As of this writing Luis Scott-Vargas has 356 lifetime Pro Points (all-time 13th) and 43148 Planeswalker Points (all time 27th). He’s pretty much a shoe-in for the Pro Tour Hall of Fame this year, although his career is still in full swing with Platinum status. Some are predicting a 100% of the vote for him, but that is impossible, since the rules don’t allow him to vote himself. He is probably the best known of the current generation of pro players.
I have 140 lifetime Planeswalker Points.
… but this is the Internet, so I am going to criticize the deck of this legendary player.
Just to clarify: Obviously analyzing the work of someone else, who is clearly better than me, can only help my game and deck design. However, I probably do play EDH or Commander more than LSV does, so I might have (probably not) more insight into the format. Also, deck design is always impacted by meta, so anything I’m about to say might sound really stupid in some other context.
So, recently, LSV took over the Daily Decklist column on Daily MtG. His third list was his EDH deck, commanded by Dralnu, Lich Lord. You can find the full list either from the original source or my copy of the list on TappedOut for different and more interactive formatting.
I was really interested in his deck. It was the first EDH-deck from a pro-player of his stature I’d seen. Also, I really like the colors. I’m a fan of black and blue definitely holds possibilities that always intrigue me. Although I don’t really enjoy any of the “Dimir” commanders that much, with the exception of the very different Grimgrin, Dralnu is one I’ve been looking into myself lately. So, good job, Mr. Scott-Vargas. You had the full attention of at least one reader.
LSV clearly doesn’t subscribe to the idea of going big, which is often a guiding (and also often misguided) principle of EDH deck building. His deck isn’t completely devoid of big creatures, but there doesn’t seem to be those big splashy effects most EDH-players so thoroughly enjoy. He isn’t completely against drawing hate with cards like Memnarch, but even our favorite artifact wizard isn’t that fast.
Neither does he subscribe to the idea of staples. His deck does indeed include a Sol Ring, Strip Mine and a Wasteland, but that’s it for the general colorless package many players include automatically in their decks, including cards like Solemn Simulacrum, Lighning Greaves and Skullclamp.
Most puzzlingly, he uses cards, which would be deemed unplayable in EDH by most. Duress is cheap in mana, but exchanging a card for a single discard and some intelligence seems like a waste. Of course, with Dralnu, you can play it twice, thus messing with a combo. Remand seems like a strange decision. It is a great tempo card, but that kind of tempo advantage isn’t that important in EDH. At least I don’t think so. Of course, with the aforementioned Duress, you can get rid of the card, but that seems too narrow and unlikely. There might be some synergy with other cards I don’t quite see, or perhaps the low casting cost is the key. On the same note, Mana Leak seems very situational. Often opponents will have the three mana available.
On the other hand, he does have some cards in there which I wouldn’t have thought of, such as Mizzium Skin. I sort of knew the card existed, since I did a RtR-draft or two, but I didn’t really think to put it in a deck. It wasn’t even on my radar. It seems like a fine fit into a Dralnu-deck, although I don’t see that much direct damage in our meta.
There are some other cards, which must also be meta-based decisions, such as Triskelion and Ribbons of Night. They don’t seem to fit. Triskelion is a really good comboengine, but I don’t see any cards with that much synergy with it. Obviously, if the meta is such that small creatures are plentiful, these might be great cards.
Only one enchantment. This I fully endorse. In a format where plenty of players play enchantments, hating on them is also popular. Why draw the hate when you can let other players squander resources on each other?
Of course, I’m probably just overthinking the whole thing. Best clue: no Go for the Throat, which could be helpful with Dralnu, but the deck does include both Doom Blade and Terror, which can’t kill Dralnu if needed. All in all, I’m pretty sure this deck wasn’t a result of years of fine tuning. Based on what I’ve seen on some of his draft videos, he does often go for the cards he sees as fun to play. I especially remember his discussion with Ben Stark on the validity of picking Blast of Genius over pretty much anything, but he held to his guns, because Blast of Genius is entertaining and then picked it twice.
You can see LSV enjoys drawing and card selection. Who doesn’t? But again, he seems to be missing EDH-staples, such as Flow of Ideas and Recurring Insight, settling for cheaper cards with less variance. Of course this works very well with Dralnu.
That said, the deck is sorely missing High Market, Phyrexian Tower, Altar’s Reap…
In the end, I enjoy black more than blue, so my approach to Dralnu will probably be somewhat different with emphasis on cards like River Kelpie and Secrets of the Dead which give me just a little more bang for my buck with Dralnu and probably more toolboxing with plenty of tutoring.