Here are my thoughts on a new decklist going forward:
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Mana Confluence
4 City of Brass
3 Ancient Ziggurat
1 Strip Mine
1 Black Lotus
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
4 Noble Hierarch
3 Qasali Pridemage
4 Phyrexian Revoker
4 Harsh Mentor
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
3 Mayor of Avabruck
3 Kambal Consul of Allocation
3 Mantis Rider
3 Palace Jailer
1 Ancestral Recall
2 Mental Misstep
1 Time Walk
4 Containment Priest
3 Surgical Extraction
2 Mental Misstep
1 Mayor of Avabruck
3 Elvish Spirit Guide
And now some explanations:
Manabase - If we decide to only run creatures or free spells then we gain access to the 3 Ancient Ziggurat. I could even see it being 4 Ziggys to ensure minimum pain from lands. I like 1 Karakas as its utility is amazing and there aren't many times when it tapping for white will be much of an issue since a lot of cards in the deck have W in their casting cost.
Creature Choices - Now to the meat and bones:
Noble Hierarch: Many might debate whether this is too much of a liability to run in the face of Walking Ballista being in the format, but I think this is the one list that still desperately wants its effect. The reason being that this list makes use not only of the mana fixing/accel that Hierarch provides but also abuses the crap out of its exalted trigger (see Mantis Rider).
Qasali Pridemage: Many have tried to convince me to cut this card on account of its "non-human-ness" and I've seriously considered it, but again, this deck makes great use of the exalted trigger and we also need an obligatory solution to Moat and Oath of Druids game 1. Pridemage stays for now.
Phyrexian Revoker: This guy is my nod to the Ancient Ziggurat Manabase. I still like having an answer to Moxen and Ballistas that can be more easily cast than Stony Silence. Stony Silence is an incredibly powerful card though so Revokers are in a probationary period and we'll see how they perform over Stony.
Harsh Mentor: This guy is the great experiment for the list. I'm of the opinion that it is maindeckable even though it's strength vs. blue decks is way less than its strength vs. shops/eldrazi. I do think it has enough utility vs. blue to be something I don't HATE seeing game 1 necessarily. Here are the targets out of blue:
Sensei's Top (really good vs. this card because it hits both abilities)
Library of Alexandria
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Also, vs. Time Vault decks this makes Time Vault itself cost 4 damage per turn to use. This can also be annoying to cards like Memory Jar or Engineered Explosives. The jury is still out as to just HOW dead it is vs. blue but I think its purpose is so important vs. Ballista Shops that I'm comfortable with it in the maindeck for now.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben: Taxes the primary type of spell in the format. I don't think I need to go into this one.
Mayor of Avabruck: This guy is at his absolute best in 5-C Human Stompy. He pumps your team (Riders etc.) and allows your aggro plan to take off vs. any sort of "fair" deck. He is also reasonably good vs. Mentor decks if the board begins to stall out.
Kambal, Consul of Allocation: This guy is an update and almost strict upgrade to Scab-Clan Berserker. He is so insane at helping you win the damage race vs. blue and his 2/3 body is nothing to sneeze at in the face of Revokers so he doesn't become totally dead game 1 vs. shops. I cannot speak the praises of this guy enough. I'd like to find room in the SB for a 4th copy and may do just that in a future update of the list. Also, it is worth pointing out that Mental Misstepping a Plow targeting this guy often feels like cheating. . . your opponent of their life total :P.
Mantis Rider: The reason to run 5-Colors. That's right, I said it. It isn't Kambal delving us into black or now Harsh delving us into Red that makes us want to go beyond general GW hatebears. It's this guy. He packs such a combat punch and does so often uncounterably for only UWR. He is a Planeswalker killer extraordinaire and, most importantly, he flies right over those silly monk tokens to dome Mentor players for the critical last couple points of damage after Kambal has taken them down a notch. In my opinion, if you aren't running this guy as a 3-of in 5-Color Human Stompy you are doing something miserably wrong and need to have a stern talking to. <3 this guy.
Palace Jailer: A recent change from Reflector Mage. While Mage is a bit more on curve for the deck, I think this guy is actually just the better card. Mid-late game Free Bob is just what this deck needs often, and the ability for this to exile a dude without having that dude just return to the battlefield if he gets removed is quite spicy and unique in the cycle of "exiling creatures" (i.e Fiend Hunter, Banisher Priest, Fairgrounds Warden etc.). Jailer being at 4 mana might be a cause for concern, but I think the fact that we run all the Moxen + 4 Hierarch and, most important, NO Stony Silence, makes this guy playable.
Now on to the other cards in the list:
1 Ancestral, 1 Time Walk: Ummm. . . very little cost in playing these bad-ass cards. Yes please.
Mental Misstep: The card is great early protection vs. blue bullshit or combo and is very well paired with Kambal.
Containment Priest: This card resides in the SB but is firmly going to stay there because of its applications in the key matchups of Dredge and Oath.
Surgical Extraction: Some might not quite get why I run this card. The reason is 2-3 fold. First off, I love what this card does vs. Paradoxical Outcome. Unlike vs. Ritual decks where you can't stop the second ritual going on the stack it is very reasonable to assume that you'll nab the second Paradoxical before they can cast it. The other major targets for this spell are Wasteland and Walking Ballista. Being able to remove all of these can pay huge dividends vs. the Workshop archetype. Obviously the card also has reasonable applications vs. Dredge.
Wasteland: This card is great but I only run 3 of them between the maindeck and SB because of Color considerations. I may go back to 4 though if I find that it truly is the best thing I can be doing vs. workshops. Wasteland is one of the best ways to keep Workshop openers from getting out of hand and the card also has great applications vs. Dredge and various other blue decks. Don't leave home without some Wastelands in your deck.
Elvish Spirit Guide: Some folks might ask why the hell this card makes the cut, but I think the answer is simple. I believe this deck's Plan A is very good vs. the field and I'd like that Plan A to get online as early as possible. Plan A = cast hatebears/valuebears that cost at least 2 on turn 1 and keep them coming every turn thereafter. ESG helps you start this process on turn 1 without having to run the "other approach" of running 3-4 Ancient Tomb and 4 Thorn of Amethyst. To me, that approach only works in certain archetypes with certain support cards. Since this deck can't effectively run Tomb (would ruin the manabase) I elect to, instead, run some ESGs in the SB to help shore up the problem of "nothing to do on turn 1."
So what are people's thoughts? Do you agree with my assessment of the cards of the deck? If so, why? If not, what would you replace them with? How many? Please don't just unilaterally deluge this thread with hyperbolic criticisms if you aren't prepared to go into at least as much depth as I just did on card choices. I want this archetype to be optimally built more often and taken seriously, but that requires serious discussion from invested players. Trolls are NOT welcome in this thread. Keep it civil. Keep it productive. Thanks! :)