Hareruya Pros Blog
Pioneer Auras Deck Guide
Hareruya Pros Blog
At Pro Tour Phyrexia, four members of our team decided to play a relatively novel version of Auras in the Pioneer part of the tournament. I went 7-3 with the deck over the course of the weekend and our combined win rate with it was 60%. While the sample sizes are small, three different versions of the Auras archetype were among the five most successful decks at the tournament according to the matchup data matrix, indicating that it’s well positioned in the current format.
I ran the numbers! Here are the Pioneer match win rates from Pro Tour Phyrexia. 📊 #PTPhyrexia pic.twitter.com/G27cCehwKa— Frank Karsten (@karsten_frank) February 19, 2023
The first thing I must say about the deck is that it has extremely polarized matchups, possibly more so than any other deck I’ve ever played. Therefore its success is heavily dependent on the metagame and the pairings, and it is not for the faint of heart. If you want to outplay your opponents by grinding 50-50 matchups, this deck is not for you.
On the other hand, the deck is not very common and a lot of people haven’t yet tested much against it, meaning that your opponents will likely make more mistakes against the Auras deck than they would against other alternatives. I talked about the practical edge you gain by playing an unknown deck in my Worlds recap a couple of months ago, and it was also one of the reasons I ended up choosing this deck for the PT.
Here is the list that my teammates and I played:
The general game plan of the deck is very clear: play one of your powerful two-drops, attach a bunch of auras to them, and kill the opponent. If left undisrupted, this is probably the fastest deck in the format. When testing for the PT, one of our teammates played a large amount of goldfishing games and based on that data, the deck killed on turn 3 roughly 30% of the time. Turn 4 kills were easy, and if that failed, the games rarely went past turn 5. The deck is extremely consistent at killing the opponent quickly if they don’t stop you.
However, the flip side of that coin is that for some decks it’s very easy to stop you. Rakdos Midrange, the most popular deck in the format, is a heavily unfavorable matchup. Between 《Thoughtseize》《Fatal Push》《Bloodtithe Harvester》 and a bunch of mass removal in the sideboard, they have all the tools they need to crush you.
One of the key factors making this deck good was the printing of 《Skrelv, Defector Mite》, as it makes you more resilient against removal and gives you a fantastic nut draw on the play – few opponents can stop you if you curve out 《Skrelv, Defector Mite》 into 《Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice》. Having another legendary creature also enabled the deck to play 《Mox Amber》, making the deck even faster.
In addition to the powerful one-drop, you can also sometimes protect your creatures with your auras. The most obvious one is 《Alpha Authority》, which makes your creature immune to spot removal. 《Kaya’s Ghostform》 is a versatile catchall for removal spells, and 《Combat Research》 is excellent at taxing clunkier answers like 《Skyclave Apparition》 and 《The Akroan War》. Often all you need against those cards is just one extra turn from the Ward 1 ability, as you can simply kill the opponent before they get the mana to pay for it.
Speaking of the fast kills, they are possible with both 《Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice》 and 《Illuminator Virtuoso》. The most common patterns for each are as follows.
Starting off with 《Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice》 and three lands in play, with 《Audacity》, 《Ethereal Armor》 and 《Sentinel’s Eyes》 in hand.
Cast 《Sentinel’s Eyes》, fetching a second 《Audacity》 with 《Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice》.
Cast 《Audacity》, fetching a second 《Ethereal Armor》 with 《Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice》.
Cast 《Ethereal Armor》, fetching any aura that gives an additional power, e.g. 《Glaring Aegis》 to tap a blocker or a 《Gryff’s Boon》 to fly over.
Both 《Ethereal Armor》 give +6/+6, a total of +12/+12, the 《Audacity》 give a total of +4/+0, the two other auras +1 power each, and 《Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice》 has 2 power to start with. This results in exactly 20 damage.
For 《Illuminator Virtuoso》, it is very similar. Starting off with a 《Illuminator Virtuoso》 in play, and 《Audacity》, 《Ethereal Armor》 and 《Sentinel’s Eyes》 in hand:
Cast 《Ethereal Armor》, discard a spell to Connive.
Cast 《Audacity》, discard another spell to Connive.
Cast 《Sentinel’s Eyes》, discard another spell to Connive.
With three +1/+1 counters from the connive triggers, 3 power from 《Ethereal Armor》, 2 power from 《Audacity》 and 1 power from 《Sentinel’s Eyes》, you end up with a 10-power double striker that deals exactly 20 damage.
As I said earlier, this matchup is very bad for you. They simply have too much disruption for your few threats. Fortunately it’s only about 15% of the metagame, and you have good matchups to compensate for that.
There are still ways you can win the matchup, but they generally include either you getting lucky or them getting unlucky. Sometimes you win the die roll and get a great start with 《Skrelv, Defector Mite》 into 《Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice》 into protection.
The easiest way to win is definitely finding an 《Alpha Authority》 for your 《Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice》, but even that is not entirely reliable in the post-board games due to 《Extinction Event》. Some of their cards, especially in the pre-board games, don’t do anything relevant, so if they draw too many 《Graveyard Trespasser》 and 《Fable of the Mirror-Breaker》 instead of disruption, you can stick a threat and win the game with it.
Your companion 《Jegantha, the Wellspring》 is also relevant here, as the games frequently drag on long enough for you to cast it, and it dodges some of their removal spells like 《Fatal Push》 and 《Ritual of Soot》.
