Updating UG Wave

Whenever a new set comes out I look at it several ways.  First, I try to look for any cards that I think will allow entirely new archetypes to spring forth, such as [card]Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas[/card].  Then I search for any cards that can push existing archetypes from lower tiers to the realm of the tournament-worthy, and lastly I look for cards that seem ready-made for existing, tier one decks.

It seem a safe bet that [card Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas]Tezzeret[/card] will find a home, after [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card] rotates out if not before.  Poison got better, but all of the infect creatures still measure up fairly poorly against a [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card] and nothing in Besieged changes that, so I doubt it will become a major player in the standard environment.

I haven’t done enough testing yet to feel good about sharing any of my [card Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas]Tezz[/card]-centered brews, so instead I thought I would walk through updating UG Wave with Besieged.

UG Wave was my deck of choice in pre-Besieged standard, and I hope it can survive the influx of new cards unscathed.  Here is my current list, before Besieged:

[deck title=Brook GardnerDurbin – UG Wave]
[lands]
3 Khalni Garden
6 Forest
2 Verdant Catacombs
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Halimar Depths
3 Tectonic Edge
1 Dread Statuary
4 Island
[/lands]
[Ramp]
4 Joraga Treespeaker
4 Overgrown Battlement
4 Lotus Cobra
1 Palladium Myr
2 Garruk Wildspeaker
[/ramp]
[Finishers]
3 Primeval Titan
3 Wurmcoil Engine
3 Genesis Wave
[/finishers]
[Good Stuff]
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Acidic Slime
2 Mimic Vat
[/good stuff]
[Sideboard]
4 Obstinate Baloth
4 Negate
4 Nest Invader
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

*There are 3 open slots in the sideboard.

I am genuinely puzzled the way the Magical community at large has been completely ignoring this deck.  A couple of players played it at Worlds this year, but it never really picked up.  David Williams finished 4-2 at Worlds and Conley Woods took second place at SCG Kansas City, but it has seemingly vanished off the radar since then.  This seems like a mistake, as this is the best and most powerful deck in standard from my experience.

If you are unfamiliar with UG Wave, this deck is built to punish UW and UB control decks, while (hopefully) not conceding to other strategies.  Every card in your deck either ends the game in a hurry if it resolves or produces mana, allowing you to accelerate out your threats.

Your general game plan, against anyone, is to make ridiculous amounts of mana and then play something gamebreaking.  Between your [card Wurmcoil Engine]six[/card] [card Primeval Titan]Titans[/card] and three [card Genesis Wave]Genesis Waves[/card], it’s not hard to find something to sink your mana into once you have it.  Any unanswered Titan/Wurmcoil is enough to walk away with the game, and you have to get exceedingly unlucky for a resolved [card]Genesis Wave[/card] for six to not end the game on the spot.

The main changes I have made to my build are the addition of one [card]Palladium Myr[/card], two [card Garruk Wildspeaker]Garruks[/card], and the two [card Mimic Vat]Mimic Vats[/card].  I am playing the Myr because it is one more way to have a turn four Titan, thus increasing the consistency of the deck.  You lose far more games because all your mana producers are killed off and you can’t cast your spells than because you have enough mana and nothing to do with it, so it makes sense to cut one of Conley’s seven Titans for the Myr.  The other big change I made is cutting the [card]Spreading Seas[/card].  All of the best players in my area are playing UW Control, and very few players are playing Ramp decks or Vampires, so the Seas were underperforming.  I cut them for the two [card Garruk Wildspeaker]Garruks[/card] and [card Mimic Vat]Mimic Vats[/card], as those are far better against control.  The Garruk can help accelerate your mana if your producers are being killed off, make an army of 3/3s to attack with even if you have no other pressure, or can allow you to threaten a one-hit K.O. even if you have no 6/6s in play.  The [card Mimic Vat]Vats[/card] can put the opponent in a no-win situation, as they are going to lose if you put a Titan or a Slime under the Vat, but they are of course going to lose if either threat is not answered.  Another, smaller, change that I have made to my build is the move from [card Frost Titan]Frost Titans[/card] to [card Wurmcoil Engine]Engines[/card].  The reason here is that the [card Frost Titan]Frosts[/card] combo better with the [card]Spreading Seas[/card] and [card Acidic Slime]Slimes[/card] to make mana denial a more viable plan, but once you cut the Seas, as I did, that becomes much less realistic a game plan.  If mana denial is not an option, I would prefer the [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] to the blue Titan because it has better protection against [card]Day of Judgment[/card], and the fact it has lifelink as well is just icing on the cake.

