This past weekend, Temur Tower top 8’d both Grand Prix Shizuoka and Grand Prix Porto Alegre. Unlike Mardu Ballista and 4-Color Copycat, the two big decks in the format, Temur Tower hasn’t quite found its optimal list yet. Every new decklist that does well is unique. In this article, I’ll be going over a few decklists, including the two top 8 decks from this past weekend, then I’ll discuss card choices and which choices are optimal for this metagame, then I’ll end with the list that I’m playing moving forward. Let’s dive in!

Temur Tower by Masayasu Tanahashi at GP Shizuoka – 4th

Creatures (4)
4 Torrential Gearhulk

Non-Creature Spells (34)
3 Anticipate
4 Attune with Aether
2 Brutal Expulsion
2 Disallow
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Harnessed Lightning
1 Natural Obsolescence
3 Negate
3 Shock
2 Void Shatter
2 Aether Meltdown
4 Dynavolt Tower

Lands (22)
4 Aether Hub
4 Botanical Sanctum
3 Forest
2 Island
3 Lumbering Falls
2 Mountain
4 Spirebluff Canal

Sideboard (15)
4 Bristling Hydra
1 Brutal Expulsion
2 Confiscation Coup
1 Natural Obsolescence
1 Negate
4 Shielded Aether Thief
2 Tireless Tracker

This is the Temur Tower list that made it all the way to the semifinals of Grand Prix Shizuoka over the weekend. I’ll talk in more detail about the individual card choices later, but here are the main, defining features of this specific build of Temur Tower:

Temur Tower by Victor Fernando Silva at GP Porto Alegre – 1st

Creatures (4)
4 Torrential Gearhulk

Non-Creature Spells (34)
1 Anticipate
4 Attune with Aether
2 Disallow
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Harnessed Lightning
2 Horribly Awry
2 Incendiary Flow
3 Kozilek’s Return
2 Natural Obsolescence
3 Negate
3 Void Shatter
4 Dynavolt Tower

Lands (22)
4 Aether Hub
4 Botanical Sanctum
3 Forest
3 Island
2 Lumbering Falls
2 Mountain
4 Spirebluff Canal

Sideboard (15)
2 Dispel
4 Longtusk Cub
2 Narnam Renegade
1 Natural Obsolescence
1 Negate
4 Tireless Tracker
1 Void Shatter

Only a few hours after Tanahashi fell in the semifinals of GP Shizuoka, Victor Fernando Silva managed to take Temur Tower all the way to the trophy in Porto Alegre, Brazil. His masterful play throughout the swiss rounds, but especially the top 8, garnered Silva a strong base of supporters in Twitch chat. Here are the notable features of Silva’s build of Temur Tower:

One thing that helps when trying to arrive at your own build of a certain deck is removing the core cards that are must-includes, and just examining the choices that players made to compliment those cards. Here are the cards that these two successful Temur Tower decks overlap on:

Temur Tower Overlap

Creatures (4)
4 Torrential Gearhulk

Non-Creature Spells (25)
1 Anticipate
4 Attune with Aether
2 Disallow
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Harnessed Lightning
1 Natural Obsolescence
3 Negate
2 Void Shatter
4 Dynavolt Tower

Lands (21)
4 Aether Hub
4 Botanical Sanctum
3 Forest
2 Island
2 Lumbering Falls
2 Mountain
4 Spirebluff Canal

Sideboard (4)
1 Natural Obsolescence
1 Negate
2 Tireless Tracker

That leaves us with 10 mainboard slots that are different from each other (1 of which being a land), and 11 sideboard cards.

Lands

Let’s start with the final land choice.

Victor Fernando Silva opted for a third Island over the third Lumbering Falls that Masayasu Tanahashi played. I’m definitely in favor of the untapped land here. Being able to cast spells on time is really crucial for Temur Tower, and although Lumbering Falls is nice in that it taps for more that one color and it can provide damage or a blocker later in the game, I’ve found that I’ve never been short of colored sources (most of the time) and I rarely need another creature to beat down with when I’m winning the game. Island it is.

