I love the Northwest. I really do. I mean, the lack of Chick-fil-As and the fact that we only get a few SCG Open Series every year that are within a reasonable driving distance does suck, but for all of my non-MTG, non-mechanically separated poultry needs, this region rocks! I knew I wanted to play in SCG Open Series: Seattle, but I wasn't really set on any deck in particular. Our playtest group worked on both Legacy and Standard every week leading up to Seattle for a couple months.
A good friend of mine, Jesse Roberts, is in my opinion one of the greatest players to have never broken on to the Pro Tour. He is an incredibly innovative deckbuilder, and I always try to play his decks because they're original and competitive. Despite the aforementioned testing, we were thoroughly stumped as to which deck would be the best choice in Standard for the event. Baffled in every sense of the word, that is, until Jesse presented us with a U/G tempo deck with evolve creatures plus undying ones that began evolving…
Here's the deck I played to a Top 16 finish in SCG Standard Open: Seattle a few weeks ago:
The deck has some similar interactions to the BUG Aggro deck that won the Brazilian WMCQ and that Sam Black wrote about. This deck began prior to that deck's win, when Jesse said he wanted to build a U/G tempo deck that used the interaction of casting a Rapid Hybridization on an undying creature while you have a creature with evolve in play. Here's an example of a great draw that isn't uncommon for this deck:
1. The undying trigger from Young Wolf hitting the graveyard and Cloudfin's evolve trigger from the 3/3 Frog Lizard entering play go on the stack. (You get the choice of how to stack those two triggers.)
2. Stack them evolve first then undying so that undying resolves first. Young Wolf comes back as a 2/2.
3. Another Cloudfin evolve trigger goes on the stack from the 2/2 Wolf entering play on top of the first evolve trigger and resolves first. Cloudfin becomes a 2/3.
4. Finally, the evolve trigger from the Frog Lizard resolves, and Cloudfin becomes a 3/4.
The original list looked something like this:
As you can see, the maindeck has only three rares and zero mythics, so it is an incredibly cheap deck to build. We built it online and played it in a Daily Event, where we went undefeated. The evolve creatures plus Rapid Hybridization on an undying creature was a powerful interaction, and we liked the deck. Hunger of the Howlpack is pretty important in this version because you want to make a big guy to power through Thragtusk and other big things in Standard right now. Simic Charm is also important since the hexproof mode protects the guy you're going to cast Hunger of the Howlpack on, as well as the other two modes being quite good. One game we did the following:
- Turn 1 Cloudfin Raptor.
- Turn 2 Strangleroot Geist, evolve the Cloudfin Raptor, and swing for three.
- Turn 3 Rapid Hybridization the Strangleroot Geist, evolve Cloudfin Raptor twice more, then Hunger of the Howlpack the Cloudfin Raptor to make it a 6/7, and attack for nine!
That's twelve power on the board turn 3. If you're looking for a fun budget deck, you should definitely try something like the pure U/G version. Snapcaster Mage isn't even that important if you don't have him and can be replaced with Zameck Guildmage, who is amazing late game with removing a counter from an undying creature and drawing a card to allow it to undie again, or even Frilled Oculus, who has three toughness to evolve your guys and can be pumped with extra mana. However, if you can afford the lands and other cards, I think the deck gets better by adding a third color.
Hallowed Fountain helps cast some of the hybrid W/G cards in the board, so the next Daily we played in I wanted to add white for that and try Geist of Saint Traft. It seemed like it'd be good because the Angel token is able to evolve your guys each turn with it being a 4/4 that enters the battlefield whenever Geist attacks. Geist of Saint Traft is a fast clock by itself, and with Rancor you can do tricks like Unsummon their blocker or cast Rapid Hybridization after blocks are declared to push damage through and keep your Geist alive. We cut the Snapcasters and Bioshifts, which underperformed, for Geist of Saint Traft and added Hallowed Fountains, Temple Gardens, and Sunpetal Groves to support him.
