About a month ago I made a claim that all the decks in Standard were of similar power level and that the deck that we should play should just be something we were familiar with that was doing something we enjoyed.
For me that was Stormbreath Dragon.
I had been working on whatever I felt was the best Stormbreath Dragon deck. Initially it was R/W Aggro, but as of recent I felt that G/R Aggro was better suited for how the meta was changing - especially in the wake of the Abzan Midrange-studded GP Memphis tournament.
Stormbreath Dragon is rarely poorly positioned and is the type of card that I love casting: aggressive, resilient, not too high on the curve, and gives you something to use your mana on in the lategame. To be honest, the only thing that could have really gotten me off of Stormbreath Dragon was if it was poorly positioned.
I had planned on driving down to Miami for the Grand Prix with the Roanoke crew. Initially we had a group of five and were looking into renting a SUV for the trip, but one person decided that it was just too long of a trip and we settled with myself, Brad, BBD, and Todd. We spent the week prior preparing for the event and it all started with a deck by Sam Black that was hidden in plain sight.
The G/W Devotion deck that he recorded with had a pretty rough list, but once we started playing with it we knew that it was busted and that Mastery of the Unseen was actually just insane. Being something that you could get online early enough so that the aggressive decks couldn't actually race it and getting under the counterspells that the control decks played was insane. Without Sphinx's Revelation, the control decks just couldn't actually beat a 2/2 every turn.
At first I was skeptical, like most people would be who initially saw the deck, and I decided to jam a bunch of games against Brad with my G/R Aggro deck. The G/W Devotion deck looked like it was pretty weak to fliers, and with Flamewake Phoenix and Stormbreath Dragon, I thought that I would have a pretty good shot.
Every game I felt like I would get ahead, but Whisperwood Elemental always made it impossible to actually get any traction on the ground, and Mastery of the Unseen would very easily outpace any number of Stormbreath Dragons that I could cast.
For the rest of the week we tweaked and changed the deck. A lot of headway came one night when Brad, BBD, and myself sat down and mapped out just which cards we wanted to cut in each of the popular matchups so that we could go back through to build a sideboard for the deck.
We felt like the deck might be a little weak to the Sultai Control deck that was initially developed by Gerard Fabiano and that recently took the title in Memphis in the hands of Jack Fogle, so that's what we spent the majority of our testing on during the week and had planned on using the couple of days we would have free leading up to the GP to focus on some of the other matchups.
We learned quite a bit from jamming games against the control decks. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver was a beating, and on the draw, we had to keep in the Banishing Lights because of that, even if they were terrible. We also found out that Boon Satyr was amazing against them, and Nissa, Worldwaker was also good. I've never been a very good brewer, but I feel that I can play a pretty good role of observer, list tweaker, and game jammer. It may be a bit boring, but having someone watch the games while they are playing to get an outside perspective on how they are playing out and interactions can be extremely helpful when testing and trying to prepare for an event.
We left Wednesday night and planned on just driving as much as we could before getting a hotel to crash in for the night before finishing the drive the next day. I knew that I was going to be doing the bulk of the driving, which was alright, since Brad is an old man driver. Todd wanted to drive as little as possible since their Memphis trip, and BBD was still technically on probation for being a vehicular criminal.
The conversations during the bulk of the first part of the trip centered around how BBD had tried the deck with four maindeck Fleecemane Lion in a daily the night before and crushed everything. The Fleecemanes felt perfect and gave us another card that can help stabilize in the earlygame against the Goblin Rabblemaster decks and put pressure on our control opponents. It was fairly weak against the other midrange decks, but Whisperwood Elemental and Mastery of the Unseen would let us go over the top against those decks.
Now you would think that a fifteen-hour car trip (even if split up on the way down) would be pretty miserable, but I'd have to say it was the most enjoyable trip that I've been on that was fifteen hours. We didn't spend much time on our phones, and helped keep everyone engaged with theory-crafting about the deck, telling stories, and talking about spoilers as they were happening.
