Block Constructed is always a nice predictor of future Standard. What can we learn from Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx?
The spoilers have started in force, so we can go ahead and plan and perhaps brew some more.
No real need to do this quite this early, but since I’ve been thinking about this already, why not jot down some of the thoughts I’ve had.
Just some more ideas. I’ve settled on the Red Tokens deck for now. I don’t really know if its viable, but its the sort of deck I’ll probably enjoy playing, which is important too. We’ll get back to that deck later. First some more discarded (for now) ideas.
New Jackal Pup
Now that Thragtusk is dead, maybe RDW is viable again. Actually, now that we have Firedrinker Satyr, maybe Sligh is viable. Sligh is all about using all your resources as efficiently as possible. the Satyr is something you can pump your mana into, if you have no other dumps. At the same time, it makes use of life as a resource more than red usually does, so it will have a lot of room to work. Hammer of Purphoros also supports this strategy, as at least you won’t have dead land draws any longer.
Maybe we could abuse cards like Madcap Skills. It would make Akroan Crusader’s heroic trigger, make Two-Headed Cerberus’ double strike really, really good, and so on. We’ll have to see if there are more heroic cards coming in the set. It still needs a lot to be linear enough to make up for all the weaknesses. Also, the aforementioned Firedrinker Satyr into Madcap Skills seems like an irresistable, maybe even with a Burning-Tree Emissary in the middle.
How about a Pack Rat? This is a bomb in sealed and draft, but hasn’t seen constructed play expect for a sideboard here and there. However, Erebos, God of the Dead really, really likes the rats once they get going. After all, each copy also has the casting cost of the original, as they are complete copies. Maybe we could use the rats to keep the god going?
Being a great fan of black, this idea, coupled with the Whip of Erebos, seems pretty good. Especially if we can keep the game long. Whipping the Rat back into life doesn’t stop us form copying it and keeping the copy.
I just don’t know where to go with this. Desecration Demon would be great, but I don’t think we enough great creature to go with this deck… Not sure though. Anyhow, since this is black, we’ll probably get back on this eventually.
Back to the Tokens
However, we were missing a sideboard. The thing is, I suck at this. I should be better. After all, unless you always win or lose in two games, you play more games sideboarded. I’m just not aware enough of the field to know what to prepare for. I’ll just go with pretty general strategies, so I’ll go with the following:
Red Tokens sideboard
Mindsparker and Possibility Storm are for control. After all, those decks will have a lot of problems answering it, while I don’t often mind going through my deck finding something else. My few cards with targets are versatile enough, although hitting legendary cards might cause problems. On the other hand, their cards will often miss and countering will become a crapshoot. Its understandably pricey, but just might be worth it. Especially, if the opponent relies on Negates and Essence Scatters. Or Sphinx’s Revelation.
So, I was thinking again, that I’m looking at the gods a bit wrong. Maybe I should try and look at them as enchantments, which can turn into creatures, rather than creatures that are sometimes hard to use.
There’s a school of thought known as Philosophy of Fire. The idea behind Philosophy of Fire is that you can put a life value on card. Then, if you figure that out, you only need to figure which cards you need to use to get above that value and kill the opponent with minimal amount of cards. This is the basis for burn decks. Maybe we can use this.
So, let’s forget for a minute that Purphoros is creature and see what we can do with that.
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Legendary Enchantment Creature – God 6/5
As long as your devotion to red is less than five, Purphoros isn’t a creature.
Whenever another creature enters the battlefield under your control, Purphoros deals 2 damage to each opponent.
2R: Creatures you control get +1/+0 until end of turn.
That’s great for a token strategy. Sadly, we won’t have cards like Krenko’s Command or Thatcher Revolt, but we do have Molten Birth and Goblin Rally, along Young Pyromancer which should be great with those. Also, Hammer of Purphoros can produce creatures and gives all my creatures haste.
Reaching Devotion of five is going to be a rare occurance, but there’s a lot of synergy. It might be too slow, though. It could kill on turn five with a really good draw (turn one mountain, turn two mountain and Young Pyromancer, turn three mountain and Hammer of Purphoros, turn four mountain and Purphoros, God of the Forge and turn five Goblin Rally). Not much consistency, though, since there isn’t enough redundancy for all the cards needed. On the other hand, after that, we’d have all the chump blockers we’d ever need. Maybe this could work… maybe…
So, yesterday I did worse at a Modern FNM than I’ve done ever before. I went 0-4. My tournament history might not be very storied for a reason, but I’ve never went 0-X before. Not even when I went to my first draft back in the day not knowing anything about the format, or when I bought an Event Deck and went to a standard tournament with it (actually, it worked pretty well, I tried both RtR Event Decks and went 2-2 with both).
Well, I guess Modern isn’t my thing. Too many decks with little interaction. Not for me.
