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Brewing for Pro Tour Dragon's Maze Part 2

For those of you who have not read the first part of this article I suggest you check it out here!

 

Hello again! In today’s portion of my article I’m going to take a peek at a few more RTR/GTC decklists that have been achieving success online and then follow up with a few brews I’ve been thinking about for the post Dragon’s Maze format. On to the deck lists!

 

Five Colour Control:

Here’s a list that in the last week has posted a 4-0 record in a daily event and a 1st place finish in a premiere event on Magic Online. It has clearly been designed to prey on Esper Control, the most popular deck in the format. This deck combats conventional Esper on a few different fronts. It plans to win Sphinx’s Revelation wars by main-decking two copies of dispel and having access to two copies of Rakdos’s Return to either pre-empt a revelation or force the opponent to discard a full grip post-revelation. It gains further card advantage against Esper by completely blanking the opponent’s removal spells (by virtue of running no maindeck creatures,) and by fighting the Jace war with much more powerful answers than the Esper deck has (ie. 1 Vraska, 2 Rakdos’s Return vs. 3 Detention Sphere.) Lastly, this deck runs a surprise win condition in Psychic Spiral, providing it with a strategic advantage against opponents that aren’t familiar with the strategy. If the PT Dragon’s Maze metagame is as saturated with control decks as the current format is then a deck like this could perform extremely well.

3  Azorius Guildgate
1  Dimir Guildgate
4  Godless Shrine
4  Hallowed Fountain
3  Island
3  Orzhov Guildgate
2  Plains
1  Stomping Ground
2  Swamp
4  Watery Grave


27 lands


0 creatures

3  Azorius Charm
4  Devour Flesh
2  Dispel
4  Jace, Architect of Thought
4  Prophetic Prism
1  Psychic Spiral
4  Psychic Strike
2  Rakdos’s Return
4  Sphinx’s Revelation
4  Supreme Verdict
1  Vraska the Unseen


33 other spells

Sideboard

1  Angel of Serenity
1  Azorius Charm
1  Detention Sphere
4  Dimir Charm
2  Dispel
2  Obzedat, Ghost Council
1  Psychic Spiral
3  Underworld Connections

What changes post-Dragon’s Maze?

Like traditional esper, this deck gets access to Far//Away, Warped Physique, and Renounce the Guilds, as well the the anti-revelation duo of Council of the Absolute and Notion Thief. A card I forgot to mention in the first half of the article is Render Silent. I’m not sure if the increased difficulty of casting this card is really worth the awkward mana cost, but it’s at least something to be aware of. It may be better suited to a straight blue-white deck.  This deck also potentially gains a copy or two of Ral Zarek on the splash as another non-creature threat in control mirrors that serves double duty as a walking removal spell.

On the other side of the coin, this deck is hurt mostly by the unknown metagame that approaches. This strategy, though having game against everything, is very much a metagame deck. This deck is also hurt by the same cards that are well positioned against traditional control strategies, in particular Notion Thief, Council of the Absolute, Sire of Insanity, Voice of Resurgence and Advent of the Wurm. I believe that this deck will be a solid choice a month down the road if the metagame continues to revolve around Sphinx’s Revelation despite the hate that has been introduced in Dragon’s Maze, but it’s a bit of a gamble going into a new format in the dark.

Not Quite Blitz

This is a deck that has clearly been inspired by the Standard format’s Naya Blitz, though it lacks many of the cards that make the strategy truly formidable. This deck contends with mono red for the title of best aggressive deck in the format, boasting more and better 1-drops, slightly better use of Burning-Tree Emissary, and 4 maindeck answers to Supreme Verdict (as well as the ability to sometimes regenerate Experiment One), but suffering from a weaker and more painful manabase. I prefer the versatility of this list to the mono red version, mostly because of Boros Charm and Ghor-Clan Rampager, though both aggressive strategies have their merits.

2  Forest
4  Mountain
2  Plains
4  Sacred Foundry
4  Stomping Ground
4  Temple Garden


20 lands

2  Boros Elite
4  Boros Reckoner
2  Brushstrider
4  Burning-Tree Emissary
4  Dryad Militant
4  Experiment One
4  Firefist Striker
4  Ghor-Clan Rampager
4  Gore-House Chainwalker
4  Rakdos Cackler


36 creatures

4  Boros Charm


4 other spells

2  Frontline Medic
4  Mizzium Mortars
2  Mugging
4  Selesnya Charm
3  Skullcrack

What changes?

