The Standard metagame has seen an enormous shift since Wilds of Eldraine cards became legal. Decks such as Dimir Faeries and Golgari midrange that were pretty much non-existent in months prior had solid showings in events this weekend. It’s clear that Wilds of Eldraine cards are super impactful, even in formats beyond Standard.
What may be surprising, however, is just how dominant a specific new archetype was in this weekend’s Magic Online Standard Challenges. In both the Saturday and Sunday Challenges, a unique five-color deck was featured in the finals. Five-color decks aren’t exactly something new to Standard, as there were plenty of ramp decks featuring Invasion of Zendikar that performed quite well before the release of Wilds of Eldraine. That being said, this five-color deck is very different, abusing another powerful Battle card in a strange way. Let’s take a look at this Battle and the cards that surround it.
Cascading… Sort Of…
The main “combo” that this deck has access to starts by resolving Invasion of Alara. Invasion of Alara has a very similar effect to cards with Cascade. In this case, you exile cards from the top of your library until you reveal two non-Land cards with mana value four or less. Then, you can play one of those cards without paying its mana cost and put the other into your hand. Typically, paying five total mana, one of every color, to cast a spell from your deck with lesser mana value isn’t ideal. This deck, on the other hand, maximizes this Battle quite nicely.
The goal of the deck is to reveal Bramble Familiar with Invasion of Alara. Given that every other card except one copy of Go for the Throat costs five or more mana, you are guaranteed to “Cascade” into Bramble Familiar.
This is where things get interesting. Despite Bramble Familiar costing two mana, the Adventure portion of the card is a seven-mana Sorcery. You can actually choose to cast the seven-mana Adventure without paying its mana cost instead of simply casting the Creature itself! This is reminiscent of the ability to cast Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor with Bring to Light. The Adventure lets you mill seven cards, then put an Enchantment, Creature, or Land card from among them into play. Given the abundance of cards with high mana value in the deck, there are tons of excellent cards to put into play.
One of the most powerful things this deck can do is put Cemetery Desecrator onto the battlefield. Cemetery Desecrator lets you exile another card from your graveyard, then either remove X counters from a permanent or give an opposing Creature -X/-X until end of turn, where X is the mana value of the exiled card. At minimum, Cemetery Desecrator can remove a problematic threat from the opponent, such as Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, assuming that you mill over a card with high mana value with the seven-mana Adventure attached to Bramble Familiar. With tons of top end, the odds are in your favor.
Where the real power of Cemetery Desecrator lies, though, is in the ability to remove counters from a permanent. This is because, besides letting you “Cascade” into Bramble Familiar, Invasion of Alara leaves behind a seven-defense Battle. If you can exile a seven-mana card from your graveyard, such as Herd Migration, you can immediately remove all seven counters from Invasion of Alara, and reap the rewards from its transformation.
By transforming Invasion of Alara, you get to cast a Sorcery that draws you two cards, lets you put an Artifact into play from your hand, create a token copy of a Permanent you control, distribute three +1/+1 counters among your Creatures, and finally destroy a Permanent an opponent controls! Invasion of Alara is a real doozy, and it certainly pays you off for transforming it. Doing so with Cemetery Desecrator allows you to copy the Desecrator as well, giving -5/-5 to another creature with the now-dead Invasion of Alara, and singlehandedly putting 11 Menacing Power onboard between both copies of Cemetery Desecrator and the three counters provided.
Beyond Cemetery Desecrator, the deck also can mill over Atraxa, Grand Unifier, Etali, Primal Conqueror, Phyrexian Fleshgorger, and Virtue of Persistence as elite top end to put into play too. This deck’s high density of top end helps maximize the Adventure portion of Bramble Familiar, giving you lots of good cards to choose from and great odds to hit something extremely impactful.
Surviving the Early Turns
Despite Bramble Familiar and one copy of Go for the Throat being the only cards in the deck that cost five or less mana, this deck still has cards it can cast in the early turns. Both the Adventure portion of Virtue of Persistence and Leyline Binding are solid pieces of interaction that can be cast in the early turns to lessen the pressure from your opponent’s Creatures. Phyrexian Fleshgorger can be cast for three mana thanks to Prototype. Discarding Herd Migration can help you develop your mana, buffer your life total, and get a seven-mana card in the graveyard for Cemetery Desecrator.
Notably, Bramble Familiar can simply be cast as a two-mana Creature that lets you play your haymakers ahead of schedule. This deck has an incredible late game. The key is not falling too far behind in the early turns. Of course, even with some of these early plays, this is easier said than done.
As good as this deck is at out-grinding other midrange decks, it can definitely suffer against hyperaggressive strategies. Decks like mono-red aggro can simply get under this deck’s interaction very quickly. As a five-color deck playing Leyline Binding, there are a lot of Triomes in the manabase that enter the battlefield tapped. Bramble Familiar is unlikely to survive as a two-toughness Creature in the face of cards like Play with Fire, making it difficult to accelerate into your top end. Even with the life buffer from Herd Migration or Virtue of Persistence, mono-red aggro plays to the board so quickly that it can be quite difficult to stabilize.
Beyond mono-red aggro, this deck can also have some difficulty in the face of Counterspells, especially when backed up by pressure. Azorius Soldiers, for example, can land a few threats in the early turns, then simply counter this deck’s haymakers with Make Disappear and Protect the Negotiators. This five-color strategy is clearly not foolproof, but its success, especially against opposing midrange decks, is undeniable. If you are looking for a high-synergy deck to beat up on various Sheoldred strategies, consider giving this deck a whirl.