If you were to come and find me in the week following basically any Pro Tour I have ever played in, and then proceeded to ask me for lists, brews, that just weren't quite there, I could sit down with you for days recounting ideas, synergies, combos, and mana bases. When you are a deck builder, ideas that don't quite make it are a part of what you need to deal with. Those that can't seem to accept this tend to baby their decks and force bad creations into existence. If you can step back and realize that some of, most of, your ideas are not going to work, the entire process is a lot more enjoyable for everyone.
That said, there are many reasons why a deck might not be in the right shape to be played at a Pro Tour and they are not necessarily someone's fault. Sometimes, sure, someone misses a card or series of cards that would have made the deck work awesomely and you realize this when some other team shows up to the tournament playing that deck. But sometimes, it is not always a missed card that keeps a deck from performing.
Pro Tours are very much a concentration of energy. You have many people joining together with a common goal. This means that as a Pro Tour approaches, you have these intense playtesting sessions in which all sorts of information and ideas are being thrown around, essentially freely. During this time, there needs to be a high turnover rate regarding deck ideas because if the team spends a little too long focusing on one deck that ends up not being good enough, all of that time can come back to bite them in the butt when they run out of it on their chosen deck in those final hours.
Because of this, if a deck is chosen as a project by someone and they spend some amount of time looking into that deck, at the end of that time, however long it is, you need to trust in that person's ability to determine the potential of the deck. Even if the deck was potentially very good, if that person comes back and says, "Yea, it has a lot of potential but I don't think we can get it into shape in time for the Pro Tour," that is something to be celebrated, not condemned.
They have weighed the time and risks that are involved with moving in on a project of that strength and have determined the project to not be a good use of the team's time. Perhaps after the tournament, that deck might be the best deck, once the masses have a much larger amount of time making sure the deck is up to speed.
The deck I wanted to talk about today could be one of those decks. It has a lot of things going for it that we were really sold on being important at Pro Tour Born of the Gods:
1- Be Proactive: This format has a lot of things going on in it and for something like a Pro Tour, it can be very difficult to isolate exactly what will be played and what won't. If you manage to brew up something that has a very strong and robust proactive plan of action, you can ignore a lot of the areas of interaction that you would have otherwise needed to correctly predict.
2- Be Filthy: Modern is a very unforgiving format. Remember that as you see all sorts of combo decks attempt to do degenerate things, there is always old faithful in Splinter Twin pacing behind you. The standard for combo decks in the format is a hyper consistent turn four victory deck. That is a tough bar to surpass. If you are going to be proactive then, it is nice to have something filthy that you can do on occasion. Turn two wins or turn one Blood Moons are examples of things that your deck might not be relying on, but it will occasionally generate you a free win anyway. You need to be lucky to win a tournament, after all.
3- Dodge the common hate: In other words, splash damage is bad. If you played a deck that was very weak to Lightning Bolt at this Pro Tour, for example, you probably played a bad deck as it was going to be the most popular card in the room. The brew that follows had some ways around this point, but sweepers were still extremely effective at hindering any good draws you might have.
I honestly did not think I would ever talk about this deck, as it was just going to be swept under the rug like most failed brews. During my 15 hour stream the other day, however, a ton of people seemed interested in the list, so I figured I would go ahead and discuss it a little further. So that you have an idea with what we are working with here, here is the list:
The deck sort of combines an aggro deck with a combo deck, if that makes sense. All of the damage you deal prior to the turn you are going off will just help that much more as you are just trying to count to 20 with this list every time. The deck is centered around a single goal and then breaks down into a few distinct categories of cards.
You are trying to generate a moderate mana and storm count while expanding your creature count. This means we want creatures that do as many of these things as possible. In the list you will find things that put multiple guys into play, creatures that generate mana, and creatures that win the game. Pretty simple.
To get to that point, the deck has a few subthemes that it draws from. Basically, everything in the deck falls into one of the following categories:
The artifacts section is actually the place where I think the most room for improvement lies. The artifacts in this deck serve to accomplish to things. First: they look to turn on Mox Opal to help with additional fast mana. More importantly, they enable Kuldotha Rebirth which is one of our most powerful cards in this context.
It is possible that we could lower our reliance on artifacts by cutting moxes, but they allow for explosive draws and we need to be playing some artifacts for the Rebirths regardless.
