Well here we are. Another Team Constructed Open and another finals exit.
To say that having failed twice in the past few months to close in a Team Constructed event when you make it all the way to the finals is heartbreaking is an understatement. While a finals appearance is something I'll ever be upset about in any Magic tournament I play in, having come so close to wielding a trophy alongside some of my best friends only to leave the feature match table feeling like you've let them down is gut wrenching. Both in Philadelphia and here in Baltimore I've failed to win my matches in the finals, and at least in Philadelphia, I could say I did the best I could have.
What I mean by this is my deck this past weekend was a train wreck.
What the hell happened here?
I thought there would be more people jumping on the U/W Control train this week than being the ones trying to beat it. This deck is positioned to tap out a lot in the early game for hard to answer threats like Planeswalkers and leverage maindeck copies of Negate and History of Benalia to beat up on all the U/W Control decks that did so well at SCG Atlanta the week prior.
One key feature for fighting the good fight in this format is knowing the answers that are getting played. Seal Away proved that all U/W Control needed was a playable removal spell to dethrone the hold on the format that U/B Control had prior to Dominaria and it got that card. The only issue is it's exceedingly easy to play around.
What happened week two that made U/W variants a horrific choice for the metagame? Knight of Malice, Heart of Kiran, History of Benalia, and heck even Walking Ballista is a card that Seal Away can't touch if they don't let you. In fact, that was one of my key reasons for playing Walking Ballista in the U/W Midrange deck I sleeved up!
Despite knowing most of these flaws that U/W Control had, I decided to become even more vulnerable to the overlying weakness of the deck and play what was probably one of the worst decks I've ever played in a constructed tournament. Yes, Cedric, I understand that at the beginning of this year I thought it would be a great idea to play Wistful Selkie, but this was worse.
"We've all been seduced by Wistful Selkie before, Brennan!"
Despite all of that, THE Tannon Grace and Ross Merriam are very powerful magicians, and they managed to carry my 1-5 record on Day Two into the Top 8 of the event! I picked up some crucial wins against some not so stellar draws from my Quarterfinal and Semifinal opponents but ultimately fell in the finals. Operation #GetTannonATrophy will have to wait until the next Team Constructed Open since there aren't any Legacy Opens between now and then.
Well it's certainly not time to abandon Teferi, Hero of Dominaria as he's a hero, after all. It just means that I need to put more time into the deck because, in all honesty, it was just the fact that I didn't pick a side between a control deck, a tap out deck, or a flash deck. I took a little of column a, a little of column b, and a lot of column f, q, and z, which were not good ideas. But alas, all is not lost! With every defeat, lessons are learned, and I think I was only a few decision points away from finding the right shell for the U/W Flash deck that has been picking up steam.
- 3 Walking Ballista
- 3 Nimble Obstructionist
- 3 Lyra Dawnbringer
- 2 Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage
- 2 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
While these aren't new cards entering the fray, I believe they've finally gotten the support they need to make it into Standard! I can't tell you how many times I wish I could crew my Heart of Kiran for only three mana at instant speedm and Nimble Obstructionist is a card I feel foolish for missing when building my deck. It does everything from attacking and ignoring the fact that being behind on History of Benalia triggers isn't fun, it counters a Cast Out or Seal Away at a crucial moment and draws a card, it's a way to stop random abilities you'd normally have to spend a Disallow on and not have the split card 3/1 flier attached to. All in all, the only reason I could see this not becoming a mainstay in the format in the U/W Flash shell is if every deck is playing Walking Ballista.
As for Censor, it really hasn't ever been this good before. When you want to put someone off their curve by having two mana up only to either have an actual factual two mana counterspell or just a cantrip to dig towards action to keep the pressure going, I can't think of a better card!
