Tezzeret the Schemer
Aether Revolt now appears to be a truly revolutionizing set in terms of deck construction and synergy. Before the Standard banned list came out, many of the previewed cards in the set appeared innocuous to me. I didn’t see any strong hate cards like Rest in Peace or Pithing Needle that could solve much of the staleness in the format and I was let down in my hopes that an instant speed removal spell for planeswalkers reminisce of Hero’s Downfall would reappear. Alas, the banned list hammer was dropped and effectively created a power vacuum where previously perceived “less than” cards are now infiltrating the tier 1 strategies and on the eve of the Pro Tour the format feels wide open.
So what powerful strategies are left unturned? What cards are going to drive Saheeli Rai combo down from its current top rank? The first few weeks after release seem to follow a similar pattern where players are still looking for new homes to slot their favourite cards, and this time seems no exception to the rule. My general strategy with Magic has never been to play the “best deck”; I like to look at the less explored synergies, especially before big events such as the Pro Tour, and get creative with strategies that counter predictable decks.
My original draft of the deck included four copies of Trophy Mage. Sadly, the card just doesn't offer up enough targets in the deck to search out, as it only hits Inspiring Statuary. We lose far too much tempo to tap out on turn 3 to tutor,
Unlicensed Disintegration is one of the most under-utilized removal spells in Standard and in this deck functions as both creature and planewalker removal. The ability to redirect the 3 damage at instant speed creates powerful two-for-one situations that remedy the need for Ruinous Path in the main. The card is extremely effective against Jeskai Saheeli variants as well as any other creature deck and is so far the only red based spell, which I will discuss in further detail below.
Left to its own devices and with a draw including a turn 3 Inspiring Statuary, Tezzeret, the Schemer can drop an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on an unsuspecting opponent as early as turn five. Otherwise, Tezzeret functions as both ramp and removal, and can be protected even further when cast using the improvise mechanic embedded in the deck. I am never one to rely on planeswalker ultimates as a win condition, however in this deck a Tezzeret emblem is almost always guaranteed a choice of targets. Liliana, the Last Hope collaborates with Tezzeret as more pseudo-removal as well as provides both an alternate win condition and creature reanimation should you wish to cash in on chaining Torrential Gearhulk. Although one of the best spells in the deck, the Gearhulk sadly does not benefit from the improvise mechanic.
The mana base in the deck allows a lot of flexibility. Spire of Industry alongside Prophetic Prism resolve any issue of losing a significant amount of life to tap for any colour. The most notable absent land is actually Spirebluff Canal; being able to cast all of your spells on curve is extremely important, as is having access to the removal suite to keep the board locked down. Though it appears greedy to me, the mana base is quite fast and so efficient that a fourth or even fifth colour is not out of the question.
As with most control decks, the sideboard is going to be mostly dependent on the state of your meta. To improve the matchup against Saheeli Combo, one or two copies of Dampening Pulse or Shock can be added to either reduce attacking Felidar Guardian to 0 power or kill Saheeli with the Guardian ability on the stack. In most matchups I would expect my opponent to take out the majority of their removal after sideboard, which definitely leaves both Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Gifted Aetherborn as strong early game options. Substituting out one or both copies of Ulamog or Disallow for a more aggressive Herald of Anguish and Fatal Push package can smooth out the curve of the deck and allow you to gain an earlier board advantage. Transgress the Mind, Ruinous Path, and Herald of Anguish can be brought in against control, but be weary of the very plan discussed above; taking out all of your efficient removal can be a Mental Misstep and leave you in the dust with a resolved threat on board.
What are your thoughts on this deck, and what strategies moving forward would you be excited to see?