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Posted by on Mar 19, 2014 in Standard | 3 comments

Back to the Board – Revisiting Old Brews

Back to the Board – Revisiting Old Brews

I’m a bad person, and I’m sorry. That I am not alone might go some way to mitigating that, but it doesn’t excuse it. I hope today’s article will go some way to earning your forgiveness, for I plan to rectify my oversight today. So many Magic writers spend their time giving you exciting new theoretical decklists with brilliant theoretical reasoning behind their card choices and expansive theoretical matchup notes. Then you never hear about the deck again.

Several of my recent articles have been just like the above, and even though I have since played two of the decks I had not come back to them to let you know if they are actually any good. More often than not the events I play in are FNM, so don’t read these and think I am advocating these lists as PTQ-quality brews. If I think something is good enough for that level, I will explicitly state it.

Deck 1 – Angry Black Men

Of all the decklists I came up with during BNG spoiler season, this was the easiest to get together and also the one I thought was the least in my wheelhouse. I’m just not normally an aggro player any more, as I have often said. The deck came about as a combination of Paul Dunn’s Agent Aggro deck from GP Vancouver and the black aggro deck piloted by Klaas Gruber at the Super Sunday Finals in Renton. You can see the initial idea I had here.

Sometimes when you brew up a deck, you need to play it a few times before you can see what needs to be changed. Other times you can tell right away, based on observing the metagame and listening to other people’s findings, that something you initially picked is just bad. That was the case with Blood Scrivener for me. Comments on my original article made me think instead about Spiteful Returned, so I decided to give that a shot instead. I have also been very unimpressed with Bile Blight in Standard, so I cut them for an extra Ultimate Price and a Gift of Orzhova.

My sideboard plan was relatively straightforward. The fourth Thoughtseize, some number of Dark Betrayal and Duress, Lifebane Zombie and Illness in the Ranks were all slam dunks. Agent of the Fates is very weak against control strategies, so I needed something to bring in for that matchup. Here’s the 75 I took to FNM:

To say I was surprised by the way the deck played would be a huge understatement. I went with 4 Nighthowler and 3 Herald of Torment due to some issues finding the fourth Herald, and I definitely think that was wrong. I also won way less on the back of Pack Rat than I thought I would, though I don’t think it’s correct to cut them. They do change the way you play the game and they sometimes lead to you getting blown out, but the power level is very high. How did the deck do overall? I’m very glad you asked.

For the first time in a very long time, I went 5-0 at FNM. Not that I haven’t done well before, but generally I will draw the last round if I’m undefeated. We’ve recently started capping our FNMs at 5 rounds though, so a draw made no sense. I managed to beat a wide range of decks too: Bant Walkers, WR Aggro, GR Monsters, UR Control and Jund Monsters.

Bant Walkers (or any UWx control) can be tough. You really need your Thoughtseizes to do a lot of work game 1 in order to win it, though sometimes you can just fade some draws of their Verdicts and outrace their Revelations. Post-board you often want to cut your Agent of the Fates for Duress and the fourth Thoughtseize, and you’ll often want Illness in the Ranks too. I can also see shaving Pack Rat, since a Detention Sphere is a big blowout. It’s not as bad in this deck with Nighthowler feeding off the discards, but it’s still worth cutting two.

The WR Aggro deck was a brew, and it was very explosive. Tajic, Blade of the Legion is very tough to deal with, and Fabled Hero deals huge chunks of damage in a hurry when he is getting pumped by cheap combat tricks. I was able to pull it out in three thanks to Agent of the Fates and some timely bestow draws, plus the counter-intuitive play of casting Hero’s Downfall on my own Agent to make him sacrifice Tajic. Gift of Orzhova was also huge here.

Both Monsters matchups were a little tricky, the Jund one moreso since he drew infinite removal. He didn’t hit any dangerous threats though, which allowed me to win when I did stick something. I think it’s still in our favour with all our removal, especially when we side in Desecration Demon to further suppress their board position.

Deck 2 – Flashbants

The deck has now been renamed Bant Triggermetra, because Karametra, God of Harvests is the actual nut high. I cannot properly define how much fun this deck is to play, and apparently to watch. It just does absurd things, and synergises in more ways than I thought when initially (and vastly) improving on Jay Lansdaal’s version. In fact, playing this deck single-handedly made me want to go back to doing more Achievement Unlocked-style articles instead of being more Spike-oriented at FNM.

