Rees’ Pieces #12: PT Dragons of Tarkir

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As I write this I've just finished watching the finals of Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir. As much as I was cheering for Shota Yasooka to take the title, he was the last in line to get ran over by RG aggro and Pro Tour DTK champion Martin Dang. Dangs been on a tear recently just coming off of a win at Grand Prix Liverpool a month or so back. Congratulations to Martin.

Dang

Running up to this event I've been more excited than for any Pro Tour I can remember. Dragons brought a load of new interesting cards into the format and the possibilities seemed crazy. While there have been a couple off Standard tournaments since release no-one was really breaking new ground, the super teams trying to break the format saved all of their best for the Pro Tour. Everyone new that the format was still very undiscovered, a paradise for brewers and deckbuilders everywhere. Let's have a look at what's made it big in Brussels:

I think the biggest story coming out of the Swiss is the success of blue control decks, either Blue/Black, Blue/White or Esper and that's the majority of what I'd like to discuss today. These decks got a bunch of new tools from Dragons of Tarkir, I'll just run you through the list of new Toys they have to play with:

Dragonlord Ojutai

Ojutai
This guys been seeing more and more play since release, in both UW and Esper control and then even in other decks as a high quality finisher. It protects itself until you find a way to protect it and can start swinging in to gain card advantage and finish off your opponent. The clock this guy lays down is very real, and the pressure it applies against other slow decks is great as it both hits them and draws you cards while only being exposed to removal when you want it to be.

 

Dragonlord Silumgar

Dragonlord Silumgar
Not seeing a lot of play straight after coming out, we saw it as a one of in Reid Dukes Sultai Reanimator deck from the Invitational a few weeks ago. While it wasn't played by a lot of the control decks this weekend Shota Yasooka played two copies main deck and it really did some work. In the top 8 we saw him play one to steal a Surrak the Hunt Caller, giving it haste to attack for lethal. Its immune to a lot of the cheap removal in the format, allowing it to stabilize by itself against a lot of aggro decks, but then also does a huge job in the midrange and control decks stealing planeswalkers or powerful creatures while providing a big flying blocker with deathtouch they have to get around.

 

Anticipate

Anticipate
This ones a tricky one. There were 3 UB control decks in the top 8, one splashing white for Ojutai. Of these Andre Ohlschwager was the only one to play 4 copies of Anticipate in his main deck; both Andrew Sullivan and Shota Yasooka choosing not to play the card at all. Its a very good magic card, but a lot of the time in the control decks we've seen you just need raw card advantage to pull you ahead or stabilize and you need to be casting Bile Blights and Ultimate Prices early in the game. It does a good job of smoothing out your draws though, and will almost always give you a good card for the situation out of the 3 you see. Taking land off of it is completely fine early game so don't be afraid to.

 

Foul Tongue Invocation

foul

This is the first of the 'dragon reveal' cycle that I'm going to talk about, and these cards really broke out in a big way at the Pro Tour. Firstly its an instant speed edict effect which the format was lacking, helping out against decks like UW/x Heroic with all of their protection spells or Abzan Aggro with its plethora of hard to handle creatures like Rakshasa Deathdealer of Fleecemane Lion. The life gain is super relevant though helping you buy more time to get to late game where you can start casting Dig Through Times, Perilous Vaults and Crux of Fates. Especially against Mono Red or RG aggro decks where they're playing Hordeling Outbursts and Dragon Fodder the life gain helps this card still be relevant even if they have plenty of 1/1s to sacrifice.

 

Silumgars Scorn

Scorn

I just mentioned how the Dragon Reveal cycle has proved to be very good, and this is arguably the best. Counterspell is back! Kinda. If your opponents playing on curve this is a virtual counterspell, and if they want to pay around it they give you more time to just find the dragon to turn it into an actual counterspell. This card might be one of the most defining in the new standard format (and tilting people's great too).

