rab your sabres and put on your white gloves—today we're going fencing!
Fencing Ace | Art by David Rapoza
One of the most popular deck archetypes sent into me since the release of Return to Ravnica have been Fencing Ace decks—and when a deck is so popular, I always like to try and oblige. At only two mana, this double striker can quickly grow to absurd proportions—with the right support. Today, these hands are going to be fighting hands! So let's take a look, shall we?
The version we're going to start with is courtesy of Jeremy Gillespie:
Jeremy Gillespie's Ethereal Enchanting
The Battle Plan
For the most part, Auras are a high-risk proposition. If you cast one and its target is removed, then you just threw away two cards in exchange for your opponent's single card. So, what's happening with all of the Auras in this deck, then? Well, this deck turns Auras into a much more palatable risk-versus-reward proposition. With Fencing Ace and Invisible Stalker on your side, Auras begin to look a lot better.
In fact, this deck can kill as early as turn three. Turn-two Fencing Ace, turn-three triple Ethereal Armor is straight up 20 damage. If your opponent has a blocker in the way, don't worry—you could always play a turn-one Abundant Growth, a turn-two Ace, then slap a pair of Armors and a Rancor on the Ace to attack for 22 points of trampling damage!
Even without the Ace, Invisible Stalker can still cause a lot of headaches for your opponent. With all of the Auras in this deck, the Stalker can put your opponent on a quickly ticking clock.
The key to this deck is speed. If you give your opponent too much time, he or she is going to have removal spells or board sweepers that will annihilate your Aura-based plan. So this deck has to come out fast and can't really afford to play for the long game. In many respects, it feels similar to the poison deck from last Standard season: attack for a tremendous amount quickly and crush opponents before they can do much else.
So, pretty simple, right? Play some creatures, hand them some Auras, and turn them sideways. Well, there's still plenty to look at to tweaking for this deck—so let's move over to the card breakdown!
Some parts of this deck are stable, while others will go through some reconsideration. Let's have a look!
These are the prime two creatures to enchant in the deck, and you always want to cast one of them on turn two if you can. The Ace is fragile, but if the opponent doesn't remove him right away the Ace might just remove your opponent! You definitely want to play all four copies of both of these cards.
Normally, I'm a huge fan of mana elves. You might have noticed that I've put them into many green decks I've written about throughout the past few weeks. However, I'm not sure they really belong here. This deck goes fairly "all-in," focusing on its two-mana creatures coupled with cheap creature enhancements. Ramping up your mana isn't nearly as exciting here as in other decks, especially with many of the tweaks I'm planning to make.
If I was planning to go big with some gigantic Auras then I'd reconsider, but Pilgrim isn't such a fantastic fit for this deck. While he does let you play a turn-two Geist of Saint Traft—a card I'll talk more about later—that's not worth his general unexcitingness elsewhere.
The Lookout performs well alongside both Ace and Stalker, giving you a steady flow of cards. The problem with Lookout is that I don't think you really have the time to deploy this effectively. On turn three, I want to be suiting up my turn-two play. (Or casting a Geist.) As I mentioned before, this deck wants to kill quickly and Lookout doesn't really help with that. Casting a makeshift Curiosity is nice, but I think there are better options for what this deck really wants to do.
I'll admit, I got pretty excited when I saw Bruna in this decklist. As a six-drop that hits the board and picks up all of the enchantments your opponent managed to deal with and is likely lethal in one attack, she's pretty enticing.
Unfortunately, she really doesn't fit this deck's low-mana, speed-focused game plan. While she would be a good fit for an Aura-based deck that wants to go a little longer, she's out of place here.
Bam! This is one of the key new cards in the deck. With all of the Auras you have access to in this strategy, Armor can quickly provide titanic—and lethal—bonuses. They only get better in multiples, so four copies it is!
Rancor is in an elite class of Auras that are good enough to play on their own. For only a single mana, +2/+0 and trample is a gigantic boost—and it comes back when it goes to the graveyard. It's a fantastic fit for the deck, and a card I definitely want to keep all four of.
Abundant Growth is an interesting choice for this deck. It doesn't do a lot on its own—but for only a single mana and with a replacement card attached it also costs very little to put in the deck. The upside, aside from the color fixing, is that it makes your Ethereal Armors even more awesome. Without Avacyn's Pilgrim, it's nice to have another one-drop.
The more hidden danger to Abundant Growth is messing up your mulligans. Although drawing a single one isn't a big problem, an opening hand with two or three Growths in it really obfuscates what the correct decision is. To put you in a tighter pinch, you don't always have time to cast multiples in the first few turns.
It feels like the right choice here is to play only two Growths. Normally I try and stay away from two-ofs, but it's far from crucial and you really don't want to see more than one Growth in your opening hand. Two copies it is!
While Tandem Lookout was a little too slow at three mana, Curiosity is a little more palatable. For only a single mana you get an enchantment that also picks you up some cards. In combination with Fencing Ace, it can often be a single-mana card that's better than Divination!
However, that still doesn't address the issue of needing to win quickly. You don't often have the time to amass cards from Curiosity in a deck that tries to kill as fast as this one does.
While Curiosity would be awesome if it just magically teleported into my hand, every card choice in a Magic deck is at the cost of something else. If you play, say, Spectral Flight instead of Curiosity, then every time you would draw Curiosity you end up already having an awesome, creature-pumping Aura instead of having to draw more cards to find one. Considering you aren't going to get in too many Curiosity hits before the game begins slipping out of your grasp, I'd rather have a card that's immediately more effectual like Spectral Flight or Ajani, Caller of the Pride. I suppose this time you could say that, for once, it was the cat that killed Curiosity!
