Limited testing for the Pro Tour is a whole new ballgame now that the newest set is available on Monday after the prerelease. In our testing group, we post our 3-0 deck lists, and brainstorm archetypes and Draft strategies.
Very early in our preparation, Jason Chung, one of the Limited specialists of the team, came up with a U/G Tempo deck that relied on Spellweaver Eternal and Sidewinder Naga, and that used tricks and bounce spells to gain tempo advantage. The strategy worked greatly for him at the beginning, but it quickly fell apart.
In general, aggro decks performed way worse in Hour of Devastation than they did in Amonkhet. Red sports a low power level, and there aren’t many good 2-drops in the set, while there are a lot of ways to get around early aggression with cheap and efficient removal spells, and lots of good blockers.
That’s why we started liking midrange decks more and more. Those were Michael Bonde and Javier Dominguez’s favorite strategies—slower decks with good removal spell and good creatures. We would take Sandblast over Oketra’s Avenger, and Aven of Enduring Hope over Dauntless Aven, just because we liked midrange over aggro decks.
Green was the main color for these strategies, making it easy to splash any bomb rare or premium removal spell that you find on your path. Oasis Ritualist is not only a fine blocker, but it ramps you up to 7 mana on turn 5 and it fixes! What more do you need? You still take Ambuscade over it, but I’m not so sure that Rhonas’s Stalwart is better. Even though 2-drops are important in this format, since there are so few, Rhonas’s Stalwart isn’t that far from Defiant Khenra if your plan is to stall the board and cast Rampaging Hippo.
This means that there isn’t a pick order for each color in Hour of Devastation, like Karsten suggests, because every card changes in evaluation based on the archetype you are in. For example, in my first Draft I second picked Oasis Ritualist and played 2 and they were great. In my second Draft, I was green and didn’t play any.
I opened Ramunap Hydra, which was perfect for the strategy I was aiming to draft. I chose to cut green, taking Oasis Ritualist and following it up with Tenacious Hunter. I received some very late Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs and I ended pack 1 with 3 copies, demonstrating my pod’s lack of respect for a card that is great in the right archetype.
I ended my pack with a bunch of black filler, but I was mainly mono-green.
Banewhip Punisher was an easy first pick, as it’s one of the best uncommons. Obelisk Spider put me solidly me into B/G. Despite the lack of spells, my power level was high, and I even managed to pick up 3 Desert of the Indomitable along the way.
When to pick a Desert is one of the toughest nuts to crack in Hour of Devastation.
There are two premium Deserts: Ifnir Deadlands and Hashep Oasis, which you can easily take as the first cards in their color, and read them as a signal to move into it, whereas the other 8 colored Deserts: Ramunap Ruins, Shefet Dunes, Ipnu Rivulet, and the cycling Deserts are good cards in that color, but the pick will usually depend on how much you need creatures, spells, or Deserts to make your payoff cards work.
When I reviewed my picks, I noticed that I was lacking big mana cards. The only card I had that cost more than 4 was Scrounger of Souls, but most importantly I had 0 spells and 17 creatures by that time.
That’s why in Amonkhet I chose to prioritize spells over creatures. I second-picked a Pull from Tomorrow. I knew I wouldn’t play a single blue land, relying only on 2 Oasis Ritualist to cast it, but I needed a big mana card and it was perfect.
This was the final deck:
My first two rounds were against aggro decks, and my very defensive deck was able to hold off the aggression, mainly thanks to my sideboarded Dune Beetle and Moaning Wall. Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs was an all-star, and Destined // Lead won every game.
In the final round I played against Makis Matsoukas, who was in the race for Draft Master. His deck was a strong Grixis Control list with flyers and control cards. I won the game were I resolved Pull from Tomorrow for 6, but lost the other two.
They were super close games, though, and it was a great match.
2-1 was a good record to start the Pro Tour, but the following day I needed something better since I was 5-3 and didn’t have any losses to give if I wanted to Top 8.
The second Draft was much much easier than the first, as I opened not 1 but 2 Kefnet’s Last Word in each Hour of Devastation booster. In the first pack I received strong signals to move into green, and everything went according to plan.
I chose to not play Oasis Ritualist because I didn’t have anything to ramp into, but I wonder if I should have played a 17th land or a Traveler’s Amulet. I had plenty of 2- and 3-drops, so I figured that I could function as a tempo deck, and didn’t really need to hit my land drops until turn 5.
Cartouche of Knowledge was the best card in my deck, and I’m so happy I picked it over Hooded Brawler as a flying Harrier Naga won me almost every game. I managed to 3-0 my pod, defeating another Greek in the final: Bill Chronopoulos.
Kefnet’s Last Word didn’t show up that often—only twice, and one of those times, I lost. It’s obviously an insane rare, but the deck was smooth and the plan was straightforward: hold the ground with 1/3s and bounce spells, and get them with flyers.
I’ve never been a fan of Rhonas’s Last Stand, but I got it 4th pick 1st pack, and it once again underperformed. The two times that I cast it I got blown out by Consign // Oblivion and Ruin Rat. I would take Rhonas’s Stalwart over it.
The power level of Unsummon depends on the archetype. If you go for a tempo deck with Spellweaver Eternal and Aerial Guide, then Unsummon is a premium spell. If you have a control deck, then bounce spells become very mediocre as you don’t pressure your opponent and they’ll have time to recast their creature and create card advantage.
The last thing that I want to mention about Hour of Devastation Limited is how frustrating it is playing against Gods, and how much I hate the fact that you bring them back if they die. There are very few ways in the whole format to get rid of them.
I played against Gods three times at PT Hour of Devastation on Day 1, and every time my opponent dropped it on turn 5 (Juza even played The Locust God on turn 4!), my chances of winning the game were equal to 0. Every time I faced a God in Draft, the same outcome occurred. It’s a miserable experience playing against these kinds of cards in Limited, so please Wizards, if you want to push cards for your story, make them good in Limited and whatnot—even in Constructed—but not unbeatable in Limited and bulk rares in Constructed.