As a brewer going into the Pro Tour, you have more than just the responsibility of looking for a sweet deck to present to your team for further tuning and playtesting. While that is probably your biggest goal, along the way you need to make the time that you are putting in valuable in some way. What if you never break the format or find a deck that the team can get behind? Were your hours in search of that just completely wasted?
Instead, hopefully you can make that time valuable by utilizing the unique space you are exploring better.
For example, while I am looking into decks that might break the format, I like to note any obscure cards. Not cards to build around or anything of that nature, but just little utility cards and sideboard options that we might gloss over in the midnight hour while trying to perfect our 75.
Or perhaps along my Exploration I stumble upon a unique strategy. Maybe I deem that strategy to not be good enough or something and we move on. But then during the Pro Tour, what if a team member runs into that deck somewhere? Now I can give some insight into cards they might be using and what their game plan is, even though anyone focused on stock decks is not likely to be familiar with what is going on.
This actually came up in the last Modern Pro Tour when a small contingent of players showed up playing Summer Bloom combo decks. I had worked on similar lists for Pro Tour Philadelphia when Modern was brand new and also explored it during playtesting briefly. Once we knew the deck was out there, I was able to give a quick rundown to my team about what they might have and what we could do against it. It was a small edge to have, but it was an edge that many individuals and teams did not have.
Generator Servant is quite unique in that it pushes you from two mana to five mana. That is a jump that is not common, which makes things pretty awkward for the 2/1. If you want to maximize the effectiveness of the Servant, you want your deck to play a large number of five-drops that matter. That is the biggest power spike you can get from Generator Servant. However, what happens when you don't draw Servant or it dies? Now, because we were looking to maximize our power curve, we are stuck with a bunch of five-drops in our hands. That leads to a lot of inconsistency that we just can't have.
But because the mana comes in that odd amount, it is very hard to replicate the effects of Generator Servant. In fact, in all of Standard, there is only one card that does this cleanly and that is Satyr Hedonist. The two cards actually have a lot in common. With access to both 2/1 creatures, we would more consistently have opening hands with at least one of them and we could more reliably drop some five mana card on turn three.
So then what are the best options? First, we should look at a few of the criteria we have going in.
Our two enablers are red and green, this means that we can basically look to add one color to that at most. Gruul, Jund, and Naya all seem like reasonable options and RUG would make some sense, but the five-drop additions there are not that exciting.
I think Jund makes the most sense as it gives us access to Thoughtseize which seems like a pivotal spell in this deck. Not only does it protect our two mana accelerants so that we can assemble mini two-card combos, but it is also a disruptive tool should we need to play a grindier game without a fast start.
Going Jund gives us access to one of the highest payoffs for a Generator Servant as well, which is actually Master of Cruelties. Master is obviously complimented well by haste but also by coming down so early. Master is surprisingly resistant to removal with having four toughness, being black, and being two colors. On turn three, it can sneak under a Hero's Downfall when on the play and avoid Supreme Verdict if you have to Hedonist it out.
Once Master connects, the entire game changes and becomes very easy for you. There are a lot of incidental ways to deal one damage to someone while also shutting off all of your opponent's painlands, Mana Confluence, Thoughtseizes, and untapped Shocklands. That is a big advantage to hold over an opponent.
As we looked at with Generator Servant though, we should not put all of our eggs into a single basket here. What happens if we draw a Satyr Hedonist or Generator Servant and Master of Cruelties is not in our hand? We can't just be content with a 2/1 attacker and shrug our shoulders. We already have that as a worst-case scenario no matter what, so we should at least look to minimize its chances.
