May 25, 20171960 views

To Puzzle or to Puzzleknot

Hello all, this is Paul Dean from #1 Fashion Squad team Massdrop West.
As you may know, this past weekend I came 2nd at GP Montreal with Temur Aetherworks Marvel. I know there have been a million articles on the ins and outs of the various Marvel lists – Censor vs. Servant of the Conduit, Glimmer of Genius vs. no Glimmer, etc., so I understand an article about the basics of Temur Aetherworks Marvel would not be very interesting.
Regardless, I have some thoughts about the cards choices I’d like to write about, as well as some tangential thoughts on selecting a deck to play with. I’ll also go over my general sideboarding plans.
The overarching theme in all of the card choices, sideboarding strategy, and game plans is so simple that I think it bears explicit statement: every time you activate Aetherworks Marvel, you have a certain likelihood to just win the game. Therefore, the more times you are able to activate Aetherworks Marvel, the more likely you are to win the game. All of these sideboard plans are designed to either slow your opponent down so you have more time to activate it multiple times, or make sure you resolve it so you can begin activating it. Your goal shouldn't be to just activate it on turn 4 and pray to Ulamog; your goal should be to cast it with the breathing room to activate it over and over.
Card Choices
This is the list I played in GP Montreal:
4 Attune with Aether
4 Woodweaver's Puzzleknot
3 Censor
1 Negate
2 Dissenter's Deliverance
4 Harnessed Lightning
4 Rogue Refiner
1 Whirler Virtuoso
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Aetherworks Marvel
2 Chandra, Flamecaller
4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
4 Aether Hub
2 Botanical Sanctum
2 Cinder Glade
5 Forest
1 Island
2 Lumbering Falls
2 Mountain
2 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
3 Spirebluff Canal
2 Aether Meltdown
1 Chandra, Flamecaller
1 Confiscation Coup
3 Dispel
1 Negate
2 Radiant Flames
2 Shielded Aether Thief
3 Tireless Tracker
Essentially, I decided that Yuuya Watanabe’s deck from the pro tour was the best version of Aetherworks Marvel. Glimmer of Genius along with the many cycling cards make you very effective at finding Marvel every game. This version has much less of a Whirler Virtuoso beatdown plan B, but I think everyone who has played a lot of games against Aetherworks Marvel can agree that you’re basically always praying your opponent doesn’t draw Aetherworks Marvel.
As such, I wanted to play a version that would make 6 energy, find Aetherworks Marvel, and cast it as many times as possible. This card is simply too powerful in my opinion. When someone casts it and doesn’t immediately die that turn, they almost always win the game, regardless of whether they hit Ulamog on the first.
You'll notice that I dislike Whirler Virtuoso more than most. I simply do not think this card is good in practice. In theory, it's great - it adds 3 energy which is a lot, and it gives you a backup plan if you don't draw Marvel. However, in real games, I find that Whirler Virtuoso rarely actually gets activated. You always want to leave yourself with 6 energy at minimum so that drawing Aetherworks Marvel is one of your outs. Plus, Chandra's are popular in the mirror which makes them awful there.
It has been pointed out to me that my version is "low on energy" since I don't play Servant of the Conduit or a lot of Whirler Virtuosos - but this is a fallacy. Glimmer of Genius is 2 energy plus new cards, many of which create energy themselves. I would estimate that a Glimmer of Genius in hand is worth 4-5 energy on average, and is only 2nd to Woodweaver's Puzzleknot in energy production.
The only large change I made to Yuuya’s deck was to add Chandra, Flamecaller.
Going into Pro Tour Amonkhet, I was fairly convinced that Mono Black Zombies was the best deck. I, along with several others from Massdrop played it in the pro tour and did reasonably well. At the time I was quite confident in Zombies in the Temur Aetherworks Marvel matchup, as Marvel was not good enough at stopping a Zombie player from going wide with Diregraf Colossus or Liliana’s Mastery. Ulamog was often not enough unless it was cast by turn 5 or 6. Radiant Flames was okay, but you can’t Marvel into it which makes it much less reliable to be casting it. Sweltering Suns could be Marvelled into, but double red is an issue. On top of that, sometimes 3 damage to each creature wasn’t good enough if the Zombie player had two Lord of the Accursed, or a Lord of the Accursed plus Liliana’s Mastery.
Fast forward to the very first round of constructed at the Pro Tour, I am playing against Thomas Hendriks playing Temur Aetherworks Marvel. In game 1, I had a board of several 4 toughness zombies thinking I basically had the game locked up – then he cast Chandra, Flamecaller, which kind of blew my mind. At that point I regretted the fact that I didn’t try harder to tune the Aetherworks Marvel decks I played against.
Thoughts on Selecting and Working on Decks
I think it has become apparent to everyone now that Temur Aetherworks Marvel is simply the best deck. I don’t think it has any poor matchups. Before the Pro Tour, I sort of had the feeling that this was the case, but I was incredibly eager to discover a strategy that would allow me to not play the “boogeyman” of the format.
