Good evening everyone! Welcome back to another episode of . . .
SO YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW!!!
The show where we take a couple of everyday Magic players and see if they have what it takes to brew up a deck that can take down their local FNM—or maybe even ascend to greatness at the SCG Open Series and beyond!
(More tremendous applause!)
Last episode we saw a battle between two friends turned rivals, as Gary Fingers' very awesome Bant Delver deck was able to take down Yogi Brown's aggressive Naya deck to win the first ever So You Think You Can Brew!
However, we are just getting started! Gary is back to defend his title, and he will be facing a new challenger!
Let's introduce our contestants!
First, hailing from Farmingdale, New York, your defending So You Think You Can Brew champion . . . Gary Fingers come on down!
Everyone give Gary a big hand!
(Rowdy applause for the champ!)
Let's take a look at Gary's bio:
Next up we have our challenger! Last seen winning a decisive victory on Life on the Grid, Danny Jessup come on down!
Let's take a look at Dan's bio:
Alright, we have met our contestants; now for a quick rundown of the rules. Each contestant will present us with a brewed up deck for the Standard format. We will then discuss the deck, looking at a number of factors and providing some analysis and feedback to you, the audience! When all is said and done, every one of you will have a chance to cast your vote, and one of the decks will be crowned the winner! The contestant who brewed up the deck that wins the vote will move on to the next round! The loser? Well, that unlucky contestant will have to play the following week's FNM wearing clothing of the winner's choice!
(Ooooohs and ahhhhhs from the crowd.)
Sooooooo . . . DO YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW?!
As the defending champ, Gary has decided to play first! Let's take a look at what he has brewed up this time!
Okay, let's see what we've got here. Once again Gary has given us a blue-based aggressive tempo deck, this time featuring a very powerful card that has seen very little love so far:
Duskmantle Seer is a sweet card that has had a lot of trouble finding a home, and here Gary has done the work to make him a monster. Every single spell in the deck besides the Seer costs two mana or less, meaning the Dark Confidant ability will not be hurting you much at all. On the plus side, Standard is currently rife with midrange decks, and there are plenty of four- and five-mana spells in your opponents' decks for them to flip and take a huge chunk out of their life total. Is this the home that Duskmantle Seer has been waiting for?
Tag teaming with Duskmantle Seer to do most of the heavy hitting in this deck is already proven Standard newcomer Scavenging Ooze. Backing them up is the very potent utility duo of Snapcaster Mage and Deathrite Shaman, who really need no introduction.
Gary's spell suite is full of powerful tempo cards so he can dictate the pace of the game. Cheap removal like Unsummon, Tragic Slip, Doom Blade, and Abrupt Decay plow the road, while countermagic like Essence Scatter and Syncopate serve to press your advantage. Gary's also got two big finishers in Runechanter's Pike and Cyclonic Rift, which both conveniently cost only two mana.
This is a deck that in a lot of ways more so resembles a Legacy deck than a Standard deck; it has a bunch of cheap library manipulation and disruption spells backed up by Deathrite Shaman and Snapcaster Mage and looks to go big with Scavenging Ooze and the closest thing to Dark Confident that is available. It looks to make excellent use of its graveyard with a surprisingly large amount of graveyard interactions. All in all, Gary's deck looks both inventive and like a blast to play.
Why Are We Building This Deck?
The biggest question you need ask yourself when you are building new brew is—yep, you guessed it—why? Why are we making this deck? What is our goal? Are we trying to make a new busted combo deck? Are we trying to make the fastest aggressive deck possible? Are we trying to utilize a certain powerful card? Are we trying to exploit a hole in the metagame?
When it comes to deckbuilding, context is EVERYTHING.
You may build a fast aggressive deck full of creatures and burn, but does it have advantages over Mono-Red Aggro, R/G Aggro, or The Aristocrats?
You may build a grindy RUG Control deck, but can it compete with the control decks that have access to Sphinx's Revelation?
And, of course, there is the context of the format itself as well. A deck can be very good in the abstract, but it may not be able to survive if the format is unusually hostile towards it. For example, when Affinity was the major deck in Standard, almost every non-Affinity deck was playing maindeck Oxidizes, and loads of other artifact removal in their sideboard. Even though the Krark-Clan Ironworks combo decks were a completely different strategy than Affinity and might have even been overpowered in other formats, they were not as good as Affinity and could not complete with Affinity's success.
Back to Gary's brew.
An aggressive aggro-control tempo deck is something we have not seen very much of in the current Standard format. Regardless, because the deck is clearly faster than many of the midrange decks and is mostly going to be taking an aggressive stance, we are going to have to compare it with Mono-Red Aggro, Bant Hexproof, and various versions of The Aristocrats.
