What a fantastic weekend I had at the Starcitygames.com Open in Richmond. I battled with my own rogue creation in Standard and came within two games of the Top 8 with it on Saturday, and then I came back on Sunday for the Legacy Open and did better than I expected I would considering I hadn't played a single game of Legacy in two years. Nearly all my opponents were awesome with only one exception, and he was just a little grumpy so it wasn't so bad. I also got to chat a little bit with my editor Cedric Phillips in person, which is always nice. He looked sharp in his suit as always.
If you've been following my adventures in Standard over the past two months it won't surprise you I took Villainous Wealth out for another spin. When Khans of Tarkir was first spoiled Villainous Wealth was one of three rogue brews I cooked up that I wanted to try out in the new Standard. Villainous Wealth looked to be the most fun and was the deck I tried first. What typically happens with new brews is that I'll tinker around with one until I get tired of getting stomped by the established decks and then move on to the next brew. But something odd's been happening with Villainous Wealth-it keeps winning. Not in a totally dominating way so I keep tweaking the deck and improving it, but I've racked up an impressive string of wins, and now that I've run it with great success through the always challenging Starcitygames.com Open I can say quite confidently that if you want to play Villainous Wealth and win, my version is the way to go. I know there are other builds floating around there, ones that try and play control and dicker around with lots of removal and use Dig through Time to find a Dictate of Karametra and Villainous Wealth, but I think you're basically just being a worse control deck than others in the metagame. My version of Villainous Wealth is a green devotion deck chock full of powerful cards that can win the game on their own, with Villainous Wealth playing the role of an incredible card- and mana-advantage engine that can either dig out of a hole and turn a game around or totally put the game away. It can play the grindy, incremental advantage game that midrange decks are known for while also supporting a card that nearly always says "I win" when successfully cast.
The most recent innovation I made to the deck was to push it heavier black so I could run Hero's Downfall over Murderous Cut and add Reaper of the Wilds to the mix. When I was just splashing black and blue into the basically Mono-Green Devotion, it made sense to go with the much easier to cast Murderous Cut, but moving towards heavier black I was thrilled to upgrade to a much better removal spell that gives me more planeswalker defense. Reaper of the Wilds adds another durable threat that laughs off Stoke the Flames and with extra mana lying around becomes even better.
The other innovation is adding a playset of Heir of the Wilds to the deck. This card may seem a little odd at first glance, but it has been my MVP so many times since I first gave him a try that I can't say enough about it. The thing with any midrange green deck is that if you give it enough time it will win through its larger threats, and that's doubly true with Villainous Green Devotion, so one way to beat it is to run under it and dish out twenty points of damage fast. In early versions of the deck, I found myself getting pressured so hard by cards like Goblin Rabblemaster or some buffed-up heroic dude that I had to toss Sylvan Caryatids and Voyaging Mystics under the bus just to survive another turn. And when you're doing that you're making it even harder to cast the big spell you'd need to stabilize. Once I tried Heir of the Wilds I knew I had a great solution on my hands. Sure, it can die to any number of removal spells, but if they're spending an early turn removing it they're not spending that mana increasing their board presence, and they're also less likely to have a removal spell for the bigger threats. If they don't kill it, it stonewalls their biggest threat until they can figure a way to deal with it. So many times these sorts of decks just muscle through any potential early blockers and just run them over, but Heir of the Wilds' deathtouch doesn't care how big the creature is, trades are happening.
When you're not forced to play defense early on, Heir of the Wilds makes a fantastic attacker that can blow past any potential early blockers like Sylvan Caryatid or Courser of Kruphix since they will rarely want to trade. Also, since I'm playing quite a few large creatures, his ferocious trigger will often come into play. Being able to score early damage means that your bigger threats don't have to work quite as hard to put away the game later on; shaving a turn to kill might mean the difference between victory and a topdecked removal spell.
Adding Heir of the Wilds doesn't come without a cost. I ended up shaving two copies each of Elvish Mystic and Voyaging Satyr to make room, which makes the deck a little less explosive. Having eight enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands makes Elvish Mystic on turn 1 less feasible, but I certainly wanted to keep a chance to play the coveted turn 2 Courser of Kruphix.