We drove about seven and a half hours and then stopped for the night at a classy hotel that definitely had beds large enough to fit the metric ton of dude that we were traveling with. Fortunately for me, I had been up since 5am-ish getting cards together/packing so by the time we stopped to sleep I crashed right away. The other three claimed that I snored, but without evidence or being able to see it for myself, I still think they were fabricating the story.
We left the next morning and stopped for meal one out of two on the day at Denny's. Our timing was going to line up perfectly with Brad's brother getting into Miami, but due to flight complications, Corey was going to end up getting routed to West Palm Beach. We had two options: We could just drive right to Miami Beach and then Brad would have to turn around and drive an hour and a half back north to pick up Corey, or we could durdle around in West Palm Beach for a couple hours and pick him up there.
As much as we all wanted to make Brad do extra work, we opted to just have a super long lunch/dinner and test while we durdled around. We wanted to test some more against the control decks and jam a bunch of games against R/W Aggro since after chatting with some of the other people who were thinking about playing the deck, they were concerned with that matchup and claimed that they kept losing.
We ended up stopping at Denny's again for testing and meal two on the day, since our stomachs didn't truly hate us enough. Brad and Todd kept jamming games against Sultai Control, and BBD and I played a bunch against R/W Aggro.
Ten games on the play later and I only won one of them with R/W. You know the hand. Seeker of the Way into Rabblemaster into Siege with Stoke, etc. Hell, I had even lost some games with starts like that. Whisperwood Elemental is so hard to get through, and Mastery of the Unseen just outpaces everything. Games where G/W Devotion were on the play were even more embarrassing. Sideboarding didn't even help that much. R/W got a few answers to Mastery of the Unseen, but the rest of the deck just lined up so well that it didn't matter.
After the required number of hours were durdled away we hopped back on the road to finish our trip. Sadly, as we got closer to West Palm Beach we got news from Corey that somehow he missed his flight and was going to be getting into Miami the next morning.
At least we got in some good testing, which would have just happened in the hotel anyway. We got into Miami around 2 AM and found our apartment/hotel. Even though we were right next to a night club, we had work to do, so the twerking had to wait. We jammed a bunch of pre- and post-board games against Abzan Midrange just to solidify our plan against them, and it just wasn't close. Especially after sideboard when we get a full four Valorous Stance. Being a split card that kills every creature they cast and can save ours from Hero's Downfall or End Hostilities was just insane, and the games all went mostly how we envisioned them.
We were still concerned with the G/R Devotion matchup though, since they could get out ahead of us with Xenagos, the Reveler, which was like a Mastery of the Unseen but also a Nykthos, Shring to Nyx. We wanted something that could pressure Xenagos, the Reveler and still be decent against Mantis Rider out of Jeskai.
We thought about trying to be aggressive with Boon Satyr, but that just seemed like a losing proposition. Wingmate Roc was my first thought, but it was too slow and we didn't really want to suicide a Lion or Courser of Kruphix to trigger Raid. I then posed a question of "Is there a white flyer that costs like four mana that can kill Xenagos?" Brad's response was "Yes actually, JVL had suggested it last week, but I thought it was dumb." We both exclaimed "High Sentinels of Arashin" at the same time.
Everyone had a sly look on their face as we looked around the room, and Todd exclaimed from the bathroom: "Ugh."
I'm still not sure if it was in response to the Limited all-star or not.
Once he joined us, we wanted him to talk us off it. Todd would be the voice of reason. He could explain to us that it wasn't good enough.
He felt that the card crushed in Limited so it probably had Constructed implications and that people tend to shy away from cards that aren't obviously good in Constructed. It fit the exact role that we wanted it to do, so we ran with it. Ross Merriam cackled and randomly pulled out five High Sentinels as if he had been preparing for this moment his entire life.
We settled on our list, and I passed out ready to battle the next day.
