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5 Decks You Can't Miss This Week

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The Pro Tour is over, and the attentions of players around the world are returning to their favorite formats. This means new technology, new interactions, and exciting new decks. This week we've got five decks from across all of your favorite formats. We'll start with Red-White aggro and Red-Green Bees in Standard. Then we'll take a look at Tempered Steel in Modern and Birthing Pod in Legacy. Last, we've got an exciting look at what Alesha, Who Smiles at Death can do in an Aristocrats shell. I can't wait to get started.


White-Red aggro has been picking up steam in Standard, but even Outpost Siege can have a tough time keeping up with the control decks that now have access to Crux of Fate and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon in addition to the powerful tools like Murderous Cut and Dig Through Time they had before Fate Reforged. So maybe you have to go a little bigger. This week Sam Black experimented with a more midrangey aggro deck featuring Monastery Mentor as another powerful midgame threat:

All the most efficient creatures. All the most efficient burn. That has to be a recipe for success, right? We've already seen the success of this style of aggressive deck. These are very similar to the Jeskai Aggro decks we saw at the beginning of this Standard, except that Outpost Siege means that you can restrict yourself to just two colors and still get the benefit of a Dig Through Time-esque effect to refuel.

The big difference between Sam's list and all the others that I've seen is the addition of the full four Monastery Mentor as another Goblin Rabblemaster. This is another card that must be answered immediately or risk the game spiraling out of control in very short order. Monastery Mentor is particularly powerful going late in this shell, since you can set up turns where you can cast Mentor plus Chained to the Rocks. Just those two cards puts you dangerously close to casting Stoke the Flames as well. This lets Mentor be an explosive threat in the late game, particularly in conjunction with the extra cards that Chandra and Outpost Siege can generate.

The question is whether this late game power is worth the sacrifices you have to give up early on. On turn three, Monastery Mentor is basically a Grey Ogre. Sure, it demands removal immediately, but Standard is all about removal right now. If most of your games are going to go late, this seems like awesome technology. If you expect shorter games, maybe you're better off using that card to sneak in a few hits on the early turns instead of forcing your opponent's removal spell on turn three. Regardless, this is an exciting evolution, and may well be the home that Monastery Mentor has been missing in this Standard environment.


Standard has been shifting more and more towards aggressive and midrangey creature decks. There have been more and more Goblin Rabblemasters, Polukranos, and Whisperwood Elementals and fewer Siege Rhinos in recent weeks. Does that mean that it's time for Hornet Nest to make a comeback? Caleb Durward seems to think so.

This deck does a lot of really awesome things that I'm excited about. First off, you get to play Hornet Nest to brickwall most of the attacking decks in the format. Who wants to crash their Seeker of the Way into a Hornet Nest and give you a pile of deathtouch blockers? Lightning Strike? Forget about it. This card is shockingly difficult to deal with in most of the aggressive and midrange matchups you're facing, and it almost demands a "real" removal spell like Hero's Downfall. That means that oftentimes the worst case scenario for Hornet Nest is that it's clearing the way for your more powerful threats, which is a pretty good place to be.

The best case is that you get to make a million bees, either because your opponent obligingly attakcked into your Hornet Nest or because you started pinging it with Chandra Ablaze or you pointed an enormous Crater's Claws at it. Even Setessan Tactics lets you generate a ton of angry hornets at a moment's notice. These hornets shore up the ground, attack in the air, and even fuel a Chord of Calling toolbox.

This deck occupies a really interesting space in the metagame, and one that I hope to see more of. We've seen very little of Chord of Calling this season, which is a shame since it creates such interesting questions during both deckbuilding and gameplay. If you're looking for something off the wall that lets you maximize your decisions both in-game and out, you may want to try sleeving this up!


We all know that Affinity is one of the enemies in Modern. You'd better be packing Stony Silence, Ancient Grudge, or Creeping Corrosion, preferably some combination of therein, otherwise you haven't got a chance of taking down the robot menace. Except that Paul Rietzl is trying cut some of those powerful hate cards out of the equation with an exciting twist on Modern Affinity: Tempered Steel:

In this list, Paul has trimmed back on some of the more traditional threats. Just one Steel Overseer. No copies of Master of Etherium. Instead, Paul has opted to play four copies of Tempered Steel. Why? Because it beats out a lot of the sideboard hate for Affinity. Suddenly you care much less about Stony Silence when you can just tap out for Tempered Steel. Creeping Corrosion is way less scary when you can start beating down with 3/3 Nexuses. This small shift makes the Robots deck less explosive, but trades that for longevity, particularly against hateful sideboard cards and midrange decks. The full four Etched Champion is particularly good against a field full of spot removal decks like Abzan.