I looked at a lot of other five-drops and a few key six-drops to fill this slot. It was easy to only look at creatures at first, to take advantage of the Servant's haste clause of course, but spells naturally have haste. Pumping out a card like Rakdos's Return for four or five was certainly an acceptable use of a Dark Ritual. With this in mind, I was sure to note spells as well as creatures during my search. Here are some of the stand outs:
Angelic SkirmisherArchangel of ThuneArchetype of EnduranceBlood Baron of VizkopaBoonweaver GiantHornet QueenKalonian HydraKarametra, God of HarvestsMaster of CrueltiesMedomai the AgelessResolute ArchangelRuric Thar, the UnbowedScuttling Doom EngineShadowborn DemonSilence the BelieversSire of InsanitySoul of InnistradSoul of New PhyrexiaStormbreath DragonSylvan PrimordialUnderworld CerberusXenagos, God of RevelsAssemble the LegionCollective BlessingDictate of Heliod
Underworld Cerberus fit the criteria pretty well of being a strong five-drop that demanded immediate attention and powered up with haste, but was that really where we wanted to be? Cerberus was still able to be one-for-oned after sneaking in six or twelve damage and the rest of our deck was not appearing to be the kind of deck that can capitalize on that all too well. More disruptive elements made sense as they could be valuable throughout the game and in either mode that the deck could be in.
Rakdos's Return was actually the perfect example because it was what I wanted. A spell that could scale up throughout the game. It worked well with Master of Cruelties and it was both a finisher and a disruption element. Sire of Insanity did a lot of the same thing, even if it came at a slightly awkward six mana price tag. I liked both of those options to give the deck later game reach, but I still wanted another clutch five-drop that would allow me solid opening hands more often.
M15 actually delivered huge here when it was announced that Liliana Vess was back. Liliana was a five mana card that was excellent against control and reasonable against aggro due to the tutor ability. Plus, it was always relevant and boosted significantly when it could come down on turn three, backed by either of the two mana accelerants.
This would also allow me to get some excellent value out of a bit of a tutor package. Most of the cards I wanted to include had similar roles in that they are powerful late and unbeatable early, but I could diversify utility with Liliana at the heart of the deck.
With the idea that I would want a solid Jund base that consisted of removal and disruption, I decided to jam it all together. I would get free wins off of turn three Master of Cruelties, but I could also just cast the Master as an amazing defensive tool that puts a ton of pressure on any turn! Back that up with a few removal spells and planeswalkers and that seems like a fine strategy. The biggest risk in all of this is drawing late game 2/1s for two mana, but hopefully cards like Liliana and Courser keep that from being too big of an issue and the free wins they can provide you will be worth it all.
Here is where I landed before the Pro Tour:
One of the most impressive aspects to this deck was Anger of the Gods. Anger was quite strong against many of the decks in the field such as Monoblue, Green/White Aggro, and all of the Monored decks, if for nothing else than to kill Chandra's Phoenix. It also could catch Pack Rat in most cases.
More importantly though, it did not really hit our own creatures. We could safely sit behind Courser and Master of Cruelties to buy time and then clean up everything with an Anger of the Gods while keeping our guys around in the process.
The deck actually worked pretty well. I was winning from behind or from ahead and the deck had some definitive plans it wanted to execute, which made playing it fun. Ultimately though, I did not think we could get the deck tuned enough to play against as wide open a field as the Pro Tour. This deck was one that utilized a bit of a toolbox package and also had a core set of cards that restricted its mana a bit.
I think that if we had infinite time and could have thoroughly tested this against any and everything, it would have been a solid choice. Getting something that tuned is pretty unrealistic though. That said, for something like a Grand Prix, you can focus more on the proactive elements of the deck and the tuning becomes slightly less important.
It is important to remember to have enough burn in your deck to win the game after Master has connected. It is ok if you need to sweat a few draw steps, but you cannot be counting on one of your 2/1s to connect with the opponent or something like that. Lighting Strike makes a lot of sense, but is not the best removal spell. In the above list, I tried to cheat a bit and include burn on cards that were valuable on their own.
Destructive RevelryRakdos's ReturnChandra, Pyromaster
The list is not extensive, but with Liliana also acting as any one of these with a one-turn delay, ending the game is not the most difficult thing in the world. Sometimes, your Master will win the game immediately too. If you are attacking alongside another creature, the Master trigger happens before regular damage, so the unblocked Courser or Generator Servant will deal two damage to the opponent after their life has been set to one, which is handy.Wrap Up
This is a deck that I want to put some more time into because I like the concept a lot and it was actually pretty impressive. Karametra is another angle that I think fits into this shell, possibly with the Aggressive Mining package in the same list to work in the deck idea from a few weeks back. I still think Standard has a lot of room for growth and Generator Servant is one of the more powerful unexplored areas, so give it some thought! Thanks for reading!