One of the benefits of writing two articles a week on this website is that I have more of an outlet to share the ideas or thoughts I have about Magic. One of the downsides, however, is that after a while, you start to run short on things to write about. There’s only so many times you can write about the same deck before it becomes tedious to write about it again, and useless to read.
For that reason, I’m always looking for ideas on how to spruce up my articles and make them more engaging, entertaining, and informative. One idea I heard was writing a “Week in Review” article. Most weeks for me involve the same thing. I produce content and test for events during the week. I play a tournament on the weekend. Rinse, lather, and repeat ad nauseam (but not actually playing Ad Nauseam. That would be Ad Nauseating).
During the course of testing, I come to a lot of conclusions, dismiss and develop ideas, find decks I like, test with them, discard them if they aren’t good enough, find a new deck, etc. Instead of just doing that all myself and then later writing an article about some deck or some part of my weekly testing, why don’t I just share all of it? Due to the size constraints of my articles, it’s basically going to be a highlight reel of my week of testing. I’m not going to go into great detail but I’ll hit the major points.
The idea is that one of my articles will be a weekly review, and the other article will be a more topical piece. I have no idea if this is the type of article that people will enjoy seeing on a weekly basis, but there’s only one real way to find out. So, buckle down or buckle up—whichever you prefer—because I present to you the pilot episode of—drumroll please—Culling the Week.
Thursday, Feb 11 – Sunday, Feb 14
I’m writing this article on Wednesday, so I’m starting with last Thursday out of respect for what a week means (seven days). With that said, I spent the entirety of last calendar week doing nothing but testing the various flavors of Eldrazi in Modern for the Magic Online PTQ on Sunday. My previous article lays out most of my findings on these big boned menaces, so I won’t dwell too much on that.
As per usual, however, I missed one of the Eldrazi flavors and I got my reality smashed. I played the UR Eldrazi list from my last article. I went 0-3. I lost twice to the worst matchup in Affinity after losing round 1 to a weird Abzan AEther Vial deck that beat me with Worship and a combination of Collected Company, Flickerwisp, and Tidehollow Sculler to effectively “Sculler ****” me. Not how I drew it up, and it was a bit frustrating to 0-3 after probably testing more than anyone else in the event.
The takeaway from this was threefold: First, Colorless Eldrazi won, continuing to demonstrate that it is likely the most powerful option against the field as a whole, even though it is worst in the mirror. Secondly, UR Eldrazi is extremely powerful, but it also doesn’t have a lot of flexibility, and right now while everyone is single-minded in beating Eldrazi to the exclusion of everything else, it probably isn’t a good choice. Thirdly, as I said earlier, I missed one flavor of Eldrazi, and that was UW Eldrazi, which Andrew Tenjum went perfect with in the Swiss before losing in the Top 8.
Displacer is a sweet card, and this deck gets to play all of the best sideboard cards in Modern, since they are all white cards. Looks like a great place to pick up next time I focus on Modern.
Sunday, Feb 14 – Wednesday, Feb 17
My mother always told me that there was no use crying over spilled PTQ chances, so immediately after I died in the Modern PTQ, I jumped over to Standard. I have a Standard RPTQ this weekend so my next order of business was to prepare myself for that. And when I say immediately, I literally mean immediately. Right after I picked up my 3rd loss, I clicked out of the Modern PTQ on Magic Online and opened up an 8-player Standard event with Bant Company.
I started with the list that Brad Nelson Top 8’d the Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS) with on Saturday.
FFFREAK, 6th place in the MOCS
I played this list for about a day. I missed the 4th Dromoka’s Command. I think the mana base is flawed and it’s better to play no painlands and more fetchlands and dual lands. Eldrazi Skyspawner seemed awesome on paper, but was too small of a body to matter against red decks and Abzan decks, which were smashing me. Wingmate Roc was phenomenal. I cut Skyspawner, went back to a full set of Bounding Krasis, changed up the mana base some, added the 4th Dromoka’s Command and starting playing Nissa, Vastwood Seer. I started winning more.
Some other ideas I had but never tried include playing 4 Warden of the First Tree and no Jaces, like what Lee Shi Tian did in the MOCS. Jace kind of sucks in this deck. I also wanted to try Abzan Company. I’ve also been thinking a lot about Reflector Mage + Gideon in a GW Megamorph style deck after Ross Merriam mentioned pairing the two cards together. Standard isn’t solved.
Ultimately, I think this deck is pretty strong, but I moved on to other decks. It wasn’t because I didn’t think this deck was good enough, but more that I felt like I could do better, and didn’t want to lock into a single deck and miss something great.
Hate me if you want. Eldrazi in Modern. Rally in Standard. Come at me. I just want to play the best decks and win and not dilly-dally with pet cards or decks that ultimately aren’t good enough.
So yeah. I moved on to Rally. It’s the best deck in the format, and the two days I spent testing it didn’t alter my opinion. I was winning a lot. I started with the list that won the MOCS. I then made changes based on what I liked or didn’t like. The above list is my current list.
I cut Liliana, Heretical Healer. The card was dominating games when it hit play, but about 50% of the time I drew it, I simply couldn’t cast it and it would rot in my hand.
I went up to 4 Elvish Visionary. This is a number I won’t budge on. Visionary makes everything else in the deck work better. I also won’t play less than 3 Catacomb Sifters, and I think it may be correct to play 4. Finding room for the 4th would mean cutting Grim Haruspex, because I’m unwilling to cut another Nantuko Husk and I won’t play more 3-drops than what I already have. Grim Haruspex is sometimes the best card in your deck and sometimes the worst. I think 2 is the right number. It does something powerful, but you don’t always want it or need it.
The Hallowed Moonlights in the sideboard probably suck. They are for the Rally mirror, but it’s really hard to leave open 2 mana in the mirror match when they’re bouncing all your stuff with Reflector Mage. How rude. More Dispel or Anafenza is probably better. The original list had Kalitas, but I quickly determined that it was Kalit-ass.
Even though Rally was the last deck I tested, I did pull out a couple of other sweet decks that I’m also hoping to get to at some point.
This is Josh Utter-Leyton’s 9th place list from the MOCS. For one, I have a soft spot in my heart for finishing in 9th place. Secondly, I think his list is pretty innovative and seems like a great next step for evolving Atarka’s Command decks.
This is KuKeKe’s 4-0 list from a Magic Online Daily Event. I don’t agree with many of the card choices—sideboard in particular—but I really love what the deck is trying to do. Anafenza into Reality Smasher reminds me of Anafenza into Surrak, the Hunt Caller, also known as Nasty Surraksty, a combination that I played at a Pro Tour last year. Take 10.
Both of these last two decks are yet untested by me, but who knows, maybe you’ll see them in the next installment of the new hit series: Culling the Week. Well, as long as we don’t get shut down by our producers. Fingers crossed.