The big talk of the SCG Open in New Orleans this past weekend was the winning deck, a G/W aggro list that leans heavily on Humans. This week, we are going to look at the deck's performance, why it worked, and pick out some juicy speculation targets.
First though, I'd like to bring up a disconcerting decision from WOTC. Apparently, they think Magic Online Daily Events cause the metagame to be "solved" too quickly, so they have stopped posting the decklists of players who do well in them. Even more problematic is that they decided to tell people through a forum reply on the Wizards website, not even deigning to explain the decision or ask the players what they thought in an article. It's easy to dismiss this as irrelevant to us, but the Dailies are a superb way of figuring out what cards to keep an eye on in an early metagame. This decision will reward people with complex networks of friends who can collaborate and report what was doing well that day, and it will punish the semi-casual players who want to get their deck ready for a Daily event. This is not a good thing and the medium in which it was communicated tells us that WOTC still has a long way to go before they perfect public communication.
Back to that G/W deck. Here's the link for it.
-Those are some weird 1-ofs
-This runs a lot of cards that are still pretty cheap
-This is probably misbuilt and it still did really well
-Technical problems prevented this tournament from being broadcast, meaning that fewer people know the results right now.
-There were no Zombies in the t16.
The problem with G/W decks, their major downfall, is that they lack enough card advantage to pull them out of a blowout. Brad, our heroic pilot, narrowly avoided a lot of blowouts in the T8 in the face of Supreme Verdict and the like. Time is not on the side of the G/W pilot because an Angel of Serenity can and will end the game on the spot - there's no coming back from losing your three guys and facing down a stern woman with wings. In the time before the opponent can get their game online, you've got to kill them while avoiding losing to the inevitable removal. Two cards distinctly help here.
Rancor is no surprise, returning to jump onto whatever is handy. Because Rancor is so easy to cash in with again, you can throw it around with impunity, enchanting tokens and small men that would normally not be worth the card. The other thing at work is Gavony Township, which can (slowly) rebuild your team, even if it's just 1/1s from a Gather the Townsfolk. Brad used Township several times to pump up his squad and you've got to have something like this on board to get more virtual card advantage rolling.
G/W is soft to every card, but it is strong versus a lot of decks. Let's unpack that. G/W cannot interact in really any interesting ways, so it's stuck using things like Oblivion Ring to kill stuff. If you've got Essence Scatter, it's going to hit. However, G/W decks can keep things coming, and while your Scatter might take out a monster, there are plenty sitting behind it. Brad's deck is full of cards that can become obscene when left unchecked and hey, Rancor makes even one monster coming through into a dangerous proposition. In one game, he threw two Rancors onto two tokens and crashed right on through.
Mayor of Avabruck // Howlpack Alpha and Cavern of Souls add a lot of latitude to the deck. Mayor is the pump spell, the Intangible Virtue that also attacks. Sure, there's plenty of removal for him, but aren't the other guys you're playing going to soak that up? Also, Mayor provides a crucial rebuilding role when your board has been wiped. If he flips, the game gets a lot more interesting. Cavern pushes the guys through; in the finals match, Caverns were essential in getting monsters on the board through Essence Scatters.
Finally, this deck can just unload man after man. I think Adrian Sullivan put it well in the Facebook comments of the semifinals when he noted that Brad beat a turn 3 Thragtusk from an opponent. How much more work do you need to do if you're the G/W deck? It wasn't even a sweetheart, out-of-nowhere golden combo. It was just the parts of the deck doing what they should do.
Breakout Cards and Known Hits
First, let's talk about Sigarda, Host of Herons. Sigarda is a 1-1 split here and an absolute monster. How does UWR deal with her? People have Supreme Verdicts but they only get four of them. In a weird way, Sigarda is costed so that you don't accidentally over-extend her into a Wrath effect. Sigarda is trending upward, now at $8 on CFB's buylist. I know a lot of QS Insiders are sitting on a lot of copies of this lady and she could hit double digits soon. Sell some if you need to make a profit, but the charts show her steadily ticking upward over time.
Next, how about Riders of Gavony? This reminds me of Dungeon Geists in a way because it packs the same power to cost and has a lockout effect. Name "Beast" and Thragtusk becomes much worse. Name "Vampire" and Olivia Voldaren has to sit on the sidelines. A Rider can swing a game quickly because an opponent isn't figuring that their blocker will get blown out by a 3/3. Again, we see a 1-1 split and I have to think that there's more room for these in the maindeck. Garruks can kill guys or spawn more Beast tokens, but this card can serve as functional removal. At fifty cents, they are a tempting target to jump on.
Silverblade Paladin is very exciting because she makes Rancor pull even more. You can deploy this on turn 2 with Avacyn's Pilgrim and a Rancor on either card (or a Mayor) on the next turn makes for an absurd amount of damage. Without these, it'd be hard to beat Thragtusks, that's for sure. The Paladin is as close as you'll find to a burn spell in the G/W deck and it gives incredible reach. Consider that an opponent has to rework all of their math to accommodate these; if they guess wrong and that Rancored Soldier token gets some soul, the game is over. These clock in at $4.25 right now and that's not cheap, but they are easily gotten in trades. I like it a lot. If G/W Humans is a deck, it needs four of these to get rolling.
I was surprised that Odric, Master Tactician actually had enough buddies to trigger now and then. Brad used it to bypass some big blockers. I presumed that this is a win-more card; if you're attacking with four guys, you should be profiting anyway. Turns out, Odric allows for attacks that might not otherwise occur. You wouldn't ram a Pilgrim into a bigger blocker, but it makes the human worth a lot more when Odric shows him the way around the defenders. This also shrugs off Rakdos Keyrune, which I presume would cause a lot of heartache in the midgame. Odric is just north of a dollar right now and he's unlikely to climb much beyond that. I say that because he's not critical to the deck and it's a spot you might be inclined to just cut out.
Note that only one Armada Wurm shows up, and that's in the sideboard. There are zero copies of Thalia, too. This is telling; you don't need either of these to do well, apparently. I'd mark those two mentally as "non-essential" and devalue them accordingly. I'm not sure that Wolfir Silverhearts or all those Garruks are the right call - don't you want Sigardas more? One cannot argue with results, though.
It remains to be seen whether this deck actually goes anywhere. If you see it doing well this week, the right calls are certainly Silverblade Paladin, Mayor and Champion of the Parish. For more gutsy callers, a deep investment in Riders of Gavony could pay off if they see more play. This is not a good time to jump into those cards, though! The metagame is still developing. I'd trade for just about all of the rares in this deck, but paying cash is a little too speculative at this point. Keep an eye on this deck, though. This is the thing that makes casual players come out of the woodwork to buy in for FNM. If you see more attention on it from big-name writers on SCG or CFB, you can count on a modest price bump. This may also be the thing that people with 120 Mayors in their MTGO account need to clear some inventory!
This is a deck that was able to shrug off multiple board-wipes, over and over. That's hard to do and it merits further attention. Aggro decks in general are less likely to make people speculate early, since smart people want to call a dumb aggro list winning a fluke. This means that there's still going to be a lot of time to get into position for G/W Humans if and when it heats up further.
Until next week,