This week I played a rather bizarre deck. It’s a list I had tested every now and again and that I thought could work, given the current meta game (lots of Temur and Sultai energy decks).
It’s a Temur Control deck, splashing black for Nicol Bolas. Here is the list:
Main Creatures 1 x Kefnet the Mindful 3 x Torrential Gearhulk Spells 1 x Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh 4 x Attune with Aether 4 x Glimmer of Genius 3 x Opt 3 x Censor 4 x Disallow 4 x Essence Scatter 1 x Commit / Memory 1 x Confiscation Coup 2 x Magma Spray 3 x Abrade 4 x Harnessed Lightning Lands 4 x Botanical Sanctum 4 x Spirebluff Canal 4 x Aether Hub 1 x Rootbound Crag 4 X Island 3 x Forest 2 x Mountain Sideboard 4 x Longtusk Cub 2 x Bristling Hydra 1 x Glorybringer 1 x Confiscation Coup 2 x Negate 4 x Aether Meltdown 1 x Nissa, Steward of Elements
Before sideboards, it works very much like a classic blue-red control deck. It only uses green for Attune with Aether, which thins tor library and gives you some energy – nothing spectacular. However, after boards, the strategy might change quite a lot, by bringing in Bristling Hydra and, especially, Longtusk Cub. I just love Longtusk Cub. It’s been compared to Tarmogoyf, in the context of Standard, and I think the comparison is quite fair. He cannot only block but he can win you the game all by himself. He is quick and versatile. With the Cub, often your game plan shifts to a ‘protect the queen’ strategy. Keep him alive, generating energy to make him bigger, until you win. Nothing better than tons of blue counter magic to achieve that.
The deck is inspired by the one that the great Victor Silva played to win Grand Prix Porto Alegre 2016. After boards, he would take out ‘slow’ cards like Dynavolt Tower and Torrential Gearhulk, in favour of Longtusk Cub and Tireless Tracker (no longer in Standard, sadly!).
Round 1: black-white vampire tokens
2-1. He was playing the likes of Queen’s Commission and Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle to generate a bunch of tokens, with the additions of vampires such us Glorifier of Dusk, Duskborne Skymarcher, etc. I wasn’t playing any sweepers and feared things could get out of control. I was keeping the board fairly clean and then started swinging with Torrential Gearlhuk. However, I was lacking counter spells and had to let a first Gearhulk go to Dusk/Down, and a second one to Ixalan’s Binding. That hurt. Got crashed in the end.
Game 2 and 3 played out differently thanks to Longtusk Cub. In game 2 my opponent struggled to find lands, and game 3 was won by a 8/8 Cub.
Round 2: blue-black control
2-1. I didn’t know how this match up would be. I thought I could be in a good place with cards like Confiscation Coup or Kefnet The Mindful, and that my side board plan was strong, but wasn’t sure at all.
The first game was tough and long. The key card was Confiscation Coup, which I had in my hand from early on. After a bunch of Opts, Glimmers, a Kefnet that was exiled by Vraska’s Contempt, and a couple of Gearhuks that were countered from both ends, he cast The Scarab God and tapped out enough mana for me to steal it. He then cast Gearhulk and I used the God’s ability to bring his other Gearhulk to the battlefield, targeting one of my Disallows. That was it. Very big battle.
We run out of time for game 3 and he kindly conceded, but that was totally a draw (and ‘karma’ would make me concede on the last round…).
Round 3: 4 colour energy
2-1. Game one work out perfectly for me. Along the game I cast about 3 Essence Scatter, 2 Disallows and 3 Glimmers, flash them back with Gearhulks and finish the game with them. He put quite a bit of pressure, but I was lucky to have huge counter magic.
Game 2 didn’t work out that well. I brought in my creatures, though he had a very strong start. I stole one of his Cubs with Confiscation Coup and tried to hang in there, but it wasn’t enough. At some point he had The Scarab God, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, lots of energy… I got destroyed.
In game 3 he cast a couple of Rogue Refiners but didn’t put the same level of pressure. He drew way too many lands. I played Longtusk Cub in turn 2: all I had to do was clearing any blockers and protect him. He grew to a 7/7 body to win the game.
Round 4: blue-black control, again!
1-2. It was nice to see 2 control decks face to face in the final round. It feels like playing control is finally viable in Standard.
Game 1 was a tremendous duel. In turn 2 he cast Search for Azcanta and I responded playing Kefnet in turn 3. I knew that, if I could keep him alive, he would win for me. I managed to start swinging but my opponent eventually found Vraska’s Contempt and I couldn’t save Kefnet. Then a succession of Gearhulks and Scarab God got countered or killed. He was digging deep for win conditions with Azcanta, while I was somehow managing to keep things together despite his card advantage. At some point, the question was who was going to mill himself out of cards. I was down to 23 cards in my library, and he went down to just 10. At that point he gave up and conceded. Oh boy, that was a loooooooong game.
In game 2 I struggled to deal with Gifted Aetherborns, once again. It turns out that they were very good at stopping my Cubs. I should have learned the lesson from round 2. I managed to resolved Nicol Bolas when it was too late. He went up to 37 life and killed me.
Game 3 was looking OK but we didn’t have time to finish it. After my opponent’s gesture in round 2, it was only fair that I conceded this one. The karma of Magic: The Gathering 😊