The decklist I took to battle is below:
- 4 Arbor Colossus
- 2 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Heir of the Wilds
- 2 Reaper of the Wilds
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 2 Voyaging Satyr
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Polukranos, World Eater
A quick note on the singleton Bow of Nylea-the little card does some great work in this deck. It's a durable devotion-enabler with a Swiss Army knife full of utility, and the very best trick is to attack with Polukranos and then go monstrous before blockers are declared. Since the Bow gives your attackers deathtouch you can assign just a single point of damage to kill a creature so you can very easily trade your Polukranos for your opponent's entire board.
For the sideboard, I thought that Genesis Hydra would make an easy swap against the few slower decks where Villainous Wealth would be sub-optimal. I thought Setessan Tactics would be particularly good in dealing with Goblin Rabblemaster when it's not attacking, and relished the idea of killing off Rabblemaster by fighting with a 2/3 Voyaging Satyr. Hornet Nest was there as Anger of the Gods insurance, and also for living the dream by using Setessan Tactics to have Hornet Nest fight an opposing Stormbreath Dragon or Butcher of the Horde.
We had 476 players signed up to play in the Standard Open, which meant ten long Swiss rounds before the Top 8 cut. It was going to be quite a slog!
Round 1 (Table 53) Lost 0-2 vs. James Kuhns playing Mardu Control
Things started off rough against a more controlling version of Mardu, who seemed to draw just the right piece of removal to handle each card I played in game 1. I did manage to kill one of his Goblin Rabblemaster with an Heir of the Wilds, killed the second one with Hero's Downfall, but then died to the third Rabblemaster. Game 2, he boarded in even more removal, I had to mulligan and I was unable to keep anything on the board at all and died to something that killed me fast (I can't remember or tell what it was from my notes).
Well, that wasn't a very promising start to the tournament…
Round 2 (Table 152) Won 1-0-1 vs. Wes Hazzard playing Sultai Control
When I saw he was playing Opulent Palace I was a little worried I had somehow ended up playing a mirror match, but he was actually playing a Sultai Control deck featuring Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, tons of removal and counterspells, with at least three copies of Dig through Time to reload. Thanks to the ability to get in some early beatdown, I was eventually able to grind through his removal and get an Arbor Colossus to stick and swing a few times to win the first game. The second game he played a turn 3 Ashiok that I was unable to answer early enough to stop it from stealing a Polukranos that ended up clogging the board, and with his removal and counterspells, the game ground on and we ran out of time. An ugly win is still a win, and I'll take it!
Round 3 (Table 100) Won 2-0 vs. Joshua Ng playing Temur Midrange
Game 1 was a nail-biter. I took some vicious beatdown early while I drew two copies of the less than optimal Villainous Wealth. I fired off one for four and whiffed, revealing two lands and two Crater's Claws. I didn't even have a creature with power 4 or better to be able to squeak Shocks out of them. Two turns later I fired off a Wealth for six and this time nabbed a Temur Charm to fight and kill his most aggressive attacker, a Boon Satyr, and a Rattleclaw Mystic. I was at one life, not exactly the place you want to be against any red deck, but I managed to draw and drop a couple large creatures that went to town on his life totals fast enough to win the game before he could burn me out. Though I considered that first Villainous Wealth to be a whiff, I suppose it was a good thing he hadn't drawn them. For the second game, I curved out well, got a couple large creatures down fast including an Arbor Colossus to protect against fliers and finished things off quickly.
Round 4 (Table 74) Won 2-0 vs. Joshua Leutz playing Mardu Midrange
The first game we battle it out midrange style, with neither of us taking much damage early and jockeying for position. Eventually I have a chance to Villainous Wealth for seven cards, revealing four lands, Crackling Doom, Butcher of the Horde and Sorin, Solemn Visitor. Let me tell you few things feel as good when you're playing a midrange green deck than to cast Crackling Doom against Mardu! I activated Sorin's lifelink ability, sacrificed an Elf to give Butcher of the Horde haste, and swung in with a few creatures to go up to a comfortable 27 life and cruised to an easy victory. Game 2 was anti-climactic, he had to mulligan to five on the play while I got a turn 3 Courser of Kruphix to guarantee a steady stream of gas. This win put me in 106th place.
