It’s been a little while since my last article since I’ve been off in Barcelona for a week preparing for the Pro Tour and, as you may have seen on the coverage, doing pretty well – finishing in a very respectable 33rd place. This week i’d like to talk a bit about our testing process and the deck we ended up playing and how it fared against the field.
The team we assembled consisted of 6 UK players, 3 Norweigans and 1 Swiss player: Me, Dan Royde, Richard Bland, Marco Orsini-Jones, Stuart Wright, Richard Parker, Andreas Nordal, Sveinung Bjornerud, Kristoffer Jonassen and Andreas Ganz. This gave us a good number of players for drafting and constructed without being too many to handle and sort accomodation for.
A few of us, myself included, had been putting in a lot of time on Modo with the Pre-Restored Block format so we had a pretty good idea of the best decks (RW, Jund, SelfMill and Zombies) and once the full Restored spoiler was out, just after GP Manchester, we hit Cockatrice pretty hard and started testing. To start with we all just threw ideas around and tried out anything that took our fancy – Self Mill, Angel Reanimator, Rooftop Storm Combo, RUG and UWR Control, RW Aggro, Gx Ramp, Zombies etc; all saw some play and with between 4 and 8 of us online most evenings we managed lots of games and tried out many of the new cards and ideas.
By the end of that first week we were pretty sure that RW aggro had severely lost its thone as the best deck and that [card]Wolfir Silverheart[/card] was the most powerful thing you could do. The black cards in the format just werent that good compared to the other colours which meant that most of the removal being played was red. Sadly red removal just isnt that great at dealing with 8/8’s and by the time most of the guys flew out on the Friday they were pretty convinved that a RG or RGW ramp Silverheart deck was the way to go.
I wasnt totally convinced however and that last evening Stuart and I played about 30 games trying to find something that could consistently beat our Silverheart deck – first URW control with [card]Terminus[/card] failed, then RW control with more [card]Entreat the Angels[/card] and [card]Gisela, Blade of Goldnight[/card] failed and finally I build up a BGW Silverheart deck playing a lot of the same cards as the Naya version but with [card]Tragic Slip[/card] and [card]Sever the Bloodline[/card] instead of [card]Pillar of Flame[/card] and [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card] – cards that could actually kill a Silverheart. We didnt manage many games but the deck showed enough promise that we built up a physical copy when we got out to Barcelona and in the end four of us played the following:
4 [card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/card]
4 [card]Borderland Ranger[/card]
4 [card]Restoration Angel[/card]
4 [card]Scorned Villager[/card]
3 [card]Wolfir Avenger[/card]
4 [card]Wolfir Silverheart[/card]
2 [card]Dark Impostor[/card]
3 [card]Nearheath Pilgrim[/card]
2 [card]Sorin, Lord of Innistrad[/card]
3 [card]Triumph of Ferocity[/card]
1 [card]Wolfir Avenger[/card]
8 Mana guys – this is the decks early game, just ramping up to powerful mid game things. Pilgrim is a good mana fixer too and Villager could easily flip for even more of a mana boost. Making one of these guys then getting down the first Garruk was very key in the mirror.
The Card Choices
7 Flash Men – the Avengers and Angels were very good mid range guys that stopped the RW aggro creatures and also put pressure on opposing Garruks if you fell behind. In our testing it got to the point where the RW deck just couldnt afford to even attack with its creatures sometimes if the GWB deck had mana up for fear of surprise blockers. Don’t be surprised to see both these cards making a big impact in standard. Note also you can pass and flip your Villager for a t3 Angel or Avenger with Regenerate with was a nice little interaction that came up quite a lot. The Avenger in the board was for Red based control decks as most of them couldnt deal with him very effectively if you had regen mana.
Borderland Ranger – A nice inbuilt 2-1 and mana fixer with the option to reuse him with Restoration Angel. Some games he was just a small creature that didnt do very much when you’d already draw good mana but much more often he found your black or white or ensured you made it to 5 mana for the big guns.
Silverheart and Vorapede – Speaking of big guns, these two are both very fast and powerful and difficult for Red removal based decks to deal with. When we got to the venue on the Friday afternoon we saw lots of people playing and buying Silverhearts so we knew to expect lots of mirror type matches.
Vorapede wasnt in our deck at the time but that evening we tried out a few things to tech out the mirror and he was awesome against the Naya builds. He’s pretty hard for them to burn and then just undies anyway and his trample and vigilance means he’s good at pressuring Garruks and pretty hard to race. He doesnt pair up that well against a Silverheart but between Slip and Sever we usually had a removal spell for their first Silverheart and when he pairs with our Silverhearts he’s a very formidible insect.
The removal – Slip and Sever both deal with Silverheart which was the main reason for playing this deck over the Naya version. Slip obviously also doubles up as early removal for [card]Champion of the Parish[/card] and opposing Pilgrims and Villagers. The flashback on Sever was a nice bonus compared to our Naya lists that generally didnt run any flashback spells even though it meant that we couldnt burn opposing planeswalkers directly.
