Tender Tender Format Bender

Posted in Building on a Budget on March 26, 2009

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Hello and welcome to another fun-filled edition of Building on a Budget. This week's deck is an adaption of a deck played by Ken Yukuhiro at Pro Tour–Kyoto. The deck is more expensive than usual and will probably cost between 60 and 70 tickets to put together on Magic Online. I understand that this is a lot more than we are used to spending on a deck. The deck is still a lot less expensive than most competitive Standard decks, and its fun factor is far beyond any deck I've ever played with.

I've been playing this deck exclusively in Standard since I was introduced to it and I believe it to be the "best" deck in the current Standard format. I've wanted to write about it for the past few weeks and repeatedly convinced myself that Building on a Budget wasn't the right place for this deck because of its more expensive contents. I have come to believe that this deck has staying power and will be worth its investment over time. The deck is extremely competitive and, most importantly, it is the most fun deck I've ever played with in any Constructed format.

The Back Story

After Nationals had ended this year I was in my hotel room when I heard a phone ringing. I was not sure who the phone belonged to. As I was packing up my things the phone rang over and over again. Eventually, I decided it was probably an emergency, so I answered the mystery phone.

"Who is this?!" demanded the man on the other end of the line.

"This is Jake. This phone was in my hotel room and it was ringing a lot. I figured it was probably an emergency and I decided to answer it."

The story unfolded. One of the local kids who had been in our room borrowing cards earlier in the weekend had left his phone in our room. What my friends and I never realized was that this kid was not of legal driving age and had "borrowed" his father's car to take the trip from New Jersey to Chicago. His parents were on vacation and had decided to come home early. After a long conversation with this kid's father, I agreed to drive his car back to New Jersey.

I found the misbehaving lad and informed him of the situation. He was a bit angry with me for telling his father what was going on. I tried to give him an "older and wiser" talk, but I don't think he retained a single word I said. He, his friends, and I packed our things into his father's station wagon and began our twelve-hour journey back to Jersey.

I don't think I remembered what it was like to be fifteen or sixteen years old. All three of these kids were very defensive in reference to their place on the social totem pole. They talked about girls they had crushes on but had never talked to. They talked about teachers who gave football players leniency. I tried to give them the best advice I could, but usually they dismissed whatever I had to say. I wasn't upset by the dismissal of my advice, though. I remember how important it was to be right when I was that age.

Happily, the conversation shifted somewhere in Ohio. Eventide was the newest expansion and the three youngsters and I started talking about exciting new cards. I explained how good Glen Elendra Archmage was, and the three kids refuted everything I said.

"Listen, I have a very difficult time imagining that I could win a game where my opponent resolves an Archmage and always leaves one blue open. It just seems so unbelievably difficult."

"That card is terrible, Jake!"

Fair enough. Then the conversation shifted to a card that we could all agree had a lot of potential.

Bloom Tender

Bloom Tender

We all loved Bloom Tender. We talked about Umbral Mantle, and its ability to make the tender infinitely large and the possibility of using it to create infinite mana. We talked about including it in a Block Constructed Elemental deck with Horde of Notions. I thought it had a different application though.

Mistmeadow Witch

Mistmeadow Witch

Everyone in the car loved the idea of using Bloom Tender with Mistmeadow Witch. It did everything we could ever imagine. I suggested playing these cards in a deck with Reveillark, Sower of Temptation, Mulldrifter, and Glen Elendra Archmage. We talked about this deck for the better part of six hours and were all really excited to see if it would pan out.

We unanimously made the decision to trade for full playsets of Bloom Tender and to start brewing up lists for the archetype. Late that night, we were back in New Jersey and everyone had been safely dropped off at their homes. I crawled into bed and couldn't help but think about the new deck idea.

Could this actually be good?

How does this beat X? How does this beat Y?

Eventually, I was able to find a void of thought and I fell asleep for the night.

To be perfectly honest. I never thought about the deck again. Two months later a few people did well at States with Bloom Tender decks that planned on ramping into Realm Razer and beating down with Wooly Thoctar and Figure of Destiny. I explored the deck a bit during Worlds testing, but I eventually decided it wasn't very good against a very diverse field.

I went another few months never thinking about Bloom Tender. I never once thought to myself, "Maybe it's time to break out the Bloom Tenders."

After a poor showing on Day Two at Pro Tour–Kyoto I was wandering aimlessly around the convention center as I usually do after I drop from an event I was hoping to do well in. I hung around the top tables and watched Luis Scott-Vargas beat everyone. Then I heard a raven out of the corner of my ear.

"I'll use Mistmeadow Witch targeting Reveillark."

Where did that come from? I started pacing around looking for this Mistmeadow Witch that was actually removing a Reveillark, in a hurried frenzy to find the table. I couldn't imagine a game would last much longer after a Reveillark had been blinked.

