I perform a nightly ritual of checking through Magic: the Gathering websites for the updates of pros and semi-pros; what they are playing and why. Sometimes I find decks I end up playing for a whole season like B/U Kamikaze back in Scars-AVR Standard (Jessie Smith at SCG); or decks that I play for one daily and never touch again like UWR Lightning Mauler/Geist of Saint Traft (Craig Wescoe at TCGPlayer).
However if this process has taught me one thing it is never doubt the power of a deck that takes a different approach to the meta if the reasons behind the deck make sense. Further, it helped me realize my niche in Magic is tuning decks to their most optimal state. I am not a brewer at heart like Travis Woo and his ilk. I tune the base ideas of other peoples’ brews if I see promise in them. Sometimes I tune a tier one deck and try to gain the edges against the meta needed to win.
Today though, I am tuning a brew posted by none other than Reid, the Duke, Duke. Reid posted this list awhile back that featured some exciting new cards from M15, namely Yisan, the Wandering Bard and Chord of Calling.
Reid's Starting Point (Standard)
Now Reid made a compelling reason why this sort of deck could be a powerful choice which boiled down essentially to “tutors are powerful.” When you look at the banned and restricted list of eternal formats you see tutor after tutor on the list and they are on there for a reason. The ability to turn a card in your hand into many different choices from your deck is powerful, especially in a format with Goblin Rabblemaster Red and UW Elixir Control. In other words, polar opposite decks. Banisher Priest is a three mana bear vs UW, but it may be the single best card in your deck against Rabble Red.
However, this is where we see another clause to the power of the deck and tutors in general: mana cost matters. There is a reason that Demonic Tutor is banned in Legacy and Diabolic Tutor never sees any play in Standard, let alone Legacy. There is a huge difference between paying two mana to make a card in your hand any card in your deck and spending four mana to do the same thing. The question then is this: are Yisan and Chord of Calling correctly costed or under-costed so as to make them viable? My answer? Maybe.
Not as powerful a recommendation as I would have hoped, but first let me take you through how I got from Reid’s 60 to my current 75. Here is my current 75:
Ztrman's Bant Chord (Standard)
The Main Deck Differences
The two islands and Nykthos were actively bad in the deck. The islands cause awkward draws leaving us unable to cast our mana dorks and the Nykthoses rarely netted mana and when they did it was unnecessary because the only spell that needs a lot of mana is Chord of Calling which if we have devotion we can Convoke for anyways.
The addition of the 12th mana dork was just to increase the density of acceleration and maximize the ability to play turn two Yisan, almost as good as turn 2 Birthing Pod.
Additional Yisan – The card overperformed every time I cast it. The ability to create a constant flow of chump blockers or chump sacs versus aggro and desecration demon respectively is very powerful. It is a must kill threat vs mono black variants because of the threatened card advantage and with Prophet of Kruphix and Kiora’s Follower it becomes live very quickly.
Additional Chord of Calling – After playing with four in the deck I rarely became flooded with chords and chording for an ooze or a follower was a fine although mediocre play in games where I did.
Clone – Stormbreath Dragon is a beast. Clone is our easiest answer to the pro-white menace while also being able to get value off of cards like Archangel of Thune or Banisher Priest in our own deck. A common Yisan curve vs aggro decks is Banisher Priest into Clone into Archangel.
Progenitor Mimic – The question was whether or not Progenitor Mimic was better or worse than Aetherling in the black match-ups because Progenitor is obviously better when grinding out aggro decks and Aetherling is better vs UW. I found that Progenitor allowed us to win games where Aetherling would have been an overcosted dud. Copying Desecration Demons or Blood Baron of Vizkopas, particularly at instant speed, gets out of hand very quickly.
Angel of Serenity – Best finisher vs Aggro, best top-end vs Black decks. All around powerful value card, that with the extra in the board can set up very grindy loops of Angel of Serenity return two creatures and another Angel of Serenity.
Polukranos – One remained as a powerful chord target, but generally we had little interest in monstrousing it in most match-ups because we had other things to do with our mana, making it just a four mana 5/5. There are times you wanted it and there are times you don’t, hence one copy remaining.
