Blue-White Flash at Honolulu

by Eduardo Sajgalik on 20 October 2016, Thursday

Eduardo Sajgalik

Blue-White Flash at Honolulu

The story of Pro Tour Kaladesh was one involving Aetherworks Marvel, aggressive vehicle decks, a wide range of decks to play in-between and with Torrential Gearhulk finally emerging victorious.

But, somehow, the UW Midrange Flash deck seems to have fallen below the radar. Here's the list I played to an 8-2 constructed record.

Selfless Spirit

There were only 10 pilots on the deck in a field of almost 500 players, so you would assume I would be near the top of people playing this deck assuming a fairly normal distribution of results.

Not even close – 4 out of 10 pilots had an absurd 9 wins and a single loss at the Pro Tour. When I tell you I felt that I was playing the best deck in the room, it isn't hyperbole, just a statement of fact. There are a few extra lists in the 7 wins and 6 wins range as well in case you had any doubts.


How did you find your list?

Let's go back to how the deck got found during testing.

I was delighted to be part of the Team MTG Mint Card containing a smattering of talent – Lee Shi Tian (congrats on a 5th Pro Tour top 8 as you read this), Tomaharu Saito, Jason Chung, Christian Calcano, Andrea Mengucci and Katsuhiro Mori to name a few. Most of the effort in our constructed testing had been focused on finding the best vehicles aggro list (if you are interested in this one, Lee Shi Tian ended up playing the deck and a number of our team went 8-2 with it) and the best Aetherworks Marvel list.

Archangel Avacyn

At one point, we wanted to make sure our team testing wasn't too inbred for constructed, so we ran in-house leagues, where each player is assigned a different deck (or variant) and plays once against each other player in the league – we divided up in two groups of 5-6 players. I was uninspired by a lot of decks and ended up playtesting a UW midrange deck that had gone 5-0 on the MTGO league. It looked nothing special – just a bunch of 4-ofs and cards you expect in a blue-white deck, curving Spell Queller into Gideon into Avacyn.

I won.

A lot.

And when I lost, I felt unfortunate – not outclassed, but unlucky.

Usually a good sign you want to play a deck at a tournament.

This did not change in the 2nd league, where I ended up winning with good results again. This is when people in the team started to take notice, especially Katsuhiro Mori, who was the main person to evolve the deck to be ready for the Pro Tour. Sadly, Mori ended up going 1-5 due an abysmal 0-3 in draft (like me) and could not reap the benefits of the excellent constructed deck he had helped tune.

On a personal level, as my goal for this season was to join a good testing team who can help massively improve my deck selection for Pro Tours, I am incredibly happy that our team found two of the best performing decks for the event and ended up with the best Constructed win rate of any team (marred, sadly, by the worst Limited win rate).


What is the deck?

The deck essentially takes the same principal as the Green-White Tokens deck from the last Standard season – play the best cards available to you at each point of the curve while keeping your mana base as smooth as possible. This leads to the following ideal curve:


This doesn't always happen of course, so I'll do a quick crash course at each point in your mana curve on the cards you want access to.

Thraben Inspector

1 Mana

  • Thraben Inspector is king among paupers here, due to being an early blocker, Smuggler's Copter pilot and card recouping extraordinaire. You can also sing the theme tuned to Inspector Gadget to drive your opponents insane.
  • Ceremonious Rejection is the only real alternative at 1 mana but suffers from having access to few untapped blue sources on turn 1 on the draw.
  • Alternatively, a tap land on turn 1 can serve as your 1 mana spell.
  • Note – Do not play Mausoleum Wanderer; tried it, it was awful.

Smuggler's Copter

2 Mana

Spell Queller

3 Mana

  • By far the most fun curve point, with Reflector Mage being the only sorcery speed option. It is not as good as you remember it from Bant Company, but it remains a potent anti-aggro / emerge / delirium card.
  • Spell Queller is the all-star at this point and combines extremely well with both Stasis Snare and Skywhaler's Shot.
  • Playing against your turn 3 is a potential nightmare for your opponent, who has to play a guessing game where they are very likely to get blown out regardless.
  • As a final alternative, Thraben Inspector works here too. Combines well with a two-drop or a sacrificing the clue.
  • The Spanish team ran Thalia, Heretic Cathar – great card, but your 3-drop slot is flooded to a certain extent. Stasis Snare is the more potent card in most cases, but I like having access to a Skywhaler's Shot or two to smooth draws.


Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

4 Mana

  • Your opponent could, of course, do absolutely nothing on your turn 3 to make you waste your mana. That's when you usually slam down Gideon, Ally of Zendikar on them and force an intense amount of pressure. All the modes are good, with the emblem allowing your 2/3 creatures to crash through opposing Smuggler's Copters and/or survive an Archangel Avacyn trigger.
  • The Spanish team running the deck ended up playing Gisela, the Broken Blade. While I think this is a slightly inferior choice as it is easier to get rid of and lose tempo on, both cards will win the game if you untap with them regardless.

Archangel Avacyn

5 Mana


For each match-up, I will write a short blurb on the way the games usually play out, with a rough guide on the cards that matter or have a smaller impact. You can then build a sideboard based on the decks you feel you want to beat in the metagame.

B/G Delirium

Ishkanah, Grafwidow

An interesting match-up that I believe is even – their cards have slightly higher impact at the lower points of the curve, but it's easier for the blue-white midrange deck to gain tempo and dictate the terms of the race. Your mindset should be focused on dealing damage – it's ok to stop if you are protecting a Gideon or have a Reflector Mage that cannot attack, but your plan should not involve waiting indefinitely until a Verdurous GearhulkIshkanah, Grafwidow or Emrakul, the Promised End finishes your game.

Cards that matter: Reflector Mage, Gideon, Revolutionary Rebuff (countering Liliana, the Last Hope and Ishkana, Grafwidow), Declaration in Stone, hard counters, Jace, Unraveler of Secrets, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

Low impact: Selfless Spirit, Rattlechains, Ceremonious Rejection

Strange: Archangel Avacyn (Grasp of Darkness is a very efficient answer but Archangel Avacyn can help trump Ishkana, Grafwidow; especially with a Gideon emblem)


Aetherworks Marvel

Aetherworks Marvel

I don't need to say much on the version of the deck that made top 8, as it should be one of the most lopsided match-ups in Standard's history – just counter Aetherworks Marvel and have Spell Queller as a clock-trump.

I'll focus instead on the better versions of this deck that try to do something else (Ishkana Delirium, Bant, Ramp). You won't win the long game versus these, as they are much more adept at casting an Emrakul, the Promised End eventually. Make sure you have enough counter magic for the Marvel, but also dangerous spells like Ishkana, Grafwidow. Pressure them as much as possible while keeping a solid wall of counter magic.

Cards that matter: Any counter spells (including Revolutionary Rebuff), sometimes Fragmentize, creatures with Flash.

Low Impact: Reflector Mage, Skywhaler's Shot, Stasis Snare, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar (as it is hard to tap 4 mana on your turn to give them a window).



Red-based aggro decks

Inventor's Apprentice

This is likely to paint too broad a brush on Red Black Aggro, Red White Vehicles and Red White Humans as these decks play out quite differently, but it should give you a general idea of what you want to do. It all boils down to time. Once you start going into turn 4-5 with control of the board, you are very far ahead.

Once this happens, attack as fast as you can – burn spells, cards like Skysovereign, Consul Flagship and Key to the City are problem cards you do not want to fight against in a long game.

The main difference in approach is that you want to stabilise and outclass the RB Aggro and RW Humans decks, while you want to tempo out the RW vehicle decks until your higher impact cards come online.

Cards that matter: Ceremonious Rejection (for RB artefact aggro and RW Vehicles), Fragmentize, Declaration in Stone (NOT for RW Vehicles but ok against the other two), Stasis Snare, Skywhaler's Shot, Linvala, Dovin Baan, Fumigate (NOT for RW Vehicles)

Low Impact: Selfless Spirit, Rattlechains, Negate. Some of the higher curve cards can also be shaved off in numbers if you are on the draw, like Spell Queller, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Archangel Avacyn.



Decks with Prized Amalgam

Prized Amalgam

Zombies and Emerge are incredibly different decks, so to have them under one category seems indeed weird. However, they both boil down to the same principal – keep your opponent's board clean. It's a lot harder for them to win when they are discarding a ton of cards and you can Negate the impact of their powerful enablers – namely Voldaren Pariah and Elder-Deep Fiend.

Cards that matter: Declaration in Stone, Ceremonious Rejection (against Emerge), Revolutionary Rebuff (usually catching an Eldrazi or Voldaren Pariah), Fumigate, Linvala, the Preserver, Skywhaler's Shot, Stasis Snare.

