Earlier this week I received a phone call from my friend, Tank.
Let me preface this conversation with a little information about Tank. Tank and I have been playing Magic together since Mercadian Masques. I used to take the bus to the local shop and Tank drove there with his older brother. We became close friends during Invasion block and have remained so ever since. Tank got out of Magic when he went to college to study film. This conversation is the first time I had heard him talking about the game in a number of years.
"Jake, have you seen this card?"
"Worldheart Phoenix! I just read the Conflux spoiler and immediately went out and bought a playset of these things in foil. It's so ridiculous."
"Think about it."
"Tank, I am thinking about it."
"Well, Jake, it's the new Nether Spirit. I'm coming over tonight and we are building a deck around this card."
"Awesome. See you then, buddy."
Tank and I always loved Nether Go. If you're not familiar with the archetype, here's the Nether Go list that I've kept together since way back when:
It's important to remember powerful decks from the past. Magic can be pretty cyclical, and some of the most powerful archetypes in history are just waiting to be re-tuned and played in a current metagame.
Tank went two ways when it came to Magic back then. If he wasn't playing Fires (based around Fires of Yavimaya), he played some variant of draw-go. (A term used to describe decks that essentially draw their card, play their land, and say go. Usually countering a spell or drawing cards on their opponent's end step.)
So Tank came over and we got to work. We started digging through my collection and putting together a deck that looked pretty serious. It was clear to both of us that this deck needed to be a dedicated control deck. The final list looked like it could be a serious contender in a competitive environment.
The deck plays very well and has pretty decent matchups against most of the field. I'm going to describe the deck, card by card and explain the purpose of each.
Worldheart Phoenix: The reason we put together this monstrosity. The Phoenix proved to be worth its salt during testing. The first time around it's a reasonable 2/2 blocking body. Every time after that your opponent has to deal with a 4/4 flyer. Four toughness is a lot in this day and age. The Phoenix at the very least trades with something every time you bring it back. Over the course of the game this creates a type of card advantage that's very difficult to overcome. I'd recommend trying this gem in your Five-Color Control deck.
Courier's Capsule: We're playing a lot of lands that come into play tapped. I wanted a form of card drawing that I could play on my second turn. It's fine as a two-drop in this deck because you're usually playing a "comes into play tapped" land again on turn three, so you can pop it without hiccupping on your resources. It's also nice to have the Capsule in draws that are especially heavy with comes into play tapped lands. You can play the capsule on turn three and pop it and play a Condemn on turn four. Don't be afraid to let your capsule sit around for awhile if you have better things you could be doing with your mana.
Mulldrifter: Big Daddy Drifts is still a force to be reckoned with. Any type of strategy that intends on grinding out card advantage will likely have a playset of these, and this list is no exception.
Plumeveil: A lot of people like playing Kitchen Finks or Rhox War Monk in this slot. I love me a War Monk, but I think Plumeveil is very well placed in the current Standard metagame. There are a lot of decks that need to two-for-one themselves to stop it. It usually serves as a removal spell in your opponent's combat step that leaves a 4/4 body to tell the tale.
Broken Ambitions: I like Broken Ambitions better than Negate or Remove Soul because it always has value, regardless of the matchup. It's important to be able to counter things like Spectral Procession when you don't have a Volcanic Fallout in hand, but it's also pretty important to counter key creatures like Doran when you don't have a Condemn at the ready.
Esper Charm: Tank was a little flustered with the lack of instant-speed card draw in today's Standard.
"Is there anything like Fact or Fiction?"
"No, Tank, there's nothing like Fact or Fiction."
Austere Command: This may look like a budget Wrath of God, but Austere Command has a lot of applications in today's standard environment. The most common application for Austere Command is Black- White Tokens. A single Austere Command is usually enough to outright win you the game at any moment. It destroys virtually every threat their deck plays (with the exception of Cloudgoat Ranger) and gets rid of their Glorious Anthems and Bitterblossoms. If you're going to build this deck without a budget I'd suggest playing some Wrath of God, but I wouldn't recommend leaving Austere Command out of your final seventy-five.
Terror: A classic. It's one of the best spot removal spells available to our deck. I'm usually happy with Terror when I draw it and I've never really thought these type of decks needed more than six spot removal spells if they're playing Plumeveil. Two seems perfect.
Condemn: There aren't many things I love as much as a well-timed Condemn. I'm not a big fan of Path to Exile here because we needed a removal spell for the early stages of the game. I think Path to Exile is a very strong card, but I think it needs to be played in a deck that has cards like Sower of Temptation. If you Sower a Reveillark and always leave one white open, it usually spells disaster for your opponent.
Martial Coup: Tank and I decided we wanted another win condition, but we didn't want to devote any slots to it. Martial Coup has been pretty overlooked as a card. A lot of people have sent me email about this one and I'm happy I had the chance to play some games with it. The effect is very powerful and the card is certainly a Constructed-worthy rare.
We threw together a quick sideboard.
Tank and I decided to play some games with the deck after we made the list. Tank wasn't fully sold on the Austere Command, so I decided to play my (non-budget) Black-White Tokens deck against him.
We put A Night at the Opera by Queen on the record player and started gaming.
