I was playing the Arena Cube and was able to assemble a Mono Blue deck that could produce nigh-infinite turns – I hadn’t had that much fun playing cube ever.
This inspired me to think a bit more about the potential for a Taking Turns deck in Historic and then I remembered something. Has everybody heard about the bird? Because bird is indeed the word! Oracle of the Alpha can help me emulate my Cube experience in a constructed format – and emulate it did!
The end result is a Control deck with a combo finish. You play your value interactive game, at some point shuffle in the entire Power 9 into the deck, continue doing what you’ve been doing, and sooner or later you’ll draw Ancestral Recall or Time Walk! While you could play straight-up Jeskai Control, I have won multiple matches purely on the back of looping a few Time Walks and win from there. I have played dozens and dozens of games with this deck – it’s competitive and wild fun. A lot of people have scooped just seeing you cast Ancestral Recall whilst playing an otherwise equal game.
Let’s start off with the Bird in question.
This Wizard is our combo enabler as it shuffles in the entire power 9 into the deck. For those who are unfamiliar with Power 9, it’s Mox Pearl, Mox Jet, Mox Ruby, Mox Emerald, Mox Sapphire, Timetwister, Time Walk Black Lotus, and Ancestral Recall.
The five Moxen act as mana acceleration as you can play them and a land on the same turn. They are also excellent hits off Expressive Iteration as you can exile it and play it for 0.
Black Lotus is the best accelerant in the history of this game and it’s a great hit off Iteration as well. You will usually spend that mana right away on another Oracle, Archmage's Charm, or Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.
Ancestral Recall is an unbelievably good top deck as it pulls you back into the game. The great part is that you can draw more power 9 cards off of it.
Time Walk is, in my opinion, the strongest of the bunch. The main reason is that you can spend the entire turn setting up and still make sure you do untap. It’s especially good with effects that rely on turns passing such as Fable of the Mirror-Breaker as it’s a Saga, rebound off Ephemerate, and Planeswalkers like Teferi, Time Raveler.
Timetwister is secretly a combo piece too. I’ve had many games where I play out my hand, play Time Walk and then Timetwister. Not only do I get an entire additional turn with seven cards in hand, I might draw into Moxen as mana sources to dump onto the board or another Time Walk to keep it going. Thanks to Timetwister, you may take a few turns in a row purely because you keep shuffling Time Walkback into the deck.
Oracle itself is a serviceable body as well. It blocks, it flies over opposing creatures, and scries to help find more action. I tend not to play any subsequent Birds as the deck dilutes a bit. When it’s turn eight, you don’t want to keep drawing Moxen. However, if you need a creature on board, it’s much better to play another one than not to have any creature on the board.
You will frequently have a choice on which three-drop to deploy. I tend to lead on Oracle so that each subsequent turn poses a probability to draw into power 9. The longer you’ve waited on Oracle, the more turns you couldn’t have drawn a Vintage all-star. However, there will be games where I’d rather play Fable of the Mirror-Breaker when I don’t expect the opponent to be able to deal wit Goblin Shaman, and Fable itself is going to run away with the game essentially. It’s still all contextual though and comes with experience.
A flier that digs six cards deep. While it’s okay normally, it’s A+ post-Oracle as it suddenly can find any Power 9 piece – and this is the main use for the card as far as I’m concerned – I will try not to play it until I’ve cast Oracle if I can help it. Still, it’s a card advantage card that can trade in combat against other creature decks. I’ve had situations when Wandering Mind would find me Black Lotus, in which case, the creature was essentially free mana-wise.
Our Snapcaster Mage and Eternal Witness crossover. This creature is an actual infinite loop with Ephemerate and Time Walk. You play Time Walk, then you pick it up with Saiba Syphoner. Play it again. Ephemerate on Saiba Syphoner to pickup Time Walk again. On the upkeep, rebound blink Saiba and pick up Ephemerate. Rinse repeat.
Once you’ve drawn enough cards you can win however you wish – combat, Lightning Helix loop, or (like I’ve once done) Ancestral Recall targeting the opponent to mill them out. Most of the time though, you won’t be able to assemble the loop, especially early in the game. Then, it will act as your version of Snapcaster Mage, namely a value utility card. The best part, you never have to worry about it dying and later not having access to it as it shuffles itself in.
It’s our cheeky tool to get the most out of our creatures. I typically don’t blink Oracle of the Alpha as I don’t want to shuffle more power 9s into the deck, but targeting Saiba Syphoner for the loop and Wandering Mind to keep digging deeper into the deck is fantastic – Wandering Mind with a single Ephemerate and its rebound dig 18 cards deep! That’s probably a half of the deck by the time you do it. Another common line is to block with any creature and blink it which is essentially a free block as the creature does not die.
While it’s much worse than the original A-Teferi, Time Raveler, it still does the job. The main two uses are the passive and -3.
The passive enables us to loop at our leisure and we cannot be interrupted. The opponent could otherwise remove our creature in response to Ephemerate while with Teferi they cannot.
The minus ability will come in hand as a way to further interact with the battlefield to buy us time. You can also bounce Saiba Syphoner, Wandering Mind, and even
Classic Red removal in Historic. I do not play full four as the deck isn’t that good at enabling delirium early, however, Shock in the beginning phases of the game does the job sometimes.
The main reason to include Lightning Helix in your deck at all is the life gain. While you can keep removing creatures, you want some insurance against burn spells that are played in Wizards and Burn. On top of that, with Saiba Syphoner you can play way more Helixes than two in a given game.