Looking at the Mirrodin Besieged card list, the following cards are worth considering:

[card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card]

[card]Cryptoplasm[/card]

[card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card]

[card]Praetor’s Counsel[/card]

[card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card]

[card]Viridian Corrupter[/card]

[card]Sphere of the Suns[/card]

[card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card]

In order to maximize the value of the central card, [card]Genesis Wave[/card], this deck want to play as few non-permanent cards as possible.  This means that if the game goes long and it has stalled out, it has no way to besides a [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card] to pull ahead on cards.  The [card Consecrated Sphinx]Sphinx[/card] is a perfect solution to that problem, as it is a permanent that can draw a significant number of cards.  It can also beat for a significant percentage of the opponent’s life total, which makes it even more of a must answer threat against control decks.

The problem is that is has no protection.  At six toughness the [card Consecrated Sphinx]Sphinx[/card] takes a decent amount of damage to kill, but it has no protection from [card]Doom Blade[/card] or [card]Go for the Throat[/card]-like effects.  It also has no Enters The Battlefield clause, which makes it a risky proposition in a removal-heavy metagame.  If you stick a Sphinx and the opponent immediately casts [card]Day of Judgment[/card] you will be ahead two cards for two mana, and they will be at least partially tapped out on their turn which will give you free reign on your turn.  That exchange is quite good, but if they destroy it at the end of turn before untapping you are going to be left wishing you had a ETB phrase on your dead six-mana, or a [card Wurmcoil Engine]Wurm’s[/card] tokens.

Besides having no protection for itself, the [card Consecrated Sphinx]Sphinx[/card] also does a rather poor job of protecting you.  A [card Primeval Titan]Primeval[/card] can search up a [card]Khalni Garden[/card] or two when it comes into play, creating a significant army of blockers.  A Wurmcoil has lifelink, which means it can basically block at least three creatures the turn after you play it.  The Sphinx can do neither.  It has significant stats and can fly which counts for something, but there is no doubt that if you are on the defensive you would rather rip a Titan or a Wurmcoil off the top than the Sphinx.

I could see the [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card] seeing play if you were expecting to play against a significant amount of control, and even then only if you expected more UW Control than UB due to UB’s  higher numbers of  instant-speed removal.  Even if you were expecting nothing but round after round of UW Control, however, the question of what to cut remains.  The [card Primeval Titan]Primevals[/card] are sacred cows, as they levitate your [card Genesis Wave]Waves[/card] from jokes to game-enders.  The deck can’t support infinite fatties, so the only other option to cut to make room for a [card Consecrated Sphinx]Sphinx[/card] or two are the [card Wurmcoil Engine]Engines[/card].  Even if we are pretending we live in Magical Christmas Land and are going to play nothing but UW Control, where the Sphinx will be best, I’m not sure we want to cut the Wurmcoils for the Sphinx.  Against a control deck the [card Wurmcoil Engine]Wurm[/card]’s lifelink and deathtouch are frequently irrelevant, but the fact it respawns is incredibly relevant.  Putting two 3/3s into play upon death can frequently put the opposing player into an impossible situation where they are dead if they [card Day of Judgment]DOJ[/card] and dead if they don’t, so I am not sure drawing two cards would be worth the trade off.  Even if you hit two business spells off the top, the fact that the opponent got an additional untap step and wasn’t just dead on board after their board-sweeper could be game ending, and you are by no means assured to hit business.

The last strike against the [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card] in my eyes is the mana.  The manabase in this deck is significantly worse than you would expect for a two color deck, and it is not uncommon to be stuck with one blue source and a [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card] in hand.  Adding additional double-blue casting costs to the deck does not seem worth the trouble.

While I look forward to playing a Sphinx in my Highlander deck, it has no home in UG Wave.

