Temur Dragons Cashes FNM

Background

I’ve always liked Temur and played it twice in KTK standard, once in a more midrangey-planeswalker style which did well, and once in an aggro build that was a disaster. Based on the disaster I stayed away from that wedge, but then I saw Brian Dolan’s list at the SCG Open and I just loved it.

I had been on a travel-related MTG hiatus for a while and didn’t have any Thunderbreak Regents when I returned, so the first MTG I played since the DTK pre-release couldn’t be this deck. I played an Abzan Reanimator list that was OK but I didn’t love it. But my Regents arrived in time for this last FNM and I was excited to play it.

The Deck: Temur Dragons

I made a few small changes to Dolan’s list and this is what I sleeved up:

Creatures (22)
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Courser of Kruphix
4 Savage Knuckleblade
4 Thunderbreak Regent
2 Whisperwood Elemental
4 Stormbreath Dragon

Spells (14)
2 Wild Slash
3 Crater’s Claws
4 Stubborn Denial
2 Draconic Roar
2 Lightning Strike
1 Sarkhan Unbroken

Lands (24)
2 Shivan Reef
2 Temple of Abandon
2 Temple of Mystery
3 Forest
3 Mountain
4 Frontier Bivouac
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Yavimaya Coast

Sideboard (15)
1 Destructive Revelry
3 Roast
4 Disdainful Stroke
1 Anger of the Gods
1 Seismic Rupture
2 Hornet Nest
1 Xenagos, the Reveler
2 Ashcloud Phoenix

Basically, I cut a Whisperwood for a Sarkhan, cut a Lightning Strike and a Wild Slash for two Draconic Roars, and fiddled with the sideboard a little (I refuse to play Feed the Clan). Tweaks, but nothing major.

Swiss Rounds

Round 1: Ron, Jeskai Prowess
Sometmes at FNM you get a new player playing a substandard deck. It’s great, people have to start somewhere, but it’s kind of a bye when you’re playing a serious deck. These are, of course, also the matches where you least need great draws to win, and of course that’s always when I get the best draws. I won the die roll, went T1 tapland, T2 tapland, leave up a tapland and then Wild Slash the opposing Swiftspear, T3 Knuckleblade, T4 Thunderbreak, T5 Stormbreath. Many real decks would have issues with that draw. Game 2 I had turn 2 Carytid into T3 Thunderbreak and T4 Stormbreath. Silly.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games

Round 2: Tyler, playing BW Warriors
Tyler’s deck is very similar to the BW Warriors deck recently Deck Tech’d on SCG Live. Tyler’s build played a few copies of Secure the Wastes, a slightly different set of warriors, and at least one Rush of Battle but it’s the same basic idea. Game 1 I had a slower start but with a Courser to smooth things out, but Tyler got off a Secure for 4 at the end of my turn with a followup Rush of Battle that put him up to 29 life and me down to 13. But from there I got a Sarkhan and then a Stormbreath, and Stormbreath is a real problem for his deck. Turns out Courser plus Sarkhan’s +1 is very good. I eventually killed him with a 7/7 Stormbreath. I boarded in the Nests and the red small sweepers. Game 2 was less interesting because of my turn 3 Hornet Nest, which just locked out the ground way too well.
2-0 matches, 4-0 games

Round 3: Zac, playing GR Aggro
This was mostly a pre-DTK list featuring Heir of the Wilds, Rabblemaster, Fanatic of Xenagos, Flamewake Phoenix, Ashcloud Phoenix, Boon Satyr, and burn spells—but no dragons. I think the only DTK card was Surrak. My draw in the opener was a little slow and his wasn’t. I had to take 4 from a Fanatic before I could Roar it and just could not keep up with the followups, including a Yasova that let him take my Courser. I again boarded in the Nests and the red sweepers plus the Xenagos. Game 2 he had a turn 2 Heir and a turn 3 Rabblemaster to my turn 3 Courser, but my turn 4 play was Anger to wipe his board and get in for 2 with Courser. I got Xenagos and used his plus to generate extra mana and cast a Stormbreath on the same turn. Next turn I used his plus again to generate a Thunderbreak and something else and my air force carried it home. Game 3 he had Heir on turns 2 and 3 and followed with a Boon Satyr to make them 3/3s. However, I dropped a Hornet Nest and that gummed things up. He decided he had to swing, which got me down to 7 but then got me three insects. I followed with a Stormbreath and let the insects hold the ground. He eventually swung into he insects and committed another low-toughness creature to the board, and that played right into the Anger I had just drawn into.
3-0 matches, 6-1 games

Round 4: Evan, playing UB Control
Sometimes at 3-0 it’s possible to double-draw in, but Evan was 2-1 so he couldn’t. I knew what Evan was on I was interested in exactly how big a deal the Stubborn Denials would really be. Turns out they were huge. He of course had no early pressure and I managed to stick a Knuckleblade with a Denial in hand and blue up on turn 4. I followed up with a Courser and he tried to play a Perilous Vault but I Denied that. I got in for 8 the next turn by pumping Knuckleblade, and Courser was letting me play lands and just draw all gas, I hit something else with a Denial, and so we went to game 2. I boarded in the Strokes, the Xenagos, the Revelry, and the Ashclouds. Game 2 was just about me getting a good mix of threats (including an Ashcloud) and him not being able to kill everything fast enough. I’m pretty sure something got Denied or Disdainful Stroked along the way, but I don’t remember the details.
4-0 matches, 8-1 games

Round 5: Mac, RG Dragons
We were the only 4-0s so we ID’d.
4-0-1 matches, 8-1 games

Top 8

Quarterfinals: Evan, playing UB Control
Evan won his 5th round match and squeaked in, so we got a rematch. Game 1 I had a mediocre draw with double Lightning Strike (a card I side out in this matchup), but it had lands and a Courser, too, so I kept it. It was a good keep. I got the Courser and a hasty Knuckleblade and hit him down to 14, he tapped out for Crux and I double Struck him down to 8, then drew other hasty threats to close it out without a single Denial. Game 2 I started on a slow hand, but it did have a Revelry in it. He tapped out for a turn 3 Ashiok and my followup was… a Courser. I hit the Ashiok with it once and got down a Regent next, and he tapped down to 1 for a Vault. I untapped and blew up the Vault with Revelry, directed the two 2 Ashiok, and finished off the planeswalker. There was some back and forth with me casting a couple things and him killing them, but when I got to seven mana I had both a Stormbreath and two untapped blue. I cast Stormbreath, he tried to Encase it, I Denied, he Negated, and I Denied again. My next draw was a Stroke and he never drew a sub-four-mana answer, so that was it.
5-0-1 matches, 10-1 games

Semifinals: Patrick, playing Abzan Aggro
Game 1 I kept a 3-land, 4-spell hand with two Wild Slash, a Lightning Strike, and a Knuckleblade (the lands were such that I would be able to cast the Knuck on turn 3). I was the better seed, so I was on the play, dropped my Frontier Bivouac, and passed. He Thoughtsiezed me his turn 1 and took the Strike, I drew land so had nothing on turn 2, he Thoughtsiezed me again and took the Knuck. Ugh. I drew a Courser and played that, he came back with Fleecemane Lion, I drew more land, he dropped another creature (can’t remember what, though), and I had to double-Slash the Lion, and I just never got there. I probably mis-boarded here, as I had him on a more midrange build and brought in Strokes, but he was running Death Dealers and Wardens, which I didn’t see in game 1. Game 2 was very, very close. I had a Stubborn Denial he knew about from an early Thoughtseize but was a little choked on mana. We had traded a lot of blows (including me blocking a Death Dealer with Knuckleblade, he pumped, I pumped in response, and he pumped again to make it a trade and him playing a Rhino and me top decking a Roast immediately after) and got to this state: I had a Thunderbreak on the board but he had an Anafenza and something else (I think a non-monstrous Lion). I had a Stormbreath and another Regent in hand and him at 10, me at 7. I had only five lands, so I could cast either one of them, but if I cast the Stormbreath I couldn’t cast Denial. I cast the Regent and hit him down to 6 with the other Regent, so any removal in his hand was dead, and I didn’t think he could get in for 7 since I could block Anafenza with the untapped Regent, and next turn I could come with Stormbreath. Unfortunately, what he had in hand was… Surrak. Dang, haste got there—I did not see that coming at all. Really great game, though. In hindsight I should have not boarded in all 4 Strokes since this was a low-to-the-ground aggro list, and I should have brought in the Hornet Nests. Oh well.
5-1-1 matches, 10-3 games

Well, 3rd/4th isn’t too bad—cashing is always good. Got a second copy of Sarkhan Unbroken with my store credit with a little left over credit for next time.

Comments on the Deck

There’s a certain elegance in the design of this deck that I really appreciate. In particular, the lack of Elvish Mystics and Temur Charms and a lot of other baggage while still maintaining Savage Knuckleblade. I’ve played the Knuckleblade with Elvish Mystics before, and while Knuck is actually a very good card, it’s really awful with the Mystic, because the only way you actually get a turn 2 Knuckleblade is turn 1 Yavimaya Coast into mystic, turn 2 Mountain/Shivan Reef. It just never works out—Mystic just doesn’t do enough. However, with Sylvan you much more often get Knuckleblade on turn 4, but because Carytid gives any color, you can often hit haste on that turn, or cast it without haste and leave up Stubborn Denial. This is actually OK because this is not an aggro deck, it’s a midrange deck with a lot of reach. It’s very fun to play, because you get to be both proactive and reactive, but it lacks the raw power of cars like Siege Rhino or Ojutai.

Some other thoughts:

  • I really liked the manabase. I had almost no color problems, and it was great to not take constant damage off of Mana Confluence. This is really a red-green deck with a light splash of blue, which eases the mana issues. (If double blue were tenable I’d love to try some Icefall Regents in the 5-spot but it seems like a stretch).
  • Abzan Aggro seems like a generally tough matchup, which given the current meta is less than ideal. It’s not unwinnable but it’s not easy. Maybe the sideboard Encase in Ice would help, but I don’t like that card against decks where Dromoko’s Command is usually run.
  • On the flip side, playing against UB Control felt like playing on easy mode. Probably in no small part because of the next point.
  • 4 main deck Stubborn Denial was amazing. I feel like between that and the 4 sideboard Strokes, the more control-ish builds of Abzan are probably a much better matchup, but those are less common in the meta now.
  • I think I only cast Whisperwood once at a point in a game where it wouldn’t have mattered much. I’d like to try it without the Whisperwoods and include a second Sarkhan and a 1-of Atarka.
  • Double red isn’t that hard to hit. I’d change the sideboard Seismic Rupture for another Anger for sure.

Why Modern and PTFRF Were a Success

We recently had a Modern-format Pro Tour (Pro Tour Fate Reforged). There are some PTs where I don’t watch much, and some where I watch a lot. This one was somewhere in between. I watched a few rounds on Friday, a little on Saturday, and about half of the Sunday coverage.

I liked it. Modern, that is—I liked watching Modern on camera.

I don’t play a lot of Modern, so that’s not the reason why, and while Ian Duke was a nice addition to the coverage team, I mostly didn’t notice the coverage all that much in either a positive or negative ways that weren’t the norm (e.g., LSV in the booth is always positive, but that wasn’t new because he’s always great). No, what I mean is, I liked watching the actual games of Modern being played out. (FRF is also a pretty good limited format to watch, and the Zvi Moshowitz vs. Martin Muller match was just awesome, as in literally a thing of awe.)

So, who cares that I liked it? Well, I think that my liking it actually means something—more on that in a bit. First, some context. WotC announced that they were no longer going to have a Modern PT, and there was a huge backlash, and so we got a Modern PT back. Hooray, right?

