A small team of two German players braced a field of many Eldrazi this weekend, running what they themselves described as a "competitive fun deck." Their 6-1 records at the time of writing spoke for its competitive nature and as for the fun aspect, well, read on.
"A while back, my friend Jonny, who is a true Johnny, Combo Player, showed me this list of a mono-blue Time Warp deck that did well at some tournament, I think it was in Canada," said Thoralf Severin of the origins of the idea. "The list wasn't tuned, but it obviously had potential. It was also extremely easy to get the cards, so I build it on Magic Online and have been playing it ever since."
The deck never quite lived up to its potential, but things changed with the advent of Eldrazi. Severin, a frequent interview partner for the European coverage team and one-time commentator, explained, "For Eldrazi decks to win, they need combat damage and, well, turns. That's their mistake!"
Severin and teammate Johannes Löchert could boast a total of six wins and no losses against Eldrazi over the weekend so far, more if one were to count Löchert's Trial win on Friday.
Thoralf Severin & Johannes Löchert
"In reality, the matchup isn't quite as good" Severin admitted, "though still favorable. The deck actually has some matchups which are insanely positive, but Eldrazi isn't one of them. For example, it's easy to beat almost all control decks thanks to Gigadrowse. And I've never once lost to Affinity. The Chord of Calling decks are mostly too slow, and we really don't care whether the opponent has infinite life or infinitely large creatures. Living End used to be better when the deck was mono-blue because then Fulminator Mage didn't do anything, though it's still about 90%."
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. This is how the deck works: You stick a Dictate of Kruphix or Jace Beleren to draw cards, then chain a bunch of Time Walks like Time Warp, Temporal Mastery, and Walk the Aeons, sometimes with buyback. If needs be, Cryptic Command or Gigadrowse can act as a stand-in by tapping all of the opponent's creatures. Dictates accumulate and eventually you draw the whole deck, which is then recycled by a singleton Elixir of Immortality. Finally, Jace Beleren's first and third ability run the opponent out of cards.
At any rate, this is what the mono-blue original did. At this event, Löchert and Severin were piloting an updated version with a small splash of green for a couple cheap spells which also mimic a Time Walk effect: Explore and Fog.
"It's not trivial to incorporate a second color into this deck, mostly because of Gigadrowse," said Severin. "And it isn't even clear whether green and Fog is the correct choice here. Could be white and Holy Day, or black and Darkness."
The deck may look simple on paper, but it's by no means easy to play. I had seen Severin narrowly win a match against Affinity earlier, which involved the careful timing of several Hurkyl's Recalls and Time Warps. Playing at breakneck speed is a requisite, and the deck doesn't allow any slip-ups while doing so. With often multiple copies of Dictate of Kruphix on the battlefield, keeping track of triggered abilities is a must, all while remaining vigilant about a Temporal Mastery miracle.
"Stacking copies of Gigadrowse in the correct order can be relevant, as is rebuying it with Remand," Severin gave as another example. "The timing of Dictate of Kruphix also is interesting. Usually cast at the end of the opponent's turn, you sometimes need to play it during your own upkeep."
Severin said that sideboarding with the deck was tricky as well. "But it appears to be harder for the opponents. People have brought in all kinds of cards just to deal with Elixir of Immortality, from Relic of Progenitus to Stony Silence. Even Leyline of Sanctity against Jace. So I guess it's good that we sideboard this Laboratory Maniac," said Severin.
"The deck probably isn't as good when people know about it," Severin added, "but in a large field like this it's a good choice. And so much fun."