Not much. Dragon’s Maze is a fairly weak set in general and offers next to nothing for aggressive strategies. It is possible that this deck might wish to sacrifice a small amount of consistency for power by replacing its weakest 4 cards (being perhaps 2 Brush Strider and 2 Boros Elite) for 4 copies of Voice of Resurgence, but otherwise I don’t think the main deck is going anywhere. The sideboard gets a little more action with access to Unflinching Courage (AKA Armadillo Cloak) for creature matchups, as well as the removal spells Wear//Tear and Renounce the Guilds.

Like the other aggressive strategies this deck is potentially negatively impacted by the improvement of midrange decks in the format because of cards like Advent of the Wurm and Voice of Resurgence. Unflinching Courage is also an excellent tool against aggressive decks. It remains to be seen whether these aggressive strategies will be able to get consistently underneath midrange and control strategies in the format or if this just simply isn’t a format for aggro decks.

Speaking of midrange decks…

Big Naya:

The midrange complement to the previous deck, this deck positions itself to prey on aggressive strategies and attempts to win the control matchups with a sideboard full of Boros Charms and Assemble the Legions. In a vacuum this sort of strategy seems reasonable, but when you examine the top tables in this format they are consistently full of Sphinx’s Revelation decks at the moment. Regardless, this deck is a good model for what a midrange deck should look like in this format.

1  Boros Guildgate
2  Forest
2  Gruul Guildgate
2  Mountain
2  Plains
4  Sacred Foundry
3  Selesnya Guildgate
4  Stomping Ground
4  Temple Garden


24 lands

2  Angel of Serenity
2  Aurelia, the Warleader
4  Boros Reckoner
4  Centaur Healer
2  Deadbridge Goliath
4  Experiment One
4  Gyre Sage
1  Keening Apparition
4  Loxodon Smiter


27 creatures

3  Domri Rade
3  Mizzium Mortars
3  Selesnya Charm


9 other spells

Sideboard

4  Assemble the Legion
1  Aurelia, the Warleader
4  Boros Charm
1  Keening Apparition
1  Mizzium Mortars
1  Selesnya Charm
3  Skullcrack


15 sideboard cards

What changes?

This deck gets the Selesnya duo of Voice of Resurgence and Advent of the Wurm and is quite happy about it. In the sideboard, like small naya, it gets access to Wear//Tear, Unflinching Courage, and Renounce the Guilds. This deck’s position in the metagame will likely be strengthened by Dragon’s Maze, not only because it gains some powerful maindeck threats, but also because the format is gaining such powerful hate cards for Sphinx’s Revelation decks (Council, Thief, Sire) which may serve to weaken the position of blue decks. The question that needs to be answered is: will this deck be able to out-midrange other midrange strategies or will a more powerful midrange deck arise?

I think that provides a fairly well-rounded snapshot of what’s going on in the current RTR Block Constructed format. On to step 3: Brewing.

I’m not going to promise that any of these lists will win the Pro Tour, but they should serve as an informative starting point to players who are attending the PT or are intent on playing block constructed on Magic Online.

I am of the opinion that Advent of the Wurm is going to be one of the defining cards of this format. My friend Lucas Siow who recently won yet another PTQ expressed the opinion the other day that the best decks of previous block constructed formats have all revolved around powerful 4-drops (Falkenrath Aristocrat, Hero of Bladehold, Jace TMS, Bloodbraid Elf, etc.) Four of the biggest contenders for the honour of best 4-drop in the format are Jace, Architect of Thought , Supreme Verdict, Advent of the Wurm and Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice. Of those cards, Advent of the Wurm is the only card that is formidable both offensively and defensively and of those cards Advent of the Wurm is the only one that screams “build around me!” So, let’s start with Selesnya.

Selesnya Populate

7 Plains

7 Forest

4 Selesnya Guildgate

4 Temple Garden

1 Grove of the Guardian

3 Rootborn Defenses

2 Growing Ranks

4 Voice of Resurgence

4 Selesnya Charm

4 Call of the Conclave

4 Gyre Sage

4 Loxodon Smiter

2 Wayfaring Temple

4 Advent of the Wurm

2 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice

2 Scion of Vhitu-Ghazi

2 Armada Wurm

Sideboard:

