The Wedgecrafting: Three-Color Design in the New Standard

September 18, 2014
Magic will always be a complex game, but it seems like recent design is gravitating towards mechanics that are, at first blush, simplistic. The devotion mechanic of Theros block had a plug-and-play feel, which is not to insult its power or potency, just its potential for innovation within a format. This time around we have a set where the mechanics are, in some ways, obvious as well. If you aren't building a Wedge deck right now, you likely aren’t doing it right. Granted, we will see competitive mono-colored and two-color decks this season, but the design in Khans of Tarkir screams "build around me" when we look at an excellent three-color card. When Zurgo Helmsmasher was spoiled, its implications were seen only in a deck with at least three colors. We can attempt to jam charms, ascendencies, and the five khans in every three-color deck we build. And I think we likely should. These cards are powerful, and although our mana bases won't be perfect, it is worth trying to build around these incredible new synergies that Wizards has put forth. To start, I’ll present my current pet list and move forward. Blue Fires By Tim Edstrom CREATURES 4 Rattleclaw Mystic 3 Sylvan Caryatid 4 Boon Satyr 4 Elvish Mystic 4 Polukranos, World Eater 4 Savage Knuckleblade 2 Surrak Dragonclaw PLANESWALKERS None. SPELLS 4 Temur Charm 4 Temur Ascendancy 4 Stubborn Denial LANDS 4 Wooded Foothills 4 Shivan Reef 2 Temple of Mystery 2 Temple of Abandon 4 Yavimaya Coast 4 Forest 2 Mountain 1 Frontier Bivouac 1 Island SIDEBOARD Not submitted. Temur Ascendency definitely stuck out to me when it was spoiled. It's Fires of Yavimaya plus Phyrexian Arena. There is a ridiculous power level on this card, and in the wedge that I was already leaning towards. I don't usually play Mountains, but when I do it's with Forests and Islands. I have been looking for a RUG strategy with some of the powerful tempo feel of the old RUG Madness decks, and I think that we may have a new heir to the tempo throne. In the past few years there has been a noticeable emphasis on creatures and tempo in design, and with Theros we had the late-game traction that bestow and monstrous offered us. In Khans, once again late game cards will have an important part of defining the tempo, and we have to stretch the mana base of these three-color abominations to include all of these awesome cards. Sometimes at the beginning of a Standard season it is better to see what we can do if we jam all of the new stuff in a deck to see if it works than it is to merely template old Block Constructed lists. Yes, we will flesh out Khans later, but I believe it is worth including these cards now, at least in preliminary testing. We could just add Temur Charm to R/G Monsters or jam all the Stormbreath Dragons and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, but by keeping our curve low (enough), we can ramp into playing multiple four-power creatures a turn, drawing extra cards, and protecting our massive threats with cheap and low-investment counters. Some people have been clowning on Stubborn Denial, but I think this card is going to be quite exciting. I could well be proven wrong, but if we can set up a four-power creature, it will be tough for our opponents to remove when sitting behind a fist of this annoying card. While it will probably strictly be sideboard, I think it looks intriguing main deck. Even the aggro decks are tossing token generating spells around to push value and synergy. When combined with the Temur Charm it gives us eight main deck counters to ensure our suite of under-costed beefcakes can continually slam into our opponent. If the format moves in a controlling direction with tons of planeswalkers, I could see a list like this developing to counter the other late-game lists. Surrak over Stormbreath or Sarkhan is just something I would like to try. I don't want any more than two or three five-drops, as I think the deck wants to stay aggressive and play out its threats quickly. All three are powerful options, but I am, frankly, looking for cards that synergize with the deck. I think Surrak does this well, better than either the dragon or the planeswalker. It makes our other creatures more powerful, and although it doesn't double as removal or have protection, it is huge for its casting cost. This might change or end up in a split, but I think the card looks very nice at the top of the curve. I think I can probably find room for Crater's Claws, Courser of Kruphix, and Sagu Mauler as well. It never hurts to have that one nice six-drop. Next up is my partner, Courtney Schauer's, favorite clan, the jerky tough Abzan. Junk Rhinos CREATURES 4 Soldier of the Pantheon 4 Herald of Anafenza 4 Fleecemane Lion 4 Ainok Bond-Kin 3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos 1 Athreos, God of Passage 4 Siege Rhino PLANESWALKERS 2 Ajani Steadfast 1 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes SPELLS 1 Spear of Heliod 2 Spirit Bonds 4 Abzan Charm 2 Abzan Ascendancy LANDS 4 Mana Confluence 4 Llanowar Wastes 4 Caves of Koilos 4 Windswept Heath 4 Plains 2 Forest 2 Sandsteppe Citadel SIDEBOARD Not submitted. This list has a lot of what I think Abzan has going for it: The creation of a powerful creature-based midrange game that maintains an aggressive stance in the early game. I'm really not sure about the Outlast guys, and everyone is saying it is a limited mechanic, but Herald of Anafenza seems like another way to push other decks in the late game and create virtual card advantage. Although not the token maker Mardu seems to be, the bonuses the various creatures can get from an active Ajani, Steadfast are downright gross. There may also be a new warrior tribal deck that people are trying out, and Mardu will likely win out as the aggro/midrange combo, but I think Fleecemane Lion is too good of a two-drop