By Tom Vandevelde
Throughout my Magic career, I’ve always been a deckbuilder. It’s the part of Magic I enjoy the most. Far more than actually playing the decks in fact. This has led me to become a feverish “theorycrafter”. Theorycrafting basically comes down to trying to figure out possible decks and different configurations of those decks within the confines of your brain (or on paper of course), comparing their potential, power level and possible downsides, as well as how they should match up against one another.
There are some glaringly obvious problems with theorycrafting, as your assessment of cards or interactions may just be off, which puts all of your estimations in danger. How things actually play out is something you can only learn through rigorous testing. Theorycrafting also requires relatively extensive knowledge of Magic theory as well as the format you will be playing, so unless you are an avid reader of Magic articles (game theory articles, especially) and have a good understanding of the format, I wouldn’t recommend it at all. The upside of theorycrafting is that it sometimes allows you to figure out (partial) “solutions” to (parts of) the format, speeds up preparations, and, most interesting for you, the readers, leads to many, many decklists.
Today, I present to you some twenty decks that I built and considered in preparation of the Gentry Invitational. I did not include known quantities such as UR or UB Rise from the Tides, Temur Emerge or straight RG Energy, since I wanted to tickle your imagination as much as possible. Note that I won’t go into detail on any of the lists, as that would make for an extremely long, and probably tedious article. Nevertheless, I hope these lists provide some insight to the vast, vast possibilities of Gentry.
Three more notes before we’re off to the races:
- There are only two or three decks among these that I would consider severely underpowered. That’s not saying that all of the others are Tier 1, but I would consider almost all of them very playable options for future Gentry tournaments.
- None of these lists are tuned through playtesting, so it is certainly possible (in fact, it is almost certain) that more optimal lists exists. They are intended rather to give an impression of the possibilities.
- None of the lists include sideboard, as those typically fluctuate according to the expected metagame.
Very powerful and with few clear weaknesses, the GB Counters deck exploits the power of Winding Constrictor to the fullest. It’s a bigger creature deck than most of the other aggressively slanted decks, which gives it an edge in those match-ups, and it matches up well versus most of the sweepers in the format. I expect it to be a format mainstay.
The GB Counters deck allows for easy splashing, because of Attune with Aether. You could splash blue for counterspells and the like from the sideboard, or go for a red splash for Boiling Earth and other burn spells.
Switch out black for white and you get an all-in creature deck that has less interaction, but perhaps even more power. The strategy is simple: play creatures on turns 1 through 3, grow them on turns 4 and 5 and annihilate your opponents.
Jund Energy Aggro
Take the basis of the RG Energy Aggro deck and mix it with the GB Counters deck, and you get Jund Energy Aggro, a deck I think has a ridiculously high power level for the Gentry format. The manabase is slightly shakier than it is in the other two decks though.
This variant of RG Energy splashes blue for Trophy mage, which gets you both Fabrication Module and Electrostatic Pummeler, both of which are incredible in the deck. Having to play a lot of pump tricks for the Pummeler makes the deck more vulnerable to removal however, so I like this less than I do the RG or Jund Energy decks, but it is more fun!
4c Trophy Mage Energy
Less of a Tier 1 deck, this one is mostly tons of fun. Amass a lot of Energy and use Trophy Mage to get you an artifact that works well with that Energy supply. Fabrication Module allows your creatures to grow massive, Deadlock Trap locks down your opponent’s threats and Lifecrafter’s Bestiary just goes off with Whirler Virtuoso. Aetherworks Marvel is a card you can’t find with Trophy Mage unfortunately, but it is veritably insane in this build. Both Felidar Guardian and Saheeli work really well in the deck, but even better with each other, allowing for an immediate kill.
Jeskai Thopter Combo
Speaking of the Copy Cat Combo, this deck is focused entirely on comboing your opponents out. It has Call the Gatewatch to find Saheeli, and Bring to Light to find Call the Gatewatch or a Felidar Guardian. The deck also includes several other infinite combos, including Felidar Guardian x2 + Decoction Module for infinite energy (which you can then use to make Thopters with Whirler Virtuoso), Whirler Virtuoso + 3 of either Decoction Module, Saheeli or Panharmonicon and finally the combo of 2 Felidar Guardian + Panharmonicon + Whirler Virtuoso/Cogworker’s Puzzleknot for infinite tokens. Apart from the different combos, the deck also plays a decent fair game, with quick Maverick Thopterists and Gearseeker Serpents, while the combination of Thopterist and Decoction Module is very potent in the late game. The deck lacks interaction with its opponent though.
UR Artificer Aggro
Less flashy, but more efficiënt and consistent, this deck features many of the strong points of the Jeskai Thopters build, but switches combo pieces for more efficient creatures. Inventor’s Goggles is incredible in the deck, which features no less than 13 Artificers. Switch out the Cogworker’s Puzzleknots for Aether Chasers and you have even more! I think the Goggles are one of the cards that has gone up the most in value, compared to Kaladesh.
RW Artificer Tokens
Inventor’s Goggles is potentially even better in this very aggressive RW deck that utilizes cheap equipments to power out Sweatworks Brawler and Reckless Bushwhacker while also pumping your team thanks to Weapons Trainer. This deck can hit really hard, really fast (its good draws are the fastest in the format, I would think), but is very bad against sweepers.
Another RW deck, another aggressive strategy. RW Vehicles is more of a traditional aggro deck, with powerful, efficiënt creatures and Vehicles backed up with removal. Renegade Wheelsmith really shines in this deck. You could mull the inclusion of Mobile Garrison in the deck, as it is insane with both Renegade Wheelsmith and Veteran Motorist, but it could just as well turn out to be a very, very bad Renegade Freighter.
