The Grumpy Old Men
My personal preparation for Pro Tour Eldritch Moon is a task I've been excited for from the day I qualified at GP New York earlier this year. I've always done my own thing as a professional Magic player, crafting unique combo and control decks, but never in a team environment. I've been invited to several groups through my ten years of competitive magic; however, I spared my colleagues the headache of having a brash control mage that refused to budge on his UW/UB/Esper ways.
This time it was different, but only by a small margin. My team of Grumpy Old Men started off hot by receiving sponsorship by MTG Card Market, allowing the difficult task of lodging to be alleviated prior to leaving for Sydney. I had a great feeling about my chances at this Pro Tour because the personnel included a lot of great Limited and Constructed talent. My confidence for this tournament was also backed by a new personal mentality in regards to competitive Magic. I promised myself, and my team, that I wasn't going to play the Esper Control deck that I was predestined to for this tournament if a better deck was unveiled in testing. With that being said, I hit the tank, developing three powerful decks for this metagame and upcoming Pro Tour.
- 2 Thalia's Lancers
- 1 Archangel Avacyn
- 1 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
- 1 Bruna, the Fading Light
- 3 Gisela, the Broken Blade
- 1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
- 1 Linvala, the Preserver
- 1 Den Protector
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 2 Mindwrack Demon
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Woodland Bellower
- 1 Emrakul, the Promised End
- 1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Shaheen Soorani – Expensive Sorcery Master
Craig Wescoe – White Weenie Extraordinaire
Chris Fennell – The Gatormage
Forrest Mead – Sketchy Florida Drafter
Ray Tautic – Ray T
Charles League – Limited Aficionado
Mark Rankin – Handsome Mark
Dan Musser – More Handsome Dan
Eli Kassis – Old Man
Joe Lossett - Oarsman
Pro Tour Time
I know the first list right off the bat is my beloved Esper Control, but it actually was a smashing success in testing. The deck was so powerful that the most aggressively minded mage in the professional world, Craig Wescoe, was nearly locked in on playing the deck after the first two days of testing.
I began to help coach him through plays, work on editing the main deck to make it more suited to his play style, and be an on-call Esper expert for any of his (or the team's) Esper needs. One by one, players on the team started to buy into the Esper Control hype, watching me as I defeated Bant Company, Humans, the various Emerge decks, G/W Tokens, and the list goes on and on.
After a few days of testing, the group had narrowed down the best decks in the team's arsenal to my Esper Control and B/G Delirium decks. There is nothing more humbling, and rewarding, than having Platinum Pros and Silvers alike think that the decks that I put my heart and soul into developing are the best options for their Pro Tour.
The team continued to build decks that tried to abuse the emerge mechanic, but the decks lacked power through disruption and the eventual Emrakul, the Promised End that our two best decks contained. Esper Control easily handled the onslaught of creatures with an eventual Eldrazi finish, while the B/G Delirium deck mucked up the battlefield with Spiders and other threats prior to mind controlling the opponent into a bad attack with Emrakul, the Promised End.
I knew coming into this Pro Tour that Emrakul, the Promised End has to be played in a deck of mine and explained its power in my article a few weeks ago. The card is an easy fit into any midrange G/B deck…or any control deck, thanks to the surprising power of Oath of Jace. Every deck that the team developed, or brought with them, was no match for the two decks I prepared for the team.
A week before the Pro Tour at GP Sydney, I was given permission to goof off in public with my Esper Control deck. This was before the team realized the power of the deck and thought it was just another one of my control concoctions that only I could win with. Between rounds, my teammates battled me and random other qualified players attacked the Esper hero, but each fell in the majority of games played. I had a comical record of 10-0 against Humans piloted by three different people, a respectable 7-4 record against Bant Company, and a solid 4-1 record against G/W Tokens.
As the games continued, the crowd grew, and people really enjoyed watching the synergy between Oath of Jace, planeswalkers, card types in graveyard, and hitting land drops consistently throughout the game. This joke of a deck began to look very serious and gave me ammunition in the early days of testing when I suggested we run the deck through the gauntlet and give it a chance. The team agreed.
