Frontier: Temur Marvel Primer & Sideboard Guide

Thomas brings us a comprehensive sideboarding guide to Temur Marvel, one of the most powerful combo decks in Frontier.

Temur Marvel uses its namesake card, Aetherworks Marvel, to cast Emrakul, the Promised End or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger as early as turn four. In games where we come across disruption, we’re able to follow up this aggressive combo finish with the backup plan of hardcasting Eldrazi Titans ahead of schedule. This is thanks to our strong value engine, a variety of card types for for Emrakul, the Promised End and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods. The deck performed quite well in testing and appears to be underplayed at the moment competitively.

Origins

When it was first released in Kaladesh, it was clear that Aetherworks Marvel was a very powerful card. It was so obvious, in fact, that twenty-five percent of the field of the Pro Tour was on Marvel, with Matthew Nass making top 8. Nass’s list was essentially an all-in combo deck featuring four Emrakul, the Promised End and four Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. This build struggled greatly against Spell Queller and the metagame following the Pro Tour revolved largely around BG Delirium and UW Flash. Towards the end of the format, Marvel reemerged when Logan Nettles and others came to a RG list which was able to back up an explosive early game with a grindy midrange game thanks to Ishkanah, Grafwidow and Chandra, Torch of Defiance.

In Aether Revolt, 4c Saheeli Combo largely pushed RG Marvel out and it wouldn’t reemerge until the ban of Felidar Guardian. Its new shell was Temur, with an energy subtheme and more controlling fallback plan. In Frontier the list itself has put up some finishes in Tokyo, but has largely stayed in the background in Toronto and online. It’s a presence that people are forced to prepare for, but lacks the big finishes in Frontier it saw in Standard. Why, though?

The answer is similar to standard: Saheeli Rai. The copycat combo is more reliable and less costly. It also is advantaged in the combo “mirror.” Still, they’re both effective turn four kills and there a lot of key matchups where marvel has the edge. The recent resurgence of control is a good example. While cat decks can be configured to generally have a good control matchup, Marvel just naturally preys on control thanks to its quick combo potential followed up by hardcast Emrakuls.

Normally, I would talk more about the notable finishes there have only been a few spattered ones, like Mishina Ryouta’s top 16 at the 9th God of Frontier Challenge, or Yamasaki Takumi previous top thirty-two. Still, the consensus amongst competitive Frontier grinders I’ve spoken with is that the archetype is easily good enough for the format. The problem is just finding the proper build.

Towards that end, I tested multiple lists. The one that performed the best was a list by Toronto Frontier grinder, Matt Cherkas.

Temur Marvel by Matt Cherkas

Lands (23)
Windswept Heath
Botanical Sanctum
Spirebluff Canal
Lumbering Falls
Prairie Stream
Cinder Glade
Forest
Island
Mountain
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Aether Hub

Creatures (9)
Rogue Refiner
Emrakul, the Promised End
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Planeswalkers (2)
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Artifacts (8)
Aetherworks Marvel
Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot

Instants (14)
Harnessed Lightning
Censor
Negate
Kozilek’s Return
Glimmer of Genius

Sorceries (4)
Attune with Aether

Sideboard (15)
Rending Volley
Aether Meltdown
Hour of Devastation
Negate
Dispel
Tireless Tracker
Natural State

Notable Cards

Aetherworks Marvel is the namesake card. The fact that it “casts” the card it finds means we’re able to abuse the powerful Eldrazi Titan cast triggers, getting them alongside a 10/10 or 13/13 body as early as turn four is not fair magic. It can also be used as raw card advantage, grinding out value by hitting energy producers like Rogue Refiner or removal spells.
Attune with Aether does many things in marvel. It lets you fix your mana, it provides needed energy for Aetherworks Marvel and it even slightly thins your deck for marvel hits. Lay of the Land has never looked this good.
Censor is an excellent counterspell for our strategy as it allows us to interact early while setting up for Aetherworks Marvel. It’s particularly good in this strategy as our opponents are incentivized to kill us as quickly as possible (as we both have a fast combo finish and the best late game in the format.)

Kozilek’s Return is a Pyroclasm, this will keep us from dying before our critical turn. Afterwards, once we do get our hit, it will ensure that they are not in a position to race us, letting us carry the game with the titan we landed. Instant speed is incredibly relevant against another of the top decks, Atarka Red, as it lets us interact favorably with cards like Reckless Bushwhacker or, in some situations, Atarka’s Command.
Glimmer of Genius gives us energy and let’s us go four deep to ensure we get key pieces of interaction and hit our land drops.  Since we’re a deck which often finds itself hardcasting our Eldrazi titans, we can’t afford to play the most broken card draw spells in the format, since they eat up our grave. Glimmer is less powerful, but two energy for marvel is relevant, as is the ability to dig four cards deep at instant speed. This is important as we often need to dig for a specific answer, or to hit land drops in the midgame, if we weren’t able to combo our opponent out with an early Aetherworks Marvel activation.
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods is essentially free ramp for your backup plan of casting Emrakul and Ulamog a turn ahead of schedule. I don’t know the number of games I’ve cast Glimmer of Genius specifically to find this card, but it’s a real boon in the midrange and control matchups, where all that matters is getting to our more powerful endgame before they can kill us.

Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Copycat Combo

This is a slightly unfavorable matchup and one of the reasons Marvel has seen less play recently. Still, it’s not unwinnable and cards like Rending Volley, give us great interaction to their fast hands. Against planeswalker heavy builds be sure to bring in Hour of Devastation. You can also bring in Tireless Tracker in a small number of games to increase your range post sideboard.

In: +2 Rending Volley, +2 Negate, +2 Dispel

Out: -3 Kozilek’s Return, -1 Glimmer of Genius, -2 Rogue Refiner

Atarka Red

Another rough matchup. Atarka Red goldfishes just as quickly as we do. Our particular build is slightly better set up to fight Atarka then some builds as it has three copies of Kozilek’s Return main, specifically to beat Atarka’s fastest hands. Aethermeltdown is surprisingly helpful, as it builds us to our turn four Marvel starts while interacting and Natural State helps against Smuggler’s Copter, but this is not our preferred matchup. Against lists running Hazoret the Fervent and Chandra, Torch of Defiance board in Hour of Devastation.

In: +3 Aether Meltdown, +1 Natural State

Out: -4 Glimmer of Genius

Abzan Aggro

This is a good matchup. We’re just faster than Abzan. It gets better in game two when we bring in Hour of Devastation, which is one of the best sideboard cards possible against Abzan. Just look out for Dromoka’s Command. We board in a second negate for Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Transgress the Mind.

If they’re on Sorcerous Spyglass, be sure to bring in Natural State. In a metagame heavy on Spyglass, consider a second Natural State, or some number of Abrades.

In: +2 Hour of Devastation, +1 Negate

Out: -3 Kozilek’s Return

The Mirror

Our list is well setup for the mirror with additional copies of Negate and Censor. I usually bring in Tireless Tracker for the games where they have answers to our marvel, as it can sometimes win a game on its own. Still, don’t get confused, this matchup is a race to combo out your opponent. The most important thing is to get to your titans first.

Other pilots have reported Manglehorn being a great sideboard card here in marvel heavy metagames, but I tend to just play more counterspells in that sort of metagame. Either is worth considering, of course.

In: +2 Negate, +2 Dispel, +3 Tireless Tracker

Out: -3 Kozilek’s Return, -4 Rogue Refiner

UBx Control

One of the most lopsided matchups in the format. Their answers just don’t line up with our late game and in the games where they don’t have an answer to our early marvel, we still just win. Game two I expect enough hate that I’m not afraid to shave on Woodweaver’s Puzzleknots, but it’s fine to keep them in.

Some marvel players shave more aggressively on the combo, shaving 1-2 copies of Marvel too. I tend to like the combo potential, but against control decks with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy it may be worth keeping in all four copies of Harnessed Lightning and even considering Rending Volley. In that case, feel free to shave more liberally on cards like Marvel and Puzzleknot.

In: +2 Negate, +2 Dispel, +3 Tireless Tracker

Out: -3 Kozilek’s Return, -2 Harnessed Lightning, -2 Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot

Jund Delirium

This is another matchup that is incredibly in our favor. We play more copies of our top end and are able to marvel into it by turn four. Their fastest draws get them their by turn six. In games two and three I just bring in answers to common hate cards like Spyglass, discard, Dispossess and Infinite Obliteration.

In: +2 Negate, +1 Natural State

Out: -3 Kozilek’s Return

Combo Elves

We really need to draw Kozilek’s Return to beat Elves, but the good news is we run three main, so this matchup tends to be slightly favorable. Be careful, though, Elves is fast and Driven // Despair is a very hard card for us to beat game one. In game two we get a lot of interaction for cards like Collected Company and Chord of Calling.

In: +2 Hour of Devastation, +2 Negate, +2 Dispel

Out: -2 Glimmer of Genius, -4 Rogue Refiner

Conclusion

I think Marvel is an underplayed tier two deck at the moment. While Saheeli and Atarka Red are not good matchups, it’s the sort of deck that has such a powerful game plan its bad matchups aren’t that bad. If lists like Delirium and Control see an uptick, those matchups are about as lopsided for Marvel game one as a competitive game of Frontier can be.

Thanks for reading my latest article. As always, feel free to follow the rest of the team @mtgdotone and you can keep up with me personally @Nascarfath. I’m always happy to respond to feedback in the comment or on social media.

Thomas Snodgrass

Magic and Twitch enthusiast. Frontier grinder. Frequent caster of Torrential Gear Hulk into Dig Through Time (with counterspell backup.) @Nascarfath on Twitter.

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