It is certainly odd to build a deck for a "new" Standard format, when less than week prior you were building for the old "new" Standard format with Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath still legal, but these are confusing times.
The good news is the sweet deck I had brewed in the old "new" Standard format still feels awesome in the new "new" Standard format. I had gone on a very nice deep Mythic run with the deck before the banning, and it still feels awesome afterward.
Went 8-0 in Mythic last night with the deck, but just didn't work out today in the @SCGTour event. Definitely wasn't playing my best with the stream crash distractions etc but I guess we'll see what Standard looks like tomorrow. Deck is definitely sweet. @ArenaDecklists pic.twitter.com/3O3aqMItPL— Jim Davis (@JimDavisMTG) September 26, 2020
Presenting The Lurrus Squad:
The Lurrus Squad | Standard | Jim Davis
- Creatures (26)
- 2 Rankle, Master of Pranks
- 2 Tymaret, Chosen from Death
- 3 Ayara, First of Locthwain
- 3 Lurrus of the Dream-Den
- 4 Archfiend's Vessel
- 4 Serrated Scorpion
- 4 Skyclave Shade
- 4 Whisper Squad
The path to this deck was a very interesting one.
It started with the extremely powerful Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats, alongside a ragtag group of Rakdos party creatures. While Zagras was awesome and the deck worked great when it had smooth draws, the mana base was too inconsistent, as were the party cards when they were being disrupted and not getting a chance to work together. This led to a more normal looking Rakdos built with "good cards" prioritized over synergy, but mana issues were still a major problem.
This lead to a few conclusions:
- Skyclave Shade is an amazing recursive threat in a similar vein to Scrapheap Scrounger; it played great with sacrifice effects while being incredible against decks relying on removal or looking to play a longer game
- The Omnath Ramp decks were mostly interested in leaving you alone in the first few turns of the game, meaning you had a good amount of time to set up. Once they started to go off, they were mostly playing to the board and couldn't really interact if you had a way to win that ignored the board
This left me thinking long and hard about the Mono-Black Devotion decks that existed early after the Theros Beyond Death release. They had good mana, could play Skyclave Shade, and could easily fire off near 20-point life drains with Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Nightmare Shepherd, and a sacrifice outlet.
The results were mixed.
Ayara, First of Locthwain and the cheaper cards were awesome, doing a good job applying pressure and interacting while also being fairly robust and good at grinding. The problem was that Gray Merchant and Nightmare Shepherd were just abysmal unless you were putting the whole puzzle together, and even then it often wasn't fast enough.
So, all the expensive and clunky cards were cut, which led to a very lean and flexible deck that can play multiple roles. With such a low curve the deck is more than capable of being very aggressive, but it also contains enough recursive elements to not fall prey to a single Shatter the Sky. The deck also contains a good amount of removal and grind, meaning it can tussle with other creature decks as well while taking a more controlling role. It also has some sacrifice synergy elements, which also increase its reach and durability.
With a full 12 1-drops, the deck is never wanting for things to do early. Archfiend's Vessel is the standout, presenting a passable body on its own while turning into a huge 5/5 flyer with either Lurrus or Agadeem's Awakening. Archfiend's Vessel also does a mini-Baneslayer Angel impression whenever it suits up with Demonic Embrace. Serrated Scorpion is just a reasonable piece of fodder that can add up chip shot damage while giving you fuel for your sacrifice effects. Whisper Squad is more of the same, proving invaluable against decks with a lot of removal in the same way a card like Lingering Souls is good.
Skyclave Shade is the best card in the deck against anything that doesn't want to kill you very quickly. It hits hard, can be sacrificed for value over and over again, and never goes away barring a Glass Casket or Spikefield Hazard, both of which are already taxed against us. Tymaret, Chosen from Death is a bit of a holdover from the days of Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, but there are still graveyard cards that need removing and there aren't a ton of other options at 2 mana.
Ayara, First of Locthwain is a still around from the attempted devotion deck, but performs phenomenally even when her three Black pips aren't that relevant. This deck sees Black creatures constantly entering and leaving the battlefield, while she provides you a great card draw engine alongside Whisper Squad or Skyclave Shade. Lurrus provides more long game grind, forcing your opponent to interact. Rankle, Master of Pranks also slots in perfectly as a top end threat that synergizes well with our engines.
We also have a very nice removal suite that allows us to play ball with the other creature decks without missing a beat, as well as keep Lotus Cobra and Omnath, Locus of Creation in check. Bloodchief's Thirst is super cheap and can double as planeswalker removal against control decks, while Dead Weight is phenomenal with Lurrus. With the grinding potential we have, this allows us totally shift gears against aggressive strategies into a pseudo midrange-control deck.
And then there are the oddballs. Demonic Embrace is a way for us to be extra aggressive against Omnath and ramp decks, or race other creature decks before we are able to board in our Nighthawk Scavengers. It looks great on a lifelinker, and the downside of getting two for oned isn't as bad when you play it on something like Serrated Scorpion or Whisper Squad that you don't mind dying anyway. Village Rites is a powerful card draw effect that can provide extra gas, make use of your fodder creatures and Skyclave Shade land drops, and also fizzle exiling removal on your Skyclave Shade. You can't afford to go crazy on them because it is important for us to have a board and we already have Ayara, but the first one is very good. Which brings us to perhaps the best card in the deck, Agadeem's Awakening.
Agadeem's Awakening is basically everything this deck could ever want. As a land that is also spell we are already interested, and 6 mana to bring back three creatures is already amazing even before you factor in Archfiend's Vessel or Ayara. Factoring it into our mana base means we are playing with a lot more gas than most decks and when you add Castle Locthwain into the mix you end up with a deck that rarely ever runs out of things to do with its mana. This is an amazing quality for a aggressive creature deck to have!
The deck's sideboard is very important, as you will be making fundamental shifts to your deck in some matchups.
Against aggressive creature decks you sideboard into a board controlling midrange deck. Non-defensive cards like Skyclave Shade and Demonic Embrace make way for more removal spells and Nighthawk Scavenger, which will put a ton of pressure on your opponent to have both enough threats as well as answers to your must kill 3-drops.
Against control decks we get to cut our redundant removal spells and riskier propositions like Demonic Embrace for discard spells and more flexible removal in Murderous Rider. Our deck is already great at grinding, making any sort of slow control deck typically a very good matchup. If your opponent isn't going to kill you fast, it's not hard to grind them into dust with Skyclave Shade, Agadeem's Awakening, and Castle Locthwain.
Against Omnath Ramp decks the discard is important, as well as having enough ways to kill Omnath and Lotus Cobra. More grindy cards like Village Rites and Lurrus aren't really necessary. You can't hope to overcome their long game engine with Genesis Ultimatium, so we don't want to fight on that axis. This is where Demonic Embrace really shines.
Have A Plan
This deck is right in my wheelhouse.
It's a deck with a lot of synergy and recursive elements, that has well laid plans for its different matchups. The games will play out very differently depending on what you play against, which makes knowing how to play each matchup paramount.
It is also challenging and rewarding to play, as well as being fun too! There are more things happening in Standard than Omnath, so don't be afraid to join the squad!