I won a 53-person PPTQ at Eternal Games on Saturday with Temur Aetherworks and had a few spicy numbers in there to discuss. There were some interesting decks I faced along the way that have a shot at competing in this Marvel-infested metagame. I’m going to talk about Esper Vehicles and Temur Monsters.
Despite Temur Marvel being the clear best deck, I think Standard is fun; but, I won’t say it’s healthy. Aetherworks Marvel can be a very intricate deck as there’s the constant battle between consistency and power. The list I used to win a PPTQ was three cards off from the list I’m proposing for any upcoming Standard events:
Temur Aetherworks ? Amonkhet Standard| Kyle Boggemes
- Creatures (14)
- 3 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
- 3 Whirler Virtuoso
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- Planeswalkers (2)
- 2 Chandra, Flamecaller
- Lands (22)
- 1 Island
- 2 Mountain
- 4 Forest
- 1 Sheltered Thicket
- 2 Lumbering Falls
- 4 Aether Hub
- 4 Botanical Sanctum
- 4 Spirebluff Canal
I played a Bounty of the Luxa over the fourth Glimmer of Genius at the PPTQ and that was a mistake. Bounty was fine, but I didn’t need to hardcast Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger with only three copies. Chandra, Flamecaller lets me dump excess Ulamogs so they are less important to hard cast. The bounties worked well for me at the Pro Tour because they were paired with maindeck Chandra, Torch of Defiance. If I have a critical mass of mana-generating traction engines there are some synergies unlocked.
Glimmer helped me find and activate Aetherworks Marvel on turn five very consistently. I was uncertain if playing so many glimmers was reasonable in the Servant of the Conduit version. It turns out Glimmer is great and I would play four Glimmers in just about any version of Temur Marvel. Every other card in my maindeck at the PPTQ was great and didn’t want to change anything else.
The biggest deviation from the traditional list is playing two Confiscation Coup in the maindeck. I expected to face many mirror matches and having a way to interact with Marvel Game 1 is important. If you have six energy, casting the coup can steal an opposing Ulamog. Since I wanted two coups in my 75 I was able to free up two sideboard slots by adding them to the main.
Constrictor can come out of the gates quickly backed up with artifact hate that can make the matchup scary, so the Coup was a hedge there as well. Since I want Confiscation Coup against the two scariest matchups I might as well maindeck them. It’s even a passable Marvel hit against Vehicles and Control when you miss on Ulamog. I stole a Knight-Ally token, generated four energy, then blocked with it and got an additional energy from Marvel. That’s a way to get card advantage and keep the Marvel spinning.
Three Manglehorn is an aggressive amount in the board, but combos well with the two Confiscation Coup. I can run out Manglehorn in early turns of the mirror so Marvels enter the battlefield tapped and then can be stolen before the first activation. This situation played out in the finals and won me the game.
I cut down to two Tireless Tracker in the board because Chandra, Torch of Defiance accomplishes a similar role in the mirror of generating traction. I need to interact with opposing Tireless Tracker without leaving in too many Harnessed Lightning.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance can also be key against Control to take down Thing in the Ice and Dragonmaster Outcast. My opponents were not boarding in Thing in the Ice against me and I think that’s a mistake. I can dictate the pace of the game by throwing out early threats and then tie up mana by casting spells that can end the game on the spot. An 0/4 blocks Rogue Refiner and transforms into a creature that can turn the tides in the mid game.
I tried a split of Aether Meltdown and Shielded Aether Thief, but it feels like Zombies has been pushed out the format at least in the short run. Once Chandra, Flamecaller started making her way into a majority of the Marvel variants, it was time for the Zombie horde to move on. This leaves Mardu Vehicles as the aggro deck of choice. I hear rhetoric of the Marvel vs. Mardu matchup being close, but I have never lost. Marvel is by far the best deck right now and even the most spiteful decks can’t consistently compete.
One match against Vehicles I sided out all of my Ulamogs and was able to grind him out by activating Marvel for slightly less powerful cards. I missed on Ulamog for the entirety of Game 1 and then got hit by Lost Legacy and it whiffed the following game. If you blow up all of their early threats and save a Negate for Gideon, Ally of Zendikar things will work out fine. I would suggest leaving one Ulamog in to eventually hit just in case Gideon gets out of hand, but this particular version happened to have a Blue splash for Metallic Rebuke and I didn’t feel optimistic about resolving Marvel.