One card that hasn't gotten its time in the limelight because of how good Seal Away is at answering some of the cards that demand they be exiled, like Scrapheap Scrounger and Hazoret the Fervent, is Gideon's Reproach. That's right - it's not just a marginal Limited card anymore (not when Heart of Kiran is running amuck). In all seriousness, there are enough times when a player with Heart of Kiran looked over at my two mana and knew they could get in with their 4/4 vigilant flier that I wish i could have punished them. It's true that getting caught with a Gideon's Reproach in hand while being attacked by Hazoret, The Scarab God, or Lyra Dawnbringer is going to feel miserable, but I think the times when you feel like a genius and kill their Heart of Kiran is going to happen way more frequently if this past weekend is any indication. I do believe that a split is warranted, but it's worth noting that Gideon's Reproach might be the better card right now.
A card I'd highly recommend swapping out your copies of Forsake the Worldly for is Fragmentize. It feels bad to tag a History of Benalia with a Forsake the Worldly, but not nearly as bad when you're only paying a third of the cost. While Forsake the Worldly is a more versatile card and being able to hit God-Pharaoh's Gift once it's on the battlefield is nice and all, it's not nearly the same effect on the game as to when you're just up two mana and can continue to interact with your opponent without falling too far behind.
Shalai, Voice of Plenty is a card that I wasn't alone in realizing its application in decks that can't take advantage of the green activation but really value hexproof. Settle the Wreckage is a card I thought I'd run into a lot more than I did in Baltimore, and I still think that it's a wonderful addition to the U/W Flash arsenal to fight that card and other people trying to point burn spells at your face or planeswalkers.
Even though my deck choice was less than optimal in Baltimore, one thing I'm sure of is that Standard is awesome. Despite what it might seem like from Baltimore, we still have a wide-open format on our hands. It was likely correct for everyone to jump on the W/B Aggro train for reasons mentioned before and the fact that Karn, Scion of Urza is a messed up Magic card, but I think we have still only scratched the surface of what's possible and can compete for tier one strategies.
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 2 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 3 Greenbelt Rampager
- 3 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 4 Steel Leaf Champion
- 1 Thrashing Brontodon
- 3 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
- 1 Rhonas the Indomitable
Now this deck…
Needless to say, I was deader than dead here. Facing down nine power on the third turn with no answer to the battlefield and no third land drop in sight, if this isn't a "Best of the SCGTour" moment then I don't know what is!
On the more serious side of things, I love this deck! Not only is it playing one of my favorite cards ever (Llanowar Elves in case anyone was wondering), but it has the brute force to go toe to toe with W/B Aggro as well as present an absurdly fast clock that sometimes being on the draw with a Negate in hand as your only interaction isn't quite up to the task of handling.
The big winner from the release of Dominaria for this deck is Ghalta, Primal Hunger. In the previous format I experimented here and there with the legendary dinosaur in G/R Monsters but was never quite satisfied with how it played out. Being two colors hurt a lot and sometimes it came down too late to matter.
With this deck being mostly mono-colored with just a few black sources for the Scrapheap Scrounger recursion element, Ghalta, Primal Hunger has never looked fiercer. The fact that there are three copies of Blossoming Defense just to let your opponent know that you really meant it when you cast a 12/12 for only two mana is just icing on the already delicious cake.
My only issues from the above version of Mono-Green is the singleton copy of Thrashing Brontodon in the maindeck (it strikes me as a huge reason to play green cards in this format to begin with) alongside the lack of an answer to an opposing Lyra Dawnbringer in game 1. While Mono-Green might not be flush with answers to the powerful Angel, it seems the sideboard has copies of Plummet, Prey Upon, and Crushing Canopy to help fight the good
While this might seem like a silly green aggressive deck - because it kinda is - it has a lot going for it, and tweaking the numbers here and there and maybe throwing in a Karn, Scion of Urza or two could bring this deck closer to the monster it has the potential to be. It's not going to be until the SCG Invitaional at SCGCON that we get to see Standard on camera again, but for all those who have PPTQs or just want an awesomely powerful deck to jam at a local tournament, I'd recommend giving Ghalta, Primal Hunger and friends a go.
I'm going to have a little break before gunning for the top slot on at the SCG Tour® Season One leaderboard in Minneapolis, with my finish this past weekend giving me a real shot! Here's to diving back into Modern and seeing if we can break any of our new Dominaria toys (cough* Mox Amber cough*) or if Five-Color Humans continues to just the best deck Modern has to offer.