Magic: The Gathering's latest expansion, Murders at Karlov Manor is upon us. Starting next week, its cards will be legal in competitive formats and an extensive testing phase of new features in the main archetypes begins.
In today's article, I present some of the ideas that came up with the new set, with five Pioneer decks to try out at tabletop events and on Magic Online starting February 6th.
Most lists are in the experimental phase and seek to make the best use of recently launched pieces through synergies and/or the individual value they can add to their respective archetypes.
Mono Green Devotion
After the ban on Karn, the Great Creator, Mono Green Devotion or Nykthos Ramp haven't made any great results in a while, as it can no longer establish the inevitability it had with the toolbox Karn provided it. Since then, players have pursued an aggressive Ramp approach, scaling their devotion to green to the point where very impactful creatures come into play.
This proposal gained a great improvement with Archdruid’s Charm, which allows diversifying the number of creatures in the maindeck while adding consistency in finding the deck's centerpiece, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.
Another more controversial addition was Leyline of the Guildpact. The multicolored enchantment adds four devotion to green on its own and can be put into play on the first turn if it is in the opening hand - however, it does absolutely nothing and generates no value to the deck outside these conditions, being a bad draw at an archetype previously known for having the best topdeck in the format.
In this version, we tried to make the most of both cards. So we capitalized on the potential to cast Cavalier of Thorns on the second turn, the ability to find Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx with Archdruid's Charm and the toolbox with high amount of devotion to establish an infinite combo.
If the player has a devotion of eight or higher, they can use Wakeroot Elemental's ability to untap Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, tap it again to generate more mana and repeat the process until having infinite mana. With it, they can turn all their lands into 5/5 creatures, attack with Lair of the Hydra for lethal damage, or use Rhonas, the Indomitable to make all creatures have infinite power and trample.
The new cards made this combo easier to execute, as it allows us to use a copy of each to search with Archdruid's Charm while we can also use other creatures as one-of in the maindeck to complement a toolbox along with Shared Summons, which can find both pieces together.
Leyline of the Guildpact allows closing the combo very quickly: a sequence of the enchantment in the starting hand with one mana dork and Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner on the second turn already symbolizes the risk of casting Wakeroot Elemental and starting the looping, requiring a single tutor in hand to win the game.
Markov Manor allows Mono Green Devotion a mix of efficient plans with a lot of recursion: A Cavalier of Thorns on the second turn is a possible play that many cannot recover from. A high devotion with Voracious Hydra can easily make it a 20/20 with trample, and the post-sideboard games are quite diversified due to the various one-ofs that we can exchange for other cards on the list as needed.
Dredgeless Dredge was one of the first decks to appear in Pioneer and had its moment until Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath was banned. Its strategy involves using self-mill to bring cards directly to the battlefield through effects that trigger when they are in the graveyard.
Murders at Karlov Manor brought one of the most powerful enchantments in the game's recent history, and it interacts directly with creatures that leave the graveyard - Insidious Roots.
The addition of Insidious Roots is excellent for this deck because, due to the way its ability is described and the lack of a turn restriction, it triggers for each separate instance of cards that leaves your graveyard.
For example, if you cast Stitcher’s Supplier and mill a Narcomoeba, Insidious Roots will trigger once. At the end of the turn, if there are two Prized Amalgam in the graveyard, they will return to the battlefield and the enchantment will trigger for each of them separately.
This means that every micro-interaction of Dredgeless Dredge is boosted with Insidious Roots, with plays that can put up to twelve power on the board on the third turn.
Activations like Scrapheap Scrounger also trigger separately, as you exile a card to pay the cost, and then it returns to the battlefield. However, it is important to note that Insidious Roots does not work the same way when exiling multiple cards at once, as with Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger's Escape ability.
The most considerable change in adding the new enchantment to the deck is in the mill package. Previously, cards like Grisly Salvage were staples of this strategy, but the need to look for Insidious Roots values mill effects that can put it in your hand, like Commune with the Gods and Vessel of Nascency.
This list is also a great place to test the "Surveil Duals" on Pioneer, given that it naturally wants to dig deeper and put more cards into the graveyard each turn, and even a Narcomoeba or Creeping Chill from the top can trigger a chain reaction with multiple creatures in play because of a single land drop.
Atarka Break Out
Break Out is one of those powerful cards that needs to find a right home with enough impactful creatures. So, how about using it to add more consistency to one of Pioneer's most explosive decks, Atarka Red?
The plan of pairing Burning-Tree Emissary with other two-drops gains even more scope now that we can place it straight from the top onto the battlefield, or look for cards like Reckless Bushwhacker to cast it in sequence. As it is a sorcery, the new card enhances Prowess triggers from Soul-Scar Mage and Monastery Swiftspear.
To complement the non-creature spell package, Atarka’s Command, Kumano Faces Kakkazan guarantee an aggressive early game and a significant advantage in combat. The Questing Druid's adventure, another creature with a lot of synergy in the list due to the high number of red creatures, offers more value and reach during the games.
We also take advantage of Break Out to create a small card advantage package with Inti, Seneschal of the Sun and Gallia of the Endless Dance, as well as combat tricks with Legion Loyalist and Ghor-Clan Rampager.
While it doesn't offer the same card advantage as Collected Company, Break Out is very efficient when we have impactful cheap threats, or aggressive decks with consistency or range problems. Atarka Red is one of these strategies, and the new card is capable of greatly improving its most explosive turns.
With Novice Inspector, the color combination now has twelve one-mana creatures whose ETB creates an artifact token. While Boros and Izzet lists use them to capitalize on Gleeful Demolition, Azorius variants can look for consistency in another powerful card released in Lost Caverns of Ixalan: Thousand Moons Smithy.
With so many ways to get cheap artifacts into play, it's no surprise to have the five necessary pieces on the same turn that Thousand Moons Smithy comes into play, transforming it and making every creature and artifact cast with its other side come in accompanied by another powerful token.
Pioneer has Portable Hole as powerful and cheap removal against small permanents, as well as Ingenious Smith for digging for artifacts and Emry, Lurker of the Loch as a powerful recursion alongside so many impactful cards, being our main means of resorting to Thousand Moons Smithy or any other piece we need that has been destroyed.
Increasing the number of one-drops and artifact tokens also expands the scope of targets for The Blackstaff of Waterdeep, which replaces Ensoul Artifact for its interaction with the rest of the list. Smuggler's Copter, another efficient way to win games, also has more creatures capable of crewing it while having a high overall synergy with the deck.
Delney, Streetwise Lookout is one of the most interesting creatures in the new set and an excellent card to build a deck around, as it offers a lot of value if it stays in play for more than one turn.
Most of the creatures with good triggered effects and within the scope of Delney's ability are at mana values of three or lower, making them good targets for Collected Company and Kayla's Reconstruction, and the sooner we get to them, the better - so Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic are the best drop-drops.
In terms of ETBs, Charming Prince becomes a gigantic value engine alongside Delney and any other creature: Skyclave Apparition starts to exile up to four permanents in a turn while leaving two small tokens on the board and Knight of Autumn can destroy multiple artifacts and enchantments, or grant an arbitrary amount of life while becoming a 6/5 when back in play.
Voice of Resurgence has the potential to dominate the game if played at the right time and/or against decks with a lot of removal, and the fact that the opponent can only block with small creatures makes most fights favorable exchanges.
That's all for today.
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment!
Thanks for reading!