RW Vehicles close cousin RB Vehicles trades in slightly bigger creatures (and pump-effects Veteran Motorist and Depala) for more efficient removal, more reach, and more speed. This deck can easily kill an opponent at 8 without even attacking through Night Market Lookout, Welder Automaton and burn, which in my eyes makes it better than RW Vehicles. Alongside Jund Energy, this is my pick for best aggressive deck in the format.
RB Vampires offers another RB aggressive shell that values flying and madness synergies over artifact synergies. Elsewhere, I even have a build that mashes the two together, replacing the Stensia Masquerades with Unlicensed Disintegrations and Renegade Freighters. Vampires driving Vehicles, you heard that right.
Mardu Madness Control
Speaking about Madness… This control deck abuses some of the more potent Madness enablers (Call the Bloodline, Cathartic Reunion) with Ovalchase Daredevil. Magnifying Glass and Hidden Stockpile allow you to return your Daredevils continuously, which turns this deck into a true machine, straight up drawing 3 off of Reunion or making two tokens per turn off Call the Bloodline, and then some off of the Hidden Stockpiles you have in play. 4 Planeswalkers round out this deck, which I love in a grindy metagame.
When Pepijn won the Invitational with a Hidden Stockpile deck, everyone was shouting “Aristocrats is back!” While I don’t think the deck is quite at that level (really, Nantuko Husk was absurd in that deck, and we have nothing like that in the format right now), it was slightly scary that a deck like Pepijn’s won the event, as I was quite sure the deck wasn’t built optimally yet. Here’s my take on the archetype, for what it’s worth. The synergies here are very potent, and I could definitely see this being a player in the format. I refrained from playing anything like it because the power of Maverick Thopterist and Whirler Virtuoso frightened me, but in a meta where flyers are few and far between, this deck is very strong.
The other Abzan deck I brewed up was a Delirium/Blink deck that abused the Revolt mechanic alongside several other enters the battlefield triggers. It’s very grindy, and fun to play, but I would probably rank it a tier below some of the other grindy midrange decks. Killing something with Sinister Concoction, then following it up with Renegade Rallier is filthy though, so there’s that.
The Growths and Maps allow you to splash more colours than three, so by all means, go nuts! I’ve experimented with five colour builds before and consider them perfectly viable, so this archetype is highly customizable. To give you an idea of the cards you could look towards…
Like the Abzan Delirium deck, this deck exploits enter the battlefield triggers through Felidar Guardian and Acrobatic Manoeuvre to ramp up unseen amounts of value. Panharmonicon is just silly in this deck. For fun’s sake, I decided to include the Eldrazi Displacer + Panharmonicon + Drowner of Hope combo in this list, although I don’t think adding this + Wastes to your deck actually makes it better.
Without Emrakul, the Promised End, my favorite Delirium deck lost some of its luster, despite gaining efficient enablers like Renegade Map and Unbridled Growth. That being said, I still think this deck is perfectly viable, though I would avoid it when the metagame is dictated by Emerge and Hidden Stockpile decks.
And so we arrive at the deck I played in the Invitational. I think this proactive version of the deck is very strong, with plenty of cards that play both offense and defense well. It’s main weaknesses are its manabase and its potential problems with very aggressive decks (though usually only on the draw).
For a more controllish list, you could look towards Incendiary Sabotage. Playing a deck that plays proactively while deploying a sweeper that doesn’t kill any of its own creatures is very strong, but the manabase is slightly worse still:
Tezzeret’s Touch is what this deck is all about. Don’t forget that the vehicles retain their abilities when enchanted with a Touch, so your Touched Express will gain counters and have trample, while your Touched Harvester has flying and can gain lifelink. The other cards in the deck work very well with the Vehicles’ low crew costs. All-star of the deck is Restoration Specialist, which will usually get back a Vehicle + a Dead Weight or Touch.
This Vehicles build is less potent than the red versions, but I thought it was very cool, so I wanted to show it off.
I put this here as only one of many considerations for a good control list. This deck exploits several artifact synergies, allowing it to play Incendiary Sabotage, which I consider the best sweeper in the format right now (too many 3-toughness creatures, as well as the presence of Rise from the Tides and Whirler Virtuoso combos), but I could definitely also envision Esper or Grixis control lists, alongside the existing UB, UR and Grixis Rise from the Tides decks.
It’s alive! The synergy between Vile Aggregate, Ruination Guide and Maverick Thopterist has brought this deck back from the dead. Though not as potent as it was in Whirler Rogue times, the deck is playable once more.
I put this deck as a “bonus” because I didn’t consider it for the Invitational. It is tons of fun, but not strong enough to beat the top decks. The idea is to get two Herald of Kozilek/Foundry Inspector in play and just start churning through your deck until you find Aetherflux Reservoir, which will allow you to go off. Very inconsistent, yes, very fun, also.
There, those are some of the ideas I toyed with for this format. I hope I got your brewing juices going, and hope to see the results in one of the next Gentry tournaments!
May you Touch an Untethered Express,
Tom Vandevelde has been playing Magic since Tempest, and competitively since Time Spiral. Deckbuilding is his favorite part of the game, which has led to him taking an interest in less conventional formats like League Standard. Alongside his teammates on Team Wrecking Ball he is shooting for the Pro Tour, but you will just as often find him playing Pauper, Pack Wars or Mental Magic, or helping out newer players. You will often find Tom streaming on twitch.tv/wreckingballmtg, where you can actually challenge him to League Standard matches in between rounds! Be sure to come hang out and don’t be afraid to ask questions!