Aether Revolt Standard is fully upon us, and the hype of Saheeli Rai and her Guardian Cat didn’t quite live up to expectations. While it certainly had a decent showing and has established itself already as a role player, it didn’t dominate the format like some feared. The combo did take up 3 slots of the Columbus Open top 8, but infinite 1/4’s could not make it past the quarterfinals. We saw both control and more creature-oriented takes on the combo and it has become clear there is more than 1 way to skin a cat (oh man, that is a gross analogy). The 4-Color lists that Team Cardhoarder brought to the event looked especially sweet, and I’m excited to see where Copycat goes as the format becomes more defined and lists are further tuned. Blinking enchantments with Felidar Guardian is definitely rad though, especially Oath of Nissa, as it digs and helps cast Saheeli Rai. This is an interaction to keep an eye on for sure.
With all the excitement surrounding the new 2-card combo, it’s no surprise that the deck showed up in droves and carved out a large chunk of the metagame for itself, and we’ve certainly not seen the last of it. I’m particularly looking forward to the upcoming Pro Tour in Dublin to see what the best in the game can do with Saheeli. Copycat might have been the hot topic going into the event, but the real talk of the weekend ended up being G/B and its sudden dominance. Various varieties of G/B took up 3 of the top 4 slots, including nabbing the trophy in the hands of Brennan DeCandio. The remaining 2 slots of the top 8 were filled with 1 G/W Tokens deck and yours truly’s personal favorite, Mardu Vehicles. Vehicles also had a splattering of appearances across the top 64 as well, which fills me with great joy.
For once, it’s not red and white cards that go vroom that I’ve got on my mind, but rather it’s snakes. I’ve got snakes on a Brain.
If there is one commonality between the 3 varieties of G/B decks in the top 4, it is the +1/+1 counters sub-theme they all have. Rishkar, Peema Renegade, Walking Ballista, and Verdurous Gearhulk were present in all 3 lists, and you know what goes well with all those cards?
No, not that card! That isn’t even legal! No, it’s this innocuous li’l fella!
While all 3 lists have a wide range on the exact numbers of cards like Verdurous Gearhulk, Walking Ballista, or Rishkar, the one thing they do have in common is the full playset of Winding Constrictor. (Sidenote: Anything less than 4 copies of Walking Ballista is definitely wrong. That card looked great all weekend. Back to snakes.) The little 2/3 for 2 doesn’t ask for anything other than a simple black and green mana, yet he offers you the world. With Shock‘s stock being very high because of its ability to disrupt Copycat, this 2/3 body is particularly well-positioned and ready to block until you curve into a Rishkar, Peema Renegade. Then you have a 4/5 snake that’s ready to attack. Jonah highlighted a lot of these intricacies in his article from last week as he covered G/B (you can read the article here), and I have to say I am a newly faithful convert. I have seen the light, and it is in the black and green mana, my friends.
So what will I be jamming this weekend for my first PPTQ of Aether Revolt Standard? In true Spike fashion I’ll be sleeving up Brennan Decandio’s winning list.
Why am I advocating and personally opting for his list over the other 2 G/B variants in the top 8? It’s not just the trophy it brought home, but rather a certain 2BB demon it packs the full four of.
As I mentioned in my bannings article (you can read it here), Mindwrack Demon was relegated to fringe playability at best due to the prominence of Reflector Mage. The big beefy evasive threat just was too susceptible to the over-powered Man-o’-War. But with the mirror mage gone, I think its time for your minds to get wracked. Brennan kept beating down with big fat evasive demons while his opponents slowly made plant tokens, and it was right then that I was sold. I want to curve Snakes into Rishkar and bring the beats! And Mindwrack Demon looks best suited for that role.
I’ll most likely be sleeving up his exact 75, maybe only making the small adjustments that he’s mentioned himself. Listening to his Deck Tech he recorded on day 1 of the open, he seems happy with the overall numbers and the only change he advocates for is cutting Ob Nixilis Reignited from the sideboard. With control decks including the combo now, it’s harder for you to tap out against them for a big haymaker like Ob Nixilis Reignited, so its removal makes sense. Ob Nob did look good in the pseudo-mirrors he played in the top 8 however, and I could see keeping it for that sole reason.
The other card that looked good in the mirror was Fatal Push, and I could easily see making room for an additional copy in the board as well. Being able to answer your opponent’s 2 drop while you’re on the draw and then deploy your own helps break serve and keep you from falling too far behind. Fatal Push also has other applications against the more aggressive-leaning decks in the format, so it’s applicability isn’t limited to just the mirror.
I’ll be jamming a whole bunch of games with Brennan’s list tonight and then again on Friday in the hopes that I’m comfortable enough with the list for Saturday. Wish me luck and next week I’ll share with you everything I’ve learned about piloting this Snake and Demon infested 75!
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