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Fleecemane Lion
- 4 Genesis Hydra
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Voyaging Satyr
- 4 Whisperwood Elemental
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 3 Polukranos, World Eater
Being used to the freezing weather that we've had for the last month or so in Roanoke, being able to walk around in 80 degree weather was a delight, although mightily sweaty for us bearded folk. The VIP area was as relaxing as ever, only missing the comfy couches that we had in the GP NJ VIP area.
Sadly, my event didn't go so well. I took my first loss against a Temur deck in round four after he Reality Shift + Anger of the Gods a million times every game, and then took another loss in round six against an Abzan Midrange deck. I lost the first game after 45 minutes of me having out triple Mastery of the Unseen and decking myself at over 500 life. My hand was a bit slow to get going, and he was able to get Elspeth, Sun's Champion online and ultimate her into another one before I was in a position to put any pressure on him. Even though I was manifesting multiple times a turn and gaining basically infinite life, I could never push damage through his army of 3/3 soldiers and 4/6 Coursers. I won the second game in lightning speed, and we jumped into a third game with only a few minutes left on the clock. I jumped out to a lead early with some acceleration, but he was able to stabilize the board with an Elspeth yet again. I would have been able to handle that one, but with nothing in hand and him flashing me an Elspeth and some Rhinos in his hand as I was taking my fifth turn, I opted to concede. Since the event was small enough to not reset breakers on day two, a draw was definitely better than a loss, but only marginally so, and I definitely should have just conceded game 1 before we got to the point where I was going to deck myself.
I rattled off a couple wins against some Mono-Red decks, but then fell in round 9 to almost the stone mirror. My hand was great on the play in game 1 with a Mastery of the Unseen, an accelerant, and a Polukranos, World Eater, but he was able to play a turn 3 Whisperwood Elemental that just got out of hand too quickly. It also didn't help that when he attacked his manifest into my Courser + Fleecemane Lion on turn 4 and flipped it into a Nylea, God of the Hunt when I double blocked. It was quite the blow-out.
BBD and Todd both bricked on day two, but as you all saw on coverage, Brad was able to scoop his brother into the Top 8 and place in the Top 16 himself with the same 75. The deck is sweet, and for the next few weeks Dragons of Tarkir comes out, I expect it to be the de facto number one deck in Standard.
Moving forward I would definitely want a Temur Sabertooth for the mirror so that you can eventually loop your Polukranos to kill their stuff, and I would expect a bunch of Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver/Doomwake Giant decks to crop up since those cards are so back-breaking against the Mastery of the Unseen strategy.
The drive home was long and grueling, but wasn't actually that bad. We had lots of cool chats, and even though my other carmates were all hung over and farting non-stop [CEDitor's Note: Very classy gentlemen.][Editor's Note: All of them are your employees.], I still kept my spirits high. I had a blast over the weekend and was super happy for Corey.
As for Dragons of Tarkir spoilers, I will likely delve into some brews for next week, but for now I just want to point out how excited I am for the hate cycle.
All of these cards seem extremely playable, and I especially like Self-Inflicted Wound and Display of Dominance. A cost efficient way to handle Courser of Kruphix and Siege Rhino that also gets in damage is great and something that a black-based aggressive deck has been missing (and this type of deck also gets Ultimate Price). I also like that Display of Dominance lets the green decks have an answer to Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and Whip of Erebos. It also has the added benefit of countering Hero's Downfall, which is always a benefit.
The rest of the set is looking like it's going to be awesome, and for a Dragon-lover like myself it's like a dream come true. Dragonlord Dromoka, Dragonlord Kologhan, and Dragonlord Atarka all strike me as extremely powerful, and I will likely be brewing with these badass dragons in mind as we get more and more of the spoiler.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone who came out for the live BBD vs CVM, especially those who participated in our deck submission for the video. I had a blast playing that Four-Color Whip deck that was all foiled. Thank you so much for the support and being an awesome community.