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Deck Spotlight - Temur Tower


Hello everybody!

In my last Deck Spotlight, I talked about Modern and today, I wanted to switch back to Standard, but that's not an easy thing to do, with the format being the least diverse in years. Last week, Wizards decided not to ban anything and let Amonkhet change things. For what it's worth and as unpopular as this move might seem, I actually think this was the right thing to do. A second ban in Standard in just a few months would undoubtedly shake the confidence of the players, especially the younger ones, in how sensible is it to invest money into Magic. If the best deck always gets banned, what sense is there in buying all the expensive cards for it? This way, for some more weeks, we'll have a format that's not very enjoyable to watch, but still quite skill-intensive and definitely way more interactive than the pre-ban Copter/Emrakul format. And hopefully Amonkhet shakes things up considerably and there won't be any need for bans anymore.

Anyway, two GPs have taken place this past weekend. GP Shizuoka saw a top 8 of six Mardu Ballistas, Temur Tower and a rather outlandish looking "Jund Smasher" deck, basically a B/G Constrictor deck splashing Unlicensed Disintegration with Reality Smashers instead of more Verdurous Gearhulks. A nice piece of technology, but probably not something that shakes the foundations of Standard.

The second GP was in PV's hometown of Porto Alegre and since Paulo opted to do coverage rather than battle, we had to settle for whoever would win the GP to bring a decisive argument about what was the best deck in Standard for that weekend instead of finding out what surprising piece of technology Paulo would go with (that is whether he would play Mardu or 4C Copycat - yeah, the format really is that predictable). In the end, the top 8 consisted of three 4C Copycat decks, two Mardu Vehicles, two B/G Constrictor (one Energy, one Delirium) and one Temur Tower. A little bit more diversity than in Shizuoka, but still not that breathtaking.

As I've already said, I don't think that a metagame this narrow is too much of a tragedy, especially with Amonkhet being just around the corner. Going with either Mardu or 4C Saheeli is certainly a good choice, as long as you learn the deck inside out, because neither of the two is easy to play and sideboard with. But since the new set is going to bring plenty of new cards, it's also essential to know the other options and be ready to start working on them. Today, I'm going to talk about Temur Tower - a deck that top8ed both the GP in Shizuoka and in Porto Alegre, is by many heralded as an often forgotten option for Standard and could easily become the base for a good control deck and one of the pillars of the format. Let's start with a decklist, the version that Masayasu Tanahashi used to top 8 GP Shizuoka:

Temur Tower by Masayasu Tanahashi

Top 4 at GP Shizuoka

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Dynavolt Tower
Kaladesh (Foil)

As far as the Temur Tower lists go, this is a fairly stock one, with the differences mostly being in sideboard cards (some versions run Longtusk Cubs and more Tireless Trackers). Bristling Hydra also makes it into the main deck from time to time and Yuuki Ichikawa played three in his starting 60 cards to a top 32 result in Shizuoka. However, most lists look fairly similar to this one.

Describing a Standard deck's matchups has become a lot more simple since the metagame degenerated to pretty much just two decks, but at least that means we can go a bit deeper instead of having to cover twenty different matchups.

In theory, Temur Tower has all the tools it needs to answer Mardu's threats: seven counterspells for Gideon, plenty of removal against their creatures or vehicles and, perhaps most importantly, enough ways how to get rid of Scrapheap Scrounger without being hosed by its recursion ability. Aether Meltdown, Natural Obsolescence, Void Shatter and Brutal Expulsion all either exile the Scrounger, shuffle it back into the library or leave it on the battlefield as a 0/2. Brutal Expulsion might look clunky, but since Temur Tower is a control deck with almost zero board presence, it's important to make sure that you have a permanent solution for the annoying bug.

The disadvantage of having all the answers comes from exactly the same fact: being reactive means you need to cover all the angles the opponent is attacking from and if you miss something, you might end up being dead - even if you get rid of nine out of ten creatures, the tenth one might easily end up killing you. This is even more true against a deck as punishing as Mardu Vehicles - a single Gideon, Scrapheap Scrounger or Archangel Avacyn can finish the game in a pretty fast manner. The weak spot of Temur Tower is the lack of quality card advantage spells - Glimmer of Genius is no Sphinx's Revelation or even Careful Consideration. If I want something from Amonkhet, it's a good blue card draw spell.

The matchup against 4C Saheeli is a tricky one. Thanks to the high number of removal spells you have, you shouldn't often die to their combo, but since we're mostly trading one for one (a removal spell for a creature), Whirler Virtuoso can be a big problem. 4C Saheeli is capable of generating absurd amounts of energy, and Virtuoso can easily give them three or four Thopters when he enters the battlefield, all of which you need to pick off one by one.

Post-board, both Mardu Vehicles and 4C Saheeli become more controlling, with cards for the war of attrition, such as Tireless Tracker, Bristling Hydra and Dispel in the case of 4C Saheeli and Painful Truths, Nahiri, the Harbinger or even Sorin, Grim Nemesis from Mardu. That's where our Bristling Hydras and Tireless Trackers come in - the Temur Tower deck often finds itself boarding them in most matchups, since the opponents typically board out a lot of their removal. Shielded Aether Thief is in the sideboard against Mardu for exactly this same reason as well.

Overall, I think that Temur Tower is a little underpowered, compared to the top two decks, but it benefits from the metagame being pretty skewed against these two decks. Walking Ballista, for example, sees more and more play even in the 4C Saheeli lists, but fortunately, it doesn't do too much against us. Also, zero targets for Fatal Pushes, Oath of Chandra and Shocks also mean that the opponent will frequently have dead cards in hand while all our cards are live. Moreover, Temur Tower is fairly good against B/G (pretty much all Torrential Gearhulk decks are). If you don't mind playing mirror matches all the time, go ahead and play Mardu Vehicles or 4C Saheeli, but if you're a control player at heart, I think that this is the deck for you in the current Standard and you're not even giving up too much ground by not playing one of the big two decks.

Thanks for reading and see you next time!


Adam Koska
Adam Koska

About Adam Koska

Adam is an experienced player from the Czech Republic who has a number of high-profile finishes under his belt:

  • 14th at Pro Tour Portland 2014
  • 9th at Worlds 2009
  • 9th at Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
  • 64 Lifetime Pro Points
  • Three times Czech Nationals Top 8
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