I began the list with 16 artifacts because I could think of four that made sense or were free. Signal Pest, Memnite, Mox Opal, and Darksteel Citadel all worked, but I wanted a few more to make sure that engine worked. As of now, a lone Ornithopter has been added to the list, but we may want to go even further with additional copies of the 0/2 flyer, or a card like Springleaf Drum, which was pulling Mox duty well before Mox Opal was even a card. If we managed to get the artifact count to around 20 or so, that would probably work fine.
One issue here is that Springleaf Drum goes down in effectiveness with the less 0 cost guys you have. That means that while I initially wanted to cut a land, an Ornithopter, and probably a couple of two-drops in place of four copies of Drum, I wonder how weak it would be with only Memnite to fuel explosive turn ones. Perhaps a mix of Thopters and Springleaf Drum is best.
Hopefully by now you can see how these categories bleed together in areas. Some of our artifacts provide mana themselves, putting them into both camps. As we move to mana then, we really need only talk about the low number of lands and then Simian Spirit Guide.
Because this deck operates in a fashion where it both lacks card advantage and/or selection and is trying to piece together a storm win, spell density is very important. This means that we need as few mana sources as possible in the deck and wherever possible we want to make those mana sources into cards that do additional things. Mox Opal is great example of this, accelerating you and counting as a spell while still being effectively a land. Simian Spirit Guide is an extension of this as well, providing acceleration for turns in which you need an additional mana, while also being a reasonable card to just cast in this, due to Haze of Rage and Battle Cry.
Burning-Tree Emissary is a little unique in that he is not gaining us any mana, but he does provide a free body for our storm count and for explosive Goblin Bushwhacker turns. The green mana would help with sideboard options, such as Ancient Grudge.
Our mana flows into our creatures which is a vital part of this deck. The deck can certainly be built in such a way that other creature types are viable, but this particular list really rewards Goblins due to Quest for the Goblin King, which we will discuss later. As a result of that, only the absolute best creatures at filling other roles were included and in all other cases, when there was a tie, I went with the Goblin.
The list heavily leans on its cards that produce multiple goblins though. Both Kuldotha Rebirth and Mogg War Marshal get you three counters on the Quest while Dragon Fodder and Command fill in the gap with two more counters. Bushwhacker helps out a bit by adding one to the count whenever you wish to pay for your War Marshal or whenever you draw two copies of the card. That said, the goblin count could be even more dense if we wanted to explore that.
Before we get to that though, let us move from Goblin Bushwhacker to our other anthem effects. We have talked about how to get Quest to trigger, but it is important to point out that it boosts all of your creatures when it is active, not just goblins. That means all of those Signal Pests and Burning-Tree Emissarys still enjoy some extra power.
Haze of Rage is probably the most unique of the anthem effects though and it can do some big things in this deck. It is at its best on a big turn in which you cast three or four spells along with a Goblin Bushwhacker for haste, but it can be fine even on just the creatures you had out on turn one or two naturally. You can hit storm counts of five or six pretty regularly if you are willing to take a turn or two to sculpt them, at which point the lone Signal Pest and Mogg War Marshal you played turn into a bunch of six power creatures that end the game out of nowhere.
Oh the Possibilities...
As I said before though, that is where the list was when I decided to spend my time on projects with a higher chance of success, as the Pro Tour often means crunch time. As a result, a lot of the cards I wanted to try out never got their chance, so I wanted to at least mention them here to inspire any deck builders out there looking to enhance on this idea.
I have already mentioned cards like Springleaf Drum, which helps the deck in the direction it is already headed, but the deck could pick up a different identity. Imagine adding Goblin Wardriver, Goblin Guide, and Goblin Chieftain to this deck. Now you have basically a goblin tribal deck with some token making explosiveness. While that is certainly different, it seems like a reasonable direction nevertheless.
Goblin GuideGoblin WardriverChancellor of the ForgeEmpty the WarrensFrenzied GoblinGoblin AssaultGoblin GrenadeGoblin RallySpringleaf DrumIb Halfheart, Goblin TacticianBlinkmoth NexusInkmoth NexusBeastmaster AscensionPurphoros, God of the ForgeDevastating Summons
As for where I would start...I think that focusing on making this the best proactive deck first and foremost is important, so I would just try the various combo and aggro builds to see which supports these cards best. My next venture is to try out Empty the Warrens to have a sort of combo/aggro hybrid that can kill just as storm does but has a more robust plan B. Where would you go next?
Thanks for reading!