The biggest thing that an aggro-control deck has to deal with is that it's simply not going to be as fast as the more aggressive options in the format. The tradeoff is that it usually has more resilience, more flexibility, and allows for more room to outplay your opponents. When compared to Mono-Red Aggro decks or Burning-Tree Emissary fueled Blitz decks, it can't come close to competing on the axis of speed. It also is going to lack the explosive starts of a deck like Bant Hexproof or the powerful synergies of a deck like The Aristocrats. The tradeoff is that while a Blitz deck might fold to one Supreme Verdict or a Bant Hexproof deck to one Liliana of the Veil activation, a deck like Gary's will have much more game. It is also set up fairly well against the bigger spells of midrange decks with its counterspells and cheap tempo-based removal.
Yet the biggest thing you will notice with a deck like this is that there are going to be no free wins. There is no "nut draw"—you will not just have your opponent dead on turn 4 sometimes because the cards fall just right. You will be grinding out every win.
This seems like a deck that is also going to live and die by Duskmantle Seer. If your opponent can't kill (or you can adequately protect) your Duskmantle Seer, your games will likely go well. But if your opponent can successfully deal with Seer, you are going to have a difficult time putting a quick clock on them and leveraging your tempo-based spells.
In this respect, the deck is very similar to a Legacy tempo deck like RUG or BUG, which works to lay its threat and disrupt you til your dead. The question is can this strategy work in Standard without access to Legacy's fantastic disruption base?
Another question to consider: what removal spells are currently being played? If it's a smattering of Pillar of Flame, Doom Blade, and Searing Spear, things are looking good. If it's Mizzium Mortars, Supreme Verdict, and Warleader's Helix, life is going to be difficult.
The deck also seems very dependent on where Standard is currently at. If there are a large amount of aggressive red or Naya decks around or just decks in general that are prepared to deal with Duskmantle Seer and Scavenging Ooze, this deck might not be the best choice.
Conversely, if people are playing decks like Junk Reanimator and other midrange decks that will both have trouble dealing with Duskmantle Seer, Scavenging Ooze, and your countermagic, this deck could be very well positioned.
The last thing I want to talk about is how interesting some of the deckbuilding tension is in this deck. Make no mistake about it—this is a graveyard deck. Deathrite Shaman, Snapcaster Mage, Scavenging Ooze, and Runechanter's Pike are all cards that are completely dependent on the graveyard to fuel their power level, and Thought Scour is at its absolute best in a deck like this.
Yet this creates some friction. Scavenging Ooze is going to take away some of Deathrite Shaman's life gain thunder, while you are going to have a hard time deciding if you want to be using Deathrite Shaman to remove instants and sorceries from your own graveyard. What if you draw Snapcaster Mage or Runechanter's Pike? And again, each Snapcaster Mage use is going to make your Runechanter's Pike worse regardless.
The last thing I'm going to question is if this deck even really wants to be green. Currently, the only two green cards in the maindeck are Scavenging Ooze and Abrupt Decay. Is it really worth the difficult mana base? Perhaps there are more options in only blue and black—something to consider.
Competitive or Fun?
The final question we need to ask about this deck is "what are we making this deck for?" Are we having fun at FNM? Or are we trying to take this deck to the next level and take down a PTQ or StarCityGames.com Standard Open with it? FNM is supposed to be fun, and I've played some really wacky decks myself at various FNMs in years past (one was a Heartbeat of Spring / Myojin of the Seeing Winds combo deck that would take infinite turns with Beacon of Tomorrows).
From initial analysis, this seems like the perfect FNM deck. While it might be a victim of the format and therefore not the best choice for a high-level event, the deck seems like both an absolute blast to play and excellent against the wider variety of decks you will see at a local FNM. Besides, Duskmantle Seer is just such a sweet and fun card; how can you not want to give it some love?
We are going to take a quick commercial break, so stay tuned for our challenger Danny Jessup's brew, coming up right after these messages from our sponsor!
Alright, we are back, we have navigated the foggy maze, and we are here with our challenger and his brew!
(Ooooohs and ahhhhhs from the crowd.)
29 lands; three creatures, all of them 1/3s; no way to win the game but the activated ability of a land that comes into play tapped and requires you to have ten other specific lands in play. Danny Jessup is a madman looking to navigate to the Maze's End!
What we have here is essentially the marriage of a Turbo Fog deck, which tries to cast fog effects every turn in an attempt to lock their opponents out of the game, with an alternate win condition combo-control deck utilizing Maze's End. This deck is going to use its fogs to buy as much time as possible while occasionally clearing the board with Supreme Verdict and blocking with Auger of Bolas. Urban Evolution is the perfect card for this deck, as it allows you to draw more fog effects while also letting you get more Gates into play faster.
