For PT Journey into Nyx, our plan was to split Team Revolution into two before meeting in Atlanta a week before the Pro Tour to gather our thoughts and ideas and come up with the best deck.

PT Theros Finalist Pierre Dagen, PT Theros Champion Jérémy Dezani, PT Nagoya semi-finalist Elie Pichon, GP Paris Top 8 Loïc Le Briand, WMC teammate Yann Guthmann, PT Yokohama winner Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, three-time GP Champion and very motivated Trey Van Cleave who made it all the way to Europe to test with us, and I met in Warsaw the week before the GP to draft and start building decks.

The initial decks we had were Monoblack Aggro, Monored Aggro, Naya, Esper, and BUG. We tested all the decks against each other, and the BUG deck seemed to come out on top, but we thought we could work with that to find something better. Somehow, we were not convinced by the deck, and we also thought everyone would have that deck since it packed three of the best threats in the format: Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, Prognostic Sphinx, and Reaper of the Wild.

Thrown around in the gauntlet, we had Monogreen Devotion and Monoblue Devotion. Nothing really amazing there, but there were a few cards I really wanted to try, and maybe tweak the monoblue deck into something else. These cards were Hour of Need, Daring Thief and Battlefield Thaumaturge. I liked the possible interaction between Hour of Need and Elemental Tokens from Master of Waves. Also, trading the tokens for better creatures your opponent had would also be a good deal for you. But for that, you needed fast mana, and a way to enable the Thief. So I added Springleaf Drums to the mix.

But hey, if you have drums, you want black and Pain Seers. Oh yeah, these guys are good too. But adding Pain Seers means less blue, so Master of Waves wouldn't be so impressive. Alright, no more Masters, let's add some inspired cards like Disciple of Deceit and a toolbox. And of course we're adding Triton Tactics! We found out that a turn one Springleaf Drum into a turn two Pain Seer that you could protect with a Triton Tactics was a sick play. We also wanted to be able to trade stuff on the turn we played Daring Thief.

The toolbox cards we thought of were Boon of Erebos, Crypsis, Retraction Helix, Bile Blight, Drown in Sorrow, Hour of Need (became a one-of, and Thaumaturge got the boot), Hero's Downfall, and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver.

We added one King Macar, the Gold-Cursed, because... you know, he could be good in an inspired deck. But it was four mana, so that was bothering us with Pain Seers.

Early in the testing, we thought there was something to be found with that mechanics. The deck was fine, but it took forever to win, and you were never really safe. Some decks would scoop to Daring Thief or to one King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (we quickly added two of them). We weren't impressed with Ashiok as a one-of, even though it allowed to trade for an opposing planeswalker.

So we kept brewing. One night, we asked the question: What could help the deck win faster, and that doesn't cost too much? I left for five minutes. When I got back, I looked at Wafo and said: I think I have it. He said: me too. You first. No, you first. Ok, at the same time. 1,2,3 (Wafo and I together): "PLAY FOUR ASHIOK!" What followed was an incredible scene of Guillaume and me jumping in each other's arms with joy, cheering loud at our genius idea.

Well, it didn't quite happen that way, but we did find that the deck needed four Ashiok, Nightmare Weavers. They would provide flesh to trade with Daring Thief, and a planeswalker to trade for Elspeths, while still being the threat midrange decks dread and without going too much "off course" with the deck.

From then on, Trey and I worked on the deck non-stop, trying to find the right one-ofs to look for.

We then left to Atlanta, where we would meet the rest of the team: Melissa DeTora, Vidianto Wijaya, and the Italians, Samuele Estratti and Emmanuele Giusti.

They all kinda liked the deck, but it was still missing something. Trey was very confident and we started to draw sideboard plans. We wanted Prognostic Sphinxes in the sideboard to bring in against Midrange and Control. In fact, it was coming in against most matchups. But we were reluctant to bring it in main because of Pain Seer...

A few days before the Pro Tour, Jérémy decided that he would look seriously into it. With his fresh new look at the deck he said: "Take out all the crappy 1/3s that don't do anything (the Disciple of Deceit), all the one-of's, and replace them with real cards." So he added Prognostic Sphinxes main and a few Hero's Downfalls.

