The weekend is over, and there were two big ol' tournaments: Grand Prix Phoenix and the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Milwaukee.
With the new season starting and seeing that I had a measly one-point lead on William "Huey" Jensen, I was hungry for more Open Points, but I was hungry for some R&R a little more.
Thankfully I could satiate both of these desires since there was an Invitational Qualifier here at the Star City Game Center on Saturday. I was given the opportunity to try to get more Open Points and sleep in my own bed on a weekend for the first time since the Born of the Gods Prerelease.
Have cake. Eat it. I wanted both.
Seeing as now I have back-to-back Top 4 appearances with Monsters under my belt, I was more than ready to do my best Daenerys impression and battle with some Dragons, but it was not to be Khaleesi. The IQ here in Roanoke was Modern, and we all know what happened the last time I delved into that format.
As much as I enjoyed playing with my own tokens in Richmond, I was fairly certain that Melira Pod and RUG Twin were the two best decks in Modern, with Affinity a close-ish third. My plan was to pick up Melira Pod or RUG Twin and play it, learn it, and stick with it for the rest of my time playing Modern until something changes. I asked Brian Braun-Duin which deck was better, and he said that he didn't care and was playing Affinity because "he wanted to."
I could respect that, especially with my display in Richmond, but I wanted a real answer. I explained my thought process, and his response was that they are both awesome decks but Melira Pod is the best. He also said that if I were to ask Brad or Todd the same question, they would both say RUG Twin. He then said "Melira Pod is the best deck for me, and RUG Twin is the best deck for Todd and Brad." This is very true and something a lot of people overlook in Eternal formats. The power level of the cards is so absurdly high that familiarity and playstyle play a huge factor in what is the best deck for you.
BBD and I both have a similar love for midrange grind fests, so I went with Melira Pod. With visions of never comboing anyone and just Gavony Townshiping all of my opponents to death, I bought the few remaining cards I needed for the deck and was ready to battle. Sometimes you just have to spend $3.99 on a foil Viscera Seer because the majority of your one-ofs are already foil from coming out of your Cube. #FirstWorldProblems
I decided that I wanted to play Luis Scott Vargas' list from Richmond because I really liked Archangel of Thune and wanted to have the Spike Feeder as a fifth Kitchen Finks against aggressive decks. I only made one change to his list—I cut the fourth Thoughtseize from the sideboard for a Creeping Corrosion because I anticipated a lot of Affinity at a local IQ. Quite a few people played it, but none of them made Top 8 (BBD missed on breakers by like 0.6%). I didn't play against it at all. This was definitely wrong, as Thoughtseize is one of the best cards in the sideboard and even against Affinity Creeping Corrosion isn't needed.
Here is the list that I played.
- 1 Spellskite
- 1 Archangel of Thune
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 1 Murderous Redcap
- 3 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Qasali Pridemage
- 1 Ranger of Eos
- 1 Reveillark
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Shriekmaw
- 1 Spike Feeder
- 1 Viscera Seer
- 2 Voice of Resurgence
- 1 Wall of Roots
- 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
- 1 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
- 1 Thrun, the Last Troll
Playing the deck was really fun, and it's obviously very powerful. It was also quite a challenge to play since you have to plan out in advance what your game plan is to the point of what lands to fetch and when based on what you could need if you draw any of your nongreen spells.
I felt like every game my opponent was so worried about getting combed that they just lost to the insane amount of value I was generating with my creatures, Birthing Pod, and Gavony Township. Boy, had I missed me some Gavony Township. I'd made plenty of my mana dorks sizeable threats with Gavony Township before, and it's even better in this deck.
The one thing I took away from playing this deck in this tournament besides the affirmation that Birthing Pod is busted is that much like Jund Monsters, the sideboard for Melira Pod really is extremely powerful. And even though I lost a lot of game 1s, I felt very favored in every post-board game. When I stopped and thought about it, I realized that it was basically for the same reasons in each deck.
Our primary game plan puts a lot of pressure on our opponent to be proactive and stop us from comboing them, be it infinite damage or life with Melira, Sylvok Outcast and a persist creature with Melira Pod or taking over the game with an early planeswalker or killing out of nowhere with Ghor-Clan Rampager with Jund Monsters. This is something that our opponent has to be cognizant of at every step in the game, and when it comes to sideboarding, they have to adjust their deck and game plan to defend against these attacks.
When we get to sideboard, though, we are able to change the level on which our deck is operating. We usually still have the same "combo" element that our opponent is worried about, but now we get a few potent threats like Thrun, the Last Troll or Mistcutter Hydra and get to add a bunch of removal or hand disruption.
