Before we go to the blog entry today, I’d like to thank the different shop owners and tournament organizers for reaching out to me and help me consolidate the schedules of events all around and outside metro Manila. You can find the most updated schedule here.
On to today’s deck tech, which is a tribute to one of my favorite cards to break in standard, which is Sunbird’s Invocation. Clearly, this is not something you bring to the Protour but it should be loads of fun for your next FNM!
Like I always say, Magic is a game of managing resources and there are 4 resources that are the same for each player should everything stays the same: Life, Turns, Draws, Lands. Each color uses these resources as a fulcrum to get an advantage, for example Blue is the color most associated with drawing more cards than a non-blue player.
Black uses the player’s life or the creature’s life in exchange for more power to cheat spells for cheaper costs. Green mages cheat the curve by allowing them to put more lands into play in the form of ramp or dorks. Red’s power is very erratic and the cost can be erratic as well but that’s usually how the most chaotic color operates. Lastly, White uses life to pull ahead through sheer life gain buying the player time to come out on top.
Going back to Sunbird’s Invocation, I like its jankiness because it offers Red the power of Blue and get card advantage with a twist depending on the cards you play and the cards it reveals. The benefit will not get you the card you want all the time but if we build the deck with the intention to cast huge spells, dig deep, and have a wider selection of what cards to cascade into, then Sunbird’s randomness can somehow be mitigated.
Let’s look at the big spells first because these are the spells that allows us to assemble a 2-3 spell combo win (or gain a huge advantage). We also have to be keen in ensuring the spells are spread across the different curves so we don’t end up casting 4 mana spells and the deck is packed with 5-7 mana spells which Sunbird won’t be able to cast and end up tucking underneath the library.
There are plenty of big spells in red but I want to focus on some that help me win the game, or help me stay alive.
Hour of Devastation is our Fumigate for creatures and Planeswalkers and a good answer for Hazoret decks. It cascades well to majority of the deck and doesn’t affect us so much since we’re running very few creatures.
Combustible Gearhulk is another random card that gives us huge benefits or none at all. In a deck that packs several high cost spells, it will be tricky for the opponent to choose to take the damage because it can potentially kill him or leave him almost dead. If he does choose to let us draw, then we still won in that negotiation.
Lastly we have Brass’s Bounty which aims to hit our only black spell in the deck which is Marionette Master. Together with ramp spells we have in green, Brass’s Bounty should net us 7-9 treasures and with Marionette Master in play as a 4/7, sacrificing the tokens should be game if the opponent has no way to get rid of the Master.
Ironically there are very few valuable high-cost spells in green if we don’t consider vanilla creatures meant for limited play. But we have good ones in the form of Hour of Promise which is great on its own but becomes even better if it is cascaded through Brass’s Bounty because Brass’s Bounty will see the lands that Hour of Promise put onto the battlefield netting you more treasure tokens.
Sifter Wurm is another great utility card because it’s a 7/7 with trample for 7 mana which is already OK-ish but its ETB ability also helps us stay in the game by gaining us a bunch of life (let’s say we reveal a gearhulk or a bounty which gets us 6-7 life), and it also sequences are next draws to make sure we have spells to trigger Sunbird’s Invocation. It survives Hour of Devastation which is nice.
I added blue mainly to access some counter spells in the sideboard but there’s actually some quality cards that are great to have in a Sunbird’s deck like River’s Rebuke which we can cast earlier than turn 6 with the ramp spells we have. Then a bulk mythic in Overflowing Insight finally found a home as a one-off. Casting this for 7 and cascading into any card in our deck while drawing us a fresh grip of cards feels super good.
The last big spell we are playing is a one-off Nicol Bolas. We can produce black late in the game and Nicol Bolas is a worthy card to spend that one black mana on. It’s a 7-mana spell which can be cascaded off of Brass’s Bounty, Overflowing Insight or Sifter Wurm. If left unchecked, Nicol can win us the game rather quickly.
I mentioned ramp many times because it is equally, it not more, important in our strategy than just capitalizing on Sunbird’s Invocation. Besides, we need to shortcut our way to cast 6-drops faster or else we die from fast decks and this is sad.
Gift of Paradise is a great 3-drop because it helps cushion the early damage we took and at the same time pushing us to 5-drop range a turn faster. This is super important if we want to cast Hour of Promise or Hour of Devastation which ever is more important at that time (did you see what I did there?). I chose Spring over Beneath the Sands because of Mind, in many decks which I used Sprint/Mind, it feels really good knowing we have a Mind in the graveyard to help replenish our hands without taking a card slot. Though casting it from the graveyard will not trigger Sunbird’s Invocation’s ability because it only does if we cast something from our hand, it is still relevant to always have cards to cast.
We need to survive and not just die when the opponent plays a mountain so we will rely on Sweltering Suns to keep us alive in the early turns. With the rise of GW tokens, BW tokens’ popularity as well as Mono Red’s continuing dominance, it is crucial to have an early reset button in case we can’t wait for the Hour of Devastation to strike (I did it again).