Tempered Steel isn't the only thing you get out of this deal though. You also gain access to Dispatch for Splinter Twin and other creature-based combos. Sure, Dispatch doesn't go to the face like Galvanic Blast, but it's more likely to kill an infect creature and it can always get a Siege Rhino or Tasigur out of the way. It's certainly a tradeoff, but it's one I think I'm happy to make.


Birthing Pod may have been banned in Modern, but it's still legal in Legacy. Despite that, we seen almost none of the Birthing Pod engine in Legacy. Caleb Durward did a few experiments with a BUG-based Pod deck featuring Baleful Strix and Brainstorm, but beyond that, we haven't seen anything in the vein of Kiki-Jiki or Melira Pod variants. Winglerw28 is looking to change that.

Legacy is a format that is built around cheap, efficient threats and interactions. This is a deck that goes over the top of that with a powerful and disruptive midrange engine. Your primary gameplan involves curving mana creature into Birthing Pod. If Pod resolves, you get to start grinding out value by tutoring up powerful silver bullets like Glen Elendra Archmage. Alternatively, you can just start podding up Siege Rhinos and Sun Titan to outclass opposing Batterskulls and Tarmogoyfs.

The primary Pod chain in this deck involves turning a two-drop into Deceiver Exarch to untap your pod, then podding your mana creature into Phantasmal Image copying the exarch. Then you can pod into Restoration Angel to flicker your Exarch and untap Pod, getting Karmic Guide to rebuy Restoration Angel and flicker the exarch again. Then Karmic Guide turns into Sun Titan and you get to start grinding out serious value with Phantasmal Image and other powerful recursive threats.

The backup plan is to just cast powerful threats like Siege Rhino a few turns early off of mana creatures. Eventually your opponent will run out of Force of Wills and your threats will start sticking and beating down. You've also got some of the most powerful disruption in the format backing up both of your plans, like Thoughtseize and Abrupt Decay, so the beatdown plan is definitely going to get there in a good number of games.

I'm a little surprised that this deck doesn't have a singleton Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to just combo off instead of chaining up to Titan. It's not great to have an utterly uncastable card in your deck, but that's a problem that is easily solved by playing a few copies of Brainstorm to go with the Pod shuffle engine. If Pod is going to be a thing in Legacy, I think this is a great place to start.


One of the most exciting new Legends out of Fate Reforged is Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. This new Commander screams of both flavor and value, and an Alesha-powered recursion engine sounds like exactly the kind of Commander I want to be playing. Unfortunately, I haven't seen many lists for Alesha as of yet, so I'm very excited to have found an awesome starting point designed by capitacom. Here's his take on Alesha:

[Cardlist title= Alesha's Aristocrats - Commander | capitacom]

  • Commander (0)

There are so many things that I love about this list. I love the ability to use Imperial Recruiter over and over to find utility answers and combo pieces. I love the inclusion of effects like Blood Artist to grind out damage in the midgame. I love Goblin Bombardment letting you recycle Enters the Battlefield abilities turn after turn, with Buried Alive functioning as a tutor for the effects you need. The recursion is real, the value is unbelievable, and I can't wait to see what lists like this can do.

My favorite combination of cards here is Grim Haruspex and Mentor of the Meek, both of which combo with all your utility creatures as well as Alesha. I'm also exicted to see Kiki-Jiki here as a recursive combotastic value engine. Lastly, Sun Titan makes an appearance as yet another value engine and combo piece. What are the combos exactly? Well, there's the traditional Restoration Angel plus Kiki-Jiki combo from Modern. But you can also use Sun Titan and Fiend Hunter or Animate Dead to continuously rebuy enters the battlefield abilities using a sacrifice outlet and a recursion effect like Karmic Guide or Nim Deathmantle.

Alesha and her aristocrats do it all. They're aggressive, resilient, and combotastic, and I can't wait to see what else they can accomplish.


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