Card Spotlight: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Posted in Event Coverage on June 2, 2018

By Tobi Henke

"It's the best deck in Standard, and I'm 6-0 in matches, 12-0 in games to prove it!" Brad Nelson replied when I asked him to tell me about the power of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

Regarding the control-friendly planeswalker, he added, "For the last four years, I've been advocating against playing control in Standard. Now Teferi has turned me into a full-on control player, both in Standard and Modern. It only took this one card to convert me. Not Approach of the Second Sun, not Settle the Wreckage, just Teferi."

A veteran of eighteen Top 8s at the Grand Prix level and three at the Pro Tour level so far, Nelson has long been considered one of the preeminent experts on Standard. When Nelson spoke, people listened.

"Teferi's power level isn't close to anything else in the format. It's the best card you have," he said. Yet, Nelson had changed his white-blue control deck for this event in one important way. Two weeks earlier, at Grand Prix Toronto, he had reached the finals playing a version which relied solely on Teferi to win games. Now he added a new way: Approach of the Second Sun.

"Approach was bad before because all the midrange decks had access to Negate. Now they have Duress instead," he explained. "Also, more decks try to win based on card advantage and slowly developing a board presence. If a black-green deck attempts to grind you out with its big threats and puts you under Duress, they've got everything covered. Except for Approach. Then they play right into your game plan."

Pro player Brad Nelson is suddenly serious about control decks.

Of course, those same points applied to the ubiquitous red-black decks as well. Curiously, Nelson approached the white-blue mirror with Approach of the Second Sun too.

"A lot of first games are decided on whether someone draws more cheap blue spells early. If one player draws too many white cards, Search for Azcanta and Teferi can definitely run away with a game. But if that doesn't happen, then Approach of the Second Sun becomes important," he said. "It adds another card that must be countered, and that's big. Especially since counters are so finite in this matchup."

He concluded his discourse on the merits of Approach of the Second Sun by saying the card was specifically for these two matchups. In truth though, this covered more like several classes of matchups and a wide swath of the current Standard landscape. "Going forward, I expect Lost Legacy will make this obsolete, but it was a good choice for this event."

Brad Nelson's White-Blue Teferi

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Brad Nelson made a compelling case for Teferi decks running Approach, but that didn't mean white-blue decks relying on Teferi alone were no longer doing well. 2014 World Magic Cup champion Thomas Enevoldsen, for example, went 5-0 through Friday's Standard rounds with such a build.

"The fact that it [effectively] costs only three mana and that it goes straight to 6 loyalty is crazy to me. I don't know how this even saw print," said Enevoldsen. "Most of the time, when we get a planeswalker that generates card advantage and protects itself, either the protection or the ultimate will be lacking. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria does everything though, and that includes winning games on its own."

Enevoldsen especially liked Teferi in the wider context of the format and the specific context of the white-blue control shell. "You have so much interaction before turn five, like Seal Away, Settle the Wreckage, and Disallow, that Teferi will often enter an empty or barely populated battlefield. At the same time, opponents are forced to be aggressive, or they'll lose to Pull from Tomorrow. Because of this, you can get them with Settle, and then Teferi is at its best."

Untapping lands enables Essence Scatter, Negate, Blink of an Eye, or Seal Away in the same turn cycle that the planeswalker hits the battlefield, Enevoldsen pointed out, so even the first ability was protecting its loyalty in a way. "This untapping also takes you straight from five to something like eight mana."

Thomas Enevoldsen exerts control using a White-Blue Teferi build.

Enevoldsen was worried a bit about losing game one, since the Teferi-only version wasn't able to finish games quickly. "Then again, White-Blue is so great in game one against so many decks," he mused. "What I'm less worried about is not finishing the first game at all. 50 minutes is plenty for Teferi to take full control and then put itself into the library repeatedly, to deck the opponent. People usually concede long before that becomes relevant."

Enevoldsen talked about the opponent's ability to wait until only they could finish further games, but that hadn't been an issue so far. Like Nelson, Enevoldsen had had no problem winning two games each match. Unlike Nelson, he even won a number of them 2-1, proving himself—just like Teferi—a true time mage.

Thomas Enevoldsen's White-Blue Teferi

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