Yesterday I laid out the basis (and mana base) of a new Simic Ramp deck based on Hour of Devastation sorcery Hour of Promise. The deck can go super big with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or ape the capabilities of the pre-Kaladesh Crush of Tentacles deck (minus the Den Protectors, obviously).
Here’s the deck:
U/G Ramp ? Hour of Devastation Standard| Mike Flores
- Instants (1)
- 1 Dissenter's Deliverance
- Sorceries (21)
- 1 Beneath the Sands
- 4 Crush of Tentacles
- 4 Hour of Promise
- 4 Part the Waterveil
- 4 Spring // Mind
- 4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
- Enchantments (4)
- 4 Oath of Nissa
- Lands (21)
- 3 Island
- 6 Forest
- 1 Desert of the Indomitable
- 1 Ipnu Rivulet
- 2 Hashep Oasis
- 4 Lumbering Falls
- 4 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
I tested the deck over multiple play-test sessions with Sharpies and the backs of old commons; but now that Hour of Devastation is out on Magic Online, I could do some more tweaking against a more varied set of opponents. This article details the first ten matches I played, with outlooks on what we can learn, and maybe what changes or optimizations make sense moving forward based on what’s happened so far.
1. Grixis Control
I lost Game 1 very narrowly. Part of it was a missed mid-game Oath of Nissa. There are lots of targets in the deck (including the very contextually heartwarming Shefet Monitor) but when you are thinning so many lands out of your deck with Traverse the Ulvenwald, Spring // Mind, or Hour of Promise . . . Sometimes you just don’t turn over any lands in your top three.
Nevertheless, I powered through an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger (it just took one more turn than I would have liked). No problem, right? I’m on ten; his Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh is in the graveyard already . . .
End of turn Nimble Obstructionist. In for three; hard-cast a second Nicol Bolas and that’s game! Seven you.
Control my foot!
Games Two and Three were extremely easy. I sided out Primal Druid and Crush of Tentacles for Oblivion Sower and Jace's Defeat, mostly. Oblivion Sower is one of the best possible cards for Control matchups. They give you something to cast before you are at ten or so, and they are highly resistant to permission. Oblivion Sower is inconsistent (sometimes you are bigger than a Nissa's Renewal, but not usually) but on the other hand you very frequently get some amount of land triggers so it ends up a three-for-one that can hit or block. There are of course some other advantages to its exile trigger . . . I feel this card is very underplayed in Standard.
How would you play this Game 3 hand?
Think a moment . . .
The options are to run Forest into Oath of Nissa on the first turn, or Lumbering Falls on the first turn. I think that Oath of Nissa is the natural “gifted amateur” play. You see a card you can cast and you cast it!
However, in this case you have 4 mana in your first eight cards and should be under little pressure from Grixis Control. Should.
I played Lumbering Falls on the first turn, and passed with open. This allowed me to cast Jace's Defeat on an incoming three Nimble Obstructionist that likely would have just killed me if I had played Oath of Nissa on turn one.
2. Temur Emerge
Game 1 he came out with double Rogue Refiner into double Elder Deep-Fiend . . . But I hit Hour of Promise to stall. Triple Part the Waterveil is much more powerful than double Elder Deep-Fiend, it turns out.
In the second I kept Island with three Green 1-drops. I didn’t develop and died to giant Wurm flashbacks before drawing a single Green source.
In the third we both developed okay, but he never drew a second Blue source. For all I know he had all the Elder Deep-Fiends in his deck jamming up his hand. With no second Blue he was not competitive. Glorybringer and a 6/6 flashback were impressive, but Ulamog manascrewed him and raced.
Highly impressive (if not impressive enough) was Champion of Wits discarding two Wurm machines on turn three.
3. Izzet Control
Learning nothing from my Game 2 loss the previous match, I kept this:
“I hope he’s not Mardu!”
Obviously I ripped a Forest my first turn and absolutely destroyed him.
That was probably a loose keep. I was only 1/4 to hit Green on the first turn, and my hand basically did nothing if I didn’t hit Green sometime in the first three turns. Luck > Good only when it doesn’t make you play worse long term. What a terrible way to win!
Once you have a Forest this hand is worth 5-6 mana, and Control doesn’t put enough pressure on you to keep you from just grinding him out with Ulamog triggers.
4. U/R Prowess
On the subjects of 1) Izzet and 2) actually putting pressure on you comes the Prowess deck. When I played Simic Crush pre-Kaladesh, was one of the matchups I prepared for the most. Jaddi Offshoot and Noose Constrictor were both four-ofs in my sideboard to help blunt direct damage and to keep my hand under Fevered Visions.
I had no such tools in this new deck.
5. Mono-Red Aggro
I worked super hard to stabilize Game 1 with an Ulamog in play and a Part the Waterveil in my hand. I can’t believe I’ve got this, I thought. He had three attackers but I could just block one of those to stay alive. One untap meant two attacks, and I had the Blue Desert on the battlefield. Even if he held back his indestructable God-blocker, I had him.
Oh wait, what’s this?
Cartouche of Zeal? Exactsies?
Game 2 :(
. . . That was the one I just got run over.
