The Best/Worst Joke in Magic History
For those of you who live under a rock, the game's biggest tournament happened this past weekend. If you weren't there yourself, you should have been watching it. The format was Standard, and the Top 8 was just awesome! To boot, one of the coolest (fair) decks in history ended up winning the tournament.
I did in fact watch and play a ton of Magic this past weekend. Pro Tour Gatecrash in Montreal featured our own Gerry Thompson in the Top 8, while StarCityGames.com newcomer Tom Martell ended up winning the whole shebang! To top it off, Tom was playing a deck that inspired the commentators to go on rant after rant about the deck name:
Named for having two different creatures with the title of Aristocrat in it, as well as the obvious joke relating to "the joke" as well as the play, the deck was a smash hit! Everyone loved it. Everyone watching wanted to see more of it. They wanted a deck tech. They wanted it on camera. They wanted to see what it was capable of as early as round 4 (the first round of Standard), and it ended up winning the event!
- 4 Boros Reckoner
- 4 Cartel Aristocrat
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Doomed Traveler
- 4 Falkenrath Aristocrat
- 3 Knight of Infamy
- 1 Restoration Angel
- 2 Silverblade Paladin
- 2 Skirsdag High Priest
- 2 Zealous Conscripts
Throughout the course of the tournament, Brad Nelson and I speculated on various cards in the deck. With so many awesome interactions with sacrifice outlets, there were a ton of possibilities. At first when I saw Martell cast Champion of the Parish into Cartel Aristocrat, I assumed it was an aggressive version of Brad Nelson's Human Reanimator strategy that placed 2nd at SCG Standard Open: Atlanta, but that was not the case! As the match continued, it was clear that this was some new monstrosity.
The inclusion of Boros Reckoner, even in a deck with Cavern of Souls, is just a testament to the card's power level. It is just absurd against every aggressive deck in the format and is pretty reasonable against any midrange or control deck that uses red-based removal such as Searing Spear or Mizzium Mortars. While you won't get to kill two creatures with it too often against those decks, you will get to dome the opponent for some damage and will hopefully finish them off with a follow-up Falkenrath Aristocrat.
This is an aggressive deck that can effectively ignore Boros Reckoner. It was designed to do that, and it did it quite well. Boros Reckoner is just hell on any aggressive deck, as it will almost always be a two-for-one if the opponent has multiple creatures in play. Of course, you can always build your deck or change up your colors or removal suite to handle this problem, and that is exactly what Martell and the rest of #TeamSCG ended up doing.
The removal in Orzhov Charm just feels genius since you can protect your life total quite easily. The other modes, while used less often, aren't even bad. Bringing back a Doomed Traveler mid-combat is pretty exciting because it can pump Champion of the Parish, Falkenrath Aristocrat, or be used as a sacrificial lamb to Cartel Aristocrat. Tom even used the "bounce my own creature" ability at one point with Restoration Angel to Blink his own Zealous Conscripts mid-combat to steal an opposing Thragtusk.
The rest of the creatures in the deck can effectively ignore Boros Reckoner since both of the Aristocrats are able to get around it one way or another. Even Knight of Infamy can just swing right by it. Champion of the Parish is the main concession when it comes to Boros Reckoner, but it's just too good in other matchups to leave behind. While Champion of the Parish is obviously a solid card, Martell expressed multiple times that he thought Doomed Traveler was the superior one-drop in the deck, which makes a lot of sense considering all the sacrifice interactions.
I would have loved to see more Zealous Conscripts in the deck because it combos incredibly well with your Aristocrats. With most decks "getting bigger" nowadays, I think it is necessary to be able to blow them out. Especially against a deck like the one Eric Froehlich played (Saito Naya) where they try to slam bigger and better threats until the opponent is dead. Zealous Conscripts turns everything around on them and allows you to smash them with a large alpha strike before sacrificing the creature you stole in the first place! While the whole "threaten" into "sacrifice" trick isn't anything new, as people have been doing it with Bloodthrone Vampire over the last few months, I do think that there is merit to putting more emphasis on this aspect of the deck.
At first glance, Cartel Aristocrat doesn't seem all that great in the deck. After all, a 2/2 for two mana with an ability that is just decent isn't all that much to sneeze at. It doesn't dominate the game on its own. It doesn't generate a huge advantage. What it does do is interact with the rest of the cards in your deck, creating synergy by generating small advantages. Skirsdag High Priest is a great example of a card that is enabled by Cartel Aristocrat, one that is incredibly dangerous to leave in play. As I witnessed multiple times in the Top 8, the opponent immediately kills Skirsdag High Priest for fear of facing down a 5/5 creature on the next turn.
Maybe the next step is pairing it with Lightning Mauler! (Just kidding.)
In all honesty, I think the deck is sweet. While it isn't the most aggressive deck in the format and doesn't have any inherent disruption, it is resilient. It has access to creatures that are particularly hard to kill with conventional removal, and many of the synergies in the deck are hard to overcome by ordinary means. I'm actually going to be filming a Versus video with Brian Braun-Duin this week with the deck, so make sure to check it out in the near future!
A Bird in the Hand...
