It’s been a week since I had the time come write on the blog, work has been super busy as I transition to a new regional role which will require me to fly out to different countries in Asia. I’ll be in Singapore on the last week of March so if you’re there as well, let’s play a game of Magic!
Enough about me, let’s go back to brewing and tonight I have something that I plan to road test against my local meta.
After the banning, Standard went into a frenzy as players tried to revisit decks that just couldn’t excel while Energy and Ramunap Reds mountain over them in the local FNM and large tournament scene. After Rivals of Ixalan came out, standard also settled down and we find ourselves surrounded by 3 main decks. Hazoret decks, Scarab God decks, Approach decks, today’s rock-paper-scissor gaunlets.
Red players managed to outgrow the loss of Rampaging Ferocidon and Ramunap Ruins and found comfort that they can now play with cards like Rekindling Phoenix, Dire Fleet Daredevil and more copies of Chandra and have enough gas to finish slightly longer games.
UB control decks now reign the midrange scene packing several non-synergistic cards like Gonti, Gifted Aetherborn and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner only to reap the rewards of bringing them back with their Scarab God. Backed up by the best removal like Fatal Push and Vraska’s Contempt, and counter magic, no wonder the pros gained an affinity with this archetype.
For players that want to interact each turn and win with double casting Approach of the Second Sun, UW Approach remains to be the hardest pure control strategy I can see in today’s meta. More commonly known as the “Free Round 1” deck, Approach decks aims to win the first game and devoid you of a possible strategy to recover in the next 2 games with their sheer number of counter spells and life gain from the sideboard.
I was very surprised that Ari Lax made 12th place in GP Memphis playing Naya Monster despite having a lot of these archetypes sniping perfect records every round. Ari’s game plan was simple – pack the deck with Magic’s best creatures, planeswalkers and removal and pressure the opponent to always have the answers or die.
He played low to the ground threats that hit significantly hard like Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger which against control can hit for 5-11 damage easy before they decide to tap out for Fumigate only to face down a Chandra on an empty board.
Midgame he would have Glorybringers and Rekindling Phoenixes that fast tracks that clock if the opponent runs out of removal for his early creatures.
Splashing white for exile-based removal, Ari covered his bases against permanents he can’t deal with outside Abrade like enchantments and planeswalkers that sit behind blockers.
And because Ari ran a permanent-heavy list, playing 2 copies of Ajani Unyielding became an effective card advantage pay-out card which can net him 2-3 cards consistently.
I like Ari’s game plan of pressuring the opponent to find answers to my threats. I also like his deck’s ability to recover quickly with cards that give him gas. I like how he has the right mix of removal and threats. Finally, I like how his deck somehow autopilots itself (if you watch his replays).
Black Green midrange decks fits the descriptions I just said. It has access to removal and answer to almost anything off and on the board. It’s the color known for low-costed but high-power creatures. It’s also the combination that offers a wide variety of sideboard option.
I did mention that black has the best removal and I want to play all of them. Fatal Push does a great job keeping the board clean. Golden Demise is great against go-wide strategies, while Vraska’s Contempt serves as my silver bullet against almost anything.
Thanks to Ixalan’s dinosaurs, we actually have a good wide selection of creatures that do something aside from smashing face.
Drover of the Mighty is a pleasant upgrade from Servant of the Conduit in a dinosaur shell. 2-mana dorks are common but a 3/3 that taps for any colored mana is gold. Deathgorge Scavenger does so many things it should have been a mythic. It’s a 3-mana 3/2 creature that gets rid of creatures tha embalm or eternalize. It stops Scarab Gods from going too crazy. It slows down Search for Azcanta from flipping. It gains you 2 life against aggro decks. And it swings for 4 most of the time. Thrashing Brontodon looks dumb but it gives you main board answers to Cast Out, Ixalan’s Binding, Treasure Map, Anointed Procession, Hidden Stockpile, Legion’s Landing and many more. Plus, a 3/4 body is not very easy to take down, it survives Lightning Strike, Abrade, Essence Extraction, Sweltering Suns and an unrevolted Fatal Push. It blocks every creature in mono red decks except Hazoret and still survives to block another day.
