I have been playing competitive Standard constantly since Mirrodin, so just over eleven years. I have played through two major bannings, and all the big decks like Affinity, Faries, Jund, Cawblade, and Delver. Through all those years I felt I still had options to play cards that I liked that could still hang with the top decks of the format, the card pools were deep and diverse and fringe cards where not being oppressed by anything. Then we come to RTR/Theros Standard, which I consider to be the worst Standard format of the modern Magic era. As hard as I tried to be creative or innovative, I felt like no matter what I tried I was kept down by three cards:
We all know the history of these cards, so I won’t get into that. What we will get into is how excited I was to see RTR block go and Khans come. At the Khans Pro Tour it looked like we might have a boring format dominated by Abzan for three months, but as the weeks went on new decks kept popping up to diversify the format. I truly feel like we have a more diverse Standard format now than we did five months ago. Think about that for a moment, a format with five sets is more diverse then a format with eight sets. If you were skeptical about my statement of the three cards above being oppressive, then maybe that bit of information will persuade you. Like everyone I was excited to see if Fate Reforged would create any new decks right away, so I watched the SCG event on release weekend. Sure enough we were not disappointed, towards the end of day one, this little masterpiece showed up on coverage:
Temur Ascendancy by Joey Page
Nothing like a new creature combo deck to grab my attention! For those of you who don’t know the combo, it’s the following:
You tap Nythos for 7 mana, use your Voyaging Saytr on Nythos then use 2 mana to activate Temur Sabertooth and return Voyaging Satyr to your hand. Then use 2 mana to cast Voyaging Saytr and 2 more mana to activate Nykthos. Leaving you with 1 mana floating plus the 7 mana you will get from the Nykthos again. Because Temur Ascendacy gives the Voyaging Saytr haste we can do this as an infinite loop generating 1 extra mana each time. With that mana we cast an infinite sized Genesis Hydra which finds the 1 Nylea, God of the Hunt and we win with a hasty trampling fatty. If you prefer to play around a removal spell then you can also pump all your other creatures infinitely with Nylea and swing with the team. The other infinite mana combo with this list is:
In Joey Page’s deck tech he said he kept the combo in even after board, focusing on stalling his opponents and eventually comboing off. This is defiantly as combo oriented you can get with the deck, and the only version that most people know about. If you took the time to look at the top 64 decks from the event you would have seen this list sitting at 11th just outside of the top 8:
Temur Ascendancy by Matt Toepfner
Mark decided to take a more classic devotion approach and played the minimum combo pieces necessary. I prefer this build as you get to pressure your opponent while constantly building up a board that can attack his life total, but at the same time they have to respect that you can combo win at any time. Using Mark’s deck as a baseline I decided to build up a Temur combo deck on Friday to try it out and possibly play it at the last Toronto PTQ the next day, this is what I played:
Temur Ascendancy v1 by Matt Mealing
I decided to take out some of the higher end to play 4 Boon Saytr in order to make the deck a bit more aggressive. This made the fourth Temur Ascendacy better so I added that, and since we generate a lot of mana I added Crater’s Claws for an alternate win condition. The deck felt very powerful and resilient, the mana being the only issue as we play 23 land with 4 of those being Nykthos. I felt like the land in the board to bring in versus heavy removal decks would be good enough to fix that issue, so I went ahead and played this 75 in the PTQ the next day.
I took the deck to a 5-3 record, but I don’t think it’s an accurate reflection of how good the deck is. I feel like all my losses were from two things: mana issues and misplays. Two of the losses came from being stuck on two land, one being a Nykthos and the only other lands drawn those games were other Nykthos. The misplays were largely from not recognizing my role in the match up. Just because we look like an all creature deck that can only interact with our opponents’s creatures by blocking is not the case. If we are not the beatdown in the match up then we cannot afford to lose any of our creatures to combat tricks due to our devotion count being so important. We have to go full combo and try and go over the top turn four or five. This becomes a lot easier post board with four Nylea’s Disciple.
