Ever since Hour of Devastation spoilers were released, players have been excitedly testing out new strategies. All sorts of new archetypes have been popping up, shown by the results of SCG Cincinnati this past weekend. However, there’s nothing quite like the deck that I’ll be writing about today. Since the spoiler for Crested Sunmare, I’ve been brewing and fine-tuning this deck, and I think I’ve arrived at a list that I feel confident with, and one that could be a good, under the radar option in this format.

Here’s the deck:

Big White by Jonah Gaynor

Creatures (20)
4 Aerial Responder
1 Bruna, the Fading Light
3 Crested Sunmare
3 Gisela, the Broken Blade
4 Glory-Bound Initiate
1 Thalia’s Lancers
4 Thraben Inspector

Non-Creatures (18)
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
4 Cast Out
2 Stasis Snare
2 Aethersphere Harvester
4 Heart of Kiran
2 Declaration in Stone

Lands (22)
4 Desert of the True
14 Plains
4 Shefet Dunes

Sideboard (15)
2 Angel of Sanctions
2 Archangel Avacyn
3 Fragmentize
2 Fumigate
2 Gideon’s Defeat
4 Selfless Spirit

There’s certainly some odd and seemingly under-powered things in here, but the powerful combination of cards is what makes this deck, in my mind, a worthwhile option going forward. Let’s run through some of the card choices.

Crested Sunmare

Let’s start with the big one, and the reason to play this deck. Crested Sunmare offers 10 power and 10 toughness the turn it is played, and its activation threshold is extremely low, and doesn’t require that you invest a full card into it. The best strategy for this card to be in is one that likes to attack, allowing lifelink creatures to get in damage turn after turn, making more and more 5/5 horses as the turns go on. The indestructible clause is a nice add-on for attacks and blocks, but the opponent’s removal was always getting pointed at the Sunmare itself without any other reason.

As we’ve seen time and time again, creatures that gain value when they’re killed or leave another creature behind are always valuable. One major example of this is Wingmate Roc. While you could consider these two cards comparable, Wingmate Roc has the advantage of evasion and guaranteeing a creature when it is played (with the Raid trigger), since Sunmare needs to reach your end step to trigger.

However, Crested Sunmare has the advantage of creating additional creatures turn after turn. Additionally, this Standard format doesn’t have a lot of removal spells that can kill a creature on the opponent’s turn with with five toughness or more. Fatal Push, Grasp of Darkness, Harnessed Lightning, Magma Spray, Immolating Glare, and Never // Return all can’t kill Sunmare the turn it is played.

Aerial Responder

Aerial Responder has always been on the fringes of this Standard format, never quite powerful enough to make a true impact. When it was spoiled, many people compared it to Vampire Nighthawk. However, they learned that vigilance isn’t quite as good as deathtouch. In this deck, Aerial Responder plays many important roles. It starts the beatdowns early, it gains life for Crested Sunmare, and it has evasion.

Despite it not being as powerful as Vampire Nighthawk, this deck would almost rather have Aerial Responder due to vigilance being especially powerful with Crested Sunmare, as the Sunmare doesn’t care which turn you gain life, as it checks at the end of every turn. This means one singular Aerial Responder makes a 5/5 horse on every one of your turns, and effectively acts as a Moat against your opponent, as they can’t attack or risk having you blocking and making another 5/5 indestructible horse.

Gisela, the Broken Blade

Gisela, the Broken Blade has been in and out of this Standard format for a long time. Its unfortunate 3 toughness has left it dead to Harnessed Lightning too many times. In fact, it has gotten worse for Gisela since the printing of Abrade, which is poised to be a Standard all-star for many months to come. However, if there is a deck for it to see play in, it is certainly this one. Gisela hits very hard in the air, has lifelink, and provides a powerful late game when combined with Bruna, the Fading Light. Crested Sunmare is at its best when it can hit hard and pressure the opponent’s already low life total, which Gisela helps massively with. All of these factors combined make up for Gisela’s weakness to the format’s removal spells.

Heart of Kiran/Aethersphere Harvester/Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

When I was first brewing this deck, it became clear that the deck wanted to be putting pressure on the opponent right from the get-go. As it turned out, the best way of doing that in this format is through aggressive vehicles in Heart of Kiran and Aethersphere Harvester, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Their synergy is undeniable, but each of these cards separately are good enough to make the cut. Heart of Kiran is arguably one of the strongest cards in this format, and requires very little for it to be worth the value of two mana.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, similarly, is also deemed by many to be to powerful for this format. Even without either of the vehicles, Gideon is excellent at making an impressive board, as well as pressuring the opponent’s life total. Aethersphere Harvester can play both an aggressive and defensive role in any situation, and the fact that it can gain life also helps massively when it comes to triggering Crested Sunmare.

Glory-Bound Initiate

Glory-Bound Initiate may have found its home in this deck. Every line of text on this card works perfectly for the strategy. At two mana, it occupies a good slot in the curve, where this deck usually struggles to put any meaningful card on the board. With three power, it crews Heart of Kiran easily. The exert ability on the creature allows it to push through damage when needed, and it can gain life in a pinch, allowing Crested Sunmare to bring a 5/5 along with it a high percentage of the time. Aggression is needed in this deck, and this card provides it perfectly. As the game goes on, unlike most two mana creatures, this card does not lose much of its value, as it can continue to put pressure on the opponent as a 4/4, crew Heart of Kiran, or it can gain life for Crested Sunmare.

Thalia’s Lancers/Bruna, the Fading Light

One issue I would run into while testing this deck was its lack of late-game power. It dominated the mid game, but it was never an excellent topdeck deck. Gisela was already in the deck, so it was easy to add a copy of Bruna, the Fading Light. Bruna combines well with Gisela and also provide a large, beefy creature in the air that finishes games out very quickly. Thalia’s Lancers was a similarly-focused inclusion. Lancers can search out either half of the Brisela combo, and gets even better after sideboard with the inclusion of Archangel Avacyn.

Now, let’s get to some of the pros and cons of this deck.

Pros

The real power of this debt comes from its ability to take advantage of Crested Sunmare. Frequently, mono-colored decks struggled to achieve the same power level as multicolored decks. Since most of the lifelink creatures in Standard are white, I felt no need to add another color. At its best, this deck absolutely packs the same punch as any multi-colored deck would. Because of this, frequently this decks wins a lot of games by being more consistent. While most decks have many lands that enter the battlefield tapped, this deck only uses four lands that enters the battlefield tapped.

This mana consistency allows the deck to cast its cards on time, and put pressure on the opponent who is stumbling around with their lands. The large number of flying creatures in this deck makes it a very formidable force against decks that are looking to block. Additionally, the flexibility of its removal spells makes it a very good option against decks that are looking to land only a few creatures in play, with high power and toughness or relevant abilities.

Cons

The real problem for this deck is that on average, it is less powerful than its multicolored opposition. Additionally, it requires that you get into the mid game for his power level to really shine. Because of this, aggressive decks tend to run it over. Other midrange and control decks tend to not be able to keep up with the sufficiency and card advantage created through Crested Sunmare, however, so playing this sort of strategy in the right format can bring you great results.

Going forward, I think this deck could really be a force to be reckoned with in Standard. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have the best possible version of the deck here. It frequently struggles in the early game, but it is a very high upside deck that punishes opponents for having inconsistent manabases. I suggest you give the deck a whirl if you are looking for something unique in this Standard format that has incredible upside.

Let me know what you think,

Jonah

If you’re looking for an early look at what Hour of Devastation Standard will look like, read this article from Roman Fusco.

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