Hey everyone!

This past week I finally got some games in with my Sultai control list I’ve been working on these past few weeks. Fellow Hipster Matt Jones and I sat down for a few games before an evening draft last week: me on my latest Sultai build, Jones on Jeskai tempo. We only ran five games, but it was very clear to me how bad the matchup was for Sultai; I was never ahead, or in control, at any moment across five games. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver was the best threat I resolved, but while Matt had to expend resources to remove her from the battlefield, Ashiok never permanently affected the board, so I never got real value out of her besides absorbing burn and incidentally gaining me some life/time. I threw the deck out. Or, rather, I put it far away onto the backburner. If I can’t stabilize against the Jeskai deck, then I’m playing the wrong list, or the wrong deck.

So I went back to the drawing board, and poured over the various lists I had discussed last week, as well as my current stack of Standard playables. I had very little I could just throw together, but I did have a playset of Savage Knuckleblades. This card was super-hyped by Luis Scott-Vargas. Its a very powerful creature, and contains many of the aspects I like in a threat. Knife Yeti can be cast with haste, can pump and power through opposing midrange threats, and can be bounced in response to a sweeper. Hasty threats are important when combating a format full of amazing planeswalkers and Knife Yeti was an inspiring focal point for said strategy.

A few Temur decks had done well in the plethora of SCG lists from week one, in particular the London IQ which posted THREE Temur decks in the top 8. I compared each of the decklists, building what I believed to be a solid amalgamation of each list, and then edited down to a working 75 that would suit my playstyle.

Temur Midrange

Creatures (25)
Savage Knuckleblade
Sylvan Caryatid
Rattleclaw Mystic
Goblin Rabblemaster
Boon Satyr
Stormbreath Dragon

Spells (11)
Xenagos, the Reveler
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Temur Charm
Crater’s Claws
Dig Through Time
Lands (24)
Wooded Foothills
Yavimaya Coast
Shivan Reef
Frontier Bivouac
Temple of Mystery
Temple of Epiphany

Sideboard (15)
Stubborn Denial
Magma Spray
Temur Charm
Icy Blast
Crater’s Claws
Destructive Revelry
Keranos, God of Storms
Nissa, Worldwaker

The biggest change I made to each of the lists I referenced was the elimination of Elvish Mystic. While a turn 1 mystic is always a strong opening for a midrange deck, I hated the idea of topdecking the mystic at any other point in a given game. Also, a turn 1 Frontier Bivouac seemed just as powerful, and using turn 2 to play a Sylvan Caryatid or Rattleclaw Mystic to ramp into my 4 and 5 drops was sound enough, so I leaned on the sequence of turn 1 tap land, turn 2 ramp creature. This way I can haste a turn 3 Knuckleblade, or turn 3 Polukranos, which is still ahead of the curve and quite powerful. The biggest play I was sacrificing was turn 2 Goblin Rabblemaster. This is the strongest argument for playing Elvish Mystic in this list. Whether or not this play is enough to justify the Mystic, I will need to test a bit more to find out.

Anyway, I took this list to FNM last week. My first Standard FNM in almost a year! It felt exciting to be playing, as this format still feels like the wild west. Let’s see what we go up against!


this is Alex. Alex is happy to be here.

This is Alex. Alex is happy to be here.

Alex was on a brewy white weenie build with some fun cards like Brave the Sands. We had some hilariously awkward games. There was a lot of flooding and choking on resources. Ultimately I was able to get there in two games. My sideboard brought in Magma Spray and Crater’s Claws, just some more spot removal for his dinky little dudes. It didn’t matter much as his deck didn’t behave.



This is Nick. He likes to ramp, which requires counting. I hate counting.

This is Nick. He likes to ramp, which requires counting. I hate counting.

Nick and I played a few games back when I was on Sultai, where the following exchange happened.

Me: “Sarkhan is really powerful. His ultimate is insane.”

Nick: “I dunno, I don’t think it’s that good.”

(We play our first game. Nick ultimates Sarkhan and annihilates me, casting and monstrous’ing Stormbreaths and Polukranoses all over my face.)

Me: “See? Ya can’t beat Ancestral every turn.”

Nick: “Yeah, I guess it was pretty good!”

As we sat down we joked about my Sultai deck and I told him since I knew what he was on I had the advantage. I wasn’t sure at all how this was going to go, but I knew I had some cool sideboard cards for this matchup. Game one he cast ramp dudes and punishes my misplay by running over me with Ashcloud Pheonix and Stormbreath Dragon. So I snapped to my sideboard, taking out Dig Through Time, Boon Satyr, and Temur Charm for Magma Spray, Icy Blast, and Crater’s Claws. I ended up getting there in three games. Games two I sprayed his first two mana dorks and that slowed him down enough to where I could smash him with Knife Yeti. Falter mode on Temur Charm got me there. Game three Nick keeps a bad hand, I mull to five, and he stalls on two mountains while I cast spells and attack with creatures.



