As soon as I saw
Settle the Wreckage and
Search for Azcanta, I knew I wanted to build decks around them. Thanks to Cardsphere, I had playsets on the way shortly after Prerelease weekend. These cards breathed new life into an archetype that might not have otherwise survived the loss of
Blessed Alliance to rotation.
Most decklists we've seen have been straight U/W, accepting some of the weaknesses of the color pair in exchange for near-perfect mana and access to utility lands like
Ipnu Rivulet and
Scavenger Grounds. However, 3-color lists have had notable successes. Guillaume Matignon reached the Pro Tour Ixalan top 8 with a Jeskai list, and Alex LLoyd won GP Atlanta with an Esper version.
I tested all of these shells during Ixalan Standard and ultimately decided that Esper is the best option, and a couple of additions from Rivals of Ixalan have me convinced that this remains the right choice.
4 Fatal Push 3 Censor 4 Disallow 4 Supreme Will 4 Glimmer of Genius 3 Settle the Wreckage 2 Fumigate 3 Approach of the Second Sun 2 Vraska's Contempt 2 Search for Azcanta 1 Moment of Craving 2 Torrential Gearhulk 4 Drowned Catacomb 4 Glacial Fortress 4 Fetid Pools 4 Irrigated Farmland 3 Aether Hub 2 Field of Ruin 2 Island 1 Swamp 2 Plains 2 Azor's Gateway 2 Deadeye Tracker 2 Duress 2 Forsake the Worldly 2 Moment of Craving 3 Negate 2 Nezahal, Primal Tide
Let's get this out of the way first:
Concealed Courtyard? How are you casting
Fatal Pushon turn 1?
I'm not, and it's not realistic to expect that you could. What I am doing is playing a tap land - usually a
Fetid Pools or an
Irrigated Farmland. Either turns on both
Drowned Catacomb and
Glacial Fortress for the remainder of the game, and they can also be cycled. Courtyard does neither of these things, and is a terrible fourth or fifth land, which are often the critical turns for this deck.
Field of Ruin serves multiple purposes here. Nonbasic lands appear in basically every deck in the format, and destroying a flipped
Search for Azcanta or even a
Scavenger Grounds can make the difference in a game. It also functions as a fetch land for a color you might be missing, since the deck does need to support UU, WW, and BB - and in a pinch it can provide Revolt for
The manabase is very blue-heavy, but the black and white sources are sufficient given the amount of card draw present.
New Additions from Rivals of Ixalan
Azor's Gateway is a deceptively powerful engine. Looting once per turn whenever you have one mana available offers a low-cost way of filtering draws.
Once transformed, Sanctum of the Sun provides a large amount of mana every turn, which can close games very quickly. It doesn't fuel
Search for Azcanta while it's looting, but both legendary lands working together can easily overwhelm any opponent.
The deck contains cards with eight different mana costs, making transformation of the Gateway very achievable.
Moment of Craving has been excellent for me against highly aggressive decks. It's cheap, an instant that can be flashed back with
Torrential Gearhulk, and gains life. This is everything you want against red-based aggro.
In a control mirror, your opponent is likely to be sitting back on their counterspells waiting for you to try to win the game. Enter
Nezahal, Primal Tide. He can't be countered, is nearly impossible to remove, draws you cards, and blocks
The Resurgence of Torrential Gearhulk
Speaking of our old friend, this is, in large part, a
Torrential Gearhulk deck. The days of full-playset U/R Control's dominance are behind us, but Gearhulk is well-sized to stonewall most of Standard's current non-evasive threats.
Instead of enchantment removal like
Baffling End or
Cast Out, this version attempts to maximize the impact of its Gearhulks by running a large number of instants to flash back.
Mapping Out Turns
For a creature or combo deck, it's relatively easy to figure out what your ideal draw might be. With a highly reactive deck like this one, what you do in the early turns is highly dependent on what your opponent does. However, we can still measure the success of a turn sequence by two metrics:
- Mana efficency. The more mana efficient your turns are, the more effective you are likely to be.
- Options. The more options available to you, the fewer options you will be able to make available to your opponent.
Let's walk through each turn and list our best options, in order of efficiency. For the purpose of this exercise, we'll assume we're making our land drops.