The Lands – The mana in this deck was generally very good for this block with 2 sets of duals available and Borderland Ranger and Wilds to find basics. Sometimes a Chapel would come into play tapped rather awkwardly but the deck was usually pretty smooth and could handle GGG, BB and W mana costs.
Vault was an interesting one and very powerful in games that you were already winning. Gaining 10+ life when you’re hitting them with Silverhearts is nice but usually just hitting them with Silverhearts is enough. That said it definitely won me a couple of games and giving my Trampling Vorapede Deathtouch was a nice trick against someone who thought that he was blocking with enough toughness to save his Garruk. The lifegain also gives you a way to beat Hexproof men like [card]Sigarda. Host of Herons[/card] and [card]Invisible Stalker[/card] in a race.
The Sideboard – Triumph of Ferocity was the first card in the board as it was pretty easy to keep a creature around against the creature light control decks and drawing 2 cards a turn is really good against them. I think it’s possible to stack the trigger and then flash in creature and draw a card but I’ve heard it ruled both ways so I’m still not 100% sure and it never came up for me at the PT. The imposters were for against UG self mill which wasnt widely played but also came in against the GW humans deck that ChannelFireball were playing since they didnt have many ways of removing him.
Terminus was similar – initially there for Zombies but was also good against the Angel Reanimator decks and against anyone playing Fiend Hunters as removal. The Plains came in with the Terminus to make sure you could search for WW too. The Sorins in the sideboard were probably a mistake and were only really there since we’d cut them from the main the night before the PT to fit in Vorapede but would have been good against Zombies if anyone had played it. I did bring them in against the Angel Reanimator deck to try and threaten the ultimate but it never came up sadly. Finally the Nearheath Pilgrims were for some lifegain against the RW humans decks but also were useful to bring in 1 against anyone packing Sigarda.
Overall I was pretty happy with the deck – we had worked out most of the powerful things that people were doing in block and had prepared a good plan against them. Playing Sever and Slip meant that we had a good Silverheart mirror match and just drawing 1 Sever gave you lots of time against the Miracle Entreat deck or Reanimator. We’d expected more of the fringe decks like UG and Self mill so had a few weak sideboard slots but if I were to do it again I’d play a very similar list I think.
On to the tourney! I didnt take notes so I apologise if I forget some rounds or if the games are a little brief.
Game 1 I mulligan and he kills 2 mana guys and leaves me stuck on 2 lands for a few turns which easily gives him time to make [card]Fettergeist[/card] and Angel and burn me out.
Game 2 I chose to make a creature to power up my Triumph rather than Severing an Angel and preventing 3 damage and he finally topdecks a [card]Geistflame[/card] with me on 2 when i had lethal next turn. I wasnt expecting double [card]Divine Deflection[/card] which was good for just redirecting 5 and 6 of my Silverheart damage back to me and winning the race.
R2 – Tomasz Figarski playing RW aggro
Game 1 his draw is a little slow and I eat a couple of men during his attack step with my big flash monsters. He burns me quite low with a morbid Volley but doesnt find enough burn to finish me off.
Game 2 he draws too many burn spells and Divine Deflections and not enough monsters so I just roll out guys and beat him up, gaining life off my Vault and a Pilgrim to make things even worse for him.
R3 – Ken Yukuhiro playing Angel Reanimator
Game 1 he draws his combo and easily chumps my slow start before gaining infinite life off a Huntmaster with Fiend Hunter, Angel and Aristocrat. (He targets the Angel with the Fiend Hunter, sacrifices the Huntmaster and then the Fiend Hunter to the Aristocrat returning the Angel to play and that returns the Humans again to restart the cycle)
Game 2 I get pretty lucky in that he doesnt find any Angels or [card]Unburial Rites[/card] for about 40 cards and I eventually fight through his chumps and [card]Blasphemous Acts[/card] to get there.
Game 3 I get a little screwed and I think I misplayed an opportunity to Slip his Aristocrat which might have meant I could have Terminused after he Angel’d everything back. As it was he went off in response to the Slip and gained infinite life again which I sadly couldnt deal with.
R4 – Dylan Beckham playing RG Silverheart
Dylans deck was pretty much exactly what we were expecting and set up to beat and wasnt even running Angels which gave me a huge advantage in the Garruk wars. Neither game was particularly close with me having removal for his big threats and him having nothing to deal with mine.
R5 – Paul Briceno playing RGW Silverheart
Again this deck was what I’d come prepared for with his [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] and [card]Mayor or Avabruck[/card]s just not being big enough vs my Vorapedes.
Game 1 I ramp out a Vorapede and he miracles a Bonfire to kill my team so I just casually add a dice to my Vorapede, untap pair a Silverheart and bash him for 10 which he scoops to. Nice Miracle.
Game 2 he Conscripts my Silverheart and bashes me for 13 leaving me on 7. I draw then choose not to cast anything into his Huntmaster, expecting him to kill my Villager and turn on the Tragic Slip i have in hand. He does and then when he goes for a lethal [card]Revenge of the Hunted[/card] I kill his guy in response and next turn Vault for 20 life to take the game out of his reach.
That was the end of the standard portion and probably enough for this article – Next week I’ll talk about our draft practice and talk about how the PT drafts went as well as the last few rounds of constructed.
Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.