We 4-0ed and 3-1ed another couple Daily Events with something like this:
The Geists of Saint Trafts were amazing and won a couple of games by themselves. The Hunger of the Howlpacks became less important because you had such a huge threat with Geist, so we switched them out for Selesnya Charm. Selesnya Charm's modes are amazing in this deck: an instant speed 2/2 Knight can trigger evolve, a pump spell that gives trample to push through damage, or a removal spell for the problematic Angel of Serenity. Playing Rancor makes Selesnya Charm's exile mode even better because you can Rancor an opponent's three or four power guy (Boros Reckoner or Restoration Angel), exile it, and get your Rancor back! Talk about options!
A week before Seattle, we stopped playing the deck in Daily Events to avoid it being published and played it in a Grand Prix Trial, in which my friend Michael Tessier beat me in the mirror in the semifinals and won three byes for Portland. I sent our list to Gerry Thompson, who gave encouragement, made some suggestions for the aggressive matchups, and helped clean up the board. We settled on Spell Ruptures in the main over Simic Charm because we were bringing it in against both midrange and control.
At about 4 AM Saturday morning, after a few hours of restless sleep, I picked Jesse up and drove to Michael's house, where we picked up him, Gunnar Brinkman, and Andrew Danger Daugherty and left Eugene for Seattle. I drove for about an hour and was getting too tired, so Jesse took over driving, and I fell in and out of sleep in the back seat for the next three hours.
In Seattle, Jesse, Michael, Cameron Herzog, and I all registered the exact same 75. Michael and Jesse picked up some early loses, but Cameron and I started out 4-0. Cameron and I got a couple feature matches on camera (me in round 2 when I was super nervous), which was sweet, and I got to do a deck tech at 5-1. Cameron lost to eventual finalist Jordan Judson in round 8, and I got a feature match for the win-and-in against Jordan in round 9.
Jordan played extremely well, and it pretty much came down to game 3 when I mulliganed to a one-land, six-card hand on the play and missed my third land drop with Geist of Saint Traft and Spell Rupture in hand. I drew the third land the next turn, but then Jordan had four mana on his turn and dropped a Clone to take care of my Geist. I was choked on lands and couldn't do enough to win the game. Keeping a one lander is sometimes what you have to do with this deck, though, and a six-card, one-land hand is usually better than a four-land, seven-card hand. The deck wins by playing more spells in the early game because all of your creatures except for maybe Geist of Saint Traft are worse than the average four- or five-drop creatures in other Standard decks.
Cameron and I both went 8-2, with a combined total of 16-2 against non-Jordan Judson opponents for the day. We finished 15th and 21st and got the glory for the deck playing on camera and me with the deck tech. Most of the credit for the deck and sideboarding plans belongs to Jesse, though, who made some sleep deprived mistakes and finished X-4 but was with us between rounds giving Cameron sideboarding advice (since he only started playing the deck the day before) and cheering us on. He's still a champ.
The deck seems like it will still be ok in the new Standard format. Unsummon has good game against tokens, and Voice of Resurgence is kind of like another undying creature for Rapid Hybridization. Spell Rupture was rather clunky at times, and though it may be incorrect to cut them all, this is the version I would play in the new format:
- 4 Cloudfin Raptor
- 4 Experiment One
- 4 Strangleroot Geist
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 4 Young Wolf
- 4 Geist of Saint Traft
If you're looking for a fun Standard deck to play, you should give U/G or Bant Evolve a shot. The U/G Evolve deck probably costs around 40 tickets on Magic Online without Snapcaster Mage, so there's always that if you're looking to build a cheap Standard deck. If you play the U/G list above, play two Frilled Oculus and two Zameck Guildmage instead of the two Snapcaster Mages and two Bioshifts. Find room for a couple Dispels, Triumph of Ferocitys, and Ground Seals in the board too.
The inspiration for the Legacy deck I played came from seeing Jeff Hoogland's Loam deck with Chalice of the Void, which you can read about here. I really liked the idea of playing four Mox Diamond and four Chalice of the Void, and when I saw that I wondered if one of my favorite decks from a couple years ago, Junk Depths, could fit with those cards. Junk Depths was popular and successful during the Mental Misstep era, mostly because Marit Lage is so vulnerable to Swords to Plowshares. Thankfully, Chalice of the Void on one solves that problem nicely, so instead of playing Burning Wish like in Jeff's deck, we had Living Wish because it tutors for both Vampire Hexmage and Dark Depths.