Righteous Authority was a stretch to begin with, and now it really no longer fits in this deck. It's expensive to cast, but the upside is if you're drawing a ton of cards with Curiosity and Tandem Lookout you might procure a huge boost. But without either of those cards in the deck and considering its prohibitive mana cost, we can make like a rebellious teenager and say goodbye to Authority.
After trimming down this deck there's room to add some more synergistic cards. Let's take a look at what's moving on in!
Geist is certainly one of the most popular cards to play out of Innistrad block—and for good reason. Getting 6 points of hexproof power for three mana is an absurd deal—and it only gets better as you strap him up with enchantments to keep him around. If your opponent doesn't have board sweepers, Geist can quickly prove an extremely hard-to-beat spirit.
Silverblade Paladin is another double striker that also makes some of your other creatures go wild. Granting Invisible Stalker double strike is great, and bonding with the Geist's 4/4 Angel each time it attacks is truly vile.
However, the Paladin doesn't work nearly as well with Fencing Ace and it also doesn't provide any evasion. Ajani, Caller of the Pride, on the other hand, does help out in a different way. It sends your creatures to the air, while also potentially pumping your creatures and threatening ultimate against control.
Overall, I think the Paladin is usually going to be better since it is a creature on its own, but Ajani's surprise flying certainly has its place. I ended up wanting to play three between the two so the deck didn't have too many three-drops. I settled on a 2/1 split between the two, occasionally giving this deck some options on how to best slice up your opponent.
Spectral Flight is an awesome enchantment for this kind of Aura-centric deck. Not only does it provide +2/+2, but lifting your creature into the air—whether a Geist or a double striker—is deadly. Even if your opponent assembles an army of ground blockers, your four Spectral Flight and four Rancor are Auras that should be more than enough to get right past them.
Part of this deck is just maximizing your best draws, and Spectral Flight helps with that by giving you powerful redundancy. Any start with a turn-two Fencing Ace that survives is going to be awesome if you follow it up with Auras that provide evasion and stat bonuses, and Spectral Flight does just that.
While not as strong at enhancing your creatures as your other Auras (and I particularly recommend not putting it on your Geist of Saint Traft) the flexibility of Bonds makes it carry its weight here. You can either strap your creature up with a +2/+2 bonus, or pacify your opponent's creature.
While Pacifism hasn't traditionally been a great Constructed card, right now it's awesome. Pacifism is awesome against decks like zombies, and is one of the best answers to the ubiquitous Thragtusk. This card is really underrated right now, and, of all the decks it can fit, this is one of the best for it.
All three modes on the charm do strong work in this deck.
The token out of nowhere can be deadly if your opponent is low on life. Create it at the end of your opponent's turn and then slap a bunch of enchantments on it—or just cause a Silverblade Paladin to suddenly gain double strike.
The +2/+2 and trample ensures your Fencing Aces and Paladins connect while your Geists survive blockers.
Exiling a 5-power or greater creature probably comes up the least, but if the game goes long it can be very important.
You don't want to have a hand full of these, but seeing one to make a turn-two play or to cause the finishing blow can be very important.
With all of that said, here's where the deck ended up:
Gavin Verhey's En Garde!
The sideboard for something like this is extremely metagame dependant, but if you're running into trouble with removal or board sweepers I would recommend Rootborn Defenses and some countermagic like Dispel or potentially Negate. If you can just protect your Fencing Ace, you're usually set up to kill fairly easily.
Against decks with a lot of creatures, and especially tokens, Detention Sphere makes for a solid removal spell that also kicks up your Ethereal Armors. If you find you need to go bigger, Sigarda, Host of Herons is worth considering as a sideboard finisher.
My largest advice with this deck is to be careful when you cast your enchantments. You always want to push through as much damage as you can while remaining safe. If you think your opponent has the removal spell, try to not let him or her get extra cards out of it by killing your creature in response to an Aura. On the flip side, if you have the kill, sometimes you'll just need to go for it.
Through playing the deck more and more, you will get a better feeling about when to cast your enchantments. Just play as many games as you can to get the best feel for when it's safe to unload.
Each week, there are plenty of great decklists submitted that don't end up being the single deck focused on. Here are some of them from this week—see what Standard ideas they give you!
Bob Ang's AnNAYAlate
Jonathan Gutierrez's Burn
Charles Sousa's Bouncing Azorius
Craig Wright's Bant Midrange
Anonymous's Four-Color Control
Tyler Shank's Grixis Control
Hunter Snapp's Blisterburns
Paolo Garcia's Favorable Spirits
Tyler Shank's Grixis Control
Chris Sheppard's Screeching Rats
Dustin Cox's Spider Spawning
Xane Frostwind's Mutilate Control
Jacob Khuraibet's BUG Midrange
Todd's RUG Land Destruction
Devon Murtha's Deadeye of the Infinite
Ryan's Red-White Tokens
Jo Smith's Four-Color Midrange
Josh LeBlanc's Turbofog
Cody Hafley's Heartless Jund
Jack's Red-White-Blue Control
Greg Peck's BUG Midrange
Mitchell Carlon's Bant Séance
Who Tunes the Tuners?
Next week, we're going to try something new! You might have noticed quite a few honorable mentions this time around—and there's a reason why. Check this out!
Restrictions: Your deck must be inspired by and/or a modified version of one of the honorable mentions above.
Deadline: Monday October 29, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time
It should be a fun experience, as I look at both the list you send me and potentially how you tuned it as well. That's the week of Return to Ravnica Game Day, so it should be a fun fusion of preparing for that while trying something new! So scroll back up and get to tweaking those decklists.
In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me on Twitter or post in the forums and I'll be sure to read it. I know this is an archetype a lot of you have been looking into playing, and I'd love to hear from those who try it out!
I'll be back next week with a very Azorius deck for Azorius Week. See you then!