I was really enjoying the experience of playing Zombies as I have a huge preference for aggressive creature decks which can play a long grindy game. I was very content that I was beating Marvel slightly over 50% of the time with Zombies, and was simply thinking “thank my lucky stars, I won’t have to just flip Ulamog coins all Pro Tour.”
Upon further reflection, I have this train of thought all the time. When a format is new, I spend a ton of time talking about how broken a certain deck is, and how annoying it is to have it in the format. I complained about how Emrakul, the Promised End invalidated the Verdurous Gearhulk + Noxious Gearhulk decks that I wished were good. I then complained about how irritating it was that I couldn’t play sorceries or 5+ mana cards when Felidar Guardian was in the format. As soon as those were banned, I complained about how frustrating it is that Marvel is so difficult to interact with. But I never registered any of those broken decks at any of the pro tours. I never even tried. I just got to work trying to solve the puzzle that was beating them.
Although as a team we did alright with Zombies at the Pro Tour, I consider it a bit of a failure for myself that I didn’t try tuning Marvel at all. It was blatantly obvious that the deck was very powerful, and the only thing I could find to beat it (Zombies) was still losing if Marvel drew particularly well.
I tried a whole ton of different deck ideas which just had absolutely no game against Marvel. It was demolishing anything that tried to durdle around, and was also generally beating anything which was trying to control what Marvel was doing. But somehow never once did I seriously consider playing Aetherworks Marvel – I just continued in an attempt to find a deck that beat it.
I think I would be much better served in the future if I spent a bit of time to work on the best deck and address its few weaknesses, rather than spend an enormous amount of time only trying to beat the stock version of it and barely succeeding.
After Pro Tour Amonkhet, I could no longer ignore the fact that Aetherworks Marvel was simply the best deck and that I should simply play the best deck for once – then I made finals of the GP.
I say all of this because I think a large majority of competitive and semi-competitive players are in the same boat. “Bad Deck Syndrome,” as some call it. I’m not saying you should never try anything new, but I do recommend that if you rarely play the “best deck,” you should be honest in asking yourself why. You may be really damaging your win rate.
Sideboarding Notes
Vs. Mirror
When it comes to sideboarding for the mirror, I see a huge variety of different plans by very good players. Some players like to shave some of their puzzleknots in favour of alternative win conditions such as Tireless Tracker; some like to shave their Marvels entirely in favour of a Longtusk Cub beatdown plan. I have read an enormous amount of people write that they cut all of their Woodweaver’s Puzzleknots, which makes you less likely to be able to activate Aetherworks Marvel until late in the game.
My friends and I discussed these sideboard plans at length in preparing for Montreal. It essentially boils down to how reliant you want to be on resolving and activating Aetherworks Marvel early in the game. Personally, I just can’t get behind the idea of trying to turn away from Aetherworks Marvel as a Plan A. I am always, always thinking of my opponent casting Aetherworks Marvel as the worst case scenario. Everyone in the mirror is boarding in cards to beat the card Aetherworks Marvel because it is obviously much more powerful than the other cards in the deck.
I can see how someone would then think “well, if I board out my Marvels, it will leave them with dead cards.” However, the popular cards like Negate, Dissenter’s Deliverance, and Confiscation Coup are never dead even if you change plans. As a result, I think it is much better to try to do the most powerful thing you can, 10/10 times.
-2 Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot
-1 Ulamog
-1 Chandra, Flamecaller
-1 Whirler Virtuoso
+3 Dispel
+1 Negate
+1 Confiscation Coup
Sometimes I board in Tireless Tracker on the play instead of some Harnessed Lightning.
Vs. Zombies
Against Zombies you are aiming to buy yourself time so that you can activate Aetherworks Marvel as many times as possible – in order to eventually hit a Chandra, Flamecaller or an Ulamog. I like to shave on Woodweaver’s Puzzleknots and Ulamogs a little bit because you are less likely to be able to cast an Aetherworks Marvel when your opponent has Transgress the Mind and Dispossess – meaning the upside of having these in your deck is lower. I would recommend that you do not go overboard on trying to "beat" a Dispossess by taking out Marvels or all of the energy - if they spend time casting Transgresses and Dispossess, it gives you time to contain the board, then hardcast Chandra and Ulamog. When they don't draw Dispossess, you can win au naturel.
Confiscation Coup is primarily to steal a very large Diregraf Colossus that only Ulamog could kill, which is one of the few ways Zombies tends to beat a Chandra.
I think Tireless Tracker is also a consideration on the play, because it will crush a Transgress/Dispossess-heavy draw. However, on the draw, Tracker can be a huge liability because you’re struggling to catch up.
-2 Dissenter’s Deliverance
-1 Negate
-2 Ulamog
-3 Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot
+1 Chandra, Flamecaller
+2 Aether Meltdown
+2 Radiant Flames
+2 Shielded Aether Thief
+1 Confiscation Coup
Vs. Mardu
Most Mardu decks are not very effective at stopping you from goldfishing into a Marvel, unless they have blue cards. Your goal is to interact and buy a bit of time at the start of the game, to allow you to activate Marvel as many times as possible.
