Sphinx, Cats and Planeswalkers - Three New Standard Brews

Feature Article from Craig Wescoe
Craig Wescoe
7/14/2017 11:02:00 AM
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Today I'm going to share with you three unique homebrews for Standard that span all five colors of the color pie. I have a Mono-Blue Tribal Sphinx deck, a Green-White Tribal Cat deck, and a Black-Red Planeswalker Control deck. Whether your thing is drawing cards and casting big blue fliers, getting into Cat fights, or killing all the things and winning with planeswalkers, I have just the deck for you to play this weekend!

This deck is built around Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign. The idea is to accelerate into Unesh while staying alive through the early turns. Then once Unesh resolves, the game plan is to chain Sphinx cards, triggering the Fact or Fiction ability each time.

Every land in the deck enters the battlefield untapped, which means unlike most other decks in Standard, we have full access to all our mana every turn of the game. We also expect to use all our mana every turn of the game, starting with the first turn where we have four Unsummon and eight one-mana cyclers (four Censor, four Curator of Mysteries). We have 4 Aether Hub mostly just to draw cards off the Shielded Aether Thief and because we can afford to run a colorless land in our mono-color deck.

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On the second and third turns of the game, we're generally looking to accelerate our mana by playing either Corrupted Grafstone or Kefnet's Monument. Given our 12 ways to get a blue card into the graveyard on the first turn of the game, the Grafstones will likely get turned on immediately if not very soon thereafter. If the opponent starts out with fast pressure, we can play out Unsummon, Aether Meltdown, and Shielded Aether Thief to stem the bleeding and give us some incidental energy to draw cards off Shielded Aether Thief with.

If we have the Corrupted Grafstone and Curator of Mysteries, we can go ahead and jam that onto the board on the third turn. Otherwise we usually start with Unesh on the fourth or fifth turn and start going to work. If we don't draw Unesh, that's okay; we have eight other big blue fliers that are perfectly capable of doing work. We also have Shielded Aether Thief to draw cards, Censors to cycle away, and an Anticipate to smooth out our draws.

Kefnet's Monument allows our Sphinx spells to cost less but also keeps opposing creatures tapped down. It also makes Shielded Aether Thief only cost one mana to cast and also keep the attacker tapped down for the following turn.

In the sideboard I have six counters, two copies of Baral, and a Sphinx of the Final Wind for the control matchups where we want to side out our Shielded Aether Thieves and Aether Meltdowns. We'll also likely want to shave a few Unsummons for Walking Ballista or ConfisCation Coup, depending on what types of cards are in the control deck. Against more aggressive decks we have Walking Ballista to board in and likely Sphinx of the Final Word to board out, along with Censor when on the draw. Our big fliers are tough for Zombies to deal with, so I'd leave in most of them in that matchup.

The deck has quite a few synergies and a powerful overall game plan. It's still early in testing, but this deck is my recommendation for FNM, mostly because of how new and different and fun it is to play.

Another deck that's also new and fun and gets to play with a lot of the new cards and take advantage of some synergies we haven't seen before in Standard is Green-White Tribal Cats.

There are a few different ways to build this deck, but this is the way I would start it. I don't think there are enough tournament-caliber Cats in Standard such that you can afford to not play Longtusk Cub. And in order to play the Cub, you pretty much have to play Attune with Aether. That's okay though because Attune smooths out our mana. The deck curves out and has surprisingly much to do with its mana even in the later turns. If we're not casting Regal Caracal on turn five, we're eternalizing Adorned Pouncer or preparing for a giant Cat fight with Prepare // Fight. There are some subtle synergies with this deck, so let's take a look at those.

The primary synergy in the deck is between Regal Caracal, Pride Sovereign and all the other Cats in the deck. That part is obvious. Metallic Mimic is also an honorary kitty that boosts the tribal synergy of the deck. Between Regal Caracal, Metallic Mimic, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, we have lots of ways to pump the whole pride.

One of the more subtle synergies involves Prepare // Fight. Prepare can work excellently with Adorned Pouncer, essentially draining the opponent for six life while gain six off a single hit. And if it's the eternalized version of the Adorned Pouncer, it's 12 points! Given the amount of ways to pump our creatures that we've already mentioned, it will likely be even more than 12. Prepare also works quite well with the exert ability of Pride Sovereign, untapping him when he's not set to untap for another turn. This can make for a very threatening attack or block, or if needed it can just produce another litter of kittens by exerting again.

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Most everything else about the main deck should be fairly self-explanatory. Curve out, gain some life, kill some stuff, and scratch the opponent's face. Then at five o'clock in the morning, start meowing to be fed and go back and forth about whether you want to be inside or outside. With these strategy tips, you should be good to go for Friday Night Magic.

