Prior to Gatecrash release I was posting some of the GW agro decklists that I was toying with. Then those lists started to become littered with Blue, mainly for card draw. Now the deck, heavily influenced by Pro Tour Gatecrash, has become the way I would have liked it to have been pre-Gatecrash. Control. Melissa DeTora played a similar list in the pro tour and I’ve neglected the red (which she used for Kessig Wolf Run) and added more card draw. So far the deck has had many changes, and most of those have been designed to survive the heavy onslaught that agro decks are able to dish out.
All manner of life gain, bounce and board wipe has been added to help deal with the agro, as well as maindeck Witchbane orb to help also deal with the direct damage, and the planeswalker abilities that target the opponent (like the new Gideon). However the balance needs to be, that when I get paired up against the midrange decks and other control decks out there, that I still have a chance game 1. So first up, here’s the decklist. After that I’ll discuss the reasons for some of the sideboard and what I hope to accomplish.
The win condition is obvious…1. Get board control with blockers, wipes, life gain. Once stabilised: 2. Start swinging as soon as possible and put the pressure on. Most of the agro decks can’t deal with the Thragtusks, beasts and Angels attacking, and they hate it when you keep gaining life with Trostani whilst adding more threats. Eventually you get to the point with this deck where your life total isn’t in threat and you can happily keep swining away as well as drawing lots of cards to keep adding more threats.
So, as you can see, it’s a butchered version of Melissa DeToras’ deck, without all the agro creatures that my previous list ran, but my previous list did run the Sphinx’s Revelations and Think Twice. This deck was running Think Twice up until recently when I replaced it with more protection against the agro decks. I seemed to be choosing to sideboard it out a bit for extra early stuff. Without getting off track too much I’ll just discuss a few of the choices I made
Watching most of DeToras games live on the simulcast I was very impressed with her ability to operate the Kessig Wolf Run and ensure she had the red to power it. Obviously It gives her that edge and makes her deck all that more agressive on the counter attack. The opponent knows this and can’t swing in as heavily for fear of what might happen in her turn. However, I’ve opted to play one more main deck Supreme Verdict as well as two maindeck Trostani, so I opted out of the red to save mana issues. If I can get the deck operating at peak efficiency I might bring the red in but I don’t want to over complicate things at the moment. As it is, the life gain defeats most of the really agro decks so I’m not too worried about my ability to swing back on the counter and pump one of my guys with Trample. And after sideboard, if it’s a mid range deck I’m up against, they hate it when I play Zegana because it often draws me 6 cards and sits on the table a 6/6 ready to block.
Centaur Healer + 1, Supreme Verdict +1 and Dramatic Rescue +2
These cards are obviously bought in for their life gain. The Dramatic Rescue has helped a lot, particularly if people are playing around Azorius Charm and not attacking with a particular creature on purpose. If Its a creature that’s buffing all the rest of their guys, I’ll often bounce it to their hand, gain two life and block the attackers with better outcomes. They don’t ever see it coming because noone plays it (except Ben Stark maybe). Noone plays it for a reason, but I’m pretty confident that it has fit into the deck quite well, and it only ever gets side boarded out against the midrange or control decks, which are few and far between in this agro meta. The meta in my local store is 100% agro whilst online it’s a pretty high agro percentage also.
The extra Centaur Healer gives me that extra turn 3 drop, with the obvious advantage of a decent blocker and +3 life. They usually waste removal on him. Late game he’s not too shabby also because if you drop him with Trostani out you gain +6 life and have an extra blocker/attacker and obviously with Resto Angel potentially hitting the table on turn 4 there’s another +3 life. I only had 3 Healers in the deck in my unsuccessful recent local tournament, with none in the sideboard either.
The Supreme Verdict increase was a must. I have hardly ever neglected to use a turn 4 Verdict when It’s available. And then I’ll usually draw into another one with Revelation anyway. In Geelong in the most recent tournament I didn’t play 4, I only played 3 and I lost all of my first games to the massive onslaught of agro creatures. I could have done with the 4 main deck Verdicts in all of the matches I played (none of which I won).