This is Hugh. Jones finds him a certified piece of magic man-meat.

This is Hugh. Jones finds him a certified piece of magic man-meat.

Ah, Hugh Kramer. We had been discussing decks all week and knew full well what each other was playing. He ripped Tom Ross’s UW Heroic deck off the net, which was definitely a bad matchup for me. I’d have to get a little lucky, and play tight. Game one I choke on two lands and he easily takes the game. I sideboard in my Magma Sprays, Icy Blast, and Crater’s Claws. Game two I draw all three sprays and kill his first three threats, then attempt to take over the board. I undervalue his Seeker of the Way and let him gain six life to swing the race in his favor, then misplay a Temur Charm to lose the game. I’m going to have to fight this deck more before I know how to maneuver around it.



This is Stefan. He plays all the colors.

This is Stefan. He plays all the colors.

Stefan was playing a five-color Genesis Hydra value deck. I had no idea what was to expect half the time, but I knew his deck needed a little time to get going and I had to punish him for that. Game one I counter his turn three Savage Knuckleblade with Temur Charm, then untap and haste my own Knuckleblade at his face. Genesis Hydra was annoying to deal with, so I had the second Temur Charm for his big Hydra, which thankfully whiffed. Keeping his board clear got me there. My sideboard was awesome for his deck full of planeswalkers and big plays, so I sided in all my Stubborn Denials, Negates, and my third Temur Charm. My plan was to stick a threat and ride it with countermagic. This was exactly what happened, for the most part. He slammed God after God, threat after threat, me stopping him from landing Sorin, Solemn VisitorLiliana Vess. Eventually I am able to overrun him. and take it down in two games.


My deck morphed into a counter-cat strategy against a deck with big spells, which was awesome and something that inspired me to continue to work on the deck. Some thoughts I had about the list after the fact:

Boon Satyr – I sided this out in almost every match, but I did play against two aggressive decks and the Satyr lost value for me when I could side into reactive spells. This card seems much stronger against planeswalker decks and in midrange mirrors.

Stubborn Denial – I love what this card does, and I might even go up to four and cut the negates. Countering sweepers, walkers, and burn spells while pressuring the opponent is a great way to press an advantage and gain tempo.

Crater’s Claws – The decks finisher. It can also be used early to slow down an opponents faster draws. As a top deck, you couldn’t ask for more than Blaze. Over-performed for me all night.

Dig Through Time – I didn’t cast it once, but one seems optimal over two.

Xenagos, the Reveler – Okay, but not amazing. It did make for some big plays but overall Xenagos seems better served in a deck with Elvish Mystic and Genesis Hydra. I might cut one for another Temur Charm.

Stormbreath Dragon – More servicable than Sarkhan, as you don’t have to risk losing it if you’re behind. The 4/2 split worked perfectly for me.

Temur Charm – Excellent spell for this deck, as it should be. I didn’t fight as often as I should have, and chose to play it as mana leak/falter more often. 2 might be correct, but I will try it with 3 in the main for a bit.

Possible Inclusions:

Heir of the Wilds – Blocks really well, especially against aggressive decks, but soft to sweepers like Anger of the Gods and Drown in Sorrow. Could be a good metagame call in a sea of aggro, and combos insanely well with Surrak, Dragonclaw.

Surrak, Dragonclaw – could be a one of in this list, maybe two, but it’s difficult to say what i’d cut to add another five drop. Trample is very relevant in a sea of green decks, and flash makes Surrak a unique ambusher.

Icy Blast – Sideboard material only, and while it didn’t work out at FNM, I will continue to experiment with one or two in my sideboard. Temur Charm might just be better, but I want to be proven wrong.

Bow of Nylea – For the mirror match, mostly, and maybe something against Jeskai Tempo. This card plus Surrak is a powerful combo that can take over a creature fight.

Setessan Tactics – Why didn’t I slide one or two of these in the board? This could also be better than Icy Blast.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be working on this list for the forseeable future, or until I start losing with it. The Pro Tour could change everything, but for now I like this strategy. And it was a blast playing standard again! Until next week!

After a ten-year lapse from Magic, where his favorite combo was Tradewind Rider with Stasis, Derek is back to learn the new-border variant of the game. While less frustrating cards have been printed, he now has to get used to planeswalkers, and people rolling dice when he resolves Hymn to Tourach. He qualified for the Junior Super Series in 1999 at Pro Tour New York, then used his collection to finance his college education. Years later, he works in the fashion industry as a stylist, consultant, and sometime-matchmaker for brands. He loves all things black leather, and is out to journal his level-ups with hopes of playing at the highest competitive level of the game. You can reach him at [email protected].


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