With M15 being completely spoiled, I’ve started brewing some ideas for the incoming ‘power summer’ and beyond. Although I’m usually a dedicated green/black player, with the occasional experimentation in white, for some reason I’ve been brewing blue aggro decks as of late. I’m not a huge fan of Mono Blue Devotion, although I did bring a version of it to the last Star City Games to take place in St. Louis, but I do love Legacy and Modern Fish decks. Now, seeing as though there aren’t many fish worth playing in Standard, the deck I’ve been building for M15 focuses more on the pseudo-unblockable draft champions we know and love: cheap, efficient fliers.

Before we get to M15, I’d like to talk about the deck that I went undefeated with at my local FNM last week. Now, I can’t take credit for discovering Hour of Need, that credit goes mostly to Travis Woo (one of, if not my all-time, favorite Magic deck brewers/columnists), but he was utilizing the card mainly in Block Constructed. I wanted to find a way to use the card in Standard, and decided the best way to do it was in an aggressive shell that transforms its low-cost creatures into big fliers in response to removal, or for a blow-out victory.  Seeing as though green offers the ability to pollute the board really quickly, I chose that as the base with blue for utility, and ended up with the following list.

It’s basically Mono Green Aggro with a ton of bounce spells and Hour of Need.

I call it Simic Transformers.

Simic Transformers

CREATURES (26)
Elvish Mystic
Experiment One
Burning-Tree Emissary
Brushstrider
Scavenging Ooze
Battlefield Thaumaturge
Boon Satyr

INSTANTS (12)
Disperse
Rapid Hybridization
Simic Charm
Hour of Need

LANDS (22)
Breeding Pool
Temple of Mystery
Mana Confluence
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Mutavault
Forest

SIDEBOARD: (15)
Witchstalker
Dispel
Negate
Curse of the Swine
Rapid Hybridization
Polukranos, World Eater
Gainsay

Although this deck looks gimmicky, and to some degree it is, its actually pretty powerful and has quite a bit of play to it. It’s an aggressive shell with a lot of interaction, so there’s lots of interesting situations that arise, and a lot of opportunities to pull the rug out from under an unsuspecting opponent. Bounce spells are brutal against slower decks that rely on shock lands to push out their slow creatures like Courser of Kruphix and Desecration Demon. By the time they push those out, you most likely have a few beaters out, leaving them completely open to decimation after you Disperse their fatty back to their hand. Simic Charm pulls triple duty here, acting as a bounce spell, a pump spell, and protection for your board in a pinch. Disperse should probably be Cyclonic Rift, but to be honest I don’t have any, and don’t really want to pick them up before they rotate. Probably a bad reason not to include it in the deck, but I have bills to pay and a Guinea Pig to feed.

Hour of Need crushes slower decks that rely on ground blockers. They tap out for fatties like Polukranos, Brimaz, or what-have-you, on the ground, and then you turn your entire board into 4/4s on their end step and kill them. It’s also pretty good in response to removal, as it negates their target and gets you a sweet 4/4 in the air, or two, or three (depending on how many you can make). Hour of Need is tricky to play with, as you have to make sure your targets don’t get killed in response, but it’s even harder to play against. There’s really no way to plan around Boon Satyr, Bounce Spells, and Hour of Need all at that same time; and that’s assuming your opponent has read this article, knows the deck, and knows what the hell is even happening on your side of the table.

I love Hour of Need, but it’s kind of suboptimal on it’s own, since it’s expensive: that’s where my buddy Battlefield Thaumaturge comes in. Battlefield Thaumaturge makes Hour of Need efficient: a colorless and a blue for the first target, and then just one blue mana for each additional target! Also, he’s a 2/1 on the ground, which is fine, and he makes Disperse cost one mana when you bounce a creature with it, which is kind of goofy, but it’s been relevant. Seeing as though we’re playing Hour of Need in a deck with Burning-Tree Emissary, we’ve got to run a lot of dual lands, but the mana is actually pretty solid between shock lands, Mana Confluence, and scry lands. Also when M15 comes out, if I feel like the deck needs it, I can add Yavimaya Coast in place of four of the forests, which would basically equal out to perfect mana consistency.

At Friday Night Magic, I went 4-0-1 and got first place, besting a slue of competitive Tier One and Tier Two decks: U/W Control, Bant Constellation, Mono Red Aggro, and Jund Monsters. My one draw was with a different Jund Monsters pilot, which was a ridiculous match that ended on turns in a dead lock. I sideboarded pretty well all night, I feel, making different choices on the play and on the draw. This helped me beat out some of the more competitively renowned decks, in addition to luck and the ability to outplay and surprise my opponents.

This next list is one I’m working on, and is my first M15-ready brew. Most people are excited about cards like Nissa, The Chain Veil, the sweet new Ajani, the awesome new Garruk, or Chord of Calling. These cards are cool, but none of them are as exciting as Welkin Tern.

