Setting Standards – Sultai Constrictor

Just about a year ago, as soon as spoiler season started for Kaladesh, I knew exactly what deck I wanted to play. Ive always been a mid range creature deck kind of player and golgari has always been one of my favorite guilds. I grabbed a set of Walking Ballista and Verdurous Gearhulk and I played black green constrictor A LOT. I loved this deck. I loved slamming a green gearhulk, pumping up my Grim Flayer and blasting in for a ton of trample damage. When rotation hit this deck lost a bunch of key pieces, Grim Flayer of course being one of them, as well as Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, Catacomb Sifter and my favorite removal spell, Grasp of Darkness.
Since rotation and the last set of bannings, the constrictor deck has become a bit fringe and not nearly as strong as it once was but I think its nicely poised for a comeback thanks to some sweet new pieces from Rivals and a splash of blue.
Land
4 x Forest
4 x Swamp
Sideboard
2 x Negate
2 x Deathgorge Scavenger
So most of this deck is pretty stock: ballista, constrictor, rishkar, and gearhulk carry over from the last pre rotation version of the deck and make up the core strategy of playing creatures and loading them up with counters.  Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger are new additions that work super well with the constrictor and work on the same axis.
This deck can curve out with snake, rishkar, gearhulk and just crush. Its very easy to pull so far ahead with this deck that it can end some games before they even really get started. Constrictor on turn 2 and Rishkar on turn 3 with blossoming defense up is usually too much early pressure for a lot of decks to handle. The lack of a good 2 or 3 drop with trample to replace Grim Flayer hurts but I cant find a decent replacement outside of Maulfist Revolutionary which doesn’t quite measure up to Jadelight Ranger which can sometimes come out on turn 3 as a 6/5. I split on Jadelight Rangers to add a couple copies of Honored Hydra which does have trample and can also take advantage of explore and the extra mana from Rishkar to get out early.
The last version of this deck was running Glintsleeve Siphoner and Longtusk Cub but I wanted to stay away from any kind of energy theme so I decided to cut them and lean more on the graveyard reanimation side. Our explore creatures as well as the Champion of Wits can help filter cards and load up our graveyard for later reanimator fuel. With the extra mana from Riskhar it can be easy to eternalize our Champion of Wits or even use the Scarab God or Liliana on turn four. The couple copies of Honored Hydra I can also take further advantage of graveyard strategies by getting dumped early to an explore trigger and then coming back on the cheap.
The real step up that the constrictor shell got from Rivals, and the main reason we are dipping into blue, is the new legendary enchantment, Hadana’s Climb. This card is just an absolute bomb in this deck. If you can play this and keep a creature alive for a few turns, its game over. If you can keep it on the battlefield for few turns with the Constrictor out, its just insane. If you can flip Hadana’s Climb your creature already has at least 3 counters on it which makes it at least a 5/5, so when you activate Hadana’s Climb it becomes a 10/10 flier. There are not a lot of answers to that especially when it happens turn after turn.
Im pretty sure at this point everyone knows that Fatal Push is amazing and a couple copies of Vraska’s Contempt are essential if you’re playing black so I’ll just leave it at that. Im still on the fence about blossoming defense over another copy of Hadana’s Climb or Liliana but there are times when it can be so powerful that I’ve decided to keep it. This is a creature deck and a one mana spell that can both protect my important creature and pump them up is just too good.
Our sideboard is mostly a toolbox full of answers. Negates, duresses, and naturalizes are great catch all answers for specific hard to beat cards like Annointed Procession and Settle the Wreckage and I love sneaking in a couple of Hostage Takers post board to grab annoying creatures or artifacts like God Pharoahs Gift.
Sultai has some of the best mana in the format right now with both Blooming Marsh and Botanical Sanctum which gives the deck lots of room to pivot and adapt. I had a long list of cards that I wanted to play in here but I had to make the decision to cut some and just pick a line. I could see an argument for running Narnam Renegade in the side against aggro or even more counter spells in the main like Essence Scatter but I think this deck wants to be the aggressor. I have even been toying with Driven//Despair as a sideboard card as it gives our guys trample and can help refill our hand.
Sultai constrictor is far from a dominant deck at this point but its not far out of contention holding around %5 of the current meta being played either as Sultai or Golgari colors. I was almost ready to give up on this one after the energy bans but I’m happy to say that the deck is alive and well and might have even gone up a notch.
Let me know what you think, I’m always looking for new tech and ways to keep this deck alive!

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Dan MacKinnon

Dan MacKinnon

A freelance artist and illustrator by trade, magic geek by choice. I've been playing on an off since the 90's and have recently gotten much more serious about magic and game design. Sometimes I think I like building decks more than I actually like playing them. Drop me a line or check out some of my work at facebook.com/drawnbydan

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