The Wrong Side of History
I played the RPTQ this past weekend and did awful. I started out strong but in these smaller events, the slightest mistake or run of bad luck and you’re just dead. I wasn’t going to write about the deck as I was pretty disappointed with my performance but it felt like a disservice not to talk about all my matches I played in testing for the RPTQ.
I always used to be the Mardu guy but for some reason I didn’t play Mardu at this RPTQ. I was convinced that Winding Constrictor was the place to be. In testing I liked my matchups against the Mardu decks and against the 4-Color Saheeli decks even though I may be totally off base in that assumption. When playing against the deck, I was constantly winning even though I kept reading about pros talking about how good 4C Saheeli was against the GB decks. I have to imagine that perhaps the matchup is bad for me but because of its difficulty to pilot, my results were biased.
Here is what I registered for the event:
The energy deck had a lot of nut-draws that were fantastic at just closing games out. Greenbelt Rampager was great when I expected a lot of Oath of Chandras. The goal with the deck was to just have enough threats that I could run the other decks out of removal and if any of my cards stuck around then I could win the game. Most players were killing Winding Constrictor on site which meant that an unchecked Glint-Sleeve Siphoner or Longtusk Cub could really brute force through the clogged board states. If Winding Constrictor got to live for a while, the games just spiraled out of control. Gaining the extra energy, getting Ballista counters, and combining with Rishkar or Gearhulk ended the games very quickly.
The sideboard plan was pretty straightforward for the three decks I expected:
– Grindy cards for 4C Saheeli
– Removal and grindy cards for GB
– Removal, vehicles, and Natural Obsolescence for Mardu
The rest of the sideboard can adapt to any of the more niche decks or anything else that might show up at the RPTQ.
Did you see the mistake? If you’re up to date with the meta you probably did but if you’ve been slacking for the past two weeks here it is – Natural Obsolescence is a dead card vs. the Mardu Ballista versions. However, it’s your best card against the Mardu vehicles lists not on the transformational sideboard plans.
This was something that kind of emerged as I got closer to the RPTQ and something I wish I had more time to test – was all of the variations of Mardu that arose. I started to feel lost in the matchup never knowing what to play around and it was so difficult to navigate the matchup. My friends who made the lovely 13 hour drive with me were both on Mardu but with very different lists. When testing I found myself hard-pressed to attack into five open mana since he was playing two maindeck Archangel Avacyn but when I got to the event, I found myself asking if I could miss getting in damage to play around them potentially having the same card. Could I overextend on board in case they mainphased it and cast Walking Ballista for 0 to Plague Wind my board? It started to feel more and more difficult until finally my frustrations peaked in round 4.
Round 3 I played against typical Mardu Ballista which killed me very fast in game 1 and I expected the transformational sideboard plan. I brought in my Transgress the Minds and Gonti, Lord of Luxury to help grind through all their planeswalkers. Game 2 I battled back before I ultimately lost in the match.
Round 4 I die to the exact same nut draw in game 1 and continue on with my sideboard plan. I skip over my Natural Obsolescence and bring in Transgress. Game 2 my opponent leads on Toolcraft Exemplar and Heart of Kiran. I stare at my hand and stare at my deckbox with my sideboard in it and I can feel my heart drop. This matchup which I had played 100 times on Magic Online was just too difficult to predict and was ultimately my downfall in this tournament.
The meta had kept adapting and I was just too slow to keep up. I think GB definitely has a place in the meta and a more skilled pilot could have probably navigated a win out of the event. I felt really comfortable playing against Mardu when I was boarding properly and could get a good read on their archetype but it’s very difficult to narrow their range when there’s so much overlap between the different lists. If you want to play something other than Mardu or 4C Saheeli then I definitely would suggest a list similar to this GB deck. It is still solid and preferable to the bigger fatter GB lists. So if you are interested in picking this deck up I’ll explain some of rationale for why I built the deck this way.
Fatal Push as only a 3-of in the maindeck was a concession to how popular 4C Saheeli was online. It’s great vs. GB and Mardu but very medium against everything else and I didn’t want too many dead cards since this deck doesn’t turn on revolt very easily.
Rishkar as 4-of. In hindsight I think this was incorrect but that may be results-oriented. This card enabled so many busted draws and obviously it’s very synergistic. However this was very often a legendary 3/3 for 3 and I boarded out 2 copies very often vs. decks with board wipes or lots of removal spells.
Ruinous Path instead of Murder. I think the deck absolutely needs access to a removal spell to kill big creatures but with 4c Saheeli playing 8 planeswalkers and the Mardu decks playing 6-10, it was great to have even if it’s clunky at sorcery speed.
Tireless Tracker just completely not in the 75. It may be correct to cut some number of Rishkars for this but for card advantage Glint-Sleeve Siphoner was just way better. If this card was left unchecked you very easily drew four cards and the game spun out of control. Postboard Lifecrafter’s Bestiary was much better card draw especially with Greenbelt Rampager. Tireless Tracker is pretty slow and not as effective without cards like Evolving Wilds so I didn’t want it.
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. This card is fairly obvious to a lot of people right now but I wanted to talk about it still. This card was phenomenal and singlehandedly has won more matches than any other card. There’s definitely more considerations to play one in the maindeck or more in the sideboard because this card can just win games out of nowhere on its own.
If you’re playing an event I would definitely recommend this as still a solid option. The deck has a lot of powerful things going on and some decent play to it. Mardu is probably a better option for most events as that deck is just very powerful and has the added benefit of keeping your opponent guessing as to what strategy you’ve got. If you want to play 4C Saheeli, it’s probably too late. The 4C Saheeli deck is really only that good in the hands of very skilled players with lots of practice. As a result, something that is supposed to be a bad matchup for the GB deck feels like you’re actually favoured vs. them due to how difficult that deck is to play. This GB deck is not the most difficult to play but you definitely need to be aware of how big your creatures should be. Walking Ballista and Verdurous Gearhulk give you access to a ton of lethal combinations when sequenced correctly and your combat math is often pretty difficult.
If this deck archetype interests you I’d definitely suggest this list is a good start but you probably want to make a few tweaks yourself as the meta adapts. Make sure you have a lot of practice against the Mardu decks as you’ll play that a lot. Just remember to pay homage to our savior: She comes down turn 2, she is always the victor, you guessed it right, it’s Winding Constrictor!!!