1 Rootborn Defenses

1 Growing Ranks

3 Arrest

1 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice

1 Collective Blessing

3 Sundering Growth

3 Unflinching Courage

1 Pithing Needle

1 Aerial Predation

This is a first attempt at a fairly aggressive Selesnya midrange populate deck. You can push the token generation really far with cards like Wake the Reflections, Slime Moulding, Alive//Well, and Wayfaring Temple, but none of those cards are very good when things aren’t going well for you. My approach is to play a synergistic good cards deck rather than put all my eggs in one basket. Depending on the number of Supreme Verdict decks it may be right to run the full 4 Rootborn Defenses in the main deck. It is also conceivable that a turn 1 Experiment One is good enough in this deck that it’s worth including despite it being a weaker draw at any other point. Speaking of evolve creatures, this deck is very good at growing Gyre Sage, which will allow for some fairly aggressive openings including Advent of the Wurm, Scion of Vhitu-Ghazi, and Armada Wurm.

This iteration of Selesnya sort of plays the middle-ground in terms of what is possible for the archetype. It could get substantially lower to the ground with cards like Boros Elite, Dryad Militant, and Experiment One, with Advent of the Wurm serving as a curve topper, or it could slow down even more to accommodate Angel of Serenity and/or 3-4 copies of Armada Wurm. The deck needs to strike a balance such that it’s JUST aggressive enough to beat Sphinx’s Revelation decks, but slow enough that it is well positioned against opposing midrange strategies.

Another take on Advent of the Wurm is to be slower than everyone and play Bant Control, but what would this look like? To get a sense of this deck I began with Paul Rietzl and Matt Sperling’s Standard Zegana Bant deck, since the majority of the cards belong to RTR block and I know from experience that the deck is quite well rounded.

Compared to the Standard version of the deck we lose Restoration Angel, Thragtusk, Farseek, and the one-of Garruk, Primal Hunter. Restoration Angel is fairly painlessly replaced by Advent of the Wurm, a card which interacts quite favourably with Prime Speaker Zegana, and Farseek is replaced with an extra land and Voice of Resurgance. Voice may not “replace” Farseek very well, but it’s a very good card against a variety of strategies and fills the curve appropriately. Thragtusk and Garruk are slightly more difficult to replace. We get 2 copies of Deadbridge Goliath, 1 copy of Scion of Vitu-Ghaze, and a pair of Jace, Architect of Thought instead in an attempt to preserve Zegana’s potency and replace lost card advantage from Thragtusk and Garruk.

While this deck doesn’t push for value with its tokens the way that the Selesnya list can it includes a very high density of good cards and is much more versatile in terms of the roles it can adopt in a given match. I’m not sure if this approach is superior to the other Sphinx’s Revelation decks that might be available, but it seems like a fairly powerful strategy in a vacuum.

Zegana Bant

4 Temple Garden

4 Breeding Pool

4 Hallowed fountain

1 Simic Guildgate

2 Selesnya Guildgate

1 Azorius Guildgate

4 Plains

3 Forest

3 Island

4 Azorius Charm

2 Detention Sphere

2 Supreme Verdict

3 Sphinx’s Revelation

2 Selesnya Charm

4 Voice of Resurgence

4 Loxodon Smiter

2 Deadbridge Goliath

4 Advent of the Wurm

2 Jace, Architect of Thought

1 Scion of Vitu-Ghazi

2 Prime Speaker Zegana

2 Angel of Serenity

Sideboard:

2 Cancel

2 Jace, Architect of Thought

2 Dispel

2 Council of the Absolute

2 Supreme Verdict

1 Detention Sphere

1 Keening Apparition

2 Dramatic Rescue

1 Selesnya Charm

I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. It looks like I’m going to have to write a Part 3, because I’ve hardly scratched the surface. I haven’t even found a home for Sire of Insanity yet! If you have any comments, questions, suggestions or deck ideas please let me know!

Thanks for tuning in!

Glenn McIelwain

_GMac_ on modo

@glennmcielwain on twitter

RTR Block Limited Thoughts

Dragon’s Maze is finally on Magic Online which has given me an opportunity to jam a few full block drafts in a competitive environment. My initial impression is that this is the best draft format we have had in years and I eagerly await the opportunity the play the format at a PTQ (Read: MOCS) level online. I love it because it is incredibly complex and offers nearly infinite possibility in terms of deck choice (in stark contrast to 3x GTC draft which allowed you essentially 5 reasonable options). You have access to 10 separate 2-colour guild decks, 10 separate shards, and a variety of reasonable 4 and 5 colour brews thanks to the availability of fixing in the format. The implications of this are two-fold: individual draft picks are much more complicated and dynamic, and deckbuilding in this format requires more planning, compromise, and focus on mana than a typical format. What I’m going to do today is just briefly summarize some of my initial impressions about the format, which will hopefully give some of you insight into your RTR block drafts in the near future.

