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!)
It's been a while since our last episode, and reigning champ Brian Schlactus has enjoyed his time unopposed at the top of the brewing world. However, suns rise and set, and new sets are released. Born of the Gods is here, and it's time for the brewers to brew!
Let's hear it for reigning champ Brian Schlactus!
Everyone give a big hand to the champ!
(Crowd chants "sha-lacka-lacka-lacka-lacka!")
Let's get a refresher on who Brian is and where he hails from:
Now let's introduce our challenger. Frank Ford is an ice cream man by day and a longtime Friday Night Magic veteran by night. When Frank is not providing door to door icy goodness in a town near you, he's often brewing up a mean brew. Frank come on down! You're the next contestant on . . . So You Think You Can Brew!
(Crowd goes wild!)
Let's take a look at Frank's bio:
All right, 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? The loser must deal with the mockery and shaming of the rabble!
(Ooooohs and ahhhhhs from the crowd)
Sooooooo . . . DO YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW?!
As the defending champ, Brian has elected to receive the ball first. He sure looks like he is aiming to put a hex on the opposition!
Theros block is big on enchantments, and Brian is looking to have a double-striking hexproof party! Taking inspiration from hexproof decks of various formats, Brian's deck looks to build a huge unstoppable monster very quickly.
Brian is packing quite the suite of powerful creature Auras, headlined by three of the best Auras in the format. Unflinching Courage is an absolute nightmare for any aggressive deck since it is very difficult to race an unstoppable lifelinker, while Madcap Skills and Ethereal Armor can provide for very fast clocks. Brian also chose to include Ordeal of Purphoros an interesting Aura that can double as a removal spell and bestow Eidolon of Countless Battles. These Auras—
(A man sitting in the front row wearing a double XL Disturbed t-shirt shouts, "Creature enchantments suck! Nobody wants to get two-for-oned!")
Uh . . . security!
(Two huge security guards rush in and grab the man with poor musical taste, and as he is being dragged out, he chants "Two-for-oned! Two-for-oned!")
Ahem, sorry about that folks.
Anyway, the reason why creature enchantments often get a bad rap is because of their vulnerability to removal spells. Most decks that play a lot of creature Auras try to play as many hexproof creatures as possible, as we saw last season with Bant Hexproof and see in Modern with the Slippery Boggle deck, and Brian has taken some of the elements of those decks and applied them here.
And perhaps rightfully so.
While Alpha Authority does grant hexproof, it also does so in a way that can lead to the traditional problem of creature Auras. If your opponent manages to kill your creature in response to the Alpha Authority, you've lost your creature, your Aura, and valuable time.
The deck's best targets for Alpha Authority are its two double strike creatures, which can get absurdly out of hand with the powerful Auras in the deck. Just a lowly Madcap Skills on a Fabled Hero is a two-turn clock. These creatures give his deck enormous power potential—but at a risk.
Is the power worth the risk? Brian thinks so, and his deck looks like a wild fun ride to play!
(Crowd cheers on the champ!)
Why Are We Building This Deck?
Now, the biggest question you need ask yourself when you're building a 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 deck building, context is EVERYTHING.
You may build a fast aggressive deck full of creatures and burn, but does it have advantages over Mono-Red Devotion or Mono-Blue Devotion?
You may build a grindy Grixis Control deck, but can it compete with the control decks that have access to Sphinx's Revelation?
And of course there's 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 toward 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 sideboards. Even though the Krark-Clan Ironworks combo deck was a completely different strategy than Affinity and might have even been overpowered in other formats, it was not as good as Affinity and could not complete with Affinity's success.
So back to Brian's brew.
Right now Standard is awash with various types of devotion decks, which are very fixated on doing their own thing, and various control decks that are really good at killing stuff. So the question is . . .
(Crown hushes in anticipation.)
Why play Naya Hexproof?