Craig Wescoe, Chris Fennell, Dan Musser, Charles League, and a few other mages on the team battled with the deck and enjoyed some success against the field. The more they and I played the deck, the harder it became to divorce from Esper Control. Why play something else if this deck is doing so well? That question is especially tough for a group of old people that become comfortable very quickly; however, the B/G deck I brought had some promise as well. The group, especially Forrest and Chris, wanted to give my delirium strategy a shot before becoming too attached to a deck after just a day or two of testing. That decision ended up being the best for not just the team, but for me as well.
B/G Delirium had very little love these last few weeks on the SCG Tour®, which was good news for us. The card Grim Flayer is a fantastic two-drop that has been underrated from the time it was spoiled to the day of the Pro Tour. The list you see posted above is the list that I developed before the set was spoiled with just a few minor changes.
The B/G Delirium deck punishes control decks in the early turns and utilizes spot removal to ensure Grim Flayer damages the opponent on its first attack. Grim Flayer connecting in the early turns is a mandatory component of the deck and gives us a tremendous edge if we are able to mill cards on turn three. In my earliest builds, I used cards like Gather the Pack to achieve delirium, but I realized that Grim Flayer and Mindwrack Demon do all of the legwork while applying pressure.
This deck with sixteen creatures can imitate an aggressive strategy and then knock your teeth out with Emrakul, the Promised End when the dust settles on the battlefield. Emrakul, the Promised End is as powerful as advertised in control shells but truly shines in decks prone to putting card types in the graveyard without the help of Oath of Jace.
The deck I crafted with Forests started to test very well on the third day of testing. We were beating the same decks that Esper Control was beating, but with fewer mulligans and more consistently untapped mana.
The games were not blowouts with B/G Delirium, but the magnitude of winning is irrelevant. Crushing an opponent into submission and winning after a few complex turns give the same result on a match slip. A deck with Sylvan Advocate and Tireless Tracker also was easier to sell to the rest of the team due to the comfort my comrades felt by playing commonly used cards. Esper Control required a ton of practice, coaching, testing, and mental fortitude in comparison to Delirium, so the choice became clear.
I began to shift away from Esper Control myself, even though I feel way more comfortable with it than my forests creation, but I decided to play the deck that the entire team was behind. Esper Control is great and I felt very uncomfortable when my teammates were telling me the same because of how attached I am to that color combination. Shaheen supports and advocates for Esper Control? What a shocker! Every day I received compliments and affirmations for my control deck, I became more and more invested in using it for my professional weapon of choice. In the end, I decided to promote the deck that the entire team would have success with, and not just me.
I wrote this article the day before Pro Tour Eldritch Moon started and asked my editor Danny to postpone the release until this week to avoid printing sensitive decklist information. The lists provided are tested and ready for any of you all to take and crush with. For those who have read my work for years, you all know I take great pride in the decks I create and post. I play what I preach and even posted the Esper Control list I had sleeved and ready for Day 1 of testing.
I learned that Take Inventory is the safe choice, but Jace, Vryn's Prodigy was too important not to play. Also, having Jace, Vryn's Prodigy upped the creature count in order for me to achieve Emrakul, the Promised End mana. I begged for permission to post the Esper Control list a few weeks ago, and the team allowed me to do it in jest. I feel prideful and proud that the deck actually was so good that the White Weenie himself, Craig Wescoe, was taking sideboard notes from me in preparation for the tournament.
August 3rd in Australia, one day before Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, and I have a green midrange deck ready to battle. The sideboard is tight and the matches are falling our way, so I hope this translates into wins at the highest level Magic gets. It warms my heart that all ten members are battling with the same deck for this event.
I believe that behind the power of delirium, Emrakul, the Promised End exists in its strongest shell. Paired with Liliana, the Last Hope, we have a slight flavor violation; however, I hope the readers can look past that and see the true power of the deck. Take the creations, improve them, and do well, my friends. See you all back in the U.S. soon!