Last time we left with a new build of Temur Marvel. I did not end up playing that deck, so nobody will ever know how it would have performed. All I know is that BG Constrictor - which I chose in the end - felt amazing and only unfavored against 4Color Saheeli. But even though I am somewhat satisfied with the 17th place I got at GP Utrecht, I wanted to improve the Marvel deck and evolve it to a point, where it would be the go-to choice for me for GP Barcelona. At first, I thought we could build the aggressive BG Energy deck in a way to implement an Ulamog plan, maybe out of the sideboard to combat these stupid value decks trying to outgrind you with Oath of Chandra, Whirler Virtuoso and planeswalkers, but that seemed like a stretch, even for my imagination. So I went on in my search and eventually landed on a sweet build, designed to out-value controlling decks and still be able to kill early creatures and then resolve a fast Ulamog.
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The first league went very smoothly, even netting me a trophy. But then, opponents became tighter and things did not go so well. After a lot of testing and making changes to the list, I had to concede that idea and came to the conclusion that it just isn't the time for Marvel. At least not for me. I actually do not enjoy playing these kinds of decks, as it feels so frustrating to draw your uncastable spells. Also, I always die at nine mana, just one turn away from hardcasting big daddy Eldrazi, which might be even worse of a feeling.
So that was a bummer. I actually planned to write about the evolution of the Marvel decks, as Magic Online now sees various builds, including a sweet looking Bant list with Inspiring Statuary, as well as Nissa's Renewal to help support Plan B, if no Marvel shows up.
Luckily, BG Energy still performs very nicely, and as long as there is no flood of Saheeli decks, I don't see that changing anytime soon. So I decided to go over my build because there are a few unconventional choices, as well as the most common matchups. A basic deck discussion you might say - still very important for the upcoming Grand Prix, so let's do it!
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First things first - I want to be (almost) as aggressive as possible with the deck. It is actually the whole reason why I like this deck and why I think there is no effective way to hate out the deck. The nut draws are insane - attacking with an 8/8 on turn 3 and killing on turn 4 - the pressure is spread out over multiple gigantic bodies and the comeback potential is huge - more on that later. Whatever the opponent might do, you can just lay your curve and race them.
The creatures also line up very nicely against some of the removal in the format. The elephants don't die to a naked Harnessed Lightning, the Snake as well as the cat with two Energy don't die to Shock / Galvanic Bombardement, the Gearhulk does not die to Fatal Push and so on. Of course, most of the time, they got Fatal Push or a fully charged Lightning, but these are little edges you can gain in some games. When the opponent starts with a Lumbering Falls into Attune with Aether for a Mountain and then passes with Red open and you can now choose between a Longtusk Cub and a Winding Constrictor, these things matter.
The next thing is that I find the Sideboard to be awesome. Discard is so important in a field full of Torrential Gearhulk, Aetherworks Marvel and Saheeli Rai decks, and being able to play a Jund style deck with fast pressure as well as discard is as close to Modern as it gets. You can also grind very well after gaining access to the full set of Tireless Tracker as well as the "boats" and the "Pokedex", which is especially important with all the Temur Control decks popping up right now.
Unusual Card Choices
Heart of Kiran - most of the lists out there are playing Aethersphere Harvester in this spot. I think that in most matchups you are the aggressor and you should build your deck accordingly. Even in the Vehicles matchup it is true that they are the control deck, at least after sideboarding. Having the fourth power is very relevant when facing a planeswalker like Gideon. I won a game at the GP by just attacking with the Heart five times. That was it. It is also true that in games 2 and 3 there are more mass removal getting on your nerves and having a vehicle when facing Fumigate and Radiant Flames is a valuable resource.
The second reason why choosing Heart of Kiran over Aethersphere Harvester is right for me is that its a 2-drop. You might think that this is not that big of a deal because the deck is already flooded with them, but there are even less 4-drops (in fact, none) and what I want to be doing on turn 4 is play two 2-drops or play a Fatal Push, a 2-drop and a Hissing Quagmire, so Heart of Kiran fits there nicely.
There is an argument against it saying that it is hard to crew in this deck and yes, it is harder than in Mardu, but it is not that hard. Greenbelt Rampager in particular plays out super smoothly with it, as you can put its bounce trigger on the stack and crew the Heart in response. then you can play it again and have both of them untapped for potential blocking duties.