Fathom Mage / Horizon Chimera – The combo was not robust. It was expensive and fragile though there were times where it won games no other combination of cards could; infinite combos will do that, I suppose. (For those unaware of the combo, Fathom Mage + Horizon Chimera + Archangel of Thune. If you draw a card or gain a life you begin the chain, Fathom gains a counter from Archangel and draws a card which causes Chimera to gain a life which causes Archangel to distribute counters, repeat for as many cards in your deck as you would like to draw.) While both remained decent creatures in certain match-ups, neither were absurd, hence relegated to tutor targets.
Aetherling – See Progenitor Mimic notes above
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes – An unmistakably powerful card, but simply did not play well into the deck’s plan most of the time on game one, hence why they are in the board.
1 Reclamation Sage – UWx Detention Sphere lists, Burn, and Constellation Decks. There are two questions that arise here, why burn and why not mono black? Burn generally brings in 4x Satyr Firedancers and has some number of Eidolon of the Great Revels and Chained to the Rocks / Banishing Light, all of which are absolute beatings versus us and all of which are enchantments. They do not come in versus Mono Black Variants because Underworld Connections is simply to slow versus most of our draws for us to care about it.
1 Courser of Kruphix – Burn, aggro, and mono black. A wall that reduces flood is good in many match-ups but is not that inherently powerful in the deck.
4 Notion Thief – Flash 3/1 with upside versus UW. One of our best possible tools in the match up. With Chord of Calling we basically always threaten it and make it very hard for them to Divination let alone get value out of Sphinx’s Revelation.
1 Lavinia of the Tenth – Aggro, Mono Black, and Elspeth. Aggro is the obvious one, but against Mono Black and decks that have Elspeth, Sun’s Champion it provides the powerful ability to fetch, basically acting as a Sleep and allowing for a one time swing for the win.
1 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes / 1 Garruk, Caller of Beasts / 1 Angel of Serenity – Mono black and UW match-ups as powerful grindy threats. Ajani can also replace a Chord or a Yisan vs decks like GW aggro where they are not the most aggressive decks but demand that we lower our curve.
So that is the list and why the numbers became as they are. A couple of notes before I give my closing thoughts:
- Yisan’s ability is worded such that putting a counter on it is a cost, in other words if you untap it with the trigger on the stack and activate it again you will fetch two creatures at the higher cost.
- Yisan demands the exact same mana cost. After seven it does nothing.
- The combo is not technically infinite; it can only add counters to your team equal to the number of cards in your deck. While this will often be enough, it is not infinite, so it may not be an auto-win in a grindy match-up or versus that local guy that only runs mill decks.
- I 3-1ed the 7/31 Standard Daily Event with the deck and here was the list at the time. http://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/241686#online
The deck is certainly fun, but I would not advise it for high level competitive play in the current environment. It preys on mono black variants while maintaining decent matchups versus aggro decks. However, its UW match up is horrendous, and with UW winning the Pro Tour I would be hesitant to play the deck in a major event.
The deck though is unique in a field that before the Pro Tour was lacking new and interesting decks. It rewards skill and demands it for cards like Yisan and Chord. Further skill is demanded because the deck often is starved for mana in the early turns so each play matters even more. By the same token the deck brutally punishes mistakes. I’ve lost games because I Chorded a turn too early and didn’t wait for the better creature, or because I miscounted my damage on a critical swing, or tapped the wrong mana and couldn’t activate Scavenging Ooze enough to trigger Archangel of Thune enough times.
When the deck rewards you, though, it feels amazing. My favorite moment so far and my ending thought is the power of Angel of Serenity.
I am playing Game 1 versus a BG Devotion Deck with some number of main deck Nissa, Worldwaker. I am down to 5 life and my opponent is attacking me with four Nissa, Worldwaker animated lands (4/4 tramplers). I allow him to declare his attackers then before blocks I Chord of Calling with x=7. I search out an Angel of Serenity which exiles three of his attackers (his lands!) and then block the fourth. Angel of Serenity in effect Plague Winded him and was a one-sided Armageddon.
If you have a deck you would like me to look at feel, please free to comment a list in the comments below and I will do my best to tune it over the coming weeks!
Check out the videos below of my recent run with this deck in a Daily Event, and may the odds be ever in your favor!
Nah, too cheesy, Believe in the Heart of the Cards!
Nope, Play Magic and have fun.
There we go.
Play Magic and Have Fun.
-Zach Raph aka ZTRMAN