I was well prepared for the Standard Open in Richmond this past weekend. Brian Braun-Duin and I had spent all week working on Junk Reanimator and a W/B Humans deck that both had been performing well throughout all of our testing. We were both leaning towards Junk Reanimator, but I still felt like the W/B Humans deck was very good and had actually played more games with it in testing than I had with the Junk Reanimator deck.
BBD decided to go with Junk Reanimator, and I decided to come along for the ride. Grisly Salvage had treated both of us quite well in the past. We had a well thought-out sideboard and plans for what we expected to see in the new M14 Standard. On Saturday after Charlie Gindy, Kenny Castor, and I had scrubbed out of the Team Sealed event, I played a bunch of games with the Junk Reanimator deck against Jund. We had added Shadowborn Demon to combat Olivia Voldaren and removed the Mulches and one of the Unburial Rites to make our decks less reliant on the graveyard, thus making us less vulnerable to Scavenging Ooze.
In testing, BBD consistently beat the crap out of me while I was playing Jund, but this time I lost over and over and over. Games weren't even close. Whenever I had Shadowborn Demon, they had Thragtusks and a billion Bonfire of the Damned. Whenever I had Doom Blade, they had Olivia Voldaren, and whenever I had Unburial Rites, they had Scavenging Ooze.
I was tilted and very discouraged. I wished that I had talked Gerry Thompson into going to the Kaijudo cash tournament.
I was hooked! In the first game, I got to play Elvish Mystic on turn 1, Elvish Archdruid on turn 2, and Garruk, Caller of Beasts on turn 3; I then untapped and killed my opponent with a Craterhoof Behemoth fueled army of green men. Here's the list we all ended up playing.
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Scorned Villager
The main premise of the deck is to play out as many accelerators with all of our one-drop mana dorks (Arbor Elf, Avacyn's Pilgrim, Elvish Mystic) and then ramp into a Garruk, Caller of Beasts. "Big Garruk" lets us draw a bunch of cards, play a bunch of cheap creatures, and then put a Craterhoof Behemoth into play and kill our opponent.
Garruk Relentless, or "Little Garruk" as I like to call him, is another awesome card to accelerate into and plays a similar role to what he did in Junk Reanimator. He can kill a naked turn 3 Olivia Voldaren and cards like Augur of Bolas and opposing mana accelerators. He also lets us search for our Craterhoof Behemoth once we flip him via fighting and even plays well with our Gavony Township "plan B" by making a steady stream of Wolves.
Seeing eight Garruks in a deck used to throw up big red flags with warnings of leaving cards stranded in your hand doing nothing; however, with the new M14 planeswalker rule, we get to play all of the Garruks we want since they are never actually dead. Some of the common lines of play with our army of Garruks are:
- Fight a creature with Garruk Relentless, play another Garruk Relentless, and fight another creature/make a Wolf.
- -1 Garruk, the Veil Cursed to find a Craterhoof Behemoth, play a Garruk, Caller of Beasts, and put said Craterhoof into play.
- Fight a creature with Garruk Relentless, play another Garruk Relentless, and fight the same creature to kill it. We still have six other Garruks that we can play, so if we have to use two "little Garruks" to get rid of a problem creature, we can!
- +1 Garruk, Caller of Beasts to find a Craterhoof Behemoth, play another Garruk, Caller of Beasts, put Craterhoof into play with his -3 ability, and kill our unsuspecting opponent.
The deck felt very explosive, but it's heavily reliant on drawing Garruk, Caller of Beasts. Elvish Visionary helps draw you into a Garruk, Caller of Beasts, but even with that you just have to get lucky sometimes. I went 1-2 drop with the deck in the tournament, playing against two decks with Blasphemous Act in the maindeck and drawing Garruk, Caller of Beasts a total of one time out of the seven games of Magic that I played. In multiple of the games, I vomited out my hand in the first three turns and would have won any game had I actually drawn a Garruk, Caller of Beasts, but alas I did not. I got to play Kaijudo with Gerry for the rest of the day instead.