I let Tank play the Worldheart Phoenix deck to try it out. I also thought it would be interesting for readers to see what it's like playing against the deck instead of playing with it. One of the most valuable lessons to be learned if you're trying to get better at Magic is to know what it's like to be on the other side of the table. If you're having trouble with your Faerie matchup, you should play Faeries against one of your friends playing your deck. I promise you that you can learn a lot about beating a deck if you're the one behind the wheel for a while.
Black-White Tokens vs. Worldheart Go
I kept Windbrisk Heights, Fetid Heath, Reflecting Pool, Knight of Meadowgrain, Spectral Procession, Cloudgoat Ranger, and Cloudgoat Ranger on the play. I played my Heights and hid a Glorious Anthem. Tank played a Vivid Creek and passed. I drew another Spectral Procession, played my Knight of Meadowgrain, and passed. Tank played a Vivid Marsh and passed. I drew a land, played my Spectral Procession and attacked for 2. Tank played a Terramorphic Expanse and then played his Courier's Capsule. I attacked with my team and flipped the Windbrisk Heights, hitting Tank for 9 damage and leaving him at 9. Tank got a Mountain with his Expanse on my end step, played a Vivid Meadow, and passed. On my turn I drew another Glorious Anthem. I attempted to play it, effectively winning the game if Tank didn't have a Volcanic Fallout in hand. Unfortunately for me, Tank had the Fallout and played it in response to my Glorious Anthem. On Tank's turn he popped his capsule and played an Island. On my turn I drew a third Cloudgoat Ranger and played my Spectral Procession. Tank made me discard two cards on my end step with an Esper Charm. He untapped and played a Plains and Austere Command, killing all creatures with converted mana cost three or less and all enchantments.
With no remaining board, I drew my card. Knight of Meadowgrain came into play and I passed. On Tank's turn he played a Swamp and Worldheart Phoenix. During my draw step Tank made me discard my Reflecting Pool and Cloudgoat Ranger. I attacked with the Knight, and Tank happily chump-blocked with his Worldheart Phoenix. On Tank's turn he brought the Phoenix back and passed. I drew Terror, played it on his Phoenix, and attacked, but Tank had his own Terror for my Knight of Meadowgrain. Tank untapped and played the Phoenix from his Graveyard again. On my turn I ripped a third Spectral Procession, played it, and passed. Tank untapped and attacked for 4, sending me to 21. He then tapped out and played Martial Coup for six. I binned my flyers and Tank now had six creatures in play. I drew a Thoughtseize and played it. I took a second Martial Coup out of Tank's hand and passed. Tank attacked for 6, putting me at 13 and brought back his Phoenix. I drew a land and passed. Tank attacked me for 10 and passed. I knew he had a Broken Ambition in hand and plenty of mana to counter whatever was on the top of my deck, so I conceded.
Black-White Tokens – 0
Wordheart Go – 1
I mulliganed on the play and kept Thoughtseize, Tidehollow Sculler, Spectral Procession, Plains, Swamp, and Mutavault. A turn-one Thoughtseize revealed Volcanic Fallout, Courier's Capsule, Condemn, Vivid Marsh, Vivid Creek, Vivid Crag, and Plains. I took the Fallout. Tank played a Vivid Creek and passed. I drew a Fetid Heath, played my Tidehollow Sculler, and saw the same hand + Worldheart Phoenix. I took the Condemn. Tank drew and played a Plains and his Courier's Capsule. I played my Spectral Procession and attacked for 2. Tank untapped and played his Vivid Crag before passing. I drew a Knight of Meadowgrain, attacked for 5 and played my Mutavault, I decided not to play the Knight because it didn't affect my clock and I didn't want to get blown out by a Volcanic Fallout off the top. Tank popped his Capsule at the end of my turn. On his turn he played his Vivid Marsh and passed. I drew another land, activated my Mutavault, and attacked with the team. Tank played Plumeveil and blocked my Tidehollow Sculler. He took back his Condemn from under the Sculler and went to 8.
I decided to play my Knight now because if I drew into a Glorious Anthem I might be able to steal the game the next turn. Tank drew and played a Terramorphic Expanse. On my turn I lived the dream and drew Glorious Anthem! I played it, activated my Mutavault, and sent the team in. Tank had yet another Plumeveil, though, and used it and his Condemn to make my attack only do 4 damage. Tank was safely stabilized at six life. He untapped and played Worldheart Phoenix and another Courier's Capsule. On my turn I drew a land and passed. Tank attacked with his Phoenix, popped his Capsule, and passed. I drew a Cloudgoat Ranger, but Tank had the Broken Ambitions. He attacked for another 2.
I drew another Cloudgoat Ranger off the top, but Tank untapped and played Martial Coup for five. I drew my one-of Loxodon Warhammer, played it, and passed. Tank attacked with his team and brought back Worldheart Phoenix. I drew a Knight of Meadowgrain, played it, and passed. Tank attacked with his Phoenix. On my turn I drew another land, then equipped my Knight of Meadowgrain and attacked. Tank had another Condemn waiting. On his turn he untapped and attacked with his team. During my draw step he made me discard my card with Esper Charm, and I was dead to the swing back.
Black-White Tokens – 0
Worldheart Go – 2
If you have the domain itch, feel free to scratch it—this deck does a very good job of dominating games. The Worldheart Phoenix is a surprisingly strong addition to the deck. I hope everyone has the opportunity to try this new and powerful deck.
Until next week, happy brewing!