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Marvel - B/G or Temur?



GP Madrid did not go according to plan, but the problems started earlier than the tournament itself, so let's back it up a bit.

In my online testing with UW Flash, I always felt as an underdog, no matter the matchup. Even against RG Marvel it was tough, despite being arguably the favorite there. So I teamed up with GP Rimini winner Arne Huschenbeth and tested the Marvel deck against the field. We were pretty confident with the matchups against all the Tier 1 decks, with Delirium being the best and UW Flash being the worst but not unbeatable. Pure control decks were almost impossible to overcome, but these were a really small percentage of the metagame, so we did not bother too much there.

Aetherworks Marvel
Kaladesh (Foil)

Then the black version of the deck appeared and suddenly we had to figure out which one was better. Because we already knew about RG, testing the BG version was the obvious choice and again we jammed it against all the other archetypes, including RG Marvel. It was indeed a little bit more powerful but what really hurt was the manabase. Having Harnessed Lightning over Grasp of Darkness made the deck much worse against Selfless Spirit and Archangel Avacyn, but at least it improved the mana. Also, Harnessed Lightning can be played on turn 2, which almost never happens with Grasp of Darkness because you absolutely want to have green on turn 1 for the nine one mana plays. So whenever we did not draw Blooming Marsh, it was pretty hard to get the right mana. Also, Liliana coming down a turn earlier than Chandra was a big deal, but again, needing double black a turn earlier than the double red was harsh.

In the end we could not get it right and just settled on the stock list from Jaberwocki. During our testing, there were some recurring themes, which indicated that we were not the happiest with that list, but what could we do. For once, sometimes Emrakul was just not enough. Also, Servant of the Conduit was the best card in the deck, not even close. The mana acceleration was so good, plus the boost of Energy was sometimes the missing piece. The problem with the deck is that it is behind in the early turns against basically every other deck, until you can either resolve a Marvel or a Delirium fueled Ishkanah. Both need a lot of mana to work, because the Energy for Aetherworks Marvel needs to be produced and Delirium is also established with at least three mana, which impacts your board development.

The first problem was solved by many at the various Grand Prix. Just play some Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger instead of the last Emrakul slots. We opted for the 3-1 split, just so you could have some outs to find the ultimate trump card. The second point remained a problem and it was not until I packed my belongings for the flight on Friday evening that I went through my pack of Standard relevant cards and saw the pair of Deathcap Cultivators I own. Suddenly, BG was on the map again but was the additional acceleration plus the color fixing really good enough for BG to get better than RG? I went with the safe choice for Madrid.

It did not really matter because after getting paired against two Gearhulk-Control decks, as well as multiple UW Flash decks, I was out of contention very quickly and so was my drive to invest much more into this Standard format. But then, three days ago, I heard about a PPTQ in my hometown, so I just threw together a list of BG with what I had laying around and called it a day. I met up with Arne and drove to the store to find out, if Deathcap Cultivator really was a game changer or not. This is what I registered:

First things first. Only 21 lands with only five land searchers. This deck is packed and has only that many slots. It also floods very regularly, despite having so few starting mana sources. It may be correct to just cut the Traverse for an additional land, but it always felt fine this way and only comes up when you want to hit a land with Vessel and instead hit the Traverse, which you then can't pick.

Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Kaladesh (Foil)

Second - Gonti. I was looking for some sweet 4-drops because I wanted to maximize them with now having access to six accelerators. Tireless Tracker was the other option and over the course of the tournament people kept telling me that she was way better, but I disagree. Gonti is a faster draw engine and it almost guarantees action, whereas with Tireless Tracker you might spend seven mana in total with cracking clues and whatnot, only to find more lands. Sure, these can then also turn into clues but that is not the purpose of this slot. The 4-drop is there to merely stop an attack and find some action. It should never win the game, for that you have the big Eldrazi. Thanks to Deathtouch it also blocks just a little bit better than the 3/2. Additionally, Gonti gives you sometimes access to things you wouldn't normally have. Over the course of the tournament, I found Aetherworks Marvel, Noxious Gearhulk, Thalia, Heretic Cathar, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Reflector Mage and much more. Especially the Reflector Mage and Gideon were game winners and I don't think I would have won these games with anything in my deck. Oh yeah, and the opponent's Marvel was also quiet helpful in the race to the fastest Emrakul.

Only two copies of Deathcap Cultivator even though I praised him and choose to play black instead of red because of him. Fact is, this deck does not even want the full eight accelerators in fear of flooding out even more. Also, space is a real concern, as I already said, especially in the mana slots department.

No discard main deck and only two in the Sideboard. I really wanted to play more discard because it is actually one of the strengths of black to not having to splash blue for counterspells. Discarding is also proactive and can be much more devastating than a counterspell in the mirror, when you hit an Emrakul or a Marvel with Pick the Brain. It is also way better against UW Flash than random things you do not even want to side in. Plus, you can at least have a reasonable chance against blue control decks when you can just trade your discard spells against their counters instead of needing to have a billion mana to play a threat with Negate backup. But once again, there is only so much room for things you want to play, and you would need to either cut another Grasp of Darkness or a threat, which is just not possible.

Speaking of threats, why are there no other threats like Noxious Gearhulk or Demon of Dark Schemes - I wanted to have my spells all be castable on turn 4 except Ishkanah and the Eldrazi so that I would not fall too far behind, which is what always happens anyway with the Marvel decks. Yeah, it is pretty nice to have some silver bullets for either Traverse the Ulvenwald or to hit off of Aetherworks Marvel. But it just clogs up your hand when drawn early on and you just cannot afford to have a spell not be castable other than the Eldrazi. Ishkanah at least stabilizes the board completely and also is one mana cheaper.

The only change I would make is cut the Clip Wings and the World Breaker for another Transgress the Mind and another Pick the Brain. Yes, both of those are not as good against UW Flash but not completely unreasonable. But they are much better in the mirror and against control and Delirium.

I went undefeated in the Swiss rounds and then proceeded to win against UB Control in the quarters. Liliana showed her supremacy over Chandra when she snuck under Spell Shrivel in game 1 and managed to win the game with her ultimate. In the second game, discard spells took care of the counterspells and card advantage threats like Tireless Tracker and Ob Nixilis took care of the opponent.

I lost in the Semis against Arne playing Sam Black's GW Humans, who then lost in the Finals to UW Control. So despite having almost half of the sideboard dedicated against aggressive decks, I still could not get there. Also, it felt very good to not have clunky 6-drops in the deck. They do not fare well against either control decks nor aggro. And while the metagame slowly starts to adapt to the threat of Marvel, the speed of additional accelerators might get ahead of their plans.

So, in the end I think BG might actually be better positioned than RG right now. Flaying Tendrils is also a bit better than Kozilek's Return when exiling Scrapheap Scrounger and ignoring Selfless Spirit. The discard spells are very effective against half of the field and the black sideboard options are much better than the red ones. Ob Nixilis is almost game over in the mirror.

That's it for today. I wish you all good luck spinning your Marvels no matter the colors.

Until then,


Jasper Grimmer
Jasper Grimmer

About Jasper Grimmer

Jasper is a player from Germany who can be found at almost every European Grand Prix and prepares a lot for them. Being on the GP circuit since 2011, he has had a number of good finishes: 

  • Top 8 GP Malmö 2012
  • Top 8 GP Paris 2015 
  • Top 4 Team GP Florence 2015 (with Amit Cohen & Robin Steinborn)
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