I started streaming Magic Online about a month ago, I was worried that my constant brewing would scare away viewers so I decided to stay on one deck for a while. Well that only lasted for a week! As I started saying “This deck idea would be cool” the viewers wanted to see it built, so my stream became a brewery. Most of my ideas build from each other. I would build a deck and notice stand out cards in them for the format and would try and find the best shell for them.
I have been playing Gruul aggro for a long time in Standard, the biggest draw to the deck has to be the red flyers. With Fate Reforged adding Flamewake Phoenix to Ashcloud Phoenix and Stormbreath Dragon red has far and beyond the best flying army in Standard. Gruul aggro started out doing really well with the twelve flyer army, but as of last week it was getting hit with splash damage from green Devotion hate. I was frustrated, I knew the flyers were one of the best things you could do in the format but the ramp from green wasn’t surviving all the boarded removal. I decided to move away from the Gruul build to try and find a shell that didn’t get run over by all the sweepers in the format. I had the idea of playing Satyr Wayfinder in Gruul aggro when Flamewake first came out, it milled the Flamewake for value and gave you fuel for Murderous Cut on the splash as the deck wanted hard removal sometimes. So I decided to go down the self-mill/delve road, the question was how far?
So when you think of self-mill/delve in Standard the ceiling is Soulflayer removing a Chromanticore, the question was did I want to go the full monty? I felt like although this was a great place to go with the deck, it was getting away what I was intending to do. Remember we wanted to find a more resilient shell for our flying army, and I’m pretty sure going fives colors is not what we are looking for. So after fighting off the urge to go full monty and a few days of testing I feel like I found a new contender for the standard format. I fought off the brewing urge to take an idea as far as we it can go, and looked at making it more constant and have the ability to fight the current meta game. So with no further ado, here it is:
I’m sure at first glance you may have noticed that Ashcloud Phoenix did not make the cut. That’s due to it not having one of two keywords, delve or haste. Soulflayer has flying 90% of the time so it acts as flyer nine to twelve, and due to our weakness to Planeswalkers Shaman of the Great Hunt took the open slots because of haste. One thing that playing a delve strategy can lead to is spending too many early turns setting up, so I wanted to avoid that with the addition of Bloodsoaked Champion which adds pressure in the early game. The mana base is a work in progress, I don’t think I’ve played enough games to get it perfect yet. So if you have any suggestions please let me know, the mana requirements are very heavy in this deck. I know the deck looks a little strange, so let me go over the cards to paint a clearer picture for you.
Commune with the Gods/Satyr Wayfinder/Sylvan Caryatid
These three cards may look strange as the only green cards in the deck, but these cards give the fuel to our explosive starts. If you have choices on turn two, 90% of the time Sylvan Caryatid is right as it lets you have an explosive turn three most of the times by playing two spells. 10% of the time it’s right to play Satyr Wayfinder if you have more than one green spell to play as it can find you a turn three land drop. Commune with the Gods is best to play when you have four or more mana available. You can cast it getting a Soulflayer and get the demon in play on the same turn, or if you overturn Flamewake Phoenix or Bloodsoaked Champion you want to get them in play the same turn.
Hero’s Downfall/Murderous Cut
Bloodsoaked Champion/Flamewake Phoenix/Stormbreath Dragon/Shaman of the Great Hunt
Let’s start off with Bloodsoaked Champion and Flamewake Phoenix, these two are the work horses of the deck. The deck closes out the game with 4/4 flyers, but the reason it gets to that position is the constant damage that these little guys do. They put on so much pressure that slower decks use removal on them early, which makes our bigger guys safe. Stormbreath Dragon and Shaman of the Great Hunt not only close out the game quickly and pressure Planeswalkers, but also add keywords to the graveyard for Soulflayer.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang/Soulflayer
Don’t let the six mana casting costs fool you, these are turn three or four cards. One of the reasons we can get the tempo advantage on our opponent are these two cards. The earliest we can start casting two cards a turn is turn three with a self-mill card and a Tasigur the Golden Fang. Turn four you are usually casting a Soulflayer giving it at least haste and bringing back a Flamewake Phoenix or Bloodsoaked Champion.
The sideboard reflects the main thing I feel we need to be doing in Standard at the moment, be proactive. I went with Doomwake Giant and Whip of Erebos over sweeper effects for we are able to contain or race our opponent and still keep a board presence. The Magma Sprays are for faster aggro, where doomwake and Whip are too slow. Lastly we have Thoughtseize and Hero’s Downfall for the control, Thoughtseize is the best way to break up their defense and Hero’s Downfall is for those pesky Planswalkers that give up a lot of trouble.
Even though this isn’t the final draft of the deck as I feel it will take another week to feel solid about a 75, it’s a contender. We can race the aggro decks, grind out control decks, and go over top midrange decks with our flyers. I don’t think any of that would have been viable if we went the full monty! Sometimes it’s best to pull a crazy idea back a bit to make you not give up after a few games. Start with a simple framework of a deck, and add on to what works. If your results start going downhill, then go back to you previous build as you may have gone a bit too far with the idea. I plan on streaming with this deck the next couple weeks, so I hope to comeback and deliver a well-oiled machine to help you take down a PPTQ or even FNM.