Deck Rarity Breakdown:
20 Basic Lands
4 Rare Lands
3 Rare Non-Lands
The card we’re focusing on for today’s deck piqued some curiosity when I ended up getting a couple of them as last-picks in Dominaria draft. With a mana cost of 2U I thought it was a bit overcosted but not too much of an ask. That card is: Curator’s Ward!
Curator’s ward has the promise of making whatever permanent it’s attached to nigh-unremovable. This lends itself to a style of deck known as “Bogles” (Named for Slippery Bogle) which relies on playing one difficult-to-remove Hexproof creature and piling auras on top of it. Of course, you’re still vulnerable to board wiping cards such as Cleansing Nova.
Since board-wiping spells don’t target our creatures and we don’t have the Totem Armor cards that are available to the Modern version of the Bogles deck to protect our creature, we had to take them into consideration when deciding which creatures to add to our deck. That’s where this guy comes in: Adanto Vanguard.
This card is the real all-star of the deck (more on that later). Any time the vanguard would be destroyed you can simply pay 4 life and she’s indestructible for the entire turn. This turns off almost all removal in the format. Exile effects and sacrifice effects are the only ones that are able to consistently and easily deal with this creature. We’ve included in this deck some tech against one of our biggest enemies in the format: Settle the Wreckage.
Unfortunately, our other two major problems are a little harder to answer. Plaguecrafter and Eldest Reborn cause us to sacrifice a creature, and our only counterplay to that strategy is to have more than one creature to sacrifice.
The problem with the Bogles game plan is that if something happens to your main creature, your entire strategy falls apart as your opponent often times gets a 3-for-1 or better. This means that we need to try to protect our Vanguard or other creature from Settle the Wreckage as well. That’s where our next two cards come in:
Siren Stormtamer works double-duty as it functions both as an evasive creature that can be enchanted if you have no Vanguards, but also as protection. Since Settle the Wreckage targets a player, Siren Stormtamer functions as a counter for Settle. Even better, since it’s an ability and not a spell that actually does the countering, the Stormtamer’s ability can’t be countered by Negate, Expansion//Explosion, or Spell Pierce.
Shalai, on the other hand, simply gives you hexproof, rendering you untargetable by Settle the Wreckage in the first place. This is a little bit clunky, but Shalai also performs double-duty by being a large evasive creature that when equipped with a Curator’s Ward protects you and all of your creatures from being targetted by removal, burn, or any number of other effects. A Shalai with a Curator’s Ward is a tough board state to come back from for many opponents.
Our final creature choice is Dauntless Bodyguard.
The bodyguard does a few things for us:
1) It trades with Mono-Red’s one and two-drops
2) It gives any creature that might not be Adanto Vanguard a one-time indestructible use to dodge a board wipe
3) It pairs perfectly with Shalai to make the angel very hard to remove.
Of course, making an Adanto Vanguard totally unstoppable is a lot of work for very little payoff if we don’t turn it into an unadulterated killing machine. Aside from Curator’s Ward itself, we need auras to make our Vanguard a formidable threat and a quick clock. The first and most important of these auras should be familiar to anybody that has played a lot of Standard this rotation: Curious Obsession.
This one does it all. It makes the creature bigger and it’s pure gas. Its only downside is that you have to attack every single turn, and that’s where our next Aura comes in: Aether Tunnel.
Aether Tunnel gives our creature a small buff to its power, but more importantly it makes sure that it can get in every turn for quite a chunk of damage. A Vanguard with this and no other enchantments is a 5-turn clock that only gets shorter as the enchantments pile up.
Our last two enchantments are the ones that allow us to race our opponents that realize that our creature is unstoppable. We run a single copy of Candlelight Vigil and three copies of On Serra’s Wings. Ideally we would want to run 4 copies of On Serra’s Wings, but drawing two of them feels pretty bad, so Candlelight Vigil is there to reduce the odds of that happening.
