Last week, I talked about the current PTQ season. With that knowledge in tow, I headed into the real world of competitive Magic to try for a blue envelope. Today I have the results for you.
As a player and writer, I find myself spending an increasing amount of time analyzing the game from a theoretical perspective. Recently I’ve based my deck decisions and card choices on this analysis more than on testing, partly due to time constraints.
While this process would be improved with actual testing, there is a lot to be said about analyzing the metagame theoretically. Sometimes you will do OK playing the deck that won last weekend’s event, but reaching your own conclusions can lead to great results. This has been my method throughout my career, but lately I’ve been doing it more and more.
Previous experience in a format can also take you a long way. I have played with and against almost every successful deck in the current Standard so I understand the metagame well.
Picking a Starting Weapon
I had an especially difficult time settling on a deck for the first PTQ of the season. The options I considered were a couple rogue decks and Delver.
I did think briefly think about the updated B/W Zombies deck I suggested last week, but bad memories from previous versions haunted my dreams and persuaded me to set it aside. As for Delver, I did not think it would be much fun to play but I was still considering it. I finally set that idea aside because I could not settle on a final list. I think Delver is in a precarious position right now and without a definitive list it loses some appeal.
I ended up playing another rogue deck that I’ve put a lot of time into. The deck is basically Wolf Run, but with blue replacing red as the second main color. I did play red mana, but only to activate Kessig Wolf Run.
The process I went through to reach the final list was similar to the one Patrick Chapin wrote about in his article last week. His words here really resonated with me:
“When experimenting with new concepts like this, make sure to ask yourself the right questions during testing. Does this have potential? What does this need to be competitive? Is it fast enough? Is it big enough? What does the game look like when you win? What about just before that? How should the first four turns play out? What do we gain from Standard that Block didn’t have? What new problems do we have to overcome?”
Here I identified a weakness in the metagame to specific cards, in this case Frost Titan. Zealous Conscripts is becoming a format staple and Frost Titan makes that card look like a joke. Are they really going to spend seven mana to take him for a turn? I worried about Birthing Pod briefly until I realized that you could just tap down the Pod with your Frost Titan. This seldomly-used blue titan also happens to be good in the mirror and against the myriad of threats with undying. It also blocks creatures equipped with Sword of War and Peace.
There were other reasons to be in blue, like Vapor Snag. Resilient threats like Strangleroot Geist are enemy number one, so why play removal like Whipflare that won’t even kill their guys. Instead, use the Delver technique and just delay the threat. This is a great strategy in Wolf Run because you just want to buy time to resolve and attack with a titan.
Finally, adding blue made the deck more consistent. Ponder is a great way to find whatever you need, which is typically a difficult task for a ramp deck. You can dig for a ramp spell for turn two or a titan later. Blue also gave me access to the Frites standout, Tracker’s Instincts. It finds more titans and throws cards in the graveyard for Snapcaster Mage. These two cards are exactly what the deck needed to grind out games that go long.
My friends said I was crazy when they saw this list but they were also intrigued to see how I did. I was also excited and I believed it was a viable choice.
One reason that I felt strongly about my deck choice was due to Glimmerpost. The biggest problem with Primeval Titan against aggro is that your opponent can often kill you when you tap out to play it. That is not the case when your deck contains Glimmerpost. When you search twice with the titan, as long as you haven’t played any of them from your hand, you gain a total of twelve life! That is a huge buffer against an aggro deck. This combination is even good against Delver, but it really shined against G/R Aggro.
Round 1 – G/R Aggro
At first I was unsure if my opponent was G/R Aggro or Wolf Run but when he played Wolfir Avenger the ruse was up. My Rampant Growth turn two and a second one turn three along with Vapor Snag to bounce his guy bought me enough time to land two [card Frost Titan]Frost Titans[/card]. They were enough to get the day started off right.
Game two he played Llanowar Elves into Sword of War and Peace. I knew I needed an answer quickly or I was dead. I finally drew Vapor Snag and played it in combat to slow him down. Then Garruk Relentless and Dungeon Geists handled the rest of the threats. I was at a dangerous two life for a turn but I drew Glimmerpost to bring me back up to three before he drew the Galvanic Blast. I proceeded to climb back into the game and grind it out.
Round 2 – U/R Delver
This guys deck was difficult to figure out. I knew he was playing blue and red mana but wasn’t sure what to think about the deck. I had a controlling hand with double Mana Leak and Snapcaster Mage so I played a reactive game and wrapped it up with some titans.
Game two was much of the same except I had Cavern of Souls to force through early titans. I looked through his deck after the game and there were tons of crazy cards like Thunderous Wrath, Reforge the Soul and Tibalt the Fiend-Blooded.
Round 3 – U/W Delver
Delver has a lot of variety to it right now. This list was geared towards Invisible Stalker, Geist of Saint Traft and Sword of War and Peace. All three games were very close, but I managed to pull out the victory.
Game one, the [card Glimmerpost]Glimmerposts[/card] were key because he was on the play and I was behind for the majority of the game. Game two would have been easier but I was not sure how to sideboard and that negatively affected the game. I changed things up in game three and that helped a bit.