 

Icefall Regent

I(cefall

This dragon was far from the most hyped up from Dragons of Tarkir (which is fair given the cycle of mythic Dragonlords), but it proved to be a all-star in Shota's deck. With all the 'dragon reveal' cards it gives you an incentive to play a bunch more dragons and you can't really jam 4 copies of Silumgar (either) without making the deck real clunky. It does a reasonable job of protecting itself from removal making your opponent really commit to dealing with it, and the Dungeon Geist ability helps you stabilize vs aggro decks trying to run you over.

 

Dragonlords Prerogative

prerog

As far as mirror breakers go this is a damn good one. While 6 mana for 4 cards is a tad underwhelming against a lot of the field in a control mirror this card is insane. With the ability to make it uncounterable revealing a Dragon, its just an 'I win the game' card against other control decks where you just want more cards than your opponent. Again, a six mana draw spell isn't exactly what you want against Mono Red or Abzan Aggro but playing a couple in your 75 seems like a good idea.

 

I can't really talk about decks from the Pro Tour without discussing the winning deck right? So here's Martin Dangs RG aggro list:

Maindeck
4 Foundry Street Denizen
1 Frenzied Goblin
2 Goblin Rabblemaster
1 Lightning Berserker
4 Monastery Swiftspear
3 Zurgo Bellstriker
4 Dragon Fodder
4 Hordeling Outburst
4 Atarka's Command
1 Become Immense
4 Lightning Strike
4 Stoke the Flames
4 Wild Slash
4 Mana Confluence
1 Temple of Abandon
4 Wooded Foothills
1 Forest
10 Mountain

Sideboard
2 Goblin Rabblemaster, 4 Eidolon of the Great Revel, 1 Goblin Heelcutter, 1 Destructive Revelry, 2 Hall of Triumph, 4 Roast, 1 Scouring Sands

It looks like a fairly typical mono red deck splashing green for 4 copies of Atarka's Command and a Become Immense main deck. This kind of deck really preys on the slower decks in the format, as you can see from his top 8 matches.  The two new cards that I'd like to focus on from the deck are Atarka's Command and Zurgo Bellstriker. Command is excellent in this deck (Dang described it as 'the best card') going to the dome, pumping your team or stopping the life gain from a Siege Rhino or Nyleas Disciple the card just does everything you want, and is the real reason you're splashing green in your otherwise Mono Red deck.

AtarkasZurgo

Zurgo is another important card. It gives you a 2 power 1 drop on turn 1 and also allows you to play it as a threat without commiting to the board later. Traditionally this deck has fantastic game 1s, and then post board the opponent brings in their Anger of the Gods and Drown in Sorrows and you have a much tougher time winning games 2 and 3. Now because of all the Dash creatures in the deck it really allows you to play into these with impunity. Going 1 drop into T2 dash guy and their Drown in Sorrow is just a one for one removal spell. Dangs deck looks to be really well positioned going forward, and definitely one to look out for.

Once again that's it for me for now, thanks for reading and I hope I've given you some kind of insight into the new control cards from Dragons of Tarkir and they're functions in decks going forwards.

Alastair

Rees’ Pieces #10 Grand Prix Liverpool 2015

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Rees’ Pieces #5

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Last time I talked about Blue Green infect, a deck I have been playing recently and would have probably played at Grand Prix Madrid this past weekend if I had chosen to go. It turns out the deck did top 8 a GP at the weekend, just in Legacy instead; Tom Ross tainted strikes again. This week I'm going to discuss the results of Grand Prix Madrid and their implications on the modern format.

Firstly, pre-tournament hype. Since Khans has come out there has been two decks at the forefront of people’s minds: Blue Red Delver, and Jeskai Ascendancy Combo.

After seeing the UR list Bob Huang won the first legacy open after Khans was released with, the concept of the deck has been translated over to modern. Not that UR Delver wasn't a deck before, but it now has a better 1 drop threat in Monastery Swiftspear which has replaced the variance high Goblin Guide and also is possibly the best Delvecestral Recall deck in the format.

Jeskai Ascendancy combo was by far the deck most hyped up, but aside from winning a few daily events on Magic Online it hadn't put up many finished. The deck threatens to combo out on turn 2 or 3 which doesn't fit what Wizards want for modern. As a result of this and the decks supreme hype train there have been calls from all over the place for the deck to be banned.