I ran from table to table and studied the board for a moment before bolting off to the next table.

Then I found it! Not only was Ken Yukuhiro blinking his Reveillark to bring back a Sower of Temptation, but the other creature coming back from the grave was a Seedborn Muse. Ken tapped his Bloom Tender and a land and played a Glen Elendra Archmage. Then he said go. All his permanents untapped. His opponent tried for a Murderous Redcap, but that met a Cryptic Command. He then tried for Spectral Procession, but the Archmage said, "No thanks," and it was back to Ken's turn. Ken attacked with his team of flyers, and after combat he evoked a Mulldrifter and blinked it out. He drew four new cards and passed the turn back to his opponent. All his permanents untapped and he was at the ready with a new Cryptic Command and Archmage backup. His opponent didn't stand a chance.

Card Choices

I'll do what I normally do and explain each card choice so you understand what the deck is trying to do.

Bloom Tender: The Elf in question has exceptional synergies with this deck. Once you have a Mistmeadow Witch in play along with an active Bloom Tender, the game becomes very difficult to lose. You can find Bloom Tenders for less than two tickets.

Mistmeadow Witch: Mistmeadow Witch is the crux of this deck. The card has absurd synergy with every other card in the deck. It's very important to play a full four Mistmeadow Witch in this deck, untapping with Mistmeadow Witch and at least one "comes into play" creature is usually enough to make games very difficult for your opponent. You can pick these up as bulk uncommons from a lot of trading bots.

Glen Elendra Archmage: This card has risen in value a lot since I first wrote about it. Back then you could acquire a playset of Archmages for less than ten tickets; now you're lucky if you can find them at less than ten tickets per single. The card is extremely important if you're trying to beat decks like Five-Color Control and it is very important that you play with at least a few of them.

Seedborn Muse: Untapping all your permanents every turn is exceptionally powerful in today's Standard environment. Most of the time you're using your extra mana to blink 187 creatures with your Mistmeadow Witch, but a lot of the time you can use your extra mana to counter your opponent's key spells. You can find Seedborn Muse for less than a ticket.

Sower of Temptation: This card is key if you're trying to beat decks like Red-White 'Lark. With the high density of Five-Color Control in today's Standard Sower of Temptation has dropped in value on Magic Online. You can pick up a playset of Sowers for less than 12 tickets.

Mulldrifter: I've written about more decks that include this card than any other. This is not a freak coincidence. Mulldrifter is an extremely powerful spell. This deck also has a lot of synergy with our favorite Elemental—Reveillark and Mistmeadow Witch both play nice with Mully D. Mulldrifter is a common, and most people have a lot of extras they'll be willing to lend or give to you.

Reveillark: It's no secret how powerful Reveillark is. The card provides you with one of the best card advantage machines in Standard's recent history. Using Reveillark with your Mistmeadow Witch is exceptionally unfair. You can find Reveillarks for about five tickets a piece these days.

Negate: Probably the best budget counterspell available these days. Remove Soul was better when Faeries was the metagame-defining deck, but these days Negate seems to take the cake. These commons should be easy to find.

Remove Soul: The new second best budget counterspell. This card might still be a necessary evil with Faeries looming behind the Five-Color Control decks.

Mind Stone: Acceleration is important and no one is playing any artifact removal, so this tends to stick around better than the Tender.

Condemn or Path to Exile: Ken used Condemn as his removal spell of choice. I think Path to Exile is probably a better bet. Against Red-White 'Lark decks its very easy to win games by using Sower of Temptation to take their Reveillark and then always leaving a single white mana open. When they try to kill your Sower, you use Path to Exile on their Reveillark. You get to return two things from your graveyard and find an extra land, and their Reveillark is gone forever. From that point it becomes pretty hard to lose the game.

Once we mash all of these awesome cards together we arrive at a list that looks like this:


This version of the deck is a lot less expensive than the list I've been using that includes Cryptic Commands and extra Archmages. This list is still absurdly powerful, and if you play with it I'm sure you'll discover that it is not a pet deck and it has a lot of game against the field.

I'd like to share Ken Yukuhiro's decklist from Kyoto so you have an idea of what the deck looks like when you take away budget restrictions:

Ken Yukuhiro's MeadowLark

Download Arena Decklist

This list is still a little rough around the edges. If I were to play the deck today I would cut one Reveillark for a third Seedborn Muse and I'd probably cut the Condemns for Path to Exiles.

All the triggers and activations that this deck goes through would make for some of the most confusing game reports ever. I strongly suggest you put this deck together and try playing it against your friends. To me, this is one of the best things to happen to Magic in a long time. I believe this is the best deck in the current Standard metagame, and I hope all of you can find the time and budget to put it together and bring it to war.

As always, happy brewing.

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