This deck also makes fantastic use of the M14 rare Into the Wilds, as this is a deck that was to get as many lands in play as possible and stall for as long as possible. This means that Into the Wilds will be triggering many times over many turns, and with 29 lands in the deck, it will hit just a house edge under 50% of the time. Between Into the Wild and Urban Evolution, this deck can certainly kill a lot faster than you would think! Dan's deck is exciting because it attacks the format from a completely different angle than most decks.
Why Are We Building This Deck?
So as we said before, when it comes to deckbuilding . . .
(Whole crowd chants in unison.)
CONTEXT. IS. EVERYTHING!
And context is one of the most interesting things about Dan's deck. Standard right now is a midranger's paradise, as there are so many powerful midrange cards and strategies that they have for the most part dominated. And what is natural predator to a midrange deck?
(For a tense moment, the crowd expectantly awaits an answer.)
Combo decks! Midrange decks typically excel when there is no combo deck present in the format. Midrange decks beat the smaller aggressive decks by going "bigger" than them—that is, matching their inexpensive quick threats with slightly larger and more powerful/resilient threats (think Huntmaster of the Fells and Thragtusk) backed up by cheap spot removal spells. They beat control decks by presenting many of these powerful midgame threats and trying to overwhelm them before the late game.
Combo decks are immune to both of these. While this deck is not a typical combo deck in the vein of assemble these two cards and kill you on the spot, it possesses many of the same aspects. This combo-control deck is completely uninterested in what your opponent is doing beyond fogging the attack step. It doesn't care about life totals or board presence, blanks many of your opponents' cards (such as removal spells), and possesses extreme inevitability.
Midrange decks typically can't apply enough pressure to combo decks to kill them before they can assemble their combo. This makes the prospect of playing a combo deck in this format an excellent one, as you will be able to pray on the myriad of midrange decks relying on slow, expensive creatures like Thragtusk and Olivia Voldaren to win the game. They can gain all the life they want off of Thragtusk and Huntmaster of the Fells and can have all the creature removal in the world, but it's not going to help them at all.
Having a combo-control deck based around a land also gives you excellent inevitability against long-game control decks like U/W/R Flash and U/W Control, as they have no real way to interact with Maze's End itself.
The big question: is the combo fast enough to beat the aggressive decks of the format? And is it consistent enough to fight through the midrange decks as well?
This is difficult to answer. This is not a fast combo deck. It's not like Splinter Twin combo or Storm combo where it can just win out of nowhere.
This can make things very hard for it against an aggressive deck that is going to present an extreme amount of pressure. The deck needs time to set up and cast its enchantments and card draw spells, and of course the deck possesses the very difficult drawback of having most of its lands come into play tapped.
I think this is the reason for—and why I like—the inclusion of both Auger of Bolas and Supreme Verdict in the deck. Sometimes you are just going to need to stall and play catch up, and you can't fog every single turn.
This deck looks like it would have a lot of trouble with Mono-Red and R/G Aggro, as not only do they present very fast clocks but they also have the damage from Hellrider, burn spells, and worst of all Burning Earth. However, it also looks like it would fare very well against the midrange and control decks of the format. This seems like a deck that wants to sneak up on the format when the time is right.
Competitive or Fun?
One thing is for sure—this deck looks like an absolute blast to play. From peeking at your top card every turn and getting to play it for free to blanking all of your opponent's removal and Thragtusks to getting to win the game regardless of your opponent's board state, this deck seems like a rowdy good time.
The Moment of Truth
Well folks, we are down to it. The moment you've all been waiting for. The moment you decide the winner of this episode of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW!
(Crowd goes wild with applause!)
Will the current champ Gary Fingers take it down?
(Some of the crowd chants "Gary! Gary! Gary!")
Or will newcomer Dan Jessup overthrow the champ?
(Crowd chants "Jess-up! Jess-up!")
Here's how the voting works. Take your time and pick the brewer and deck that you like the most! Remember, this is subjective—you can think the deck is more competitive, more fun, more something you'd like to play, or just plain like it better for any reason you can think of!
In the comments of the article, I will post one comment for each contestant with their name. Simply "like" the one you want to vote for! It's that simple!
The winner will be back to defend his title in the next episode. The loser? The loser will have to play his next FNM wearing whatever embarrassing clothing the winner wants!
So cast your votes, and we will see you next time on the show where we ask everyday Magic players . . .
SO YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW?
(Applause and theme music!)
(I highly encourage all comments and feedback. Feel free to either post in the comments of the article or message me directly on Facebook. Please also feel free to follow me on Facebook, but don't be offended if I don't accept your friend request; I only add people I'm acquainted with in person.)