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Epic Walkers

Hi everyone, it sure has been a while since I last wrote an article. Since this standard format is rapidly coming to an end, and with Origins just around the corner I thought I would share my favourite deck in standard. While everyone else is jamming dragonlords and raptors, this deck is designed to attack on a very different axis. Planeswalkers, and lots of them (17 across the 75). The days of 4 Hero’s Downfall in every black deck are well behind us, and the card advantage each planeswalker generates is enormous.

Before I get into the deck itself I just want to talk a little about how this deck came into being. Dragons of Tarkir had just been realeased and I was trying to brew a bunch of 5-colour decks (refer to my previous article for an early dragon deck), when I had the thought of “how many planeswalkers can I get into the one deck?” This started a week-long project of some gold fishing and tuning until I finally had something that I was happy to take to FNM. The deck did alright that night (2-2 I think), but I was still unsure on the mana base and the actual configuration of my planeswalkers. After consulting with a friend with how to streamline the deck a little and actually develop a proper mana base, we arrived at our current destination. So by now I’m sure you are dying to see the list, so here it is:

[deck, title: “Adrian’s Planeswalkers”]
Spells:
3x Anticipate
3x End Hostilities
Creatures:
4x Courser of Kruphix
4x Rattleclaw Mystic
4x Sylvan Caryatid
2x Den Protector
Planeswalkers:
2x Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
3x Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1x Garruk, Apex Predator
3x Sarkhan Unbroken
3x Sorin, Solemn Visitor
3x Xenagos, the Reveler
Land:
4x Flooded Strand
3x Forest
2x Frontier Bivouac
2x Island
2x Mystic Monastery
3x Opulent Palace
3x Plains
2x Sandsteppe Citadel
3x Windswept Heath
1x Yavimaya Coast

Sideboard:
4x Arashin Cleric
3x Disdainful Stroke
2x Kiora, the Crashing Wave
4x Negate
2x Secure the Wastes
[/deck]

Now that you have seen the list, let’s start to break it down and see how everything clicks.

Spells

The easiest place to start is with the spells, 3x End Hostilities and 3x Anticipate. Once I knew that I would be playing with a lot of planeswalkers I knew that I would want a way to stabilise the board so that my walkers could then take over, so the choice was between End Hostilities or Crux of Fate. This became a fairly easy choice as the dragon decks were just starting to pick up, and I wanted a way to just get rid of everything. Also the WW compared to the BB was easier to fit into the final mana base given that we are playing 3 copies of Elspeth. Now honestly Anticipate is probably the weakest card in the deck, and it is usually the first thing I sideboard out in nearly every match up, but the versatility it adds in game 1 can really come in handy. Playing aggro, go find that End Hostilities, playing mid-range, go find an Elspeth. Because there are a high number of each sideboard card (no one-ofs here), the digging power is less necessary and it doesn’t really take away from the overall game plan so it is a generally safe cut.

Creatures

Now onto the creature choice, with 4x Sylvan Caryatid, 4x Rattleclaw Mystic, 4x Courser of Kruphix and 2x Den Protector. Caryatid is an easy 4-of with the colour spread across our planeswalkers, plus getting them down faster is always better. Rattleclaw actually over performs in this deck purely by being a morph that can be flipped with colourless mana. There have been a couple of times when I have had to mulligan into a hand with no green mana, but Rattleclaw gets you out of those situations really well. Courser is not great in the format with all these Dromoka’s Commands floating around, but is required so you don’t just straight up lose game 1 against aggro. Being able to see your top card is also quite good in conjunction with the +1 abilities of Sarkhan and Ajani, giving you a really ability to dig through your deck. Finally the Den Protectors just give a little bit of value, allowing you to rebuy walkers or even just fetchlands to play your Elspeth (or counterspells out of your sideboard).

