It's been a while, but this weekend I didn't play in a tournament that was available to me. Despite being in Atlanta a few times over the past couple months, I haven't been afforded the time on those trips to drop in on the folks in Georgia so I took the opportunity to do so this weekend.
What that meant is I didn't have to think about actually registering a deck for a tournament over the course of the week. This coupled with the fact that the RPTQs are over means that I've been having a little more fun on Magic Online.
I love to brew. In particular, I like to explore specific cards and really try to take a hard look at the entire range of decks available to them.
Some, including a few choice Roanoke colleagues, might call this behavior obsessive.
But I digress, let's take a look at some of the decks I've been toying with:
This Grixis Pact deck represents a nice few overlaps in cards that I've had my eye on. Demonic Pact has been on my radar ever since it got spoiled, and its recent result in the quarterly MOCS certainly had my attention.
Oath of Jace is a massively under-appreciated card right now and has a wide berth of applications including powering up Deathmist Raptor Megamorph engines, fueling delve, and – most importantly – being awesome with Crush of Tentacles!
This deck also gets to utilize Chandra, Flamecaller when moved towards Grixis – another card that I've been putting into more decks in steadily increasing numbers. Chandra is absolutely incredible in this Collected Company-dense metagame as a sweeper that also functions as a threat with ridiculously fast closing speed.
That closing speed is also rather valuable here – as oftentimes we are forced to “race” our own Demonic Pact doomsday.
This Grixis Pact deck certainly feels the most cohesive of the various flavors of Pact decks I've tried, as not only can it play the sort of long and exhausting game where the card advantage accrued by Demonic Pact triggers takes over... it's also just quite good at killing the opponent!
Between “Soul Spikes,” angry Fumaroles, and Chandra activations throwing out Spark Elementals, Grixis Pact can close the game out surprisingly quickly once it has exchanged a sufficient number of resources. This mentality and a hard leaning on discard spells also pairs nicely with clearing the way for Chandra. She's exactly the “one big thing” a highly interactive deck interested in trading needs.
Some of the elements from the sideboard are also fairly signature for me. I liked Dark Petition in the older forms of Jeskai Black when they started to become more controlling, and having access to a tutor to find a way to stop Pact exactly when you need it is a useful tool.
Furthermore, Infinite Obliteration and Virulent Plague are starting to move back up in value with Eldrazi Ramp heavily leaning on World Breaker as their threat of choice and decks like Hardened Scales and Atarka Red being interested in going incredibly wide now that Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is finally getting the recognition she deserves.
The sideboard Jaces are also pretty interesting. There's basically no way for an opponent to get reasonable value from their removal spells in game one – but Jace is still Jace and has a good shot of running wild once an opponent has boarded out the majority of their creature kill.
My next Chandra deck was built solely because she exists. While Eldrazi Blue was getting all of the attention over the past two weeks, I had my eye on another color:
- 4 Hangarback Walker
- 4 Hedron Crawler
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thopter Engineer
- 2 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Vile Aggregate
- 3 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
I've been very impressed with this deck so far as it seamlessly transitions between offense and defense while having a wide variety of built-in mana sinks and general resiliency.
The “colorless” manabase championed by Blue Eldrazi is subtly powerful, and I certainly expect Foundry of the Consuls to slowly incorporate into more strategies – it is simply great.
My split of Tomb of the Spirit Dragon and Sea Gate Wreckage are certainly not concrete and it is rather likely that there should be three Tombs, but this deck is fairly good at dumping its hand in a timely manner.
Ruins of Oran-Rief has been actively awesome, but I'm actually pretty worried about topdecking lands that enter the battlefield tapped in my quad-Chandra deck.
Yes, you saw that right, four Chandra, Flamecaller.
Mono Red Colorless is great at clogging up both the ground and the air and buying a ton of time with which to get Chandra on the battlefield, turning the corner to start killing the opponent or just running wild with card drawing. Reality Smasher into Chandra, Flamecaller is a disgusting curve that basically closes the game out by itself with little else required, and you haven't lived until you've made four Elementals in a turn from two angry planeswalkers.
If one Chandra is difficult to deal with, how can our opponents hope to contend with two?
