Insider: Riding the Waves

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Last week, I was devoted to proving how good Pharika, God of Affliction was in Standard and I ended up with a reasonable deck. I ran the list I posted last week at my five-round FNM but things did not go as well as I had hoped.

Before I discuss what I learned, here’s the list for reference.

Pack Rat – My thinking with this card was that it is a resilient threat that can win the game on its own. After playing it in an aggressive deck, I think it’s best suited to a deck more focused on removal spells than attacking.

Pack Rat does not provide an aggressive clock with which you can attack your opponent. What it does provide is inevitability. In this deck even a much weaker card like Pain Seer might be a better option. I did win some games with Pack Rat but I also got blown out in some games after going all-in on it.

Spells – The final verdict after one tournament with this deck is that I included too many spells and not enough creatures. Thoughtseize in particular felt like it belonged in the sideboard rather than the main deck. The same can be said of Underworld Connections.

Both of these cards create a strong game plan against U/W Control and Mono-Black Devotion, but against other decks they aren’t necessary to win. Maybe they would be considered for the main deck at a tournament where you were likely to face those two decks in the majority of rounds, but that does not happen often.

Pharika, God of Affliction – While I did like Pharika, sometimes she did not affect the board enough to warrant all four copies. It surprised me how much the additional devotion needed to activate her impacted games.

If she had the same devotion requirement as Thassa, God of the Sea, I would be revamping this deck and wrecking people with it. Requiring five more mana symbols to become a creature is a significant difference from the mono-colored gods. That extra mana symbol often means that you must have another creature in play.

My solution to this dilemma was to include Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord. Of everything about this deck, Jarad was the worst part. I sideboarded him out every round and even though I could have cast him a number of times, casting just about any other spell was better. He still may have a place in the sideboard but certainly not maindeck.

Pharika seemed powerful enough to pursue this deck a bit more, but I keep wondering if maybe Erebos, God of the Dead would be better.

[cardimage cardname='Pack Rat'][cardimage cardname='Pharika, God of Affliction']

Here’s the updated list for anyone who’s interested in trying it out.

Brain Maggot – This was the one card I wanted to spend some time talking about. I've found the new Mesmeric Fiend much stronger than I expected. Yes, it dies to every removal spell, but it generates you the tempo you are looking for with an aggressive deck. In addition, there are plenty of decks that won’t have a removal spell for it so it plays like the card is exiled.

There was a lot of initial hype from this creature but it has since died down. What I am saying is that the hype was well deserved and we should be revisiting this card as a potential inclusion in our black decks.

[cardimage cardname='Master of Waves'][cardimage cardname='Thassa, God of the Sea']

Flowing in Another Direction

After a lackluster performance in FNM with B/G Aggro, I felt lost at sea surrounded by an ocean of nothingness. Every time I would think of a possible deck for the following morning, it would disappear like a mirage. It was getting late and I needed to make a decision about what to play for the TCG Player event. Then all of a sudden, a wave hit me from out of nowhere and as I was covered in water, all the pieces seemed to slip into place.

Although I have not written much about it, one of the decks I’ve been the most excited about in the new Standard format is Mono-Blue Devotion. Water metaphors aside, I think it is one of the strongest decks and everyone seems to have forgotten about it.

From the players I’ve spoken to, virtually no one is playing this deck any longer and I don’t know why. There are a couple different cards in the deck that make it even better than it was before. Take a look at my updated list.

Hypnotic Siren – Since there are only two new cards in the maindeck, I’ll spend some time discussing both of them. On one hand, this card is the same Flying Men as Judge's Familiar. Most of the time it will be just another early creature used to fuel your devotion count, evolve Cloudfin Raptor, and or get in a couple points of damage.

Just like Cyclonic Rift though, when the games go long, Hypnotic Siren can get you out of situations that no other card can. Bestowing this creature made me realize how powerful Mind Control would be in Standard right now.

One way you may not have thought to play this creature is to bestow it on your own creature. There are some circumstances where giving your own creature +1/+1 and flying is the right play. These situations won’t come up often, but remembering it’s an available option can win you games.

Hall of Triumph – This card is good enough that I was going to devote an entire article to it, but PV beat me to it. If you have time, read his analysis of the card as well. To sum it up, this is a powerful spell that has no comparison. Most of the colors never get effects like this. The closest we have come to this card are the lords of specific creature types.

Hall of Triumph lets you play whatever creatures in your color that you want. It is legendary, but that’s its only drawback. Not only does this anthem let you commit fewer threats to the board against control, but your Master of Waves tokens survive when he dies! What more could you want from a card?

Sideboard – Most of the cards in the sideboard are fairly typical. I do not subscribe to the sideboard full of counters like other players do, but Negate does some major work. Mizzium Skin and Triton Tactics function like Counterspells with unique effects as well.

The card you are probably all wondering about is Thassa's Emissary. Before playing with this card, I volunteered that it might be terrible and I would regret running it. The theory behind it is that in the decks hardest matchup, UWx Control, you want more threats to bring in from the sideboard. For a little while I tried Prognostic Sphinx, but it never worked quite the way I wanted it to.

Thassa's Emissary, on the other hand, worked surprisingly well. You can bestow it on a flyer as a pump spell that draws a card, or cast it as a reasonable four-mana creature. I was intrigued by how decent it was. Emissary was a reasonable threat that needed to be answered even if it was the only thing on the board which was exactly what I wanted against control.

Strangely, I would even want to draw this clunky bestow creature instead of Aetherling, so that may free up some sideboard slots. The verdict on Thassa's Emissary is playable, at least against control.