6. R/G Ramp
Ramp was kind of a disaster for me. First of all he has a bunch of weird, creature-based accelerators, and my deck doesn’t have cheap removal. Secondly, I don’t know if this was main deck or sideboard, but he played Top Level Podcast’s onetime preview card, Combustible Gearhulk.
I did the math to get my Traverse the Ulvenwald online, but just naturally drew Ulamog. Which was good enough for Game 1.
In the second he hit a quick Wildfire Eternal. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I asked myself, genuinely not knowing the answer. Apparently it was “Nissa's Renewal” which put him 1 mana off of Ulamog (had he drawn him). He didn’t have it.
Three Oblivion Sowers held him off until I could Crush of Tentacles to reset the board. “Reset” being kind of not descriptive enough when all the stuff on your side to pick up is Oblivion Sowers. Basically, his deck was bigger than most decks, but smaller than mine. Crush of Tentacles setting up multiple proactive 187 creatures put him in a situation where he was taking three turns to re-take three turns while I was bashing for eight and taking three turns per turn. Seriously friends: Oblivion Sower and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods are very good buddies. Best buddies, even.
7. Izzet Control (again)
I didn’t know what my opponent’s archetype was when I saw my opener:
What beats this?
Even a super aggro draw can be blunted with that Primal Druid. As it is, this hand can basically make a fast Ulamog.
Over the course of the match he ended up Magma Spraying my Zombie tokens . . . So a moral victory in addition to an actual victory.
8. Izzet Strategic Planning
This deck was unbelievable! Againt me, anyway.
He had Cathartic Reunion, Strategic Planning, and more to dump all the relevant Aftermath stuff into his graveyard for future card advantage. Even Incendiary Flow is awesome against my Primal Druids due to exile overcoming its search trigger. But the real problem was MAIN DECK Refuse // Cooperate. Refuse is the best card a pressure deck can possibly draw against this one. Take 10? What might be worse? Copy my Time Walk from the graveyard?
We got to a very late game situation where I figured I could win, but he had Refuse // Cooperate in his graveyard. If I cast Part the Waterveil he would just Aftermath. So I stockpiled to three Parts and fifteen mana with the theory that I would Part, let him Aftermath, and then Part again; then Part again during my overwriting second Part turn.
In the second game he had Baral, Chief of Compliance; I had little to say about that. Utility creatures = poison? Got there anyway. Ulamog + a Time Walk was more than enough, but I ate the front side of Refuse // Cooperate twice on the way.
9. W/B Zombies
I was really impressed by Mummy Paramount. All the juice in this matchup came from the White. I think if he had been Mono-Black Zombies I would have crushed him. For example, he could (among other things) Cast Out my Ulamog. I lost Game 1.
I got Game 2 via a little trick with his Unraveling Mummy. He sent in some guys, thinking he was ahead. I blocked a 2/1 with my Lumbering Falls, knowing he would activate Deathtouch. But I actually wanted the land in my graveyard. Getting Lumbering Falls killed gave me Delirium, which I used to land a pair of Ishkanah, Grafwidows, buying me time to exploit the full and true power of Traverse the Ulvenwald. Thanks, Unraveling Mummy! I even got to get his guy :)
In the third I thought I had a great opening hand, but . . . Declaration in Stone put the hurt on my Druids. See? White again. The dead rose. Contrary to Overwatch voiceovers, heroes died that match.
10. Mono-Red again
So what, if anything, did we discover over the course of these matches?
First off, beatdown seems to be the most difficult. While I beat some aggressive decks (Izzet Prowess, Temur) all my initial losses were to Zombies and Mono-Red. I think that going second had to do with some, but that’s not in our control.
I was — believe it or not — wholly unprepared for Cartouche of Zeal! When I was testing the most recent Open results hadn’t happened yet. If Mono-Red continues to be the most successful deck maybe we should bark up another Waterveil.
Our lives are a collective embarrassment of riches https://t.co/BqEwHyVxu8— Michael Flores (@fivewithflores) July 23, 2017
While I was smashing a U/R deck Sunday morning, I watched Hall of Famers William “Baby Huey” Jensen and Man/Machine Jon Finkel battle in the Top 8 of the Grand Prix. Jon worked Huey in Game 1 with this little friend:
A ?? Is that awesome? When I won the inaugural Utah RPTQ, part of my strategy was to side in 4 Omenspeaker against aggro decks. Omenspeaker at ? could scare off 2/1 creatures. You didn’t need it to crack the world . . . Just buy time for development.
River Hoopoe is a ? for 2 mana (in our colors) that does so much. It can speed bump beatdown but is also fast and gets under permission against control. If they have Magma Spray . . . It lives through that. It can completely dominate the game on two different dimensions going long.
Short list River Hoopoe.
I do think ? creatures for two mana may be a way to go. I was impressed by my opponent’s Baral; and I am not ironically considering this guy:
Feral Prowler is like a really horrible Primal Druid . . . But it’s a Primal Druid that can actually eat 2/1 attackers while still giving you a bit of the same kind of advantage. Just a thought. I mean, how many ? creatures for two can you possibly sideboard?