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Silvestri Says – Dragon’s Maze Week One

Week one has come and gone, and [card]Sire of Insanity[/card] was the standout offering from Dragon’s Maze, though multiple cards had greater impact than expected. It seems like everyone knew that Jund was gaining, and yet that did little to stop a bunch of week one Jund decks from dominating NJ. So why was this such a breakout card when it really only goes into one strategy? Well… despite trying my best not to repeat the card text to you, it really is that simple. I don’t think people really grasp how powerful Sire is until they actually see it in action. Demolishing a hand is definitely worth six mana and the fact that it keeps them in frowntown is huge. Owen finished 2nd at SCG NJ, and a host of other Jund decks running Sire of Insanity all did well.

[deck]Main Deck
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
1 Liliana of the Veil
3 Olivia Voldaren
2 Sire of Insanity
4 Thragtusk
1 Abrupt Decay
3 Bonfire of the Damned
1 Dreadbore
4 Farseek
2 Ground Seal
2 Mizzium Mortars
2 Putrefy
1 Rakdos Keyrune
1 Rakdos’s Return
2 Tragic Slip
4 Blood Crypt
2 Cavern of Souls
2 Dragonskull Summit
2 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Overgrown Tomb
3 Rootbound Crag
4 Stomping Ground
4 Woodland Cemetery
Sideboard:
1 Deadbridge Chant
1 Duress
1 Ground Seal
2 Liliana of the Veil
1 Mizzium Mortars
2 Pillar of Flame
1 Rakdos’s Return
2 Tragic Slip
2 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Vraska the Unseen[/deck]

Jund only truly lacked an impressive card advantage option, so instead relied on the opposite approach. Sire allows it to do this with a kill condition. While worse at offing planeswalkers than [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card], I’m impressed at how quickly Sire ends the game. I imagined more stalemate situations popping up, but in practice when the Sire trigger resolves the game is probably just over.

Otherwise, Jund itself was well-positioned, since the usual new set idiom is that aggro is the best choice for an unknown format due to its proactive nature. Of course Jund is situated perfectly to haumph aggro decks while still having game against Islands and other midrange variants, with 11 maindeck removal spells alongside the value variety hour of Olivia, Huntmaster, and Thragtusk. Even if you move the deck toward winning the midrange wars, you’d have to shift the deck significantly to lose that edge.

Still, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t tweak things depending on your expected metagame. [card]Tragic Slip[/card] is huge against Aristocrats and various fatties when you can consistently trigger it, but [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] and [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card] still encourage the play of [card]Pillar of Flame[/card]. Of course, as Jund, you don’t actually care about either of those cards all that much, so the answer is still probably to play Tragic Slip and SB Pillar if you suspect a lot of Blitz or Zombies where you need to kill a 2-toughness creature immediately.

[draft]Deadbridge Chant[/draft]

If you want to grind out the mirror and have something that works around opposing Sire of Insanity decks and is difficult to interact with, then start the Deadbridge Chanting! It just hangs out in play and will rebuy on a removal or creature spell more often than land. Not getting hit by [card]Putrefy[/card] and its strength against Sire and Return makes it a more useful addition than [card]Staff of Nin[/card].

[draft]voice of resurgence
unflinching courage[/draft]

On the flip side of the field, we have the closest thing to a combo-aggro deck available. Bant Auras gained two cards from Dragon’s Maze in [card]Unflinching Courage[/card] and [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card]. Last week I mentioned the deck and talked about both cards, so I won’t go into much detail. I’ll just reiterate that VoR is largely being sold in the wrong decks and that Bant Auras is a good example of a deck where it does a ton of work without the dreamworld scenario of the opponent being a stone moron. Stop imagining Magical Christmasland where the opponent can’t tie his shoes. Alex Mitchell clearly could tie his shoelaces and earned a Top 4 finish for his trouble:

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Fencing Ace
4 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Ethereal Armor
4 Rancor
2 Simic Charm
4 Spectral Flight
4 Unflinching Courage
4 Breeding Pool
1 Cavern of Souls
1 Forest
3 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
3 Hinterland Harbor
2 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden
SIDEBOARD
1 Feeling of Dread
2 Fog
2 Ground Seal
2 Nearheath Pilgrim
2 Negate
2 Nevermore
2 Render Silent
2 Selesnya Charm[/deck]

I think everyone willing to add new cards to the Auras deck quickly realized VoR was just a really good 2-drop. Obviously another cheap hexproof beater would’ve been ideal for the deck, but outside of that VoR was the best it could hope for. It’s really good against Islands, better against more answers than Strangleroot, and easier to cast. You aren’t afraid of getting blown out in response to casting enchants and you pack enough auras to throw away one or two and still have enough to pump.

