Last weekend two major Magic tournaments took place. A paper event "SCG Open Syracuse" and a MTGO event "2018 Magic Online Championship". During these tournaments a new deck archetype emerged in Standard: The Superfriends Deck. I reckon this archetype will be future top tier. It's also exciting because it's differrent to the classic archetypes aggro, midrange and control. You could shoehorn the superfriends deck in between midrange and control but I think it deserves its own archetype.
Let me explain, what a superfriends deck is. If you're a Magic veteran, you can skip this section. The main characteristic and win condition of a superfriends deck is the high amount of planeswalkers. But not every card is a planeswalker. You complement your walkers with removal and card draw and advantage. The reason for these spells is to find and protect your planeswalkers.
I'm not surprised to see superfriends decks, due to the concept of WAR. With so many planeswalkers at our disposal, it is obvious to at least try to brew a superfriends deck. But what is surprising - at least to me - is the competitive nature of those decks. The first hint to this new archetype can be found in the first builds of WUB Control after the release of War of the Spark. People quickly figured out the power of Teferi, Time Raveler and Narset, Parter of Veils. Suddenly these three mana planeswalkers replaced utility cards in traditional WUB Control. These decks already had three to four copies of a planeswalker, namely Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. This lead to an unusual high number of planeswalkers in WUB Control. This could have ignited the idea of a competitive superfriends deck. Now the archetype seems to have been arrived. In this article I want to break down the development of the superfriends deck. Then I'll highlight the most recent version of WUR Superfriends by Zan Syed who won SCG Open Syracuse.
The first person I saw writing about a superfriends deck was Zac Elsik (https://twitter.com/utdzac). While I was researching I found some of his tweets about UW Superfriends. Though he wasn't the inventor of the deck - he received the original list from Ben Ragan (https://twitter.com/ArchmaesterBen) - he played and tuned it. First he understood the power of Narset, Parter of Veils: https://twitter.com/utdzac/status/1123739395817967620. Then he tweeted about the deck's future win condition Mobilized District: https://twitter.com/utdzac/status/1124426214582702080. Two days later he finished a Mythic Championship Qualifier in second place: https://twitter.com/utdzac/status/1125233593352118272. This was the inception of a new archetype in Standard. So enjoy the decklist.
2 Blast Zone 1 Field of Ruin 4 Glacial Fortress 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Interplanar Beacon 4 Island 1 Karn's Bastion 3 Mobilized District 3 Mox Amber 3 Plains 4 Fblthp, the Lost 1 Negate 3 Treasure Map 2 Dovin, Grand Arbiter 2 Dovin, Hand of Control 3 Narset, Parter of Veils 1 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer 3 Teferi, Time Raveler 2 Karn, Scion of Urza 1 Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor 1 Settle the Wreckage 4 Cleansing Nova 2 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 2 Ugin, the Ineffable 3 Baffling End 2 Negate 1 Sorcerous Spyglass 3 Prison Realm 1 Teferi, Time Raveler 3 Teyo, the Shieldmage 1 Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor 1 Lyra Dawnbringer
From there on people started playing and further developing the deck. The next version of the superfriends deck added red. The first time I saw WUR Superfriends was on Savjz's Twitch stream (https://www.twitch.tv/savjz) and Twitter. He picked it up from MPL member John Rolf (https://twitter.com/JRolfMTG) and won with it: https://twitter.com/Savjz/status/1127303670834421760
Now the deck had arrived in high Mythic on Arena. But that doesn't mean the deck is viable for the highest tier of Magic pro play. I'm still not sure if it belongs there albeit it starts to succeed in professional tournaments. It's too early to be certain. Because the meta is constantly changing the deck has to proof flexibility and staying power.
Last weekend WUR Superfriends succeeded in two high profile tournaments. Bernardo Torres reached fourth place in the 2018 Magic Online Championship:
4 Teferi, Time Raveler 4 Narset, Parter of Veils 4 Sarkhan the Masterless 3 Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor 2 Dovin, Hand of Control 2 Gideon Blackblade 4 Fblthp, the Lost 2 Lava Coil 3 Deafening Clarion 2 Shock 3 Spell Pierce 2 Mox Amber 1 Sulfur Falls 4 Steam Vents 4 Interplanar Beacon 4 Glacial Fortress 4 Hallowed Fountain 1 Island 4 Sacred Foundry 3 Clifftop Retreat 2 Lava Coil 1 Deafening Clarion 1 Spell Pierce 2 Prison Realm 2 Search for Azcanta 2 Lyra Dawnbringer 2 Dovin's Veto 2 Sorcerous Spyglass 1 Cleansing Nova
There's one thing I especially like about these planeswalker decks. It's Fblthp, the Lost in combination with Mox Amber. Fblthp, the Lost is a two drop that draws a card, is a blocker, can be replayed with Teferi, Time Raveler and unlocks Mox Amber early. Furthermore the deck packs cheap removal of which Deafening Clarion is most important. This sweeper deals with decks like WU Aggro which apply early pressure utilizing small creatures. Spell Pierce shuts down Thought Erasure and removal spells aimed at your planeswalkers. These spells allow to build a board of planeswalkers to lock up opponents. Once this is achieved Sarkhan the Masterless should be played as a win condition. Cheap planeswalkers turn into dragons chugging down the opponent's life total. This is why WUR Superfriends supersedes UW Superfriends. It has a fast way to win.
