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Playing the Panharmonicon in Atlanta

Written by Mike Keknee on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Playing the Panharmonicon in Atlanta

Mike Keknee

Mike Keknee is a Magic grinder from the Columbus area. He has managed to put together a solid resume with four StarCityGames Open top 8s, including a win, as well as a Pro Tour appearance. He is also a co-host of the At Your End Step podcast available on iTunes and MTGCast.

It has been a little while since I have written a Magic article, so please excuse my rust. If any deck could get me to come out of my Obi Wan like exile, it was this sweet concoction. Now I know that Atlanta is home to many fine musicians and has a rich musical legacy, but for one shining weekend, I played the sweetest harmonies in all of Georgia.

I initially stumbled upon the Panharmonicon list while reading a bunch of lists from the Hareruya Open from earlier in November. I knew that Panharmonicon had been a fringe player in the format thanks to brewers like Saffron Olive, but I hadn’t really considered the deck until I saw the more streamlined version played by Yoshihiro Ooneda.

Sidenote: The list I found indicated there were 24 lands, but it was missing one. I immediately wanted a Wastes, and it is possible that is what was missing in the first place. Wastes is the obvious choice because Pilgrim’s Eye can find your colorless source.

I was intrigued by the list, and with the StarCityGames Atlanta Invitational just around the corner, I was a bit lost in Standard. I knew I wanted to be able to beat the resident boogieman, B/G Delirium, so I began testing this crazy list. I managed to convince a friend to play the enemy for me, and somewhere in the slog of games, it clicked that most of his threats were not frightening. This even included Emrakul, the Promised End. I locked in my choice and began tuning.

The first thing I changed was the number of Essence Flux in the list. While the card can be powerful, it requires a good board state for it to be even castable. I wanted at least some removal in the main, and the deck needs more to do on turn two, so I added two copies of Declaration in Stone. I also didn’t think that the copies of Shrine of the Forsaken Gods were doing very much. The added mana really wasn’t doing anything so late in the game. I also wanted one more colorless source because I wanted to add another Thought-Knot Seer to the main deck. I got a bit adventurous and settled on some of the blighted lands and a copy of Westvale Abbey.

As for the sideboard, I didn’t change too much. I knew I wanted at least one Linvala, the Preserver because its interaction with so many cards in the deck was absurd. I also wanted one more counterspell and decided on a Spell Shrivel.

After hours of testing and tuning, I settled upon this final list:

I still have a hard time believing that I drove for 9 hours just to register this deck, but I suppose it all worked out. I truly put a lot of time into testing for the event, but there were gaps in my testing due to time constraints. I knew that the various Aetherworks Marvel decks were a positive matchup, but I also knew that Gideon, Ally of Zendikar was a weakness for the deck. This meant that all of my testing could be for not if I faced more Veteran Motorists than Emrakuls. I took that chance and started the invitational. I was promptly crushed by a vehicles deck and felt like I had made a mistake. Three Emrakul decks later though, I was 3-1 and feeling validated. Unfortunately, Modern went poorly, but I resigned to get some sleep and try the open the next day.

The open started much like the invitational. I started 1-2 with a loss to U/W Flash and Mardu Vehicles. Despite the rough start, I began to battle back. I went on to win the next 10 matches in a row, and just like that, I was drawing into the top 8 of Atlanta Open. My run sadly came to an end in the semifinals against eventual winner Brennan DeCandio of Team Nexus. By virtue of losing to him, that brought my running totals on the weekend to 7-1 against B/G Delirium and 5-0 against various Aetherwork Marvel decks. Sometimes it is very validating to pick a deck to beat a matchup and to have it work out so well. Now I did not mean for this piece to be an actual tournament report, but I did want to give a run down so that you, dear reader, will understand that my choice was purposeful and that I was rewarded for daring to bring dancing back to that Footloose town.

What does this deck even do?

That’s a fair question, and to that question I would answer EVERYTHING. Have you ever cast a Cloudblazer before? If not, then rectify that. If so, then why wouldn’t you want to DOUBLE THAT EFFECT?

Most of the decks in Standard are slow enough that you can take turn four off to play Panharmonicon. Cloudblazer is the card that really curves best afterward, because it launches you into a little place I like to call Valuetown. Most of the creatures in this deck net so much additional value from Panharmonicon that it becomes almost trivial to bury your midrange opponents in card advantage. What if you positively need to finish an opponent off in a timely manner though? Enter the combo!

The combo element works like this: Drowner of Hope enters the battlefield with four Eldrazi Scions if you have a Panharmonicon in play already. With an Eldrazi Displacer, you need to sacrifice three scions to flicker the Drowner of Hope. This nets your one extra Eldrazi Scion each time that you do it, which means you now have access to infinite mana and infinite creatures. From there, you can do all of the fun things like flicker a Reflector Mage and bounce every creature your opponent has ever bother to cast. More importantly though, with a Thraben Inspector or a Cloudblazer, you can proceed to draw your library (infinite mana + infinite clues = fun!). From there you find your Thought-Knot Seer, cast it, and begin to flicker it infinite times. Your opponent will be forced to draw their library on the spot. This works even if they draw removal during the loop as you can always respond to the removal spell by blinking again. This allows the deck to play a very defensively as you assemble the combo.

This combo allows you to work through the slog of Ishkana, Grafwidows and Emrakuls that are dominating Standard. That is honestly the biggest draw to the deck currently; it has a natural immunity to Emrakul, the Promised End. Most of your cards either can only target your opponent’s creatures or only have an impact on you. When Emrakul comes down, it is pretty common to be able to flicker it, tap it, or bounce it with relative ease. The only thing you really need to worry about is how much colorless mana you leave up with when you can flicker a Cloudblazer. Your opponent can draw a bunch of cards and then control your discard step, leaving you with a bunch of lands.

Beyond this though, the deck has a ton of play to it. Reflector Mage continues to be impressive, and the combination of Reflector Mage and Thought-Knot Seer is the main reason I moved the second Seer into the main deck. So many of the decks have very few relevant cards, so Thought-Knot Seers with multiple triggers are especially devastating. The cards in the deck are also pretty great on their own, so even when you don’t have a Panharmonicon, you can just curve out and win through the combat step.

Going Forward

This deck went from being an unknown entity to being a player in the open field pretty quickly. While I was playing those sweet notes in Atlanta, Seth Manfield and Pascal Maynard were taking it to greater heights in Denver (get it, because mountains are tall, etc.).

Their list focused more on value and less on the combo. He had Skysovereign, Consul Flagship in the main, which is probably correct going forward. The ability to kill opposing planeswalkers on sight is pretty appealing. I also knew early on in the open that the Spatial Contortion weren’t good enough. I told friends that I wished I had just played Aether Meltdown, and that’s exactly what those two had in their sideboards. Overall I feel that my list was better for week one, but now that the deck is a known commodity, not to mention the increased number of Lost Legacy sure to be found in the format, a mix of the two is probably the better way to go. Hilariously, you may also have to consider the mirror going forward as well.

Hopefully Aether Revolt offers us some more goodies to double up on!

Until next time, keep playing that sweet sweet music.

-Mike Keknee


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