If you missed my first installment in this series, I’m writing a weekly article series that sums up my week in review. I’m going to hit on some of the important decks I tested, things I’ve learned, and then move on. I’ll be In-N-Out faster than a burger chain in some parts of the continental United States. This article isn’t for the weak-willed, but it is definitely for the “week”-willed, so let’s get rolling.
Wednesday, Feb 17 – Saturday, Feb 20
On Sunday I had an RPTQ to play, so Wednesday through Saturday were spent grinding Standard on MTGO as much as one human feasibly can in order to prepare myself for the rite of passage that was to come that Sunday. The RPTQ meant a lot to me. If I won the RPTQ, then I would have been locked to play the next 3 Pro Tours and become very close to hitting Gold status, which would add +4 Pro Tours and meant that I was locked to play the next 7 Pro Tours. It was kind of a big deal.
On Wednesday, I was testing Rally the Ancestors. There was just one problem.
My clan had wasted and withered until they were no more. So there wasn’t a whole lot in the way of Ancestors to Rally. Dispels and Hallowed Moonlights were out in force. All in all, I spent a few days testing Rally, but I knew I couldn’t actually pull the trigger on it.
Basically, I felt like Rally was a very powerful deck, but I also felt like prepared opponents were going to have Kalitas, Dispel, Hallowed Moonlight, etc. Prepared opponents were also going to know how to play against the deck, and unfamiliarity was a large reason for its continued success. I didn’t want to insult the intelligence of the other people playing in this RPTQ and assume they wouldn’t be capable of beating Rally.
That left me without a deck. I briefly tested with a few Bant decks (more on this later) but eventually settled on a nice little RG number. The rest, as they say, is history.
I wrote an article earlier this week on the RG deck that I played at the RPTQ so I won’t bother to go into excessive detail on the ins and outs of the deck, but I will leave you with the most updated list.
Abbot of Keral Keep? More like…Abbot of DON’T Care-al Keep. Am I right?
Sunday, Feb 21
I journeyed down to Knoxville, Tennessee to play in the RPTQ with Eric Hymel and Ross Merriam, a few of my fellow Roanoke Magic compatriots. We were wide-eyed and ready to crush some local scrubs at this RPTQ. All three of us were on Atarka’s Command: me playing the RG Atarka Tokens deck and those two on RG Landfall.
Unfortunately, the people there were not scrubs, and after one singular round of the event, both Eric and I were 0-1 and Ross had a draw. So much for a plan. Some battling back happened. Not much, but some. Unfortunately, I played against Eric in round 3 and was forced to show him the true power of Hordeling Outburst. His tournament was over.
Ross and I lasted a bit longer, me at X-1 and him at X-1-1, but really, it wasn’t too much longer. We both lost in round 5 to eliminate us from Top 8 contention. I ended up winning the last round to go 4-2 and finish in 17th place, where I received 18 packs of Oath of the Gatewatch for my efforts. I did open an Expedition Wooded Bastion, so all was not for naught.
The conclusion after a few days of testing with the Atarka Tokens deck plus the RPTQ is that the deck is really awesome, has a lot of really powerful draws, but it’s still missing something. I don’t know what that something is. I’ll leave that to more skilled deckbuilders, but I do know that it’s off by a little bit.
The main problem is that too many of the cards are weak on their own. Hordeling Outburst and Dragon Fodder are simply not real Magic cards in this format without Nissa, Atarka’s Command, or Reckless Bushwhacker to make them into something they’re not. Outnumber is a poor card to draw right after your opponent just cast Radiant Flames. Even Nissa + Hordeling Outburst isn’t necessarily good enough because there are so many 2/3s in the format that a bunch of 2/2s can’t always even attack without another way to pump them like Atarka’s Command.
When the synergy comes together, the deck is savage, but when it doesn’t come together, it’s decidedly less savage. I’m not cool with less savage.
Monday, Feb 22 – Tuesday, Feb 23
I wasn’t fully forthcoming with you all earlier. There was one more deck I did test very briefly before the RPTQ. I became enamored with Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. I think the card is very powerful and wanted to find other shells that could play the card. So I dabbled a bit. I threw together an extremely rough Bant list that didn’t play Collected Company and instead hit them with Nissa and Gideon. I immediately 3-0’d an 8-player event on Magic Online. The deck seemed like it had some power to it, but I didn’t feel like I had time to work on it before the RPTQ. But once that event was over, I immediately went back to testing this Bant deck.
The deck has a lot of things going for it. For one, it’s the best Wingmate Roc deck I’ve played in this Standard format by far. Nissa plays extremely well with Wingmate Roc. Plant tokens turn on raid and Nissa’s -2 ability afterward establishes Wingmate Roc and the Roc buddy as the biggest things in play. Gideon also is great for setting up raid on Wingmate Roc and the emblem likewise makes them into flying monsters.
Wingmate Roc is so good in this deck I almost want 4. Games where I raid Roc on 5 I almost never lose and it’s pretty easy to do.
This deck is also very good at leveraging Warden of the First Tree. It has 14 sources of untapped green on turn 1, and between Dromoka’s Command and Nissa, it’s easy to be able to continually attack with Warden throughout the game.
The drawback to this deck is twofold. Sometimes your cards aren’t great at playing defense. Gideon and Nissa are both much better as offensive cards than defensive. Collected Company is great at doing both, which is why it is arguably the best card in the format, or at least in the top 5. Reflector Mage helps with this, but can’t always do everything.
The other drawback is that a lot of these cards become weak later in the game. The deck doesn’t have Lumbering Falls or anything other than Warden to provide flood insurance later in the game. I’m not playing Lumbering Falls because it messes up the curve too much, although perhaps that is wrong. I also don’t have Den Protector because this deck is at its best when it’s leveraging a tempo advantage to utilize the planeswalkers to their full effect and Den Protector doesn’t fit that role. But the lack of Den Protector makes the late game weak.
What this deck does do well is press an early advantage and then use the slow, grindy card advantage that planeswalkers provide to hammer that advantage home. You start out the game aggressively, put your opponent on the backfoot, and then you eek out advantages with Nissa and Gideon to twist the knife enough to make it so they can’t ever come back.
I think this deck is missing something, and I’m not sure exactly what it needs. There is a lot of potential here, and perhaps someone can figure out how to take this shell and make it great. I’ve certainly tried, and am still trying. For what it’s worth, even though I know this list isn’t perfect, I’ve been winning with the deck. A lot. Wingmate Roc is a phenomenal Magic card.
And that’s where I’m at this week. Next on my list to test is the Blue Eldrazi deck that Mike Sigrist has been talking about, and the Jeskai Dragons deck that Martin Muller won the MOCS with. The Blue Eldrazi deck has been a big presence on Magic Online recently and is surprisingly good. Jeskai Dragons harkens back to Jeskai decks from a year ago, but feels surprisingly well-positioned right now.