Getting Lucky with Temur Clover
Temur Clover is an archetype that, on the surface, didn't get a whole lot from Theros Beyond Death. As such, while it was a fringe player last season, it hasn't received much attention this time around. I dabbled with the deck pre-Theros, but ended up playing Rakdos Knights for most of the format. However, I had to revisit Temur Clover when I saw this:
These are Aaron Gertler's statistics with the deck. Aaron Gertler has been the main innovator behind the deck, and has held the #1 spot on the Arena ladder for quite some time. Though Aaron himself admits that the Arena ladder is highly variable in terms of what you play against and the skill level of opponents, these are still some eye-catching stats. I began to dive into Temur Clover, and this is what I've learned.
First off, Clover is a highly flexible deck. It can be aggressive, controlling, ramp to a combo finish, or all of the above. It excels at shifting roles within and between games. This high degree of flexibility comes from the Adventure mechanic. Modal cards are always popular with players because they create choices. In a game with as much variance as Magic, giving players choices allows them to feel like they have a greater degree of control over their game. More choices also lead to games with high replayability, as there are so many forking paths available to the players.
This is incredibly apparent with the Adventure mechanic. Typical modal cards allow a choice between A and B, and sometimes C and D. But that decision is usually final. Adventures allow a choice between A and B, but also with the consideration that if you choose A, you can do B later. When you add an Edgewall Innkeeper into the formula, then B even comes with drawing a card tacked on. Lucky Clover, and A comes with a free spell. This is the decision tree at the crux of Temur Clover, and it comes with every creature in the deck. Then, of course, there's the fact that you also have a wishboard accessible via Fae of Wishes // Granted. Whenever you cast Granted, you need to select which of the thirteen distinct cards you're going to get; if you have one or more Clovers, you get to select even more. Every one of these decisions matters and has the ability to win you the game or put you out of it. This high level of complexity makes Temur Clover an incredibly enjoyable deck to play, but also one of the most challenging Standard decks to play optimally that I've ever encountered. I think many players have seen Gertler's results, played the deck once or twice, and dismissed it as a fluke, or as one guy who is good with one particular deck despite the deck not being very good. On the contrary, I believe that Temur Clover has a very high ceiling that can only be reached through many, many repetitions with the deck. I most certainly have not reached that ceiling, and even Gertler says he's still learning new things even with hundreds of matches played; nevertheless, I hope this article will serve as a reasonable introduction of play patterns to get you started.
A common misconception is that you should aggressively mulligan to either Edgewall Innkeeper or Lucky Clover; this is not true. While Innkeeper and Clover are typically a part of your most powerful draws (Clover is usually better than Innkeeper), any sequence of early Adventures are totally reasonable. Starting with a Heart's Desire and following up with a Stomp or Petty Theft into a 5/5 is entirely acceptable. Most of the cards in your deck are close to two-for-ones, so keeping a handful of them is usually fine. It is important, however, that you have plays starting on Turn 2 at the latest.
Edgewall Innkeeper hands do not mean that you need to try to maximize Edgewall Innkeeper. Remember that most of your cards are already two-for-ones. If casting the spell side of an Adventure is better, you will usually still want to do that. Exceptions include missing land drops or being paired against aggressive decks. In these cases, I will happily play out a Fae of Wishes // Granted as a 1/4 blocker that cycles. Especially against Red, there is no need to look to get as much value out of the Adventures as you can. Going Edgewall > Fae of Wishes > Lovestruck Beast is fantastic, and you can then use your spells to clean up troublesome permanents while your creatures stop them from attacking.
Lucky Clover hands have the potential to be the most powerful. If you know you're going to deploy Clover on the second turn, don't cast Heart's Desire unless your opponent has played a Scorch Spitter (and even then, you may still hold it if you have powerful follow-ups to catch you up). Your first turn should be to deploy a Temple or Shockland to find more Adventures/preserve your life total. The best follow-up to a Turn 2 Clover is Beanstalk Giant // Fertile Footsteps. Remember that a Fertile Footsteps with one Clover will get you two lands, meaning that you will only be down one mana from your initial three. Two Clovers make Footsteps a free spell, and three or four generate one or two mana. Be very careful of how you tap and deploy your lands in the early turns. A Fertile Footsteps following a Clover will typically fetch at minimum either a Mountain or an Island to hold up Stomp or Petty Theft. If you have both in hand and want to leave yourself both options, you'll need to grab a Mountain and Island, so be sure to have maximized deploying Green sources before that. While Fertile Footsteps is the best follow-up to a Turn 2 Clover, other common lines include another Clover on Turn 3 with a Heart's Desire, or a Temple/Shockland tapped plus a Stomp or Petty Theft to clear the board and deploy a threat on Turn 4. Especially if you have a Clover, don't be afraid to take hits early in order to ramp and set up for a powerful Clover-supported interaction turn with Petty Theft and Stomp!