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship - This is a concession to the 4Color Saheeli matchup, as I think this is one of the few ways to win that matchup. A second one waits in the sideboard and is needed very badly. I had an Ob Nixilis in that slot for the Grand Prix but was very unsatisfied with him. In the mirror match they are close to the same, whereas against Saheeli, Ob Nixilis is pretty much useless. They have so many ways to pressure planeswalkers between Chandra, Whirler Virtuoso and Oath of Chandra, that he rarely sees another day. Skysovereign just sits there and then picks off their entire board one by one.
Tireless Tracker with no Evolving Wilds - Most of the top 8 in Utrecht played Evolving Wilds alongside their Tireless Trackers and I think that this is a mistake. There are already so many taplands in that deck between Hissing Quagmire, Attune with Aether and Blooming Marsh from turn 4 onwards, and I really want to hit my fifth land untapped. In most games you sit there with one or two Gearhulks in hand only to pray for a land from the top. When it arrives and it is a tapped one it is catastrophic and can cost you the game way more often than the extra clue could win you a game. Color fixing is almost not needed, and Evolving Wilds only make the deck more inconsistent in the early turns as it slows down the aggression significantly.
++ Vehicles - This is the matchup you actively want to face. Pre-board is all about surviving and getting to a big Walking Ballista or a resolved Gearhulk. Your creatures are bigger and sometimes even faster, allowing for some weird race situations, where you can attack past their Scrapheap Scroungers for a quick win, though these games are few and far between and normally you should stay back and try to control the game with removal and Ballistas. After board they try to control the game with removal and planeswalkers. The problem is, that they still are capable of explosive draws, having still their Toolcraft Exemplars and their Heart of Kiran. This means that some of the removal has to stay in, but I actually board in the Distended Mindbender and out some Grasp of Darkness. Here, having some vehicles yourself is quite important to not overextend into a possible Fumigate. Sideboarding depends a lot on being on the play or draw.
+ Eldrazi Marvel - I played this matchup too many times from the Marvel side to know that this is very favorable for us. As long as nothing crazy happens like a turn 4 Ulamog, it is very hard to lose. Their interaction is minimal and when they finally hit, it is almost always not in time. When they are facing five gigantic monsters boosted up by Winding Constrictor plus Verdurous Gearhulk, it doesn't matter if they exile two of them, the other three are still lethal. With discard from the sideboard it gets even better as you can counter these dreaded nut draws.
0 BG Constrictor - The mirror is a weird place. Sometimes you don't play your 2-drop on the second turn to have removal up for their 2-drop. An early lead can snowball out of control very quickly, but an unanswered 8/8 can also just dominate the battlefield. The single best card here is Gonti as he trades with everything on the table while also snagging just the right spell for the situation. Gonti into Fatal Push is one of the better things to do. Some other times you can get your 5-drop of choice when only having reactive cards yourself. In that matchup you need every removal you can get and I like having the full six 5-drops. Tireless Tracker can also run away with the game. Discard is not a good choice just like in the Modern equivalent, as it is not only too slow and not affecting the board, but also not helpful in a topdeck war.
0 Temur Control - When an early tower lands, it could mean bad news for the heroes and a parade of blue Gearhulks is also not the nicest. Rogue Refiner is annoying, but gets hit with one of the otherwise stranded removal spells in our hand. I would say this is pretty even, with us a little favored before sideboard. I played this matchup on camera against Joel Larsson and here you can see the difficulty when sideboarding against this deck. A lot of people were confused by me keeping in all the removal spells. There is some ambiguity whether or not there are things lurking not only in the ice but also in the sideboard and Dragonmaster Outcast can catch you off guard as well. Also, against Joel's list I knew that removal would not be completely dead thanks to his Shielded Aether Thiefs, so there was not the biggest cost in keeping them, though I admit looking like a fool in game 2.
- 4Color Saheeli - This is the unpleasant one, but when you practice your skills of drawing Skysovereign, it should be very manageable. With Oath of Chandra, they always have the removal spell on the second turn and Longtusk Cub never survives, which is a shame, as it could run away with the game when uncontested. The main route to victory is building some very large threats and pressuring life totals quickly and not letting the opponent build up a board presence with planeswalkers and chump blockers. Fatal Push never finds a good target and this matchup is the main reason why I don't play the fourth one in the main deck. I like all the discard in here and dislike Gonti a lot, as his body is fairly irrelevant when it only trades with a Rogue Refiner.
Well, that's it for today. This should cover most of the things you need to know about the deck and how you should approach not only the different matchups but also the feel of the deck itself. I'll see you in Barcelona!