As far as Flash decks are concerned, most people usually think of Simic or Jeskai with Magma Opus. While those are good, this shell takes advantage of the powerful White cards which hadn’t really been played in the shell before. In addition, there is a Dominaria United card that can take full advantage of the way the deck is built – Academy Loremaster. With this card in the deck, every nonland in the deck is either an instant or has flash. Let’s see what the cards in this deck do.
Let’s start with the threats.
The first card I feel compelled to describe is the new DMU toy. First off, it’s a 2/3 for two mana which is going to shine against aggressive decks. I’d happily snap off a block to kill a two drop or trade with a three drop.
In designs similar to this, such as Howling Mine, usually the biggest downside is that the opponent is the first to get the card, but if they do, they will usually have to skip a turn and spend it entirely on killing Loremaster; there will be multiple matchups where we’re perfectly fine with that happening, such as Mono Red as them not adding to the board is exactly what we want. However, in any case if they do not kill it, it’s going to be an engine to keep the game rolling.
The opponent will not be able to keep drawing cards like we will as each spell for them would be significantly more expensive. We, on the other hand, can keep drawing as the entire deck can be played on the opponent’s turn, unaffected by the tax. It is not Legendary, so the more copies you’ve got on the battlefield, the more you benefit while the opponent can not.
This is a bear with flash that will most often just trade with their two drop or ambush a one drop – which is going to be good enough for us since we want to live as long as possible. Its passive will affect some decks like all the Collected Company decks, Indomitable Creativity, Reanimator, Arclight Phoenix, and so on. In such matchups, the opponent will surely be utterly annoyed that their CoCo was negated by a main deck Priest. There is, however, even more utility to that card.
We play Fragment Reality which is a removal spell that essentially swaps an artifact, creature, or enchantment for a creature with lesser cost. That creature is put into play, thus not cast. With Containment Priest on the field, the creature can’t even enter play thanks to the Priest’s passive. The end result, simply speaking, is a Swords to Plowshares that does not gain the opponent life and can target artifacts and enchantments.
Without the Priest, it’s of course substantially worse, but still passable. Targeting a one drop will usually mean it’s hard removal as few decks play actual zero drops. The creature also enters play tapped which could be crucial if you want to remove a blocker and push damage through.
A Historic legal Mystic Snake. Its strength lies in the inherent two-for-one it provides. It is both a hard counter and a body. However, it won’t be worth another card if you don’t make the creature matter. If you’ve countered a spell and traded in combat or it ate a removal spell, you’re golden. Against decks that play more expensive spells, it’s a huge tempo swing as if they tap out, you get to thwart their plan and start applying pressure.
There will be games when you just end step flash it in to have a creature on the board and deliberately give up on the counter aspect. After all, it’s still a four drop so multiples might clunk up your hand.
Hands down the best threat in the deck. A 4/4 creature is actually pretty sizeable for this format. In combat, it kills Goblin Chainwhirler, Esper Sentinel, Skyclave Apparition, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Graveyard Trespasser, Goblin Warchief, Dreadhorde Arcanist, Robber of the Rich, and the list goes on. Attacking for 4 is also no joke, especially in a shockland, and now painland format.
Of course a 4/4 for 4 flash is not what makes the card exciting and powerful – it scales and is a one-card army. You get a 2/2 Wolf each turn which can either buy you time by chump blocking, simplify the board state by trading, or just wait, grow your board, and then overwhelm the opponent. If that wasn’t enough, Ambusher buffs other Wolves so those Wolf tokens will actually be 3/3 with Ambusher on the field. Each additional copy buffs them further and produce more tokens. It’s a threat that the opponent has to deal with immediately. The condition to create those wolves is trivial to be met as the entire deck operates at instant speed.
The last threat is also a key reason to be white. The Wandering Emperor has already proven itself in control shells because it’s both a threat and interaction and is hence very difficult to play around. This deck takes it to another level as you’re presenting interaction, Emperor itself, other threats like Nightpack Ambusher which puts the opponent in a real squeeze.
There could also be some relevant interactions with Emperor’s plus ability to make your creature win in combat or maybe survive a removal spell. For example, putting a counter on Ambusher to survive a Lava Coil, or putting a counter on Academy Loremaster to survive a Wizard's Lightning. As it’s a planeswalker, it is a different type of a threat that makes it harder to contend with as the opponent has to worry about multiple angles of attack.
At the outset, it’s worth pointing out that this section would be close to empty in a Simic shell. White provides plenty of very strong interaction pieces that those white-less shells lack. This shell is much less tempo-oriented and has more of a control approach allowing it to play much better from behind compared to the Simic version. This is important as traditionally, when the Simic version falls behind, it has an extremely hard time catching back up.
