Tooth and Claw and Tentacle

Posted in Reconstructed on July 29, 2014

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Pro Tour Magic 2015 is happening this weekend in Portland, Oregon! The long-awaited first Pro Tour ever for a core set is finally here—and it's time to see some of the new cards in action.

This week, it's time to keep the Pro Tour competition in mind while working on our deck. But don't think that means I'm going to be retreading on some known deck you've read about numerous times before! Today's deck is not only new and fun, but also has a ton of competitive potential.

What is it? Well, coming all the way from Japan it's something fresh and exciting—let's take a look!

Hiroaki Fujikake's Counter Simic

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The Battle Plan

This deck is full of card choices you might not expect me to be highlighting for a week where I want to talk about competitive Standard. Cards like Give and Take are not usually seen as the height of Constructed playability.

At its core, this is a green-blue midrange deck that sports a Chord of Calling engine. However, this deck is full of synergies. Many of them take advantage of a particular new Magic 2015 outside-designer card: Chasm Skulker.

Imagine you have a Chasm Skulker with a handful of counters on it already. You can cast Take, draw a ton of cards, and then instantly reload the Skulker with that many counters! If you have two Skulkers on the battlefield, you can even just suddenly add a bunch of extra power to the board.

Chasm Skulker also works awesomely in tandem with Zameck Guildmage. It works out so that, with Skulker, you can pay and draw a card: you remove a counter, draw a card, and then add a counter back on! If you have two Chasm Skulkers, it similarly gets crazy.

The key when looking at this deck is going to be to tighten it up and give it more of a primary game plan. Right now, it has a bunch of disparate parts that sit at various levels of interaction, but I'd say its primary strategy hasn't quite coalesced. Is it more aggressive? Does it want to wait and cast Chord of Calling? I'm pretty sure it wants to be more midrange, which means some of these cards don't fit—and that's something to talk about more as we go through the deck.

And speaking of going through the deck...

Deck Breakdown

It's time to go through this deck card by card and see what's working and what can be evolved out of the deck. Let's take a look!

This ubiquitous one-mana creature is in here—and for good reason. Mystic progresses you to your strongest plays quicker. In any kind of midrange deck, this is a card you should at least consider, and in a mana-hungry one like this it's a great choice.

I'd definitely like more cards of this vein. Sylvan Caryatid is an easy include to help with accelerating, and thanks to this deck's green-blue nature, Kiora's Follower (which can do double duty at untapping powerful lands or creatures, too!) is another card to consider.

And, while not acceleration, I would certainly be remiss if I didn't bring up Courser of Kruphix. Courser and his buddy Sylvan Caryatid play a defining role in the format, and this is definitely a deck where you want to play the Courser. He's going to join the team as well!

Experiment One is an excellent beatdown card for a quicker deck. However, in a deck like this one, which seeks to play a more midrange game, this Experiment isn't quite working as intended. These can go to carve out some space for other cards.

How much is occasional synergy worth? Zameck Guildmage is a particularly interesting card in this deck: there will be times where it isn't doing much of anything, and times when it's a game-winning engine. Late game, it's an excellent draw that lets you pump up your creatures and draw extra cards. On turn two, it can be a Runeclaw Bear for several turns.

Fortunately, this deck has Chord of Calling to help mitigate some of the problems both with having nothing to do with the Guildmage and the problem of finding it when it matters most. The number I'd like to play is two: you're most likely to draw it after a few turns have passed, and that gives you a couple copies to Chord for if you need it.

Chasm Skulker on its own is a pretty reasonable card. While it's not the largest threat right away, it grows fast. If you play a first-turn Elvish Mystic, Skulker makes for an excellent turn-two play. Its resiliency gives you a bit of extra game against the control decks.

What really pushes it ahead for me is the synergy it has with your other cards. I think you could argue for practically any number of Skulkers from zero to four, depending on how you want the deck to play; the question is how much do you want to try and take advantage of synergy, and how much do you want to cast single threats?

In the build of the deck we're working on here, I like all four copies. It's great early, and it can cause big headaches for opponents in conjunction with your other cards.

In any deck with Chord of Calling, Reclamation Sage is going to be a tool you want access to. I don't feel like the deck wants two of them main deck, but one is a pretty easy sell to me.