The deck finally looked like a real contender in the format. After a few more hours of brewing, testing and tweaking, this is the list we ended up with:


DECKID=1200617

The deck is trying to control the game, sometimes by "hardlocking" your opponent and attacking from very different angles. It uses your opponent's threats against them, using the inspired mechanic in the process.


The Creatures:

4 Pain Seer
4 Daring Thief
2 King Macar, the Gold-Cursed

These inspired creatures provide card advantage and a way to control the game with undercosted cards.

The Pain Seer does something only a few cards in the format do. If you are the control/midrange player, you want to have a drawing engine. When we tried UB control, we saw that it had problem sustaining resources when the game was starting to last. Divinations and Fonts of Fortune don't quite do it, so it had to come from somewhere else. Along with Springleaf Drum, Pain Seer can start drawing you an extra card a turn from turn three if not dealt with. The life loss is usually irrelevant, except against aggro decks. The metagame may vary depending on the tournament you play in, but the upcoming GP might just be all midrange with decks from the PT Top 8, and in that case, you won't mind losing life. Having five-drops in the deck might stop you from drawing after a while as you don't want to take the risk yourself by revealing a Sphinx or a Macar, but in these situations, you can always scry with either Temple of Deceit, Omenspeaker or even Prognostic Sphinx to make sure you don't hit something too big.

Daring Thief is the reason why I wanted to play the deck in the first place. When I asked around for cards, people said they looked at the card before packing their stuff for the trip and said "naaah, probably not worth taking, no one's ever gonna play that." This card is amazing. The 2/3 body might not be super impressive, but it survives a Magma Jet, can block a Courser of Kruphix without dying, and also attacks into one without dying. It will attack if it needs to be tapped (or just to Deal Damage) or get tapped for mana with a drum. It's very hard to play around it, especially when you can switch control at instant speed thanks to Triton Tactics. It's an answer to almost every threat in the format, Planeswalkers and even Prognostic Sphinx: you can trade your Ashiok for an Elspeth, which usually will take care of your old Ashiok, and Prognostic Sphinx just isn't as good if its controller needs to discard a card every turn to keep it on his side of the table.

King Macar is the other house of the deck. Just like Daring Thief, a 2/3 body is pretty much what you need for it to survive long enough to do his deeds. Sure, an extra point of toughness would have been nice to dodge Lightning Strike and Bile Blight, but you have Triton Tactics to save them from that anyway. Once in play, and if not dealt with, it becomes really hard for your opponent to kill you with creatures. Just like Daring Thief, it's a nightmare to protect your Sphinx against it. It makes quick work of all the green guys such as Polis Crusher and Polukranos which don't have any kind of protection against it. The Gold provided by his cursed touch will actually be relevant. When you get to steal cards (with Daring Thief of Ashiok), you sometimes want to use their ability as well. Your Swamps and Islands don't always provide the right colors, and along with the colored mana you get from Springleaf Drum, you'll be reliably able to activate abilities such as: monstrosity of Polukranos, Polis Crusher, Stormbreath Dragon, Fleecemane Lion, giving hexproof a Reaper of the Wild, activating an Underworld Coinsmith...

4 Omenspeaker
3 Brain Maggot

The deck needs cheap creatures to play the drum early in the game and to give away for something better. You can't really trade your Daring Thief or your Macar away, you need to make the deal as unfair as possible. Swapping a 1/3 with no abilities is the best you could do.

I personally love Omenspeaker. With so few lands in your deck (22), you need to be able to dig for them. The three toughness blocks Courser of Kruphix and all the one-drops from Monoblack and Monored decks. It gives you ways to make sure you choose your draws for Pain Seer. I don't think there's a two-drop that fits the deck better than Omenspeaker.