[card]Cryptoplasm[/card]

The [card]Cryptoplasm[/card] seems like it could be right at home in this list.  Magical Christmas Land with [card]Cryptoplasm[/card] looks like this:

Turn one: [card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card]

Turn two: Level the [card Joraga Treespeaker]Treespeaker[/card], [card]Lotus Cobra[/card]

Turn three: [card]Cryptoplasm[/card], [card]Lotus Cobra[/card]

Turn four: [card]Cryptoplasm[/card] copies a [card Lotus Cobra]Cobra[/card], fetchland, [card]Genesis Wave[/card] for nine.  GG.

Or, alternatively:

Turn one: [card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card] (all of your Magical Christmas Lands start with turn one Treespeaker.  He’s BONKERS.)

Turn two: Level the [card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card], [card]Overgrown Battlement[/card]

Turn three: [card]Cryptoplasm[/card]

Turn four: [card]Cryptoplasm[/card] copies the [card Overgrown Battlement]Wall[/card], [card]Primeval Titan[/card], [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card].

Turn five: [card]Cryptoplasm[/card] copies [card]Primeval Titan[/card], attack for twelve, search for four lands.  Thanks for showing up today.

The [card]Cryptoplasm[/card] can also copy a [card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card] and level up, which also just seems nutty.  Copying any of your producers in the early game could lead you to more ridiculous draws, while the ability to become a larger threat later in the game seems invaluable.  The greatest weakness of this deck is without a doubt its consistency so a card that could be an early producer OR a late game bomb seems like just what the doctor ordered.

The problem, however, is what to cut (this is going to come up again).  You have to have enough early producers to consistently have one for the [card]Cryptoplasm[/card] to copy, while also having enough late game threats that it can transform itself later on.  If you cut too many of the mana dorks for [card Cryptoplasm]Cryptos[/card] you’re going to start getting hands with lands, Cryptos, and Titans, but if you cut the threats you’re going to get fast mana early and then have nothing to do with it.

At the moment, I could see playing with [card Cryptoplasm]Cryptoplasms[/card] in place of the [card]Palladium Myr[/card], or perhaps the [card Garruk Wildspeaker]Garruks[/card].  The Myr is there to be the thirteenth mana producer, and replacing it with a [card Cryptoplasm]Crypto[/card] that could serve that role and more seems perfectly reasonable.  I could see the [card]Cryptoplasm[/card]s replacing the Garruks as well, as they are able to help with the mana or act as a threat, the same dual roles that Garruk serves.  The Cryptoplasm is more vulnerable to removal than Garruk, but less vulnerable to [card Squadron Hawk]flyers[/card] or other attackers, so that difference would depend on your expected metagame.

Again, the double blue casting cost of the [card]Cryptoplasm[/card] could be a problem but it seems nuts enough it could be worth it, as long as you don’t play too many.  Three seems like the absolute maximum you could get away with.

[card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card]

The Zenith would allow you to play with an additional four copies of [card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card] or [card]Overgrown Battlement[/card] in the early game, or additional [card Primeval Titan]threats[/card] in the late game, which doesn’t seem very fair.  I love being unfair.  The only reason I am hesitant to cut any four cards at random and jam in a playset of [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] then call it a night is because of the deck’s namesake and engine, [card]Genesis Wave[/card].  This deck is making a great number of sacrifices at the altar of the Wave, and Green Sun’s may be another one.  While clearly powerful, the [card Green Sun’s Zenith]Zenith[/card] has to prove itself worth the decreased power of [card]Genesis Wave[/card] to warrant inclusion.  When the deck is already skipping on [card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card] in the main and [card]Gaea’s Revenge[/card]* in the board to increase the power of the Waves, the bar is set quite high for the Zenith.  While I’m sure the Zenith will find a home, it will not be in my [card]Genesis Wave[/card] deck.

*The deck can frequently see nine mana on turn four, which means that if [card]Gaea’s Revenge[/card] or [card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card] is in the deck you have to either risk whiffing on a [card]Genesis Wave[/card] cast that turn or wait a turn for ten mana.  Neither of those are very appealing, so no seven-drops are permitted.

[card]Praetor’s Counsel[/card]

Just kidding.