One common trap to fall into with a toolbox deck like this one that has Chord of Calling access is to start playing a million one-of cards for every situation. In some cases it may be correct, but most of the time you're adding cards that you're almost never going to search up and are going to be less optimal than just being more consistent with powerful cards. Before you know it, you're adding Chromanticores to your two-color deck—and you really don't want to go there.

Revoker falls into this camp for me. There are certainly some cards I might name, but how often are they going to have an awesome activated ability and I'm going to have a Chord (keeping in mind this is probably later in the game when I have ton of mana) and Revoker is going to be what I'm on the hunt for? I'd be fine sideboarding it, but I don't feel like it warrants a main-deck spot.

Now Ætherling definitely is a card I'll specifically Chord for. Most control decks have no real good way to fight an Ætherling, and against those decks it's a game-ending threat. Even against some more midrange decks, a midgame Ætherling can finish off your opponent. While getting to nine mana/creatures combined isn't easy against decks that are spouting off Supreme Verdicts, the games will go long enough that it's not unlikely and it's definitely a tool I'd want to have in my toolbox. In a nonblue deck I'd look at Scuttling Doom Engine, but here I'd rather have Ætherling.

While certainly a good card, this doesn't pass the Chord test to me. I'd actually be more likely to include a singleton Nylea, since she's more likely to turn on and I'd rather draw her on her own. But neither are quite good enough to make the main-deck cut for me.

While it's always a little problematic when your opening hand has three Chords, it's a card I'm usually happy to see. This deck has a lot of cool things to do with it and enough mana acceleration to turbo into a large one. I'm happy keeping all four.

When it works, this card is excellent. It conjunction with Chasm Skulker or a couple other cards (we'll get to those later) it can be devastating. On the flip side, on its own it's very underwhelming.

I want to keep some of these, but definitely not all. I don't want too many noncreature cards in this deck, but this is one I'm willing to make an exception for. I'd like to move down to two copies. That way, you'll almost never be clogged with two of them, but if you draw one you can factor it into your plans.

I love having access to tricks like this, especially in a removal-heavy format. However, I only want so many noncreature cards and I also don't want to be leaving mana open all the time to represent this. While an interesting option, it can go.

A neat card, full of interesting potential—I'll be curious to see if this pops up in any decks at the Pro Tour. However, once again, I'm trying to keep the noncreature cards in my hand stranded to maximize Chord; Chord is already another card that wants you to have creatures on the battlefield. This is a cut to me.

Giving your opponent a 3/3 is certainly drawback, albeit one this deck can accommodate for. The problem is that this deck is already well positioned against other creature decks, and I don't want to add in cards that aren't good against control decks. This is a solid sideboard card, but not something I feel I need main deck.

If I'm going to play a one-of, it's going to be creature. The Bow doesn't really do enough to catch my interest in this deck: it's fine, but not it's something worth playing over other options.

With all of that analysis done, there are a few other cards I'd like to add.

The first is Prime Speaker Zegana.

In addition to being a fine Chord of Calling target, Zegana is also just a really strong card in this deck. She can present a large body plus give you plenty of cards to let you fight through practically any midgame. With Chasm Skulker, she's an especially incredible threat: she grows to the size of your largest creature (perhaps a Skulker!) and then draws you a bunch of cards and grows your Skulker in the process! I'd actually like to play three. It's a lot, and I don't want more six-drops after this and Ætherling, but this card is phenomenal here.

Next, I'd like to add Nissa, Worldwaker.

I'm all about playing powerful cards, and Nissa is one of the most powerful cards to come out of Magic 2015. Nissa gives control decks headaches and can both accelerate you and produce threats. It becomes a lot easier to power out a Chord of Calling on the back of some extra Nissa mana! She's not a creature, but she's so strong I'm happy to play the full four copies. If you have extras in your hand, it's probably okay, because that means you have an active Nissa!

Next, I'd like to add a specific Chord of Calling target: Prophet of Kruphix.

Prophet of Kruphix is the kind of card that makes for a great Chord of Calling choice. You don't want to draw two, and you don't want it against every deck. But it's a perfectly reasonable card to Chord for, especially since—if you do it on your turn—it means that everything untaps on your opponent's turn! It ensures that you can flood the board and have as much mana as possible to do things like Zameck Guildmage plus Chasm Skulker.

