The article you are attempting to view is only available to StarCityGames.com Premium Members.
(If you are having trouble viewing this content, please consult this FAQ.)
Testing for Pro Tour Ixalan was interesting.
Everyone knew Energy decks and Ramunap Red would be good, so the first question to answer: could anything actually reliably beat them?
My initial testing was focused on Sultai Energy. I'd had success building Winding Constrictor decks in the past, and it seemed like it could have the necessary tools to beat everything I wanted it to and more, especially with the additions of Duress and Hostage Taker.
I liked the normal builds of Sultai, but wasn't especially happy with how Walking Ballista was positioned, so I tried to build Sultai Energy more similarly to how Temur Energy is built:
- 3 Bristling Hydra
- 1 Champion of Wits
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
- 2 The Scarab God
The problem with all the versions of Sultai Energy I tried was that they were struggling against Temur Energy. It was difficult assembling Winding Constrictor shenanigans against all their removal and Hostage Taker was weak to Bristling Hydra and Glorybringer.
I also found that Glorybringer and Whirler Virtuoso would usually just burn me out before I could assemble a dominant enough battlefield presence. I kind of began to view Temur Energy as a big old Burn deck, and Sultai just wasn't cutting it.
I wasn't looking forward to playing Temur Energy mirrors.
Thankfully I had my brother cooking up something good.
This Pro Tour marked me joining Team Massdrop, and my one stipulation for testing with the new team was that I also be able to test with my brother Dean, who was also qualified for the Pro Tour. This turned out to be very important, since Dean ended up delivering big time by discovering and championing U/W Gift.
This was the original list Dean found online and began to work from, and a lot of credit goes to Magic Online player Seth2. Seth2 really nailed it, and a lot of the tools that ended up in our final version were here as well.
Initially I was super-skeptical about the deck. I remember when Dean first told me about the deck and I pretty much scoffed at it; well, maybe not quite a full scoff, but I made a face.
Dean claimed he was crushing with it against everything, and I was getting frustrated with Sultai, so I gave this "gimmick deck" a try.
I was surprised by the power and consistency of the combo and quickly grew to like the deck more and more. I turned my focus towards the deck and began tuning it, most notably by adding Sacred Cat to the maindeck.
It wasn't long after we had updated the deck that some of our other team members took notice, including Pascal, who would end up getting second place at the Pro Tour with it.
Here's what I played at the Pro Tour:
It was difficult to build and pinpoint exactly what the deck wanted beyond its core, since its core was so strong. My deck was three cards different from Dean's version, and a few more than that different from Pascal's second-place list, notably not running any Angel of Sanctions in the sideboard.
The basic goal of the deck is getting God-Pharaoh's Gift in the graveyard and quickly returning it to the battlefield with Refurbish, and then reanimating Angel of Invention as the biggest, baddest Baneslayer Angel you've ever seen. This is usually enough to get the job done, but the games where you don't get to that point easily can be much trickier. Sequencing and optimizing you card draw and searching is important... To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to understand the deck.
Some games, you dig hard and don't find a critical missing piece and feel like an idiot for not trying to win the value game; others, you wish you had dug harder as your value game gets trounced. Determining what your role is and odds of success for either plan is essential.
Speed at which you Refurbish God-Pharaoh's Gift is usually what determines your success. Sometimes you don't see a crucial God-Pharaoh's Gift or Refurbish after digging through half your deck, and other times you just naturally have all your pieces and discard them with Champion of Wits on Turn 3 easy-peasy.
The key is that the deck usually does in fact draw its pieces in a timely fashion, since there are a lot of ways to dig through the deck. Further, the rest of the format was somewhat unprepared and not that many packed full Abrades maindeck.
The addition of Sacred Cat to the maindeck turned out to be essential for making the deck solid against Ramunap Red and Temur Energy in Game 1. My thinking along the lines of Temur Energy being a Burn deck helped me realize this. You have so many ways to flip Sacred Cat or discard it, it doesn't matter that it's usually a weak card to draw naturally.
Sacred Cat is a speed bump, the perfect Cat-shaped speed bump that buys you time to assemble your combo. Sorry, kitty, hang in there, baby! It's especially excellent at delaying Longtusk Cub damage and size early in the game, even though it's losing that "catfight" every time.