This past weekend featured the SCG Open in Columbus, which gave us our first look at Aether Revolt Standard. Going into the tournament, it was obvious that the Saheeli Rai + Felidar Guardian combo (known by kool kidz as Copycat) was going to a pillar of the format, but exactly how successful it was going to be and what flavors of the deck would rise to the top was yet to be seen.
In the end, Copycat put up a good showing, putting 3 copies into the top 8 and many more in the top 16, 32, and 64, but the debate over the best version of the deck was not settled. Basically every imaginable variant of the deck saw play and had some type of success.
In this article, I’ll be going over the top performing versions of Copycat, talk about the pros and cons of each, and give my opinion on what version (or versions) will become the go-to Copycat deck going forward. Let’s jump into it.
Jeskai Copycat Control by Dan Fournier at SCG Columbus
We’re gonna start with the simplest and probably most obvious version of the deck going into the tournament, which was a Jeskai (base blue-red) Control deck with enough red removal spells to disrupt the opponent’s Copycat combo with blue counter spells and draw spells to find and protect the combo. This list by Dan Fournier finished in 7th place, and had more copies sprinkled throughout the top 64.
This take on Copycat aims to maximize the use of Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai outside of the combo. Copying or blinking Torrential Gearhulk is excellent, especially after you’ve played the entire game as a control deck with plenty of draw spells and kill spells. Additionally, Oath of Jace was already a borderline playable card, but with Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai it becomes a powerful card that gains you card advantage as the game goes on, and not just the turn you cast it. The sideboard of this deck seems a little off, and I’m inclined to believe that the sideboard will be more tuned in future versions of this deck now that we know what the format looks like. However, one surprising consistency in these Jeskai Copycat variants was Spell Queller in the sideboard. It offers a different angle of attack and can be a very important card in the mirror, as it effectively counters spells and puts pressure on opposing copies of Saheeli Rai.
4-Color Copycat Flicker by Robert Graves at SCG Columbus
This deck, on the other hand, does not try to protect its combo, but rather avoid disruption by out-valuing the opponent through its energy engine and the power of Cloudblazer with both halves of the Copycat combo. This deck has a lot going on, but all of the moving parts somehow fit together very nicely at the end of the day. The card that holds the deck together is Rogue Refiner. The 3 mana creature draws you deeper in your deck towards the combo, adds energy for the powerful creatures that can use it like Servant of the Conduit, and provides a very solid beatdown plan if you find that trying to combo out won’t be a good strategy for a particular game. Oath of Nissa allows the deck to run much more smoothly and also interacts well with the Copycat combo. Prophetic Prism seems like an odd one, but sometimes you want to draw a card with your 4 mana 1/4.
If you’re looking to play a fair game with your Copycat combo, this is definitely the deck for you. The main weakness of the Copycat combo is that you’ll frequently find yourself with a wildly unplayable 1/4 for 4 mana and a mediocre 3 mana planeswalker unless you can assemble the combo. However, that’s not the case in this deck, as Robert Graves aimed to maximize the utility of the combo pieces in situations where you can’t kill your opponent. The grinding potential of this deck is through the roof, and I think it will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.
4-Color Copycat Planeswalkers by Tyler Hill at SCG Columbus
Non-Creature Spells (26)
3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Nissa, Vital Force
4 Saheeli Rai
3 Harnessed Lightning
3 Oath of Chandra
2 Oath of Jace
4 Oath of Nissa
2 Traverse the Ulvenwald
1 Implement of Combustion
1 Vessel of Nascency
2 Natural State
1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Nahiri, the Harbinger
2 Radiant Flames
1 Release the Gremlins
Robert Graves wasn’t the only player who made top 8 with a 4-Color Copycat deck, but it would feel wrong to not mention this deck as a completely separate archetype. This deck features 9 (yes, 9!) Oaths along with 9 (yes, 9!) planeswalkers to facilitate the Oaths. Chandra, Torch of Defiance allows you to dig through your deck quickly or control the board. Nissa, Vital Force, on the other hand, operates as a very solid plan B if you find that you won’t win the game through the traditional Copycat method.
It can, however, also interact well with the combo, as it provides some resilience to removal spells or counter spells. I’m also fairly sure I’ve never seen someone come back from a Nissa, Vital Force emblem on a relatively even board. Oath of Jace also quickly becomes unbeatable when you’re scrying 2 or 3 every single turn for free. However, I’m inclined to believe that Traverse the Ulvenwald does not fit well with this deck, as it only really gets enabled by Oath of Jace, and the only sorcery in the deck is itself. So, unless I’m missing something, it seems like the weak link of this deck.
4-Color Copycat Marvel by Ted Felicetti at SCG Columbus
Lastly, I feel it necessary to talk about Ted Felicetti’s take on Copycat, which featured the powerful combo as a part of a more classic Aetherworks Marvel shell that saw a lot of play before Aether Revolt (and the banning of Emrakul, the Promised End). In an article a few weeks ago, I went over my list of this archetype (which you can read here, I recommend it if you’re looking to see how different mine was from Ted Felicetti’s) and gave my opinion that I thought that this was the future of the Copycat archetype. Just like the Robert Graves list, Rogue Refiner is the duct tape that holds the deck together.
The power level of this deck is there. A turn 4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is rarely beaten, and the secondary game plan of a 2 card combo is extremely potent. At its best, Aetherworks Marvel operates as a draw 6 when you want to assemble the combo, and that is definitely something worth exploring. Ted’s list is significantly more tuned than mine was, and I think that he more or less solved the manabase issue that I was having. I don’t expect this deck to be the first (or even second) choice for Copycat players, but don’t be surprised if it shows up and spikes any tournament that you attend.
Every Copycat deck has their merits, and I would not be surprised to see multiple version of it continue to do well at every Standard tournament this season. However, the decision to play one version or another will come down to metagame. B/G Delirium won the tournament, and is likely the deck to beat now, while other archetypes, like G/B Aggro, other Copycat decks, and various forms of control populate the format. Deciding what deck you want to beat will dictate which version of Copycat you play. Here is a list of which deck you should play if you want to target certain decks.
Vs. B/G Delirium: 4-Color Copycat Flicker. This matchup is rough as is, but I believe that Robert Graves’ deck will give you the best chance out of all of these decks in that matchup. It doesn’t spin its wheels as much and its combination of beatdown cards and card advantage means it can play on B/G’s axis better than the other Coycat decks.
Vs. Copycat: Jeskai Copycat Control. More counter spells and removal spells is a recipe for succes when both players are trying to assemble a 2 card combo. Playing at instant speed more than the other decks also allows you to sculpt the game to your liking. I think Dan Fournier’s list is a great place to start if you want to combat the other Copycat decks in the room.
Vs. Control: Jeskai Copycat Planeswalkers. The turn-after-turn advantage that this deck provides you can keep up with the card advantage in control decks very well. Once you overload their copies of Ruinous Path (and navigate around their counter spells), you find yourself in a very favorable position. Don’t go too quickly in this matchup, and you will eventually outlast them.
Vs. G/W Tokens: 4-Color Copycat Marvel. This one I’m not entirely convinced on, but I can’t imagine G/W Tokens coming back from a fast Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, and being able to clear away any potential Authority of the Consuls is great if you want to open up a path to your combo.
Copycat has, as predicted, staked its claim as the top deck in the format, even though it didn’t manage to win the first big tournament of Aether Revolt Standard. If you want to pick up the powerful 2-card combo, any of these decks would make a fine choice for most tournaments. Which version of the deck will rise to the top is certainly yet to be seen.
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