This next deck is basically a draft deck gone wild. It uses a lot of new M15 technology, as well as some old friends from Theros block. What’s interesting here is that this deck contains only one rotating card in the main sixty: Cloudfin Raptor. Also intriguing is that the deck is cheap. Very cheap. I think the most expensive card in the list is Illusory Angel, which is a little over two dollars, or Darksteel Citadel, which I think is currently sitting at the same spot (though it will probably go down now that it’s about to opened a whole ton). I thought this deck was hilarious when I drafted it up, due to some interactions that I’ll get to in a minute; but after sleeving it up and testing with it, the deck is surprisingly potent. In testing it held an incredibly solid 11-5 record against Mono Black Devotion splash Green (the version with the Abrupt Decays).

Without further ado, here’s the current draft of the list. There’s no sideboard yet, because I haven’t tested it enough to know what it needs, and I don’t know what decks the summer of power will bring.
I call this one Mono Blue Welkin Tern, because it basically runs two playsets of the beautiful two-drop bird (the Tern itself and Vaporkin).

Mono Blue Welkin Tern

CREATURES (26)
Ornithopter
Cloudfin Raptor
Hypnotic Siren
Welkin Tern
Vaporkin
Quickling
Illusory Angel

ENCHANTMENTS/ARTIFACTS (10)
Military Intelligence
Bident of Thassa
Ensoul Artifact
Hall of Triumph

SORCERY: (4)
Void Snare

LANDS: (20)
16 Island
Darksteel Citadel

This deck is aggressive, relying on cheap fliers (in all senses of the word) to beat in for almost unblockable damage consistently. Most Standard decks don’t run that many fliers, except for Mono Blue Devotion, so you’ll be able to beat in unencumbered in the air most of the time. And when they do get to a flier, it’s usually late enough where you can bounce it and alpha strike for the win. Because this deck runs Illusory Angel, which you can only cast if you’ve cast something else the same turn, it runs Ornithopter and a solid card draw engine to support it. Ornithopter isn’t here just for Illusory Angel, it can be used as bounce fodder for a Quickling, it can evolve a Cloudfin Raptor as early as turn one (the same turn you played the aforementioned Bird Mutant), and can also be turned into a 5/5 flying beater as early as turn two.

Yes, you read that correctly: Ensoul Artifact on Ornithopter. Ensoul Artifact is an enchantment that turns our artifacts into 5/5 creatures with all their other abilities for the low, low cost of two mana. Slapping the scissors, as I’ve nicknamed the card in light of its art, on Ornithopter is strong, but putting it on a Darksteel Citadel is even better. Doing so gives us a 5/5 indestructible beat stick land, and can also happen as early as turn two. Just to make sure we’ve always got something to scissor up, I also run Hall of Triumph and Bident of Thassa, which are also just great on their own as well.

Military Intelligence is another new M15 card that does work in this deck. Like Ensoul Artifact, it’s a two mana enchantment, though this one says that whenever we swing with two guys, we get to draw a card. Unlike Bident, you don’t actually have to deal damage; you just have to attack to draw the card. Bident can draw us tons of cards and essentially win the game via card advantage, but Military Intelligence comes down way sooner (as early as turn two), and can even draw us a card off of a swinging Ornithopter. The early card advantage offered by Military Intelligence lets us hit our lands consistently, play tons of fliers, have fuel for Illusory Angel, and just generally go nuts.

Some of the people I showed this deck to responded by saying something along the lines of, “So, this is just a worse version of Mono Blue Devotion?” I disagree for a number of reasons. While most of Mono Blue Devotion is rotating soon, almost none of Mono Blue Welkin Tern is. The curve looks completely different, and doesn’t jam enough devotion to be able to utilize Thassa and Master of Waves to their full potential. Our game plan is similar to theirs, but our deck is a little bit more aggressive, has less midrange potential, and plays things like Ensoul Artifact and Illusory Angel, which I don’t think could be viable in the existing Mono Blue Devotion deck.

Although I need to test the deck a bit more, I think Mono Blue Welkin Tern is a competitively viable deck, especially for the price. Assuming Military Intelligence, Ensoul Artifact, Quickling, or Void Snare (all new M15 commons and uncommons) aren’t insanely expensive for some ungodly reason, this deck is super cheap. It can, like Simic Transformers, punish decks that rely on ground blockers, and outrace decks that rely on one-for-one removal spells, especially considering that we can bounce our targeted creature with Quickling to prevent it from being killed. It also has tons of card draw, and enough aggression and light disruption to put pressure on our opponent. The control match up is probably abysmal, though I haven’t tested it at all. I’ll probably end up packing tons of counter magic in the sideboard for the match up.

I’m super excited to sleeve up Mono Blue Welkin Tern and see what happens, as well as continue honing Simic Transformers. Perhaps I’ll morph the two decks together and have a Mono Blue Fliers deck that uses Hour of Need as a way to upgrade its army… The option is definitely there!

In my next article I’ll reflect on the brews I talked about today, after they’ve had more testing and gone to a couple small events, as well as talk about another M15 brew: Standard G/W Hatebears.

Check back next time for all that, and more!

Adrian Barnello