Sadly, I did not get a chance to play any Magic this past weekend. It was rather brutal as I knew there was a PTQ going on, but the tournament had been rescheduled and I already had plans.
I did get to watch a bunch of Magic, though, and I saw one thing over and over. Aetherling dominated games every time it hit the table. The only time I saw it hit the table and its controller not win was when said player was already way behind and could not race successfully. Sometimes the Aetherling player would even still pull it out. This got me thinking.
Why not just jam Aetherling as fast as possible? If it takes over games, then dropping it several turns earlier than other decks is a good thing… right?
This led me to build this.
Turboland circa 2013
After I started building it I realized how much it started to resemble the Zendikar iteration of Turboland with Avenger of Zendikar. Upon seeing this I started to model it even more after the deck.
From my testing so far it does better than I expected. I thought the Naya Aggro matchup would be dismal, but Turboland has held its own reasonably well. Control can be a bit of a headache once they figure out that the only truly important card is the Aetherling. It is obvious, but baiting them to counter other things is easy for the first few games at least.
The one thing that I feel is missing is some life-gain element. I am leaning towards finding room for some Azorius Charm, as it does several things that the deck wants: it acts as life gain for once we hit our Aetherling, it digs us to an Aetherling, and it can play defense while we are ramping.
I really want another non-creature ramp in the place of Arbor Elf, as ramping with him is volatile when I will be playing Verdict early to survive. There is only Jace at the four slot (besides Verdict) to really benefit from him early. The only other options I can think would be Verdant Haven, Dawntreader Elk (I don’t count it as creature ramp, since it fetches a land), Mana Bloom, or more artifacts in the form of Keyrunes or Cluestones. They each have their own problems, but it boils down to them being sub-par for one reason or another.
Keyrunes or Cluestones are probably the best bet. My first instinct is to go for the Cluestones first for the card draw, but more play may make me value a creature more (the sideboard starts to factor in as well). I don’t particularly like most of the ramp being at the three slot, but it seems less fragile than the Elf. I’m not sure if it is worth it. More testing will hopefully provide the answer.
There is something to be said about switching some things around some more too. The previous incarnation of Turboland wanted lands for the Avenger and then to grow its tokens. This deck has no such interaction and could very easily go down another two to four lands without having many problems. This opens up space for more interaction. Perhaps that is the slot for the Charms. I could also see this going towards some counterspells.
Plasm Capture catches my eye since it helps ramp as well. This would make me lean more towards the Elf again though, as I would want to have the Capture open on turn three. There is pressure in many different directions.
My other concern is that I don’t have a way to win beyond the Aetherling. In today’s world, I don’t think this will cut it. I’m not sure what else to put in, unless I just jam some Thragtusk in. I think it is too easy of a solution.
This does bring up another thought I had shortly after jotting this list down. Is Bant the way to go? What if I went RUG?
This build struggles a little more against the faster decks. Losing both Revelation and Verdict means the precarious life totals that I sometimes reach are more dangerous. In the other build it was easy to stabilize and quickly get out burn range. This build lacks that ability, but I tried to make up for it by being able to close the game out faster.
I like Ral here as I get use out of every ability. He helps ramp, can act as spot removal, can deal damage, and can give extra turns to really overpower an opponent with Aetherling. He also gives the deck something else to power out on turn three, which I feel is a large pull towards Arbor Elf.
The Blast of Genius might be a bit too ambitious. It acts as spot removal and digs me deeper into the deck. I fell into the cute interaction of this with Blasphemous Act. I wanted a sweeper, and the bonus of being able to pitch it to deal nine damage just seemed too good.
It would be possible to combine the two decks and go four colors. Both versions already run Lanterns and Farseeks to fix the mana…
Oh boy. I think I’ve gone a bit too far. This has everything that the other two versions have, but I think I lost direction. I haven’t tested this last one at all. It is purely a thought baby.
It does look like tons of fun though.
Some thoughts to leave you with and for you to tell me I’m crazy or not in the comments:
In all of these decks I have had four Aetherling. I may be reaching too far, but I wanted to make sure that I hit them and that I hit them often. In some games they are going to get countered, and if I run one out early or misplay horribly (it happens to me more than I would like to admit) then I can lose one and still have another available in a hurry.
Temporal Mastery is the other card that seems a bit odd. It has not seen play in lists for quite some time. I had it in the back of my mind as something that could push Aetherling advantage and end games out from under the opponent, and when I made the leap to comparing to Turboland it made things rather obvious. It has been doing good work in testing so far, but I also haven’t swapped it out for anything else yet. It could very well be replaced by something else and is a likely target for the first thing to come out when going to the sideboard.
Urban Evolution has been in all the decks as well. This card is there because it fits the two biggest principles of these decks: velocity and ramp. In combining both of these into one card, I feel that it helps it never be dead. This could possibly change to dedicated card draw to bring the curve down. I’m not sure how I feel about this change though. I think the decks really want to keep ramping at nearly every stage of the game.
Artifact ramp ‒ I’ve touched on the type of ramp briefly earlier in the article, but it still sticks in my craw. The Lantern may not even be necessary in some the builds as the mana is stable without it. If this is the case, then on-color Cluestones or Keyrunes could be the right call depending on needs. Some of the builds could really use the extra body that Keyrunes would provide, while others would benefit from the extra velocity from Cluestones.
What do you think?