- Play a tap land.
- Play a Swamp or
Aether Huband cast
Fatal Push. (rarely)
In my opinion, it's nearly always incorrect to cycle
Censor is a vital piece of early game interaction, particularly during pre-sideboarded games. It probably should only be cycled turn 1 if we have mulliganed and need to find a second land.
Search for Azcanta.
Moment of Craving.
- Cycle a land.
Again, usually we will find better things to do than to cycle
- Play a tap land and treat it like turn 2.
Already our options are expanding. We can slow our opponent, search for what we need, or cycle away an extra land.
In cases where we have both, the choice between
Supreme Will as a counterspell is matchup-dependent. If our opponent's deck is susceptible to sweepers, we're more likely to want to use
Disallow early and use
Supreme Will to find
Settle the Wreckage or
Fumigate. If they have must-counter threats like
Hazoret the Fervent or
Chandra, Torch of Defiance, we'll want to save any copies of
Disallow for those threats. After the first
Settle the Wreckage,
Supreme Will is unlikely to be an effective counterspell.
Glimmer of Genius.
Settle the Wreckage.
This is the turn where we try to make life difficult for our opponent. Playing around each of these options usually requires a different line of play, and you will often have access to two or more of these options on this turn.
- Treat it like turn 4.
One of the costs of playing around
Settle the Wreckage is the risk of playing right into
- Cast two spells.
Approach of the Second Sun.
- Do something else.
As the decision tree is extremely wide at this point, let's shift from discussing how the game begins to how it ends.
Planning Your Approach
One of the keys to playing this deck is picking the correct turn to cast
Approach of the Second Sun when you only have one in hand. When you do so, you'll gain 7 - but that amount of life will have to last until you find the second one, and your opponent will be able to resolve whatever they want on the following turn unless you are able to build up enough lands to hold up an answer.
The most common play pattern is:
- Cast Approach.
- On the next turn, dig seven cards deep.
- On the third turn, cast the same Approach again.
This requires you to dig five cards deep between the first Approach turn and the second, not counting the two draw steps.
The main deck contains 14 cards that dig one card deep:
Search for Azcanta,
Fetid Pools, and
There are 10 cards that dig up to four cards deep:
Glimmer of Genius, and
Search for Azcanta.
Any combination of two of these effects, as long as one digs four cards, will find you to the second Approach in time to cast it two turns after the first one resolved. Depending on what's in your hand and on the battlefield, you will need between 3 and 8 mana for this. Whatever's left can be spent keeping you alive.
Yes, I counted
Search for Azcanta twice. It stil runs these streets - and if transformed during the intermediate turn, it can find the original Approach all by itself.
In a wide-open metagame, versatility of sideboard cards is critical.
Azor's Gateway is excellent in control matchups, and serviceable in most midrange matchups if your opponent isn't playing
Deadeye Tracker is useful whenever you need to manage your opponent's graveyard, and will grow or find lands while doing it.
Duress in excellent in matchups where your opponent thinks they can blank your win condition or prevent you from sweeping their board by siding in 3 copies of
Forsake the Worldly is probably the least obvious inclusion here, but it permanently deals with a variety of irritating permanents, including
Search for Azcanta,
Scrapheap Scrounger, and
Moment of Craving is useful against aggressive decks with low-toughness creatures.
Negate is always an excellent option if you're expecting to face counterspells and/or planeswalkers.
Nezahal, Primal Tide is an alternate win condition for control mirrors or matchups where
Lost Legacy is a concern.
As the metagame shifts, it's important to make adjustments. Of course, the list can also be tuned to your local metagame.
Moment of Craving and
Vraska's Contempt are at their best against fast aggressive decks. Maindecking more of these can improve your aggressive matchups but can significantly worsen the issue of having dead cards in the mirror.
Sweepers such as
Settle the Wreckage and
Fumigate are most effective against midrange decks. If the metagame slants toward GB Constrictor or RG Monsters to combat fast aggro, these cards become more important.
Whatever your maindeck configuration, make sure you have enough cards to bring in for control mirrors, where the majority of your removal spells will be blanks.
What do you think of this build? What changes would you make?