Note that the flash on 《Zealot’s Conviction》 can counter a removal spell by fetching a 《Kaya’s Ghostform》 on your 《Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice》 in response.
Mono-Green Devotion is the second most popular deck in the format, and it is an incredibly good matchup for Auras. When we first started testing the matchup, Auras won the first 22 games in a row. They simply don’t have disruption to stop you, and in the majority of games Auras is faster even if Mono-Green gets to go first.
Note that you should be mulliganing aggressively towards either 《Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice》 or 《Illuminator Virtuoso》 as your threats. This matchup is a pure race, and the 《Sram, Senior Edificer》 hands are often too slow, even if they look good. You’re favored because you kill them quickly, not because 《Sram, Senior Edificer》 makes your auras into cantrips.
Bringing in 《Portable Hole》 for their mana creatures makes you even faster by comparison, as they don’t have much of a sideboard themselves. 《Skrelv, Defector Mite》 can sometimes help 《Illuminator Virtuoso》 kill a turn faster (relevant on the draw), whereas 《Sram, Senior Edificer》 can make your draws more consistent by drawing more auras (relevant on the play).
However, note that 《Skrelv, Defector Mite》 isn’t very reliable as it gets shut down by 《Karn, the Great Creator》. On the draw you can also switch another 《Skrelv, Defector Mite》 for a 《Loran’s Escape》 to protect your creatures from things like 《Transmogrifying Wand》 if you want.
Another matchup that is mostly about racing, and thus another good matchup. They have some relevant interaction though, so this is less favored than the Mono-Green matchup.
Post-board they get some board sweepers so you want to take out your 《Skrelv, Defector Mite》, especially as they don’t protect your creatures from 《Otawara, Soaring City》. The games become a bit slower and grindier, making 《Sram, Senior Edificer》 better than it is in the pre-board games. 《Damping Sphere》 is obviously great here, especially as you can protect it with 《Loran’s Escape》.
If you know they have a lot of 《Hope Tender》 and 《Voyaging Satyr》, you should probably bring in a second 《Portable Hole》.
Gruul is fairly fast and has some disruption for you, but more often than not it’s not enough, especially in game 1.
In the pre-board games I would say Auras is clearly favored, but post-board Gruul gets more cheap removal in the form of 《Rending Volley》, making things much closer.
How good or bad the Azorius Control matchup is depends a lot on the opponents exact decklists. If they have a lot of cheap removal and/or 《Temporary Lockdown》, you might be slightly unfavored, but if they are playing a greedier version with less removal and less sweepers, you should be a bit ahead.
The control deck can be quite clunky sometimes, and the Auras deck can often punish them by playing cheap threats that have to be dealt with immediately. 《Sentinel’s Eyes》 is particularly valuable in this matchup: re-casting it from your graveyard gives you additional triggers on your creatures, and vigilance makes them immune from 《The Wandering Emperor》.
Another matchup where Auras is favored in game 1, but loses ground in the postboard games as the Mono-White deck brings in more cheap interaction. As a response, you bring in your own 《Portable Hole》, and 《Hushbringer》 to pre-emptively answer 《Brutal Cathar》 and 《Skyclave Apparition》.
《Hushbringer》 also prevents triggers from 《Thalia’s Lieutenant》. The primary targets for your 《Portable Hole》 are their removal spells and 《Thalia, Guardian of Thraben》, not random one-drops like 《Recruitment Officer》.
This is a pretty bad matchup, although slightly easier than the midrange version of Red-Black, especially in game 1 when they don’t have 《Thoughtseize》 yet. Unlike the midrange variant, this deck doesn’t have any non-targeted removal, making 《Alpha Authority》 your best bet to win.
On the other hand, 《Claim the Firstborn》 can sometimes be devastating and 《Mayhem Devil》 makes 《Illuminator Virtuoso》 look downright embarrassing.
On the play you can leave in a 《Sentinel’s Eyes》 or 《Illuminator Virtuoso》 and leave out the third 《Portable Hole》.
Angels have a minimal amount of interaction and a slow clock, making it a great matchup for Auras. Most lists don’t even have many relevant sideboard cards, making this one of the few matchups that get even better postboard.
Be prepared for complicated board states – sometimes they go off with 《Bishop of Wings》, 《Resplendent Angel》 and 《Righteous Valkyrie》 but you can still outgrow them by making a huge lifelinking creature.
The printing of 《Skrelv, Defector Mite》 gave a big boost to this archetype, and it can be a surprisingly fun deck to play with lots of fast kills.
If you like these kinds of decks in general, I recommend giving it a go. Just try your best to dodge opponents with 《Fatal Push》 and 《Fiery Impulse》! It’s not a coincidence that all of my 7 wins at the Pro Tour came against decks without 《Fatal Push》, and all 3 losses came against decks with it…
Matti Kuisma A Finnish player who won WMCQ and top 8’d in 2016 World Magic Cup as Finland representative. Finished 28th in Pro Tour Aether Revolt, and missed narrowly one point shy of Gold level in 2016-17 season. Joins Hareruya Hopes in 2017-18 season and he won GP Barcelona 2018 (Modern) with his pet deck Dredge. That winning means a lot for him and his country because he is the very first Finnish GP champion in the Magic history.