After coming back from PT Fate Reforged all I wanted was to take a small break. There was a European GP in Seville, which would normally be a no-brainer for me, but flights were really expensive, it was going the be on Valentine’s weekend, and I haven’t played a game of Standard since the new set came out. It seemed like everyone else was in the same boat until Lukas Blohon figured out he wanted to go because he wasn’t qualified for Brussels and was sitting on 15 Pro Points with a good shot at Silver even if he didn’t Top 8 the GP. I decided that I didn’t actually mind going as long as he did all the work regarding flights and hotels. As it turned out the only reasonable ticket had an overnight layover in Lisbon and would get us to Seville at 11 a.m. on Saturday, which was quite risky because Lukas only had 2 byes, but we decided to go anyway.
I only had about 2 days to test, so I needed to find a deck quickly. I figured out that I should play something aggresive because I wouldn’t have enough time and knowledge of the format to have a good version of a control deck. At first I tried Jeskai Tokens, but it felt like the deck played too many 3-drops. After that I tried R/W which I expected to be great because it seemed to be the most popular deck in the format, but I didn’t particularly like it. One thing I noticed was that Hordeling Outburst was pretty mediocre because everyone had too many cheap creatures. Sure it was nice to play Stoke the Flames for free sometimes, but mostly the tokens felt useless or just died to something like Drown in Sorrow or Bile Blight.
Around this time I got a pretty sweet looking Jeskai list from Dave Shiels and immediatelly fell in love with it. The worst cards in the old Jeskai deck were definitely Magma Jet and Jeskai Charm and now you could replace them with Wild Slash and Valorous Stance, both of which felt like a giant improvement, and they were even one mana cheaper! After changing Sarkhans to Stormbreath Dragons, cutting the Jeskai Charms entirely, and adding some more card draw spells, this is what I registered for the GP:
Your plan with this deck is pretty simple, you play a bunch of cheap effective creatures and clear the way with burn. If they die or if it comes to a board stall, you reload with Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time and continue applying pressure.
I went 7-2 on Day 1, beating R/G Aggro, R/W, Jeskai Tokens, and Abzan Aggro and losing to BUG Control and Mono-Green Nykthos. I didn’t have any more losses to give but I felt like the deck was very well positioned and the top tables were filled with R/W which seemed to be a very good matchup for me. That proved to be true, and I was able to easily beat it 4 times on Day 2. One more win against Jeskai and I was able to draw into the Top 8.
I had really high hopes for this one as all my matchups seemed to be quite favorable, but after some mulligans and pretty poor draws I lost in the quarterfinals yet again. Not too bad considering I didn’t even want to go, but it would have been nice to pick up some extra points, especially when the difference between 1st and 5th is twice the number of Pro Points. Still, I think that makes it 4 out of the last 6 and as long as I continue running this hot I’m in no position to complain.
Strengths and Weaknesses
- Cheap removal + card advantage has always been a good strategy, especially in an aggresive format like this one. Wild Slash is one of the most important additions to the deck, as it allows you to keep hands with multiple tapped lands while still being able to interact with your opponent. Valorous Stance also completely changed the dynamic of the Abzan matchup, as now you dont have to worry about them resolving a Courser or Siege Rhino because you can just kill it for 2 mana.
- Your removal spells can also target your opponent. When playing a deck with black removal you can find yourself in situations where you are holding multiple Bile Blights and Hero’s Downfalls but they won’t help you deal the last point of damage if you don’t have a creature. Stoke the Flames can be used to kill a Stormbreath Dragon but it can also finish your opponent if you get him to 4 life.
- You are playing an aggresive deck with the same plan against everyone, which helps with mulligan decisions. Imagine drawing a hand like Dissolve, Jace’s Ingenuity, Pearl Lake Ancient, 4 lands against an unknown opponent—this hand could be really good if your opponent is playing control or a mulligan against something like Mono-Red Aggro.