Now Auras is still a risky play in many metagames, but if people want to play Jund without (or only a few) Bonfire or Liliana and Junk Reanimator, then Auras looks great. It has the potential to completely dominate matches without sweepers, and can race most decks with average hands. On the other hand, the deck is really soft when people are prepared for it and if it doesn’t draw [card]Unflinching Courage[/card] it can’t beat Blitz at all. You do have a better sideboard plan now since you can load up on Smiters, [card]Nearheath Pilgrim[/card], and Voice of Resurgence to force trades while attacking with one huge threat.

[draft]Sphinx’s Revelation[/draft]

As for other decks involving Islands, [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] decks might just be bad now. They can succeed, but a lot of the Forest and Plains decks have all prepared their retribution for years of abuse. They really hate Islands now and a lot of Revelation decks just suck unless the opponent draws poorly. Most Rev decks can’t beat the average hands of a lot of decks without drawing their titular instant along with a good mix or lands and spells. I find many of them to be a trap where they simply don’t do enough to justify themselves. Talking with Ricky Sidher mostly confirmed this for me.

You may wonder what I mean, so let me expound upon this idea. Almost all of them are reliant on drawing the Revelations at some point to catch up and stay ahead of the opponent. Most of these decks only run 15-20 pieces of relevant interaction while ones from ancient formats (such as UB from 2 years ago) had about 30 and their kill condition doubled as a draw engine. Nowadays your kill conditions all take up precious space, and the control decks run a bunch of additional draw with 3/4 Revelations just to get to relevant cards. This is more apparent in Block where the extremes are more defined, but going from playing against Blitz to Reanimator is a pretty good indication.

Perhaps the decks should just pack more interaction and then instead of playing horrible draw engines we now get to only deal in Revelations or topdecking more cards that buy time. This makes your opening hands far more likely to keep you alive until card drawing actually matters, and also maximizes your big draw turns. Shaheen’s newest Esper list has 2 Revelation and 2 [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card] and everything else interacts—playing guys, destroying creatures, putting out a planeswalker that can interact with the board, or countering spells.

Bant Control also feels closer to a big creature deck that uses Revelation to reload versus a control strategy that requires a controlled board to win. To top it off it can run less Revelations and instead run [card]Prime Speaker Zegana[/card] to have a 6/6 along with their card draw.

Maybe I’m overreacting to how most of the Sphinx decks are positioned at the moment, the card is still obviously powerful, it’s just the shells that are failing it. The highest placing UWR deck had zero Revelations and was a throwback to the Geist burn midrange variants. I was disappointed not to see [card]Warleader’s Helix[/card] in the deck though, the card not only smashes a lot of creatures the deck gets clocked by, but is a great finisher. [card]Boros Charm[/card] is better at killing the opponent, but if you need to get ahead in a race there are few things better than blasting a Helix and Snapping it back.

As for the middle-of-the-road control deck, Bant Flash looks pretty impressive and stills packs a few Revelations for reload purposes. Maybe that’s where we want to move our chips to take advantage of most powerful instant in the format.

[deck]Main Deck:
2 Augur of Bolas
2 Restoration Angel
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Advent of the Wurm
4 Azorius Charm
1 Dissipate
2 Rewind
2 Selesnya Charm
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Syncopate
2 Think Twice
3 Thought Scour
3 Unsummon
2 Supreme Verdict
1 Forest
1 Island
4 Breeding Pool
1 Ghost Quarter
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Hinterland Harbor
3 Sunpetal Grove
3 Temple Garden
Sideboard:
2 Clone
1 Silklash Spider
4 Voice of Resurgence
2 Dispel
1 Dissipate
1 Psychic Spiral
2 Renounce the Guilds
1 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
1 Supreme Verdict[/deck]

Matt Costa did well with the first outing of [card]Advent of the Wurm[/card], and the deck is very potent. I like the deck a lot, and the only real swaps I want to make are to try [card]Plasm Capture[/card] over [card]Rewind[/card] (though I understand Rewind into Advent or Resto is likely better) and cast off [card]Think Twice[/card] to the deepest darkest bin I can find. You have to replace it with more spells to keep the count high for Augur, but Think Twice is just so unexciting when you have a ton of other card advantage options.