Apparently not. Numerous prominent pros (such as, but surely not limited to, PV, Brian Kibler, and Ari Lax) have been on record on Twitter and/or via articles that they don’t like Modern as a format. This is articulated pretty well in PV’s latest article. For expository purposes, I’m going to paraphrase him with the full acknowledgment that I’m glossing over many important details. Basically, the argument goes that many Pro players don’t like the current Modern because there’s only one “fair” deck (Abzan) that’s got a good chance against the whole field. There are too many basically “unfair” linear aggro/combo decks that are easy to hate out from the sideboard, so it basically comes down to whether or not you draw your sideboard silver bullet or not. Whether this happens is not a function of skill, so it’s bad—or at least, bad as a PT format.

Matt Sperling has a rebuttal which essentially argues that the format is as healthy as a non-rotating format can be expected to be. It’s not really broken according to his criteria for broken (which are well-considered—go read it if you haven’t), so don’t fix it.

As far as I’m concerned, they both have solid arguments. I think PV is right that a lot of Pros are going to dislike any format where there are matchups that are essentially unwinnable based on deck choice and/or sideboard configuration. I also think Sperling is right that this problem is probably intrinsic to any non-rotating format because of simple combinatorics. Furthermore, it’s actually more contained in Modern than it could be. So where does that leave us? Well, I think the two of them can argue on that axis forever without either one of them being fundamentally wrong, so I’m not sure how productive that is in the long run.

I want to take this issue on from another angle, though I’m going to guess it’s one that some, maybe many, Pros won’t like much.

I think PTFRF and the Modern format was a success. Not, perhaps, for some of the established Pros, but it was successful in achieving the primary goals that WotC is actually trying to accomplish. So what is the Pro Tour trying to do? Indeed, it’s surely multiple things, and while I’d guess “make the Pro players happy” is actually one of the things on that list, it isn’t at the top of it.

The Pro Tour costs WotC a fair amount of money. Prize pool, airfare for players and judges, rental of the space, logistics, coverage and lots of other things I’m sure I don’t want to know about all cost substantial dollars, and I’m pretty sure the primary function of all those dollars isn’t as a charity for the PT players.

I believe the point of the Pro Tour is to increase WotC’s revenue, and most of that revenue comes from selling cards. (And MTGO, but that’s mostly really selling digital cards). How does the PT sell cards? By getting people excited about the game. For some players, it gives them something to aspire to—they want to be on the PT, and they buy cards to try to get on the Tour. I’m going to guess (though I bet WotC knows with some precision) that’s not a majority of the player base. Me, for example—I have no aspirations to get on the Tour, and I buy a pretty fair number of cards.

So how does a Modern PT help sell cards to people who aren’t trying to get on the Pro Tour itself? Again, I bet there are multiple ways. The most mundane way, but probably a pretty important one from a sales perspective, is that by having a popular non-rotating format, players can convince themselves that the money they spend on cards now is at least something of an investment, because some of the cards will still hold value for Modern. (In some sense this is technically true of Legacy as well, but the numbers there are pretty bad.)

The other way, and the main reason I think WotC spends money on the hours of live coverage, is by creating excitement for the game. Players who are fired up about the game are more likely to play, and thus more likely to want cards. And that’s where I think this PT succeeded. First, the MTG community demanded a Modern PT, and they got it. Hey, WotC listens to us!

More importantly, though, is that I think this version of Modern is actually fun to watch. (See, I said I’d get back to that.) Yes, there are individual cards that hose entire decks, but from the viewer’s perspective, that creates drama. Will the Twin player draw the Blood Moon that wrecks his opponent? Does the Burn player have the Combust that aces Twin? Can the Affinity player deal 20 (or maybe 10 infect) before Creeping Corrosion comes online? Can the Amulet Bloom player go off on turn 2 before that Torpor Orb hits the table? Can the burn deck draw enough gas before it dies to the turn 4 Splinter Twin? Yes, there’s a lot of variance, but if it’s the right kind of variance, it’s fun to watch because it creates drama. (Mana screw and mana flood are mostly not fun to watch.) I think what we had with this Modern PT was the right kind of variance.

I can see why as a Pro player, this would be maddening. You want to play a “fair” deck to reduce variance and give yourself the best opportunity to outplay your opponent, or maybe your build is just a little better than your opponent’s because you’ve been more diligent in testing, and you want that edge to count. You don’t want it to come down entirely to factors that are beyond your ability to control in-game, or at least prepare for in deckbuilding. I suspect a lot of Pros miss Birthing Pod because it is an outstanding variance reducer. (I suspect this is the same underlying logic that has led several Pros to say they are no longer interested in limited GPs because they have no control over their sealed pool.)

But what’s good for the some individual Pro players is not the same as what’s good for the game, or even good for the PT from WotC’s perspective. My son and I enjoyed the coverage, and we’re excited to play Modern. I think that’s what WotC wants, and so I think this PT, and this Modern format, are actually successful.

Starting Off FRF Standard

So, I haven’t posted here in a long time. It’s not because I haven’t been playing MTG, it’s just that I haven’t gotten around to posting. My last post was… yikes, in the summer, back in June. I won’t recount everything since then, but a little summary is in order.

For JOU standard, I only played in 4 events, but managed a 15-5-5 overall record cashing in 2 of the 4. Not too bad. For M15 standard, I played 9 different decks at 12 events and put up a solid but not awesome 30-19-7 record, cashing 5 times. For KTK standard, I played 10 different decks in 13 events and put up a somewhat more indifferent 29-20-10 record with 4 cashes. Now, while I didn’t do all that well, I did really enjoy KTK Standard. There seemed to be a good variety of decks and a number of different strategies. I think my favorite deck was Brad Nelson’s 4-color midrange deck that ran both Siege Rhino and Butcher of the Horde. Powerful cards, sketchy manabase? Sign me up! (That was one of the 4 cashes.)

So now we’re up to FRF and I’m guessing there won’t be a huge number of events for me since my LGS has gone to Modern on Sundays rather than Standard, but that’s OK in that I think Modern is now pretty fun since the Treasure Cruise and Birthing Pod bans.



First FNM, 2/6: Sultai Walkers

So, the first Standard rolled around, I hadn’t really looked at singles, and sifted through what came out of what I got at the prerelease and what I got in the box I bought, and had very little time to be creative, so I just played a stock list that I liked, which was Fabiano’s list from the SCG Open. Not very original, but it’s a fun list!

Round 1: Elliot playing Mardu Midrange
Felt like a slightly unfair matchup overall with a couple caveats. Butcher of the Horde doesn’t die to Sultai Charm, which puts some early pressure on the Downfalls, and that makes Sarkhan somewhat annoying. However, Kiora handles Sarkhan pretty well, so it all worked out just fine after a Dig found her.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games

Round 2: Alex playing Abzan Midrange
Alex is a long-time regular and a strong player who’s been on this deck since right after KTK came out. He does love his rhinos. Game 1 I had an early Ashiok, which is very good in this matchup and that gummed things up a bit until he finally managed to use a lot of his own cards killing, well, his own cards. He finally got ahead on board, with even an Elspeth out, but I was able to come back by casting Ugin and taking a -6 to wipe out his side of the table. Game 2 I stumbled a little bit, which was aided by an early Thoughtseize, and he carried it without too much trouble. Game 3 was more interesting, and came down to a race. He had an Ajani, Mentor of Heroes on the table, and I had Tasigur and an Ashiok-stolen Fleecemane Lion, and he was at 14 and had just swung at me with a rhino with 3 counters on it, putting me at 13. He had no cards in hand. Should I swing at the Ajani, or go for the two-turn clock and swing at Alex? I chose to swing at Alex. He untapped, made the rhino into a 10/11 and hit me down to 3, and passed. I drew… not a removal spell. Well, I had lethal on the board, so I had to hope his last draw was also not removal… and it wasn’t, for the win.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games

Round 3: Mac playing UB Control
I probably punted this first game somewhere along the way, because I actually got milled out with him at 7. I probably went one or two too deep on Digs. Game 2 I managed to stick and protect a Kiora long enough to ultimate her, and while he did a good job of staying alive for a while against he kraken tokens, they ultimately ran him out of cards and got there. Unfortunately, these games simply took way too long and these slow decks could not finish against each other in game 3.
2-0-1 matches, 5-2-1 games

Round 4: Dillon, playing UB Control
Great, two UB Control players in the room and I got both of them. Game 1 I managed to actually kill a Pearl Lake Ancient by getting him to bounce it with a removal spell, then coming back with a Thoughtseize. I again got Kiora to her ultimate, and the tokens got there. Game 2 I punted hard. I got a turn 2 Rakshasa Deathdealer and was getting in there with it, but I got a little greedy with pumps and pumped twice to take one more turn off the clock, fearing a Perilous Vault, and the second pump meant I could only regenerate once, and Dillon had the pair of removal spells to kill it, and I got milled out by his sideboard, cast on turn 2 Grindclock. We didn’t even get to start game 3.
2-0-2 matches, 6-3-1 games

Round 5: Karl playing Abzan midrange
Karl could draw in but I couldn’t, so we played it out. My score sheet tells me that the only damage I took in game 1 was 2 from my own Thoughtseize, but I don’t remember how I won it.. Game 2 I managed to get to a board state where he had just an Elspeth and six tokens on the board and I cast Downfall at the end of his turn, untapped, and cast Ugin with a minus zero to wipe his board, and managed to get Ugin to ultimate.
3-0-2 matches, 8-3-1 games

Quaterfinals: Karl playing Abzan Midrange
Turns out Karl made it on breakers so we got to go again. He won the die roll and I was just a step behind all game, and simply could not draw a Crux to get back into it. (In fact, I never cast Crux the entire night.) Game 2 he mulled to six, kept a two-lander, did not draw a third land for way too long, and that was it. Game 3 was a tight one. He actually got me down to 7 and I cast Interpret the Signs and scry’d to see two lands and a Thoughtseize. I sent them all to the bottom and flipped… Ugin. Whew. Drew 8 cards, he hit me down to 5, and I cast Ugin to wipe the board. That stabilized me and I just overwhelmed him with card advantage.
4-0-2 matches, 10-4-1 games

We split in the top 4 because it was late and I was paired in the top 4 with my son, so splitting was the way to go for a final record of 4-0-3.

Comments on the Deck
It’s a very good deck and it’s quite fun to play. Ugin is insanely powerful—I will admit I really underestimated his -X ability until I got to make use of it. Good stuff indeed. Specific card comments:

  • Rakshasa’s Secret is an odd card. There were a couple situations in which it was pretty good, and a lot of others where I just wished it was almost anything else. Cute, but I would probably cut it from the main deck in favor of a third Sultai Charm and another copy of the next card.
  • Silumgar, the Drifting Death is insanely good and should be in the main deck.
  • I have no idea what Feed the Clan is supposed to be doing in the sideboard and if I had thought about it for 30 seconds before throwing the deck together I would have cut it completely, probably for a third Pharika’s Cure and a second Drown in Sorrow.
  • I also probably would have cut the Polukranos from the sideboard. I never even considered siding it in, but then again, I didn’t play against a lot of small ago decks. I’d probably replace it with a third Crux.
  • I liked Tasigur in the sideboard. You want their removal to be dead in game 1, then they side it out, and that makes Tasigur good in game 2.
  • Sultai Charm is great. Gives you a way to interact with things like Whip and the Sieges or take out a Banishing Light or a Vault. Very high utility.
  • Look, we all know that Dig Through Time is amazing, but it feels even more amazing in this deck, because this is the one that really wants the filtering, and instant speed? Excellent.

