to the main made me feel more comfortable cutting my second Essence Capture and replacing it with a single Lookout's Dispersal. The fourth Pteramander and my second copy of Surge Mare were dropped to make room for the Spirit Pirate, but I still want to be able to hit hard, and so I've only barely dropped my big hitters.

The sideboard is likewise fairly conservative on what I've changed. Aether Gust and Cerulean Drake have been quite excellent, and combined with the other instants in the sideboard, make for an incredibly cheap set of spells, in maintaining how the deck has long worked. The inclusion of Aether Gust definitely made me feel far more comfortable in including God-Eternal Kefnet, since there are now so many more possibilities for the card to trigger on a spell from the sideboard.

While not new, I am wondering if I even need that fourth Negate. If I cut the card, I can see a few cards I'd consider for the slot - Kasmina's Transmutation, a dedicated Shifting Ceratops answer, the fourth Aether Gust, a second Disdainful Stroke, the fourth Dive Down, and another Surge Mare are all on my list. For now, I'm paying attention to that fourth copy and am open-minded to either keeping or cutting it.

Of all the decks I'm playing right now, this one feels the most cruel. Curious Obsession games are often pretty lopsided, and the new London Mulligan has been a huge boon to this deck. It feels as though Shifting Ceratops is the only real thing holding this deck back, so you'll have to navigate the shifting tides of the metagame to switch out of this deck (or find a reasonable answer) should Certaops become to ubiquitous.

I expect you'll see me streaming this deck quite a bit, moving forward!

On Streaming

So, I've been doing a fair amount of streaming lately. Now that I'm finally settled into my new apartment, you can expect a regular presence from me, with most streaming to happen Monday through Friday during "work hours", though I'll have the occasional stream outside of that.

I'm looking for opinions on some of the fine details, though. For example, should I be using Stream Decker? Should I be using something else? What formats would you like to see me playing more of? Which would you prefer I not touch?

Everything you might me see me do on stream has come about from that combination of what I've put into it mixed with help I've gotten along the way. I'd love any other help with navigating these waters, as it is all very new to me. I'm definitely so grateful to all of the people whose contributions really made this happen.

Gaby Spartz was invaluable in me sticking myself in this arena. Her encouragement and advice was amazing, and she helped connect me to Jordan Hemingway, who helped me figure out exactly what I wanted from the computer I ended up building to stream with. While a lot of people said it was easy to build a computer, I'm going to be eternally grateful to Bryan Ramirez for actually getting it done; I could say "he helped me", but truth be told, he put all the pieces together and I helped him do it.

Even before them, my two friends John Paul Roney and Ian DeGraff were both lighting a fire under me to get me to do this. I'm really grateful they kept pushing me.

I appreciate everyone that has followed or subscribed so far, whether it be my first follower, "right66", or my most recent subscriber, "jeffhoogland". And speaking of...

Finally, thanks to Brian Kibler, Jeff Hoogland, Jody Keith, and (again) Gaby Spartz for their advice on my stream thus far, to Gaby (again, I know!) for my first big raid and to Jeff (again!) for my first 1,000+ person raid.

I can't wait for you all to join me!

- Adrian Sullivan

Follow me on Twitter! @AdrianLSullivan

Follow me and subscribe on Twitch! /AdrianLSullivan