Much like people not fully grasping how much Sire can shift the game, I feel the same is true for [card]Advent of the Wurm[/card]. People are really high on the fact that it can eat creatures a la [card]Restoration Angel[/card] and ignoring just how fast this card can kill people. End-stepping a Wurm and attacking is a quick clock on its own, and playing a 2nd or Snapcastering for another 5/5 turns it into a real issue. Whereas Resto was a nice way to kill over time, Advent advances your clock a great deal and lets you bash through the common defenders. If they can’t, odds are the opponent can’t attack into you either and you have far cheaper answers to clear the way when you want to aggro.

Oddly enough, this deck seems like a great home for Voice of Resurgence despite the low creature count, since it gives you a big edge in the mirror. It changes how people play this match and, depending on how much they respect your small dorks, can really mess with card values. If the deck had [card]Gavony Township[/card] then it’d be an even deadlier threat, and I suspect future builds will have some number of them. Doesn’t mean this build isn’t correct in ignoring them, however Township is so powerful that I’d be very surprised for it to stay out of Bant decks for long.

That’s all I’ve got for Standard this week, the week one threats we’re now aware of include Sire of Insanity Jund, Bant Flash, Bant Auras, and the classic Reanimator decks packing Voice of Resurgence and Sin Collector. As it turns out, you can’t keep bad man down for long, especially when it just keeps getting harder to ‘hate’ Reanimator out. By the time M14 hits the street, I suspect Reanimator decks will have evolved to a point where overloading on one aspect of hate is pointless and being proactive with the occasional pinpoint hate spell is best. We may be at the tipping point already with the new sideboard plan.

On a lighter note that may not take such a toll on your wallet, DGR draft is amazing and one I look forward to drafting all summer. I’m only seven drafts in, and I’m impressed by the sheer variety I’ve seen so far in both draft strategies and room for play available. Obviously with the full 10 guilds available and a huge influx of mana-fixing we were going to see more archetypes. It could be that DGR is just a breath of fresh air compared to triple-Gatecrash, where the only rule was to take the cheaper card every time.

I’m relieved to get back to learning while I’m drafting the set, instead of ticking off a checklist. The only two soft rules I’ve developed so far are that [card]Tithe Drinker[/card] is every bit as good as people think and that Selesnya took a big hit. I don’t necessarily mind sticking with GW if I get the powerful uncommons, but otherwise not having token generators and plentiful populators really ruins it. Actually, all the RTR guilds feel weaker except Golgari, since the slower format lets scavenge shine and cards that felt a mana too expensive now fit right into the format.

I hope to get a lot more drafts in over the next two weeks because it’ll finally be out on Magic Online, and I’m actually excited to try and draft over just playing new decks in Daily Events. I’ll see everyone next week!

Josh S.
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

Bonus Deck:

I’ve been messing around with Jund Aggro lately, and while it’s done well for me, I definitely wanted to try out the new DGM cards. After a handful of games I actually really fell for [card]Zhur-Taa Druid[/card] as an additional accelerator since it could be played off BTE. Over time I also wanted a three-drop that actually attacked instead of only useful as Falkenrath fodder. Druid let me play my turn three Aristocrats and still pump them up if necessary while clocking the opponent for more damage than the average Ranger.

So where did that lead me?

[deck]Main Deck
4 Arbor Elf
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Gyre Sage
3 Zhur-Taa Druid
4 Flinthoof Boar
2 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
4 Falkenrath Aristocrat
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Thundermaw Hellkite
3 Dreadbore
3 Forest
1 Mountain
4 Blood Crypt
3 Dragonskull Summit
1 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Woodland Cemetery
2 Rootbound Crag
4 Stomping Ground
Sideboard:
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
3 Pillar of Flame
1 Dreadbore
3 Ground Seal
2 Domri Rade
1 Zealous Conscripts
1 Kessig Wolf Run[/deck]

Varolz is a helpful addition as an aggressive drop that can protect itself. It involves some investment, but regeneration really does work and it doesn’t take much scavenge to make a 2-3 turn clock. Even if Varolz doesn’t end up proving itself, I feel pretty comfortable running some number of Druid to help your mana. At one point I had even considered Farseek in the deck, because playing four-drops ASAP is that important. Yes, sometimes you can aggro them out with a strong BTE/Boar/evolved Sage contingent backed by bloodrush. Usually though, you can only get some early damage and still need to deal 12-15 via giant flyers.

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