[card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card]

Thrun is clearly quite well suited for fighting against any control deck, provided he is not your only offense.  He doesn’t fight against either [card]Squadron Hawk[/card] or [card]Grave Titan[/card] particularly well, which many people seem to be forgetting.  You can’t just jam him in your deck and expect to suddenly beat any control deck you were having trouble with before.  That said, this build preys on control decks so adding [card Thrun, the Last Troll]Thrun[/card] to this list would not be an unfocused, desperate attempt to save a bad matchup.  I would add Thrun to gain points against other matchups, and the fact he is good against control could be an added benefit.  I wouldn’t want to maindeck Thrun, but I could see him earning space in the sideboard.  At the moment, I plan on bringing in the [card Nest Invader]Nest Invaders[/card] and the [card Obstinate Baloth]Baloths[/card] against any aggressive strategy, bringing out the [card Mimic Vat]Mimic Vats[/card], and [card Genesis Wave]Waves[/card], and a few others depending on their exact flavor.  The [card Nest Invader]Nest Invaders[/card] block and trade, while their spawn helps replace some of the mana dorks that get cut down.  The plan is to try to bring the curve down and survive long enough to get to six mana, then cast [card Primeval Titan]something[/card] [card Wurmcoil Engine]big[/card].  Against something like Boros you don’t need [card]Genesis Wave[/card] to win and it clogs up your hand in the early game.

The question is would [card Thrun, the Last Troll]Thrun[/card] fit well in this plan?  Could we cut a couple of [card Nest Invader]Invaders[/card] or [card Obstinate Baloth]Baloths[/card] for a few Thruns without sacrificing much of our game against aggro, while also picking up a few more points against control?  The [card Negate]Negates[/card] are fine, but I’ve never been terribly impressed with them and would prefer a permanent.

If we made a straight swap of the [card Negate]counters[/card] for [card Thrun, the Last Troll]Thruns[/card], that would give us an impressive twelve card package against aggressive strategies.  With that many cards, we would take out the [card Genesis Wave]Waves[/card] and other high casting cost mana sinks, transforming into much more of a midrange deck.  If we curved a [card]Nest Invader[/card] into [card Obstinate Baloth]Baloth[/card] into [card Thrun, the Last Troll]Thrun[/card] with mana up to regenerate, Vampires and Boros are going to be in trouble.  As the quick aggressive decks are this decks worst matchups and we are basically preboarded against control, having a twelve card transformational sideboard doesn’t seem out of line.

[card]Viridian Corrupter[/card]

The [card]Viridian Shaman[/card] update provides an excellent way for Wave to destroy troublesome artifacts, without needing a non-permanent card in the deck just waiting to ruin out [card Genesis Wave]Waves[/card].  An opposing [card]Sword of Body and Mind[/card] is embarrassingly good against this deck.  The [card Viridian Corrupter]Corrupter[/card] can destroy an opposing Sword of any variety, an [card] Everflowing Chalice[/card] to slow down mana production, a blocker animated by [card] Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas[/card], or even a [card]Signal Pest[/card] and stick around to trade with a [card]Goblin Guide[/card].  Given the lack of widespread enchantments in current standard and the fact that it is a permanent, the [card Viridian Corrupter]Corrupter[/card] will certainly be replacing [card]Nature’s Claim[/card] in my sideboard for the foreseeable future.

[card]Sphere of the Suns[/card]

The [card Sphere of the Suns]Sphere[/card] isn’t a terribly exciting addition, but it may be necessary.  It enables a turn three [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card] that can’t be slowed by a [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], as well as fixing the mana.  Having a card that can produce both colors of mana would go a long way towards solving the mana hiccups that occasionally rear their ugly heads.  Given the many mana producers, it should be possible to play around the three-uses restriction fairly easily, saving at least one counter for mana fixing when necessary.

The UG Wave deck may not be the most played deck, but it remains a top contender in my eyes.  It is capable of explosive draws that can beat anything without a thought, rewards knowledge of the format and play skill at least as much as any control deck, and can play a wide variety of cards to solve any problem.  What more could a mage ask for?

Thanks for reading!

Brook Gardner-Durbin

@BGardnerDurbin on twitter

PS Don’t forget to mulligan aggressively, you can win from four cards better than most.