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Living in a Post-ban World: Elementals, Affinity, and Reanimator

My return to content creation comes at the end of an era. Field of the Dead will soon lay barren and the zombies will have returned to the dirt. This ban unfortunately displaces me even though I haven’t sold out and played Bant Golos. This is the Temur deck I’ve played to top 100 on the MTG Arena ladder:

Temur Elementals

Maindeck

  • 3 Arboreal Graer
  • 4 Growth Spiral
  • 4 Once Upon a Time
  • 4 Risen Reef
  • 4 Fires of Invention
  • 4 Scampering Scorcher
  • 4 Cavalier of Flame
  • 4 Cavalier of Thorns
  • 4 Field of the Dead
  • 3 Breeding Pool
  • 3 Stomping Ground
  • 2 Steam Vents
  • 2 Forest
  • 2 Mountain
  • 1 Island
  • 3 Fabled Passage
  • 2 Temple of Mystery
  • 2 Temple of Epiphany
  • 2 Thornwood Falls
  • 1 Swiftwater Cliffs
  • 2 Rugged Highlands

Sideboard

  • 4 Aether Gust
  • 2 Omnath, Locus of the Roil
  • 2 Flame Sweep
  • 3 Veil of Summer
  • 2 Agent of Treachery
  • 2 Tectonic Rift

The idea here is that you play the elemental package (Risen Reef, Cavaliers, Scampering Scorchers) to put as many creatures and lands into play as possible. At some point if you have a Fires of Invention in play you can play a Cavalier of Flame and activate it 4+ to overrun your opponent. This can happen as early as turn 4 with the nut draw, and along with Field of the Dead allows it to go punch for punch with Bant Golos into the late game.

There are few things this deck can’t do. It can get big, it can go wide, it can go fast, and it can go slow. Its weakness is interacting, but luckily there aren’t many control or combo decks to punish its development or end the game too quickly.

My deck isn’t as reliant on Field of the Dead as a win condition when compared to Bant Golos, but I’m not sure it’ll remain viable after the ban. I have a few tricks up my sleeve but by losing the combo of zombies + Cavalier of Flame, Temur Elementals might not have the punching power I’ve come to rely on. Here’s the direction I’m heading post ban.

Temur Elementals post-Ban

Maindeck

  • 3 Arboreal Grazer
  • 4 Growth Spiral
  • 4 Oko, Thief of Crowns
  • 4 Risen Reef
  • 4 Fires of Invention
  • 4 Scampering Scorcher
  • 3 Questing Beast
  • 4 Cavalier of Flame
  • 4 Cavalier of Gales
  • 4 Stomping Ground
  • 4 Breeding Pool
  • 4 Steam Vents
  • 3 Temple of Epiphany
  • 3 Temple of Mystery
  • 3 Forest
  • 3 Castle Vantress
  • 2 Mountain

This is systematically a different deck. Instead of going all in on Cavalier of Flame we now play like a more traditional midrange Fires of Invention deck. For the most part it leans more on “good cards” instead of the absurd synergies of the pre-ban version. A card like Oko has no obvious synergy with the deck but is too powerful to not play. We’ve changed Cavalier of Thorns into Cavalier of Gales because we can no longer stack up copies of Field of the Dead.

There’s a small chance that this banning might actually make this deck better by virtue of it playing “better” cards, but I’m prepared for worst, and in the eventuality that Temur Elementals is no longer viable I have my sights on some other decks. I’m mostly trying things that were invalidated by Bant Golos and have a gameplan against Oko decks, assuming his future crown isn’t stolen in the ban announcement as well.

There are two cards that stand out to me in the new new standard: Oko, Thief of Crowns and Fires of Invention. Oko’s pedigree is already proven with many calling him the best PW of all time. Any game that involves a turn two Oko is typically a runaway. Fires of Invention can allow the it’s owner to use 8 mana on turn 3 and 10-15+ mana usage on turn 4 (two five mana plays and five mana worth of activated abilities. That type of production is unprecedented even by Collected Company, Birthing Pod, or Aether Vial, three of the biggest mana cheating engines in the game. It comes with some significant drawbacks and also with one of the biggest upsides; it’s an enchantment, which means Oko can’t put his grubby paws on it.

I’m not going to cover UG and Bant Ramp here but that doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re good decks. Both are awesome strategies that should serve as starting points for the new format but have largely been explored as archetypes.

First up is Affinity. This deck tries to get bigger faster and close the game through outmuscling opponents board states. It also largely ignores Oko and can even invalidate an Opposing Oko through +1/+1 counters.

Standard Affinity

Maindeck

  • 4 Gingerbrute
  • 4 Locthwain Gargoyle
  • 4 Corridor Monitor
  • 4 Steel Overseer
  • 4 Evolution Sage
  • 4 Stonecoil Serpent
  • 4 Chamber Sentry
  • 4 Ugin's Conjurant
  • 4 Oko, Thief of Crowns
  • 4 Karn's Bastion
  • 4 Fabled Passage
  • 4 Breeding Pool
  • 4 Forest
  • 4 Island
  • 4 Mobilized District

Like most artifact based aggro lists we’re playing a bunch of stinkers, but when they start working together we get a lot of explosive potential. Essentially the gameplan is to play a bunch of cheap creatures and throw some +1/+1 Counters on them. This “protects” them from opposing Okos and allows our Oko to make giant threats with his +1 ability.

Then we push the synergies even further with interactions like Evolution Sage + Fabled Passage and Steel Overseer + Corridor Monitor. The mana is super easy which allows us to play 4 Karn’s Bastion and 4 Mobilized District. These utility lands ensure that we can’t flood too hard and give us the resiliency that a deck like this normally lacks.

Next up is a return to the Reanimator strategies I was working on before Golos took over the format:

Mardu Reanimator

Maindeck

  • 4 Merchant of the Vale
  • 4 Rix Maadi Reveler
  • 4 Fires of Invention
  • 4 Basilica Bell-Haunt
  • 4 Bond of Revival
  • 3 Kenrith, the Returned King
  • 4 Drakuseth, Maw of Flames
  • 4 Cavalier of Flame
  • 3 Cavalier of Dawn
  • 4 Temple of Silence
  • 4 Temple of Triumph
  • 4 Sacred Foundry
  • 4 Godless Shrine
  • 4 Blood Crypt
  • 1 Castle Ardenvale
  • 1 Plains
  • 1 Castle Lochthwain
  • 1 Swamp
  • 2 Mountain

Sideboard

  • 4 Noxious Revival
  • 2 Rankle, Master of Pranks
  • 2 Kaya's Wrath
  • 2 Duress
  • 2 Glass Casket
  • 2 Deafening Clarion
  • 1 Kaya, Orzhov Usurper

This likely falls on its face if the format is fast but if given some time to setup it does some crazy powerful stuff. Kenrith as a reanimator payoff has largely been unexplored and when paired with Drakuseth and the Cavaliers can end the game very quickly. It does have some ways to fend off aggro in Basilica Bell-Haunt and in theory can play a fairly reasonable midrange game. Of all the decks I’ve played this capitalizes on Fires of Invention the best and something I’m always looking for is the deck that pushes the best cards in a format furthest.

I’m excited to see what the real Eldraine format looks like! With Field of the Dead gone, the format will once again be wide open (like a field, ironically). Hopefully these decks give you some ideas going into new new standard.