Zan Syed came up with a stronger version of the deck. First thing I noticed: He cut my beloved Fblthp, the Lost to replace it with Opt. At first I didn't understand why. Then I discovered the reason. Zan Syed added a new angle to WUR Superfriends. He added three copies of Saheeli, Sublime Artificer. She works similiar to Hero of Precinct One or Young Pyromancer. She creates incidental 1/1 artifact creature tokens. The servos are used in multiple ways. Obvious is their use as attackers and blockers protecting your planeswalkers from creatures and pressuring your opponent. The genius part of adding Saheeli and creating servos is the synergy with Karn, Scion of Urza. Karn's constructs grow with the number of artifacts you control. So Saheeli's tokens also help creating big creatures with Karn. Even better is that each planeswalker is good on its own. The problem with decks using solely synergies is the reliance on these synergies. Cards that are too dependent on other cards can wind up as dead draws. Take WR Feather as an example. If you have Tenth-District Legionaire and Feather the Redeemed in play cards like Defiant Strike are great. You benefit from the synergies and it feels powerful. But when you start drawing Defiant Strike and have no creatures in play you can do nothing. Back to my disappointment of cutting Fblthp, the Lost. After understanding Zan Syed's Saheeli plan I love Fblthp's replacement Opt. It draws a card for one less mana, at instant speed and triggers Saheeli, Sublime Aritificer. A clear upgrade for Fblthp, the Lost. Here's the list I was talking about:
2 Karn, Scion of Urza 4 Narset, Parter of Veils 3 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer 4 Sarkhan the Masterless 1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 4 Teferi, Time Raveler 1 Clifftop Retreat 3 Glacial Fortress 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Interplanar Beacon 2 Mobilized District 4 Sacred Foundry 4 Steam Vents 3 Sulfur Falls 1 Lightning Strike 4 Opt 4 Shock 3 Spell Pierce 2 Mox Amber 3 Deafening Clarion 4 Legion Warboss 3 Prison Realm 3 Dovin's Veto 2 Lyra Dawnbringer 1 Deafening Clarion 2 Lava Coil
To finish the article here's a take on superfriends adding black instead of red:
2 Dovin, Hand of Control 3 Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor 1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General 4 Narset, Parter of Veils 4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 4 Teferi, Time Raveler 1 Ugin, the Ineffable 1 Swamp 4 Drowned Catacomb 4 Glacial Fortress 4 Godless Shrine 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Isolated Chapel 4 Watery Grave 2 Cast Down 1 Moment of Craving 3 Oath of Kaya 4 Kaya's Wrath 2 The Elderspell 4 Thought Erasure 1 Ixalan's Binding 1 Dovin's Veto 2 Moment of Craving 1 Spell Pierce 1 Yawgmoth's Vile Offering 2 Command the Dreadhorde 2 Cry of the Carnarium 2 Duress 2 Enter the God-Eternals 1 The Elderspell
This deck loses the fast win condition of Sarkhan the Masterless. Also the Saheeli plan is missing but could be easily added. In return the deck gets better removal and Thought Erasure. Thought Erasure gets rid off enemy removal and key cards. I think this is an upgrade to Spell Pierce because it scales into the late game.
The idea of WUB Superfriends is appealing and could change places with WUR. But I think the right configuration of this deck isn't found yet. Cards like Oath of Kaya and The Elderspell in the main deck are mediocre. The Elderspell belongs into the sideboard to fight other superfriends decks because it's worthless against other archetypes. I can get behind one copy of Oath of Kaya but definitely not three. It's slow, expensive and legendary. The passive effect isn't powerful enough to matter and looping it with Teferi, Time Raveler is slow and too cute to be taken serious. Maybe someone can come up with a better version of WUB Superfriends. I saw William Jensen (https://twitter.com/HueyJensen, https://www.twitch.tv/hueywj) playing a similar deck on stream so maybe he can help this deck.