At the very start of Khans of Tarkir Standard I played a list similar to Mike Sigrist’s Abzan Aggro from the Pro Tour but as time went on Jeskai decks waned and midrange decks went bigger and greener so I felt it was time to whip out some Perilous Vaults.
To be honest I’d liked this deck since the Pro Tour but I felt like you were always playing from behind which wasn’t something I felt comfortable doing. I didn’t feel like it was in my wheelhouse but there was a tournament coming and everyone who was anyone was on some variety of whip deck so I decided to sleeve up blue-black Pearl Lake Ancient and go to town.
On the day Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver was the real deal and the highlight of the day was me activating Ashiok to put a Hornet Queen into play and responding to the linked ability by cracking my Perilous Vault – my opponent conceded on the spot to my army of wasps and 8 untapped mana. I don’t think Ashiok is correct now as I feel you want to be more streamlined and it doesn’t do a thing against any of the UWR tokens/aggro decks out there.
Pearl Lake Ancient is where I want to be, when I first saw it I assumed it had flying and nearly wrote it off completely due to the lack of evasion but the ability to hold up Dissolve or Silence the Believers and if there was no play from the opponent that mattered I could flash my Pearl Lake in and start winning. The speed of this clock is relevant as you give your opponent the least number of draw steps to get back into the game which is really important when people are running around with Siege Rhino and Stoke the Flames – playing this style of deck in Khans Standard is a lot more difficult than it was with Sphinx’s Revelation watching your back.
The core of the deck is pretty basic:
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Dig Through Time
4 Perilous Vault
This is pretty much the same core you see in any of the decklists you can find on mtgtop8 and they’re all the best options you have at their mana cost. Hero’s Downfall deals with every threat you come up against from creatures to Planeswalkers, Perilous Vault lets you clear up anything else. Dissolve is really good as an unconditional Counterspell though there are arguments for having more Dissipate in the list as it is 100% an answer to any creatures that could be whipped back by Whip of Erebos whilst messing with your opponents Delve maths.
Dig Through Time is possibly the most powerful card in Standard, it isn’t quite a “Draw seven cards”, but from anything as low as two blue mana you get to look at the top seven and pick exactly what you need. If you wonder how many mana and how many delve you should use, here is a tip. If you’re just casting it to get more cards or if you play it at the end of an opponent’s turn, you’ll use as much mana as you can to save for cheaper delve later. If you need to find a specific answer on sorcery speed, you delve as much as you can. You need mana to play what you find.
After this you can vary it to your needs and what you expect to be playing against. I’d decided not long into my testing sessions that Nullify was basically uncastable on time and any time after this you have enough removal for this to not be a problem.
For the rest of the deck I’d come to the following.
4 Bile Blight
3 Jace’s Ingenuity
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Silence the Believers
The last two spaces are for my win condition, Pearl Lake Ancient and after that comes the manabase. I am playing two Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth because you basically want to draw it every game and it turns your islands into Underground Sea and your Radiant Fountain into the best swamp ever printed.
4 Dismal Backwater
4 Temple of Deceit
4 Polluted Delta
1 Flooded Strand
1 Temple of Mystery
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
2 Radiant Fountain
I’ve seen lists running between 26-28 lands but I feel like 27 is the perfect number – hitting your land drops is really important and missing them is the main way you can fall behind. Once you start chaining Dig Through Time you’re able to either pay more mana/less delve or just ditch lands to the bottom of your library.
Through testing and failed experiments I’ve encountered Prognostic Sphinx leads you to a sub optimal build that feels like it really struggles against other midrange decks. The extra discard and Sphinx itself being a discard outlet really fueled your delve spells but sideboarding often lead our deck to become a clunky mess removing Thoughtseize against Mono Red Aggro or Despise against Jeskai Tokens or Burn lead you unable to cast Treasure Cruise or Murderous Cut at the most opportune moment.
Prognostic Sphinx also leads you to not using Perilous Vault which is honestly one of the most powerful cards in the deck second only to Dig Through Time. On the face of it Vault is a nine mana wrath but the reality of it is that you’ve just cast Shahrazad. You’ve opened a subgame and your opponent plays by your rules your opponent has to play threats into for you to pop it but you’re in a position to cast Silence the Believers to clean up and Dissolve to force them sandbag threats whilst you buy time to dig into your win condition.
I’ll say one thing for the deck and though I’ve enjoyed playing it you won’t get any free wins, sure there are games where you will go Thoughtseize your relevant threat, Dissolve your only relevant play and you stay in control from the start whilst you stare at their Elvish Mystic beating down for one.
You will work hard for every win and still be in a position where if you blank to their threat you have lost. Decks with Goblin Rabblemaster, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant and Siege Rhino will definitely have their fair share of free wins against the field and Rabblemaster will be a free win against you if you can’t deal with it but mosy decks with Sidisi or Rhino are typically quite good match ups for you overall.
The sideboard is also a very important piece of the deck, at this moment in time I am currently using the following.
4 Drown in Sorrow
1 Cranial Archive
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Liliana Vess
1 Silence the Believers
3 Jorubai Murk Lurker
Jorubai Murk Lurker basically keeps you in the game and safe from topdecks against Jeskai burn spells but remember its ability targets so you can give lifelink to your Pearl Lake which is quite the swing.
The rest is pretty stock and can be customised to whatever you expect.
Silumgar, Dragon Usurper
Legendary Creature – Dragon
Whenever a Dragon you control attacks, creatures defending player control each get -1/-1 until end of turn.
This card is gas, it beats both halves of an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion removing the tokens and being immune to the minus ability. It also has synergies with the new black “Destroy everything”, Crux of Fate which allows you to destroy either all Dragons or all non Dragons. I feel like this would really close the door against some decks and though it is slower than Pearl Lake it could certainly complement it in the same deck.
Anyway, thanks for reading let me know what you think in comments!
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