Now, let’s look at the actual interaction:
I’ve already described them earlier. To briefly restate, Fragment Reality is excellent at removing one drops and with Containment Priest is the best removal spell ever printed. Bear in mind that the opponent can kill your Priest in response!
The Wandering Emperor threatening its -2 is so powerful as, considering you have so many flash four drops, the opponent will have no choice but to attack. Furthermore, the two life is not irrelevant either as it helps stabilise in tough spots. That said, don’t tunnel vision into -2-ing as sometimes, making a token to block is enough as it may create a multi-block opportunity.
As you’d expect from a flash deck, there is plenty of countermagic. Normally, counterspells have this inherent flaw that if the opponent does not play into it you’re losing tempo. However, in this shell you always have something to do otherwise. This, game-theory-wise, means that countermagic is way better here than it would in a control deck.
Mana Tithe fills the gap in our curve and absolutely shines on the draw. Tithing a two drop is a massive tempo swing and feels awful for the opponent. While the opponent may try to play around it, it’d mean they keep Time Walk-ing themselves and play a three drop on turn four, four drop on turn five, etc. On top of that, it may stifle opposing multispell capacity. On turn four, you won’t counter a two drop, but you will counter a second two drop. If you feel it won’t have much use, you can always pitch it to March of Otherworldly Light.
Our version of Quench in this deck is Undersimplify. Having a counterspell on turn two is important. There are multiple choices – Censor, Dovin's Veto, Essence Scatter, and Jwari Disruption. While taxing counterspells have the inherent disadvantage that they can be paid for, even if the opponent does, Undersimplify has the upside of making the targeted creature smaller. You may ask yourself what the use of shrinking a creature if you actually counter it – it’s in the graveyard so the -2/-0 is irrelevant. It will be relevant against Lurrus of the Dream-Den decks which do recur creatures, decks with Kolaghan's Command, Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, etc. You’d be surprised how often this effect is relevant, but if you aren’t a fan, Censor is your next best bet.
Arguably cross-format best control tool is available for us – Archmage's Charm. This is absolutely a Swiss knife of a card. The key lies in the fact that it itself defeats the one inherent counterspell flaw that I’ve mentioned. If the opponent does not play into it, you draw two. The third mode is a cherry on top, but it does come in handy when you want to take opposing token creatures, tokens like Food or Clue, powerful one drops like Soul-Scar Mage, or Symmetry Sage, or other miscellaneous permanents like Retrofitter Foundry. Its multi-purpose nature makes it quite tough to play as you have to make the best choice. Countering a spell won’t always be the best option – sometimes, you’d prefer to draw two and replenish your resources rather than counter.
This is our flexible removal. While it is always tempo-negative, its catch-all nature makes up for it. It mainly shines against all the off-the-wall strategies like Enchantress and Food that play permanents that normally are tough to interact with. It also exiles artifact lands for a single mana which is very powerful.
The fact that you can pitch spells to it is going to come up a lot as well. While you don’t want to 2-for-1 yourself normally, you’re getting a tempo advantage and making sure the pressure is off you. I have lost way too many games in my life with a lot of cards in hand so having that as an option is important. This deck has also a good late game and powerful spells, so surviving until the late game is going to serve you well.
Last but not least, Academy Loremaster provides you with a stream of cards so it feels much better to pitch those cards away.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
|+3 Portable Hole||-3 Frilled Mystic|
|+2 Elder Gargaroth||-4 Undersimplify|
|+3 Aether Gust||-1 Academy Loremaster|
We are the control deck in this matchup. I am still on the fence whether I want to side in Mystical Dispute, but if I am, I feel compelled to do so on the play so that I can early counter A-Symmetry Sage, Expressive Iteration, or A-Mentor's Guidance. Portable Hole swings games so prioritize it highly as hands with it make the games much much easier, especially if you can snipe Dreadhorde Arcanist. Fragment Reality is exceptional as they have no zero drop to find so you can aggressively use it on their early creatures. Archmage's Charm taking a one drop is also pretty effective against them. Nightpack Ambusher‘s four toughness is very strong so pay attention to whether their Static Discharge can deal four already and/or whether they have Soul-Scar Mage to shrink it in combat.
They can play a longer game though, so stifling early pressure with one removal spell won’t cut it. Thankfully, our late game is much better anyways so prolonging the game works in our favour.