Innkeeper and Clover are your engine cards, with Clover being the truly nutty one. In the midgame, you should be trying to set up Clovers against most decks. If your opponent is attacking your Clovers (this is pretty rare; one of the reasons this deck is well-positioned is because other decks' abilities to interact with Clover are extremely limited), shift to maximizing draws off Innkeeper so that you can find a Clover or simply overwhelm them with card advantage. While Turns 1-4 are dominated by the initial deployment of Innkeeper and Clover alongside Fertile Footsteps and the three-drop Adventure creatures, the most important cards for Turns 5-7 are Escape to the Wilds and Granted. These cards are pivotal as you tend to shift from a more tempo-oriented early game into your extremely grindy midgame.
Escape to the Wilds is unbelievably vital to this deck. If you don't have one, you're probably fetching one from your Sideboard with Granted. Your deck is incredibly mana-hungry, and Escape to the Wilds generates additional ramp alongside Fertile Footsteps while also giving you raw cards. Be wary of casting Escape to the Wilds on the same turn that you deploy your fifth land. Doing so will make it so that you can only play one of the lands that you hit off Escape, and the only play you'll be able to make is Edgewall Innkeeper or Heart's Desire if you hit them and you hit an untapped land. If you whiff on this specific combination, you're stuck playing a land and passing with four cards still in exile off Escape. When you untap with seven mana, you will be hard-pressed to cast all the remaining spells off Escape in a way that makes sense relative to what's happening in-game. Some of the best cards to find off Escape are another Escape and Granted, both of which are mana-intensive. All this is to say that, if you can, wait until the turn after you've played your fifth land to cast Escape. This allows you to play two lands off Escape, the magic number to cast nearly every card in your deck, and then empty out the exile zone when you untap with eight mana the next turn.
If you're missing an Escape but have a Granted, you're almost definitely going to Wish for one. Fetching an Escape on the turn you make your fifth land drop allows you to cast it the following turn, thus maximizing the value off Escape as discussed above. However, if you're playing against Mono Red or another aggressive deck, you will not be getting Escape off the first Granted (more often off the second, by which point you've already won). Instead, you'll want to grab a Shadowspear, or The Great Henge if you have a Lovestruck Beast, a Mystic Repeal if you want to remove an Anax, Hardened in the Forge, Storm's Wrath if you want to clear an Anax-free board, or Return to Nature if you're worried about dying to Embercleave. Oddly enough, if you're relatively safe on-board and are only at risk of death if they have Torbran, Thane of Red Fell or Embercleave , you could actually get a Disdainful Stroke instead, particularly if your opponent is low on cards in hand and is unlikely to have multiple 4+ drops.
Of course, when you cast Granted the first time, you'll often have a copy or two thanks to a Clover. Against Mono Red, you'll grab two of the cards listed above, but against a slower deck, what should you get alongside Escape to the Wilds? Here, the decision becomes matchup-dependent. Aether Gust is good if you can hit a Reclamation or a Nissa, Who Shakes the World , Sorcerous Spyglass is a great early hit against UW, as the only realistic way they can kill you is Dream Trawler , and Once and Future is your best generic card, as it can simply rebuy an Escape and something else relevant.
Once you've survived the early game and set up in the midgame, you need to actually go about killing your opponent. Clover can outgrind every deck in the format, and once you're here, you're typically far enough ahead that you'll want to focus more on not dying to what they could have. At this point, you'll likely have a bunch of creatures on Adventure that you can begin to deploy and pressure their life total. This is where the Brazen Borrowers come in as 3/1 beaters and you can deploy one or two 1/1's at a time to attack with Lovestruck Beast. Additionally, you also have access to the combo kill of using Granted to grab a Fling and then Flinging a giant Beanstalk Giant // Fertile Footsteps at your opponent's face. However, be very careful not to get tunnel visioned on this as the only way to kill. Your creatures are fantastic at pressuring, and oftentimes, you can fetch a Fling to deal the last couple of points by sacrificing any of your Adventure creatures. You have so much mana at this point that you can even cast Granted, Fling, Once and Future, and then Fling again if you need to.
