Preparing for Grand Prix Trials Manchester – Block Party by Ru Macdonald

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Preparing for Grand Prix Trials Manchester – Block Party by Ru Macdonald

On the 30th of May there is a Theros Block Constructed Grand Prix Trial in Manchester. I have started preparing already and wish to share what I have learnt so far. Possible Decklists are available towards the end of the read, to marvel/critique at your leisure.

 

 

Mark Rosewater“Restriction breeds creativity”

Mark Rosewater has been quoted many times to say.

With the third set of Theros currently unknown to us, we have a format to brew for spanning only two sets. So let’s start breeding!

That did not come out quite right.

Block is like an amalgamation between a weak Standard deck and an insane Sealed one. Here are some of the key differences for this Block and current Standard.

Sweepers

The available board wipes are;

[draft]Drown in Sorrow : Anger of the Gods : Elspeth, Sun’s Champion : Fated Retribution[/draft]

Drown in Sorrow is a pretty niche inclusion, referring only to if a White Weenie deck exists. Anger of the Gods has a little bit more reach, clearing away [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card] and [card]Herald of Torment[/card]. While Elspeth only destroys large creatures, her +1 ability shuts down small ones, thus causing her to have a similar effect as a Wrath ([card]Wrath of God[/card]).

Fated Retribution is the real deal when it comes to hitting the reset switch, though costing 7mana restricts the card to either ramp strategies and/or White Devotion.

A format without a definitive 4 mana sweeper (a la [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]) does a pretty good job of effectively negating the chances of a pure control deck. On top of this is the lack of [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card], so no control decks will be present as Standard currently know them!

Removal

…has been mostly removed from all colours except Black, which has some of the best removal/disruption in Standard still available to it;

[draft]Thoughtseize : Bile Blight : Drown in Sorrow : Hero’s Downfall : Gild[/draft]

If you want to kill things in Block, you will need to go down the dark path of Mono Black. [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card] is arguably the most powerful threat you can land in Theros Block, thus having [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] as a 4 of looks all that bit more appealing.

Gild is most likely a 2 of, but has extra game in the mirror as it exiles the target (to avoid [card]Whip of Erebos[/card]) and can help you get the extra mana to bestow [card]Herald of Torment[/card] or cast [card]Abhorrent Overlord[/card].

Red does a commendable effort of trying to keep up by providing the following;

[draft]Lightning Strike : Searing Blood : Magma Jet : Anger of the Gods : Fated Conflagration[/draft]

Though the problems with these become instantly apparent. Searing Blood and Anger of the Gods require you to have a heavily Red mana base to consistently cast them on time, while Fated Conflagration essentially requires you to be Mono Red.

Furthermore, the later is the only one that can deal with threats like [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card] or [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card], but only when non-monstrous. Worth mentioning is the possible sideboard card for the R/G Monsters mirror, [card]Fall of the Hammer[/card].

NB, Conflagration means “A large, destructive fire”. Aptly named card I feel!

White does have [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card], though without [card]Sacred Foundry[/card] this card becomes so much worse. The existence of [card]Xenagos, God of Revels[/card] will most likely increase Sideboard Enchantment hate ([card]Unravel the Aether[/card], [card]Fate into Antiquity[/card]) which in turn will weaken Chained to the Rocks’s play-ability.

[card]Last Breath[/card], currently a Standard staple for many decks, is far less powerful in this format also. Without key targets to exile like [card]Nightveil Specter[/card] and [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card] you will find the card stranded in hand more often that naught.

Mana Fixing

Every deck has access to the Scrylands. Here they are in their Izzet/Golgari-less glory (though they should be with us by the time of the tournament);

[draft]Temple of Silence : Temple of Deceit : Temple of Mystery : Temple of Abandon : Temple of Malice : Temple of Triumph : Temple of Plenty : Temple of Enlightenment[/draft]

These slow the format down, as they are the only good cards non-Green decks can rely on for mana-fixing. [card]Astral Cornucopia[/card] is too expensive (would have to spend 9mana to get a [card]Gilded Lotus[/card]!) and [card]Springleaf Drum[/card] cannot help you cast your first creature.