Ascendancy didn't even make into the top 16, there are a bunch of cards the deck just folds to and it’s possible to hate it out easily. Red Blue Delver had a much but also failed to make top 8. However Temur Delver; a deck very similar to UR but splashing green primarily for goyf managed to not only top 8 but win the Grand Prix. Just goes to show, don't believe the hype.

On to the actual Top 8 now. It consisted of 3 Birthing Pod decks, 1 Scapeshift, 1 Martyr Proc, 1 Breaching Trap, 1 Junk Midrange, and the Temur Delver deck. A few decks we haven’t seen in a while come out of the woodwork, but Birthing Pod proving it's still here to stay once again putting multiple decks into a Grand Prix Top 8.

Looking at the three pod decks, all of the lists have gone in slightly different ways. Two of them were 'Angel Pod' forgoing the Melira combo and using Spike Feeder and Archangel of Thune instead freeing up a little space to make the main deck more flexible. One of these was fairly standard whereas the other added two copies of Tarmogoyf, an Eidolon of Rhetoric and a Thragtusk. The other list was a fairly stock Melira Pod deck with a single Eidolon of Rhetoric in the main and also included a Thragtusk. One thing all three decks shared is that they were all playing some number of Siege Rhino (More copies in the T8 than Cruise, better ban it).

I briefly touched on the Temur Delver deck that won earlier. It uses the Blue Red Delver shell and swaps out the Monastery Swiftspears for Tarmogoyfs allowing the deck to play much more reactively once you've landed a threat (a downside to Swiftspear). Another limiting factor on the deck is that it can't afford to play cards like Snapcaster Mage or Grim Lavamancer as you need your graveyard for Goyf, and Treasure Cruise is pretty taxing already. That this deck can work just illustrates the power of Treasure Cruise and Tarmogoyf in the modern format.

The Junk deck looked very well positioned going into the weekends meta game with its two main deck copies of Dark Blast for the delver decks and a full eight hand disruption spells for combo. The deck was playing four copies of Siege Rhino and Bitterblossom has finally shown up. The scapeshift deck that made it is about as stock as you can get with the three Dig Through Times from Khans becoming staple in the deck.

Summoning Trap/ Through the Breach is not a deck we've seen a lot of for a long time but this one has combined the Primeval Titan Emrakul plan we saw in the old Cloudpost decks with Valakut the Molten Pinnacle. To supplement this the deck played Sakura Tribe Elder, Farseek and Search for Tomorrow to help get Valakut online and allow you to cast your titans, and Chalice of the Void and Anger of the Gods as Disruption.

The Last deck in the Top 8 is another old favourite in Martyr of the Sands/Proclamation of Rebirth. Its a white weenie deck very similar to Soul Sisters and it does use the same Martyr of the Sands with Serra Ascendant plan A. Past that, this version of the deck runs Ghostly Prisons and Wrath of Gods to deal with creatures; Prison also conveniently dealing with Splinter Twin combo also. Then it runs Ranger of Eos which helps you put white cards in your hand for Martyr as well as tutoring for Martyr and Ascendant and also helps you rebuild. Then it pays three copies of Proclamation of Rebirth, a forecast spell with two modes. The first if you cast it is to return up to three CMC 1 creatures from your graveyard to the battlefield allowing you to reuse Martyrs and get back Ascendants after they've been killed. The other mode is with forecast; paying six mana and revealing the card in your hand you can bring back a single CMC 1 creature from your yard but you keep the Proc in hand and can keep recurring it over multiple turns. Recurring Martyr every turn can easily put you out of range of some of the combo decks in the format and can stall aggro for a long time until you find a threat. This is a new take on the deck and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a rise in its popularity.