This I side boarded in in most games. So I eventually had to find room for it in the main deck. Since there’s only two, it doesn’t cram your hand up, and I’ve often dropped it on turn 3 or 4 when there has been a lack of Verdict. At least it stops a lot of triggers, particularly that from Boros Reckoner. Some people seem to be playing some pretty insane spells to do mass damage to their Reckoner just so that they can redirect it back to your face (like Blasphemous Act). But in general, you often let the Reckoner through because he’s going to do 3 damage to you no matter what, so you often opt to block other stuff instead. Also, there are a lot of red burn spells in Geelong and a decent amount of red burn spells online. Not to mention all those planeswalkers online.
For instance there’s Jace, Memory Adept. Whilst not seen regularly at all, I have lost to him when I do see him. Loosing 10 cards is horrible for me, since I draw so many myself and really rely on having a full 60 card deck to draw from. Chandra, the Firebrand can’t hurt me with the ultimate and the second ability, usually used on burn spells, is negated too. Yes she’s not seen much either but the one time I did come up against her in a standard 8 player que online, I lost to her. Probably most notably, the Orb shuts down Gideon, Champion of Justice because he can’t use the first ability at all. But don’t forget Liliana of the Veil who can’t use her second (and arguably most important) ability. Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage are also somewhat effected. I know these planeswalkers aren’t seen too much, particulary in Geelong, but the point is that the Orb has a vast array of effect and if it’s not effective in game 1 because they’ve got nothing that targets you (which is unlikely) then you can sideboard it out. However, all of the planeswalkers mentioned above, I have come up against in Magic Online matches in either the two ticket que or the standard 8 man que.
Originally, in my build i was running Zegana in the main deck. But more than just a few times I had to sideboard Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice in (1 or 2 of them). It’s hard to gauge how agro an opponents deck is game 1 sometimes, so I’d only sideboard one in, and then wish I’d used two. So now I’ve gone for the cautious approach, dropped the Zegana and played both Trostani. She’s a great 4 drop Dryad because of the huge toughness and gets you way back up above 20 life very quickly if not killed. Not many people have a single spell that can kill her. Often they need to have you block (which you can usually read into) and add a burn spell for 2 or 3 extra damage. And keep in mind that it’s the agro decks only that she comes in against because you need the extra life. If you’re lucky enough to drop a turn 3 or 4 Trostani, and then follow it up with a Thragtusk then you’ve suddenly gained +8 life, not +5, and I can’t stress how many times that extra 3 life has made all the difference, not to mention Trostanis ability to be a great blocker with that big 5 toughness. If the opponent isn’t playing a super agro deck, then I usualy drop at least 1 of them in favor of Zegana or a counter spell.
If I’m not playing agaisnt a full on agro deck, then I play both Prime Speaker Zegana as they’re an insane way to draw cards and put another threat on the board. Particulary great with Restoration Angel. Quite a few times I’ve played Zegana and drawn 6 cards (thanks to a Thragtusk sitting on the board), only to follow up with Resto Angel and another 6 cards during the opponents turn. This often ends the game due to the pure card advantage. Then having Zegana as a 6/6 on the board is a lovely threat hanging around, and so many times has drawn me into that Dramatic Rescue or Azorius Charm that I need to protect me from a counter attacking haste creature.
This deck is quickly becoming all about the Legends. Sigarda, Host of Herons is all about being hexproof. And she flies. She’s a 5/5 flying, hexproof tank that the opponent cannot use any of the sacrifice abilities or spells to make you get rid of. Use her wisely in combat, perhaps with a Dramatic Rescue or Selesyna Charm handy to save her, and the opponent will not be able to get rid of her. She stops multiple cards that opponents might utilise such as Liliana of the Veil, Devour Flesh, Olivia Voldaren, Angel of Serenity (the ability, not in combat since Serenity is bigger), she’s out of Mizzium Mortars range, Dead Weight, Pacifism and many more. It is also out of danger from all of the many many direct damage and direct removal spells that are popular. Yes there are a rediculously huge amount of removal spells in standard to help people deal with the crazy amount of good agro dudes, but Sigarda avoids most of it. She can’t avoid a big Bonfire…but Witchbane Orb can
Selesnya Charm was one of the original cards still left over from my old GW agro deck. Initially it was used to stop Angel of Serenity, in particular the Angels infinite loop and the big 6 toughness (which was always an issue). It simply exiles the big girl and gets rid of her completely. But should you come up against any number of other annoying creatures such as Falkenrath Aristocrat (which is often 5 in toughness more than not), Thragtusk or Obzedat, Ghost Council; Then you have a way to get rid of them for good. I think my most common target so far (online anyway) for the Charm has been the Ghost Council or the Aristocrat. Probably more so the Aristocrat and they usually make it 5 toughness pretty early on. Once you bounce it and put it back on the top of their deck a few times they get pissed off but when you finally exile it anyway, they get really pissed.
