I want to talk about the deck I played in the Louisiana Starcitygames Standard State Championships. Although I went 0-2 drop in the tournament, I think the deck is still very powerful, and I like my version in the format as a whole.
First off, the decklist:
You probably have a lot of questions, which is totally understandable. There’s a lot to unpack with this list. Why are there so many enchantments? Do we really need all four colors? What’s with the land in the sideboard? Are those really Silumgar Assassins? I’ll answer all of these in time, but I want to start at the beginning, with the genesis of the deck.
The deck started with this article by Patrick Chapin about Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir in April. He discusses a deck that he almost played in that Pro Tour, as well as variations on the deck. He also touches upon the deck he actually played and a bit of controversy surrounding his play, but the only part that is relevant to my article and deck today is the discussion of the Morph deck. Fast forward to Battle for Zendikar Standard, where it seems like almost all of the Khans block spells are better than BFZ spells but BFZ contributes heavily to the power and consistency of manabases. Well, Chapin’s version of the deck was very powerful despite playing practically only spells from Khans block, so it ported over to BFZ Standard very well. In fact, the deck plays 5 cards from BFZ, and they’re all Tango lands.
Initially, I tested a Bant version of the deck, but I found it struggled too much against GW Megamorph and aggressive red decks like RG Landfall and Atarka Red. Adding black gave me access to Silumgar Assassin, a card which is a solid two-for-one against aggressive decks and even helps answer Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Mantis Rider. In addition, black gave me access to Self-Inflicted Wound, which helps turn the corner against Megamorph. Two life doesn’t make much of a difference, but buying it back with Den Protector means that we can drain the opponent for four or sometimes even six, which is a significant chunk.
I will say that the deck has the best late game of anything in the format. Between Mastery of the Unseen, Secret Plans, and the Den Protector/Deathmist Raptor package, it’s possible to grind out decks like Esper Dragons and Jeskai Black quite consistently. We don’t even care that much about Ugin, seeing as all of our creatures can be played face down to avoid his -X ability. When in doubt, the deck should try to grind and play for card advantage and small edges rather than trying to kill the opponent quickly, although there are certainly exceptions.
Let’s break down the card choices.
Secret Plans: Secret Plans is the backbone of the deck. Without it and Mastery, the deck would be much worse than it is. Drawing cards whenever we flip something up is huge, and that plus the fact that pretty much all of our Morphs are 2-for-1s allows us to out-value every other deck in the format. The extra point of toughness is not irrelevant either, as there are a lot of Nissas and Zurgos running around right now.
Mastery of the Unseen: As Ryoichi Tamada showed us in his semifinals match at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar, Mastery of the Unseen is very good even when your Manifests aren’t creatures. But when they are, the game feels like it’s on easy mode. Draw cards, answer your opponent’s creatures, return Deathmist Raptors, gain life — when Mastery is online, we’re outstripping our opponent in every single relevant resource in the game.
Obscuring Aether: Morphs are powerful because they allow us to access unique effects and give us both a resource advantage and a creature in play. However, paying three mana for 2/2 is a definite investment. Aether reduces that investment by a very significant margin, and sometimes even allows Morphs to be played facedown for free if we can get three copies into play. Have you ever played a 3/2 for 1G that also has a Regrowth attached? It’s a really great feeling. Besides, flipping Aether face down to rebuild after a board wipe is pretty nice.
Trail of Mystery: Trail is the worst of the enchantments because it’s situational; many of our Morphs are cards we want to flip up at odd times, such as Stratus Dancer, or not attack with, such as Rattleclaw Mystic. We also run out of basic lands eventually. Nonetheless, the +2/+2 buff is pretty powerful when we’re blocking as well, and it lets Stratus Dancers and Den Protectors take down opposing Planeswalkers without much trouble.
Deathmist Raptor: Raptor is a great way to generate passive card advantage; it comes back whenever we unmorph a creature, so it’s great versus board wipes and just at blocking in general. It can be kind of a tricky card to play, however. First, when you have Mastery and Raptor, you can stack the triggers with the Raptor trigger on top of the Mastery trigger so that you gain an extra life. Second, remember that you can return the Raptor face down, which is relevant when you need to draw an extra card off of Secret Plans, gain extra life off of Mastery, or block a really big Hangarback Walker without giving your opponent Thopters.
Rattleclaw Mystic: Rattleclaw is the best accelerator in the format, and it’s even better in this deck, often allowing us to chain unmorphs when we have Secret Plans or Mastery of the Unseen in play. In addition, when we have two copies of Obscuring Aether in play, morphing and unmorphing Rattleclaw lets us break even on mana.
Den Protector: This is our primary source of card advantage and offensive power, as it unconditionally gives us a card and is hard to block. There isn’t much else to say about Den Protector that hasn’t already been said.
Stratus Dancer, Hidden Dragonslayer, Silumgar Assassin: These are all very powerful, because they answer a card that the opponent has already invested mana into, but they are also narrow because they only answer specific types of cards. Thus, they all get sided out in the matchups they’re too situational for.
All of the sideboard cards are self-explanatory in terms of when they come in, and what to sideboard our should be fairly intuitive as well. Sideboard out Den Protectors against really fast decks, and sideboard out the other conditional Morphs when they have fewer than six or eight targets depending on how high-impact the targets are. Sideboard out Trail of Mystery against every deck except UBx control, because while Trail is a great mainboard card it’s worse than your other options. Bring in the Llanowar Wastes (usually for a Prairie Stream or a basic Forest depending on which spells you’re siding out) whenever you bring in all the black cards from the sideboard.
Some tips for playing the deck:
You can respond to a Mastery of the Unseen trigger by activating Mastery in order to gain an extra life, which is relevant in some cases and adds up if you do it multiple times or have multiple Masteries in play.
If you have multiples of any of the enchantments in play, they stack. Two Secret Plans draw you two cards, two Trails give your creature +4/+4, two Obscuring Aethers make your Morphs cost 1, and two Masteries gain you double the life.
If you don’t have to unmorph a creature without a target, don’t. It’s better to wait and get the value out of the trigger than to spend the mana for a slight upgrade in stats. That being said, there will be times when your opponent doesn’t have many targets in their deck or you really want to gain life, draw cards, or give your creature +2/+2 to make an important attack.
Think hard about how your first few turns are going to play out when deciding how to sequence your lands.
The deck is very powerful and has the best value-oriented late game in the format. If you want to grind your opponent out with 3/2s, beat Ugin, and not care about spot removal, this is the deck for you.
As always, don’t hesitate to comment if you have any questions or ideas.
@CasperZML on Twitter
Trackback from your site.