Early in the format there seemed to be two kinds of decks. The devotion decks were mostly all in on the synergy of their devotion plans and offered little interaction beyond trying to do very synergistic and powerful things as fast as possible. This included decks like Mono-Blue Devotion, G/R Devotion, and R/W or R/G Devotion. And if these decks were still on top, Naya Hexproof might have been able to simply barrel through them with overpowering Aura draws.
However, Standard has evolved.
With Mono-Black Devotion being the top deck and most other decks adapting at least some form of removal, the targetable creatures in Brian's deck are going to have some problems.
However, it's not all bad. The deck is certainly capable of some extremely powerful draws, and any game that starts with turn 1 Gladecover Scout, turn 2 Madcap Skills, turn 3 Unflinching Courage is going to be extremely lopsided barring a Devour Flesh or Supreme Verdict. I'd also imagine that any game you're able to stick an Alpha Authority on a double strike creature and go to town will be difficult to lose.
Aside from the matchups, there are also a few other issues with the deck, which can be found in the sideboard. The most glaring of all is:
What's this thing doing on the bench?!
(The crowd looks around confused.)
With the rotation of Geist of Saint Traft and Invisible Stalker, this thing is probably the best hexproof creature you have left. It's a reasonable size and even has a relevant ability against half the decks in the format.
Which leads me to the overall problem with the sideboard—look how good all these cards are!
One of the issues with building a synergy-based deck is trying to make sure that you are balancing power with synergy. If your deck is too much synergy and no power, it won't be able to stand up against reasonable disruption. If your deck is all power and no synergy, it probably won a tournament recently.
It's also possible that Voice of Resurgence should be in the maindeck, as it's a resilient threat that punishes your opponent for playing spells in response to your Auras.
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 SCG Open with it? FNM is supposed to be fun, and your beloved host has played some really wacky decks himself 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 that was always a crowd pleaser.
(Murmurs from the crowd about this crazy concoction.)
This deck definitely has some issues but does seem like quite the wild ride. A deck like this is often referred to as a "glass cannon." It's very powerful but also very fragile and could shatter at any time.
I don't think I could see taking this deck to a Pro Tour, but for a spin at an IQ or FNM, this deck seems like a blast!
We're going to take a quick commercial break, so stay tuned for our challenger Frank Ford's brew coming up right after these messages from our sponsor!
All right, we are back, and Frank Ford has brought a deck that will make your opponents lose their minds!
- 3 Axebane Guardian
- 4 Doorkeeper
- 3 Omenspeaker
- 2 Prophet of Kruphix
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Wall of Frost
- 3 Phenax, God of Deception
Frank has crafted a deck based around defenders and mill. If that's not surprising enough, it actually looks pretty good!
Built around the new U/B god from Born of the Gods, Phenax, God of Deception, this deck looks to control the board with an army of defender creatures and then wipe away its opponent's library with Phenax's powerful ability. Phenax has been maligned as one of the most obvious and weak Gods from Born of the Gods, but he's also the only one that can have a major impact on the board the first turn you play him.
Phenax is backed up with the powerful planeswalker duo of Jace, Memory Adept and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. Both are already powerful control cards and can draw you cards or cast your opponent's creatures respectively.
(Tumbleweed blows by.)
Well, they are back and—
(A gaunt woman three rows back stage left yells, "They were never here in the first place!")
Ahem, tough crowd tonight. Well anyway, they both join rookie Wall of Frost and overachiever Sylvan Caryatid to form a solid core of defenders. Sylvan Caryatid and Axebane Guardian do a great job of fixing and accelerating your mana, while Wall of Frost is a frustratingly annoying blocker. Doorkeeper is even able to get some mill going all by himself!
Interestingly enough, this motley assortment of defenders will actually be serving as your primary win condition. When Phenax shows up, they can go from holding down the fort to using their large toughnesses to mill significant portions of your opponent's library away. Toss in Prophet of Kruphix to double your trouble!
The deck also contains some of the better removal spells in Standard and makes good use of the color combination.
All in all, Frank has crafted a very interesting and unique deck!
