When Felidar Guardian was spoiled as a part of Aether Revolt, Standard players immediately recognized that it created a 2 card infinite combo with Saheeli Rai. For the uninitiated, Saheeli Rai makes a copy of Felidar Guardian with her -2 ability. The new Felidar Guardian flickers Saheeli Rai, which is now a new planeswalker with 3 loyalty, which then allows her to use her -2 again to make another Felidar Guardian, rinse and repeat until you have infinite hasty cats.
This type of 2 card infinite combo reminds a lot of players of Deceiver Exarch + Splinter Twin, which was in Standard after the introduction of New Phyrexia. This combo is a little different for a few reasons; namely that the Exarch/Twin combo could be executed on the opponent’s end step and during your following main phase, while Saheeli/Felidar (which from now on I’ll call Copycat) requires you to play both spells during your main phase, which if you are planning on killing on turn 4 requires you to go an entire turn with your Saheeli Rai exposed to your opponent’s attacks or sorcery-speed spells.
Before the surprise Standard bannings, a few teammates and I more or less settled on the idea that an aggressive, tempo-oriented version of the deck would be the best fit for this combo, as it allowed you to use the combo as a backup plan, and force the opponent to deal with your aggression first and foremost. The value of a threatening end-game in an aggressive deck cannot be overstated. Here is where we ended up, more or less:
This deck showed a lot of promise, but if you’ve been following Magic news this week, you would know that this didn’t end up well for us. Why? Well, the best 2 cards in this deck got banned before we even had a chance to play this sweetness. Smuggler’s Copter allowed us to stay aggressive while filtering our draws into both halves of the combo. It was really a dream card for this deck. Reflector Mage helped us with our tempo game massively, and also played extremely well with both Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian.
Smuggler’s Copter and Reflector Mage were basically the two best possible cards for what we wanted to do with our Copycat deck, and they both existed in the format! Yay! Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to both cards, and potentially this Copycat archetype as a whole.
Another archetype that took a major hit with the surprise Standard bannings is Aetherworks. Emrakul, the Promised End was the ideal card for that strategy. It ended the game quickly when it came out and was castable later in the game if the player couldn’t cheat it out with Aetherworks Marvel. With Emrakul now no longer with us, many players have been substituting the flying spaghetti monster for its slightly less powerful cousin, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to mixed results.
I believe that Copycat functions excellently in this shell. Here is the list I’m currently working with:
This list is currently a little rough, but the general ideas are all there. It’s very similar to the Temur Aetherworks deck that was a force towards the end of the format. Both Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai can contribute to the overall strategy of the deck, despite the ultimate goal of pairing them together.
Both of them interact well with Ishkanah, Grafwidow, Servant of the Conduit, Whirler Virtuoso, and Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot. Both halves of the combo can be hit off of Aetherworks Marvel, which adds another level of power (and complexity) to the Legendary artifact. This deck allows you to assemble Copycat on turn 4 through a few different paths. There’s the traditional path of casting Saheeli Rai on turn 3 and Felidar Guardian on turn 4 (obviously). But, a turn 2 Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot into turn 3 Saheeli Rai making a copy of the Puzzleknot allows your turn 4 Aetherworks Marvel to find Felidar Guardian on the same turn. If you don’t want to give your opponent any time during their turn to interact with either half of Copycat, this deck can still kill on turn 4 if you play a Servant of the Conduit on turns 2 and 3. On turn 4 you’ll have 7 mana through the 2 Servants, 4 lands, and 1 land flickered with Felidar Guardian.
This deck produces an incredible amount of energy, between the usual suite of energy-makers and Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian copying and flickering those cards. With 12 energy and an Aetherworks Marvel, finding either half of the combo through Marvel will allow you to activate Aetherworks Marvel again in the same turn, potentially finding the other half of the combo (if you find Saheeli Rai, only 10 energy is required, as the legend rule will add 2 energy, 1 from each Marvel seeing one hit the graveyard).
Obviously, we would rather have Emrakul, the Promised End in this deck, but Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is an excellent replacement. The plan A of this deck is still to cast Ulamog on turn 4 through Aetherworks Marvel, exiling 2 of your opponent’s lands and essentially ending the game then and there, but infinite cats is a pretty excellent backup plan. This deck also plays the fair, value-based game very well. Ishkanah, Grafwidow will still be very powerful in the new Standard format, and Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai only contribute to that.
In the sideboard, I’ve hedged my bets a little. I’m assuming that Aetherworks Marvel will still be very popular, hence the copies of Negate and Fragmentize. Additionally, there will be matches where this deck will want to play a more “fair” game. In those matchups, the package of Elder Deep-Fiend and Ajani Unyielding facilitates that gameplan.
All in all, I think this deck has a lot of potential, and could go on to be a major player in this Standard format. This list is still very rough, but all of the pieces and lines of play are there. I highly suggest that you give this deck a shot to see its incredible power level. If there is one thing that needs improving, it’s the manabase, which I am 100% sure is not completely there yet. It’s difficult to build a manabase in this format, especially if it’s 4 colors and each color has a varying level of importance to the deck. Evolving Wilds is excellent in this deck, but that means that some of the lands in your deck won’t be able to cast Servant of the Conduit on turn 2, etc..
Will decks like this see play at SCG Columbus next weekend? Only time will tell, but I’m very optimistic.
In this article, I discussed how the Standard bannings have effected a few archetypes in the format. This article by Austin Mansell covers the effect that the bannings had on the entire Standard format. You can read it here.
Follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/spellsnare_
Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/spellsnare