In the midrange match up I was over boarding by about four cards. We only need to board out three mana guys for the Temple of Epiphany and two Nissa or Disdainful Strokes. Our midrange match up is the reason to play the deck, and you only need to board a couple cards to be more resilient to sweepers.
The control matchup is the only one I felt like I played properly all day, although we are an underdog game one I feel like this deck should win the match. You should be taking the aggro/control route by landing a couple threats and holding off their big spells with counters.
Two days later I played what I thought was an improved list in two Daily events.
Temur Ascendancy v2 by Matt Mealing
The premise of the changes, were to be able to make big mana when we don’t have a Nykthos, and the extra land for stability. I went 3-1 in the first Daily losing to a play I knew I shouldn’t make by blocking with my Courser and it dying to burn. In the second Daily I went 0-2 and the losses really highlighted the mistakes I made when updating the deck.
1. I cut too much of the card advantage engine
2. Crater’s Claws does not win all the games that Nylea, God of the Hunt would
3. We need 4 Boon Saytr for our control match ups
4. Overall we diluted our main deck too much
At this point most people would give up and say the deck is no longer good. But in reality I over-tuned the deck to make it bad. So what I need to do is find a middle ground from the first build that was just a few cards off, and the build that we changed too much.
Temur Ascendancy v3 by Matt Mealing
With this main deck I recognized one of the problems from the start, the deck needs 24 land if it has 4 Nykthos. I also realized the importance of having a two mana symbol three drop to enable a powerful turn four or five Nykthos. The draw engine is pretty much the same as my first list, only replacing one four power guy with an enchantment. Going over the games I played in the first Daily and the PTQ it was very clear that I won games from the card advantage alone, so I wanted to make sure to keep that element in the main deck. Lastly in the main deck we give a nod to the importance of playing 1 Nylea, God of the Hunt. There are games where it matters having an indestructible creature, I think I under estimated how important it was to the deck.
By now you all know how the infinite draw and mana combo works, so here are some other synergies and combos with the deck:
Infinite life: Some post board games you may find yourself with the infinite mana combo on the table, but no four power guy or Eidolon of Blossoms to have a draw engine. If you have a Nylea’s Disciple then that’s no problem! Use your infinate mana loop then use the Temur Sabertooth to repeatedly return the Nylea’s Disciple to hand to gain infinite life.
The X factor: Again you may be working towards a board state where you will have infinite mana but no card drawing engine. Don’t forget that you can sink that infinite mana into Crater’s Claws. I know it sounds basic but you can easily get too focused on the drawing the whole combo and forget about it.
Plague wind: The last of the mana sinks for infinite mana is Polukranos, World Eater. Just be careful not to play this into a removal spell.
The other draw engine: Sometimes you get draws of just small guys and Temur Ascendancy. If you have an Eidolon of Blossoms it’s important to play it before your Ascendancy so you can get the constellation trigger from the Eidolon when you play the Ascendancy to help dig to the combo. A pretty sweet play is when you play a Boon Satyr with an Ascendancy and Eidolon on the table and draw two cards.
The bouncing hydra: A line I like to take in midrange match ups is if I have eight mana and a Temur Saberbooth on the table, is to play a Genesis Hydra where X is 4 leaving two mana open. It can get you any card that it flips over as the main deck is all four casting cost or less, and we have two mana left to return it to our hand with the Sabertooth so we can cast it again each turn until we get too far ahead for them to catch up. This same trick works with Eidolon of Blossoms to draw an extra card a turn for two mana less.
I personally feel like this is a tier one deck in Standard right now, and it’s not even close to being fully explored. This will be my deck for the next three months, I will be writing about it and streaming the evolution of it for that whole time. All feedback and comments are appreciated, so feel free to leave them along. Now I am off to dance with the savages!
Until next time,