J.B. does Tempo, very rarely, but here we go.
I used to love UR archetypes in #MTG. I would find endless ways to mash together instants and supplement my draw with Howling Mine. There was no downside to my opponent drawing additional cards in those days. In fact, it may have been since the days of Æther Storm that I seriously dedicated my play-style to UR variants for any extended period of time. I used to run some very outside of the box cards in my UR burn decks as well: Mind Bomb, Fiery Temper, and Propaganda.
"It was all so simple." A trap that Magic players who have been around for some time tend to fall into. What is purely evident about the game is that the fundamental archetypes still have the same basic functionality. Sure some new mechanics have been added, but UR is still about direct damage, out drawing your opponent (the most surefire way to win games of Magic: the Gathering), and creating advantages in sequencing.
In today's UR meta, it's the slow game that wins. Drop drakes, cast spells, try to chip away at the life total. Or, control board state through counters and burn, and eventually drop Niv-Mizzet, Parun, in most cases irreversibly dominating the game. But, we still have options for creativity; we still have options in this Standard pool that sync very well together - we have Wizards.
Panharmonicon ran wild in Standard before Guilds of Ravnica rotation, we had all kinds of interactions that were available to us once the artifact was resolved, and I was not happy to see it go. I thought it added layers of complexity and potentially explosive board-states that the current 4 set meta is lacking (excluding, perhaps, Elfball and Murmuring Mystic decks). Naban, Dean of Iteration doubles our "enter the battlefield triggers" for our other Wizards. What was already an effective strategy becomes even more powerful in completely stifling our opponent and clocking their life total as early as turn three. Let's explore our additional Wizard triggers, and talk about backup next.
Tap-Tap, Bounce-Bounce, Zap-Zap...
A card like Naban doesn't really get printed without effective backup. #WOTC made a commitment to the Wizard sub-theme recently as you will clearly see in the following paragraphs of analysis. The additional main deck Wizards:
We are looking for enter the battlefield triggers that are meaningful to the tempo of our deck, and have the caveat of coming from a Wizard creature to ensure we are triggering Naban - not in a "safe space" kind of way. Exclusion Mage is perfect for this deck, a wizard, a 2/2 body, with a bounce effect for three mana that fits perfectly into the curve. In fact, in aggro match ups, this can be very difficult to recover from for your opponent - Naban T2 into Exclusion Mage T3. Merfolk Trickster sees to it that we are getting our damage through, and punking decks that would attempt go to combat in more creative ways - think Flying or Trample - "before combat." Viashino Pyromancer is a common, but with a resolved Naban, he generates 4 direct damage to a player or planeswalker on the etb - talk about value town.
I wanted to ensure that we had reliable bombastic plays on turns 6/7/8. Sometimes the only way to do that effectively is to ensure that we have incentivized ourselves to seek combo plays and interactions. Naru Meha, Master Wizard can generate some incredible blowouts to our opponents board. From a creature standpoint we are providing ourselves with a lord for our wizards, potentially at instant speed, and given just how deep in the quarter bin this Mythic is, you can almost guarantee that your opponent will not be expecting you to make what appears like a "good declaration of blockers" a "game ending decision." Keep Naru Meha in mind as we begin to dive into the spells portion of our deck list.
Unfortunately, without running Silvergill Adept, which is a Wizard, we don't have any other enter the battlefield triggers which could reliably exploit Naban's ability. We could spin this to a Merfolk style deck, but I feel that takes us too far to the blue side and detracts from the UR tempo strategy by forcing us into a UG variant of Naban. Not that that deck list would not also be viable, but I elected not to include the Adept and several other Merfolk Wizards in this list. Instead, we have good old reliable - Curious Obsession. This card is no new addition to the meta, it has nearly run its course by now, and our deck would likely benefit from including Siren Stormtamer in our main 60 to accommodate, but we have enough in the way of removal and bounce effects to generally clear a path for combat damage, and a benefit from this outstanding Aura.
Quasiduplicate is seeing play in everything right now, and this deck list feels like a perfect home for this sorcery. This spell can create additional copies of our Wizards in token form, and provide us with essentially four more copies of something we want on the battlefield. Turn 2 Naban, Turn 3 Exclusion Mage bouncing 2 creatures, opponent recasts creatures, turn 4 Quasiduplicate into a copy of Exclusion Mage and time walk them again. It's maddening to to play against our list at times. Being time-walked over and over again can be very obnoxious indeed. Think about the 7-mana plays: play Quasiduplicate, on the stack cast Naru Meha, copy Quasiduplicate, roflcopter.
Wizards Cast Spells...
Expansion and Explosion offers us some utility here. A well timed Expansion to a Vraska's Contempt, followed by Naru Meha on the stack to double your copies and exile two of your opponents creatures or planeswalkers is kind of silly in its own right. Also, we love a late game Explosion, if you're playing against a removal heavy deck and sitting in a pile of mana, this is the perfect top deck, and can flip the game on a dime. Wizard's Lightning, providing us with a R bolt, and Wizard's Retort with a UU counterspell makes both of these card auto-include 4-of's.
Answering the Riddle
Our sideboard has plenty of options, most of them aimed at answering common problems the deck faces. Given, that Mono-U Tempo is a far better deck than this one, and that we are playing some really Johnny stuff here, I took time to ensure that sideboard options are in place that put in a place to pull out some wins.
Entrancing Melody gives us the ability to possess our opponents greatest strengths in terms of a creature match up. When we can possess the lynch pin, and take our opponents momentum late game, it's invaluable. Metamorphic Alteration is a bomb. I cannot count how many times this card once boarded in has reversed an otherwise bleak situation, by stabilizing a the board for us, or depreciating our opponent's board state. Protean Raider is pure spice here, we are essentially getting more and more triggers an committing to the core combo, this card is a real sleeper and I've been looking for a place for this card to fit - this deck list does it nicely. Two more "auto-includes."
I have tested this pretty faithfully over the last few weeks. I can confidently say, when things are going right, they are going really right with this deck list. I know there are ways we could improve it - I know there are better options regarding hitting the ground faster, and adding more evasion. Maybe over time this deck list will evolve to encapsulate your changes. Provide your feedback in the comments section below. Only through collaboration can we get these lists stream ready.
Until next time - Land Say Go.