Planeswalkers

Ok so I’ve kept you waiting long enough, time to talk about those mighty planeswalkers that make the deck so epic. We are running a total of 15 in our main deck, split across six heroes. The early build had a couple more, but they were cut down to streamline the deck and add a bit more consistency. At 4 CMC we have three copies of both Xenagos, the Reveler and Sorin, Solemn Visitor. Xenagos is still a great source of pressure against control decks, and in this deck the +1 ability can generate a lot of mana for some pretty explosive turns. Sorrin allows us to race against creature decks, and you will nearly always just keep using the +1 ability. At 5 CMC we have the real engine cards of the deck. Three copies of the child of time himself, Sarkhan Unbroken, and two copies of the mentor to all of our heroes, Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. Sarkhan will usually always net you a dragon first up, but then his +1 to draw you other planeswalkers and fix your mana to cast them really helps get the engine going in this deck. Ajani also helps you just keep digging through your deck, with you rarely needing to distribute counters unless you are attacking for lethal. At 6 CMC we have the queen herself, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Elspeth is still one of the best cards in standard, with her ability to take over a game so quickly allows you to stay out in front of your opponents. Then coming in at 7 CMC as a one-of is the king Garruk, Apex Predator, which is a nice trump to anything else on the battlefield.

Manabase

The mana base for this deck is actually quite nice, and is actually probably better than the Abzan aggro lists. By exploiting the fact that all of our planeswalkers apart from Elspeth have at least two different colours in their casting cost we can build a Bant-based mana base with a bunch of tri-lands. By playing the Bant fetches we can confidently cast our mana creatures early by getting green, End Hostilities and Elspeth by getting white and our sideboarded counterspells by getting blue. Then we can use the tri-lands to just give us incedenatal value with red and black mana to cast our Xenagos, Sorin, Sarkhan and Garruk. We are also able to generate red from Rattleclaw Mystic, which alongside Sylvan Caryatid allow us to not run any basic Mountains or Swamps. It does mean sometimes we end up with a Sorrin stuck in our hand, but I would rather the Yavimaya Coast over another Sandsteppe Citadel to make sure we curve out fairly well.

Play

I hope by now you are starting to see some of the beautiful synergy within the deck. Apart from Ajani, all of our planeswalkers are able to generate tokens, which are our main path to victory. This also plays well with our main deck copies of End Hostilities, which allows us to just attack with everything, wipe the board and then reset with all these new tokens. When you get to wipe the board and then put 11 power of tokens into play across a dragon, vampire, satyr and three soldiers feels real dirty. Also with all these tokens Sorrin’s +1 can just gain you a massive amount of life, and essentially just run an aggro deck into the ground. Additionally each planeswalker you play helps to protect your other planeswalkers, creating a massive wall that can make attacking just awful for your opponents. By the time you have three active planeswalkers, your opponents will usually just concede, which is nice.

Now in a deck that aims to win the mid to late game with all these big flashy planeswalkers we first need to survive that long, which is why we have sideboards. Against nearly any variety of aggro deck we have 4x Arashin Cleric and 4x Negate, and we can also bring in the most recent addition to the deck 2x Secure the Wastes. Arashin Cleric is the best way to fight the all-in creature deck, with the ability to gain you three life straight up and then brick wall any 2/1’s or goblin tokens to buy you the time to get to Xenagos and Elspeth can’t be undervalued. Now Negate is actually the best counterspell for this deck as it stops everything you really care about stopping (except Mantis Rider) from removal spells, other planeswalkers and allows you to force your planeswalkers through against control decks. Secure the Wastes is a new addition and I’m still not sure about this slot, but I figure it is ok early against the aggro decks and then scales well into the late game. The three copies of Disdainful Stroke allow you to fight other mid-range and control decks, with Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and the dragonlords being the big targets here. Finally the two copies of Kiora, the Crashing Wave are really good against Abzan and heroic decks, so I guess they are a bit meta-game dependant.

This deck is pretty soft to fliers, with Mantis Rider being a major problem to deal with, and the GR and Mardu dragon deck can be difficult match ups. However if you are looking to play a deck that is just super sweet before we have to deal a new format, I suggest you try this list out and just have some fun.

Until next time, Adrian.

P.S. Bring tokens, lots of tokens!
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