to pass up. He already has one Pro Tour win and another final under his belt, and it seems to be that any deck that plays W/G in the upcoming Type II should play four. I think Fleecemane, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, and Siege Rhino create a downright disgusting curve that can fight other creature strategies and create tons of pressure against control strategies. There are lots of interesting combinations along the scale for Abzan, including playing heavy Black for Hero's Downfall and Herald as well as tilting it to be nearly mono-White. I am not convinced on Sorin, Solmen Visitor, and I think it may be a disappointing planeswalker. The first ability does not seem impactful enough without a large board and the down tick for a 2/2 on turn four is probably outclassed. Either way, this wedge seems ready to grind. It has been nominated for most likely to include sideboard tech “Wrath the Board, Play a Serra Angel.” Next is the more traditional tempo strategy, Jeskai. Stars and Stripes Monks CREATURES 4 Jeskai Elder 4 Mantis Rider 4 Monastery Swiftspear 3 Goblin Rabblemaster PLANESWALKERS None. SPELLS 4 Lightning Strike 3 Jeskai Charm 1 Howl of the Horde 2 Jeskai Ascendancy 1 Mindswipe 1 Quiet Contemplation 1 Flying Crane Technique 3 Raise the Alarm 2 Stoke the Flames 3 Titan's Strength LANDS 4 Battlefield Forge 4 Shivan Reef 4 Mana Confluence 4 Flooded Strand 1 Temple of Triumph 1 Temple of Epiphany 1 Mountain 2 Island 2 Plains SIDEBOARD Not submitted. I designed this before the Swiftspear was spoiled, so I may have shoe-horned it in. The list is admittedly suffering from some identity issues, which maybe Jeskai does generally. Originally, it was a bit more controlling with multiple copies of what I think is a very interesting card: Quiet Contemplation. With the one-drop, I made the deck more aggressive and included the Titan's Strength, although the list isn't pushed entirely that direction either. For the most part, I think that Mantis Rider is one of the best new creatures, but Prowess is possibly the worst new mechanic. In Modern Burn, clearly a one mana prowess creature seems busted, but it doesn't seem like straight burn is going to be viable right at the beginning of the new Standard. We are missing a number of key cards that held the deck together previously. Mono-red lists will likely be creature dense. Jeskai is demanding that we play some mix of creature and non-creature spells, just like Temur, but where that balance is remains to be seen. While it will often end up that playing less creatures, I do think that not playing Goblin Rabblemaster in a list like this is wrong. It doesn't combo with Temur Ascendency, so I kept it out of RUG (which could be wrong), but it seems at home in this deck where there is a necessity to start the beats early, as your removal suite is slightly underpowered compared to the Black decks. Funny story, when we were testing the other night, Meadery member Will Drescher brought a Jeskai list made almost entirely of one drops and burn. At least the games were quick. You feel like you're getting more information that way. And maybe that's what this wedge wants to be: lightning fast, Lightning Angel. It might be interesting to see aggro mirrors between this wedge and Mono-Black developing, with each deck only racing to 10 instead of 20. Last, a list that I think looks like a lot of fun. Turbo Moneybags CREATURES None PLANESWALKERS 1 Jace, the Living Guildpact 1 Kiora, the Crashing Wave 1 Garruk, Apex Predator SPELLS 4 Embodiment of Spring 1 Villainous Wealth 2 Empty the Pits 2 Bile Blight 4 Hero's Downfall 4 Dissolve 2 Dig through Time 4 Thoughtseize 2 Murderous Cut 1 Perilous Vault 1 Sultai Ascendancy 4 Sultai Charm LANDS 4 Polluted Delta 4 Windswept Heath 4 Flooded Strand 2 Llanowar Wastes 2 Yavimaya Coast 4 Swamp 3 Island 2 Forest 1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth SIDEBOARD Not submitted. While perhaps the U/W wedge Jeskai seems the obvious control, I think there is a possibility that control/combo hybrid delve decks could come out of Sultai. I always loved some BUG Tog, and I would love to see a inheritor to that deck with a similar feel come about. Filling up your graveyard quickly while drawing incredible amounts of cards feels excellent in my experience, and its not something I want you to miss out on. Villainous Wealth seems incredible, although I'm not sure which engine it can work with. Devotion might be wrong, as making your mana reliant on permanents in play is susceptible to a removal heavy strategy, although there might not be one at this point. I like the Wealth here though, where we can slowly develop our kill while controlling the game instead of being all in and risk running out of cards. This list wants to abuse the fetchlands as much as possible, and is a home for one of my favorite new cards: Embodiment of Spring. It's so cute. I think I had one of these guys on my wristwatch 10 years ago. It probably doesn't knock out the current king wall that is Rampant Growth, the hexproof tree, but I love this card's application in Sultai. The mana stays when the ice chicken dies, which is what I like. Perhaps the Theros block deck Sultai is the new heir to the control throne, but I think delving deeper into Khans and all of the wedge strategies will be worthwhile. Have at it! Thoughtseize, Downfall, Dig for Wealth, CAST YOUR DECK! Simple right? Enjoy the new cards, everybody. Follow Tim on the Meadery:

join the meadery

Your account was accepted!
You're not quite finished yet. Check your email now. We just sent you a confirmation link. When you click that link your account will be confirmed and you will be ready to go.
If you do not see an email in your inbox, please check your spam folder. If you still do not find the email, please contact


forgot password

An email has been sent to with instructions on how to reset your password.