Last card I want to talk about is Thaumatic Compass. Since we’re heavily ramping to get to our late game, this card synergizes well with our plan to get our land drops and stay alive. The success of the Bant Approach deck is mainly attributed to flipping this on time which is not hard to do. Casting this Turn 2, ramping on Turn 3, then casting Hour of Promise on Turn 4 can flip this card easily plus having those two 2/2 zombies from Hour is enough guarantee we won’t take so much hits in combat in the next few turns.
So here’s our Temur Ramp splash black decklist:
7 CMC Spells: 7
- 4 Brass’s Bounty
- 1 Overflowing Insight
- 1 Sifter Wurm
- 1 Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh
6 CMC Spells: 10
- 1 River’s Rebuke
- 1 Combustible Gearhulk
- 4 Sunbird’s Invocation
- 4 Marionette Master
5 CMC spells: 5
- 2 Hour of Devastation
- 3 Hour of Promise
4 CMC spells: 0
CMC 3 spells: 10
- 2 Gift of Paradise
- 4 Spring // Mind
- 4 Sweltering Suns
CMC 2 spells: 2
- 2 Thaumatic Compass
CMC 1 spells: 0
4 Sheltered Thicket
3 Rootbound Crag
2 Spirebluff Canal
3 Botanical Sanctum
4 Ipnu Rivulet
2 Desert of the Indomitable
1 Hashep Oasis
1 Ifnir Deadlands
1 Arch of Orazca
Before we go to the sideboard, let’s first talk about the mana base because it’s crazy.
Our deck is primarily Red and Green from turns 1-6 which is why majority of our lands can produce these colors. It is important that we can cast our early removal and our ramp spells or risk not getting to our late game where the deck is designed to kick into high gear. Thus we’re running 15 green sources and 10 red sources. Blue is our third color and will only be relevant by turn 6 (e.g. Rebuke, Mind) but since these are double or triple blues, we will still run 10 blue sources. For our Black splash, I will only run 2 natural black sources but since the goal is to cast them off of Sunbird’s Invocation, we won’t generally cast it from our hand if we don’t have the Brass’s Bounty resolved first.
We will also run 8 deserts which I think was the right number after playing the Bant Lands deck. 4 Ipnu Rivulet is super important because if the games stall, decking the opponent can be an alternative win condition. Ifnir Deadlands serves as a soft and slow removal package if the need arises. Then we have Hashep Oasis which we can use to pump our Marionette Master to 7 power which will only require us to sac 3 treasures to win. This can be relevant sometimes if the opponent has a very high life total and we only have 7 treasures and a 4-power Marionette. Not going to be a common occurrence but at least we have that covered.
The last land I want to give some focus on is Arch of Orazca. It is now becoming ramp deck designer’s go-to-land because it provides the card draw which Ramp decks desperately needs. There is no point having a ton of lands with no spells to use them on and this is why Arch of Orazca became a fundamental addition to go-big decks.
3 Carnage Tyrant
1 Nezahal, Primal Tide
3 Magma Spray
2 Chandra’s Defeat
2 Crook of Condemnation
The sideboard cards are straight forward against the 3 main archetypes, Aggro, Control and Midrange decks.
I already mentioned about mono red decks but RG monsters are also showing in top tables in recent large tournaments and it’s always good to pack early removal for Ahn-Crop Crashers, Glorybringers, Rekindling Phoenix and opposing Chandra.
I did say I chose blue for the counter magic and Negate is becoming pretty potent in today’s meta where people rely on Planeswalkers, resolving the second Approach, or having a Lost Legacy pry open your win condition.
Against control decks, we can take the uncounterable route and side in Carnage Tyrant and Nezahal. Against decks that rely on counter spells to keep the board clean, these two dinosaurs ensure you have a threat on the battlefield ready to take 1/3 of your opponent’s life with them every combat step. Though they both die to sweepers, the opponent may have sided them out seeing you were not running any creatures worth sweeping in game 1.
Early on I spoke about resource management and how important this was in the game of Magic. Our deck is not really good at spending removal on a 1-to-1 basis. If the opponent is running a lot of embalm, eternalize or Scarab Gods, we will eventually run out of answers and lose. Crook of Condemnation appears to be a very narrow answer to resiliency but in match-ups that it’s relevant, it’s game breaking. Against GPG or Scarab God decks, taking away their graveyard hoses their end game if they can’t find ways to remove Crook. Most GPG decks only run 4 Cast Outs and UB Scarab Decks have no way of removing artifacts so Crook is pretty strong against graveyard decks.
That’s it for now and I am pretty happy on how this concept turned out. I used to run a straight RB Sunbird + Marionette deck but it was too slow even if I had all the removal in the world. Packing so much 1-3 mana removal spells usually tucks my big spells because I end up revealing 5-6 mana spells. That felt really sad.
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