Let's briefly look at what each of these decks does to win the game so we can get a better understanding of what we are up against.
The one drop of choice in this deck is Toolcraft Exemplar, which allows the deck to hit very hard, very fast. It is important to kill their Toolcraft Exemplar very early, as a turn two Scrapheap Scrounger can quickly spell your doom. The Vehicles player has interchangeable cards in the 1-2 slot that are all very powerful. Thraben Inspector is probably the weakest card in the deck and Veteran Motorist is only a real problem when cards like Cultivator's Caravan and Heart of Kiran are on the board. There are a few cards in the 3-4 slot but Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is really the only card that can truly take over a game since it is harder to interact with than the other major advantage provider: Depala, Pilot Exemplar. This makes the plan to build a board of cheap efficient creatures as well as a few overpowered vehicles in the first few turns of the game. From there, try to resolve a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Depala, Pilot Exemplar and ride the early damage and good mid-game to victory.
Early interaction is key in beating this deck. You have to be able to answer Toolcraft Exemplar, Heart of Kiran, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Another good card you want to be able to answer is Scrapheap Scrounger but most of the ways to do that will already be discussed with the other cards we mentioned. Starting with the early game, there are a number of ways to take down the vehicles fast starts. The best ways are going to be Shock, Fatal Push, or Galvanic Bombardment, as they all are obviously efficient and great ways to deal with the early game, but don't be afraid to cast Grasp of Darkness on these cards if you feel your opponent is getting too far ahead. Heart of Kiran and Cultivator's Caravan are both very powerful artifacts that will win the game if left unchecked. The time has come for main board removal for these problematic artifacts. Natural Obsolescence is a great choice as it is a pretty clean answer to Scrapheap Scrounger, while still taking care of the problem vehicle cards. Appetite for the Unnatural is also a solid choice as it can gain back a few life points in the process, the mana cost on Appetite is a bit prohibitive so I would recommend Obsolescence for efficiency. Grasp of Darkness is also good against Heart of Kiran which is certainly a card you want to remove. Fatal Push is great against Heart of Kiran and can even hit Cultivator's Caravan if you can trigger Revolt! As for Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, the answers are a bit harder to come by. Ruinous Path is an answer and a card that should be seeing more play as it also helps out against Nahiri, the Harbinger and Saheeli Rai in the Copy Cat deck. Outside of that, To the Slaughter and efficient creatures are a good way to keep Gideon in check. Gideon's ability to make 2/2's makes playing large creatures on the ground very inefficient so we have to be sure to have answers to planeswalkers in order to have a shot at taking down the Mardu Vehicle's deck.
On to the G/B decks, which are very close to my heart as they pack a lot of raw power and efficiency without needing cute tricks to win games. We'll focus on the Winding Constrictor decks as I believe this is the more powerful version of the mainstream iterations of G/B.
Late game almost requires counter magic to survive. If you are unable to take down Winding Constrictor and your opponent plays Verdurous Gearhulk: you're gonna have a bad time. You have to have the early game contained by the time they play this card or you have to be able to prevent this card from entering the battlefield by countering it or by stripping it from your opponents hand. There are a number of ways to attack this deck but you have to match their curve and not sit around trying to be reactive to everything as the top decks are all pretty good from G/B.
Copy Cat is a control deck with a combo finish. It is limited on win conditions but the deck is efficient in protecting itself, which mitigates this problem nicely. the goal is to win via Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian by blinking Saheeli and creating infinite 1/4 Cat Beasts which feels like a throwback to Splinter Twin. Most of the time this deck isn't going off on turn four as there are cards like Heart of Kiran to keep things in check by killing the Saheeli Rai in the early turns. The deck looks to grind out games and then win when the "getting is good" and they can protect the combo via counter-spells or grinding their opponent down to no cards in hand. The deck can also win by Torrential Gearhulk but I would assume too many Copy Cat players are prideful enough to just go for the combo to win. This is an efficient deck that requires tight play to beat.
Now that we have seen what the plans of the big three decks are let's try to explore a deck that could have some game against this field.
Some of you reading this in the Boise area may have seen a deck I posted recently on Facebook that was a throwback to a recent pro tour breakout deck that faded into the background: Seasons Past. The deck was slow and sought to grind opponents into oblivion. The deck was strong but fell out of the limelight rather quickly and I think it is about time to bring it back. For those who missed the initial post here is the decklist for reference.
3x Tireless Tracker
4x Mindwrack Demon
2x The Gitrog Monster
2x Noxious Gearhulk
3x Liliana, the Last Hope
4x Fatal Push
4x Grasp of Darkness
2x Natural Obsolescence
3x Ruinous Path
2x Seasons Past
3x Traverse the Ulvenwald
2x Yahenni's Expertise
4x Blooming Marsh
3x Evolving Wilds
4x Hissing Quagmire
2x Clip Wings
2x Ishkanah, Grafwidow
2x Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
3x Natural State
1x Nissa, Vital Force
2x Ob Nixilis Reignited
3x Transgress the Mind
My first impression when testing this deck was that Seasons Past was a bit of a win more card that I would only be casting when ahead and it really wouldn't have that big of an impact. I was very wrong in this assumption as casting Seasons Past with the removal suite we are playing in this deck is enough to give you the legs necessary to win a grindy game against something like the Copy Cat decks.
This deck has a pretty sneaky way to turn a path to victory in the form of Yahenni's Expertise and Liliana, the Last Hope. If you are playing against a slow to go off G/B deck or are against a wall of aggressive creatures on turn four due to the Vehicle decks fast starts this combo can swing the favor of a game really fast. Casting a wrath spell and a planeswalker for four mana should be enough to swing any game in your favor especially when that walker can pick off a straggler that may have just beaten Yahenni's Expertise.
Looking specifically at G/B, a match-up that is a bit more even than the other two decks, we find a variety of options at our disposal geared at churning out a W. Grasp of Darkness and Fatal Push are at a premium here as they answer all of your opponents creatures as long as they haven't gotten to start going off with Winding Constrictor. Be sure to save your removal for Winding Constrictor in the early game as this is truly the only card that is backbreaking in the first 4-5 turns. Your creatures will be better than your opponents if you can just remove the Constrictor. As long as you are able to complete this, you are pretty favored to win this match. The deck is only packing one Murder in most lists for unconditional removal so jamming The Gitrog Monster is usually enough to set your opponents seat ablaze.
Overall, I am very happy with this deck. It is a competitive way to stay on the beaten path, which I am a fan of when a lot of the current decks are linear and quickly becoming stale. I encourage you to give this list a try if you have the cards around, if not check out the links and grab up the cards you need at wizardden.com because this deck is gas. If you have any improvements you would make to this deck or have an idea for some content you would like to see, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or just drop me a line on Facebook. As always: