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The Rise of Sai


During my testing with Grixis, there was only one deck I struggled with. One deck that I had so much trouble beating I eventually wrote it off as impossible. Since I had to move off Standard for the last SCG Open, I didn't get to put much effort into it but I always kept that deck in the back of my mind. Fast forward to SCG Philadelphia and I watched as some players in the Standard Classic powered through opponents with this Mono-Blue Storm deck. Although there was a bit of variation from what I was used to, overall I, was extremely impressed with the range of hands that could be kept, how great the deck was at coming back from behind, and especially impressed at how quickly the deck could take over from looking like nothing.

Previously in Leagues, the deck was intensely focused on finding Aetherflux Reservoir and comboing out. Post board the plan was to use Sai as a way to not only go wide but as an alternate win condition. This was a great card against both Red decks and Grixis decks alike. Between the counterspells, Sai, and a combo kill, Blue Storm gave fits to any Grixis player. As such, eventually I had to succumb and try it out.

Here's where I'm at:

Glint-Nest Crane
Clearly this is still a work in progress but there's a lot of things I'm really enjoying about this. Of course there are plenty of ways to build it and I'm still testing things out. Baral's Expertise and Metallic Rebuke are both wonderful additions and likely deserve to be in the main deck. Since room is tight, I'm unsure without a lot of testing where I'll end up. Right now the easiest card to chop is Glint-Nest Crane. While being able to draw a card is awesome, it's a tiny bit worse when you're filling your deck with Sai and Karn. So, if I had to find room for some other cards I'd likely start there.

Now, you have several win conditions that all play reasonably well with each other. For a short period of time everyone was trying to figure out the best Karn deck. We even saw a ug variant pop up briefly at the Pro Tour as a way to make use of Karn's construct making ability. In this deck, Karn's minus makes a massive token that's hard to deal with. Mostly I wanted to make the best use out of Sai, and while Reservoir is great at winning the game, I wanted it to be a backup plan as opposed to the main focal point. Against Control and Grixis it helps provide a way to force action on their side to be able to beat what you are doing.

Having Karn and Sai as the main win conditions has some other benefits as it increases the amount of ways to win without sacrificing anything. The previous reliance on Reservoir led to awkward games where it was difficult to protect yourself and left you sometimes playing the digging game. In a format with Hazoret, you don't always have that kind of time. On the flip side, this deck does line up very well in all forms against Grixis. The Scarab God is mostly a five mana 5/5 and doesn't really impact the board. The incidental life gain gives a ton of time against slow decks that try to win through attacking and since every Grixis deck has moved to Abrades and no Harnessed Lightning it is even easier to keep Sai alive.

Paradoxical Outcome
The deck has been amazing at rebuilding as you can expend resources and then catch up easily with Paradoxical Outcome. Sai can help turn spare artifacts into cards and Karn is another way to draw as well. With all the card advantage built into win conditions, this deck has a lot of staying power. I've also been quite impressed with how easy it is to flood the board with Sai. Holding cheap artifacts is a must to make full use out the Thopter maker. Oftentimes, putting a few thopters into play on turn four can put a game heavily in your favor.

Fountain of Renewal may seem like an odd card, but it fills a lot of roles. It's a cheap artifact, so it pairs well with our win conditions. Additionally, the life gain plays well against aggressive decks which allows us potentially another vital turn and also builds us toward the goal of 50 life to be able to activate Reservoir. Against decks where this is unlikely to matter it can at least draw a card later in the game.

You may have noticed Nexus of Fate snuck into the main deck and I think this may be one of the best places for it. Being able to power it out with Inspiring Statuary can turn into some fast wins out of nowhere. Without Statuary, the card is a little clunky, so I'm not thrilled with including a lot of copies although I can certainly see it overperforming against slower decks.

Post board, besides the obvious inclusions of Negate, I've included a card I've been trying to find a home for since it got spoiled: Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp. While removal is all right against the deck, most of it doesn't line up well against a massive ?. Zahid passes almost every test and the only two removal spells it doesn't dodge are Vraska's Contempt and Unlicensed Disintegration. Seeing this, and especially playing against control decks and Nicol Bolas, the Ravager decks, I want an extremely heavy hitter that is easy to play early and often (if need be. Yes I know it's legendary).

If you're looking to beat this deck on occasion it does get super clunky but the specific cards that are good against the deck include Abrade and Manglehorn. Manglehorn is a massive beating for Storm and can turn what is a theoretical good matchup into one of regret. Targeting Statuary will also make the insane turns the deck has into tame ones. This will give you more breathing room so you don't get run over. If you're playing control, I like playing a couple Approach of the Second Sun right now as that card lines up well against most of the format but is also pretty solid against Storm since it can be hard to race.

Standard has been awesome to see develop so far and I can't wait to see how this deck starts shaking out.

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