The only card I really want and/or need is Portable Hole to get rid of their lifegain two-drop payoffs. I don’t even side in Aether Gust as it tags too few creatures for my taste. If you see unusually many green creatures though, it’s good to side in. I side out Nightpack Ambusher as we will win by ultimately controlling the game, not by raw damage output. Containment Priest is an all-star as it counters Collected Company. If I can help it, I want them to commit the mana to CoCo and then in response I’d flash it in. If you cast it earlier, you allow them not to spend the 4 mana on CoCo and you expose it to Skyclave Apparition.
Thanks to the word
exile on the cards, March of Otherworldly Light and Fragment Reality can get rid of Heliod, Sun-Crowned, regardless of whether it’s a creature or enchantment. Academy Loremaster is an absolute house against them as their entire deck is sorcery speed, except for the CoCo. We will essentially draw twice as many cards as they will.
Mono Red Aggro
|+3 Portable Hole||-3 Frilled Mystic|
|+2 Elder Gargaroth||-4 Undersimplify|
|+3 Aether Gust||-1 Academy Loremaster|
Our endgame is superior to theirs so we want to ensure that we survive. I cut all the Frilled Mystic as they will be tempo negative and die to Play with Fire. Undersimplify is a two mana counter, but I prefer siding in a better version of it in Aether Gust which can also affect the battlefield. The best source of damage for them is creatures so we need to control the field as much as possible. In combat, absolutely do trade your Containment Priest for their Burning-Tree Emissary or Robber of the Rich. I typically don’t Mana Tithe their one drop unless it’s Soul-Scar Mage as I’d rather play a tap land on turn two and Tithe a two drop of theirs.
Portable Hole is an all start in this matchup, so be sure to use it early and often. Tagging Kumano Faces Kukkazan is the best target as you will deny them the +1/+1 counter and a creature later. Elder Gargaroth is our nigh-unbeatable endgame that we’re driving the game towards. If you already have it in hand, warp the whole game around deploying it.
Another matchup where Academy Loremaster is a one-sided Howling Mine. What I’d aim to do is trade it in combat after it’s drawn me more cards than them – which might even be one turn. They could take the draw around turn 3ish and only deploy a one drop, but that’s perfectly fine for us as it lines up Fragment Reality perfectly. We have to do everything in our power to make them unable to scale their battlefield. Picking off creatures one by one is the way to go. Containment Priest is excellent against Collected Company and might also be able to ambush Esper Sentinel. Nightpack Ambusher will be key in stemming the bleeding by continuously creating chump blockers for us.
If you see a lot of humans in the metagame, you can play Settle the Wreckage in the sideboard. It’d be an immense blowout.
The deck is set up to combat creature decks, but thankfully our removal is versatile enough that we won’t have too many dead cards post board. March of Otherworldly Light can tag Shark and Samurai tokens which is relevant as The Wandering Emperor is still a threat. I am still on the fence whether to side out Academy Loremaster, but then I’d need more tools in the board. At the very least, it makes their mass removal and planeswalkers prohibitively expensive. Supreme Verdict costing 6 is a whole lot different than 4.
We can play threats on their upkeep to make it tough to time their countermagic properly. A single Nightpack Ambusher will eventually make them have to use Supreme Verdict on it. Don’t attack with Ambusher itself if you don’t have any counterplay to their The Wandering Emperor.
Tips and Tricks
- You can use The Wandering Emperor‘s minus ability on your own creature in dire scenarios to gain life and stay alive.
- Just because your permanents have flash does not mean you have to play them on the opponent’s turn. Sometimes it’s better to play them main phase to dodge a counterspell.
- Frilled Mystic may act as a flashed in blocker. There will be games where your life total is more important than card advantage and you will want to trade resources as much as possible, especially protecting your life.
- Multiple Nightpack Ambusher will buff each other.
- You may want to strategically Mana Tithe your opponent when they can pay in order to tap them out.
- Try to make the timing as awkward for the opponent as possible. You don’t have to play your threats only during the opponent’s end step. You can play them on their upkeep in order to minimize the chances of them having a counterspell, in combat to ambush an attacker, on your turn when they are tapped out.
- You can pitch as many white cards to March of Otherworldly Light as you want.
- You can Fragment Reality your own creature to protect it from removal. Remember that it wouldn’t make sense with the two drops as there are no creatures with lesser mana value.
- There could be a situation that you play Undersimplify on the same creature a few times. When that happens, it will get -2/-0 for each Undersimplify cast. Those effects add up.
- Even if the opponent pays the Undersimplify tax, the creature still gets -2/-0.
- In extreme scenarios, you can target your opponent with Archmage's Charm to deck them.