-2 Ulamog
-1 Whirler Virtuoso
-1 Negate
-1 Censor
-1 Chandra, Flamecaller
+2 Radiant Flames
+2 Aether Meltdown
+2 Shielded Aether Thief
Vs. Control
I have seen a lot of people say that they think Control is a bad matchup for Aetherworks Marvel but I just don’t agree with that. I think after sideboard, Control really struggles to stop all of the threats that Marvel is backing up with counterspells. Marvel has many cards that absolutely have to be answered immediately, and I think Control has to draw quite well in order to have everything line up properly.
Try to set up a turn where your Control opponent has to counter several things at once. For example, at their end step cast a Glimmer of Genius and Harnessed Lightning their threat. That will generally cause them to fight over something. Then you can untap and cast Aetherworks Marvel with counter backup. This sort of sequence forces them to have three or so answers in a single turn cycle. Another tip is to try to cast something relevant when they pass with 4 mana open. This will prevent them from casting Glimmer of Genius freely. Sometimes I will not cast a Rogue Refiner on turn 3 just so that I can cast it when they have 4 mana up - this way they can't "curve out" with Essence Scatter into Glimmer of Genius.
I don’t take out Harnessed Lightning because almost every UR Control deck will board in Thing in the Ice, Dragonmaster Outcast or Glorybringer, thinking we will board out all of our removal. Very original!
-4 Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot
-1 Ulamog
-1 Chandra, Flamecaller
-1 Censor
+3 Dispel
+1 Negate
+3 Tireless Tracker
Wrap Up
I hope this helps out if you’re thinking of registering Aetherworks Marvel in your next event. If you want to experience playing an event where your deck is way better than your opponent’s, now is the time!

Please post any questions or feedback below!
We had an exciting reveal of two Amonkhet masterpieces , check out the video here:
If you are curious about our team, check out our intro: or, read our previous weekly articles:
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2. Approaching New Magic Drafts by Ari Lax (
3. Constructed Testing for Pro Tour Aether Revolt by Jarvis Yu (
4. Breaking into Eternal Formats - Case Study: GP Louisville by Jon Stern (
5. In Good Company - Top 8 at GP Vancouver by Eric Severson (
6. Adapting to Full Block Kaladesh Limited by Jiachen Tao (
7. Sorry My Felidar Guardian Ate My Homework by Mark Jacobson (
8. Taking a Mardu Vacation - Top 8 in New Jersey and Heading to an Eternal Extravaganza by Jarvis Yu (
9. A Guide to the Grind by Pascal Maynard (
10. Asking Aggro-vating Questions by Timothy Wu (
11. The Meat and Potatoes of Jund by Paul Dean (
12. Hidden Values in Magic: The Gathering for Kids and Parents by Scott Lipp (
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17. Monoblack Zombies at Pro Tour Amonkhet by Eric Severson (
Rhys Tonge, Ricardo van den Bogaard, and 2 others

thoughts on boarding vs shaun mclaren style GB?
Was so tilted day one when I told you I wasn't playing Marvel and you asked:
"Oh, was that because there is a side event you really wanna play on Sunday"
It is the best deck...
This weekend proved it.
Good thing I split the top 8 of a sunday standard for top32 GP price money.
Do you have anything else to say on only 1 whirler? a single one feels low on its application in most matchups and the make 3 energy.
Please be joking ":(
Hey, I was your r9 opponent! first of all congrats on the finish! Secondly how confident are you that cutting Ulamog is correct in the mirror? I feel that a lot of games revolve around being the last one to cast it, and in a build like yours with 2 shrines it seems hard to justify trimming one over the 4th harnessed lightning or a censor. I'm a big fan in general of cutting censor on the play in the mirror as you often want to jam a tracker or rogue refiner, leaving you without the opportunity to cast it on their t3 play. This could potentially free up more spots for tracker. Either way the sideboarding definitely is interesting, there's a lot to think about. Was a pleasure playing you and I enjoyed the article!
Thanks, was a pleasure playing you too! In my experience the postboard games in the mirror tend to go really really long. Everyone talks about "flipping coins for Turn 4 Ulamog" but that is not how the games ever go for me. I agree that Ulamog is the most important card in the mirror, but you have an enormous amount of draw steps before you need one in your hand, and with an enormous amount of draw steps you don't want to draw a 10 mana brick multiple times. Also, don't you always start the game with 5 cards and 2 Ulamogs in hand anyways?
Yeah of course you do haha. That's why you need 1 more in the deck for marvel to hit! But seriously, I'm more concerned with the turn 6-8 ulamog off of marvel to hit their marvel and ulamog after the counter battle goes one way or the other. A lot of the postboard games I have played would have someone forcing through a marvel in that timeframe, and if that happens, hitting ulamog on the first spin (assuming they didnt spin into negate) often felt like the best avenue back into the game.