I'm going to give this to you straight. Last week's deck sucked. It was a re-hashing of something that I built when I was trying to find joy in Standard and failing. I played with it a decent amount and while I saw how the deck could preform better with different draws, it was glaringly obviously that the deck had some fundamental flaws. I would like to thank Warleader's Helix for being the card that illustrated this to me.
I was sitting there, jamming a match against Esper, and wanting nothing more than to topdeck... a burn spell. Dramatically more than I wanted to draw Thundermaw Hellkite. Being able to deal large volumes of damage at instant speed was allowing me to ignore my opponent a lot better than Geist or Hellkite ever were. That got the wheels turning. I was criminally undervaluing Warleader's Helix by ever asking myself if it was "good enough". One card. Four damage. No reliance on a creature surviving to deliver said damage. And in a format with Snapcaster Mage. Warleader's Helix is the Truth. I'm sorry, Aurelia. I will appreciate your gifts more in the future.
Geist of Saint Traft is just well past his prime. I can't tell you how many Far/Aways I've been running into, and a Gray Ogre is straight embarrassing against the aggressive decks. I don't know the exact numbers, but edicts and beatdowns make up a very high percentage of the metagame. This made me lean towards wanting Boros Reckoner as my three drop, but after more testing I'm just thinking I don't want to be a deck that plays creatures that only attack and block. I would like to thank Ken-Min Yeoh for helping me come to this conclusion.
In case you missed it, here is the deck that was SCG Dallas this weekend. My first impression of this list is that it's... well, a little rough. That planeswalker/Assemble the Legion split tells me that there was a great deal of uncertainty about how this deck wanted to play the late game and I can't say that I'm impressed by Turn/Burn in a deck that isn't generally capable of using it as a combat trick to get a two-for-one. That said I like a lot of what is going on with the deck. Warleader's Helix, Sphinx's Revelation and Snapcaster Mage make for a fantastic core of a counter-burn type shell.
My first impression was that the absence of Restoration Angel was somewhat surprising, but then I spent a good amount of time losing to Ghor-Clan Rampager and having my Angels edict'd by the black decks. That being the case, having a miser's Aetherling sounded pretty fantastic. It shouldn't ever die to edict, and while it's inefficient on the blocking scene there's no reason you need to play more than one, so it won't hurt too much against the aggressive decks.
After messing around with Ken's list and my list I ended up with the following:
The differences from my list last week are dramatic, to say the least. Let's just say I like what Ken was doing a lot better than what I was doing. Even still, this list is relevantly different from his, so let's talk about where I deviate and why:
All of the Pillars (of Flame)
A lot of players trim on their Pillars, and that's pretty reasonable. The card is fairly lackluster against slower decks/ decks that don't have x/(2/1) creatures or creatures that they don't care much about attacking with. That said, I'm always going to want access to all four against blitz and/or decks with Voice of Resurgence. Having all of the Pillars in all of the games, as I said last week, significantly increases your odds against very aggressive decks. They'll consistently be beating you down hard and early, so you need to consistently be able to answer their threats.
I also haven't minded Pillar as much against slow decks now that Warleader's Helix is a thing. It's a lot easier to just burn an opponent out with this sort of archetype than it was before Dragon's Maze and that often ends up being my game plan.
Cavern of Souls Versus Desolate Lighthouse
I was definitely among the players most excited when Desolate Lighthouse was spoiled but I just can't justify playing it over or in addition to Cavern of Souls in this deck. This deck has a lot of colored mana symbols and only one Aetherling. Not being able to cast spells sucks and not resolving Aetherling can be game over outright. That and the only other creatures are 8x Wizard. The value from Augur and Snapcaster help make up for the fact that we're not looting, and I can't say that I really miss it. If you're greedier than I then by all means, jam Lighthouse. But do it in addition to Cavern.
Augur of Bolas over Think Twice
I absolutely agree that decks like this want to be able to generate card advantage, and Think Twice is a fine option. I elect to play Augur over it for a few reasons though. If Augur's body is relevant, then it's pretty clearly a more efficient two-for-one, since with 23 Instants and Sorceries it will usually hit. Another point for Augur is that Think Twice doesn't block Burning-Tree Emissary or kill Lightning Mauler in combat.
The biggest selling point though, from my perspective, is that the innocuous body of Augur really helps in the execution of the burn plan against the non-creature decks. When your burn isn't doing anything else, just rumbling for one every turn and throwing a couple Spears and Helixes at your opponent will win games.
What I can tell you definitively about this deck is that playing with this recent incarnation has been the most fun I've had playing Standard in years. It's pretty clear that the deck is going to have some trouble against Sire of Insanity. If you have answers to this problem beyond just "ignore it", I'd love to hear them. I'm thinking about trying Devil's Play. Either way, this deck is potent, and IMO a blast. A great improvement over last week's.
Thanks for reading.
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter