With Pro Tour Magic Origins in Vancouver less than a week away, I've been brewing, testing, and refining all sorts of different decks. It's the final tournament of the season and I need an 11-4-1 (or maybe 11-5) finish to qualify for the World Championship. That's my goal.
Today I want to share with you three of my top brews in hopes that you play one of them in FNM tonight and report back to me in the comments how things went. Each of these three decks is competitive but in need of some final tuning. It would not surprise me if one of these three decks, or something like it, has a breakout performance in Vancouver and perhaps even wins the Pro Tour. I would like to play one of these three decks at the Pro Tour but I still haven't found the perfect build or decided which one is the best of the three. So today I'm using one of my Lifelines and asking the audience which of the three decks I should play and also what changes I should make.
I'll help you win FNM tonight if you help me qualify for the World Championship at the Pro Tour next weekend. Deal?
First up is Artifact Red:
This deck has a few different things going for it and Purphoros, God of the Forge is the lynchpin that pulls everything together. It's a really strong and synergistic deck, one of the best new innovations I've come up with so far for Origins Standard. I'm very much interested in feedback for this deck in the comments section of the article because it's a deck I'm considering for the Pro Tour next weekend.
First and foremost we are a token deck that aims to swarm the board with Thopter Tokens produced by Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Hangarback Walker, and Foundry of the Consuls. With Purphoros on the battlefield, the damage from just a few tokens can really add up quickly. For instance, let's say the opponent wiped the board with a wrath effect, leaving us with just the god. On the end step we break Foundry of the Consuls to make two Thopter Tokens, trigger Purphoros twice for four damage. Then we untap and attack, activating the +1/+0 ability of Purphoros twice. That's six more damage for ten total!
While we are primarily a token deck, we are also a devotion deck. Purphoros only needs five devotion to become a creature. That can be achieved without a whole lot of effort. For instance, any combination of two: Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh, Mardu Scout, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Embermaw Hellion, or Hammer of Purphoros turns on the god. And against wrath effects that leave us with just a Purphoros, we can untap, dash in a pair of Mardu Scouts, trigger Purphoros for four damage and make him into a creature, and attack for 12. That's 16 total points of damage immediately following a wrath!
In addition to being a token/devotion deck, we also have some individual card synergies. For instance, due to our high density of artifacts, Shrapnel Blast acts as a powerful finisher or a reasonable answer to Siege Rhino, especially if you are sacrificing a Hangarback Walker.
In addition to Shrapnel Blast wanting artifacts to sacrifice, so does Pia and Kiran Nalaar. Hangarback Walker is a great artifact to sacrifice for this purpose as well, especially since it dies and produces more artifact Thopter Tokens to fuel further activations from Pia and Kiran Nalaar.
Embermaw Hellion also has some nice synergies. Purphoros deals three damage instead of two when a creature enters the battlefield, including Embermaw Hellion. Eat your heart out Siege Rhino! Speaking of which, it also allows Stoke the Flames to take down a Rhino straight up. And when you tap Chandra she deals two damage instead of just one. Magma Spray out of the board also becomes a straight up answer to Deathmist Raptor and Wild Slash gets upgraded to Lightning Bolt. How's that taste, Mantis Rider!! Oh, and just for good measure, when we Act of Treason your Dragonlord Atarka, you're taking nine instead of eight there, champ!
The last few slots in the deck were rounded out with a pair of one-drop dash creatures. Dash works great with Purphoros because you keep triggering the two damage ability of the god. It's possible that two more copies of Embermaw Hellion would be better, but the first copy of each of these two dash creatures is worth significantly more than the second copy. The question is just whether having the extra hellions is worth even more? Testing is inconclusive on this point thus far.
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Why are you looking at me like that?
Is Monored not Craig Wescoe enough for you?
Ok fine, here's my green/white deck:
The two key cards in the deck are Herald of the Pantheon and Eidolon of Blossoms. Herald makes our cards cost less and Eidolon gives us a steady stream of cards to cast. Eight of our enchantments also have bestow (Boon Satyr and Eidolon of Countless Battles), which makes Hero of Iroas a strong second turn play. We really never want to draw more than one Hero though, so I only run two copies. Between four Herald of the Pantheon, four Elvish Mystic, and two Hero of Iroas, we're essentially always going to start applying pressure to the board by the second turn.
In the midgame our primary plan is to bestow whatever creature we have on the board and start smashing for damage. The Backup Plan is to play Eidolon of Blossoms and set up our card draw engine. Then in the later stages of the midgame we use Den Protector to buy back a key removal spell or one of the two bestow creatures so we can bestow it on the Den Protector and attack unblocked with our large Den Protector.
Between Courser of Kruphix, Eidolon of Blossoms, and Den Protector, this deck has a lot of Staying Power. It can apply a lot of pressure in a hurry, but has excellent ability to Rebuild in an attrition war or finish the game against a deck trying to set up long game inevitability.
The removal spells are also quite versatile. Dromoka's Command and Valorous Stance can be regrown with Den Protector while Banishing Light can draw a card off Eidolon of Blossoms.
Fleecemane Lion is the one card that I keep thinking should be in the deck. It's a great creature to bestow, especially after it's monstrous, and it pressures the opponent hard. It's possible that it's better than Hero of Iroas, but Hero is a much better tempo play when our plan is to bestow. I'm not 100% sure which is better yet, but I know it's close.
Citadel Siege is another card I keep wanting to move into the maindeck. It's possible that it's better than Banishing Light for the maindeck. If we end up replacing Hero of Iroas with Fleecemane Lion, then it may be better than Eidolon of Countless Battles. It's also not out of the question to run it over Eidolon of Blossoms and just go a more all-out aggressive plan rather than trying to play the grind game.
This deck requires a bit more tuning still than the Artifact Red deck, but there is definitely potential here and I'm interested in hearing feedback for this deck in the comments as well.
. . .
I just gave you an interactive Green/White deck that attacks.
Is that still not the Craig Wescoe you were looking for?
. . .
Alright, I didn't want it to have to come to this but you've given me no other choice.
I'm really getting sick of this whole 'white weenie guy' label! I won a Pro Tour with a green/white deck, not monowhite weenie, and I made Top 16 at the final Pro Tour of last season with yet another green/white deck. I played blue/white to a Top 8 finish at Worlds 2011, then played red/white to a fifth place finish at Worlds 2013. Just because my first big finish was a Top 4 at Pro Tour San Diego 2010 with a monowhite weenie deck filled with little white creatures and crappy equipment doesn't mean you should always expect me to build you a killer monowhite weenie deck filled with creatures and equipment no one else plays. I'm a pro player for crying out loud! Do you not remember that Ojutai Bant deck I built and played to a tenth place finish at the last Pro Tour? Was that a white weenie deck?
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Ok fine, I was bluffing, here's my monowhite soldiers deck:
Preeminent Captain is the key card in the deck. He can put any creature onto the battlefield tapped and attacking. This works especially well with the renowned mechanic because renown triggers upon dealing damage. The best creature to put onto the battlefield with Preeminent Captain is Kytheon's Irregulars. Not only do the Irregulars provide a large body, but they also have renown, making them even bigger for late combat steps. The biggest advantage they provide, however, is the tap ability. By paying WW you can tap any blocker. That means if you play a third turn Preeminent Captain, on your fourth turn you can play a fourth Plains, attack with the Captain, trigger to put Kytheon's Irregulars onto the battlefield tapped and attacking, then four mana to tap both opposing blockers to get both your creatures in safely. Or what is more likely is that you tap their one blocker and then play another creature with the two mana left over.
Consul's Lieutenant is another great card for the deck. Once you trigger renown, it starts pumping all your creatures each combat. Just remember to stack your Brimaz, King of Oreskos triggers such that the Cat Token enters first and then receives the +1/+1 bonus from the Lieutenant. Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit can also pump all your creatures if you play it first.
Relic Seeker can only find Hero's Blade, but the blade can instantly snap onto Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, or Kytheon, Hero of Akroas. And it is not uncommon to pay four mana to put it on another creature when you run out of other things to do or when doing so makes combat extremely difficult for the opponent.