Second FNM, 2/13: RG Aggro

I never play the same deck twice in a row, and I try not to even repeat decks at all too often. So, I decided to go completely the other way here and go for the beatdown. This week I had a little more time to think about this and while I looked at other lists for inspiration, I came up with my own take. The 3-drop slot here is packed, but all with 2s and 3s rather than 4-ofs because I wanted a little more robustness to Bile Blight. So, here’s the list:

Round 1: Marcus playing Mono-red Aggro
I apparently had ninja cutting skills in game 1, because he mulled to 3 and I had a strong draw, so on to game 2. This was more exciting. He got me down to 5 but I had an active Chandra which really took over the board, and then Sarkhan came to play as well and closed it out. The key to this game was that I managed a couple 2-for-1’s with him enchanting creatures with Hammerhand and then me burning the creature. Good to get ahead on cards in the aggro matchup.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games

Round 2: Alex playing Abzan
Same Alex as round 2 from last FNM—we seem to get paired a lot. That’s fine by me, he’s a good guy and a skilled pilot so the matches are usually good. Well, this one wasn’t that great. Game 1 I ramped into a turn 3 Chandra protected by a an Heir, which was a great way to control his Siege Rhino, making it unable to block. He eventually did swing it into the Heir because he was worried about Chandra’s ultimate, and then the coast was clear for Yasova and friends. Game 2 his best play other than Thoughtseizing Xenagos early was killing an Ashcloud Phoenix in response to me bestowing a Boon Satyr on it. It wasn’t enough, though, and my air forces carried it.
2-0 matches, 4-0 games

Round 3: Jason playing RW Aggro
Jason is one of the store’s stronger players (he won the Modern SCG Super IQ last weekend) and he was really talking up his deck as the best deck in the format with no bad matchups. Well, it certainly didn’t play out that way. Game 1 I kept a hand with triple Lightning Strike in it and killed two early Rabblemasters with them, and used the third one to finish him after Chandra kept the other tokens at bay and my air force got there. Game 2 he got all excited when he slammed turn 4 Outpost Siege on to the table. I slowly untapped, played my fourth land, played an Heir of the Wilds and then a Back to Nature, followed that with a Stormbreath the next turn, and then a couple turns later made the Stormbreath into a true monster. Look, the RW aggro deck is really good, I like it a lot and will probably play it myself sometime, but there’s not a lot it can do against a 7/7 flyer with pro white.
3-0 matches, 6-0 games

Round 4: Kevin playing Esper Control
Not a super popular deck in the format, but Kevin has been on it for some time and generally pilots it pretty well. At 3-0 it’s sometimes possible to double-draw the last two rounds, so I offered Kevin a draw but at 2-1 he couldn’t take it so we played. I won Game 1 largely on the back of multiple Ashcloud Phoenixes, which just took him too many resources to deal with, though ultimately I got there against an active Elspeth. He had just cast her against my board of Chandra, Yasova, and an Heir. I pinged a token and stole another one so he had no productive blocks other than chumping the Heir, which was not a good long-term solution. Game 2 in came all 5 extra planeswalkers, but he got Xenagos early with a Thoughtsieze. Turn 3 I cast a Fanatic and he paid tribute, and then he followed up by tapping out for Sorin and made a vampire. I thought that was a slightly weird play given the board, but I swung at Sorin… and he blocked with the token. Uhh, OK, Sorin’s dead. “What?” he said. I reminded him that Fanatic has trample. Not his best play ever, but I was stuck on three land for a couple turns so he recovered (and my 4th land was a Rugged Highlands, so not so great). There was some back and forth and we got to this board state: I had five lands, Chandra, and an Heir in play with three cards in hand and him at 11. I don’t remember exactly how many lands he had untapped—I think two—and he had something on the board he could have blocked with. I activated Chandra for zero and hit exactly what I wanted: a Mountain (well, any untapped land would have done). Cast Ashcloud Phoenix, resolved, which meant the coast was probably clear. Swing with Heir, ferocious trigger, he chose not to block. Delve five, cast Become Immense, hit for 9. With my last land, cast Crater’s Claws for 0, ferocious trigger for 2, GG. Sweet.
4-0 matches, 8-0 games

Round 5: ID
We were the 1 and 2 seeds, so we took the draw. It’s pretty rare to run the table without even a game loss, but sometimes that happens. I credited my quality draws (I had a few mulligans, but nothing below six), but I was feeling good about the situation. Then the top 8 happened and the pairings…ugh.
4-0-1 matches

Quarterfinals: Zach, playing Mono-black Aggro
Game 1 I kept a very slightly sketchy draw with only one land, but multiple mana dorks. As it turned out, that wasn’t going to get it done against his awesome draw of turn 1 Bloodsoaked Champion followed by two more of them on turn 2. His turn 3 was a Bile Blight on my two Elvish Mystics and that pretty much ended it. Game 2 I kept a better hand, but his turn 1 play was to get an Arc Lightning with a Thoughtsieze and then strip my only threat card with a Despise. Not much happened for a while after that since he was stuck on two land and I was flooding, but he can function better on two land than I can with no spells, and when he ripped the third land and started dropping Herald of Torments, it was over.
4-1-1 matches, 8-2 games

Bleah, so much for good draws getting me there. Kind of disappointing to start out 8-0 in games and then fail to cash.

Comments on the Deck
Overall I liked it a lot. It’s fast and powerful, with a little more resilience and reach than a lot of other aggro decks. I can definitely see myself playing this deck again. Card choice comments:

  • Not sure about Back to Nature. Yes, powerful, but Destructive Revelry might just be better in this deck.
  • Fanatic of Xenagos was excellent. He’s great as a followup to turn 2 Heir, because no matter what they choose, Heir gets ferocious.
  • Both kinds of Phoenix were very strong. Flamewake was not as good as Ashcloud, but it was still good and I’m glad I split the 3 slot up to have a diverse set of threats. I don’t think I ever un-morphed an Ashcloud, but it was still a great 2-for-1 in multiple games and of course enables ferocious.
  • Memo to standard: Stormbreath Dragon is still good.
  • Yasova was only OK, as was Boon Satyr. 4-power 3-drops are of course highly aggressive and Yasova’s ability is powerful on paper, but with Wild Slash becoming more popular, it’s not clear these 2-toughness creatures are worth 3 mana. I’d probably cut one Satyr for a Shaman of the Great Hunt, which yes, does still die to shock effects, but usually not after the first turn.
  • I had been tempted before the tournament to cut a Chandra from the main deck but I’m glad I didn’t; she was excellent. She’s feels like she’s great against almost everything in the format right now. She kills mana dorks and tokens, she makes Siege Rhino and other midrange-y creatures unable to block, and she’s a card advantage machine vs. control. She seems very well-suited to the current metagame.
  • The card I sided out the most was Rattleclaw Mystic. I would probably cut both of those, one for the 4th Elvish Mystic and the other for a second Shaman of the Great Hunt.

While all that was good, I’m still not sure how this deck beats Drown in Sorrow, which kills more than half of the creatures in here. Siege Rhino is a small problem in game 1 (though as I said, Chandra helps a lot with that), but it seems like such a juicy Harness by Force target in sideboard games that I’m not that worried about it.

Fate Reforged Game Day Champion: 4-Color Delve

OK, so this is the juicy one, because (a) it’s a little more off the beaten path, and (b) the results were quite good.

The list is based on Patrick Crowe’s list from SCG Indianapolis. I switched it up a little and in retrospect I would have switched it up a little more now that I’ve played it, but the basic framework is the same. The main change is that list is Whip-less, and Whip seems really good with this, so I added one to the main and 1 to the sideboard. Also, I think I’m playing Silumgar in almost any list that can support it right now. So, the final deal looks like this:

Now, there was an SCG in town, so the Game Day field was not huge: 4 rounds cut to top 4 rather than top 8. However, the Ugin playmat is gorgeous, so the folks who did show up all brought their A game and everyone really wanted the mat.

Round 1: Brianna playing RB Aggro
Turn 1 Monastery Swiftspear had me thinking mono-red aggro, which is probably not the ideal game 1 matchup for this deck, but hers was a slower build that ran black for things like Bloodsoaked Champion and Hero’s Downfall. I’ve gone a little sour on the Courer-Carytid thing, in part because I’ve played it a fair amount, and in part because so many decks are so well-tuned to beat it, but turns out those are still good vs. weenie aggro, and I got Coursers active in both games. Also, Wayfinder is also great vs. weenie decks. Siege Rhino also still good here, and the rhino/Sidisi combo was just way too much.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games

Round 2: Michael playing Abzan Midrange
“Abzan Midrange” is itself kind of a range of decks right now—this was at the more control-y end of that range. Still running Carytid and Courser, with Rhinos and Elspeths and lots of removal. Michael is a regular at my LGS and we’ve played lots of times in the “Michael Mirror” and he’s always fun to play against and a gracious guy, win or lose. Anyway, he got on the board first with a Courser, and I got a turn 4 Sidisi, which flipped a Soul into the graveyard. He made a Rhino but didn’t swing with it the following turn because he wanted to force me to keep Sidisi back. Other than land drops, we both blanked turn 5. Turn 6 I cast Silumgar, and turn 7 I swung with the dragon, Sidisi, and the zombie token. Sidisi’s trigger got me another zombie. He blocked Sidisi with Rhino and the token with Courser, and before damage I exiled Soul for the blowout 13-point life gain and board wipe. He came back with a bunch of removal spells and Nissa, but the dragon was still doing work. After activating two of his lands, he did gain 8 life and draw a couple cards off of a Shamanic Revelation but once I got a Rhino and he was out of removal, it was over. Game 2 wasn’t very exciting, as he was a bit mana screwed and I generated both a Rhino and a Whip, so that ended ugly.
2-0 matches, 4-0 games

Round 3: Zach, playing Mono-black Aggro
Yes, this is the same Zach that I lost to in the top 8 at FNM. The super-aggro deck didn’t seem like the best matchup for me in game 1, but the extra Whip and the Drowns in game 2 gave me hope for the later games. Game 1 he had another great draw, I didn’t, and he just mowed me down. Game 2 I boarded in the two Drowns, the Whip, and the Banishing Light. He did not manage much early pressure and if I’m still at 16 life at turn 6 and I can cast a Soul, the game is not going to end well for him. Game 3 was the closest game of the day. I got Sidisi going to make blockers that traded with most of his stuff, but he got out a Brutal Hordechief and that was a problem. Fortunately, I got a Whip, but he came back by bestowing a Herald on something and got me down to 3. I got something else and a Tasigur to make all of his attacks bad and swung with Sidisi to get myself back to 6. I finally locked it up with Silumgar after a swing that brought me from 6 to 12.
3-0 matches, 6-1 games

Round 4: ID
My 11-year-old son, playing RW Aggro, was the only other undefeated so we ID’d. This was the first time my LGS was going to use play-draw in the elimination rounds based on seeding, so we could have played for the 1 seed, but the loser would probably lose the 2 seed, so we didn’t play it out.
3-0-1 matches, 6-1 games

Semifinals: Victor playing Abzan Aggro
Real aggro with Deathdealers and Fleecemane Lions, and a new twist I liked, Warden of the First Tree. Fortunately I was on the play and had a turn 2 Wayfinder and a turn 3 Courser. He got two early Wardens, though, but I managed a Rhino and he kept dumping mana into the Wardens, plus got a Downfall for my Rhino. I got a Whip, though, so I had some cushion, and then got Sidisi, which I needed because he got a Warden up to 8/8, but now I had enough in my yard to also delve for a Cut on his big Warden. A Sidisi attack got a Soul into the yard and a full swing out got me to 47 life, which was it. Game 2 I ended up using two Glares on two Lions in order to prevent them from going monstrous, I managed to dump stuff into the yard with Wayfinders, including a Soul, and another Soul-fueled attack got me from 4 to 13 life and a Rhino stabilized the board fully and dropping a Soul onto the board from my hand ended it.
4-0-1 matches, 8-1 games

Finals: Zach playing Mono-black Aggro
So Zach ended up being the #4 seed and beat my son in the other semis by apparently topdecking a Bile Blight in one game and a lethal Mogis’s Marauder in the other one, so we had the rematch, and the rubber match for the weekend since we had played each other twice since Friday. Hooray for being the top seed and being on the play. Game 1 I mulled to six into a hand with a Wayfinder and another dork plus a Whip, which is a snap keep. He Thoughtseized me for the Whip, though, but I was happy to trade the Wayfinder for one of his 2/1s and then hit another Wayfinder to fill the yard, giving me an early Tasigur and a Rhino. He had a bunch of 2/1s on the board and cast Grim Haruspex, figuring he could swing in and not worry about losing too many guys since he’d get card draw, but I had a Cut in hand and just enough to delve it mid-combat, so his guys died without replacement, and my 4/5s were just better than his guys and carried me. Game 2 was another game decided by life gain, including two Rhinos and a Whip-backed attack that brought me from 3 to 15. He hit me back to 10 in the air with a something that had a Herald on it, but I got out Silumgar and even though he drew another Herald and had the mana to bestow it, he couldn’t get through the flier and that was it.
5-0-1 matches, 10-1 games

Hooray, my second Game Day championship. Not really that big a deal since there weren’t all that many players, but hey, now I have this:

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Pretty hot, actually. I think it’s even better than my Theros Game Day champion playmat. I own probably around 10 playmats and I almost always use my Baneslayer Angel playmat, but I gave it a rest for all of THS standard for that playmat, and I think I’ll give it another rest for the remainder of FRF standard. Heh, fun.

