It’s no secret that I enjoy cards like Archaeomancer. I put them to good use in Commander, and the last time we were on Zendikar I had a lot of fun in Standard with Halimar Tidecaller. Whenever a new creature come out that returns spells from the graveyard I take notice, and there certainly hasn’t been a shortage of them recently. They aren’t all great (Tazeem Roilmage is unlikely to make waves outside of Limited, for instance), but we’ve seen a few in the last couple of years that stand out: Scholar of the Ages is incredible in Commander, and even Shipwreck Dowser can hold its own among the likes of the classic Mnemonic Wall.

Normally I strive to create loops with blink and bounce spells, generating endless value from these creatures. As such, I initially dismissed Experimental Overload as being a worse version of this effect. Yes, you got a spell back and a creature on the battlefield, but since you can’t blink the token and the spell exiles itself upon resolution, there’s no way to recur any of it. If you can’t keep recasting the same spell over and over again, why even bother with it?

It wasn’t until I actually played some games with Experimental Overload that I realized just how good it was. It might actually rank among the best Archaeomancer-like spells I’ve seen to date, despite it being one-and-done. Scholar of the Ages is still better, but what this sorcery lacks in repeatability it makes up for in size.

The power and toughness of the Experimental Overload token is based on the number of instant and sorcery cards in your graveyard when it resolves. With only a handful of cheap spells, like Opt, you can easily create a 4/4 or a 5/5 by the time you cast Overload, which is respectable. If the game goes on for long enough, these tokens can easily be lethal threats: making a 14/14 creature, or even a 20/20 isn’t unreasonable after a long enough game. Unlike most Archaeomancer-like cards, this makes Experimental Overload a solid win condition all by itself.

With that in mind, I decided to build a Standard deck around the Overload. It started off as the “Spellpower” New Player Deck on Magic Arena, but I ended up overhauling pretty much the entire list over the course of a few games:

Frantic Overload


Deck by Ben Iverach-Brereton

But Is The Deck Any Good?

As you might imagine, Experimental Overload is even more effective against mill strategies. Not only does your token get bigger sooner, but you have more options regarding what spell you get back from the graveyard. Do you need more cards in hand? Grab a Frantic Inventory. Do you need a way to protect your? Pick up a Negate. You can even get another Experimental Overload if they’ve milled one. It’s tempting to add some self-mill to help power up your spells, but in the current Standard metagame that’s not really necessary. Rogues and Crabs are common enough, and they’re sure to do the work for you. This leaves you free to include more interaction in your deck instead.

The downside of having a token as your main win condition, of course, is that most removal spells in Standard will easily take care of it. Heartless Act, Drown in the Loch, and Bloodchief’s Thirst will answer it handily, regardless of the token’s size. Even Petty Theft is a great answer for it. Returning a Negate from the graveyard can certainly stop one of these spells, but this deck’s threat density is low enough that the opponent might have more than one piece of removal rotting in their hand. Experimental Overload returns a spell, so at least we’re not down a card. Still, it might take a while before we draw another threat, and if we’re under any pressure it could spell disaster.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Against red and green decks that rely on damage-based removal, the token is very resilient. Waiting until you can make a 5/5 or a 7/7 creature means you can dodge most burn and fight spells, and your token will be larger than most threats. Couple this with the deck’s own ample supply of bounce and burn, and creature-based opponents have a hard time keeping anything in play.

Some Other Cards of Note

In most matchups, the real star of this deck is Relic Amulet. Dropping one of these artifacts on turn two or three shuts down a surprising number of strategies right now, including red aggro decks, and black reanimator builds. So many popular creatures only have 1 toughness, which allows Relic Amulet to ping them off with every spell you cast. It effectively turns Opt into a burn spell, which is pretty great. It also makes your actual burn more effective; casting Shock and following up with an activation of Relic Amulet is a fairly efficient way of destroying 3/3 creatures. Against larger targets, you can even stack up counters to deal with them; it’s a lot more difficult to do, but I’ve even managed to take out an 18/18 Ashaya with one of these artifacts.

