Game Day Decknology

A few weeks ago in my article Strictly Level Up – Brewing a Competitive Deck I discussed my process for brewing a competitive deck and started the shell for what I thought could be a contender in the new world of Standard after Aether Revolt. At the time of writing that article, the list was very rough and looked like this.  After playing between 30 and 40 matches with this list I hammered out a finalized list of 75.

RW Humans

Creatures (25)
Expedition Envoy
Thraben Inspector
Town Gossipmonger
Hanweir Militia Captain
Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Metallic Mimic
Thalia’s Lieutenant
Hanweir Garrison
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Lightning Runner

Spells (6)
Shock
Declaration in Stone

Enchantments (5)
Gryff’s Boon
Always Watching
Lands (24)
Aether Hub
Hanweir Battlements
Inspiring Vantage
Mountain
Needle Spires
Plains

Sideboard (15)
Authority of the Consuls
Hope of Ghirapur
Harnessed Lightning
Selfless Spirit
Hanweir Garrison
Thalia, Heretic Cathar

The new list added Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Hanweir Garrison.  Thalia is amazing to slow down other aggro decks, put our control opponents a turn behind on mana, and a 3/2 First striker is often times a 4/3 or larger due to human synergies with Thalia’s Lieutenant and Metallic Mimic. If you are able to untap and swing with the Garrison, the two human tokens can be back-breaking for our opponent coming into play as 2/2s if we have a Mimic in play, and adding 2 counters to Thalia’s Lieutenant if there is one in play.

During the Pre-Pro tour testing, I still wasn’t convinced that this deck was powerful enough to contend, as it felt slower than the RW Vehicles decks running around at that time. It was really unknown how good the new Saheeli combo decks would be, and a lot of people were packing Authority of the Consuls as an answer in my local meta. I also ran into a ton of black-based decks running Fatal Push and Yahenni’s Expertise.  All of these factors led me to shelving the idea for the Humans deck and trying to brew something else.

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While at draft one night, I ended up with a ridiculous Grixis deck with 2 x Ornithopter, 1 x Tezzeret’s Touch, and 2 x Weldfast Engineer. After smashing my way to a 3-0 draft on the heels of some amazing synergies, I was inspired to find out if these three cards together were strong enough to be the basis of a Standard constructed deck.  I did some initial testing and ended up with the following as a base 60 cards:

Grixis Touch

Creatures (24)
Ornithopter
Metallic Mimic
Chief of the Foundry
Pia Nalaar
Weldfast Engineer
Whirler Virtuoso
Maverick Thopterist

Spells (10)
Shock
Harnessed Lightning
Unlicensed Disintegration
Glimmer of Genius

Enchantments (4)
Tezzeret’s Touch
Lands (22)
Aether Hub
Inventors’ Fair
Spire of Industry
Spirebluff Canal
Swamp
Wandering Fumarole

I was testing this list on Xmage during Pro Tour weekend with some interesting results.  In my Brewing a Competitive Deck article, I discuss how I recommend testing without the bomb cards to see what the ‘floor’ of a deck is.  Basically, by removing the card that makes a deck so powerful at the top end, it is plausible to determine how good a deck is at its worst case scenario.  Well, this deck got a big fat “F” in this category.

While watching the coverage for Pro Tour Aether Revolt, I was very interested in the Grixis Improvise list being piloted by Willy Edel. Edel’s list was leveraging the awesomeness of Tezzeret’s Touch and the powerhouse Herald of Anguish. I realized that my list was too cute and that his approach was more streamlined and strictly better than my approach.

I fired up this list online and made some tweaks for my local metagame, and decided I was going to battle with this list at FNM and Gameday.

Grixis Improvise

Creatures (12)
Pia Nalaar
Maverick Thopterist
Bastion Inventor
Herald of Anguish

Spells (6)
Metallic Rebuke
Unlicensed Disintegration

Artifacts (16)
Implement of Combustion
Renegade Map
Cogworker’s Puzzleknot
Key to the City
Servo Schematic
Deadlock Trap

Enchantments (4)
Tezzeret’s Touch
Lands (22)
Aether Hub
Inventors’ Fair
Island
Mountain
Smoldering Marsh
Spire of Industry
Spirebluff Canal
Sunken Hollow
Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Fatal Push
Grasp of Darkness
Negate
Aethersphere Harvester
Murder
Yahenni, Undying Partisan

I lost my first round against a BW Control deck.  A series of misplays and unfamiliarity with this deck cost me the round. But I learned something; in this strategy Tezzeret’s Touch is a secondary win-condition and Herald of Anguish is the real deal. My philosophy is, if I can learn from mistakes, then at the end of the day the losses are a net positive.