Once again that’s it from me this week, I hope you got a chance to watch some of the coverage at the weekend. See you next week,

Alastair

Rees’ Pieces #4: Modern & Infect

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Hi everyone,

Back again with another magic article. This week however I'll be going my usual foray into the card market and talk about a deck I've been playing lately in modern in the run up to Grand Prix Madrid this weekend which is the first Modern Grand Prix since Khans of Tarkir was released. So without any further ado, here is the UG Infect list I've been playing:

 

4x Noble Heirarch

4x Glistener Elf

4x Blighted Agent

3x Viridian Corrupter

4x Gitaxian Probe

4x Groundswell

4x Mutagenic Growth

2x Might of Old Krosa

1x Become Immense

4x Vines of Vastwood

2X Apostles Blessing

2x Distortion Strike

1x Wild Defiance

4x Inkmoth Nexus

1x Dryad Arbor

2x Pendelhaven

4x Misty Rainforest

4x Windwept Heath

4x Breeding Pool

2x Forest

 

2x Wild Defiance

2x Spellskite

2x Hunt the Hunter

3x Nature's Claim

2x Twisted Image

3x Dispel

1x Viridian Corrupter

blighted+agent

This list is fairly similar to the one Tom Ross popularised earlier this year, forgoing the usual Ichorclaw Myrs for Viridian Corrupters which help you deal with maindeck spellskites and give you main deck cards to hate Pod and Affinity freeing up some space in your board. Another recent addition to the deck is Hunt the Hunter; its narrow I know but Pod is prevalent enough and bad enough of a match up to warrant two copies of these. The obvious purpose for this is to get Melira Sylvok Outcast off of the table but its also great if they get greedy and you can snipe mana dorks, or killing a vital creature in response to them casting birthing pod. Between these and twisted images they help stabilise the match up though its still far from favourable. The last card I'd like to talk about before I go into the kahns of Tarkir additions is the one of Dryad Arbor in the main. So its great against edict effects like Liliana of the Veil but it also; as Ross put it "keeps people fair". It sounds like a joke but people are very careless with their life total playing against Infect and the Arbor has killed more people than you would think.

Spellskite

Currently there is only one card from kahns of Tarkir in the list but that may be incorrect and there are a few other options that are worth considering. The one of Become Immense in the main has been fantastic, between fetches, probes and the inevitability of your creatures dying five cards in the yard is very achievable and +6/+6 for a single green mana is clearly big game. Every time I've drawn this card it has been great and I'd be tempted to go up to two copies. Its especially good versus RWU where your creatures are going to die in droves to fill up your yard and you can bait them with other pump spells before slamming this in response to a bolt or helix. Another thing to note is that with a Wild Defiance in play this makes any of your guys ten power. Also combos with Dryad Arbor.

The cards I am currently not playing but might be correct to play are the Obvious Treasure Cruise/Dig through time, and Stubborn Denial. Dig is a bit too mana intensive for this deck as double blue isn't easy to achieve, but I feel Cruise should be present at least in the board if not the main. I don't think it’s an auto include in the main because especially in game one it can be very clunky. It also contests space with Become Immense as there are only so many delve cards you can play. You want to kill your opponent very quickly and having multiple 6-8 mana spells will clog up your draws and dilute your game plan. I could see running a cruise alongside the Immense in the main and I can definitely see the merit for having a couple in the board for the grindy match ups like Jund or RWU.

Stubborn denial is an interesting one, most of the time its just a worse dispel. Don't be under the illusion that your dude is gonna have 4 power when they try and kill it and sometimes Denial will end up being a Force Spike. However, the ability to simply spike your opponent or interact with their sorcery speed removal is relevant so if something like Storm is prevalent in the Meta Stubborn Denial could be a better choice. (It also has Tilt Value).

 

So that’s my take on Blue Green Infect, all things considered I think the deck is still a solid choice and I'll be keeping my eyes peeled looking at the coverage from both rand Prix this weekend to see what does well. That’s it from me this week though,

Alastair

REES!
Rees is a magic expert, but sadly also a magiciser; he can never commit to one deck. Maybe one day he will settle down.

Rees’ Pieces #3: Tarkir Going Down & Jeskai Heroic Is a Thing!