Comments on the Deck
While I really enjoyed the deck a lot —winning is always fun—and it’s plenty powerful, I’d make a bunch of changes were I to play it again. Some thoughts on the good and the bad:

  • Satyr Wayfinder is the best card in the deck, hands down. Digging for land is critical in a 4-color deck and filling your graveyard is awesome.
  • Soul of Theros was indeed excellent but I wouldn’t want 4. The mana requirements are too steep, and you never want one in your opening hand.
  • I’m really not sure what I was thinking with Rattleclaw Mystic. Should have been either Elvish Mystics or one of those and a 4th Courser. They gave me something good to side out when I was bringing in Drown, though.
  • Commune with the Gods was mediocre. I’m glad I cut to 1 and could see cutting the last one entirely.
  • Treasure Cruise was only OK, but then I didn’t play against any control decks. It’s actually not super easy to cast since you’re always pulling stuff from the yard for other reasons. I think I’d rather have a Dig, except of course double blue would be a challenge without the Rattleclaws.
  • This is the right deck for Tasigur and the best deck for Murderous Cut. I cast those for one or two mana all day. Such value.
  • Sidisi was interesting. Half the time I wasn’t that excited to draw or play it, but it was always good (I rarely whiffed) and the extra cards in the graveyard were fantastic.
  • The aggro matchup is better than I thought. I boarded in Drown in Sorrow a lot but never actually cast it and still did fine vs. aggro decks.
  • I felt like a solid favorite vs. Abzan Midrange because while they have a lot of removal, you have even more value than they do and Whip is a monster against them. Plus Disdainful Stroke.
  • On the other hand, I don’t see how it isn’t really soft to control. Whip is good against sweepers like Crux and End Hostilities, but this deck seems pretty soft to Vault. You want either a lot of permanents or a lot of stuff to go to the graveyard, and there is no way to remove a Vault at all other than countering or Thoughtseizing it. Maybe that’s enough but it seems sketchy. I just was lucky enough to dodge that matchup.
  • I didn’t like Wingmate Roc very much. I mean, it’s a good card and casting it wasn’t the issue, but it’s useless in the graveyard and has really poor value with Whip. I know, the original version of this deck didn’t run Whip, but that also didn’t make sense to me. Whip is amazing. I might cut one Roc for a second main deck Whip and then maybe another Silumgar or another removal spell.
  • This deck would fold like a lawn chair to Burn Away or Tormod’s Crypt. Good thing almost nobody boards those. Yikes. Ashiok’s ultimate is normally really good but against this deck it would be GG immediately.

So, now I need a new deck for this week’s FNM. I hate Abzan Midrange, not because it’s a bad deck, but because the mirror is just so awful. (Yes, most mirrors are, but so grindy…)

RUG FunStuff cashes FNM

Been a while since I wrote a report. I only managed to play in a total of a half-dozen events in BNG standard after Game Day, and I wrote a report for the first of those, which was the finals of Game Day with Jund Monsters. I missed Game Day for Journey into Nyx, but this is the second Standard FNM since JOU. However, the first one I was caught off-guard because my LGS switched from draft to Standard last minute, and I ended up playing a Junk midrange deck with like 4 Journey cards that I jammed in at the last minute.

But you don’t want to hear about all that. What you really want is this list and the report, because it’s amusing. Here’s the list:

Is it RUG Monsters? Is it RUG Walkers? I couldn’t decide so I made up a name goofy enough to suit the deck. The key to the fun of the deck is that one slot is, instead of a 4-of, is 4 1-ofs, and each one something slightly weird, but powerful: Keranos, Prophet of Kruphix, Prime Speaker, and Progenitor Mimic—cards a little off the beaten path. I was fully expecting to have people read my cards.

The only cards I really struggled with were the sideboard slots, where I cut three Mistcutters for the 3 Disciples, because I expected mostly control and other aggro, but not mono blue. Turns out this was the wrong call, as there were many people piloting mono blue, but it turned out more or less OK anyway.

Round 1: Naomi, playing BW Midrange
This wasn’t quite the typical BW Midrange, but had some of the same core cards, like Desecration Demon and main deck Doom Blade and Banishing Light. She was also running Hopeful Eidolon, which seems a little substandard, but is actually slightly scary when bestowed on a Desecration Demon, which happened in game 1. The good news is that I had a Xenagos at that point, so I never did get hit by a Demon, but it was like an 11/11 by the end of the game. A Courser and an Ooze kept me OK on life, and while a Stormbreath and that Ooze both died to Ultimate Price, the Courser was still around, and I stuck Keranos, which Naomi stopped and read. The Courser-Domri interaction is one people like to talk about, but Courser-Keranos is no slouch, either, and was the first “achievement unlocked” moment of the night for me. I even got enough devotion to get Keranos live, and that ended it. Game 2 I got an early Domri and we spent most of the rest of the game trading resources. She drew a few creatures, I drew a few removal spells and a lot of land, but could not draw creatures other than Mystics, even with Domri. However, she only had a single creature of her own, and I got Kiora on-line to protect Domri, which I got to ultimate—with two Mystics as my only creatures. I had a Prime Speaker in hand, and I just cast it for a whole 1 counter and 2 cards—weakest Prime Speaker ever. However, with the Domri emblem, even that was enough.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games

Round 2: Nestor, playing mono-White aggro
Interesting matchup, since the only sweeper-like card I have access to is pretty bad against Brave the Elements. In fact, in game 1, my attempted 3-for-1 overloaded Mortars met with exactly a Brave. He did get me down to 9, but Courser and Ooze again kept my life afloat. I did lose a Stormbreath to a main deck Celestial Flare, but I managed a second Stormbreath and then a more respectable Prime Speaker (which he stopped to read), and that locked it up. Game 2 I ramped early into… nothing. However, I did have the mana to overload Mortars after he had tapped out to play a Blind Obedience and then attack with a pair of Boros Elite backed by a Launch the Fleet. My followup to that was Prophet of Kruphix, however, and that not only nullified the tapped part of Blind Obedience, but allowed me to flash in a pair of Ætherlings on consecutive turns (achievement unlocked!). Now, he had been extorting all his small spells and I was down to 5, but a pair of shapeshifters will end the game pretty quickly.
2-0 matches, 4-0 games

Round 3: Tim, playing mono-Black aggro
So, this matchup is mostly about trying to stay alive long enough to be able to overload Mortars, which is a one-way Wrath here. In Game 1 I managed to do exactly that behind a Carytid and an Ooze, then later a Courser after the Ooze had eaten a Doom Blade. Ral Zarek also kept his guys mostly off the table. I don’t even remember which big monsters brought it home in the end. Game 2 I mulled to six and still didn’t have a great hand, and he just curved me into oblivion and I didn’t get enough removal. Game 3 he drew pretty much all the 2-power 1-drops available in his deck. I had a Carytid and a Courser out, but he had 5 2-power guys on the board (plus two Mutavaults) and had bestowed a Gnarled Scarhide on my Courser so I couldn’t block with it. I was at 7 and had a Mortars and a Nylea’s Disciple in my hand with four lands and the Carytid on board. I drew for my turn, and if the top card flip was a non-Temple land, I could haved wiped his board and then followed up with a life gain of five. And the top card was… Kiora. Dang. The next card was a Steam Vents. Bummer, missed it by a card. Good match.
2-1 matches, 5-2 games

Round 4: Karl, playing mono-Blue
As I said in the intro, I didn’t think there would be any of this around and so I didn’t have much in the way of sideboard for this matchup. My best hope was to sneak by game 1 on the back of his lack of removal, and then hope to split the sideboarded games. A fair if somewhat unlikely plan. Game 1 turned into a classic. He had a faster start than me, of course, but not too fast, so I had a chance. I got out a Prophet, which was excellent. However, he came back with a Master of Waves for six (yikes!) and swung with his only flier (a 2/3 Cloudfin) and I think with Thassa. However, I flashed in a Stormbreath to block and kill the Cloudfin. Then on my turn I had a land, and cast Progenitor Mimic, which caused a slight ruckus. Karl stopped and read the card a couple times, finally looked and me and said “every upkeep?” I nodded. “And when you copy the Dragon, this will have haste, too, won’t it?” I nodded again, and he handed the card back—it resolved, and copied my Stormbreath Dragon (achievement unlocked!). I attacked for 8, putting him to 10 and everything untapped. He was able to hit me down to 8 on the swing back, but he couldn’t stop 12 in the air the following turn. Game 2 I had a turn 1 Mystic, which he locked down with a Tidebinder. I don’t remember if I had a turn 2 play, but his 3 was a Nightveil Specter, and his 4 was Thassa, and he just ran me over—that one was short and boring, but easy for him. Game 3 I had a turn 1 Mystic again, he played a Familiar. I played a Temple and passed. He played land, swung in the air, and passed with no 2-drop. On my 3, I played land and passed with a Syncopate in hand, expecting a Thassa on 3 from him. He obliged, and I could Syncopate for 1 and leave 1 up to pay for the Familiar, so Thassa hit the bin. On my 4 I played Prophet and untapped on his turn. He played a Cloudfin and passed, and on his end step I flashed in an Ooze and a Courser. He realized just how bad the Prophet really was for him and Hybridized it in response to the second creature. I untapped, played Xenagos, and swung with Courser, Frog Lizard, Satyr token, and Elf. He played a not very relevant Bident, I made another Satyr token and some other monster and that was it. (I’m pretty sure he thought he had me with Thassa followed by Bident and Cloudfin—I don’t think he saw the Syncopate coming.)
3-1 matches, 7-3 games

Round 5: Festus, playing mono-Red
The breaks were funny because there were two people with 10 points, but they weren’t paired, and there were many people with 9, including one 9 who got rounded down and had to play a 7. We were 4th and 5th on breakers, though, and decided to chance it and ID’d. It worked, we both got in.
3-1-1 matches, 7-3 games