- Outpost Siege. Even now it’s still one of the most underrated cards in Standard. Chandra was already seeing a lot of play and this card is so much better. It cannot be killed by Hero’s Downfall, you can play it when you are behind because unlike Chandra it can’t be attacked by creatures, and if you have it going for a couple turns on an even board, it’s really hard to lose. The second ability is also very useful and can act like a pseudo burn spell when you are attacking with a bunch of tokens or when you need to deal the last couple points of damage. I was only playing 1 in the maindeck and 1 in the sideboard because I already had the 4 Treasure Cruises/Dig Through Time, I’m not sure that wasn’t a mistake.
- The biggest weakness this deck has is probably an Outpost Siege on the opposite side of the table. I don’t think you want to play more Abzan Advantages though, because it’s still a very specific card that doesn’t do much in other situations. You just need to be as fast as possible and make it too painful for them to tap out on turn 4 for an enchantment that doesn’t have an immediate impact on the board.
Why no Monastery Mentor? – Having a good, well-balanced curve is important. Eight 3-drops is a lot and you definitely don’t want to play more. Mantis Rider is just better and Goblin Rabblemaster doesn’t need other cards to make tokens. It would be different if he was a 3/3 because then he wouldn’t die to Drown in Sorrow, but as it is there is just no room for him.
What’s good about Abzan Advantage? – With all the card draw I wanted to have some sweet 1-ofs to draw into. I thought R/W was going to be the most popular deck and between Chained to the Rocks and Outpost Siege they have a lot of good targets for it. Almost every green deck plays Courser of Kruphix. There is Jeskai Ascendancy, Whip of Erebos, Frontier Siege, Banishing Light. And worst-case scenario, sometimes it can also be just a surprising combat trick.
Why just 1 Soulfire Grand Master? – I played just 1 because I wanted a fifth 2-drop, but not more because I didn’t want to make my deck worse against Drown in Sorrow. It definitely overperformed and the lifelinking ability won me a few close games. I was also able to buyback Stoke the Flames and Wild Slash a few times, which felt extremely powerful. I could definitely see splitting them 3/2 with Seeker or just adding another one to the deck.
Is Dig Through Time worse than Treasure Cruise? I’m not actually sure whether Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time is better. Cruise is better if you want to make land drops to play your Dragons and Elspeths and Dig is better when you are looking for two burn spells or specific sideboard cards like Anger of the Gods or counters. Dig feels a little bit stronger more of the time, so I can easily see playing 2/2 or 3/1 in favor of Dig Through Time.
Sideboard was probably the best part of this deck. The trick is to board out your Goblin Rabblemasters on the draw against pretty much everything and sometimes even on the play. Everyone is ready for a 3-mana 2/2 after sideboard with cards like Pharika’s Cure, Drown in Sorrow, or Nylea’s Disciple and its just too hard to get any value out of it. Boarding into a control deck with Angers, counters, and Elspeths allows you to completely switch gears and attack them from a different angle.
Negates are for control matchup like BUG or UB. Disdainful Strokes as well, but you can also bring them in if you know your opponent has many Outpost Sieges, Ashcloud Phoenixes, and Stormbreath Dragons. Don’t forget Crater’s Claws and Stoke the Flames also cost 4 or more.
Anger is great in the creature mirrors and even better in combination with Brimaz, which also comes in against decks with Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow. Most of the time it pretty much just replaces Rabblemaster to make sure your curve stays solid. Outpost Siege is great on the play in the attrition matchups and against control. Glare of Heresy comes in against Abzan Aggro, R/W, and Heroic.
Valorous Stance is your best card against Coursers and Rhinos, but also make sure you board it out against the red decks because they don’t have any good targets for it and will usually burn your guys in their turn so you won’t have a chance to save them.
If you expect very little control in your metagame, you can cut the Negates from the sideboard for something else, probably something like End Hostilities, because Green Nykthos decks are probably going to get more popular now that people found out Whisperwood Elemental is a thing. Make sure you have a Stoke or Valorous Stance for him ready though, otherwise End Hostilities isn’t going to do much.
Thanks for reading and good luck in Memphis!