I wasn't too sure what I was going to end up playing this week. I wanted to go with this deck I found while I was catching up on decklists that utilized four copies of Hornet Nest and a Hornet Queen. I thought it was pretty sweet and I was all ready to call it "Bees!" but I only went about 50/50 with the list which was somewhat discouraging considering how cool it seemed.
I had also been tempted to try the new Jeskai Heroic Combo deck for about a week now, but I'll be honest: from having played against variations of the deck, and from knowing how repetitive combo decks like that operate on Magic Online, the idea of playing the deck successfully, round after round, seemed pretty miserable. Even more so since I'm not proficient with the archetype and the potential to time out is very real.
But I'm not ruling it out completely. Maybe soon.
Another archetype I wanted to try out was a list with Whip of Erebos and cards like Hornet Queen and Doomwake Giant. I always seem to lose to these strategies when they're played against me so I figured I would try one myself. With Sidisi, Brood Tyrant being one of my favorite new cards from Khans of Tarkir, I figured I might go with the Sultai version...but then the addition of Soul of Theros to the Grand Prix Santiago winning deck was too tempting to pass up.
I wasn't too used to playing this kind of deck, as I didn't play a lot of the Dredge version in the previous Standard, but it seemed strong. I was reluctant, however, as every time I had played the deck, I ended up drawing a bunch of 1/1s and not having the mana to do more than one thing per turn, which ended up being a little underwhelming. Here's hoping this excursion goes a little differently.
Abzan Reanimator vs. Abzan Reanimator
Abzan Reanimator vs. Jeskai Tempo
Abzan Reanimator vs. Sultai Reanimator
Abzan Reanimator vs. Monoblue Devotion
Funny that I decided against playing Bees because I wasn't sure it was a solid contender, and here I am with basically a losing record. I'm not sure what to say. I wasn't really sold on this archetype going into these matches and I'm not that sold coming out. As I mentioned, every time I played this list before now, it usually fell short for me. I'll admit that I could be somehow playing the deck entirely wrong, but I felt like every other deck was simply one step ahead of me, and I was surprised how often I would get stuck on mana. To be honest, I was pretty surprised this ended up winning the Grand Prix, but it has to have something going for it.
I think one think that we should take into consideration is that there are more copies of things like Doomwake Giant on Magic Online. This makes it really hard on our 1/1s that are either producing mana for us or trying to hold off opposing creatures with their deathtouch. Our deck only has five pieces of removal, and we're doing so much milling from Satyr Wayfinder and Commune with the Gods that sometimes we never hit any of it. Furthermore, a lot of decks have threats we simply have to deal with. A creature like Mantis Rider on turn three is excruciating on us, as you could see in both the Jeskai matchup as well as the Monoblue matchup where an Ensouled Ornithopter dished out a similar form of justice. I was begging for a removal spell, but without one of our ways to mill ourselves, our Murderous Cuts were simply too expensive.
The problem I felt we had was that the aggro decks were too aggressive and the other controlling decks could grind us out far more easily. Take the Sultai matchup for example. We had the game basically locked down with our opponent on essentially one life before they were able to turn it around thanks to multiple Doomwake Giants, Whip of Erebos, and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. In the other game, the three or so tokens from Sidisi, Brood Tyrant played a fairly large part as well. If I had to pinpoint a single problem with this deck, it's that it's trying to do all the things the Abzan Midrange deck is doing, but without putting all the pressure that the deck puts on. Sure, we have some haymakers, but things seemed like they had to go very right for them to see play. We had to mill the right combination of cards, we had to draw one of our three Whip of Erebos, we had to hit the correct lands and enough of them...a lot of times I simply felt like I was one card from victory, be it a land or a spell or a single damage. "If I could play two of these cards this turn, I could win," I would exclaim!
I'm not sure what can be done about these problems; after all, the deck did win a Grand Prix. I just don't think the deck has as much game in a much more wide open field, of which Magic Online most certainly is. Sorry guys, I wish I could have brought you a little more success, especially with a deck that has such a pedigree.
I've been taking a look at some Modern decklists. Maybe I'll share one with you guys on Monday since you seem to be interested despite the abundance of Treasure Cruise. Let me know in the comments and I'll see ya then!
Frank Lepore@FrankLepore on TwitterFrankLepore on TwitchTV