Quarterfinals: John, playing Jund Monsters
I think that strictly speaking, Jund is the better deck overall (has to be more consistent than my collection of 1-ofs). But head-to-head, I think it’s pretty close, and these games were entirely consistent with that. Game 1 he came out a little faster than I did and I was at 10 pretty quick (some of that was shockland damage) but I managed to stabilize with a 3-for-1 overloaded Mortars because I got two lands in play on 1 turn with Kiora’s minus-1, and that meant we were going for the long game. I managed to get out an Ooze and eat four creatures, and while that ate a removal spell and he eventually got Kiora, I cast both Ral Zarek and Xenagos on the same turn (untagging a land with Ral to cast the second planes walker) and things started to get interesting. I got a Stormbreath and got it monstrous, and attacked and then untapped it with Ral. He played a Stormbreath of his own (I knew it was coming; he had a Courser out) but couldn’t swing. I saw his next card was a Ghor-Clan Rampager and he was at 14. He had the ground kind of clogged with two Coursers, I had a Courser of my own and a Satyr token. He had plenty of land—certainly enough to monstrous his Stormbreath—but he was dead if I could connect twice with my Stormbreath. Also, Ral was up to 6. So I ticked up Ral to tap his Dragon and swing in for 7 and made another Satyr. He drew the Ghor-Clan and revealed a land (fortunately not a Dreadbore, but he had already used one of those), which he played to put him back up to 9. He could not get out since I was either going to ultimate Ral or get in with Stormbreath and my ground crew, so we went to game 2. Game 2 was another tricky one. I got an early Domri and a Courser, and there was a Stormbreath on the top of my library (but another in my hand). He was ahead on mana, also had a Courser out, and cast Vraska. So, the decision: plus Vraska or use her to take out Domri? If he had plussed her, I would have used Domri to have my Dragon fight his Courser and then swung into Vraska, then taken Vraska out with the second Stormbreath. Instead, he took out Domri. I got in with the Dragon, then got a second Dragon, then wiped his board with a Mortars. He came back by wiping my Dragons out with a Mortars of his own—I probably should have made one monstrous to avoid that, but instead had cast a Kiora. However, he was only able to manage one creature and so Kiora ticked up and I added a Domri. I stuck a Keranos and had a Prime Speaker in hand, but not enough devotion to turn Keranos on, even if I played the Prime Speaker (still only six). But I managed to get Kiora to 5 and got to ultimate her (achievement unlocked) and that was the match.
4-1-1 matches, 9-3 games

Semifinals: ID
It was past midnight and my 10-year-old was with me, and other folks were amenable to a split, so we chopped the prize pool. The top 4 split was $35 in store credit, and I won the die roll for a promo, so a pretty good night overall.

Comments on the Deck
Well, I have to say, this was the most fun I’ve had playing Magic in a long time. Not simply because I mostly won, which is always nice, but because I got to unleash my inner Timmy. Or is that Johnny, I can never really get those straight. Regardless, there are multiple cute interactions possible in the deck which makes it very fun to play. And there are 9 Planeswalkers. Other thoughts:

  • I think it’s a little soft to straight aggro which is why the three Disciples are in the sideboard, but I’m not sure that’s the right answer.
  • Ral Zarek was actually pretty good. I had thought about cutting him but I’m glad I didn’t.
  • I sided in Turn / Burn often, so maybe at least one of those should be in the main deck.
  • Prophet of Kruphix is amazing. Might want to work in a second one.
  • Prime Speaker Zegana is, even for this deck, probably trying to be a little greedy. I’d like to try a Xenagos, God of Revels in that spot.
  • Despite winning, I’m still not sure the mono-blue matchup is that great. Mistcutters would be nice, but I’m not sure what comes out of the sideboard; maybe the Needles.

Naya Control Cashes LGS Sunday Standard

OK, so I wrote this a while ago (December 29th, so almost a month) and forgot to actually post it. It’s not a super impressive win or anything, but I need this for reference in a post I’m going to do soon, so here it is…

On Sundays my LGS has been running standard, and every once in a while we make it to that. For Christmas this year I got a couple of Stormbreath Dragons and so I decided I should put those to use, and put together Naya Control. Here’s the list:

The sideboard is a little weird as there really should be 1 or 2 more Assemble the Legion in there, but I only had 2. (That situation has been corrected.) Not tons of people, so four rounds cutting to top 4.

Round 1: Sean, playing Jund Aggro
G1 I got a little behind, but got him to swing into 4 open mana on my end (1 was a Keyrune) and thus into a Wurm token. I ended up with two Keyrunes, which are actually pretty good against 2-power creatures and Dreadbores. I played Elspeth and that covered it. Game 2 he mulled to 5 and I kept a 2-lander with 3 Chained to the Rocks, an Anger, and a Charm. Needless to say, nothing of his early plays lived, and I eventually drew into a Smiter and Xenagos, and they went all the way.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games

Round 2: John, playing Orzhov Control
Best match of the day, though this is in part because I punted the first game. I got T3 Smiter, then T4 I played land and passed because I had an Advent in my hand, and he played a Sin Collector, so I cast Advent in response. He took a Mizzium Mortars. I came back with another Smiter and swung, he chumped the Smiter with the Collector. The problem is that he came back with a Blood Baron. Oops, no Mortars. Now, with 13 power on the board and a lead on the life total, this was winnable, but he drew some removal and then I punted. He was at 11 and had a Pack Rat in play and 3 mana open; I had a Chained, an Anger, and a Charm in hand. So, if I got rid of the Rat, I had him. Unfortunately, I led with the Anger. He just let the Rat die and cast Devour Flesh when I swung. If I had used the Chained instead, I could have Charmed in response to the Devour to sac the knight token and gotten in for lethal. Of course, he came back with a second Blood Baron and I lost that race. G2 I kept a 2-lander (both W/R land) with a Keyrune, both Elspeth, a Xenagos and a Charm. he Thoughtseized me turn 1 and took Xenagos. I did eventually draw land—more W/R land—and he got stuck on 3 Swamps. I cast T5 Elspeth and made tokens, he Downfall’d her. T6 we did it again. He did draw a 4th land, but the tokens and the Keyrune got there. G3 I took out both a Pack Rat and a Llifebane Zombie (that had missed) with Anger and then stuck an Assemble, then locked it out with Ruric Thar after taking out his Connectioned Swamp with a Bramblecrush.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games

Round 3: Sabrina, playing Monoblack
This wasn’t quite the standard monoblack build but did run Gray Merchants and a mess of other black cards, including things like Tormented Hero and Agent of the Fates. Game 1 was T2 removal for me, T3 Smiter, T4 Advent, T5 Smiter and she was stuck on 3 and I just rolled. Game 3 was much closer. While I did eventually develop an insane board with two Assembles, Xenagos, and Elspeth, my life total was dangerously low because of a couple Gray Merchants. Fortunately, she did not draw another one or any kind of answer to my massive token assault, so I carried it.
3-0 matches, 6-1 games

Round 4: Festus, playing RDW
We were the only two undefeateds so we were guaranteed a spot in the top 4 and we ID’d.
3-0-1, 6-1 games

Sometimes at the LGS we split the top 4, and this ended up being one of those times because one of the guys who made it had to go, and one of the others in the top 4 was my son Simon, and we hate playing each other to determine differences in store credit that we end up splitting anyway, so we were all cool with a split.

Thoughts on the Deck
Very fun, lots of different angles to play, and the matchups seem interesting. I played a couple games between rounds against a proper monoblack devotion deck and split. The deck really should run 2 more Assembles in the sideboard, which is amazing against Monoblack. I’d like to play the monoblue matchup to see how that goes, but it seems to have very solid game against other aggro. I’d also like to play against UW or UWx control, which seems like it might be a tougher matchup.

Kibler Golgari Cashes FNM

So, last time out I played the (almost) mono White devotion deck, which was great fun, and I split in the finals. I used the winnings there to pick up the last few cards I needed for Kibler’s Golgari deck, which is what I played. I’ve seen two versions of his list, one revised fairly recently. I didn’t have the 4 Polukranos I needed for that version, so I kind of split the difference between the two versions and came up with this list:

I’m never really sure whether to call this an aggro deck or a midrange deck. Is it on the aggro side of midrange, or the midrange side of aggro? Not sure, and I’m even more sure it doesn’t matter very much.

Note the GP Dallas-Fort Worth is this weekend, and what surprised me was how many of the regulars were there among the people I expected to be headed up to Dallas. So, 5 rounds of Swiss cutting to top 8.

Round 1: John, playing Sin City (that’s WBR) Midrange
Or maybe this is control; again, it’s a bit of a gray area. I kind of like this deck in principle, but the one time I’ve played it this season it was a disaster, and the one time I played against it earlier this season, I won handily because my opponent had mana issues. John, who I’ve played several times in the past and know to be a good player, did not have mana issues. Neither of these games was particularly interesting. He had the answer in hand for everything I put on the table game 1, and game 2 I kept an opener with 2 Abrupt Decays, which I probably should have sided out anyway, and drew a third, and just did not have enough action to get anywhere. Not an auspicious start.
0-1 matches, 0-2 games

Round 2: Jeremy, playing Monoblack Devotion
I’ve played Jeremy several times this season and knew what was coming. Game 1 I drew 9 land and 4 spells and just didn’t make much out of it. I boarded in the Betrayls, the Charms, the Ultimate Prices, and the Downfall—tons of removal. He Thoughtseized me 3 times early and took removal each time, but I slipped a couple creatures out onto the table and drew the removal I needed to keep his serious threats off and won. Game 3 he had removal for my early creatures and I got a Bow, gaining six life off that and then I got a Lotleth Troll that I could rengerate through his removal and just kept putting counters on it, getting it up to a 6/5 that he never killed, and a second Troll and a Reaper joined the party. You know you’re in trouble when you’re chumping with Desecration Demons.
1-1 matches, 2-3 games

Round 3: Mason, playing Gruul
It was a hydra-heavy mostly green ramp/devotion deck. Game 1 we traded a few things back and forth but I drew a couple Thoughtseizes and most of my removal and that got me there. Game 2 he got a turn 4 Kalonian Hydra and me with no removal spell, and when he got a turn 5 followup Kalonian Hydra, that was it for me. Game 3 I got a turn 2 Dreg Mangler off a Mystic, and when I swung with it the third time he didn’t block and I flashed a Boon Satyr onto it to bring him down to 7. My lead at that point was just a little too big for him to overcome.
2-1 matches, 5-4 games

Round 3: Marcus, playing Monoblack Devotion
Wow, not too much of this in the meta, is there? I don’t really remember Game 1 very well—I think it was Troll into Dreg Mangler into a lot of removal from him and some Demons that I could’t quite keep pace with. Game 2 I had two early Trolls that he kept blocking with Pack Rat tokens, which kept most of them small. I got a Reaper and kept the pressure on, and he did finally get an Erebos and then got devotion with an Underworld Connections. I scry’d when something went to the ‘yard and kept a Boon Satyr on top with him at 2. Next turn I swung out, he blocked the two Trolls with two 3/3 Rats (only 3/3 because he activated a Mutavault, but he had to tap that to do it) and I flashed the Boon Satyr to trample over for the win. Game 3 involved me opening with a really fast hand (I think turn 2 and 3 Manglers) and then drawing just enough removal to keep the path clear, despite him drawing two Gray Merchants (each for only 2).
3-1 matches, 7-5 games

Round 4: ID
3-1-1 was good enough for top 8, so we drew in. We played for fun anyway, him on RDW, and the RDW matchup isn’t great. They’re just faster, and while it’s winnable (Bow is amazing here), I usually felt behind.
3-1-1 matches, 7-5 games

Quarterfinals: Kevin, playing Monoblue Devotion
Game 1 I kept a hand I probably should not have kept, as it was a 1-lander but with two Mystics. Unfortunately, it took me a few turns to draw a black source (and I had one of the Mystics tapped down on turn 2 by a Tidebinder). When I finally drew a black source, it was of course a Guildgate. Great. Too far behind, I got blown out here. I sided in a whole bunch of cards: The Mistcutters, the Doom Blade, the Charms, the Prices, the Downfall, and the Gifts—11 cards in all. Game 2 went much better. I had a fast draw, he kept a one-lander, and I rolled him, doing the last bit of damage by making Polukranos monstrous to kill his last blocker and swing for lethal. Game 3 was much more interesting. He got a turn 3 Specter that I never killed because there was always a more important target, like a Master of Waves. He hit me many times with that Specter. However, on turn 4 I did get out a Mistcutter for 4 (had a Mystic) and had a 4/4 Ooze as well. The first swing by the Hydra took out a Mutavault, and next turn I put a Gift of Orzhova on the Hydra and got the life total going back north, up from 5 to 10 and hitting him down to 3. He had exactly one out: he had to hit me with his Specter (and he also swung with his 2/3 Cloudfin) and then flip either a Doom Blade or an Ultimate Price to kill the Hydra—not good odds. The flip was… a Swamp.
4-1-1 matches, 9-6 games

While my game win rate wasn’t all that great, the matches ended up OK, and not a bad night at all.