Round 5 (Table 142) Drew 1-1-1 vs. Christopher Lates playing Abzan Midrange
The first game is tough, he gets an early Fleecemane Lion and I've drawn no way to stop it and take some hits. He then drops Siege Rhino that is sure to pile on and end things pretty quickly. I've drawn two copies of Villainous Wealth but have "stalled" at six mana (as absurd as that sounds, it's actually an accurate statement in this deck). In desperation I fire off Villainous Wealth for three and reveal Abzan Charm, which exiles Fleecemane before he has a chance to make it hexproof. I pray I draw a land next turn but I don't, so I fire off the second Villainous Wealth for three again, and this time reveal Hero's Downfall to blow away his Siege Rhino. I'm at five life but those two pieces of removal on my side instead of his manage to turn things to my favor, and even though he plays another Rhino to take me to two, I manage to steal the first game. For the second game I have to double mulligan and my opponent hits me with a Thoughtseize on turn 1. I do manage to scrape and fight and stay in the game for a while but eventually he wears me down with the extra cards. For the last game he draws like a king while mine is threat-light with no sign of Villainous Wealth to turn things around. We end up going to extra turns and we draw with me at one life and Christopher at 19. Whew! A bit annoyed at my deck for drawing so awkwardly this time since Abzan is probably my best matchup, but variance happens. The draw puts me at 84th place.
Round 6 (Table 43) Won 2-1 vs. Justin Clouse playing Abzan Midrange
Justin wins the roll and comes out the gates fast, while my draw is a little slow. All I remember is a flurry of Rhinos stomping my life total into the dust. For the second game, it's my turn to come out of the gates fast and seal things up with a Villainous Wealth for seven revealing Elspeth, Siege Rhino, and a Thoughtseize to pluck away the only threat he had in his hand. The third game, I get an early Courser that keeps me well supplied with gas to out-grind Justin with a better board. The victory puts me to 53rd place.
Round 7 (Table 25) Won 2-0 vs. Daniel Hott playing Mardu Midrange
I'm able to knock off Daniel's early Rabblemaster offense, which buys me time to develop the board and set up a decent defense. He rips an Utter End to blow away Polukranos when I try to monstrous and comes crashing in to leave me at two life, but I rip a Villainous Wealth and fire it off for a whopping eleven! The avalanche of cards, including a Sorin to gain me life puts the game away. For the second game he seems to draw into a ton of removal and has answers for everything I draw… but doesn't seem to draw any way to actually pressure me in the least and eventually I draw a Polukranos he can't deal with and it kills him. This puts me in 32nd place!
Round 8 (Table 16) Won 2-0 vs. Jose Sanchez playing Abzan Midrange
Jose comes out swinging fast in the first game, and in desperation I fire off a Villainous Wealth for three and reveal an Abzan Charm and Hero's Downfall to annihilate his threats. From there I churn out enough monsters and crank out enough monstrosity to win the game quite handily. The second game is a battle of haymakers that he has the edge on, cranking up a 31 to 8 lead in life before Courser of Kruphix provides me with enough gas to grind his cards down and exhaust his removal. At this point I've got a Bow of Nylea and Heir of the Wilds, attack with the Heir and activate the Bow to put a +1/+1 counter on it to take him to 7, and play the Heir of the Wilds I just drew. He draws air and passes the turn back. On my turn I use the Bow to put another +1/+1 counter on the first Heir and attack with both. "Six?" he asks? "Actually, eight-this Heir is a 4/4 so both get ferocious triggers." I can't help but grin, since I've clawed my way back from the first round loss to a 6-1-1 record that's within striking distance of Top 8 if I win out! I'm currently 17th place.
Round 9 (Table 9) Drew 1-1-1 vs. Scott Grobstein playing Mardu Control
Scott is playing a slower, grindier version of Mardu with more removal; we battle back and forth for a while before he takes down the first game. The second game I'm able to outrun his removal and get a Reaper of the Wilds to stick and avoid his removal to take him down. I'm not sure if he boarded out his threats for more removal, but for the last game he kills everything that moves but is unable to find any way to win the game before time is called and since we're both at 15 life with nothing on the board it's pretty much a draw, ensuring that neither of us can make Top 8. With a judge sitting there we can't figure out if there's any way to resolve this without getting the judge riled up so we take the draw. This drops me down to 36th place with dashed hopes.