Non-Lands

Now let’s look at the 9 non-land cards. Silva’s cards are:

2 Horribly Awry
2 Incendiary Flow
3 Kozilek’s Return
1 Natural Obsolescence
1 Void Shatter

Tanahashi’s cards are:

2 Anticipate
2 Brutal Expulsion
3 Shock
2 Aether Meltdown

Horribly Awry looked very strong for Silva throughout the tournament, so I’m inclined to put it in my list. It’s a strong card on the play, exiling Scrapheap Scrounger forever, before it becomes a big problem. The 3/2 for 2 will be coming up more later. Horribly Awry’s weakness comes when you’re on the draw, or when you draw it late, or when you find that it has little effect against important cards like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

Incendiary Flow is a bad Magic card, but it’s positioned very well in this metagame. Like I mentioned before, being able to exile Scrapheap Scrounger is critical, as the 3/2 is a big pain for this deck. Flow also has excellent applications against other creatures in the format. Winding Constrictor, Whirler Virtuoso, and Toolcraft Exemplar are all good targets for the sorcery-speed removal spell.

I was seriously skeptical of the 3 mainboard copies of Kozilek’s Return out of Victor Fernando Silva’s deck, but they looked pretty good for him. I’m still not entirely sold, however. It doesn’t hit Scrapheap Scrounger permanently, and it’s only okay against Whirler Virtuoso if they go all in. Since there’s no way to take advantage of the other half of Kozilek’s Return, instant-speed Pyroclasm for 3 mana is all this card will ever be in this deck. But does it merit an inclusion? That’s hard to say.

Natural Obsolescence shined this weekend. It’s a fantastic answer to Scrapheap Scrounger and Heart of Kiran alike, and it feels o-so sweet when you hit a 1-of like Skysovereign, Consul Flagship out of 4-Color Copycat. Does it merit a second mainboard copy, however? I think the answer is yes. The matchups where it’s not excellent are B/G Constrictor and 4-Color Copycat, both of which are already positive matchups for this deck, so hedging a little against Mardu Ballista isn’t a bad thing.

Void Shatter is another good (that’s a little generous) answer to Scrapheap Scrounger, and is basically just Cancel against any other spell. However, Cancel isn’t the hero we deserve, but the one we need right now. Being able to counter the important spells from all decks in the format is critical. Tap-out control decks are simply not viable, so packing your deck with underpowered counter spells isn’t unreasonable.

Anticipate helps the deck run smoothly, but makes the deck slower, as it itself isn’t a counter spell or a removal spell. Having meaningful interaction in the early turns is critical, so I’m inclined to think that Anticipate is only good in the later turns, so having 3 copies puts us on the back foot immediately and we’ll frequently not be able to interact until it’s too late.

Brutal Expulsion is yet another option against Scrapheap Scrounger, but it has more applications than just that. It’s expensive, but flexible. It certainly has a high blowout potential, which is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Shock is the cheapest removal spell in the format, and it hits a lot of stuff. The problem with Shock comes when it rots in your hand with no targets. It’s very good at interacting in the early turns against Mardu Ballista, but it’s less than exciting against 4-Color Copycat and is situational against most B/G Constrictor variants (it’s excellent against the Energy version).

Aether Meltdown is another interesting inclusion in this deck. At times it’ll do everything, “killing” a creature and adding energy, but at other times it will be the worst card in your deck. It’s possible that you’ll end up holding it, or that putting it on a Scrapheap Scrounger doesn’t stop your opponent from being able to use colored mana off of their Spire of Industry or triggering Toolcraft Exemplar. Aether Meltdown is worse than a removal spell and the additional energy is generally not needed that badly.

Here are my 9 cards that I’m using in these flex slots:

2 Horribly Awry
2 Incendiary Flow
1 Natural Obsolescence
1 Void Shatter
1 Brutal Expulsion
2 Shock

Sideboard

The sideboards of these decks were 11 full cards different, but they’re really only 3 cards different when you dig a little deeper. 10 of the 15 cards in both sideboards are devoted to creatures that you board in to gain value once your opponent has sideboard out their cheap removal spells. Silva ran with:

4 Longtusk Cub
2 Narnam Renegade
4 Tireless Tracker

While Tanahashi opted for:

4 Bristling Hydra
4 Shielded Aether Thief
2 Tireless Tracker

Longtusk Cub was impressive at times (and useless at times) for Silva, but it’s possible that it merits a place. Having a big, beefy blocker in the early turns while you gain extra value from excess energy is a good place to be. Sometimes it will be a 2/2 for 2, however, and that has to be recognized, as a Grizzly Bears will rarely win the game for your control deck.