This allows us to attack our opponent from multiple angles, but they're still always so focused on the original combo element that they have either watered down their deck to the point where it's no longer able to put enough pressure on us to force us into unfavorable decisions or completely ignore the other facets of the battle and lose to the value, speed, and advantage that we press with our sideboard options.
This concept is very powerful and something we've see in the past with just about every G/B/x deck. It's very prevalent in Standard now with Thoughtseize available and so many cost-effective permanents that can run away with the game (Polukranos, World Eater; Xenagos, the Reveler; Domri Rade; Stormbreath Dragon; Sire of Insanity).
A handful of Jund Monsters decks made it into the Top 8 of Phoenix and Milwaukee, and I'm happy to see that just about all of them adopted my thought process on having less than four copies of Courser of Kruphix and a copy of Sire of Insanity in the main and made the swap from Garruk, Caller of Beasts to Vraska the Unseen that I talked about last week.
Unfortunately, I don't have another Standard tournament to play in until the Open Series heads to Cincinnati, so I haven't been tweaking the list very much and have instead been focusing on Theros/Born of the Gods Sealed and BTT Draft for the Grand Prix this weekend in Philadelphia. However, if anyone who played the deck and did well last week would like to discuss it, I'm all ears.
I'm sure everyone loves hearing about a format that isn't being played very much right now and the Jund Monsters deck that I keep talking about, but I want to look at a new card now.
Spoiler season is in full swing, and we have our first handful of Journey into Nyx cards. Some of them are obviously powerful, big, and splashy, but the one that caught my eye is quite innocuous. Simple and elegant, yet devilishly powerful.
Mono-Black Aggro is already a deck that is on the verge of being a contender, and I think that Gnarled Scarhide is going to really help make this a reality.
We already have two other two-power one-drops in Rakdos Cackler and Tormented Hero, and Gnarled Scarhide will help make the early game that much better. If you've ever played the Mono-Black Aggro deck, then you know just how different games can be when you have a one-drop. Unfortunately when cards are this good in the early turns, there is usually a tradeoff in the impact they can make in the mid to late game, and that is where Gnarled Scarhide shines.
Just being another Rakdos Cackler isn't anything to go bonkers over, but the fact that it has bestow is extremely powerful. Bestow is everything an aggressive deck wants, and we've seen this in the impact that Herald of Torment has had, which is probably the best card in Standard that isn't seeing the play it deserves. The ability to play Rakdos Cackler on turn 1 and still be relevant in pushing through damage later in the game while also playing around removal and sweepers is very powerful, not to mention I'm sure there will be plenty of times that you bestow your Gnarled Scarhide onto the opponent's creature so that you can swing through for the win.
We've already seen just how powerful this type of card can be with Herald of Torment and Spiteful Returned, and Gnarled Scarhide gives us a full twelve bestow creatures that we can play in our Mono-Black Aggro deck. Plus there is less than twenty cards spoiled so far!
A first draft would probably look something like this:
I'm sure the numbers could use some tweaking, but we can see that this deck is quite aggressive. With Gnarled Scarhide, Spiteful Returned, and Herald of Torment, we have something to do with our mana at just about any point in the game. If we combine this with Mutavault, we will always have something that we can do when we're flooding out but can still actually play threats if we're getting mana screwed. Because of all the bestow creatures and Mutavault, it could be that we want more than 22 lands, but with twelve one-drops I'm a bit hesitant to play more than that. Again, we're in new territory here with Gnarled Scarhide changing the dynamic of traditional one-drops.
I know besides the four copies of Thoughtseize that we also want some number of removal spells. The right number is probably somewhere between six and ten, but without actually playing some games with the cards it's really hard to say. Thankfully the next Standard tournament that I get to play in is the week of the Journey into Nyx release, so I'll have plenty of time to figure out what numbers are right and if this deck idea is a good one.
I'm very excited for the new set, as I feel like the current Standard format is pretty bland. I actually enjoy it quite a bit even though it's just a handful of decks because I feel like it's very skill intensive and most games have a lot of play to them. The current Standard format is a real test of who can build the most effective sideboard, and I really like formats like that. But I'm ready for something new to be thrown into the mix.
With my win at the IQ this past weekend, I now have 108 Open Points and am still in the lead for the Season Two Points Leader qualification for the SCG Players' Championship. We have a whole season ahead of us, though, so I'm still going to be grinding my little heart out at Opens, IQs and the new StarCityGames.com State Championships over the Pro Tour weekend (yes, they award Open Points too!).
I'll be in Philly this weekend for the Grand Prix, so make sure you stop by and say hi. After dabbling in 40-card decks for a weekend, I'll be back on the Standard and Legacy grind to try to lock up my slot for this quarter.
Hello and good luck!