The Pro Tour is over and Ari Lax is on his way home with an extra piece of luggage. I’m sure he won’t mind too much if he has to pay $20 to check a bag though, given the forty THOUSAND dollars he just won by casting Siege Rhinos and Wingmate Rocs. The aftershocks of that victory remain to be felt of course, as FNMs and Game Days around the world will now scramble to either play Ari’s deck or something that can beat Ari’s deck.
There will be other contenders of course. Locally I see people scrambling for Jeskai Burn and Abzan midrange cards, which promises to be a really fun and diverse experience. Oops, there goes the insanely expensive Sarcasmatron 5000, overloaded again. I really should be more careful what I say when that thing is on. The drawback to such a popular set, as well as such a well-watched Pro Tour, is that everyone is looking for the same cards while product is still hard to come by, jacking prices of things like Mantis Rider and Rakshasa Deathdealer through the roof.
Fear not oh light of wallet! Panic not, though ye be impecunious! I, Chris Lansdell, brewer of brews and lover of synergy, have devised a plan! First shall we take some black cards. Then, to said cards of blackest night shall we add cards of purest white, that we then shall have a coherent strategy to vanquish our foes. In other words, I got your backs.
One Is The Beatingest Number
Angry Black Men, also known as Donald Sterling’s Nightmare, was a good deck because it had twelve 2-power creatures that attacked for 2 on turn 2 while still having cards like Herald of Torment and Mogis’s Marauder that enabled the deck to endure beyond turn 4. With the rotation of Return to Ravnica we lost Rakdos Cackler but we did gain the potent Bloodsoaked Champion, as well as a few other sweet pieces that could keep the deck as a viable alternative.
In a multicolor world, we’d be hamstringing ourselves by sticking to black. White and red both offer us a fourth two-power one-drop, and although red also brings burn to the table I am more tempted by some two- and three-drops to which white gives us access. That means adding Soldier of the Pantheon as one-drop 12 through 16. There’s also some marginal value to be had with the fact that Soldier walks right by Siege Rhino, Mantis Rider, Rakshasa Deathdealer and Savage Knuckleblade without a care in the world. Along with Tormented Hero, Soldier will be the most frequent target for your bestows.Gnarled Scarhide is one of those bestows while also playing the role of another one-drop. You’ll often want to play the others ahead of him since he does have additional utility later in the game, but he can serve as an opener in a pinch.
Warriors! Come Out To Plaaaaay!
Khans of Tarkir brings a lot of powerful tools to this archetype, chief among them being…ummm…Chief of the Edge. Ignoring for a moment that Bloodsoaked Champion and Tormented Hero are both Warriors (and there are more a little later on), a 3/2 for 2 is a good return anyway. Turn 1 Champion into turn 2 Chief into turn 3 Spear of Heliod and your opponent is on 9 unless they blocked. Heaven forbid you get a second Chief and a second one-drop on turn 3 instead.Seeker of the Way is also a Warrior, but I am not sure we have enough non-creature spells to make him worthwhile. Mardu Skullhunter is under consideration for a bigger maindeck role, but we’ll stick with 2 in the board right now. Sightless Brawler seems like a must-have as a 3-power 2-drop who is a Warrior AND can be bestowed later on. Chief of the Scale, Disowned Ancestor and Mardu Hordechief are also possible additions, though the other Chief is a sizeable distance ahead of the pack.
Although sweepers weren’t a huge part of the Pro Tour metagame, a lot of the Abzan decks had End Hostilities in the sideboard. Drown in Sorrow and Bile Blight are also real cards that you need to be able to beat. Our deck is just a rush deck, so the normal tricks of not overcommitting are going to be less than optimal for us. Additionally a lot of the decks playing these sweeper spells are also deploying a big threat or two that they can afford to lose in order to encourage you to overcommit, and really we’re not beating a Wingmate Roc or Polukranos without constantly throwing stuff on the board.
Fortunately, Khans gives us Grim Haruspex as a means to refill after our board gets swept. Using bestows wisely will also leave us with some board presence against anything but End Hostilities. Bloodsoaked Champion brings himself back for another go if we can just turn a dude sideways. Possibly our most potent weapon though is one that has been largely forgotten since its release in Journey into Nyx: Athreos, God of Passage. He never really saw the play he was expected to see in the previous Standard because all the mono-colour devotion decks squeezed out any sort of two-colour strategy, but if any deck can make use of his recursion effect it would be one that fills the board early and with high-power ctreatures. Our aim is to force the opponent to sweep the board on turn 4 or 5, and if Athreos is in play that could turn out to be just as bad as not sweeping.
One caveat here: Anger of the Gods is bad for us. Like, really bad. It doesn’t trigger Athreos or Grim Haruspex and we have very little with toughness over 3. That card alone is the reason for the Chief of the Scale in the board, which will hopefully combine with Spear to help the team survive.
Pumping Up The Jam
No aggro deck can hope to compete without ways to make its creatures even more dangerous. Some of that is built into the deck: Gnarled Scarhide and Sightless Brawler can both be bestowed, as can Spiteful Returned if we end up going that route. We’ve already mentioned Spear of Heliod. If we want to stand any chance of surviving an Anger of the Gods, we need to consider either Gods Willing or Ajani’s Presence. Although Presence provides us with the opportunity to target more than one creature, that will rarely be of value as we’re tapping out for the first few turns, and an Anger after turn 5 is likely too late. Gods Willing does let us scry, so even though we can only save one creature we can make sure any land is scryed away to help us refuel.Spear of Heliod is a natural addition, though I did consider Dictate of Heliod instead. We don’t want more than 2 Spear as it’s legendary, but the lower cost will make sure we can actually cast the thing. Along a similar line I am trying two Master of Pearls in the list. Another morph will help disguise the Haruspex and the turn-up ability is a game-winner. It’s possible that 5 mana is too much to ask of a 22-land deck, in which case this spot should likely go to Inspired Charge or, at a push, Selfless Cathar.
I went back and forth between Ajani Steadfast and Sorin, Solemn Visitor at the top of the curve for the deck. Although Sorin can provide me with tokens if needed, Ajani has a great interaction with cards like High Sentinels of Arashin (a one-of at the top of the curve) and Abzan Falconer (which serves as a Falter for the deck) while also letting me gain life if needed.
BW Beats – Chris Lansdell
I will be taking this to FNM this week to see how it holds up against the Pro Tour metagame. If it does well I may even run it back at Game Day, though I have a standing challenge from Will “Jund In All Formats” Blondon to play Chromanticore on Sunday. The fixing is real!
Let me know how you would build this differently. I did at one point have both Fabled Hero and Brimaz in the 75 but cut them for more synergy. It’s possible Brimaz at the least needs to be in here, even if only as an answer to Anger.
I’ll be back soon to talk about what I played at Game Day. Until then…brew on!