Round 10 Lost 1-2 vs. Pierre Rousseau playing Mardu Midrange
My heart wasn't in the last game so I don't remember much and didn't take any notes. I know all three games were close, and I recall I made some sort of mistake that Pierre was able to capitalize in the third game to take the match dropping me to 63rd place. Luckily, that put me right above the payout cutoff since 32nd to 64th paid $50. Sweet!
While there were certainly mistakes made along the way, I'm also proud to notice that I played some damn fine Magic on Saturday and was extremely pleased with my deck choice. If a large part of the metagame is ruled by midrange, my mid-range deck is positioned to beat the others. I'm pretty happy with the maindeck except for a few small tweaks, while I'm still unhappy with the majority of my sideboard choices. I never got a single insect from Hornet Nest all day, and Inever boarded in the Genesis Hydras. The next time I play Standard, this is what I'm taking to battle:
- 4 Arbor Colossus
- 2 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Heir of the Wilds
- 1 Hornet Queen
- 1 Rakshasa Deathdealer
- 2 Reaper of the Wilds
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 2 Voyaging Satyr
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Polukranos, World Eater
The maindeck change from what I played Saturday is to cut one Wealth to the sideboard and replace with a Rakshasa Deathdealer, and move Garruk to the sideboard and replace with Hornet Queen. This is the first time I've stepped away from a playset of Villainous Wealth, but I think going down to three is fine. Between the Temples and Reaper I can dig for a Wealth when I need it, and while the card is a back-breaker in many matchups, there are enough matchups where the card is far from optimal that I'm fine moving one copy to the sideboard to bring in against midrange green-based decks.
I've decided that Rakshasa Deathdealer might be another great addition to the deck now that I've moved towards heavier black (though it will require a slight tweak to the manabase of putting an Urborg into the mix). I like that it gives me a cheap threat to get down on the board early against fast decks while also being a great threat when drawn later, and a durable threat against control. I faced down a few Deathdealers Saturday and they were extremely troublesome to deal with-- especially because the threat of their pump ability often meant that they didn't actually have to use it. Deathdealer could often just swing past blockers for two damage and then you could spend the mana for other things. When looking at the draws I earned, it felt to me like players could board into a mono-removal deck and nearly all my threats were vulnerable to it. Between Reapers and Deathdealers, I'm hoping to be able to muscle through all that removal and keep threats on the board so that I don't end up drawing against this strategy.
I love Garruk and he was good all day, but enough of my opponents mentioned to me being terrified of Hornet Queen (and assuming I was playing it) that I think perhaps a copy belongs in the maindeck, and I'll bring in Garruk when my opponent has a planeswalker that need killing.
I know this report is going long so I'll be brief talking about the Legacy Open. Since the first Starcitygames.com Invitational of 2015 is in Richmond, I need to brush up on Legacy, so this was my opportunity to get some reps in. I chose Maverick because I own nearly all the cards I needed to build the deck. I own nearly all these cards because I love all these cards, so naturally that means that I love Maverick. In particular I wanted to gear the deck to be able to attack graveyards and hopefully make life difficult for the delve-happy Delver decks looking to go on their Treasure Cruises, so the first cards I put in the deck were 4 Deathrite Shaman, 2 Scavenging Ooze, and 3 Green Sun's Zenith to go find them. Here's what I sleeved up:
- 4 Deathrite Shaman
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Mother of Runes
- 2 Qasali Pridemage
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 2 Stoneforge Mystic
- 1 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Gaddock Teeg
- 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 1 Titania, Protector of Argoth
- 1 Dryad Arbor
I won against Miracles, Dredge, Temur Delver, and lost against Miracles, Painter, and Jund. I made a ton of mistakes, but I hope I learned a bunch from them to make me a better Maverick player. The deck felt powerful and felt like it had a shot in all the matchups I played against. Two of my opponents cracked me up with their descriptions of Maverick decks. The Painter guy said "Maverick is like the Legacy fun police, grinding everyone down by forcing them to play fair." He made this grinding motion with his hand palm down to the table. "You… must… play… fair!" The Jund guy said, "I love Maverick decks because they play real Magic… they're like honorable knights riding across the fields on their white horses, forcing everyone to fight fair and beating them."
Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestion for either decks, I really like both of them right now. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and are enjoying the holiday weekend!
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus :
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice ( new player-friendly)
Uril, the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)