This card is excellent, but quite tough to play optimally. I will frequently plan ahead with it to make sure that there is enough excess damage ‘in the bank’ that any next spell kills another creature. As an example, I’d gladly Molten Impact Soul Warden, if in the future, I know I can kill Resplendent Angel with excess damage. You may try to chain Molten Impact e.g. play the first one to kill an x/2 and then another Impact to collectively kill an x/6.
In the original list I’d found, there weren’t any Spell Pierce in the main deck and the deck was much more grindy. However, I’ve found that you don’t need more card advantage. On the flip side, it’s imperative to stay alive. With all of that in mind, Spell Pierce has been excellent for me and is a massive tempo swing.
Another card that wasn’t initially played. I didn’t want all my interaction to be removal as the probability for the wrong half problem is too high. Countermagic is a way to hedge and play more flexible interaction. In my opinion, Undersimplify is the best two-mana Counterspell but I’ve also considered Censor – and that could also be a fine option.
I have initially doubted this card’s presence, and then it immediately dispelled my doubts. Because the deck plays so many sorcery speed three-drops, you will 90% of the time want to play a three drop out instead of holding up Archmage's Charm. However, the trick is that Charm is not a turn three play usually, but it is an excellent turn 5-6 play where you do your thing and keep up interaction to secure your own game plan or thwart the opponent’s.
Against faster creature decks, you will often steal their one-drop. Especially in Best-of-One, you will find more combo decks when having countermagic is going to be great like against Dragonstorm.
The best draw spell in the format pre-Oracle’s Ancestral Recall. As mentioned before, Expressive Iteration is going to shine once the power 9 has been shuffled into the deck as it allows you to find the powerful cards faster. You will often take a spell into your hand and a Mox or Black Lotus into exile.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
|+2 A-Unholy Heat||-2 Ephemerate|
|+1 Lightning Helix||-2 A-Teferi, Time Raveler|
|+1 Anger of the Gods||-2 |
|+2 Aether Gust|
I trim on the expensive stuff and Ephemerate as the creature targeted might get killed in response. Post-board, we have got a ton of interaction and Lightning Helix‘s life gain is crucial. They might side in Spell Pierce, in which case I truly don’t want A-Teferi, Time Raveler or Fable of the Mirror-Breaker countered by it. If you have a chance to Timetwister, think twice as you may draw them into multiple burn spells.
Here our main game plan still applies. Their main way of interacting is Metallic Rebuke, but nothing else outside of that. By Force is going to shine against Nettlecyst and Construct tokens. Remove their artifact creatures to keep the artifact count lower in order to make Thought Monitor more expensive, and you can grind them out from there.
We cut Spell Pierce as its only target is Collected Company essentially. They cannot interact with us at all outside of Skyclave Apparition, which means that once we get going, they won’t really be able to stop Time Walk loops. Even if they grow their board, Molten Impact might still help you come back into the game. Their 3+ mana cost Angels are easily tempo-positively countered by our
Mono Red Aggro
|+2 A-Unholy Heat||-2 Ephemerate|
|+1 Lightning Helix||-2 A-Teferi, Time Raveler|
|+1 Anger of the Gods||-2 |
|+2 Aether Gust|
Very fast matchup where Lightning Helix pulls a lot of weight. I try to block as much as I can, even if it means losing the creatures. The longer the game goes, the better it is for us. At some point we will start recasting Helix with Saiba Syphoner and they will be in trouble. I cut expensive spells to lower the curve.
This is a tricky matchup as the bulk of this deck’s power comes in the form of three-drops, which are tough to resolve. However, game one on the play I slam them as there are not many two-mana counters in the format that are played. Post-board, you may need to be a bit more cunning – for example, play Wandering Mind on turn four with Spell Pierce backup which is a threat they will usually let resolve as it’s not a meaningful threat. We can utilise our instant speed spells as well such as Saiba Syphoner or Archmage's Charm to draw cards. However, we need to navigate the game in such a way that we resolve a three-drop.
Tips and Tricks
- A-Teferi, Time Raveler can bounce Moxen such as Mox Pearl in order to effectively ramp you. You add mana from the Mox, bounce it, replay it for free, tap again.
- With A-Teferi, Time Raveler‘s plus, you can play Expressive Iteration on the opponent’s turn. It’s relevant when you don’t want to have to tap out on your turn, but you obviously can’t play any lands off of it.
- Each Oracle of the Alpha shuffles the deck, so if you play a second copy, it will shuffle all the scried cards away.
- There may be spots when you need to draw Time Walk to assemble a win. but one Time Walk is already in the graveyard. In such cases, you may have to play another Oracle just to give yourself a shot at drawing that second copy of Time Walk, even though it brings 8 non-time-walk cards alongside with it.
- You may not want to use rebound Ephemerate on your creature sometimes – those spots come up when combat damage is more important than card advantage. If you blink your creature with Ephemerate, it gains summoning sickness.
- If you have two Saiba Syphoners in hand and no other spells, both are discounted. However, if you play one of them and pick up a spell, the other one will stop having the reduced cost. The way to avoid this is to hold priority, and cast the second one before the trigger on the first one resolves.
- A-Unholy Heat deals 4 damage with delirium, not 6. I want to point this out as paper players may make wrong assumptions during games, like I have, numerous times.
- If the opponent pays for Undersimplify, the creature still gets -2/-0.
- Sequence your lands properly with Archmage's Charm in mind. If you can help it, play Sacred Foundry last.
- You can Ephemerate
Reflection of Kiki-Jikion the opponent’s turn. This way, on your turn, you will get the filtering effect.