Gates. Guildgates are much much more important in this format than in 3x RTR or 3x GTC, so much so that they are often first-pickable in packs 2 and 3 once you’re set in your colours. The gold cards in this format are very powerful and as such many of the decks will contain at least 3 colours, but these decks need to be able to compete with some very aggressive archetypes that can be drafted as well (and may be quite aggressive themselves.) As such, it is often correct to pick gates very early and even prospectively (ie. before you’re actually playing one or both of the gate’s colours.) Additionally, there are many powerful cards in the format that rely on gates (eg. Jailbreaker Ogre, Greenside Watcher, Hold the Gates, the DGM 2/4’s) so you are incentivized to play gates that only contain one of your deck’s colours and may even be required to pick them over weak playable spells. Key Takeaway: When in doubt pick a gate.

 

2-drops. Despite the availability of some pretty quick decks this format is slower than 3x RTR or 3x GTC. This format also has an overabundance of high toughness ground creatures. The implication of these two facts is that many of the previously good 2-drops in the format have gotten substantially worse. Sure, there will still be aggressive decks that are happy to play vanilla bears (2/2’s for 2), but a lot of the more midrange-y strategies will be looking for 2’s that provide value going into the mid to late game, such as evasive creatures, creatures that can pump, or creatures with extort. Such cards are in limited supply so they land much higher in the pick order than they might have previously and you should make a concerted effort to pick them up when you can. Against some decks you can get away with starting you curve with gate, gate, 3-drop, but at a competitive table many of the decks will punish you pretty badly for such a start. Key Takeaway: Value high quality 2-drops extremely highly.

Guild Choice. Many of your decks will be 3 colour, which means you’ll be representing 3 guilds, but not all guilds and shards are created equal, and some guilds are not very compatible with one another. In general I favour any of the green guilds, because green has strong playable cards in all three packs, but in terms of guilds (aside from a preference for green guilds) I think it is most beneficial to focus on positioning yourself well for pack 3 based on what you see and what you pass in pack 1. As a result I like being heavily in Azorius, Selesnya or Golgari (due to evasion and green-ness), but am happy to be heavily in Izzet or Rakdos as well. It’s even better if your shard is composed of two RTR guilds, such as Bant (Azorius + Selesnya) or Grixis (Izzet + Rakdos.) Key Takeaway: RTR guilds are a good place to be.

 

7-drops. Previously only the realm of LSV (while apparently trolling Ben Stark), 7-drops are a real thing in this format. In particular, Trostani’s Summoner is extremely difficult to beat (and is just insane with a card like Bronzebeak Moa or evolve creatures.) Because of cards like Zhur-taa druid (by far the best common in the set), cluestones, keyrunes, greenside watcher, verdant haven, and axebane guardian, it is very realistic to see 7-drops hitting play on turn 5. If you do find yourself in green even 8-drops (read: Horncaller’s Chant) may find their way into your main deck a fair amount of the time. You don’t want to overload on fatties, but you do need to respect them. Key Takeaway: Trostani’s Summoner is unbeatable.

 

Manabases. For those of you who are stuck on the 17 lands, 23 spells limited “rule of thumb” (which I despise is every single limited format ever, but none moreso than this one), you need to get over it. It will often be correct for you to run 18 lands even in a fairly aggressive deck in this format simply to ensure you’re hitting your colours on time. The gold cards are disproportionately powerful (as are many of the rares) so you want to be casting them as early and often as possible. I haven’t done many drafts yet, but I have played 16 lands multiple times, 18 lands multiple times, and 19 lands once.  Always sort your deck by curve and take note of what your key early-game spell are. Make sure you have an appropriate amount of mana for each colour before you worry about accommodating the late game spells. Note: Cluestones do not fix for 2-drops, so you should not be counting your Gruul Cluestone as fixing for your Zhur-taa Druid. I know that sounds obvious, but it is a common mistake. Key Takeaway: Think very carefully about your mana when you’re constructing your deck. It will make or break you.

That’s all for now. I may come back and post something a little more specific at a later date once I have more experience with the format and specific archetypes, but I feel that these five points are a good starting point for people just getting their feet wet in this format. Good luck and happy drafting!

Glenn McIelwain

AKA

_GMac_ on modo

@GlennMcielwain on  twitter

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