Battling at the TCG Player

The TCG Player event ended up being quite a bit smaller than I was expecting, but the players that showed up were some of the top players in the area. When talking about this event, I spoke of it as the most competitive small event I’ve ever played in. It was more like playing the last four rounds of a large event than playing in a normal small event. Going 3-1 in this event meant more to me than winning my FNM on a regular basis. Here’s what happened.

[cardimage cardname='Nighthowler'][cardimage cardname='Kiora, the Crashing Wave']

Round 1 – G/B Dredge

After one of my friends saw me playing with this deck, he decided to pick it up for himself. Even though he had only been playing the deck for a short period of time, he played it quite proficiently.

If I had to pick which side of this matchup to be on, it would definitely be the Mono-Blue side. What ends up happening is the blue deck puts pressure on Dredge with cheap flying creatures forcing them to try to “combo” as quickly as possible. The problem is that Dredge is slow to set up and then doesn’t have evasion to get through the blue creatures.

In addition, tempo cards like Cyclonic Rift and Rapid Hybridization, as well as an activation of Bident of Thassa, force Dredge into places where they cannot realistically win. This is how I won the match. He swung through for one huge chunk of damage in each game, but was unable to finish me off in either.

Match 2-0
Record 1-0

Round 2 – Bant Midrange

To give you an idea of what I was playing against, think about it as a Junk Midrange deck with Archangel of Thune and Scavenging Ooze, but instead of black mana for Abrupt Decay and removal spells, there was blue mana for Sphinx's Revelation, Jace, Architect of Thought, and Kiora, the Crashing Wave.

Even though at times the deck played like a green-white deck splashing blue, it still contained most of the same cards as any U/W Control deck. To say this was a hard matchup would be an understatement.

In game one, he had a clunky draw and mine curved out perfectly. I had Cloudfin Raptor, into Frostburn Weird, then the best turn three play in Hall of Triumph and Master of Waves to follow up. He didn’t have a chance in this preboard game. The second and third games were totally different though.

While I was sideboarding, I predicted he would cut many of his creatures in favor of Supreme Verdict. Even though I did not know for certain that he was playing Supreme Verdict, he was playing like it was in his deck so I played around it as best I could. After the first one hit, I was in a better situation to win the game because I did not overcommit to the board.

Unfortunately, I did not draw enough lands to bestow Hypnotic Siren and he had counters for all my other routes to victory like using Cyclonic Rift to gain some tempo.

Game three was a sad affair where I drew thirteen lands and all of the non-creature spells in my deck. Even with my lackluster draw, I still had him dead if he drew one less removal spell or I drew one of my few outs. It was an extremely close match and one I would say is about as 50-50 as they come.

Games 1-2
Record 1-1

Round 3 – Bant Control

After playing for almost the entire fifty minutes last round, you can imagine my excitement when my opponent starts off with Hallowed Fountain tapped. I had lots of early pressure with against this UWg control deck. I played as if it were normal U/W because his deck composition was much closer to normal U/W Control than that of my last opponent.

Still, I found it strange that I played against the same overlooked color combination as last round two rounds in a row at a small tournament. Even though I got him down to five life, he drew three Dissolve and three total Detention Sphere or Banishing Light. Needless to say, I had an impossible time winning game one.

In the second game of this epic match, I had a fast clock that I was able to replenish post-wrath. I had a diverse array of spells at my disposal and continuous pressure and my active Bident of Thassa helped me find more of both. Thassa's Emissary helped me finish off my opponent as if it were a 3/3 haste creature.

The third and final game was in my control the whole time. Every time he tried to stabilize I threw another haymaker on the field. There were a number of game winning plays that he stopped like overloading Cyclonic Rift, bestowing Hypnotic Siren to fly over and kill Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and landing either of my artifacts.

Any of these plays would have spelled the end for him, but after they all failed, it was his lack of a Sphinx's Revelation that allowed me to run him out of cards and finish him off just before time was called.

Games 2-1
Record 2-1

[cardimage cardname='Sphinx's Revelation'][cardimage cardname='Prophetic Flamespeaker']

Round 4 – R/u Devotion

If you have played against any red devotion deck, then you know almost all the cards in my opponents deck. Some cards you may not know are a couple Cyclonic Rifts, one Keranos, God of Storms, and the new and amazing Prophetic Flamespeaker. Other than those cards, this deck was fairly typical.

With my opponent on the play in game one and me not seeing Frostburn Weird to block or Tidebinder Mage to lock his guys down, I had a hard time stabilizing. My opponent probably did not need the Fanatic of Mogis to finish me off but it sped up his clock a full turn and gave me less time to try and draw Master of Waves.

The second game was much closer but it was one where my opponent never really got his game plan off the ground. He played some creatures and I played three of my two-drops against the best deck to have them in play. Sure I drew other threats as well as Domestication to end the game quickly, but it was the two-drops that won the game for me.

The third game was one of the closest I’ve played in quite some time. He had an extremely aggressive start and I had a hard time finding lands to cast my spells. I kept a nearly perfect one-land hand on the draw and missed hitting my land a number of times. Gradually I did hit my land drops but they were never in a row. After I found my second land, I had to wait a couple turns to find the third and then the fourth.

My opponent lost a turn playing Hammer of Purphoros, but it provided additional pressure in future turns. Once I finally hit my fourth land drop I had two Master of Waves to play two turns in a row but I was at two life for a those turns so I was biting my nails in anticipation. After a bit of stress and as tight play as I’ve ever played in my life, I squeaked out an epic win.

Games 2-1
Record 3-1

Overall, I loved the deck and it held up against the strongest competition. I would feel comfortable battling with this deck at any major tournaments. If anyone else is having success with this deck, I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Until Next Time,

Unleash the Force of the Waves!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter

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