“This is the story of the Hurricane… and it won’t be over ‘til he wins a game…”
Magic is an amazing creative outlet, which is a big part of how the game has found success over the past few decades. Casual players love formats like Commander for the freedom it grants to play whatever cards or archetypes they can think of, and even hard-nosed tournament grinders get excited at the sniff of new spicy tech.
The thing about these novel, out-of-meta decks is that they’re only really exciting when they’re competitive. Anyone can put a Frankenstein pile of cards together, but unless that mad scientist creation rises from the slab and walks around, it can be hard to get excited about it. Not every card is destined for Standard greatness, but it’s tough to give up on a card you love at first sight…
HE’S COMING SOON!
January was a thrilling time in Magic. Huge spoilers for Theros Beyond Death dropped every day, and the community scrambled to attempt to break explosive cards like Underworld Breach and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. But my attention was captured by Storm Herald: a powerful new build-around that utilizes creature auras. The desire to explore this deck was cemented when the excellent Twitter account RosewattaStone posted its wonderful garbled mistranslation of the card.
When I was lucky enough to be invited to the Arena preview event for Theros Beyond Death, I had the chance to indulge all my wildest deck-building dreams. So, I took up the challenge from my stream chat: “one-shot someone with Hurricane Harold.” I built the best version of the deck I could — a blend of creature auras, cards to mill and discard those auras, and the best of the set’s constellation payoffs. It looked a little bit like this:
I teed up a match against my Card Kingdom editor, who was also playing the event, and Harold over-performed to the tune of 28 hasty damage to the face! After the event, I got a clear edict: the Harold deck was awesome, and I should follow up and produce a deck tech for it.
AN UN-HAROLDED DISASTER
While the Hurricane Harold deck had been fairly effective in the preview event, there’s a big difference in metagame between that and Standard. Since my Temur Harold deck was effectively an aura/enchantress strategy (with worse mana and a combo finish), it was always going to be vulnerable to removal. Aura decks have less creatures than normal because you use slots on enchantments, and if your first Setessan Champion or Hurricane Harold gets killed, you can end up with zero playable spells in hand. The deck also lacked interaction of its own, or even the ability to block profitably since our creatures were so important to the engine functioning. Embercleave and enemy aura decks ran us over, Esper Control and flash decks neutered our combo before it could get off the ground.
It was time to adjust the list. Our mill and discard options weren’t filling the graveyard fast enough, which made Harold feel like a bad draw instead of our primary combo piece. Also, we needed to up the creature count and particularly have some more one- and two-mana plays to be able to play defense early. These reactive changes are an important step in building up a deck from scratch, and my previous successes had me believing I could find a strong configuration.
Unfortunately, this version didn’t have any more luck than the last one. The Setessan Champions and Royal Scions (our “fair” plan) were too slow to start developing, and too prone to die before we untapped. Without them getting damage in, it was up to Hurricane Harold to literally one-shot the opponent, which requires a fully-loaded graveyard to even have a chance. We could try playing cards like Thrill of Possibility to fill the yard faster, but that would leave us with even fewer chances to defend ourselves or pressure controlling decks. It seemed like this build of Hurricane Harold had hit a dead end.
THE GATHERING STORM
A deck wholly-focused on one combo has to be fast, consistent and confident in executing that combo. Hurricane Harold didn’t seem to be reliable enough as a game-ender to justify that approach. On the other hand, Harold is effectively a “one-card combo” and nets decent value for rate even when the trigger doesn’t lead to a lethal attack. This opens the possibility of using him as a secret weapon in a more conventional GW Auras aggro list!
Cards like Dawn Evangel, Setessan Champion and Sentinel’s Eyes encourage an attrition plan, anyway, recouping value when your enchanted attackers die so that you can continue applying steady pressure. Hurricane Harold seems like a great choice to cruise in after our early waves are dead and finish off a tapped-out opponent. By reducing our dependence on Harold, we don’t need to waste slots enabling him, and we’re already in the right colors to make full use of All That Glitters, which is by far the most powerful aura in Standard for Harold decks.