So, not be deterred, I decided to just focus on Standard (although I doubt this decision will last). Of the decklists I showed yesterday, I feel I like the [card Thassa, God of the Sea]Thassa[/card] one most. Its not necessarily a choice based on actual playability, but rather I’d just like to try out a monoblue deck.
But, I’ve done some math since than. (Hooray?) Currently, the deck has 28 manasymbols, which can contribute to the Devotion. I’m not sure that’s enough. I need five on board (although Thassa is pretty good without being a creature), so I need to draw about 10 cards to be able to make her a creature. This isn’t hard, since that only means four turns on the play, but that also requires me to be able to keep those permanents in play. Also, some of the permanents are legendary and I won’t be able to keep more than one in play.
Therefore, we need to make a lot of changes to the deck. Some are easy. I want some card advantage. I had a couple of [card Opportunity]Opportunities[/card] in the deck, but why not have Jace, Memory Adept or Jace, Architect of Thought instead. Its card advantage plus Devotion. I don’t really like Claustrophobia since it keeps the gods in play and thus their abilities still work. Also, a god can be dismissed with another due to the new legendary rule, thus costing me two Devotion.
I would probably have to lose most of the instants and sorceries in the main deck. However, I think the deck would suck against most control, even if I would get to scry every upkeep. So, maybe I could make a transformative sideboard.
For those not familiar with the term, it means that you change your strategy completely by sideboarding. Lets say your opponent saw no creatures in game one. What does he do? He takes out removal, which lets you bring your creatures from the sideboard.
In this case, I’m thinking putting Thassa and her cohorts into the sideboard and bringing in Aetherling and a bunch of disruption in the form of counters and some bouncespells. That might work.
Still three weeks to go. Some preliminary lists. Still missing sideboards, but I’ll get to them… someday.
Magma Jet and Red
A great addition to a low curve RDW. Granted, its costlier than a Shock, but the card selection is great for keeping the momentum going. Also probably works in a Big Red.
Finding a good balance between permanents and spells is going to be hard, due to devotion.
Also, some big X spell with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx might work. Maybe.
This alone makes me think about a monoblack deck. Back in the day, I played black a lot and a lot of monoblack, even before the glory of Necropotence. These days I did try out a monoblack standard deck with lots of removal and a few creatures, keeping the game going until I could get a Griselbrand online. Didn’t really work. I went 2-2 in the local FNM and that was mostly due to playing skills rather than the deck.
Now, we have some tools. Thoughtseize is good protection for my creatures and there are some good cheap black creatures in M14 and RTR-block. Blood Scrivener could work, maybe even Lifebane Zombie and Liliana’s Reaver… then there’s of course the Desecration Demon. Curve would be awkward, but I think this might be workable.
Erebos, God of the Dead seems pretty good, although its in the same part of the curve as pretty much everything else I might want to use.
I’d like to make a list of black and I did try, but I just wasn’t able to make one I liked. There’s just something missing. Maybe I should just lower my bar with removal. Still, black seems like a weak color, even if you can play a sort of suicidish game with plenty of paying life for cards.
I’d prefer Nature’s Lore or similar, but this little beauty seems great. Ramping into third round four-drop requires a reliable manaproducing two drop. Sylvan Caryatid fills this spot nicely. Of course, lands are more reliable, especially with Devour Flesh in the format, but since I don’t think that card will be that big part of the environment I play in, Sylvan Caryatid will probably be a great blocker as well. I’m personally expecting plenty of fast decks.
I don’t really know about the Worldspine Wurm, but I just couldn’t fight the urge to put one into the deck. At first, it was actually four. I probably won’t ever be able to hardcast one, but that’s what Garruk, Caller of Beasts is for… On top of being a great card otherwise as well.
I’d like to get this to work. Not sure I can. Too little devotion to go around. Hopefully we’ll get something to help here.
Well, Quicken might not be what I’m looking for, just because there aren’t any sorceries in the deck. I just wanted a cantrip in there, and that was the best one I could find. I’ll probably change that when I come up with a good substitute. Maybe even limited staples Stealer of Secrets or Scroll Thief would work with [card Thassa, God of the Sea]Thassa[/card] and [card Bident of Thassa]Bident[/card].
At first, I dreaded the rotation. This is basically my first ever. When I stopped going to tournaments back in the late 90s, the block structure was still in its infancy and the rotation system as we know it today was sort of there, but it was more of an arbitrary decision by the DCI than an actual formalized system as it is today.
Now, I’m beginning to see it differently. Theros has some cards which make me feel like I want to build around them. I haven’t really built standard decks yet. Sort of, yes. Maybe even more than most, as I see netdecking happening all the time (and I don’t mind this at all since I regard deck building and playing too different skills, you don’t need to be good at both to enjoy the game) and even though my decks aren’t totally unique (like most decks), they at least have a hint of creativity in that I usually take a deck I like with heavy emphasis on a color, like Kibler’s Golgari deck or Conley Woods’ Black by Popular Demand and make them work for my style.