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This week it appears as though the flurry of price drops in Khans of Tarkir over the past few weeks has slowed down, with only a few small changes. I'll give you a quick rundown:


- Near the top of the pile Sorin has dipped a tad down to £19.99, Abzan still popular but being outshone this past weekend by GB Constellation and he's not seeing much play elsewhere.


sorin solemn visitor


- Fetches still continue to fall with both Flooded Strand and Polluted Delta at £12.49, with Windswept Heath now £9.99, and Bloodstained More falling further to £8.49. Wooded Foothills is still at £11.49 for now but I would suspect it will follow suit down to the £10 mark soon.


khans tarkir lands Fetches


- Dig through Time has fallen a little bit further down to now £8.49. UB control and Esper haven't done particularly well the past couple of weeks however a UW control deck showed up at the SCG Open a week ago. Despite the fact that it's seeing a bit of modern play and Jeskai has been doing pretty well in standard its price has continued to fall.


- Mantis Rider has dropped down to £4.99 now, at the very start of the format the Jeskai Tempo deck was very dominant doing well at the Pro Tour, multiple Opens and Grand Prix. This past weekend it didn’t have a great showing and since (much like Sorin) it only really sees play in one deck which has probably led to its descent in price.


- A quick note on Crater's Claws. If you've been one of the few people stocking up on these; they have now doubled in price to a whopping £1.99.


The Rest of the Standard Market


Like I said, Khans has been fairly quiet the past week, and the same can be said for the rest of standard:


- Ajani Steadfast has taken a small hit dropping from £14.99 to £11.99, not too surprising seeing his lack of play.


- Chasm Skulker has gone up in price at £4.49 with foils going up to £7.49. Travis Woo talked about the card in one of his recent articles and it also saw play in the Jeskai Heroic Combo deck that took down the SCG Standard Open this past weekend (more on that later).


- Athreos the Overhyped has dropped down to £7.99 surprising... Nope, no-one.


athreos


- Apparently not everybody wants to be a cat, as Kitty King Brimaz drops down to £19.99. This is a bit suprising, as he sees play in both Abzan and Jeskai strategys as well as some of the white based aggro decks.


- Elspeth has gone down to £19.99. While her days in the sun aren't done yet she's not seeing nearly as much play without the help of Supreme Verdict and Sphinx's Revelation.


- Ashiok Nightmare Weaver has now gone up to £9.99. While he saw a bit of play last format in Esper decks and a decent amount in block (Go GTA), he seems much more suited to this format where the field is dominated by midrange 'Good Stuff' decks.


A Look at the Tournament Scene 


That’s it for Standard price changes over the past week, but I'd like to briefly mention two archetypes that dominated the SCG Open this past weekend. The first one is well known, and that is Green Black Constellation. Its been doing well since the new format began but this past weekend there were 3 of these decks in the top 8 though for the most part they were defeated by the Jeskai Heroic combo deck I'll move on to in a moment. The key cards from the archetype that are unique are Doomwake Giant, Eidolon of Blossoms, Pharika God of Affliction, and Whip of Erebos; while these cards haven’t moved much yet it'd be a safe bet to say they'll be ticking up a bit soon.


The other deck I'd like to mention was pretty much off the radar up until now. Ivan Jen stormed through all comers with his Jeskai Heroic Ascendancy deck.




ivan jen
Ivan Jen after taking the first game of the SCG Standard open final

While Ascendancy was on everyone’s radar this is a completely new take on the deck which looks far superior to any other version we've seen forgoing green and the mana generators normally used when comboing off for aggressive heroic creatures like Akroan Crusader and Favoured Hoplite. This allows the deck to function well with or without ascendancy. It’s worth noting the combo in this version is slightly different as it uses retraction helix and springleaf drum (another new addition to the deck). Again none of the cards have really started to go up in price yet, however the deck seems like it could definitely be format warping. Jeskai Ascendancy, currently only £3.99 will almost certainly start going up in price again. Stain the mind, is looking like a very favourable sideboard card and is almost certainly going to see more use; currently £1.35 these seem like a good investment. The last card I'm going to mention is Spirit of the Labyrinth; it hurts both of the ascendancy decks in standard but also is becoming more and more playable in modern with the rise of treasure cruise. As a result it wouldn't surprise me if Spirit saw a rise in play and price.


That’s it from me this week catch you next time,


Alastair




REES!
Rees is a magic expert, but sadly also a magiciser; he can never commit to one deck. Maybe one day he will settle down.