Here is a breakdown of my matches:
Round 1: Control 2-1
Round 2: Mardu Vehicles splashing Metallic Rebuke 2-0
Round 3: Control 2-0
Round 4: Esper Vehicles 2-1
Round 5: ID
Round 6: ID
Enter top 8 in 4th place
Top 8: Mardu Vehicles on the play 2-0
Top 4: Energy/Tempo/Planeswalkers on the draw 2-0
Finals: Marvel Mirror on the draw 2-0
The swiss rounds were filled with 0 land hands and misses on Ulamogs. I felt confident in those games because the threat of an Ulamog was enough to make my opponent play different. Chandra, Flamecaller and Confiscation Coup would slow down the opponent and give me additional turns of spins. If you think of Marvel as an engine rather than a combo you will have more success with the deck. Notice how my first four rounds were against Blue decks; this will happen in new Standard to try and counter opposing Marvels. Four-Color Saheeli was a great deck, but the popular interaction were removal spells. Marvel is different in that the artifact coming into play is already too late to reliably interact. It needs to be countered.
I had quite a sweat against Esper Vehicles as it looks like the deck was built to beat me. The early stages of Flash were too focused at fighting Marvel’s plan A of landing an early Ulamog, but weak at fighting aggressive starts consisting of Tireless Tracker and Whirler Virtuoso. Ironically, the player who was on Esper Vehicles lost two matches in the tournament and they were both to Marvel. I don’t think a deck exists that has better than a 60% match win percentage against Marvel no matter how hard you try.
I want to hammer the point home that this is one of the few decks without Aetherworks Marvel that scares me because it’s based around counterspells backed by pressure. If your deck is pure control, then I can dictate the pace of play and get a huge edge. I feel control decks are my best matchup despite the common wisdom that Torrential Gearhulk is favored.
The Top 8
Top 8 was a completely different experience for me compared to the swiss. I hit Ulamog early consistently and felt in control all six games. Thanks to aggressive mulligans in the swiss I was able to make it to the Top 8 in the first place. Marvel is strong enough that you don’t need seven cards.
The energy deck I faced in the Top 4 was interesting. Rather than ending the game with Aetherworks Marvel and Ulamog ,it would be Glorybringer that crashes the party. The deck felt very powerful and can be a glimpse in the future of what energy shells will look like if Aetherworks Marvel is banned. It would be a mistake to not put Marvel in your deck because the cost is so low and wins the game when it resolves.
Despite winning, I actually would have found the most ideal situation getting second place to continue playing PPTQs. I have fun in these local cash tournaments and seems silly I won’t be allowed to play them for a long time. There is a chance I don’t hit silver next year, so a qualification for the Albuquerque RPTQ still has value to me.
I have read plenty of articles the last couple of weeks that highlight Marvel mirror sideboard plans and they are mostly different. The most important thing to keep in mind for the mirror is that games are dynamic and they don’t all revolve around Aetherworks Marvel hitting Ulamog. Control decks are too focused at stopping Marvel from resolving that I go under with Whirler Virtuoso and Servant of the Conduit. Aetherworks Marvel is Birthing Pod, not Splinter Twin; it’s a 1-card combo. A key element of post-board mirror match goes is the need for mana to force through Marvel against Negate.
Your deck doesn’t have a good matchup against Marvel and WOTC should ban it soon. This deck just needs a single card to resolve and then goes wild. We have had several weeks to come up with a hero to the Standard story and have failed so far. I could crush Four-Color Saheeli in the old Standard with Mardu Vehicles and that deck got the axe. My best advice is to be on the right side of history and play the deck that shouldn’t be allowed.