Sylvan CaryatidGreen, as always, has access to all the ramp and colour fixing. [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card], [card]Voyaging Satyr[/card] and [card]Nylea’s Presence[/card] provide Devotion, fixing and/or ramp. These are the foundation that makes R/G Monsters variants the consistently explosive deck it is.

Devotion has proven to be a very powerful mechanic, rewarding Mono Coloured decks with bountiful amounts of mana and value for their … well… devotion.

Mono Blue did not gain anything from BofG, though mono Green (R/G Monsters) and Mono Black certainly did. White Devotion may have gained enough from [card]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/card] to be able to [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card] out an early [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card].

Mono Red still has very little to sink mana into, being rewarded only with [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card] when it comes to devotion.

Planning Ahead

There are two weeks between ‘Journey into Nyx’ and the Manchester GP. This allows very little time to make a complete deck change – cheaply at least.  The two cards that fit in at least 3 solid archetypes are:

[draft]Thoughtseize : Stormbreath Dragon[/draft]

If you are unsure of what deck you are going to end up in, I would recommend that you try and aqcuire a playset of either (or both!) of these. They are relatively similar in price at the time of writing, so I would lean towards Thoughtseize. It is an eternal card, playable in Modern and even Legacy. It will never be much cheaper than it currently is, so you may as well pick them up now.

If your thinking is purely in the interests of Block, then grab some Dragons. They have more impact on Block Constructed and cost slightly less.

Decks I expect to make an appearance (in a vague order) are:

R/G Monsters & Naya Monsters, WBR Midrange/Control, Mono Black, Azorius/Boros/Orzhov Heroic, Prophet of Kruphix, Minotaurs.

So here’s a couple that I made earlier..

Xenagos

[deck]4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Voyaging Satyr
4 Magma Jet
4 Polukranos, World Eater
3 Polis Crusher
2 Ember Swallower
4 Stormbreath Dragon
2 Arbor Colossus
3 Xenagos, the Reveler
3 Xenagos, God of Revels
2 Nylea, God of the Hunt
4 Temple of Abandon
14 Forest
6 Mountain
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
[/deck]

R/G Monsters and Naya Ramp were the most successful and well represented decks by far for Theros Block Constructed, and I believe this will remain the case. Although the deck looks like it has a curve similar to that of a Tetris Block, it plays out surprisingly smoothly. From turn 3 onwards you are landing a must-answer threat until you overwhelm your opponent. With lots of Monstrosity’s and Nylea to activate, you can easily find use for the mana should you flood.

Where other decks run white for [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card] and [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card] I have chosen to stay in two colours for increased consistency. With the addition of on-colour bomb [card]Xenagos, God of Revels[/card], we should have all the late game we need.

Where Xenagos

No [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] or [card]Fanatic of Xenagos[/card]?? I love both those cards, but the 3mana slot of the curve is skipped almost every time by one of the many 2mana accelerators.

I had 2 more Nykthos included and a playset of [card]Nylea’s Presence[/card] for a while during testing, but found the Shrine to underperform without [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card].

[card]Polis Crusher[/card] does a lot of work when Monsterous, popping Chained to the Rocks, God’s weapons, and [card]Herald of Torment[/card] or [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card]. It is also immune to these enchantments even when not in full rage-stomping mode, so that is definitely a plus.

[card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card] is a house. Seeing as it can fight would-be chump blockers, it wraps games up all by itself if not dealt with. For this reason, you can run this Legendary creature as a 4 of, as the best thing you can do if they deal with Polukranos, is play another one.

[card]Nylea, God of the Hunt[/card] provides a further mana sink for when you don’t have creatures to Monstrosity, and combos nicely with [card]Xenagos, God of Revels[/card] to make a giant, hasty trampler.

[card]Magma Jet[/card] helps smooth out draws and deal with annoying creatures like [card]Baleful Eidolon[/card] or [card]Agent of Fates[/card].

SIDEBOARD

I have not mapped out a sideboard for the deck yet, but it would definitely include a number of the following:

[draft]Fall of the Hammer : Unravel the Aether : Portent of Betrayal : Lightning Strike : Destructive Revelry[/draft]

Unravel can deal with opposing Gods at instant speed for just two mana! Fell of the Hammer is best in the mirror, but would come in against any creature heavy strategy, along with Lightning Strike.