Going up the curve we have the best 4-drop creature that gives Gonti a run for his money. Ripjaw Raptor is a fantastic road block against aggressive decks thanks tto its 5 toughness which survives a Chandra activation or an exerted Glorybringer. It also draws you card which is unheard of in green. Next you have Carnage Tyrant which is the bane of UB/UW decks. Apart from Fumigate or maybe a deathtouch creature, there is no way they can remove this T-Rex from the battlefield. Lastly we have Tetzmoc, Primal Death, which I call Snipe. With idle mana, we can laser tag each creature we want to get rid of on turn 5 and wipe the board clean on turn 6 thanks to Tetzimoc’s ability. His 6/6 body is also no laughing matter allowing you to block Scarab Gods and Hazorets all day.
The deck’s honorary dinosaur is Walking Ballista. I’m playing 3 copies to help us pick on early Bomats, Toolcraft Exemplar, Champion of Wits and Earthshaker Khenra. It helps us trigger Revolt. Together with Ripjaw Raptor, Walking Ballisa’s ability suddenly says 4: Draw a card. By pinging Ripjaw at end step and charging Walking Ballista’s counter back up, we will never run out of cards.
To ramp us quickly to the midgame where our threat density is the highest, we have Thunderheard Migration which works really well with Commune with Dinosaurs allowing us to grab a dinosaur for Migration’s reveal condition. Turn 3 Ripjaws are the sweetest thing.
Since we are playing a good number of dinosaur, I’m adding some copies of Savage Stomp. A 1-mana fight card with an upside is super effective especially when we’re playing high power and toughness, enrage and deathtouch creatures.
So here’s my list:
3 Walking Ballista
4 Drover of the Mighty
3 Thrasing Brontodon
2 Deathgorge Scavenger
4 Ripjaw Raptor
2 Carnage Tyrant
1 Tetzimoc, Primal Death
4 Commune with Dinosaur
3 Thunderherd Migration
4 Fatal Push
2 Savage Stomp
3 Vraska’s Contempt
1 Lifecrafter’s Bestiary
4 Blooming Marsh
3 Foul Orchard
3 Ifnir Deadlands
2 Hashep Oasis
1 Field of Ruin
3 Lost Legacy
2 Cartouche of Ambition
2 Golden Demise
2 Vraska, Relic Seeker
1 Liliana, Death’s Majesty
1 Nissa, Vital Force
Against control decks like UB and UW decks, we take out all our Fatal Pushes and Savage Stomp and put in all our discard spells. Crippling them early and taking their removal is the only way we can win. If we force them to cycle and burn through their hard without the means to replenish, we will win. I chose not to split Lost Legacy with some quantities of Dispossess because against GPG decks, I would instead name the creatures they plan to reanimate like Champion of Wits or Angel of Sanctions since Lost Legacy also exiles the copies in the graveyard.
Against midrange decks that will pack more creature removal, we will side in our planeswalkers which can help us recover our creatures, clutter the board with 2/2s, draw cards with Nissa’s emblem and pressure them to stop our walkers from going ultimate.
Against aggressive decks, we can equip our decks with more removal and lifegain thanks to Golden Demise and Cartouche of Ambition. Don’t disregard the Cartouche’s second ability of placing a -1/-1 counter on a creature because it kills the top 5 one-toughness creatures in the format: Bomat, Siphoner, Khenra, Dread Wanderer and Toolcraft Exemplar. Against red decks, placing a Cartouche on a Ripjaw Raptor or Carnage Tyrant should be enough to win you the game.
This is probably not he final rendition of the deck but it does have most of its bases covered like Ari did with his Naya Monster. Ari fell short of top 8 but it shows how great strategies, individually powerful cards, incidental synergies and good playing skills can get you close to the top.
That’s it for now, I hope you guys don’t stop following the blog!