The very last nonland cards make up our small selection of removal. Sometimes our opponent just makes big plays that we’re forced to answer because we can’t race them. This primarily happens in matchups where we find ourselves against opponents that are ramping to huge threats, or playing planeswalkers that put us on a quick clock. For this purpose we include just 6 cards: 2 copies of Seal Away and 4 copies of Ixalan’s Binding.
And that’s the deck! Below is the full decklist, which you can also find by clicking this link.
So how did it do? — Performance Report
I took this deck for a spin in the Quick Constructed Best-of-1 queue, where all of our jankier creations go for their first test run and the results were mixed at best. Of the 20 games played, our Bogles deck won an even 10, resulting in a 50% win rate. That said, due to the deck-strength matchmaking, this deck wasn’t always running into the cream of the crop. Here is a dump of the more detailed information I recorded about the deck’s performance:
Before looking at the win/loss record it’s important to describe what kinds of opponents you’re likely to see. Since this is the casual constructed queue it uses deck-strength matchmaking. This means that the less commonly the cards in your deck are crafted by players as a whole, the less powerful your deck is considered to be. This deck seems to be considered about as powerful as an upgraded starter deck. While there were a couple of tier decks in the field, a lot of it was upgraded versions of the Orzhov, Simic and Gruul starter decks. With that said, let’s get to the data.
The first immediately obvious bit of information zeroes in on the biggest problem that the deck has. The deck didn’t win a single game where an Adanto Vanguard wasn’t played. As it turns out, this deck’s only winning strategy is to get an Adanto Vanguard on the field and load that specific creature up with auras. Though there are 3 other different creatures in the deck, they never seemed to cut it and the lack of a vanguard dooms the deck to failure. I found out about halfway through testing with this deck that the optimal mulligan strategy is to go as low as 5 trying to find a Vanguard. In fact, even a terrible opening hand that otherwise includes a castable Vanguard seemed to be better than a decent opening hand that didn’t have a Vanguard.
A glance at the Win/Loss columns will make it clear when I started to use this mulligan strategy and pulled the deck back from what looked like dismal failure. The deck relies so heavily on Adanto Vanguard that even keeping a hand with no blue mana resulted in a win in game 13 against Mono-Red and keeping a hand with only 2 mana and missing 3 land drops in a row resulted in a win in game 15 against an Izzet Control deck. If I were playing this deck on the ladder to grind out wins, it is my prediction that the strategy that resulted in the most wins per minute would be to mull to 5 trying to get a vanguard and if you fail, immediately concede the match. The deck completely falls apart without one.
The second point of note is that the number of auras cast correlated directly with the likelihood of winning. On average during a winning game 3.2 auras were cast. During a losing game that number drops to 1.8.
Curator’s Ward showed up in 6 of the 20 games. Only in one was it ever cast on Shalai. That was in game 20 vs. Mono-Red Aggro and it was definitely overkill. A lifelinking Adanto Vanguard had sealed that game up nicely prior to ever playing Shalai. 4 of the games where the Ward was cast were wins, the other 2 were losses. Curator’s Ward is definitely a card that would be sideboarded out in many aggressive matchups.
The final important note about this deck’s performance is that it absolutely folds to large numbers of creatures. Merfolk, ramp and other decks that have a focus on putting creatures onto the board topple this deck in no time, as it only has 6 removal cards and no board wipes. The only solution for this situation is to attempt to race, but I imagine in practice those matchups are going to be 30-70 or worse.
Conclusions – How janky is it?
Curator’s Ward was a cool jumping-off point for a deck and it might be interesting to try it out in some other capacity, but I don’t think this list quite makes it. Unfortunately, the deck relies really heavily on one particular creature to make it work, and doesn’t quite perform when you don’t draw one early. That said, as new creatures are added this idea may have to be revisited if one of them is half as effective as Adanto Vanguard is. At the moment, however, unless you’re the most die-hard Bogles fan, I think you should spend your 32 Uncommon wildcards elsewhere.