I rolled through the next 3 rounds to end the night at 3-1 which was enough to score me a ton of packs in prizes.  I found myself bringing Yahenni, Undying Partisan in whenever I wanted to race.  Overall, I liked this list. It feels like with some tuning, it could be a real powerhouse.

Sadly it seems that many of the clientele at this particular LGS also noticed how well it performed and proceeded to work on Control decks to counter this strategy for Gameday. After assisting five others in flushing out their control lists I knew there was no way I could show up the next day with the same deck.

I woke up early on Game Day and decided to revisit the RW Humans list based on the information that I had gained about the meta the night before. I knew that a fast aggro deck would do well in a room full of control. I made some changes to my old list based not only on the information on what I expected to see at the event but also card availability.

RW Humans Game Day

Creatures (26)
Expedition Envoy
Inventor’s Apprentice
Thraben Inspector
Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Metallic Mimic
Thalia’s Lieutenant
Hanweir Garrison
Pia Nalaar
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Lightning Runner

Planeswalkers (1)
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

Spells (6)
Shock
Declaration in Stone

Enchantments (5)
Gryff’s Boon
Always Watching
Lands (22)
Aether Hub
Inspiring Vantage
Mountain
Needle Spires
Plains

Sideboard (15)
Authority of the Consuls
Harnessed Lightning
Selfless Spirit
Aethersphere Harvester
Reckless Bushwhacker
Stasis Snare

Round One

I opened the event against a RW Vehicles.  In previous iterations of my list I was slower then the vehicles decks I faced so I was a bit concerned. After a turn one Expedition Envoy into a Shock on turn two (to kill his dwarf) and Gryff’s Boon. Turn three was met with a timelyAlways Watching to go with my double Thalia’s Lieutenant turn four play. I snatched a quick victory in round one and it felt good. With 30 minutes left in the round, I decided to scout the room.  It turned out that only one of the players I worked with on their control lists made it to the morning event. Much to my horror I realized the event wasn’t going to be the metagame that I had anticipated.

Round Two

When pairings came up for Round two, I knew that I was in trouble when I was paired against Daniel, a friend of mine.  He was still on a GB delirium variant and could almost list his exact 75 as I had seen his list many times in testing. He drew all of his removal spells and smashed my face with multiple Grim Flayer. In game two, I mulled to five cards and kept a one land hand.  With this type of aggro deck, this is less risky of a keep as I run a very low curve.  That is as long as you draw a land in the next five turns, which I did not. I conceded the match. In retrospect, I realized that keeping a one-lander was a terrible idea. I only run 22 lands in the deck, and my chances of drawing into second one were much lower than in other decks where I run more lands.

Round Three

In Round three, I was paired against an Aetherworks Marvel deck, which I totally steamrolled.  I attribute this win to pure variance and bad luck on my opponents part (karma for missing my second land in round two).  In the three games we played, he activated Marvel no less than seven times, and hit Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger only once.  On the six other activations, the scariest card he was able to play was a Servant of the Conduit.  I really want to test against this deck more because I believe it is still viable with the banning of Emrakul, the Promised End.

Round Four

I got totally decimated by a Gearhulk control deck.  This deck was totally a rogue invention, unlike anything I’ve had played against. It played four out of the five gearhulks.  I’m unsure if the losses were just poor decision making on my part, great play from my opponent, or if the matchup is really that bad.  If I see this deck more often at the local metagame, I’ll have to adapt the list to it but I really hate making snap judgments based on one bad matchup. I ended the event at 2-2, still made Top 8, got my promos and opened ridiculous value in my prize packs.

Analysis

Looking back on this past weekend, I believe I made the call that I thought was best for Game Day based on the information I had in front of me. It turned out to be the wrong choice as my previous deck had favorable matchups against all the decks in the small Game Day field. I tried to be cute and anticipate the metagame in a small event and decided to not play the stronger of the decks. Sometimes the best choice is to ignore speculative situations and just play the stronger deck.  I did, however, have a great time this weekend. Game Day weekends are some of the few times I get to play multiple events throughout a weekend.

I am currently working on a budget tribal deck for Standard and should be posting something on it next week.  After that list is flushed out and refined a bit more I’ll post that list along with the two finalized lists from this article.  I’ll leave it up to a readers poll to decide which of the three standecks gets made into videos.

Feel free to drop me a note in the comments and let me know how your Game Day went.

Yours,
Strictly

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Jeremy aka “Strictly Average” is an ‘average’ guy with ‘average’ plans. He is the creator and overboss of Strictly Average Gaming, which includes the Patreon group and StrictlyAverageMTG.com

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