Grand Prix Oakland is a mere day away and I’m not happy. Thopter/Depths is still the best deck by far, but that hardly means that I would be happy playing it. The mirror match is incredibly skill intensive, as every decision matters, but still, there is the possibility for the Marit Lage blowout. Even Thoughtseize into Dark Confidant feels incredibly unfair. There are obviously ways to combat Dark Confidant, Dark Depths, and Thopter Foundry, but answers are so much worse than proactive cards in the face of Thoughtseize.
So what to do? I’ve tried brewing, with some Magic Online success, but I didn’t really come up with anything that I feel would give me a considerable edge against an entire field of random decks, regardless of how well I end up doing vs. Dark Depths.
Here are some of my brews, for reference:
The sideboard could contain Tarmogoyf, Threads of Disloyalty, Celestial Purge, Pull from Eternity, Ancient Grudge, Negate, and Shadow of Doubt. Goyfs give you a solid backup plan and Pulls give you outs to Extirpates. Purge and Grudge give you more game against Depths.
The combination of the Thopter combo and Punishing Fire is incredibly good against Depths/Foundry. It’s hard for them to keep a Confidant in play and Marit Lage isn’t all that threatening. The problem came in the post board games where I had only a single Celestial Purge to fight Leyline of the Void, and had no Pulls to counter Extirpate. Should you be fully prepared, I believe that a deck like this might be exactly what the format has been asking for.
I later added Mystical Teachings, but at that point it seemed like the deck had too much going on. The mana base was also all over the place. You could cut Tarmogoyf and play something like Kitchen Finks instead, which might actually be better anyway.
I felt like this approach might be better than the control version for a couple reasons. First of all, it had more than one win condition, as the Foundry combo is becoming increasingly unreliable. Second, it was more aggressive. Hiding behind counterspells just isn’t as effective as it used to be, and it’s even harder to find a deck that wins by inevitability (which obviously saddens me to no end).
I 3-1ed a Daily Event with this:
I played against DD/Thopter once and tore it apart, but lost to a Zoo deck. Somehow, Threads, Goyfs, and Jittes just aren’t even close to good enough. Thoughtseize and Dark Confidant are much worse with a fetchland manabase. Even with Tarmogoyf on defense against something like Zoo, you die way too quickly.
I even tried this one in a PE, but failed miserably after playing terribly.
The Pull in the sideboard makes their Extirpates look foolish. I would consider playing a second in case you randomly draw it and they are smart enough to Thoughtseize it. Teferi can also allow you to play around Extirpate to a certain extent. You are basically all in on the Thopter combo, so you want to draw the pieces naturally and not have to waste time tutoring up a Sword of the Meek.
I should have played an alternate win condition in the sideboard in case they do manage to break up the Foundry combo somehow. Meloku, Oona, or Sphinx of Jwar Isle are all solid candidates.
This list made me happy. I had answers to nearly all of the hate cards that people could throw at me. So what’s the problem?
Again, the fetchland/dual manabase with Confidant and Thoughtseize was painful. I could see this list with Ancestral and Spell Snare being very good. Kitchen Finks would be excellent out of the sideboard and so would Fracturing Gust, but that would require a bigger shift to a white mana base, probably with some Mystic Gates. Overall, I’m fine with that as much doesn’t change. Your Pulse of the Fields in the sideboard gets even better.
So why is this better than normal Teachings? Well, first of all, you have a real win condition and an accidental “I win” combo. Normal Teachings is going to have to grind out every game and isn’t actually very good at beating Dark Depths, despite popular opinion.
From my experience, the matchup is rather easy. The discard is incredibly effective against them, as perfect information allows you to know exactly what combo you should go for. Sometimes, you just end up protecting Bob, sometimes you need to sculpt a late game plan with Thopter Foundry, and sometimes you see that they’re weak to a Marit Lage.
They don’t have an overabundance of answers to either of your threats, nor do they have a lot of card drawing to recover from your discard. I could see how you could think that the Teachings deck “has answers to everything,” but the games just don’t play out that way. Fracturing Gust doesn’t kill a Confidant and Path to Exile does nothing vs. an army of Thopters. Yes, they have things like Crovax or Night of Soul’s Betrayal which are nearly universal answers, but that’s where Thoughtseize shines yet again, as does having access to a plethora of Repeals.
From my experience, Leyline of the Void is garbage. In addition to Leylines, you need answers to their Lages and Confidants, in addition to whatever else they decide to throw at you post board. Leyline just doesn’t solve all the problems and it takes up a lot of slots. Sure, it’s good against crappy decks like Dredge, maybe Living End, and probably some of the above brews with Punishing Fire and the Thopter combo, but you can do better in the mirror. All the problems you solve with 4 Leylines you can solve with 2-3 Extirpates. I could understand playing Leyline of the Void if you want to, but I don’t think it’s quite worth it.
The struggle for mirror superiority still rages on, as very few people seem to be doing their job of innovating. There has to be more than the make sure Bob dies, Extirpate Foundry plan. It’s possible that a Teachings into Pull plan has merit, but it could also just be too cute, and wreak too much havoc on the manabase.
I’m not entirely happy with the whole Dark Depths combo. I side it out against almost everything already, and as you’ll notice, none of the above decks contain the pieces. Beseech the Queen has even left my combo builds as I step even further away from the Depths combo with every new iteration of the deck.
However, I’ve noticed that without it, my matchup percentages against the “tier 2″ decks in the format like Burn, Doran, Death Cloud, Scapeshift, etc go down. I’m not getting those free game wins and as such, my overall win percentage goes down with it. All the decks in the format, when not threatening to kill you on turn three, all tend to play fair. They are all quite good at what they do so it’s very hard to gain even a slight edge against them beyond 60/40.
I can’t control what people play in events. There will always be those playing underpowered Rock decks, crappy burn decks, and so on. They are still part of the metagame and therefore I should probably play something that has the added side bonus of annihilating them if at all possible. Dark Depths does exactly that and for that reason, I don’t really see a reason to not play them in Oakland.
Whenever I tried out the decks that were all in on Thopter Foundry, I found myself sometimes having trouble closing games. It’s nearly impossible to get complete control of the game since the counter magic is so bad in comparison to the threats. The closest you can get to locking up the game is by assembling your combo, but you don’t instantly kill them, and almost everyone is playing ways to break it up. At that point, you almost certainly haven’t killed all of their threats, so they can probably just resume attacking you.
Relying solely on the Thopter Foundry combo is a bad idea. It’s much too difficult to fight through all the hate unless you have specific answers with something like Mystical Teachings to find them. Playing a secondary win condition maindeck is necessary, and a third in the board is probably a good idea.
I think that a Thopter Foundry control deck is well positioned at this point, and after the GP this weekend, the format will be even more defined and therefore easier to hate out.
Good luck with whatever you choose to play this weekend.