Brain Maggot is a creature you are less happy to trade as it will be banging on your defense as soon as it joins the opponent's side. You'll block it whenever it's necessary but you'll be freeing the card it's been keeping captive. Usually, not a big deal, but it can definitely be an issue in some games. The main purpose of the Maggot is to protect your team by providing some disruption and allowing you to look at your opponent's hand (and take one card away for a bit).

3 Prognostic Sphinx

Early in the testings, we identified Prognostic Sphinx to be the threat of the format. It was only late in the deckbuilding process that it joined the ranks of the gangster mob. Some decks just can't deal with that guy. It's a resilient way to attack for three, attack planeswalkers, and give you a business draw every turn. Definitely worth the risk of taking five with Pain Seer.


The Tricks:

4 Springleaf Drum
4 Triton Tactics

Both of these cards help the Inspire mechanic.

Springleaf Drum is the "Mox" of the format. All Midrange decks need a way to provide mana from something else than lands or just to ramp. All the green-based decks have access to Sylvan Caryatid; GTA has access to Springleaf Drum. It allows you to play a lower number of lands, enables your Inspire creatures on the turn after you cast them (or on the same turn if you have Triton Tactics). It fixes your mana in case you only have black or blue (Pain Seer would give you blue mana, an Omenspeaker would give you black). Being able to play a Prognostic Sphinx on turn four is also nice.

Triton Tactics is the trick of the deck. While it might seem cute, it does a lot of different things: it untaps your inspired creatures, allows you to trigger them the turn you play them, protects them from Bile Blight, Anger of the Gods and all red direct damage spells, buys you a lot of time against aggressive decks when you block...


The Planeswalker:

4 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Ashiok is the main threat of the format. You can't play a deck that doesn't have at least four ways to kill it if you're not running creatures to attack it. That's one of the reasons most midrange and control deck play a combination of Banishing Light and Hero's Downfall. He will provide you with your opponent's creatures that you can eventually trade for bigger creatures.

It also helps you setting up the hardlock against green decks. Along with Brain Maggots that make you see your opponent's hand and Courser of Kruphix played on the other side of the table, you can control your opponent's draws. Make sure you use Ashiok wisely. Let them draw their blanks and "Time Walk" them. If they are about to draw a business spell, mill them. If even after you mill them once, there's another business spell on top and if you have another Ashiok in hand, remember you can play it, get rid of your first Ashiok and mill again.


Matchups

The week prior the Pro Tour, lists started to appear from Magic Online Daily Events. Lots of MonoBlack, lots of very aggressive decks. But it seemed that these decks were losing to the midrange decks. So we thought, players at the Pro Tour will want to have an edge against aggro and will work their way to win the midrange matchup. The plan was to feed on these strategies as the deck wasn't performing as well against Midrange as it was against super aggressive strategies. Monoblack is probably the only bad matchup, UW heroic might just be a coin flip, while pretty much all the Midrange decks are favorable.

Vs. Naya

-3 Brain Maggot
-1 Bile Blight

+2 Thoughtseize
+1 Prognostic Sphinx
+1 Dissolve

This Matchup is very favorable. It doesn't mean you can't lose, but GTA is built to beat Naya Midrange. You easily take care of their threats while attacking from different angles. They have to kill your creatures - Pain Seers, Daring Thieves and Macar - if they want to be anywhere in the game, and except against Banishing Light, Triton Tactics can save them. You can steal pretty much all their threats, including Elspeth, so they have to be extremely careful, and that often leads to mistakes from them. Your nut draw will work perfectly against them:

Turn 1: Land+Drum.
Turn 2: Pain Seer. Tap Pain Seer and Drum, play Triton Tactics on Pain Seer to protect it from Lightning Strike or Magma Jet. Draw a card.

At the Pro Tour, people didn't see that one coming, and it felt goooood. You might want to board in an extra Thoughtseize on the draw. Purphoros and his Hammer are really the only things you should be really worried about.