This time around, I’m actually thinking about decks from the ground up. At first, this seemed impossible, as the card pool is now quite limited. On the other hand, everyone has this same problem. I’m not alone in going from the largest possible standard pool to the smallest. This just means that I have to dig a little deeper, but so does everyone else.
Losing Innistrad and M13 is big. Losing Predator Ooze, Champion of the Parish, Vampire Nighthawk, Hellrider and so on completely neuters my current decks. But hey… that’s the beauty of rotation. Not only do I have to start from scratch, I get to start from scratch. Yes. I am overly positive. Obviously, my deck on 27th will be weaker than my current decks, but everyone is in the same situation.
That being said, as I’m writing this, we’ve seen one of the new gods from Theros, Thassa, the blue one. If the other gods are similar, I’m sure I’ll find a way to use them. I know my opponents will be able to abuse their weakness, but I’ll just have to live with that.
So, here’s what I’ve thinking about thus far (note that as I’m writing this, many of the cards aren’t in the gatherer yet, so you might have to look them up yourself, here’s a start):
Ember Swallower looks like something one might build around. With Boros Reckoners and Awaken the Ancients, this might actually work. Maybe. Depending on what kind of burn we’ll get in Theros. If we get a god similar to Thassa for red (and we probably will), it will be great with Boros Reckoner.
Red Deck Wins
I already talked about this in the last installment. Nothing new to add thus far. Hopefully we get at least one usable burn spell, so I can put Young Pyromancer into work. I guess Ogre Battledriver would work too, but it doesn’t have the same impact as Hellrider, so I’m not sure.
With Polukranos, World Eater out and a supposed green god coming, this might be it. I’ve actually been toying around with the idea of some ramp and Garruk, Caller of Beasts’ to get out huge creatures every turn. I was thinking about Worldspine Wurms, but I’d hate to be stuck with two of them in hand while never being able to cast them. Therefore I probably have to go down a bit on the casting cost. Gladly, Polukranos seems very good at four mana. Kalonian Hydra doesn’t really strike my fancy, although it would be a good addition for the curve, unless we get something better.
I already miss my Predator Oozes and Vorapedes. Those would be great for the Devotion with their three green mana symbols and resilience against removal. Why has extended died off? (That was rhetoric, I know why.)
Okay, the Champion is gone, Silverblade Paladin is gone, Sublime Archangel is gone… Turn four kills are probably out. Turn five, however… still within reach. Probably. Precinct Captain is probably underrated and a good mix of cheap Azorius creatures with interesting abilities and Boros Battalion creatures just might work. Maybe a working Rootborn Defenses into the deck somehow, if sweepers are popular. If not, Brave the Elements is probably better.
Rotation is coming up. Well, it is actually over a month away, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t started thinking about it already.
The thing is, since (like I’ve mentioned in the past) I play monocolored decks, the card pool might just lose too many cards for this to be a viable option. My current monogreen will be completely neutered with the loss of key cards such as Rancor, Predator Ooze and Ulvenwald Tracker, not to mention Strangleroot Geist, Wolfir Avenger, Wolfir Silverheart, Yeva, Nature’s Herald and Garruk Relentless. I even played a Vorapede, which was always too much for my opponents to deal with.
But hey… Right now the new Standard will basically be Return to Ravnica with some additions from M14 and Theros, right? Not exactly, but monocolored decks have historically been more popular in the Block Constructed Pro Tours. For example, although I didn’t know it while putting it together, my current green deck is pretty much a descendant of a deck from Pro Tour Avacyn Restored (the block PT for Innistrad):
He went 8-1-1 with the deck.
So looking back to Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze (which was block constructed), we see that the only color with its own decks is red.
Based on those, the decklist pretty much writes itself. There are three monored decks, all of which have exactly 19 lands and they share 32 exactly same creatures. Of the 9 cards left, they all have Dynacharges and then depending on whether they like to have some control over the board, they have either some or no removal.
Obviously, I’m not going to bring any of these decks as they are into standard, even with the current limited card pool, but on the other hand, any of those lists would probably work pretty well. Besides some sideboard options and perhaps some removal, M14 doesn’t actually bring anything to the mix on top of those cards.
A lot does depend on Theros. Now I’m somewhat disappointed that I didn’t try Big Red at any point of the current standard since right now we have Thundermaw Hellkite which would be a great basis for such a deck. However M14 does have Burning Earth and Awaken the Ancient. So, if we get some good red mass removal in Theros (although Mizzium Mortars is definitely a good option), maybe this could be the way to go. Mindsparker, Chandra’s Phoenix and Chandra, Pyromaster definitely don’t hurt either. With the aforementioned Boros Reckoners, this could actually work. Maybe.