To those of you who do not know me, a brief introduction might be helpful. I started playing Magic at the Mirrodin Besieged Prerelease, where I was infected (lel) by all that competitive Magic had to offer. I have not, and may never, achieve magical greatness. I once travelled to Canberra for a PTQ where I failed to win a match, and another time lost in a PTQ final to Ulvenwald Tracker and Predator Ooze. A mediocre magician with delusions of competency. So take what I say with a grain of salt – I might be right, but I might also be wrong. Or lying.
These days, I have been grinding PPTQs. One of the best ideas Wizards have ever had: now you can experience heartbreaking losses EVERY WEEK, not just once per PTQ season. Awesome. I write to you today about a deck that no one seems to be playing. Or caring about. Or respecting. And yet it does something very different to the rest of the decks in Standard – and if it lines up well in the metagame, could easily be the best deck on a given weekend. So what is it? Temur Ascendancy Combo!
This pile of garbage first showed up at some SCG Opens, where it failed to make Top 8, but amused the commentary team. It also piqued my interest enough that I traded into the pieces I needed to play it at an FNM, because I thought my Abzan Whip deck was really badly positioned against Ugin – which it was. The initial deck-list looked something like this:
Temur Ascendancy v1
4 Temur Sabertooth
30 Green Devotion Dorks
3 Temur Ascendancy
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
19 Other Lands
The plan was to make infinite mana by using Nykthos, bouncing a Voyaging Satyr with the Sabertooth, replaying it and untapping Nykthos, and doing it all over again. That infinite mana allowed you to play a Genesis Hydra for X, where X is your deck, put Nylea into play and make all your creatures arbitrarily large and hasty.
I played with it, hit Top 8 and Top 4 at the two PPTQs I played it at, and kept tinkering. I eventually cut blue altogether to get a similar combo effect from Hammer of Purphoros:
Temur Ascendancy v2
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Voyaging Satyr
2 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Courser of Kruphix
4 Eidolon of Blossoms
4 Temur Sabertooth
1 Nylea’s Disciple
1 Hornet Queen
4 Genesis Hydra
2 Shaman of the Great Hunt
2 Boon Satyr
2 Xenagos, The Reveler
2 Hammer of Purphoros
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
2 Rugged Highlands
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
3 Nylea’s Disciple
2 Reclamation Sage
3 Hornet Nest
1 Hornet Queen
1 Nissa, Worldwaker
2 Setessan Tactics
2 Arbor Colossus
1 Boon Satyr
What makes it better than traditional Green Devotion? Nothing, really. It’s clunkier, plays smaller creatures and the mana is worse. But it does match up really well in some interesting spots. Control is surprisingly positive. Not an actual free win, but close. A lot of virtual ink has been spent in the last week gushing about how much Whisperwood Elemental improves Green Devotion’s matchup against Wrath strategies, but this deck doesn’t care. You have flash (Boon Satyr), haste (Shaman, Hammer, Xenagos), card advantage (Hydra, Eidolon, Shaman, Xenagos, Courser) and indestructible (Temur Sabertooth). You have a laundry list of potential sideboard cards against control… in the main deck. Oh my.
Basically, you are a Storm deck, in that your aim is to get a critical mass of resources, then do something really absurd – but instead of needing cards in hand (like with Storm) your victories come from having creatures in play, and so you get to battle in the red zone albeit whilst being more easily disrupted. Going off doesn’t always mean assembling the full combo, it can also be doing big things like playing 3 4-drops on turn 4 or making an 18/18 hasty Hydra. Against decks that struggle to interact with your board, it’s very hard to stop. Green Devotion also plays this way, but plays stronger individual cards at the cost of being easier to disrupt with spot removal. Neither is strictly better, but each have their place in the metagame.
Aside: Why do GR Ramp decks play Ugin? I get that he’s very good, but mostly when you’re wrathing the board, not just playing an 8 mana lightning bolt. Play Ugin, minus 5, lose all my devotion? A clear example of a card getting by on power level despite being strategically awful.
People like to hear about those. This deck groups cards into 3 categories:
- Fast mana – Mana Dorks, Xenagos, Green Mana Symbols + Nykthos. I’ve gone up to 24 lands because hitting land drops is actually important, because you’re constantly trying to dump your hand in order to draw a new one. Green mana symbols are incredibly important for Nykthos, which is the best card in the deck. Xenagos is the new addition to the combo version of this deck, and he’s the best thing to hit with Hydra when you have an established board. Tick up, make more mana, do more big stuff.
- Card Advantage – Eidolons, Hydras, and Shamans. This is the second part of the engine. Make more mana than your opponent. Use some of that to draw cards and the rest to play them. Repeat next turn. Eventually you overwhelm them. The actual choices here are tough calls to make – I think that Eidolons are better than Shamans because they add devotion, but you want more than 4 draw effects and Shaman gets out of hand very quickly in this list.
- Combo – Sabertooth, Hornet Queen, Hammer, Disciple. These set up your wild board states. It’s not uncommon to play, bounce, and replay a Hornet Queen. On turn 5 or 6. The Nylea’s Disciple main is a pet card, but you want 4 in the 75 and it’s nice to have as an out when you’re behind in game one. I prefer this to a main-decked Reclamation Sage, which is also totally respectable, because Sabertooth + Disciple locks out damage-based decks that can’t interact.Sometimes you just combo out, usually around turn 7 (sometimes as early as turn 4) but the combo is a back-door way to win the game, if you can’t get it done by attacking with medium monsters, and means that with any kind of board presence you are always threatening absurdity. Note that the combo kill here doesn’t involve Nylea, who is pretty inefficient when you draw her naturally. Instead, you make infinite mana, Genesis Hydra for your deck, or draw it all with Eidolons of Blossoms, then cast Hornet Queen, bounce it, make a million bees and swing in.
- Disciple and Hornet’s Nest: Perfect for aggressive decks, especially red ones with Goblin Rabblemaster
- Arbor Colossus: Insurance against Stormbreath Dragon
- Hornet Queen and Setessan Tactics: Comes in for other Green decks, both are still almost unbeatable for Temur/RG without Nykthos
- Reclamation Sages: One comes in for any deck with a target, the second if they play at least six (such as Whip + Courser or Chain + Outpost Siege)
- Boon Satyr and Nissa: Perfect for Control, though Nissa comes in against anyone with Ugin, too
What to side out? 1-3 mana dorks, especially against controlling decks where you’ll never get to assemble the combo. Disciple usually hits the bench here, too. Boon Satyr and Shaman are bad against the Rabblemaster decks, and Eidolons can also be happily cut. Other than that, let your conscience be your guide.
So, this is a deck that no one is really talking about, that nonetheless has a lot of potential. It’s also managed to put up some fringe results on the US independent circuit. RG Ramp is similar, also totally fine, and on some weekends a better choice. But on other weekends, with a different set of positive matchups, the over-the-top combo finish and the intricacies of Sabertooth will be better positioned. If nothing else, the deck is fun to play, although given the lack of interaction, the hilarity might wear thin. So give it a whirl – or don’t. I can’t tell you what to do; I’m not your dad.
Card Name: Birthing Pod
Mana Cost: 3 Phyrexian Green
Converted Mana Cost: 4
Card Text: (Phyrexian Green can be paid with either Green or 2 life.)
1 Phyrexian Green, Tap, Sacrifice a creature: Search your library for a creature card with converted mana cost equal to 1 plus the sacrificed creature’s converted mana cost, put that card onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.