Vs. Junk Constellation

-4 Triton Tactics
-3 Brain Maggots
-1 Bile Blight
-1 Omenspeaker

+2 Annul
+1 Prognostic Sphinx
+1 Dissolve
+2 Feast of Dreams
+3 Thoughtseize

This matchup is a little trickier, and when you lose it, it feels like you were so far behind and that the matchup is terrible. It's really not. The only thing you have to keep in check is Eidolon of Blossoms. Sometimes they play more creatures like Brain Maggot and Underworld Coinsmith and in that case, you want to keep your Bile Blight and even add one extra. You take out your own Brain Maggots because they just die to a Doomwake Giant, which isn't that big of a deal otherwise.

Vs. Junk Reanimator

-4 Triton Tactics
-1 Bile Blight
-2 Omenspeaker

+2 Annul
+1 Dissolve
+1 Prognostic Sphinx
+3 Thoughtseize

One of you best matchups as well. It gets very grindy, but you always come out on top.

Vs. Monored

-4 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
-1 Springleaf Drum
-1 Prognostic Sphinx

+2 Annul
+2 Feast of Dreams
+2 Bile Blight

This aggressive deck is nowhere as big a problem as Monoblack. Omenspeaker nets you at least a trick from their part if they want to kill it. The only threat you have to worry about it Flamespeaker Shaman.

Sometimes they board in the "Big Red" version with Flame-Wreathed Phoenix, but that version doesn't perform very well against you.

Vs. UW Heroic

-4 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
-3 Prognostic Sphinx

+2 Annul
+2 Bile Blight
+2 Feast of Dreams
+1 Thoughtseize

This matchup is mostly about God's Willing and your draw, at least in game one. Manage to deal with their lethal threat and you'll win. Stumbling on lands or on a color and you won't have a chance. After board, you want to board in as many removal spells as possible and control the board with either Macar or Daring Thief. Ashiok doesn't do much at all; the creatures you'll get won't help you defend yourself and you don't want to spend a turn casting it. Prognostic Sphinx doesn't block either and the fact that it costs five really is a problem in this matchup. Since they won't be killing your Pain Seers, you want to draw from them as much as possible, hitting a five-drop can cost you a turn and the game.

Vs. Monoblack

-4 Triton Tactics
-1 Prognostic Sphinx
-4 Springleaf Drums
-1 Daring Thief

+4 Dark Betrayal
+2 Feast of Dreams
+2 Bile Blight
+2 Annul

This matchup is tough. They kill your creatures and have a ton of pressure on the board. It gets a little better after board when you have 8+2 more spot removals. You have to manage your life total as tightly as possible and play around Herald of Torment and Mogis's Marauder almost all the time.

Vs. BUG

-4 Triton Tactics
-1 Bile Blight

+3 Thoughtseize
+1 Prognostic Sphinx
+1 Dissolve

Pretty much like Naya, it feels the matchup is favorable as they have to deal with most of your threats. Daring Thief and Macar are great answers to Prognostic Sphinx, and you love it when you can see what they draw.

I finished 22nd at the PT, posting an 8-2 record with the deck, playing against:
Monored, Junk Constellation, BUG twice, Naya twice, BG Constellation, UW Heroic twice (losing once) and Monoblack (losing that one).

I really loved playing the deck and would play the same list if I had to play the PT again. Five of my teammates decided to play the deck as well: Jérémy, Melissa, Elie, Vidi and Trey. Trey went 7-3 and Elie 6-4.

If you're planning to go to GP Manchester, it's definitely a deck you should look into. However, don't pick it up a day before the tournament; it's very, very hard to play. There are a ton of interactions and subtle plays that won't come naturally (the Ashiok activations for example). For now it seems the deck isn't viable in standard. Adding a third color (green?) with the help of dual lands might make it viable though. I haven't given it much thought yet, but I'm sure you will! But as soon as the format rotates, we might see it around.

I'd like to thank all the team for the hard work, including Trey for believing in the deck from the beginning and working hard on it and on the sideboard.

I'll be going home after GP Atlanta and I'll try to stream a daily or two with this deck, so if you haven't followed me yet, and want to see some GTA in action, do it now!

www.twitch.tv/raphaellevy

Cheers!

Raph

Facebook: www.facebook.com/raphael.levy.mtg
Twitter: @Hahamoud