I liked the Life from the Loam engine a lot, and after a bad build of Junk Depths, we tested this version of Jund Depths:
The deck did okay in testing, but I wasn't sure I liked having Punishing Fire more than Knight of the Reliquary. Knight is a win condition by itself sometimes, and white gives you better creatures to Living Wish for like Ethersworn Canonist, Gaddock Teeg, and Harmonic Sliver. Having Knight of the Reliquary also means you only have to draw a single Living Wish or Vampire Hexmage with an active Knight in play to make a Marit Lage.
After much testing and tweaking, this is the list I played in Seattle:
- 4 Dark Confidant
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 1 Qasali Pridemage
- 3 Vampire Hexmage
- 1 Gaddock Teeg
- 1 Dryad Arbor
As with most decks in Legacy, this one has some cards that are extremely expensive. Many thanks to Michael for loaning me a Karakas, Vincent Davis for a couple Wastelands, Chris Mitchel and Eric Tojimbaro for loaning me dual lands, Brock Sprunger (and Addictive Behaviors) for loaning me The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, and Brent Godels for loaning me the second Karakas and the Chains of Mephistopheles.
I started out 6-1 and got a feature match on camera against Robb Couey in round 5. Game 2 was going well for Robb until I drew my second Cavern, named Humans, and got out a Knight of the Reliquary. On his turn with a 3/3 Nimble Mongoose in play and two Volcanic Islands, he played a third Volcanic Island and then tried to Submerge my 6/6 Knight. After the confusion with the Submerge, he Brainstormed, then wasn't sure if he had played a land, and asked me. I couldn't be sure at the time, and neither was the table judge. I looked at Jesse, who was watching, and he nodded that he had. Robb said, "Oh yeah, I played the Volcanic before the Brainstorm," so he passed the turn.
Before I untapped, the commentators mistakenly communicated to the table judge that they thought he hadn't played a land, so Robb played a fetch, found a Tropical Island, and cast a Tarmogoyf, which was a 4/5. On my turn, I drew a Bojuka Bog. I played another Knight of the Reliquary and the Bojuka Bog, exiling Robb's graveyard. I was at five with two 6/6 Knights, and Robb was at seventeen with a 1/1 Nimble Mongoose and a now 3/4 'Goyf. I had to start applying pressure, so I attacked. Robb forgot he lost threshold and double blocked the Knight. I confirmed that he wanted to block and then went to damage and killed both his creatures. My Knight survived, which pretty much ended the game. Robb seemed to take it well and was a very gracious opponent.
At 6-1, I lost the win-and-in versus RUG Delver, and in the last round, at 6-2, I got paired up against Cedric Phillips, who was 6-1-1, and we had a feature match on camera. Since the prize for 9th-32nd is the same and I knew I couldn't get higher than 9th if I won and that Cedric could possibly make Top 8 at 7-1-1, when he asked for the concession I gave it to him. I wish I would have gotten to play on camera again with the deck, but Cedric and I had shook hands and didn't get play at all. I ended up 31st, but unfortunately Cedric got 9th by a fraction of a percent on tiebreakers.
A lot of my friends were upset that I just scooped to Cedric after he dream crushed our friend Ricky Cummings at 8-1 when Cedric was 8-0-1 in the last round the day before. He did it because he wanted to be on the play for each round of the Top 8, which was critical for his deck. My situation was much different since I had nothing to gain; since my tiebreakers were very good, I was pretty sure I was going to get Top 32 anyways. I don't know if I would do what Cedric did in his place , but I would do what I did in my place every time, except maybe ask to play it out and then concede if I was about to win a second game.
Yeah, that would have been better!
Grats to Michael Nixon for taking down Standard with G/B/W Reanimator and to Bryan Eleyet, the Hive Mind Master, for winning the Legacy Open. Both were great players and very nice guys. As for me, both of the decks I played were great fun, and I had a blast playing in Seattle. I hope they have more SCG Open Series in the Northwest in the future since they had a pretty good turnout this time. If that happens, we just have to work on the Chick-fil-A problem…