This deck and all variants you come across are the ‘deck to beat‘. If you cannot out race them then you will have to either answer their threats with your own, or destroy them.

Erebos

[deck]4 Bile Blight
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Baleful Eidolon
3 Thoughtseize
4 Herald of Torment
4 Agent of the Fates
4 Spiteful Returned
2 Whip of Erebos
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
2 Erebos, God of the Dead
4 Temple of Silence
21 Swamp[/deck]

This deck incorporates the usual “Let’s abuse Gray Merchant of Asphodel” tack, but also dabbles in triggering [card]Agent of the Fates[/card]. There are no less than 12 creatures to Bestow unto the 3/2 Deathtoucher, who provides 2 devotion and is a solid creature regardless.

Agent of Fates

The loss of [card]Nightveil Specter[/card] turned me to [card]Herald of Torment[/card].

The loss of [card]Desecration Demon[/card] led me to [card]Agent of the Fates[/card] (though I’m still tempted for [card]Disciple of Phenax[/card]).

The loss of [card]Underworld Connections[/card] caused depression.

Without the ‘safe’ devotion usually obtained from Underworld Connections, I set about gaining ‘safe’ devotion from Bestow creatures. This allows you to increase your devotion to black, while not opening yourself up to a total blow out (if they were all normal creatures).

I believe this archetype is the No.2 contender for Block Constructed, due to the power of the removal available and the game-swinging monster that is “Gary” ([card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card]).

Herald of Torment

Herald of Torment is a rather spicy card as a creature or bestowage. A decent sized body (that avoids [card]Last Breath[/card]), two devotion and a huge buff when put on any creature. Being a solid 3 or 5mana play helps us use all of our mana more effectively on each of our turns.

Spiteful Returned mimics this effect by offering a 2mana and 4mana play, but will be rarely cast as a 2 drop. It is not completely useless once in creature form though, as a Herald of Torment bestow later and you are attacking for 6!

[card]Whip of Erebos[/card] does extra duty than normal here by mitigating the damage dealt to us by Herald of Torment and Thoughtseize.

The early game is pretty weak without [card]Pack Rat[/card], so Baleful Eidolon is hoping to hold the fort for a turn or two. It adds to devotion and can be used to trigger Agent of Fates when more copies are drawn later. It also does a surprisingly good job of countering Polukranos.

The removal is premium, with 8 of the most efficient removal for the cost and 3 [card]Thoughtseize[/card] to boot. This is what will help us get to the mid/late game, where we will always have an advantage when Gary is concerned.

Erebos get’s leaned on occasionally for cards if we are feeling buoyant enough in the life department, and serves as an indestructible 5/7 often enough.

Overall, the deck feels pretty powerful assuming you can get to turn 5 without losing too much life. Gary is powerful in Draft, Standard, Pauper and – I’m guessing, Block Constructed.

SIDEBOARD:

Again, I have not constructed a set sideboard yet. This will come later, when the shape of the meta becomes more apparent. Here are some cards that could make an appearance for the sideboard:

[draft]Thoughtseize : Drown in Sorrow : Gild : Dark Betrayal : Read the Bones : Disciple of Phenax : Fate Unraveler : Hythonia the Cruel : Odunos River Trawler : Whip of Erebos[/draft]

I am also going to try and experiment with adding a couple of more Temple (Scry lands) to the deck to help smooth out the draws. Assuming Journey into Nyx yields the Black & Green Temple, I will test out [card]Reaper of the Wilds[/card] in the deck.

Although the devotion to black is only one, the pseudo hexproof she boasts could be a real boon when it comes to Bestowing unto one huge monster. Also, green will give us access to [card]Unravel the Aether[/card] in the sideboard for those pesky Gods, weapons and artifacts/enchantments in general – something Mono Black is weak against.

These decks are in no way pushing the boat out, but they are building Blocks to start from when preparing for the unknown mystery that is Journey into Nyx & Block Constructed.

The R/G Monsters deck that is stomping around Standard loses [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] and [card]Domri Rade[/card] in the convert to Block, but remains a total powerhouse. My Mono Block Black list is far more different from Mono Black as we currently know it, and I will expect everyone to have their own spin on the deck.

block building

Till next time nerds.

Ru

Mogis

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