Behind Preeminent Captain, Abzan Falconer is the second most important card in the deck. Most of the creatures in the deck gain +1/+1 counters in some way or another. The Falconer can tap to add a counter to himself, Consul's Lieutenant has renown, Relic Seeker has renown, Kytheon's Irregulars have renown, and Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit puts counters on everyone else. Ajani Steadfast can -2 to add a counter to everyone. Abzan Falconer granting flying to our team is a great way to beat green midrange decks that attempt to clog up the ground.
The biggest directional decision with this deck is whether to run Relic Seeker or Raise the Alarm. If we run Raise the Alarm then we can also run Obelisk of Urd instead of Hero's Blade. It has less synergy with Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit but may still be more powerful overall. If Obelisk of Urd proves not to be the right card, we could run Citadel Siege or Wingmate Roc instead, each of which works with The General game plan of the deck. I'm also not convinced that zero maindeck removal spells is optimal, but we have lots of pump spells, Abzan Falconer to fly over blockers, and Kytheon's Irregulars to tap down blockers, so "zero removal" is actually not as crazy as it sounds.
Hixus, Prison Warder is our best answer to Stormbreath Dragon, especially since it's a 4/4 soldier that can beat down hard with Preeminent Captain when on the offense and a great card to flash onto the battlefield on defense. It also immediately picks up Hero's Blade whether attacking, defending, or simply entering on the opponent's end step. If we cut Relic Seeker and Hero's Blade, his value drops a little, along with all the other legends. Celestial Flare is our other answer to the dragon.
Here's my short list of maindeck / sideboard Considerations for the Soldier deck:
Glare of Heresy
Obelisk of Urd
High Sentinels of Arashin
Mastery of the Unseen
Heliod, God of the Sun
Dictate of Heliod
Spear of Heliod
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Foundry of the Consuls
I doubt that cutting Abzan Falconer is correct, but if that happens then Ajani Steadfast becomes worse than other anthem effects that grant a static bonus instead of +1/+1 counters (e.g. Obelisk of Urd, Spear of Heliod, or Dictate of Heliod). High Sentinels of Arashin also goes up in value since flying is no longer redundant. Again, I doubt it is correct to cut Abzan Falconer, but if you decide to go in that direction, I would consider also cutting Ajani for a different anthem.
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx could also be a reasonable way to power out Obelisk of Urd and Elspeth Sun's Champion if we want to go slightly bigger. Foundry of the Consuls, in contrast, could grant us better Staying Power instead of acceleration, but only if our anthem effect is Spear of Heliod or Dictate of Heliod since thopters won't get a bonus from Obelisk of Urd on soldiers. If we do go this route, then Heliod, God of the Sun is also an option.
As you can see, there are a few different directions to go with this deck. Just like with the previous two decks, I'm still working out the details about which finishing touches are best. If you have any input, I'm open to suggestions.
Help Me Qualify for the World Championship
Here's where I'm asking you to do me a favor. Writing this article felt very much like the article I wrote just prior to Pro Tour Gatecrash where I offered the three brews from my testing that outperformed all my other brews. They each were in need of some fine tuning and the discussions in the comments section were extremely helpful. Readers essentially told me to change my Aristocrats deck to look like what ended up winning the Pro Tour in the hands of Tom Martell. I wish I had listened and played it. Instead I played Jeskai and went 0-5. With your help, hopefully we don't repeat that mistake.
Then again, I won the following Pro Tour...
Nevertheless, the favor I'm asking from you is to play one of these three decks in FNM tonight and then report back in the comments section of this article with how you did, what you learned, which cards over- or under-performed, which cards/decks gave you problems, and anything you think I might find useful in my final week of preparation leading up to the Pro Tour. Also feel free to make changes to the deck you choose, especially if card availability is an issue. Anything helps.
I need approximately a Top 25 finish at Pro Tour Vancouver to qualify for this year's World Champion. Vancouver is the final tournament of the year, so it's my Last Chance and I'm currently close but on the outside looking in. If you want to help me achieve this goal, please do me a favor and play one of these three decks at FNM tonight and report back with what you find.
Craig Wescoe'The white weenie guy'@Nacatls4Life on twitter