One of the guys in the top 4 really wanted to leave since he was driving up to Dallas for the GP and we all took pity on him and agreed to the split. I picked up a couple more Polukranos, two Curse of the Swine (for Reid Duke’s Bant deck), a Nightveil Specter (#4), and a Xenagos.

The Deck
Overall the deck is clearly solid. It’s not especially fun to play, though it’s not un-fun. It’s pretty straightforward, though the creatures are nicely resilient and/or have value in the graveyard, which does lead to some interesting interactions. Still less fun than either of the two decks I’ve played the last two weeks (BUG Midrange and Wb Devotion).

It plays well vs. both Monoblack and Monoblue, especially after boarding. Against most creature-based decks, it felt a little too heavy on creatures of its own and a little light on removal, so I’d consider moving some creatures out for more main deck removal. The sideboard, however, was great. Golgari Charm is terrific vs. many decks.

Comments on specific cards:

  • Varolz underperformed; I would run only 2 or maybe even 1 next time out.
  • I was very happy splitting 2 and 2 for Witchstalker / Boon Satyr. Boon Satyr is good but hexproof is also really good.
  • Bow of Nylea I didn’t draw very often, but was thrilled with when I did. Very strong card in this deck, might play 2.
  • Kibler cut the Reapers entirely for other cards. Reaper was actually very good, but I could easily see going down to 2. Mostly he’s very strong vs. Monoblack, and you don’t cast him until turn 6 when you can make him hexproof. But he’s a house after that, and he’s even better when you actually remember your scry triggers, which I actually did this time.

Not sure if I will play this one again before Born of the Gods comes out. There are a couple new ones I want to play first, and there are a couple other decks ahead of this in line for being played again, but I might come back to it.

Wb Devotion Takes Down FNM

Since winning Theros Game Day I’ve had a bit of a rough streak, though I did make top 8 in a couple drafts and did also last week, other than that I haven’t had much luck, though I have been having a good time, as Theros standard so far has a good variety of decks. I saw this nearly mono White devotion deck on line and decided I just had to give it a try. I made a couple small changes to the list and ended up playing this:

As usual, I threw it together Friday evening and went into the tournament having not played it at all, other than two quick practice games against my 9 year old son piloting RDW. Regardless, though, I was excited to play it because it looks like such fun. As usual, though, I hadn’t really thought hard about sideboarding; in particular, I never know what to take out. But I winged it, and it turned out OK in the end.

Round 1: Mac, playing Monoblue Devotion
Mac has become a regular at my LGS and we’ve played several times lately. He kept a slightly sketchy hand in Game 1 and I had exactly the right kind of hand to punish it: Solider into Captain into Spear (off Mutavault) and I just ran him over. Game 2 he got an early Thassa and a Weird, then something else to activate Thassa, but on my turn 7 I had the mana to tap out to cast an Angel of Serenity, wiping his board. Unfortunately, he topdecked Jace, activated his -2, and found a Rapid Hybridization. He got his Devotion back up and while we were at a stalemate for a while, his overloaded Cyclonic Rift sealed it. Game 3 my opening hand had two Angels, a Captain, a Brave the Elements, and three land (including a Nykthos) in it. I got devotion going early, wiped him out with an Angel, and had the Brave ready to go when he tried to Rift the Angel.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: Karl, playing Naya
Karl’s deck is mostly RG devotion, but with White for Boros Charm. Game 1 I had a double-Soldier plus Spear and then Captain opening, and pretty much just ran him over. Game 2 I mulliganed down to 5 and he got some early ramp and a Purphoros, and he ramped into a pair of hydras, and I just could not keep pace with the trample on the Kalonian. Game 3 we had an epic board stall where we just played out everything on both sides, though I had three Soldiers and so gained much life. I finally drew a Brave when he was at 14 and I had 22 power on the board and everything but 1 of his creatures was green.
2-0 matches, 4-2 games

Round 3: Michael playing Jund
Michael is a regular who I’ve played many times, but not recently. Game 1 I had a turn 1 Soldier and got a Spear and a couple Banisher Priests to take out his blockers, and ran him over. Game 2 didn’t go much better with early double Captains and a Spear, then Nykthos to cast both a Banisher and a Reckoner on the same turn. It was too much.
3-0 matches, 6-2 games

Round 4: ID
We were both undefeated and could draw in, so we did. I spent the off time playing games against Monoblack, which is a really interesting matchup. I knew what I wanted in: +4 Thoughtseize, +2 Flare, +2 Charm, +2 Blood Baron, but I wasn’t sure what to take out. The Soldiers and the Gideons definitely come out, but after that it’s kind of iffy. Banisher Priest and Angel don’t seem good against all the black removal, but they do force the issue some of the time. We split the games we played, but I won fewer of them. Tricky matchup.
3-0-1 matches, 6-2 games

Quarterfinals: Jason, playing Monoblue
Jason has been a regular there longer than I have, but hasn’t been around much lately. Game 1 we both got very full boards, him with a Master and multiple Tidebinders and Thassa and such, me with a a couple Captains and many solider tokens and a Blood Baron and Elspeth. It was mostly a stalemate until I drew a Brave and swung in for what I thought was lethal, but I blew it because I forgot about his Mutavaults, and he responded to my Brave by Hybridizing my Blood Baron so I didn’t get the life gain, either. His swing back was almost lethal, but he also didn’t take my Mutavault into account, and it didn’t quite get there, so the game went to me. Game 2 I got an Angel on line after he had Weird and Thassa and then Master, and I had the Brave in hand for the Hybridization.
4-0-1 matches, 8-2 games

Semifinals: Nathan playing RDW
This was a really odd game. My opening seven was six lands and a Brave, so I shipped it back and kept a double-Gideon opening hand because I just did not want to go down to 5. I actually ended up casting Gideon and ticking him up to 7 right off the bat, and he threw a lot at him to make sure he died. I followed up with a Blood Baron, and he got me down to 1, but the Baron gained me the requisite life on a swing, and I took out his Burning-Tree with a Banisher Priest. He played a Fanatic to bring me back to 4, but having taken out the Emissary saved me, and the Baron got me back up to 5 again, and swinging with the second Gideon (then at 7) brought him down to 9 and he couldn’t swing productively into my pair of Captains and so Gideon carried it. Game 2 I got an early Fiendslayer, had a Spear, and got an extra counter on the Paladin with Ajani, and the life gain from multiple swings with him kept me alive. Nathan actually got to six land in the game and would have blown me out with an overloaded Mortars, but I had the Brave in hand to keep myself in the game, and Captains again did great work.
5-0-1 matches, 10-2 games

It was past 11:00 at night at this point and I had my 9 year old with me, so I was more than happy to take a split in the finals for $37 in store credit. Got the last couple cards I needed for the Kibler Golgari deck, which is probably what I’ll play next time out.

The Deck
It’s much better than I thought. I mean, I liked how it looked, but it actually plays even better than it looks. Spear in particular is fantastic. The really fast openers—Soldier, Captain, Spear—can be pretty devastating, but the deck has the raw power to take the long game as well, and does not require the fast opener to win.

Gideon just seems really mediocre, and I sided him out every time. You want a general-purpose four-drop with double white for devotion purposes, and he gives you that, but he’s just not really good enough vs. enough of the field to be happy with him. I’d probably keep him in vs. any kind of UWx control deck but in every other matchup a sideboard card seems better than Gideon. If the next set gives us a decent 2WW creature, or even better a good 1WWW one, I would probably play that over Gideon. Actually, I’d even consider Ajani’s Chosen here, except that not once did I actually make a token with Heliod, though I had him out several times. What the deck really needs is a flyer in that slot. Actually, Angel of Jubilation would actually be pretty good here—too bad it just rotated out. Same for Sublime Archangel, which would be insane in this deck. Linvala would be pretty good, too, or, wow, a reprint of Commander Eesha, Dawn Elemental, or Guardian Seraph. Maybe the next set will have something like that.

The monoblue matchup seems really good. Banisher Priest and Angel of Serenity are simply amazing against them since they have so little removal. I went +4 Thoughtseize, +2 Flare, +2 Charm, -4 Soldier, -2 Blood Baron, -2 Gideon against that and that seemed really good.

The RDW matchup is OK. I would seriously consider going up to 3 Fiendslayers in the sideboard to bring in against this, and they’re good against monoblack, too. For this one, +2 Fiendslayer, +2 Blood Baron, +2 Flare, +2 Charm, -4 Soldier, -2 Angel, -2 Gideon. Blood Baron isn’t great against them because it’s a little slow, but lifelink is so good, and it’s not like there are better choices around.

I was really glad I cut the fourth Nykthos and ran one Mutavault. That seemed exactly right, as a couple times I had both the Mutavault and one Nykthos, and having two Nykthos is awful.

The other important property the deck has is the property all rogue decks have: nobody had any idea what to sideboard against it.

It is, again, a fun deck, and like the other devotion decks in the format, has a lot of raw power. I think it’s better than the BUG deck I played last time out. Give it a whirl if you want to be a little off the beaten path, but still solid.

BUG Midrange into FNM Top 8

This report is not because I did really great or anything, but because the deck is kind of interesting. After winning Game Day, I’ve actually been on a pretty bad run, missing cuts on breakers or just having horrible nights. One of the days I missed on breakers I played the Bg Devotion deck, which I liked a lot and went 2-0 vs. Monoblack Devotion. Abrupt Decay and Putrefy are really good in that matchup.

Fall is pretty busy for me so I have almost no time to think about MTG until right up to the tournament and this Friday was no different. I decided I wanted to play something different and saw Chapin’s BUG Midrange deck listing and thought it looked like fun and I had all the cards, so I decided to give it a shot. I probably should have played it first, though.

I made a couple small changes from Chapin’s list and played this:

In the main deck I just changed some numbers: I went down to 3 Reapers to run a third Desecration Demon. I cut a Far // Away for a second Abrupt Decay. In the sideboard I changed a few cards: 2 Mistcutter Hydras in place of the the 2 Ætherlings, and 1 Ratchet Bomb in place of the fourth Scavenging Ooze. Those all made sense to me at the time.