Finally, I'd like to add in a single Polukranos, World Eater.

I'll admit: I'm not a huge fan of just one Polukranos. All other things being equal, I would have probably opted for Kalonian Hydra, which is a huge threat out of nowhere and doubles your Zegana/Skulker counters. But it's important to be able to Chord of Calling at every spot on your curve, and I wanted a powerful four-drop you could go get. Polukranos is one of the best four-drops you can get, and you're also totally fine drawing him on his own.

With all of those changes in mind, that brings the deck to:

Gavin Verhey's Tooth and Claw and Tentacle

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There's a lot you could do with this main deck. It might just be right to lose some of the theme and push in on cards like Polukranos, World Eater and just play a bunch of huge green creatures with card drawing and a Chord of Calling engine to back it up. On the other side of the spectrum, Master Biomancer could be pretty excellent in a deck like this—there's definitely a version with Kalonian Hydra and Biomancer working together in tandem. Genesis Hydra could also be a great choice for this deck: while it's a poor Chord target, this deck makes so much mana it has a lot of strong assets.

No matter how you take it, the deck is both competitive and fun to play. It uses old cards and new together in a new, innovative manner.

I also want to take a moment to talk about sideboarding. I dropped hints throughout the article, but I'd look at a sideboard like this:

4 Nylea's Disciple
3 Negate
3 Rapid Hybridization
2 Reclamation Sage
2 Scavenging Ooze
1 Hornet Nest

The Nylea's Disciples are key against red decks and burn, and in conjunction with Chord of Calling you can gain more than enough life to stay out of range.

Rapid Hybridization is against other midrange decks.

Scavenging Ooze is also good against midrange and any graveyard decks people are running around with.

Hornet Nest is completely brutal against fast or midrange decks: you can Chord for it mid-combat and ruin a midrange deck's next several turns.

Reclamation Sage is for any artifact- or enchantment-based decks that might show up—and also keep it mind it blows up Detention Sphere and Underworld Connections!

Finally, Negate is an add against control. You really just want to get to stick your Ætherling, so maneuver until that's possible and use Negate as backup. Watch out for Supreme Verdict!

Honorable Mentions

What are some of the other great competitive decks sent in this week? Let's take a look!

Charles Jang's Grixis Reanimator

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Paul Wilhelm's Jund Not

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Qoarl's Dual Masters

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Alessandro Pogorzhelsky's Naya Monsters

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Nicho's Charlotte Hornets

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elmhurst's Naya Superfriends

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Mark Ian Alloso's Barely Izzet Devotion

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Austin's Eureka!

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Ben Hollendonner's Blue Angels

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Magic 2015 Budget Building

I hope you enjoyed this take on Standard! Give the deck a try.

In two weeks, let's look at something a little different: budget Standard! Here are the guidelines:

Format: Standard
Restrictions: Your deck is on a budget. For a loose definition, consider budget to contain few rares and very few, if any, mythic rares.
Deadline: Tuesday, August 5, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

Submit all decklists by emailing me at reconstructeddecks@gmail.com.

Decklists should be submitted with YOURNAME's DECKNAME at the top. Underneath should be one card per line, with just a leading number. For example:

12 Mountain
4 Satyr Firedrinker
3 Ash Zealot
4 Lighting Bolt

…and so on. Please don't use anything but a space to separate the card numbers and names—don't write "4x Lightning Bolt," for example. Well-formatted decklists have a much better chance of being read and making it into the column. Poorly formatted decklists are more likely to be ignored. (If I can't read your decklist, I certainly can't talk about it!)

Also, take note that, for this week, please send your decks to reconstructeddecks@gmail.com. There is currently a bug that is causing difficulty with me seeing your decklists sent to my Wizards address.

In the meantime, if you have any feedback to send my way, I'd love to see it! You can send me a tweet or ask a question on my Tumblr and I'll be sure to take a look.

I'll be back next week with something a little different. Until then, have fun playing Standard—and be sure to tune into Pro Tour Magic 2015 this weekend to see what the new set adds into the format!

Talk with you again soon,

Gavin
@GavinVerhey
GavInsight

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