Thopter Engineer is a card I've gained a massive amount of respect for since Tom Ross started wielding it in B/R Dragons. The Thopter token itself is quite relevant, the 1/3 body is capable of brick-walling a variety of aggressive creatures or dealing damage, and the synergies with Hangarback, Pia, and even Foundry of the Consuls all come up frequently.
Another card worth highlighting is Eldrazi Obligator in the sideboard. Obligator is the real deal in Standard and while it's hardly even beatable for Ramp, it has also started to impress me in other matchups that are heavily focused on racing such as Abzan Aggro. While I was a little surprised to see cards like Eldrazi Skyspawner, Vile Aggregate, and Eldrazi Obligator end up winning the Pro Tour, the fact of the matter is that their stats are just plain respectable.
Here's a deck that utilizes a lot of things I've learned from Mono-Red Colorless alongside various other aspects of the format:
- 4 Hangarback Walker
- 2 Den Protector
- 4 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 2 Reckless Bushwhacker
- 4 Thopter Engineer
- 3 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
I'm not exactly sure what I would label this R/G Deck as – it can certainly go wide and be aggressive, but I would almost describe it as something capable of bursting its opponent out after playing an appropriate amount of defense for the matchup.
The low counts of Reckless Bushwhackers and lack of Atarka's Command might appear strange for a deck I would describe as interested in “going wide,” but I like being able to leverage Oath of Nissa as a means for not only granting consistency but enabling huge hitters and finding our planeswalkers. In many circumstances we are certainly likely to find ourselves controlling the game – turtling up behind Hangarbacks, Nissa's, and Pia and Kiran Nalaar before turning the corner with a Chandra, Flamecaller or even Dragonlord Atarka in sideboarded games.
The sideboard as it is currently constructed is capable of getting lower to the ground – critically important against decks like Ramp and Rally. The latter matchup I suspect is fairly difficult as a deck like this still isn't exactly “fast” and it unfortunately contains no generic hate cards.
I've just been really impressed by this red core, and after seeing other decks from the format getting to play cards like Nissa, Voice of Zendikar I wanted to blend these elements alongside cards I already know are fantastic such as Oath of Nissa and Chandra, Flamecaller.
I'm going to be honest. I tried to not be the bad guy, and I learned a lot by doing so. That being said, Eldrazi decks are just too messed up and I'm not taking any opportunities to get Pro Points lightly at this stage. It is beyond likely I will be playing some form of Eldrazi at the Grand Prix this weekend.
However, I still like to think about how to beat the Eldrazi, including the more interesting avenues.
I get asked about Grixis Control a lot, it would appear it is a deck that resonates with many. I had a lot of fun sniping Eldrazi with Big Game Hunters with Jeff Hoogland's Kiki-Chord Deck in a recent SCG Tour ®Spotlight.
- 3 Big Game Hunter
- 2 Snapcaster Mage
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- 2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
- 2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
I think this might be pushing more towards a reasonable way for Grixis Control to fight off Eldrazi. Big Game Hunter is aptly named in terms of this matchup as a powerful tool for managing their board while also being great with the likes of Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Liliana of the Veil, and Kolaghan's Command.
With the latter (I believe) you can even target yourself with the discard while casting Raise Dead to build your own madness trigger!
The movement towards Thoughtseize and a lack of counterspells are just a result of the times we live in, unfortunately. While the general lack of burn and the ability to play a bunch of Thoughtseizes does help out Grixis to some degree, I still feel like this list in particular is just generally much weaker than what most of the rest of the format has going on even if it does seem capable of matching up on paper.
What does really interest me as being potentially highly effective, however, is pairing Big Game Hunter with a strategy that can leverage the madness creature seamlessly:
This Grixis Goryo's Vengeance deck is clearly a lot more interested in discarding than the Grixis Control deck was. Having an actual proactive game plan is extremely important in Modern right now, so I would be more inclined towards something like this as the actual way to pursue a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy fix right now.
I would certainly hope that the high amount of “hate” present in this deck would be sufficient to keep the Eldrazi down, but the deck is so absurdly powerful that it's actually quite difficult to tell.
Now that I've shared my toys, it's probably just time to put them all away and start working on Eldrazi again for Detroit.
It's not all so bad though, what have you been working on lately in this vibrant Standard format?