As we watched coverage of Pro Tour Gatecrash this past weekend, I felt something shift inside of me. After missing Gold by just a few points and falling off the PT circuit last year, I lost the drive. PTQs seemed like a nuisance more than an opportunity. By comparison, the SCG Open Series seemed much better because money was a tangible thing that I could get at those events. As for PTQs, I had to win one of those and then do reasonably well at another tournament before seeing any of the rewards.
I was discouraged.
But after watching PT Gatecrash and seeing multiple friends Top 8 the event with Tom Martell winning the whole thing, I can honestly say that I am positively green with envy. I want nothing more than to share that big stage with the world's best, but I can't do that unless I am dedicated. I can't do that unless I try harder than I ever have before, but I'm ready.
In preparation for Grand Prix Charlotte (featuring the Gold Rush!) this weekend, Brad and I have been talking about and playing a reasonable amount of Limited. I've learned a lot about how most of the guilds work, as well as how good certain cards can be that I thought were marginal at best. For example:
These two cards are actually very good in both Sealed and Draft for their respective guilds. Leyline Phantom is especially powerful in Simic evolve decks because it will most likely trigger every one of your creatures each time you cast it. Additionally, a 5/5 for five mana is nothing to sneeze at, even if it does bounce every time it attacks or blocks. While it should definitely be the top of your curve and the rest of your deck should feature a large amount of miniature creatures with evolve, Leyline Phantom is much better than I originally gave it credit for.
Act of Treason, on the other hand, has been decent in the past. When formats are as aggressive as Gatecrash Limited, Threaten effects are just absurd. This does not even take into consideration the fact that Act of Treason in a lot of situations will trigger your battalion cards. I would say that Act of Treason is my favorite Limited card at the moment, but mostly because I just love drafting Boros!
If you want to look a bit more into the Limited format of Gatecrash, I highly recommend checking out our Sealed Deck Versus video from earlier this week.
While I am mostly silent outside of deck construction, I do think it was a solid exercise. It was also a lot of fun to do. Our deck mostly built itself, but sometimes that happens. We did have a few interesting decisions as far as splashing, and we could have potentially made a few different archetypes out of our cards, though they weren't as good as the Orzhov deck we ended up with.
Get 'Em Dead
Much like the Harlem Shake, I am ready to go ballistic in Standard. With access to so many powerful aggressive creatures as well as perfect mana, it is pretty difficult to justify playing a control deck that isn't just perfect. After having played a bit of the format on Magic Online, I can honestly say that I have never had so much fun as I have playing this Naya Blitz deck.
This deck has a Humans shell but does something much different than older Naya Humans decks. It simply doesn't care what the opponent is doing. Your only job is to throw down as many creatures as possible as fast as possible and to kill your opponent before they can cast Supreme Verdict or Thragtusk (depending on the matchup).
For reference, here is the current list:
- 4 Boros Elite
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Experiment One
- 4 Flinthoof Boar
- 4 Frontline Medic
- 4 Lightning Mauler
- 4 Mayor of Avabruck
Brad and I played a lot of Magic Online this past weekend, and most of our matches featured this deck (or something close to it). We tried a lot of different things, like Searing Spear, Bonds of Faith, Pacifism, Ghor-Clan Rampager, and a host of others. Eventually, we settled on this particular list for a few reasons.
The standout here is obviously Giant Growth. This is actually the second time in my life where I've played Giant Growth in a Standard deck. It is just bonkers in the aggro-on-aggro matchups, where everything comes down to combat math and everyone taps out every turn to play more creatures so there is very little fear of removal.
It's even better when the majority of removal in the format is damage-based, such as Searing Spear and Mizzium Mortars. Going forward, Giant Growth might fall out of favor if the removal spells played change, but I think it's pretty well positioned at the moment. Currently Mono-Red Aggro is one of the more popular decks on Magic Online, which makes Giant Growth just bonkers.
I won't go deep on this deck right now because Brad should have an article up on Friday about it. Suffice it to say that we both think it is awesome and the likelihood that we would have played it at the Pro Tour if we had been qualified is pretty high.
Do the Harlem Shake
For some reason, this little number has been bouncing around my head for the past few days. It started with just a few guys dancing around (what looks like) an apartment in odd costumes to a pretty generic (though pleasant) club song. The end result was an Internet phenomenon that has sparked tons of hype and new videos. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just go to YouTube and search for "Harlem Shake."
Honestly? I'm infatuated. I can't stop thinking about doing a video of my own, possibly at the Grand Prix this coming weekend in Charlotte, possibly at StarCityGames.com in Roanoke. I haven't figured it out yet, but I don't think this trend will last too long. If you're still confused, let me break it down for you.
1. You have a completely normal background setting with people doing menial tasks.
2. One person wearing a mask/helmet/strange outfit does an odd dance while everyone around that person continues acting normal.
3. As the song reaches the fifteen second mark, the picture changes and everyone goes berserk.
I honestly don't get it. But I love it. I just wanted to share it with everyone since it definitely seems like something that would be loved by most people in the Magic community. A ton of gaming companies have made videos, as well as a lot of musical artists (and various other famous people). In a dream world, I would have everyone at the player meeting in Charlotte do the Harlem Shake, but I don't think we're anywhere even remotely close to getting this to happen.
Anyway, I'll see you guys this weekend in Charlotte! I'll (hopefully) be the one holding up the trophy at the end!
Thanks for reading.
strong sad on Magic Online
@strong_sad on Twitter