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The Possibilities of Week 2

Written by John Cuvelier on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Week 1 of the new standard format is in the books. It was a bit different than what everyone expected.

Expectation: Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian making too many kittens to count. Cedric Phillips and Patrick Sullivan make a lot of puns about it. We all begin to fear our new overlord.

Reality: Walking Ballista and Winding Constrictor made everyone have a bad time. Brennan DeCandio wins back to back opens, joining Tom Ross and Gerry Thompson in an elite class. We all begin to fear our new overlord.

It’s pretty terrifying when the deck you expect to be dominant gets crushed by something you expected to show up, but not compete well enough against that deck to matter. There’s a pretty clear line in the sand as far as what to expect coming into the second week of Standard regardless. Cats and Snakes are the current kings of the format. With a metagame somewhat established you can expect some small changes to these decks to give them an advantage in the mirror match, against each other, or both. Thankfully there’s a Pro Tour coming up here soon that will allow the pros to show us what’s actually good and what a pretender really is. Not that I think either deck is a pretender, but since we aren’t there yet I thought I could discuss some alternatives that may have some play. There’s plenty of time to brew the next big thing. Let’s get started.

One of the bigger questions coming out of Aether Revolt is if/when someone will get Tezzeret to work. I feel it’s my obligation as an Affinity aficionado to give it a real shot. I like this build quite a lot for a couple of reasons. It can play different roles depending on the matchup. It can be quite aggressive by utilizing Tezzeret’s Touch on one of ten 2 cmc artifact cards. The deck can use Elder Deep-Fiend to push through large amounts of damage at little cost. It can also be passive by using Elder Deep-Fiend to set up a strong board state while you sit behind Tezzeret, as he gives you incremental advantages. Grasp of Darkness and Metallic Rebuke give you some cheap interaction that plays well against the two popular decks of the format so far.

The sideboard here is a pretty typical starting shell. Fatal Push, Aethersphere Harvester and Yaheeni’s Expertise will help shore up the aggressive matchups. There’s some countermagic with Dispel, Ceremonious Rejection and Negate against the midrange or control decks. Then we have Distended Mindbender for hand disruption and Trophy Mage for some solid card advantage.

This should be a good starting point for a Tezzeret Midrange deck. Playing a couple matches against the big two decks should give us an idea of what works and what holes need to be plugged. Fatal Push is really strong with Tezzeret because of the Lotus Petal he makes, but I’m not sure if it’s truly needed main deck or not. Either way, I’m excited that Tezzeret is back in Standard.

Next up we have a deck I’m actually really excited for. The last time we saw Aetherflux Reservoir in a competitive magic event was week 1 of Kaladesh Standard. It was cool, it was funny, but didn’t really impress. It was a quick flash in the pan as Aetherworks Marvel just proved to be better. Now that the format has changed a bit thanks to a new set and bannings, I think it’s possible with some of these new additions from Aether Revolt this deck is ready to potentially be a real contender.

The core concept remains the same. Get an Aetherflux Reservoir on the table and use cheap artifacts (in this case free) for a large spell count and follow that up with a Paradoxical Outcome to rinse and repeat until you can 50 your opponent. The addition of Ornithopter gives you a whopping 12 free spells. There were a couple big issues this deck had in the past that I believe have been fixed. First is these free spells simply don’t do anything for the deck unless you’re “going off”. Thanks to Reverse Engineer and Metallic Rebuke you no longer mind dropping these free spells out preemptively to refill your hand and dig for action. Another issue it ran into was not drawing enough of your free spells to get a large enough spell count to do anything productive. Thanks to Ornithopter this is no longer an issue. Metallic Rebuke gives the deck a cheap and interactive element it didn’t have before that is unfortunately required in the land of the kittens and snakes. Ideally you wouldn’t want a card like this in the main, but concessions had to be made. Crush of Tentacles is still there to soft reset a tough start and provide a credible threat in its wake.

The sideboard is something that really excites me as well. Tezzeret’s Touch and Tezzeret the Schemer can be a huge surprise to unsuspecting control decks. When you’re expecting combo and get smashed for 5 on turn 3, it’s likely you won’t have the tools necessary to compete with it. Contraband Kingpin and Baral’s Expertise are here for the aggro matchups. Contraband Kingpin is just a huge body for cheap that synergizes well with a lot of the other pieces in the deck. Since this deck plays virtually no creatures your opponent is unlikely to have any removal post board for the Kingpin and will typically be in a good spot to fill its role of being a nuisance. Baral’s Expertise is fantastic at resetting your opponents’ board while adding to yours with Aetherflux Reservoir or refilling your hand with Paradoxical Outcome. How this deck plays out, odds are you’re going to need either a Crush of Tentacles or Baral’s Expertise to help set up a kill.

I’m interested to see if this deck can hang with the big boys. It looks outrageously fun and thought provoking. Another thing I want to figure out with this deck is which is better, Crush of Tentacles or Baral’s Expertise? Crush of Tentacles is better against Saheeli decks, but Baral’s Expertise is better against the Delirium decks. There’s also a different color to consider as well. Adding white to the maindeck by using Fumigate and Authority of the Consuls could be a stronger route to combat the popular decks in the format and buy you a lot of time. A little bit of testing can go a long way here and I look forward to giving this deck its due diligence.

That’s all I have for today. What sort of deck ideas do you have for week 2 and beyond? What’s the secret for dethroning these potential new titans? Sign off in the comments!

John Cuvelier
@JCuvelier on Twitter
Gosu. on MTGO

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