Round 4 – U/W Delver
He didn’t need much more than two Delvers to take each game though because even though I bounced them repeatedly he blind flipped them every time. It didn’t help that I was squeezed for mana both games but his luck overwhelmed me and shortened the match considerably.
Round 5 – U/W Delver
At this point, I was a little frustrated at having to play a fourth Delver deck. At least I had a good understanding of how to sideboard now. This deck was interesting because he played Porcelain Legionnaire. That worked out well for me because I have Vapor Snag. No Mana Leak for my titan meant he was in trouble quickly game one.
Game two was similar but I had Cavern of Souls to make titans automatically resolve. He bounced them a bunch of times, but the card advantage from their triggers was more than enough.
Round 6 – Esper Control
At first I thought he was playing B/W Tokens, because of a removal spell and Lingering Souls, but then blue mana appeared and showed me he was really a control deck. He [card Terminus]miraculously[/card] sent my creatures to the bottom of my library, but with no counters all of my titans resolved. He tapped them with Feeling of Dread, which was interesting, but that did not stop me from getting to fifteen mana and activating Inkmoth Nexus and Kessig Wolf Run to make a 12/1 and trample over his remaining two [card Lingering Souls]spirits[/card] for the poison kill.
Getting to fifteen mana did take a while so we didn’t have a ton of time for game two. I was in control of the game until my huge blunder of the day. I got him down to two life and he cast Day of Judgment. I responded with Snapcaster Mage to flashback Mana Leak. What I hadn’t realized was that he had three mana to pay for it! I was so tilted.
Then it dawned on me how big my mistake truly was. All I had to do was let the board clear, flash in Snapcaster, untap and attack him for lethal. I couldn’t believe I made such a careless mistake. I willed myself to get back into the game though and rallied.
Unfortunately I did not have time to kill him and he almost beat me in our five turns due to a miraculous Temporal Mastery. Did you know that if someone casts Time Walk, it counts as one of the extra five turns? So instead of him, me, him, me, him, it ended up being him, me, him, him, me. If they go first its even worse because you essentially lose one of your turns. Regardless, I got the win but left the round feeling exhausted.
Round 7 – Mono-Green
My opponent plays turn one forest and Llanowar Elves. After that sequence of plays I put him on G/R Aggro. When he followed up with Dungrove Elder I knew I was in trouble. I wished I had [card Vapor Snag]snagged[/card] his elf before he got to use it, but if he had red mana my play would have been correct. My deck basically had no way to interact with Dungrove Elder, so when he played the second one the following turn the game ended shortly after.
Game two was even quicker because I never drew any lands besides the two from my opening hand. This was the only match all day that I missed the [card Solemn Simulacrum]Solemn Simulacrums[/card] that used to be in the deck because they make a great blocker and ramp you to your titans quickly. I don’t think Mono-Green is the next breakout deck or anything, but it definitely wrecked me.
Round 8 – Naya Wolf Run
After my second loss, I was knocked out of top-eight contention all the way down to 23rd place. The last round was only for packs, so I ended up taking it a little less serious than I should have. I still won the match. His deck was interestingly diverse. He played big threats like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Entreat the Angels and Day of Judgment and Terminus as sweepers. The sideboard [card Ratchet Bomb]Ratchet Bombs[/card] were clutch in this match.
This deck is very good in the current metagame. Some of the matchups are close, but all of them are winnable.
Choosing a Turn Two Play
One of the most difficult aspects of this deck is knowing when to play Rampant Growth and when to leave mana open for Vapor Snag and Mana Leak. A large part of this question comes down to knowing your opponent’s deck.
The idea is to counter their crucial spells. You need to countering a turn two Sword of War and Peace but not a Strangleroot Geist. Sometimes you have to guess which line of play will be best and go for it. That seems risky, but you can always ramp later or counter a different spell. Assess what cards you have in hand, the current board state, and your opponent’s deck to make the final decision. The more knowledge you have about the metagame, the easier this decision will be.
This was one of the best sideboards I have ever used. I boarded in every card at some point. Sometimes I wanted a third Naturalize and others I was happy with the two I brought in so I would consider that small change.
I wondered before the event if I made the right decision about Cavern of Souls in the sideboard, but I think it is correct. Glimmerpost is much better for the main deck because the aggressive decks put you on such a short clock that often you need those lands to survive. Even against Delver, Glimmerpost is fine game one and can win you the game by messing up combat math.
The one Desolate Lighthouse always came in with the Caverns as well and it single-handedly won me two or three games that I had no business winning. Discarding unnecessary spells late in the game against Delver or a control deck will help draw you out of a hole.
I will be attending another PTQ soon and this deck is definitely an option for that event. There are minor changes I would make, but overall I think the numbers are pretty close.
The one card I was unhappy with was Tracker’s Instincts. I sideboarded it out more than any other card and whiffed on a creature multiple times throughout the day. One time I played it and flashed it back and found no creature in the top eight cards. I know this is bound to happen statistically but its unreliability is a weakness of the current list.
Another idea I had was Wolfir Avenger. He is typically used in aggressive strategies to give control decks fits, but I think it would be a solid addition to this deck too. It allows you to hold up mana for Mana Leak and Vapor Snag but also add a threat to the board if necessary. The regeneration would be useful for fighting aggro as well.
Wish me luck in the next PTQ and tune in next week to hear how it went.
Until Next Time,
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