Low impact: Selfless Spirit (Zombies only), Rattlechains, Negate, Ceremonious Rejection (against Zombies), Spell Queller (normally the last card you cut as it remains very efficient, but losing 1-2 on the draw makes sense).

Strange: Reflector Mage bouncing one of the zombie enablers sometimes backfires but it's important enough to the overall plan of keeping the board clean you should try and run it.



Control Decks

Torrential Gearhulk

This is a wonderful and intricate piece of Magic – historically, aggro-control and control have an interesting dance taking place, where neither wants to tap out.

As the aggro-control player, you are trying to chip some early damage and take initiative. The control player is trying to buy time in order to win in the late game with cards like Torrential Gearhulk. Just make sure to keep putting pressure on your opponent and if you are winning the race, stay back and wait for your opponent to offer an answer.

Cards that matter: Spell Shrivel / Void Shatter, Spell Queller, Smuggler's Copter, Planeswalkers, Westvale Abbey.

Low Impact: Reflector Mage, removal spells, Ceremonious Rejection.



The Mirror

I am unsure in this territory and you are mostly on your own. It probably comes down to play if I'm honest once you each hit your land drops on time.

Cards that matter: Gideon, Ally of Zendikar (mainly for the emblem, but suffers from being hard to resolve / protect), Archangel Avacyn, Smuggler's Copter, Linvala, the Preserver. Spell Shrivel / Void Shatter can be ok.

Low Impact: Reflector Mage, Negate, Ceremonious Rejection (1 Fragmentise is ok), Rattlechains.
Strange: Brisela, Voice of Nightmares (hard to protect the angelic sisters against Stasis Snare but high impact).

Other Sideboarding Notes

While Thraben Inspector is rarely the card you specifically want in any match-up, I would never side it out. It's your only real 1-drop and is key to making you keep your post-board Smuggler's Copters efficient. I tend to board out a Smuggler's Copter if I board out a lot of Selfless Spirit / Rattlechains as my creature count becomes low.

Not great though.

Spell Shrivel is more consistent, Void Shatter is more powerful. Because you have less blue mana in the deck then white, ask yourself for what you want the card primarily – if it is against 5-6 drops mainly cast on curve, prefer Spell Shrivel. If it's for very long games where you positively need to stop a spell dead in its tracks, Void Shatter is what you want.


Spell Shrivel Void Shatter



Playing the deck

  • In case you run Westvale Abbey (which I feel you should), run it out earlier if it doesn't hurt your mana – you want to keep basic land types in your hand in case you draw a Port Town.
  • Rattlechains gives Selfless Spirit flash, which is more relevant then it seems (particularly in combo match ups).
  • Although incredibly rare, you can exile your own spell with Spell Queller in response to a counter or Spell Queller. Best done if you are protecting yourself versus a comeback card like Fumigate or plan to wrath the board soon (say, with an Avacyn trigger).
  • If you have two creatures with the same name in front of you and two Reflector Mages, you should be heavily incentivised to bounce the first one, and the next one on subsequent turns. You may be able to completely cut off your opponent out of playing options this way.
  • Be very mindful of Archangel Avacyn killing your own creatures to your opponent's removal spell, as a lot of them have 3 toughness. Don't hesitate to emblem your Gideon, Ally of Zendikar if there's a card under Spell Queller you cannot afford to release.
  • While each match up varies, this is an aggro-control deck and you need to ask yourself if you would win the game where it to last forever or will eventually lose (this includes to a series of burn spells). Attack and defend accordingly, but take into account Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Archangel Avacyn kill opponents in a hurry and it's important to close the outs of a red deck.
  • Spell Queller and Rattlechains can be flashed in to animate a Smuggler's Copter on defence. Smuggler's Copter interacts also very well with Selfless Spirit and Archangel Avacyn (animating the vehicle with the indestructible trigger on the stack).
  • It's usually correct to run out Spell Queller on turn 3 in non-combo match-ups if your opponent passes the turn, especially if you have a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in hand you need to protect.

Final Words

You should be able to test the deck and tune it to your own personal metagame on a week by week basis, but make no mistake that it is incredibly potent. As long as you play 25 lands main deck (my largest regret with my PT decklist was being on 24) and ensure your curve is good, you should be winning quite a few matches of Magic.


Westvale Abbey

If you are looking to start with a list somewhere, Steve Hatto's is probably the most consistent one – I would combine it with the sideboard I used as a good starting point, making sure you have access to Westvale Abbey as it's a great anti-control card. Make sure to evolve the deck, play tight and crush your next Standard event!



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