If you go *really* late, remember that Granted has diminishing returns. After you've used up your Escape to the Wilds and your Once and Future, you really are relying on your engine pieces and your creatures and Fling to take you over the finish line, so be sure to set up accordingly. Also keep in mind that in addition to Fling, Stomp does a great job of closing out matches. Every Lucky Clover adds two more points of damage, which means that two Clovers and two Stomps (a relatively common occurrence) is twelve damage to the face.
The key thing to understand about this matchup is that you are the control deck, not UW Control. You have more card advantage and more reach than them, and your answers line up better against their relevant cards than Elspeth Conquers Death and countermagic line up against Edgewall Innkeeper and Lucky Clover. You typically want to start the game by deploying any engine cards if you have them, but sticking a 1/1 of some sort is key. This ensures that you can pressure an early Teferi, Time Raveler or Narset, Parter of Veils. If the walker bounces your 1/1, then it will die to Stomp. Again, do not feel like you need to play out multiple threats to try and pressure them. You want one early creature to deal with a Planeswalker, and then you want to start getting value off your other pieces. On Turn 4 or 5, you want to deploy something like a Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp or Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft to get them to tap out for Elspeth Conquers Death. Once you do, you get to resolve an Escape to the Wilds, which will pull you ahead. You will have more lands, more cards, and more reach than them if you play this matchup correctly; the only card you need to worry about is Dream Trawler.
To deal with Dream Trawler, you want to fetch and resolve a Sorcerous Spyglass as soon as possible. Once you name Trawler, it can be easily dealt with via Clover'ed Stomp, Domri's Ambush, or just Petty Thefted. You can always go for the double block with Brazen Borrower as well, but that's more difficult to set up. If you stick a Spyglass, your opponent is going to have to bounce it with Teferi and Absorb/Dovin's Veto it on the way down or Banishing Light it, but you have Mystic Repeal and Return to Nature for the latter. Shadowspear, while requiring a bit more setup, also works against Trawler in combination with Stomp/Ambush/Theft. Just remember that if they try to activate Trawler, you need to let the Hexproof resolve before activating Shadowspear (while the spell targeting Trawler is still on the stack). Also be sure that you have enough mana, as they can repeatedly discard cards to give Trawler Hexproof again and again. This shouldn't be an issue though, as you ramp quite effectively.
Against UW, all your sideboard cards are relevant at different points in the game. Mystic Repeal and Return to Nature are nice for nabbing Banishing Light or tucking an Elspeth Conquers Death (don't be afraid to do this if you don't want them to get back a Narset or Teferi; you're so far ahead on cards, it's fine to “go down a card” to deal with a Saga that already got value). Storm's Wrath hits Planeswalkers, so you can wipe a Teferi and a Narset after they've been activated or an Archon of Sun's Grace with its Pegasus tokens. Chandra, Awakened Inferno will almost always eat an Elspeth Conquers Death after it comes down, and that is perfectly fine! Just be conscious of that so you can decide whether you would rather put a single Emblem on your opponent or take out one of their Planeswalkers. Most of all, remember that you have inevitability, so don't overcommit into their Shatter the Skys, feel free to hold Adventures until you can get value out of both sides, and take your time. You don't need to sideboard in this matchup, though you could bring in a counterspell or two if you don't think you'll be using Granted to get them.
Most of all: Beware Heliod's Intervention post-board. This card is insanely good against you. Try to find countermagic or, if you can't, hold a Clover if you can afford it. Them having an instant-speed answer to multiple Clovers along with your answers for Dream Trawler all in one, instant-speed card is very, very strong.
This matchup is favored as well, but it's all about the early turns. You need to interact with their board and/or lay down blockers. If you can make it to the midgame, you will usually win. The cards you are most scared of are Embercleave and Torbran. Stomp and Petty Theft are your best cards because they operate at instant speed, meaning that your opponent can't count on Torbran, Rimrock Knight // Boulder Rush, or Embercleave to make combat favorable for them. You don't want to see Escape until later; if you see Fae of Wishes early, always deploy it as a blocker. A 1/4 is a fantastic blocker against them. In general, this is not a matchup that you care about getting the most value out of your cards in. If you draw a Lovestruck Beast on Turn 3, just play the 5/5. You need to survive until you can start closing with Granted and Escape. Remember that a big Beanstalk Giant is impossible for them to answer, and one attack with it holding a Shadowspear is game over.
