In my Dragons of Tarkir Event deck review, I made the suggestion that it would do okay at FNM. It wasn’t universally accepted that would be the case. I’m sure there are a number of you out there that attend very competitive FNMs, and your meta is rife with tier one decks. But that is not actually the case in most shops I’ve been to for FNM. Sure, there might be a few people playing lists straight out of the Pro Tour. Normally, you can find a whole host of brews and variations on some ‘known’ list, which play cards that are otherwise thought of as “bad”.
These decks are not bad. They are fine for a semi-competitive meta. In fact, you might find that those players who are interested in becoming more competitive don’t play at FNM anymore. Instead they form groups of like-minded people who will playtest the higher power decks in preparation for competitive level REL events. These types might occasionally play a bit of Limited at FNM, or maybe Modern, to get their adversarial juices flowing. That leaves Standard a bit of an open field when it comes to decklists. In recent weeks I’ve been killed to death by Ghastly Conscription, not a card that is going to bother the Pro Tour, but a fine finisher for a creature-based Control deck.
In Theros block, Wizards gave us a small Minotaur subtheme. If you managed to pick it up enough in a draft, the deck could be very strong. It was one of those Ikea decks: players were given a specific manual how to build it. In this case, it was the Minotaur type of creatures. There were also few lords: some of them gave other Minotaurs abilities such as haste or deathtouch (gift lords), or that dropped the price of their herdmates (so called discount lords), and everybody’s favourite lords – the ones that buff your team (buff lords). The trouble with these types is efficient creatures (potential minions) go in other decks and you end up with a lot of expensive lords that do nothing on their own.
Jump forward to Khans and we see a similar deck in Limited: the Warriors deck. This time, however, Wizards made it a little more upfront and featured the Warrior subtheme on a lot of cards. It was possible that you would look at your Draft deck in pack 3 and realise you were accidently a Warrior deck. It was also notable that the best lords cost only 2 mana. Chief of the Edge and Chief of the Scale were just White-and-Black mana, buffing power and toughness respectively.
With some useful one and two drops in Mardu Hateblade and Mardu Skullhunter, when you got to curve out with Warriors in a game of Limited, it felt very powerful. So it wasn’t a surprise to sit down in the at a Standard FNM and see your opponent go turn one Mardu Hateblade.
With Fate Reforged there came a few new options for the Warriors deck. In Limited, because FTR was drafted in packs 2 and 3, it became possible to pick up one of the chiefs much later in the draft, as people had settled into other archetypes in pack 1.
Now I know there are people reading this that will say “The Warriors 60 card deck is awful. I beat it with my Abzan aggro list every week.” Sure, the deck that has 4 Siege Rhino and 4 Rakshasa Deathdealer and all the other bombs that Abzan can play. However, three colours mean more lands and more lands mean more money. It’s a harsh reality of this hobby that the very best cards cost a pretty penny. Not to mention all the other money cards in a full on Abzan deck.
Here’s the thing: I think a cheaper but more consistent Warrior deck will perform better than an Abzan deck that has maybe 1 or 2 Rhinos and less than a playset of other creatures. Hero’s Downfall and Thoughtseize are still expensive, so it’s not unusual that players at an FNM won’t have a full set. This can lower the power level on the ‘known’ list.
In recent weeks I’ve come up against a few different versions of the Warriors deck, most commonly the Black/White one which follows the same plan as the Limited version of the deck: get the lords out early and turn your creatures sideways. Use Timely Hordemate to bring back something from your graveyard, so you can keep on attacking.
I’ve also seen versions with Red, either with Black or White, and rarely full on Mardu. Alesha, Who Smiles at Death seems to turn up in these decks. The card doesn’t actually cost a great deal at the moment, so she turns up as maybe a 1- or 2-of in those low to the ground Red-based decks. There is the Mardu Shadowspear, the one that makes a token when it attacks (Mardu Strike Leader). and then the 3/3 that has an activated ability (Brutal Hordechief): and all of these are in Black. White has dropped off a little, since Mardu has lost its White colour and attitude. There are still Warriors in nearly all the colours, but if you were to play this deck in Standard, it would be somewhere between those colours.
You have to look at these cards for what they are. No-one comes to this game as a fully-formed deck builder. Sure, there are people who take to it like a duck to water but we’re not all that lucky. With these creature type line instructions, you can feel like you built the list yourself.
I have also spotted one or two players trying to make Alesha, Who Smiles at Death work as their Tiny Leader with a collection of Warriors heading to the battlefield. This is a sign that WotC have done something right with the tribal theme in a set.
There is certainly a stigma still attached to netdecking, and players will look down their noses at someone running the latest deck from the Pro Tour. Luckily, there is room for all players at FNM. I have lost to these brewed-up Warriors lists. I always ask my opponent about their deck afterwards. Most are happy to let me have a look through. I love seeing the variety in the Warriors build. That is why I am proclaiming the Warriors deck a hero of FNM.