Narnam Renegade confuses the hell out of me constantly, and I don’t want to deal with the headache of having it in my deck. I understand why it’s there to begin with, but I don’t want to regret playing with draft cards in my control deck.

Tireless Tracker was probably Silva’s best sideboard card throughout the top 8. Drawing an extra card every turn is powerful, but it feels unbeatable when it’s coming from a control deck. It also swings the game quickly in your favor. Don’t let your opponent draw their burn and steal a game from you!

Bristling Hydra is another aggressive, hard to kill threat that uses energy that you have early in the game. Hydra is certainly more proactive than any of these other cards, but it also costs the most mana and has the least effect on the late game. Of all these cards, it’s the one that you would describe as a “getcha” card.

Shielded Aether Thief is a mainboard inclusion in some Temur Tower lists, but I agree with the decision to move it to the sideboard or cut it entirely. You don’t want your opponent’s copies of Fatal Push to be turned on in game 1. Stranding cards is one of the big strengths of control decks in game 1, and this deck should be treated no differently. At its best, Shielded Aether Thief is a split card of Phyrexian Arena and Moat, but that’s situational, and it’s hard no know what effect it will have on the game until it starts playing out.

Here are the 10 creatures in my sideboard:

4 Longtusk Cub
4 Tireless Tracker
2 Shielded Aether Thief

The final 3 sideboard slots are more traditional sideboard cards for control decks. Silva’s final inclusions are:

2 Dispel
1 Void Shatter

Tanahashi, however, opted for:

1 Brutal Expulsion
2 Confiscation Coup

Dispel was impressive for Silva in his top 8 matches, but it seems that we saw the best situations for the 1 mana counter, and it was only ok at best.

The fourth copy of Void Shatter seems entirely unnecessary, to be honest. How many copies of Cancel is too many? Probably about how many we’re at this point, so I won’t be including the fourth copy of Void Shatter in my sideboard.

We talked about Brutal Expulsion earlier, and I’m including one in my mainboard. I think it’s also very reasonable to have one in your sideboard. It’s a powerful card that when positioned well can be a 2-for-1 every time you cast it, which is exactly what this deck wants.

Confiscation Coup is an interesting card, and I’ve gotten blown out by it a lot, so I’m inclined to at least give it a shot going forward.

Here are my final 3 cards in my sideboard:

1 Brutal Expulsion
2 Confiscation Coup

We’ve now arrived at a full Temur Tower list that I’ll be playing for the time being. Here it is all in one place:

Temur Tower by Jonah Gaynor

Creatures (4)
4 Torrential Gearhulk

Non-Creature Spells (34)
1 Anticipate
4 Attune with Aether
1 Brutal Expulsion
2 Disallow
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Harnessed Lightning
2 Horribly Awry
2 Incendiary Flow
2 Natural Obsolescence
3 Negate
2 Shock
3 Void Shatter
4 Dynavolt Tower

Lands (22)
4 Aether Hub
4 Botanical Sanctum
3 Forest
3 Island
2 Lumbering Falls
2 Mountain
4 Spirebluff Canal

Sideboard (15)
1 Brutal Expulsion
2 Confiscation Coup
4 Longtusk Cub
1 Natural Obsolescence
1 Negate
2 Shielded Aether Thief
4 Tireless Tracker

I hope that this article was informative for you if you’re looking to give Temur Tower a go in the future. The deck is powerful and very fun to play, and you don’t have to subject yourself to playing one of the two “big decks” in the format, which is a gift in itself. Have fun and go Tower!

Have you had a chance to check out our Deck of the Day column, yet? Each day we’ll be featuring a different Standard, Modern, or Legacy deck that we think deserves the spotlight. You can take a look at yesterday’s article here, where we put an interesting take on Death’s Shadow under the microscope.

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