In the sideboard we have Prowling Serpopard for matchups that have countermagic and when we just want another creature. We have Stasis Snare when we want more point removal or when Prepare to Fight or Declaration in Stone is less good than the snare. Fumigate is for the creature matchups, especially Zombies, that rely on flooding the board. The reset followed up with Regal Caracal is pretty hard to come back from. Blossoming Defense is for any matchup where they bring in extra removal, which is almost always. Natural State is for Heart of Kiran, Oketra's Monument, and whatever else. Westvale Abbey comes in when we bring in Fumigate since we want an extra land in that scenario and this one plays especially well since it allows us to play our Regal Caracal out if the opponent is holding creatures back to play around Fumigate. Then we can sacrifice all our Cats to transform the Abbey and then untap and Fumigate. The final slot in the sideboard had to go to Ajani Unyielding for the control matchups. Would this really be a tribal Cat deck with the Cat planeswalker?

With Tribal Sphinx and Tribal Cat to choose from, I'm not sure why I'm even offering a third option. Alas, if Grumpy Cat has taught us anything, it is that some people (and some Cats) hate fun. So if you're the type of person who hates fun and just wants to rain on everyone else's parade, I have just the deck for you too!

I had to venture all the way out to the opposite side of the color pie for this last one.

This is about as hostile as it gets for a deck trying to win with creatures. This deck is loaded up to the brim with creature hate. Cheap efficient removal? Check. Ways to deal with bigger creatures? Check. Wraths? Check. Planeswalkers that kill stuff and then accrue card advantage for the rest of the game? Oh yeah, we got that too. Toss in some hand disruption and ways to kill planeswalkers and you got yourself the dirtiest, most hateful hater of all things fun and fair.

The deck starts out with the two most efficient removal spells in the format. Fatal Push kills anything and everything while Magma Spray takes care of the threats that come back such as Scrapheap Scrounger or – gasp – our beloved Adorned Pouncer. It also runs the best new removal spell from the new set in Abrade. Abrade kills Heart of Kiran, Oketra's Monument, or basically any creature in either of those decks. It can also kill a Gearhulk! Cut // Ribbons supplements it against creatures with four-toughness while also sitting in the graveyard for when the time comes to drain the opponent out. Grasp of Darkness can also kill any early threat but helps against Archangel Avacyn and Glorybringer too.

Further up the curve we have Unlicensed Disintegration, even though we don't have any artifacts. It's a little easier on the mana than Murder and I wanted an instant speed card that kills Archangel Avacyn, Glorybringer, and the bigger threats such as Torrential Gearhulk or just any unforeseen monster. A pair of Never to Returns are for handling opposing planeswalkers. Lay Bare the Heart also helps against planeswalkers or against card draw spells of answers to our planeswalkers, including Glorybringer.

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Finally, atop the curve of removal we have the namesake card of the set – Hour of Devastation. The card cleans things up pretty effectively. It's essentially a red Fumigate that hits planeswalkers instead of gaining life. Sometimes it will take out our own planeswalker, but only when we desperately need to clear the board. We also have a pair of Blighted Fens for whatever bugger managed to survive all the removal spells, or for those times when you would rather sacrifice a land then burn away one of the five removal spells you're holding in hand.

With all these kill spells, we have to run something that will actually win the game, right? That's where the planeswalkers come into play. Liliana, the Last Hope helps clean up low-toughness creatures early or shrinking opposing attackers, but late game she threatens to ultimate a never-ending Zombie horde. Chandra, Torch of Defiance will kill stuff or effectively draw cards or add mana in a pinch while also threatening an ultimate that will leave the opponent a fiery crisp. Chandra, Flamecaller can wipe the board, recycle excess removal spells, or quickly kill the opponent with elemental tokens. Ob Nixilis Reignited can kill large creatures or draw cards while also threatening an ultimate that will win the game.

The game plan for this deck is really quite simple: kill all the things. Then when all the things are deader than dead, start ticking up planeswalkers until they go ultimate.

The sideboard plan is general also pretty straightforward. Against decks where we want to leave in all our removal, we can bring in a pair of Bontu's Last Reckonings and a few other removal spells if they have black or red creatures, but for the most part our deck is well-setup to defeat the creature decks as is. The matchups we want an abundance of sideboard cards for are those where we don't want so many removal spells. Against decks without a lot of creatures, we can board out some of the wraths and cheap removal spells for Transgress the Mind and Ob Nixilis Reignited. We can also bring in Glorybringer against decks with planeswalkers or anytime we have extra removal spells we want to board out. Chandra's Defeat is primarily for opposing Glorybringers since that card otherwise wreaks havoc on our planeswalkers. And we have a Liliana's Defeat against Zombies and opposing Liliana planeswalkers.

This deck is basically a super heavy removal deck that wins via planeswalkers. Then against decks with fewer creatures we board into a deck with lots of hand disruption to force our planeswalkers through and to protect them. Of course this is not a deck I would personally play, but that doesn't mean it's not a worthwhile choice. I can tell you this is definitely the deck I least want to sit across from in a tournament if I'm playing a creature deck. And let's be real, we all know I'll be piloting a creature deck.

So there you have it! These are the three decks I've been initially exploring in Standard with Hour of Devastation. Which one do you want to play this weekend?

Craig Wescoe
@Brimaz4Life




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