Round 1: Festus, playing RDW
Festus is a regular who I’ve played a lot lately, and I’ve been on a bit of winning streak against him, four or five in a row, I think. I had no idea what he was playing, but he won the roll and lead off with a Rakdos Cackler. I had a Golgari Charm in my opener so I though this might go OK, and turn 2 he nicely laid down a pair of Firedrinkers, so I was able to 2-for-1 him with the Charm. I got a Caryatid out to block, put down an Ooze, then got down Jace and a Demon, and he scooped. Game 2 was just a game of he would play something and hit me, then I’d kill it afterwards. The key play was on turn 5 he had a Fanatic out and cast a second one, and I responded with Away and he went to put the first Fanatic in the graveyard, then stopped and tapped his Mountain to activate his tapped Mutavault and sac that instead of the first Fanatic. Dang, I was hoping he’d miss that. He swung with the one Fanatic and dropped me to 4. They both died on the next turn to double Golgari Charm, but without more life gain in the deck, this was a losing race for me, as we both had empty boards. I knew I was in trouble, and he drew out of it first and burned me out. Game 3 I had two Caryatids in my opener, but only two land and no source of green. I kept, which was a huge mistake—I didn’t draw the third land until like turn 5, and it was a shock, so I just died quickly. Should have mulliganed.
0-1-1, 1-2 games

Round 2: Ryan, playing UW Control
Ryan is another regular who I’ve played many times, though not so much recently. Game 1 I just punted, as I had turn 2 Caryatid and could have cast turn 3 Reaper, but I held back to leave Dissolve open, and for the life of me I can’t remember why. The whole game played out badly after that, and everything useful I generated died to Verdicts, me never with a Charm in hand. There were some funny plays in the match, at least. He had both Jace and Elspeth at one point and I had a Demon, which he tapped by sacrificing a Soldier token. He had tapped out to cast Elspeth, so I got to cast an enormous Prime Speaker, but of course they both died to Elspeth’s -3. Unfortunately most of the cards I drew were just lands. Sideboarding was a bit of a challenge, as I wasn’t completely sure what to bring in and what to take out. Game 2 Ryan had a bit of a punt to even things up. He had a Jace, Memory Adept of mine under a Sphere, and after getting out a pair of Prophets, generate a Jace, Architect, and cashed him in to find a Golgari Charm. Ryan then put a Sphere on the two Prophets, then tapped out to activate both his Mutavaults, and swung. I Charmed the Sphere on the two Prophets, blocked both the lands, and set him back to four lands. Seemed good. He did draw into a Verdict, though, and this went back and forth many times. I finally drew my second Memory Adept, though, and milled him out. We had very little time to finish G3 (both of us again made sideboard adjustments) and did not, which was a shame, as I had a Turn 1 Duress followed by multiple early Thoughseizes. I also had a turn 5 Memory Adept and we ended on turns with him on 6 cards in his library. Dang.
0-1-1 matches, 2-3-1 games

Round 3: Elliot, playing WBR Slivers
These games were just horrible beatings. His deck is capable of really fast draws, but he never got them here and I just had way too much time to set things up. I had Prophet going in one game and was flashing in Demons and Reapers, and in the other game I got the Prime Speaker with a Demon on the board hand refill again. He actually did get me down to 7 in the second game, but i was never really in serious danger.
1-1-1 matches, 4-3-1 games

Round 4: Rusty, playing Monowhite Devotion
This is not the Wb Devotion deck that’s been on TCG lately, but a mono-white deck with little guys and Heroic, but still with Heliod and the Spear and Nykthos. Game 1 I got a couple 2-for-1s with removal on enchanted creatures, and once again got Prime Speaker with a Demon on board. Game 2 he got turn 3 Spear and kind of ran me over. I had a Gaze in hand but never hit the sixth land to wipe his board. Game 3 I kept him off me enough early to make Gaze for 3 be a one-sided Wrath, got Demon and Prime Speaker and put it away.
2-1-1 matches, 5-4-1 games

I made the top 8 on breakers, just barely.

Quarterfinals: Jeremy, playing Monoblack Devotion
I had played Jeremy on Game Day and the week after and was 2-0 against him, so he owed me. Game 1 was a very close back and forth affair he won off a desperate pay 2 life from Erebos to draw a card and pull Ultimate Price when I had a Demon on board with him at 6. He then drew a Gray Merchant to follow up, activating Erebos as well and hitting me down to 2. Grr. I hadn’t thought very hard about what to sideboard for this matchup and I’m not sure I did it right. However, Game 2 was pretty much smooth sailing, including an active Prophet for a couple turns (ate a Doom Blade) and a Far // Away that bounced a live Erebos and killed a 7/7 Demon. Game 3 didn’t go my way, though, as his turn 3 Specter hit a Thoughtseize on his first swing and I was just kid of behind the whole game, including him again top decking a removal spell when I had tapped out for Prime Speaker with a Reaper on the table. Ah, well.
2-2-1 matches, 6-6-1 games

I think that’s pretty much the textbook definition of a mediocre night. My son Simon made it to the finals (again, he’s been on a amazing roll lately), and while I was waiting for him, I played a bunch of games against an aggro Rw Devotion deck to get a better feel for how the deck plays in other matchups, a majority of which I lost. But the outcome is not really why I wrote this. Fundamentally, the deck is not completely straightforward to play; there are a lot of decisions, especially sideboarding, that I hadn’t thought about enough beforehand. This is what you get for building a rogue deck just before you leave for the event. I think with more practice with the deck and a tweaked sideboard, this could actually be a pretty decent deck.

So, let’s talk about it.

Comments on the Deck
First, it’s really interesting. It attacks from multiple different angles and is difficult to sideboard against, not just because it is rouge, but because of the diversity of threats. Main deck Golgari Charm seems like a great metagame call right now.

Basically, against heavily aggro decks, you have to draw early Caryatids or you just lose. The 0/3 hexproof mana wall is really great in those matchups. Early removal is really important, too. The sideboard seems OK against aggro, but is short a removal spell or two. Another Cure would be good, except Cure is so bad against everything else.

On the other hand, against mono-black, you also want another removal spell, and Cure would not be it. I wanted a Putrefy there. This was the only matchup that I brought in Whip and it didn’t seem that good, particularly with Erebos around. I’d have been much better off with a removal spell than with the Whip.

Ratchet Bomb in the sideboard felt like a mistake. I did bring it in a couple times and it never really seemed good. Primeval Bounty is also interesting, and while I brought it in against UW Control and against mono-black, I never got to cast it. Not sure how good that really is.

If I were to play this again, I’d definitely cut the Whip and the Ratchet Bomb, probably for a third Cure and a Putrefy, or maybe even for two Putrefys. I’d also consider cutting the Primeval Bounty for more hand kill, e.g. another Duress, or maybe even Vraska.

So, if you want to play something really interesting that’s off the beaten path, give this a whirl. I think with a few sideboard changes and better pre-tourney thought about what to sideboard when, and a little actual playtesting beforehand, this is decent, and a heck of a lot of fun to play.

Theros Game Day Champion Report. Bonus: 9yo Son Made Top 8, Too

I haven’t played Standard since before Theros was released and didn’t really start paying attention to it until after the Pro Tour; however, since the Pro Tour I did some more serious thinking about it and even did a little breakdown of the States metagame in my last post.

I had sort of intended to play Sin City (that’s my name for WBR) midrange, but I just couldn’t get over how bad the manabase looks. I’ll probably still play it some time before the next set is released, but I just didn’t feel like it was the right choice for my first time out in Standard with this set. I also haven’t played a control deck in ages, so I thought it was time to dust one off. It’s not very original, but here was the build I put together:

27 players for Game Day, so 5 rounds cutting to top 8. As you might be able to tell from my sideboard, I was actually expecting a fair amount of control, and was certainly expecting someone to be on monoblue devotion. That’s not quite how it worked out, though. The other important thing to note is that I brought my 9-year-old son Stuart with me, and he also made the top 8. His deck list will come later.

Round 1: Otto, playing Monoblack Devotion
I have to admit that I don’t really remember game 1 very well. I know I won it, but I really don’t remember exactly how it went. Game 2 I punted a little bit. He had a turn 3 Lifebane Zombie (which of course missed). When he swung with it, I killed it with Hero’s Downfall, which left me open to his turn 4 Desecration Demon. Unfortunately it took me a couple turns to answer the Demon—meaning he hit me for 12 with it—and by then he had drawn into a Mutavault, and when he got the second Mutavault down, even though I had an AEthering, I was done. Game 3 was a close one. He had an early Liliana of the Dark Realms and I had to use a Needle on it before it got crazy, which let him go to town with Underworld Connections. He successfully got a Merchant out to drain me for 7 down to 10, and got in one whack with the Merchant before I dealt with it. I got an AEtherling, he got Erebos. He got a Descration Demon to make Erebos live, but I was able to Verdict off the Demon and get in two swings with the shapeshifter, which was lethal, before he could get Erebos going again. Very good since I was at 3. Whew.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: Tim, playing Naya Aggro
Game 1 was another punt for me, as I did not kill a Fleecemane Lion when I had the chance, and it got monstrous and went pretty much all the way before I could find an Elspeth or an AEtherling. Game 2 I flooded like crazy and only played four spells the entire game.
1-1 matches, 2-3 games

Round 3: Daniel, playing Sin City Midrange
Daniel and I had a long history of alternating wins with each other, but he had actually taken the last two or three in a row from me, so I was hoping luck would be on my side in this one. Turns out it was. Game 1 I hit all my first four land drops and he had missed one of his, and I cast Jace into an empty board and used his -2, hitting something meaningful, and Daniel simply scooped after his next draw phase wasn’t land. Apparently he had a lot of dead cards against me—my guess is multiple Anger of the Gods—and didn’t think he’d be able to make up the land disparity. Game 2 we both mostly drew, played land, and passed (though I got in a couple hits with my Mutavault), and then I stuck a Blood Baron and was able to Dissolve his answers, and that was it.
2-1 matches, 4-3 games

Round 4: Jeremy, playing Monoblack Devotion
Game 1 we spent the first several turns just blowing up each other’s stuff, but I eventually stuck an AEtherling and it went all the way. Game 2 I got a turn 5 Blood Baron, but he had a Devour Flesh for it, so that was a no-op. At one point he had an Underworld Connections out, and I Thoughtseized him to find another Connections and something else, and I took whatever else it was, so he ended up with two Connections on the board. He drew a lot of cards this way, but paid a lot of life for it, and fortunately drew mostly land. I was also a bit flooded, but I finally drew a Detention Sphere to take out both Connections. He was down to 4 when he finally drew a Merchant with a Whip on the table, which brought him back up to 8. That was good for him, as I drew my second Baron, but it turns out Baron was just too good, and I got in two hits with Baron before he could get anything going.
3-1 matches, 6-3 games

Round 5: ID
There were four players on 10 points and five players on 9, so we knew the #9, who was rounded down, had to play, and the #7 and #8 players were paired and they had to play, so we were safe to ID in. I ended up as the overall #7 seed, because the #9 seed won and all the top 4 (with 10 points) ID’d.
3-1-1 matches, 6-3 games

Quarterfinals: Michael, playing Boros Aggro
Game 1 was pretty dumb. He got in a couple hits with 1/1s and I got Jace and Verdict and had board control, but he drew a Magma Jet and every single one of his Boros Charms (yes, all 4) to burn me out. Game 2 he got in some early damage and I cleaned up with a Verdict and then we both flooded out, but his first action once the flood ended was a 1/1 and mine was a Revelation for 8, which was pretty much the end of the game. Game 3 he got me down to 8 before I fired off a Revelation for 6. After that, I used Jace’s -2 and hit two Elspeth and an Ox. Hmm, two Elspeth, that’s a pretty good little Fact or Fiction, Jace. Elspeth locked it up for me after that.
4-1-1 matches, 8-5 games