Why Are We Building This Deck?
As we said before, when it comes to deckbuilding . . .
(Whole crowd chants in unison.)
CONTEXT. IS. EVERYTHING!
One interesting thing about this deck is that it's attacking the format from a totally different angle. As we said before, many decks are either trying to go really big with devotion, cast huge haymakers, or control the board for many turns by killing everything in sight. The question is this: what are the benefits of attacking from this different angle?
Because the deck has no creatures that are paramount to its success, it's not nearly as vulnerable to creature removal as many other decks. It also seems like it would do a good job against decks looking to play a longer game since the more time it has, the more of your library it can wear away. This means that decks like U/W Control and Mono-Black Devotion and its variants should give this deck ample time to set up.
While the deck does seem somewhat vulnerable to the faster decks of the format, especially ones with flying threats like Stormbreath Dragon, the number of defenders and removal spells should be able to keep a reasonable amount of the threats at bay.
The deck's removal suite is what I think makes it viable at all. Abrupt Decay is absolutely fantastic right now, as it is an early removal spell that is not only not dead against U/W Control but is actively very good because it can kill Detention Sphere. Abrupt Decay is one of the best removal spells in the format, but currently there isn't really a deck that is able to take advantage of it. While I would love to see more Abrupt Decays and fewer Putrefys, Cyclonic Rift also very much interests me.
Cyclonic Rift is a very difficult card to use because it is so tempo based yet expensive. Aggressive decks can't really afford to overload it, and control decks can't take advantage of the overload because they don't kill fast enough—their opponents will simply have time to recast all their spells. But in this deck a big Rift can buy all the time you need to get those last few Phenax, God of Deception or Jace, Memory Adept activations in to win the game.
However, the deck is not without its issues.
Yes, Tower Defense is adorable. If you have a few defenders and a Phenax out, it can mill a ton of extra cards. Jaw-droppingly adorable.
Do you want to know what else is adorable?
(The crowd sits up in anticipation as a little corgi scampers across the stage.)
However, you don't send corgis out to race with greyhounds.
Mind Grind has a similar problem—most of the time it's just going to be overkill. It does nothing in the early or midgame, and while it is good powered up off of some Axebane Guardians, you are likely in good shape those games anyway.
I would love to see some more control elements in the deck, like more Abrupt Decays and Cyclonic Rifts and perhaps another copy each of Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and Jace, Memory Adept. The deck's mana base could also use some work, as a deck with no one-drops should definitely be favoring scry lands over dual lands.
Competitive Or Fun?
One thing is for sure: Frank has cooked up a fun one. Who doesn't want to sit back and tap their Wall of Mr. Frosty to mill their opponent for eight cards? While definitely still a first draft, with some major work I could see a deck like this being at least a reasonable option in Standard at some point. Let's give it up for Frank and his brew!
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!)
Does current champ Brian Schlactus have what it takes to schlack the competition?
(Crowd chants "shaaaaa-lack-lack-lack-lack!")
Or will newcomer Frank Ford prove to be cold as ice?
(Crowd chants "Frank! Frank! Frank!")
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 section of the article, I will post one comment with each of our contestant's names. Simply "like" the one you want to vote for. It's that simple! And don't be bashful. Let us know why you like the deck you picked and why you hate the deck you didn't!
The winner will be back to defend his title in the next episode. The loser? The loser will be laughed into obscurity by the rabble, never to brew on the public stage again!
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!)
Executive Producer: Jim Davis
Executive Editor: Cedric Phillips
Executive Copy Editor: Kaitlin Lindburg
Director of Musicography: MXW Peter
Lead Corgi Trainer: Brandon Nelson
Spanish Foreign Exchange Unit: Christian Calcano, Joe Demestrio, Pete Ingram
No corgis were harmed in the filming of this episode.
Filmed live on stage at Brother's Grim Games in Selden, New York.
So You Think You Can Brew is a StarCityGames.com Production.