If I played more best-of-three matches with this deck instead of best-of-one, I probably wouldn’t have included Shredded Sails or Blazing Volley in the main deck, but I’m glad that I did. The dream is always to take out two or three creatures with Blazing Volley, and it actually happens more often than you’d think. Combining it with a Relic Amulet or a Shock to finish off a larger target doesn’t seem all that efficient, but the number of times it picks off a second creature is surprising. Plus, sometimes Blazing Volley just sweeps away an army of 1/1 blockers. Worst-case scenario? it’s a cheap spell to power up Experimental Overload; that’s not a great option, but given its upsides it’s been worth it as a one-of.

As for Shredded Sails, I’ve rarely found myself without a target for it; Rankle, Nightmare Shepherd, Nighthawk Scavenger, and even Embercleave are all great hits, plus sometimes a player will mutate onto a creature to give it flying. I’ve only ever felt the need to cycle Shredded Sails a couple of times, but hey, it does that too.

The latest addition to this deck has been Crawling Barrens. After losing to a mono-black control deck that milled away all of my win conditions, I realized I needed more ways to actually win the game. Creature lands like Celestial Colonnade have been a staple of control decks for years, and for good reason: they’re uncounterable and safe from sorcery-speed removal, making them very resilient. Crawling Barrens might be a bit slow to get going, but because you can power it up without turning it into a creature, you can keep it safe until it’s big enough to strike. Deciding when to add counters and when to cast the spells in your hand can be a bit tricky, especially with so many flash threats around, but by the late game you should have enough mana to spare.

The only downside to Crawling Barrens is that it doesn’t produce coloured mana. To compensate, I felt the need to use my wildcards for a full playset of red/blue Pathways. Admittedly, that was probably a good idea to do anyway; the only card that cares about basic land types is my single Castle Vantress, and if it has to come into play tapped a little bit more often, so be it.

A Sideboard Of Sorts

I’ve mostly been playing this deck in best-of-one matches, so my sideboard is largely untested. Even so, I did put some thought into it:

Tormod’s Crypt is obviously there to stop graveyard recursion and reanimation. Miscast, Mystical Dispute and Negate are there to battle spell-heavy control decks. Cinderclasm can deal with small tokens, and Spikefield Hazard has a surprising number of viable targets in Standard right now. Bonecrusher Giant is good if I need more creature removal and/or another threat. Midnight Clock is great against mill if you can resolve it. Finally, Sublime Epiphany is for those games that seemingly go on forever; it costs a lot to cast, but if it resolves it can be backbreaking.

It could be a mistake not to include Shark Typhoon in this deck at all, but I wasn’t all that impressed with it for this deck. If it ever resolved (which was rare), it would immediately get bounced or destroyed, and if I cycled it, the token never made a significant impact on the board. Don’t get me wrong, I can see how it this enchantment can be a powerhouse, it just didn’t fit here. Having cheaper draw spells that actually synergized with Experimental Overload seemed to be a whole lot more useful.

Honestly, if I was going to change anything in this list I would probably add more copies of Storm’s Wrath. When faced with an endless swarm of mutated Scute Swarms it’s one of this deck’s only outs. Unfortunately I just don’t have the wildcards to spare for them just yet.

At the end of the day, this is a somewhat quirky control deck. It’s not perfect, and part of that comes down to the number of wildcards I have to fine tune it. Even so, I think it’s a lot of fun the way it is, and it actually does fairly well against most of the decks I’ve encountered. I was able to grind up to platinum with it on Arena, though I’m honestly not sure if that means anything or not.

Piloting this deck, it can be tricky to figure out if a hand will be good enough to keep without knowing what you’re up against; I rarely need to mulligan due to lands (in large part thanks to the double-faced spell lands), but some of this deck’s answers are somewhat narrow. This can mean getting stuck with useless interaction, like a hand full of Negates against a creature-based aggro deck, or a pile of burn against a control list. The card draw from Frantic Inventory and Opt do a pretty good job of smoothing things out overall, though it can be a bit too slow in some games.

All that being said, if you can stall the game for long enough, Experimental Overload is sure to do some serious work!

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