Nahiri Slaughter Hulks in Kaladesh Standard

Many people (myself included) often advise against playing a control deck for the first week or two of a format so that you’re reactionary cards can be customized to beat the decks doing well. This Mardu deck, however, is proactive enough for me to make an exception. Its reactive cards are fast, potent, mana-efficient, versatile, and in many cases are powerful threats in their own right.

Nahiri is the reason we play this deck, and she is an absolute boss here. Her -2 can repeatedly deal with a wide variety of threats in the format, including Fevered Visions, vehicles, any creature that taps, and more. With Dromoka’s Command rotating out enchantments will start to see more play, and with Kaladesh rotating in we will encounter many more artifacts that tap as well–there will be plenty of targets for Nahiri’s ult and many of them will be central to strategies. Beyond all that, she grows while card selecting,  and can win the game with her ultimate.

Speaking of Nahiri’s ultimate, this deck is built to get a wide variety of utility and value from it. Behind on board? Fetch out a Cataclysmic Gearhulk, Demon of Dark Schemes, or Linvala the Preserver. Are you slightly ahead and ready to press the advantage? Grab a Combustible Gearhulk, and recast it next turn for tons of cards and/or damage. Is there a monstrous creature you need to take care of? Noxious Gearhulk makes it easy. Need to win a grindy matchup? Get Emrakul, attack, then cast it next turn.

Emrakul is surprising easy to cast in this deck without much effort. We don’t have to go out of our way at all to cast it for 7. The deck has a rich variety of card types, including the “Artifact Creature” of Gearhulks, and early game we interact with a healthy mix of Sorceries and Instants against both controlling and aggressive decks. Also, Liliana and Nahiri are enablers when needed. The delirium subtheme is subtle but powerful and consistent. Post-board Pick the Brain is brutal against midrange and control, especially opposing Emrakuls.

To the Slaughter is fantastic in the main, helping us round out our instant-speed removal package while protecting against potential hexproof creatures, and it even hits Emrakul despite having “Protection from instants”. Most importantly, it allows us to remove Planeswalkers without losing card advantage, assuming they have a creature to hit as well. Planeswalkers usually get a card worth of value before you can deal with them; even with a clean answer like Anguished Unmaking or Ruinous Path, they got one use out of the Walker first so you end up a card down after trading. To the Slaughter allows you to go 2 for 2 against Walkers; for example, you can cast it to kill Gideon and the token he made. This fact, in addition to its flexibility and ease of casting, makes To the Slaughter a house in this deck.

The mana base is carefully crafted to ensure the deck flows well and hits its curve when it needs to. The biggest revelation here was cutting Smoldering Marsh because it plays so poorly with the new Fastlands that we need to interact early. The deck is designed to play Fastlands and Manlands the first 3 turns, then switch to Foreboding Ruins for turns 4-5, then finish with basics turns 5-6. This sequence ensures we have plenty of untapped mana at all stages of the game, and I believe this will be common technology for control decks in the new Standard.

Aether Hub goes a long way to make sure we have fast mana early when we need it to power out a turn 3 Liliana or Radiant Flames, and sticks around to help us curve out. Harnessed Lightning is a good combination with Aether Hub, allowing us to allocate our energy as we need it. You can save extra energy if you need to trade down and not feel terrible, and it has the potential to remove a fatty with the help of Aether Hub. These cards also support Demon of Dark Schemes out of the sideboard.

With all the cheap, instant-speed removal in this deck you can make better decisions to garner more tempo or card advantage from your opponent without disrupting your own curve too much, and also lets us compensate for the expected aggressive week 1 metagame. This deck is well equipped to ruin vehicles, haste threats, artifacts, enchantments, and more. That said, I could see cutting a Bombardment or Radiant Flames for a more powerful removal spell like Anguished Unmaking or Ruinous Path in the main.

Mardu Slaughter Hulks

Land (27)

Sorcery (7)

Creature (8)

Instant (11)

Planeswalker (7)

Sideboard (15)

 

Update: I have reworked the mana base so that it is more conducive to curving out turns 4, 5, and 6 while also increasing the early-game black and red mana which the deck relies on for interaction. Here is the most current iteration of the deck:

Land (27)

 

 

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