Semifinals: Aaron, playing Boros Aggro
It’s not unusual at the store to split in the top 4, but this was my fifth Game Day top 8 without earning a playmat, and I really wanted one, so I rejected the split, and got the déjà vu pairing. Game 1 I kept a two-lander because I had two Doom Blades and one of the land was a Temple of Silence so I’d get an extra card to look for land. I sent an AEtherling to the bottom and was rewarded with an Island, Doom Bladed his first two plays, stuck Jace, hit him with Thoughtseize and hit a Boros Charm and saw his other two cards were Chained to the Rocks, so I was under no pressure (plus, he had no Mountains; his red was two Temples). I Revelationed from 12 up to 17, stuck AEtherling and he went all the way. Game 2 I again kept a two-lander because I had an Ox, a Doom Blade and a Divination. I cast the Ox on turn 2 and drew a land and got more land off the Divination. I again stuck a turn 4 Jace to keep the beats off me, then followed up with a Blood Baron. I though he’d go all the way but he died to Celestial Flare. Really? Against a deck with like five creatures? Well, can’t argue with the result. Anyway, he ate the Ox with a Banisher Priest, but the Priest doesn’t do much against Jace, and when he put two more creatures on the board I had the Verdict, then a Revelation to go from 14 to 19, then took over with Elspeth. I even got her to ultimate for the win.
5-1-1 matches, 10-5 games

Final: ID
My finals opponent, who was actually the person I ID’d with in round 5, wanted to go home so he wanted to split. I said I’d split if I got the playmat. He offered to roll for it, but gave me the edge on the roll, 8 or higher on a D20. I decided that was good enough and rolled a 19 so I got the playmat. Yay!
5-1-2 matches, 10-5 games

Also, the top 2 split was $51 in store credit, which was excellent. I got a fourth Thoughtseize, a fourth Soldier of the Pantheon, some Mistcutter Hydras, and a bunch of Temples—plus, of course, the glorious Theros Game Day Champion playmat featuring Elspeth:

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Thoughts on the Deck
The deck is obviously very good; I don’t think it’s a mistake that there were 5 Esper Control decks in the top 16 at GP Louisville. This probably isn’t the optimal build but I don’t think it’s a bad one. I’m sure one of the potentially controversial choices in the full suite of Doom Blades. Doom Blade is actually amazing in most matchups, but obviously completely dead against monoblack. If I knew there would be quite that much monoblack I’d consider going down to 2 or 3 and adding a couple of either Far // Away or Ultimate Price—something that actually kills a Desecration Demon.

Also, a few words about Elspeth are in order. I have said publicly (on Reddit) that I didn’t think Elspeth was really all that good because of her high mana cost. (And this is coming from a huge fan of the original Elspeth.) Oh, how very, very wrong I was. Yes, AEtherling ends the game more quickly, but Elspeth offers such terrific protection in the interim, without recurring mana investments. My dear Sun’s Champion, I apologize. You are indeed awesome.

Stuart Makes Top 8

Now, as I said before, my 9-year-old son Stuart also came with me, at his insistence. His first ever Magic tournament was actually Gatecrash Game Day, which he top 8’d with Red Deck Wins. He’s not really ready for anything complicated, but he’s usually reasonably capable with something straightforward. It doesn’t get much more straightforward than this:

I didn’t record his opponents’ names or anything, and I don’t actually remember all of his matches, but I can give the flavor of them.

Round 1 he lost. My round 1 was a grinder and I’m not sure what exactly he lost to–some other aggro deck, I think. I have a vague memory of him looking over and him having punted it. He’s nine, that’ll happen.

Round 2 he won vs. Boros Aggro. His opponent started the game with his sideboard still in his main deck (I noticed this when he played a main deck Glare of Heresy), which he somehow thought was OK with the new sideboarding rules. Uhh, no. Game 2 Stuart won, I think on the back of Unflinching Courage.

I don’t remember the order of his round 3/4 matches, nor do I remember the exact deck matchup for one of them, but I do recall that Stuart’s opponent Josh stumbled a bit on land and got punished for it. The other round was against Bob playing Azorious Control. Stuart won it 2-1, one of them on a Rootborn Defenses effectively countering a Verdict, and the third game on a slightly slow draw from his opponent and Stuart just immediately refilling the board after a Verdict.

Round 5 I watched the entire thing, since I got to draw that round. Stuart was 3-1 but could not draw because his opponent was at #8, but tied on points with the #9 who played. So while Stuart would have been happy to draw, his opponent couldn’t. His opponent was also running Boros aggro. Game 1 his opponent kept a 1-lander, Stuart had all gas and curved out for the easy win. Game 2 did not go as well. Stu got turn 1 Experiment One, his opponent got turn 2 Ash Zealot, Stuart got turn 2… something 3/3, I don’t remember if it was a Fleecemane or a Call. Turn 3 for his opponent was a Chained to the Rocks for Stuart’s 3/3 and another swing with the Zealot. Stuart had nothing on turn 3, holding just land and an Advent. Opponent’s turn 4 was Purphoros. Stuart played land and passed. Opponent played a Chandra’s Phoenix, making Purphoros live and burning Stuart for 2, then swing with the team. Here Stuart punted, not playing the Advent during combat, and that left him at 2, which meant the Phoenix would get him next turn regardless. (Had he blocked with the Advent token, he’d have been at 4 and the god would no longer have been live, but he would be dead to a burn spell or another creature anyway, so it’s not like he punted a game he was likely to have won.) Game 3 Stuart had turn 1 Soldier, who ate a burn spell. Turn 2 Stuart had a Fleecemane, opponent passed. Stuart came back with Ajani, put a counter on the lion, and swung for 4. Opponent came back with Boros Reckoner. Stuart then had the play of the day: he put Unflinching Courage on the Lion, then gave it flying and double strike with Ajani for the 20-point life swing, leaving his opponent at 4. Opponent played some other red creature, Stuart played Brave the Elements for the win. Sweet win into the top 8!

In the quarterfinals, Stuart played against Junk Midrange and lost; I was busy with my own quarterfinal and I didn’t really see much of what happened, though I know Stuart made a sideboarding mistake and took out the Selesnya Charms, which are important for fighting the Desecration Demons. Still, 4-2 is not a bad outing for a 9-year-old!

Thoughts on the Deck
Selesnya Aggro put a lot of decks into the top 8 at States and had a lot of 18+ point decks at the PT but had no overall wins at States and didn’t make the top 8 at the PT. It’s a good deck with the opportunity to punish decks for slow draws, but I have no idea how it beats Monoblue Devotion, which seems like a key weakness. Fortunately, Stuart didn’t play against that. As Craig Wescoe showed at PT Dragon’s Maze, a deck like this can be a tough out for control decks; Rootborn Defenses has something to say there. Fleecemane Lion is just really good; the deck should play 4 and cut a Call of the Conclave, but we only had 3 Fleecemanes. Boon Satyr is good but I think 3 is the right number there.

The real weakness of the deck is the lack of reach or evasion; when we playtested against each other me sticking an Elspeth was simply game over. A swarm of chump blockers is just too much most of the time. Perhaps a third Ajani would be good for that reason. (I should note I lost pretty much all the games where I didn’t get Elspeth.)

Finally, Last Breath is in there for Master of Waves; that perhaps should be Mistcutter Hydra.

2013 Fall States Metagame Report

So, Theros has been released, and there’s been a Pro Tour, and TCGPlayer hosted States. Maybe your’e getting ready for Game Day or for an upcoming FNM and you’re wondering about the metagame. Well, I can’t forecast what the metagame will but, but I can relay some information about what the metagame was for States.

States is kind of an interesting set of tournaments, being more competitive than your average FNM but certainly not at the level of a GP, and maybe not quite at the level of a PTQ, but not a casual format. By looking at what did well at States, perhaps there’s something to be learned. The great thing about States is that TCGPlayer posts all the decklists, tagged by archetype, so it’s easy to look at the whole thing and figure out what happened. These States were also held at an interesting time, being mostly Saturday events after the first day of Pro Tour Theros was in the books. Some of these were held on Sunday, so for those, everything but the top 8 was in the books.

So, I took a look at the top 8 decks from all 351 decks from the 44 states that have reported in. (Note that that should be 352 decks. For some reason, Illinois only reported 7. What’s up with that?). Now, these data aren’t perfect, because sometimes decks get mislabeled or put into a category that they don’t really quite belong in, but the sample size is large enough that hopefully it’s still informative.

So, I did a little counting and aggregating across decklists, and generated this look at the top ten archetypes, plus those that didn’t get up to 4% of the metagame:

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Wow, look at all that Monoblue Devotion! That’s a deck that wasn’t really on the radar prior to the PT, and it did very well at States. Given that the deck was brand new, the pilots could not have had a great deal of practice with the deck, so that’s an impressive showing, as 15% is a pretty sizable chunk of the metagame.

The next two most popular decks both came in around 10% and represent completely different strategies, straight-up creature-based aggro and generally close to creatureless control. A similar contrast applies to the next two decks, another hard-core aggro strategy and another creature-light control deck.

After that it’s pretty much all red or black based midrange until we hit the “other” category, which is a mishmash of different things, though I would say that category is about a third midrange and a third aggro, with a smattering of control and other offbeat decks (including a Maze’s End deck!).

So, the top 8 metagame is pretty diverse. Unlike the DGM metagame, it is no longer dominated by green; the rotation of Thragtusk and Farseek probably has something to do with that. If you classify the Monoblue Devotion deck as a midrange deck, then the meta is still pretty heavily weighted toward midrange decks. Given that this has been the metagame for a while now, I’m staring to wonder if this is a conscious plan by WotC R&D, as midrange battles tend to be more interactive creature fights, which R&D thinks is more enticing to new players (and probably better on camera).

Now, the numbers above come from the entire top 8. But who wins in the top 8? It turns out that the graph is quite substantially different:

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Wow! How about the domination by Monoblue Devotion, which doubled its share, taking home the trophy in almost a third of the states? Esper Control also had a nice gain in its share. RDW, Azorious Control, BWR Midrange, and Gruul Midrange were fairly stable from top 8 to champion. Three decks have completely vanished: Selesnya Aggro, Junk Midrange, and Orzhov Midrange. Two new decks have appeared: Boros Aggro and Golgari Midrange, both of which had between 2 and 3% of the top 8 metagame, thus missing the top ten in the earlier graph.

The two biggest stories are probably to be the domination by Monoblue Devotion and the complete disappearance of Selesnya Aggro. I’m not going to say much about the deck that constituted 3 of the top 4 at the PT, as plenty has already been said there. It’s undoubtedly a very strong deck and will probably occupy a central space in the metagame for some time and I think this will be the “deck to beat” going forward. I expect to either see multiple copies in the next several SCG top 8s, unless someone finds a good solution soon.Hopefully we don’t approach Caw-Blade levels of hegemony, but I’m predicting something like the dominance Shards-era Jund had. I hope I’m wrong.

The other big story is the GW Aggo disappearance. Selesnya Aggro had a lot of decks with 18 or more points at the PT, but none of its pilots made the top 8. On the surface it seems to me to be such an obvious deck, as there are so many GW creatures that come out with more power than mana cost (e.g., Fleecemane Lion, Call of the Conclave, Loxodon Smiter, Advent of the Wurm, Boon Satyr) that the deck can create tremendous pressure—with Voice of Resurgence along for the ride, the creature base is crazy good. On the other hand, it has little evasion and no reach to speak of—the threats are powerful, but just aren’t very diverse. I think it’s a good deck, but just not good enough to quite get there at the highest levels. I wonder if the wave of Monoblue Devotion decks will wash this out of the meta (pun intended), or if there’s some way this deck can adapt. I’m pretty sure Skylasher in the sideboard is not a good enough answer, but Mistcutter Hydra might help. Maybe.

So, be ready for lots of Master of Waves and Thassa, then Esper/UW control, then RDW and a bevy of midrange decks of varying stripes. The card pool doesn’t change for quite a while, so it will be interesting to see how the meta adapts.