I said in my Gods article that I thought Karametra could be broken, but was likely not very good otherwise. I was wrong. Not only is the card very good in the right deck, it’s also a lot of fun. When I initially threw the list together I wanted to make sure I could draw and play Karametra (and to a lesser extent Ephara, God of the Polis) often enough to assess how good they were. I also wasn’t too sure that Polukranos, World-Eater was the way I wanted to take the deck. Here’s the list I took to FNM:

Yes that’s 61 cards. I can’t bring myself to cut any of them, though the Prime Speaker Zegana might be the right one to cut. She does blow games wide open but she can also be a win-more or a blank top deck. The best cards in the deck by far have been the five-drops, which is exactly what you want if you’re playing that many five-drops. I have said before that Prophet of Kruphix is the best card nobody is playing, and I’ve still seen nothing to dissuade me from that belief. Simply put, when Prophet is on the board you are winning. Archangel of Thune is close to unkillable for some decks, especially GR Monsters which has to Mortars it right away or watch it get out of range. Sure they might be able to block it all day with Stormbreath Dragon, but then they aren’t attacking with Stormbreath Dragon. Karametra…well, she is now the deck’s namesake for a reason. Playing her on turn 5 is fine, and provided you untap with her (pretty likely given how hard she is to remove) you will get value on turn 6. If you ever ramp into her, or God forbid play her on the opponent’s turn after playing Prophet, you’re a long way ahead. Once you start thinning out your library and casting two creature spells a turn (thereby putting as many as 3 lands in play), finding one of your game-ending synergies is a trifling matter.

OK let’s tone down the gushing a little. I premiered the deck at FNM, going 4-1 but losing only 2 games all night to that new Naya Aggro deck with 12 combat tricks. That it was being played by one of the best players in town and I managed to go to 3 games and still come close to winning (possibly due to a misplay) made me feel better. I went on to beat Selesnya Aggro, Red Devotion, Dega Control and Mono Black in fairly convincing fashion, saying the word “trigger” more than I ever have in one night and at times cackling with glee (allegedly, I have no recollection of this) as the deck “went off.” I had so much fun with it that I went out of my way to go to a different store the next day just to play it again.

Even after making some changes (two Fiendslayer Paladins instead of two Boon Satyrs, an Angel of Serenity in the board, trying a Primeval Bounty instead of Zegana) I still went 4-0. And I still had too much fun to put into words. Dimir Mill, Esper Control, Angry Black Men and Boros Burn were the victims this time around, though the matches were all a lot closer. Esper, for example, had turns 1, 2 and 3 Thoughtseize in games 2 AND 3 and I was able to win one of those anyway.

Why is this deck so much fun, and seemingly pretty good to boot? I think it comes down to card advantage and synergy. With either of the Gods in play, every creature you cast is at least a two for one. Courser of Kruphix is also doing good work on that front, though I am starting to think I might want to try something else in that slot given the land-fetching of Karametra. Boon Satyr can sometimes feel very underpowered but at other times can be very powerful as an advantage-gaining instant buff.

Archangel of Thune is synergy central, working well with Horizon Chimera, Scavenging Ooze, Courser of Kruphix and…well, Magic cards in general. I remember when the card was printed people were saying it was no Baneslayer Angel, but I’ll be damned if it’s not an insane card in its own right. Karametra and Courser is a nice interaction, Ephara and Horizon Chimera, Prime Speaker and Chimera…and that’s just the two-card engines. If you are able to develop a board presence, things get very silly.

Supreme Verdict is not good for you. It’s the reason for Rootborn Defences in the board, because a well-timed Verdict can just ruin your day. Erebos, God of the Dead is also probably bad news, but most decks have one main and one board so you should be able to get around it. You have answers there, at least.

Coming Up Next…

I still need to try out Run DMC. After that it will be back to brewing. I have a couple of ideas floating around that I will be writing about in the weeks to come, but as always I would love to hear ideas and suggestions for brews. Remember I’m not looking to win PTQs here, I’m looking to have fun with a deck that is still somewhat competitive. I’d also really like to see some ideas for cards that will be rotating in October.

Thanks as always for stopping by, and…Brew On!

  • Aj

    I have a challenge sir…..MBC. With very little devotion.

  • http://manadeprived.com/ Kar Yung Tom

    Hmmm, you might be the first person I have seen play Illness in the Ranks. Is this just to pre-emptively stop Elspeth tokens?

    • Lansdell

      Also a great answer to Assemble. I tend to hold it until I need to attack for lethal or to kill Elspeth.