Post-board, you cut Escape to the Wilds, a couple Fertile Footsteps, and a couple Fae of Wishes to bring in all your interaction. Domri's Ambush, Aether Gust, and Storm's Wrath all come in. As much as you can, both pre- and post-board, try to hold your Borrowers and Gusts for Torbran and Embercleave. Like pre-board you're looking to survive until the midgame, when your ramp and larger threats will run away with the game.
This matchup is bad, but it hinges entirely on Wilderness Reclamation. Without it, they have a very difficult time beating you, but with it, you're just dead. Cast Granted to grab Mystic Repeal, Return to Nature, or countermagic depending on the point in the game, and post-board, bring in Gusts to keep their Reclamations at bay. Here, you do want to get aggressive, but do so carefully, as they have Storm's Wrath. Lovestruck Beast is your best beater, but as much as possible, hold a 1/1 in your hand so that you can pressure them if they answer the first one. Brazen Borrower is, of course, key to the matchup, particularly in Game 1, as Petty Theft is your only way to interact with Reclamation.
This matchup is even. Because they are trying to kill you with creatures instead of spells (like Temur Reclamation does), your deck works much better against them. Remember that Lovestruck Beast trades with Cavalier of Flame and Kenrith, the Returned King so be sure to have one down even as just a blocker. Stomp with multiple Clovers is a great way to answer their threats and Teferis as well, but be sure not to miss lethal, as oftentimes one or two hits with a Beast/Bonecrusher in combination with a Fling or a copied Stomp can kill them out of nowhere, particularly if they've been Shocking themselves with their manabase. If you have the chance to take out a Fires of Invention with a Return to Nature or Mystic Repeal off Granted, feel free to do it if it's going to be impactful; if they already have a significant board presence, you might be better off getting Shadowspear, Fling, or even Domri's Ambush. Finally, be wary of valuing your own Aether Gusts too highly; with a Teferi out on the other side, they do nothing, and even without Teferi, they don't answer Kenrith, Sphinx of Foresight, or Cavalier of Gales.
Other Tips and Tricks
- If you have a Clover out and your opponent casts Teferi, respond by casting Brazen Borrower. This either lets you keep your Clover down or kill their Teferi when they bounce it.
- Remember that copies off Clover resolve first. That means if you have a Clover and point both the original and copy of Stomp or Petty Theft at the same permanent, the copy will remove it first, and the original spell will fizzle, sending your creature to the graveyard instead of the exile zone.
- In the very late game, holding lands is a good idea, as it will allow you to return your Fae of Wishes to your hand to use again.
- Never feel like you *must* get maximum value off of a card like Escape to the Wilds, or even your Adventure creatures. While it's certainly great if you can, sometimes there are simply much better lines that make it worth losing out on the additional value.
- Early on, try to understand whether, broadly, you're playing an Innkeeper game or a Clover game. If your opponent begins to stymy one of these plans, shift to the other. For example, if an opponent makes it tough to get value off Clover by bouncing it, but has allowed two Innkeepers to stick, then just cast some Adventure creatures to draw four cards, and pull super far ahead. It's very challenging for most decks to interact with both the Innkeeper and Clover axes.
- Always be looking for a kill. As easy as it is to get lost in the value train, keep your opponent's life total in mind and look for a window to end the game by Stomping/Flinging them, or even just attacking them with Brazen Borrower.
- Be super careful with tapping and sequencing your lands. You are a three-color deck with heavy mana requirements, and you will often want to cast multiple spells of the same color in the same turn. Plan ahead and act accordingly.
- Most of all, the only way to get better at this deck is to play it. Get your reps in! Do not expect to do well taking this deck to a tournament without playing it.
Ryan Normandin is a grinder from Boston who has lost at the Pro Tour, in GP & SCG Top 8's, and to 7-year-olds at FNM. Despite being described as "not funny" by his best friend and "the worst Magic player ever" by Twitch chat, he cheerfully decided to blend his lack of talents together to write funny articles about Magic.
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