The Charm obviously has other benefits. A 2/2 Token can be helpful to gain 2 life with Trostani or to enable Trostani to start populating. It’s also a great surprise chump blocker! Many a time i’ve gotten my opponent by surprise with that little 2/2 blocker. And also the +2/+2 is infinitely helpful to keep Sigarda or some other creature alive when the opponent is pretty confident that they’ve dealt with that particular creature. I’ve also won matches with this Charm just because they don’t see the extra two damage coming through. It used to be more effective in my really agro GW deck, but is now still pretty effective, just not really against the majority of the extremely agro decks because you get more benefit from Azorius Charm and Dramatic Rescue to slow things down (and most of the agro guys are under 5 toughness).
The Laboratory Maniac only made it into the deck online. He’s not in my real card version that I play because I don’t know anyone that is trying to Mill me to death. In Geelong I’m more tempted to play an extra Azorius Charm and an extra Detention Sphere which get used a fair bit depending on what they’re playing in their overly agro builds. Online I’ve played against a few control decks that seek to mill me to death, and whilst I haven’t come up against one since putting the Maniac into the sideboard, I’m just biding my time until that day comes. Garruk will help me find him if all the card draw doesn’t.
Bouncy Bouncy Stilettos are a No No!
Aetherize is there to combat the token decks and is also a nice little combat trick to ensure that on your opponents next turn they won’t be getting any combat damage through. I don’t run more than one due to the mana cost and the fact that the single bounce spells are often just as effective. But it’s those times when the opponent goes an all out swing with everything that you always want to have this in hand.
A few cards that I really hate coming up agains are listed below, and my most likely answer to them.
Hellrider – Dramatic Rescue or…if you’re still alive Supreme Verdict. Annoyingly, he steps around the boundaries of Witchbane Orb so it doesn’t help.
Falkenrath Aristocrat- Selesnya Charm or Azorius Charm. One delays the inevitable and one gets rid of it completely (maybe, if they buffed it, which they will do to save it from a mass wipe).
Zealous Conscripts – Whilst nowhere near as commonly played, it makes you lose the game. I commonly get my Thragtusks stolen and the opponent can end up with a 3/3 token of their own if you bounce the Thragtusk. I usually try to block and wipe with Supreme Verdict but Dissipate and Syncopate are better equiped to rid you of this guy.
Finally, the feared pairing of Burning-Tree Emissary and Lightning Mauler - This is probably one of the worst things for you to see coming because you’re going to take so much damage. It’s often before you even have a Centaur Healer out to block with but he’s one of the obvious answers. The other is Augur of Bolas who can block and kill one of them for you. The bounce does very little against this horrible pairing so you eventually need a Supreme Verdict to sort them out. More often than not the Augur and the Centaur are met with spot removal so you’ll take 4 anyway.
Well that’s about it for now. I haven’t played many matches with this exact list yet as it’s being refined more and more as I get matches in. I hope to get to another “real” constructed event soon either in Good Games Werribee on a tuesday evening or Good Games Geelong on a wednesday. Whilst Geelong doesn’t have the amazing player base that Werribee does, the Geelong store feels like home due to the amazing people that play there and work there.
Well, I hope this deck, whilst overly expensive, gives you people another option besides for just playing agro all the time, which may become tiresome very quickly. If I play against you online (the account i usually use is Jax77) and you beat me then hit me up for a FREE booster by mentioning this article! I’d like to see some comments if you get around to it also, as I like people to critique my articles. This deck could obviously do with some land changes perhaps to iron out some dodgy land draws from time to time. I’ve been playing some Hallowed Fountain in my real version but more Glacial Fortress online. That’s all for now!
keep your eyes peeled for info on upcoming Rochester Club events being run throughout victoria! The next is this Sunday in Ballarat and there’s still a seat available and the one after that #4 is in Werribee (whilst it’s full I encourage people to come and watch and if we get enough people we can always get the store to run a side event).