I understand that not all Magic players want to jam the best deck every season and want to go against the grain. Here are some of the spicy lists I’ve alluded to earlier in the article:
Temur Energy ? Amonkhet Standard | Joserios
- Creatures (29)
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 3 Elder Deep-Fiend
- 4 Bristling Hydra
- 4 Channeler Initiate
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
- Sorceries (4)
- 4 Attune with Aether
- Lands (21)
- 1 Island
- 2 Mountain
- 5 Forest
- 1 Spirebluff Canal
- 2 Game Trail
- 2 Lumbering Falls
- 4 Aether Hub
- 4 Botanical Sanctum
This Energy tempo deck has been putting some players into the 5-0 bracket in Magic Online Leagues. Ann Arbor Monsters brewer, Jeff DuPont, has been talking up the deck and I took notice. He likes to play Monsters in any format, but I think this is a good call right now.
Channeler Initiate was the most impressive card in my early sketches of Delirium last month. Eight ramp creatures for turn four Glorybringer is not messing around. There is an option to put the three -1/-1 counters on a thopter token, but there’s a lot to do with the mana.
Elder Deep-Fiend works well with Whirler Virtuoso and Rogue Refiner to get the natural turn four 5/5 Time Walk on a stick. It’s a way to use the creatures that get removed by Ulamog with the exile trigger on the stack and can also tap the 10/10 to swing through it for a turn.
Notice how this is basically just Temur Aetherworks except:
- -4 Aetherworks Marvel
- -4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
- -4 Woodweaver's Puzzleknot
- -4 Glimmer of Genius
- +4 Glorybringer
- +4 Bristling Hydra
- +3 Elder Deep-Fiend
- +4 Channeler Initiate
The Energy shell is extremely powerful, consistent, and resilient. I would still suggest registering Aetherworks Marvel, but this is a good alternative.
The reason this deck has legs is because of the four Negates in the sideboard. A clock backed up by countermagic and some tempo effects that destabilize the Marvel opponent is the recipe for success.
Temur has the tools to fight Marvel, Zombies, Control, and Mardu Vehicles.
- Radiant Flames and Magma Spray for Mardu and Zombies.
- Tireless Tracker and Negate for Control and Marvel.
- Manglehorn for Marvel and Mardu.
The last Standard deck I want to share today is Pascal Maynard’s Esper Vehicles deck:
Esper Vehicles ? Amonkhet Standard | Pascal Maynard
- Creatures (24)
- 2 Archangel Avacyn
- 2 Eldrazi Skyspawner
- 4 Glory-Bound Initiate
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Spell Queller
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Toolcraft Exemplar
- Planeswalkers (4)
- 4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
- Instants (2)
- 2 Metallic Rebuke
- Enchantments (2)
- 2 Cast Out
- Artifacts (4)
- 4 Heart of Kiran
- Lands (24)
- 2 Island
- 6 Plains
- 2 Aether Hub
- 2 Irrigated Farmland
- 4 Concealed Courtyard
- 4 Port Town
- 4 Spire of Industry
I loaned Mardu Vehicles list to my friend, Harrison Fang, for the PPTQ and he lost to Esper Vehicles. That was a very interesting data point because I would have expected this deck to not have game against aggressive strategies. It is weak to Zombies, but that’s all right as long as Chandra, Flamecaller continues to thrive. Maybe Zombies makes a resurgence with a Blue splash for Negate in the sideboard.
Glory-Bound Initiate is popping up in decklists across Modern and Standard. This card is the real deal. I think Craig Wescoe has been hired as a secret R&D consultant because how else do you explain that kind of power in a small White creature? Initiate allows this deck to play a tempo game against creature decks and also crews Heart of Kiran. I’m not sure Esper Vehicles can survive with this type of effect.
Eldrazi Skyspawner is terrific with Archangel Avacyn and also crews Heart of Kiran. This is a Modern-playable card that is underplayed in Standard. It’s a 2-power creature that can be rebought by Dusk // Dawn; the synergies are endless! I imagine ramping into Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is a common sideboard strategy against creature decks.
As I mentioned before, this deck was losing to Aetherworks Marvel. I still believe Esper Vehicles has a favorable matchup against Marvel, but not a slam dunk. Watch out for Radiant Flames and Chandra, Flamecaller killing Spell Queller.
That’s all I have for this week. Here’s a TL;DR:
Next time I’m going to talk about Modern because I have some spicy numbers.
Thanks for reading!