This deck felt a lot more playable. Alseid of Life’s Bounty is a multi-purpose powerhouse, and while removal was still an issue, the deck felt competitive when the engine got rolling. Unfortunately, this deck felt more like it was winning in spite of Hurricane Harold rather than because of him. Even at just three mana, Harold felt clunky for a deck with an average CMC around 1.7, and the red requirement hurt an otherwise sleek mana base. And since our only way of getting auras in the ’yard was to draw and play a ton of them, Harold often ended up feeling very win-more. Returning six auras to play with a Champion out feels fantastic, but is almost certainly adding less to our win percentage than a card like Bronzehide Lion.
At best, I could see Harold as a sideboard card to punish control decks that tap out for a sweeper or threat, but the original dream of “one-shot people out of nowhere” was getting further and further away even as the list improved. I lose a lot of joy in a janky card like Storm Herald if I can’t justify its slot, so it was time to return to the drawing board for a final time. This time, we would go all-in on the one-shot kill — perhaps not the best aura deck in Theros Beyond Death Standard, but the best Hurricane Harold deck for sure.
HEADHUNTING WITH HAROLD
For the Hurricane Harold one-shot to kill, we need him to generate roughly 20 power with auras and give him some form of evasion to ensure that damage strikes home. Compared to older formats — where heavy-duty auras like Eldrazi Conscription or Prodigious Growth can help Harold reach lethal power — Harold’s best tools in current Standard are All That Glitters and the barely-playable Mantle of the Wolf. This means we need to pack our deck with auras and mill ten or more of them before our opponent can close out the game. We need to be playing black.
So far, we had avoided black since it offers the least in terms of aura synergies, but no other color helps us put as many cards into the graveyard while generating board presence and gaining life. Mire Triton, Gorging Vulture and Tymaret Calls the Dead are our most competitive options for loading the bases for Harold. Glowspore Shaman and The Binding of the Titans provide further mill while smoothing our land draws — we can afford to cut a few lands for precious auras and splash in red and white because of this. Binding is especially important because it allows us to “draw” Harold out of the graveyard when we need him, turning all our mill into card selection.
The other nice part about these mill options is that we end up with a decent curve of creatures that we barely care about after their ETB mill triggers resolve. We can often attack for damage to lower the lethal threshold for the combo, or force removal out of an opponent to slow down their gameplan. Where the Temur or GW builds were extremely soft to removal, we don’t care whether our minions live or die — and that gives us a massive edge. It’s also worth remembering that Hurricane Harold can also attach auras in your graveyard to any creatures you have in play — a flying-trample Vulture or deathtouch-trample Triton (or Venomous Hierophant) can be much harder to stop than a Harold of equivalent power!
ARE YOU A HURRICANE, OR A HURRICAN’T?
“Harold could take a man out with just one punch… but he didn’t like to talk about it all that much.”
So, what can we take away from our dalliance with the Hurricane? Harold is a powerful card that can generate some highlight-reel plays:
I’m honestly impressed with the B/G mill package and the various small ways it synergizes with our plan. While I can’t really recommend playing this deck in any ranked match or tournament, I do think even one big payoff aura could upgrade Harold from “fun” to “playable.” Keep an eye out for that sort of thing during Ikoria spoilers — I know it won’t take much for me to bring the Hurricane back for another spin!
Tom’s fate was sealed in 7th grade when his friend lent him a pile of commons to play Magic. He quickly picked up Boros and Orzhov decks in Ravnica block and has remained a staunch white magician ever since. A fan of all Constructed formats, he enjoys studying the history of the tournament meta. He specializes in midrange decks, especially Death & Taxes and Martyr Proc. One day, he swears he will win an MCQ with Evershrike. Ask him how at @AWanderingBard, or watch him stream Magic at twitch.tv/TheWanderingBard.