This past weekend, along with the Pro Tour, was the TCGplayer Standard State Championships. As I was entering the event decklists into the site from all over the country, I made sure to make note of the most unique ones I found in order to try out later in video form. By far, though, the deck that stood out the most was piloted by Eric Tomasma to a Top 4 finish at his Michigan State Championship.
Take a look.
This list is actually exactly the kind I of thing I would hope to see from Battle for Zendikar. It takes advantage of the unique Retreat enchantment cycle, it plays a ton of lands, and it plays one of the coolest mythics in the form of Oblivion Sower.
But was the deck simply a fluke, or could it actually win games? Despite the fact that Eric only seemed to lose to Abzan throughout the entire day - as mentioned in the comments on the decklist itself - I was eager to see how it fared for myself. I'm sure you guys are too.
Retreat Control vs. Abzan Midrange
Retreat Control vs. Temur Ramp
Retreat Control vs. Grixis Mill
Retreat Control vs. UW Control
Yeah, the deck definitely has some power to it. The fact that you can gain two life if you need it or put a counter on a creature if you need to is great. The fact that you can make a 1/1 or pump your entire team is also awesome. One of the best parts about the deck outside of its uniqueness is definitely its versatility. Do I want to make three guys with my Blighted Woodland or do I want to Overrun my team and cause a six point life swing? The sheer amount of triggers that can accumulate can add up quickly.
The weakest of the three Retreats is definitely the Retreat to Hagra, but it still does a ton of work. You have to consider that each Retreat to Hagra will probably amount to about a 16-20 point life swing per game if played early (that's eight to ten life for each player). The odds of between eight and ten lands entering the battlefield during the course of a game - between fetch lands and things like Oblivion Sower - is pretty high.
One thing I noticed was that, despite the fact that we want to always hit a land drop, 32 lands was a little over the top. We have to look at it this way: control decks want to hit a land drop every single turn, and most have found that they can do that with around 27 lands. That's five less than this list. I think if we even cut the land count down to 28 we'll have a little more room in the deck for some more answers or cards that promote the deck's synergy.
I would also advocate a couple more powerful threats, such as the fourth Oblivion Sower or another Nissa, Vastwood Seer. Flipping Nissa is probably easier in this deck than any other deck in Standard, and she immediately gives us another land for our landfall triggers. If we have the Forests to search out, she's often 100% better than drawing a land...because she is also that. And Oblivion Sower, come on...that guy is basically the deck's central engine. While most times you'll hit about two lands with him, sometimes you'll definitely hit more. He's also an incredible 5/8 and the lands you hit could potentially be fetch lands or creature lands. What more do you want?
Herald of the Pantheon is also a fantastic card in our deck, allowing all of our Retreats to cost one less and gain us some incremental life. And you thought we had seen the last of him after Theros block rotated out of Standard. This is another odd card not to have four of, so I would definitely add the fourth.
If we did take out four lands, the additions I would make would be one Oblivion Sower, one Nissa, Vastwood Seer, one Herald of the Pantheon, and one removal spell; most likely another Ob Nixilis Reignited, a fourth Abzan Charm, an Utter End, or a Murderous Cut.
Melissa also played the deck some and made her own changes. She also removed four lands, but also took out two Abzan Charms as well. The cards she added were four Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, the fourth Oblivion Sower, and the fourth Herald of the Pantheon.
I think the best part is that both of our changes go to show that the Retreat strategy definitely has some play, and you can definitely tweak the deck with your favorite Abzan cards while still maintaining its initial strategy.
That's about it for today. I've created a public page on Facebook for all of my Magic things, so be sure and give me a like. Friend requests were getting hard to keep up with and a lot of people just wanted to keep up with my Magic content, not my personal posts. If you're looking to get updates on when I post a new video to YouTube, know when I have a new article, see when my stream goes live, or want to join in some cool discussions, be sure and give the page a "like."
I'll be back again on Monday and hopefully we can find a sweet Modern brew utilizing some Battle for Zendikar cards...Zendicards. In the meantime you can check out my podcast, Freshly Brewed, with Ali Aintrazi. You can even help us out over on our Patreon. Thanks for reading and I'll see ya soon!
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