Moving forward, I think that the engine of Arbor Elf, Avacyn's Pilgrim, Elvish Mystic, and Elvish Archdruid along with Garruk, Caller of Beasts is very strong and just needs the right shell to go along with it. The main problem that we face in addition to just not drawing Garruk, Caller of Beasts is the multitude of sweepers in the format in the form of Supreme Verdict, Terminus, Blasphemous Act, and Bonfire of the Damned. Curse of Death's Hold is also becoming more popular, especially in the wake of AJ Sacher winning with the W/B Humans deck:
- 4 Blood Artist
- 1 Bloodthrone Vampire
- 4 Cartel Aristocrat
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Doomed Traveler
- 4 Xathrid Necromancer
I think that the answer to all of these problems is solved by playing Acidic Slime and cards like it. Since we don't have good options to draw us cards or help us find Garruk, Caller of Beasts in our mono-green deck, I want to just slow our opponents down as fast as possible and give us something to do with our mana in the meantime. Here is where I am starting with this deck for my Invitational testing:
- 4 Acidic Slime
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 3 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 3 Scorned Villager
- 3 Thragtusk
Playing Acidic Slimes and Thragtusks in the deck gives us something to accelerate into in the early game that will either stymie our opponents or put actual pressure on them. If they happen to Supreme Verdict us after we get a Thragtusk into play, at least then we are still putting pressure on them. Thragtusk was definitely the most effective card that I had in my sideboard this past weekend, and I want to move him to the main deck.
Since we are moving to an Acidic Slime and Thragtusk plan, I want to play Restoration Angel too; however, I don't really think we can afford to just jam her into the maindeck. The plan is to cut Thragtusk and bring in Restoration Angel to go along with our Acidic Slimes when Thragtusk is bad and to cut Acidic Slimes for Restoration Angel to go along with our Thragtusks when Acidic Slime is bad. In matchups where we want all three cards, we can just cut something else for the Restoration Angels and keep the Thragtusks and Acidic Slimes in the maindeck. It could very well be that we just want to put her in the main somewhere, but for now this is where I'm starting.
I'm cutting the "little Garruks" because it just didn't really feel like he played all that well into our plan. We aren't going to just be ramping into a Craterhoof Behemoth and Garruk Relentless is definitely good on turn 3, but past that we could have normally cast him and I'd rather get more value out of all the trouble we are going through casting all these one-mana creatures to accelerate us.
Some changes definitely needed to be made to the sideboard. I like Rootborn Defenses against Supreme Verdict, Bonfire of the Damned, and Blasphemous Act decks. Having an answer to a timely sweeper is really all this deck needs to continue to put on pressure, and Rootborn Defenses is perfect for that.
Ray of Revelation just wasn't good enough against Bant Hexproof. In fact, I lost a game last weekend where I used Ray of Revelation to kill an Unflinching Courage and an Ethereal Armor. My opponent simply played three more enchantments on the same creature and killed me two turns later through a Fog. We want to just kill all of the enchantments, and Paraselene does that the best.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben was good for me, and I think she will still be a good choice as we move forward. She plays very well with Acidic Slime; any deck that Slime is good against, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben will be too. In fact, since we cut Garruk Relentless from our deck, we could potentially play her in the main.
All in all I had fun, and I do think that this deck has potential. In fact, Charlie Gindy went moderately deep in the Standard Open with our list and possibly could have beaten Jarvis Yu on camera if he would have taken an alternate line of play. I would definitely recommend this deck to anyone for FNM or even an upcoming IQ, but to play it in something with a higher difficulty level like an Open or the Invitational, I would suggest putting some time in, tweaking the numbers on the cards, and getting a feel for what hands you can keep and how most hands tend to play out.
Congratulations to AJ Sacher for winning the Standard Open with W/B Humans. He played one card off of the maindeck that I tested last week (+1 Orzhov Charm, -1 Falkenrath Noble) and a few different cards in the sideboard. I know he's probably working on a tournament report for the deck, so I won't say much other than that the deck is very good and will be a contender until Innistrad block rotates out in the fall. Be prepared for the Humans!
Quick Aside on M14 Team Sealed
The Team Sealed event was awesome, and I had a blast! Kenny Castor, Charlie Gindy, and I opened an awesome bombtastic pool and had to pass it to the other team at the table with us. The pool that we did get was still pretty good, but we struggled with the third deck (U/W Control) for Charlie and ended up misbuilding it slightly. I had an awesome mono-black deck that could side in some Act of Treasons to go along with all my Blood Bairns and also featured Nightmare, Shadowborn Demon (foil, bling!) and a Corrupt. Kenny had a very consistent R/G Aggro deck with Chandra, Pyromaster and all of the suspect quality R/G cards. In the end, we lost due to the misbuild, a misplay, and a sprinkle of mana screw.
Even though we didn't go as deep as we would have liked, I had a blast, and I think just about everyone who played in the event did as well. I really hope that we continue to run team events and look forward to every single one of them!
Until next time,