Agent Of Dates & Rotisserie Part 2

Four-time SCG Open Top 4 competitor Jim Davis talks about a deck he’s been brewing for the new Standard format and updates you on his Cube rotisserie draft!

Agent Of Dates

So this is life. You’re a badass human assassin, death to anyone who dare fight you, and have a cool cloak and a bunch of floating knives. Life seems like it’s pretty sweet, but even after all the creatures you’ve made sacrificial lambs of and tons of purple floating glow crap, things sure can get lonely. You’ve hooked up with a few alright auras, but it sure has been an ordeal to find someone special. But, god’s willing, there’s a new batch of potential dates in town; hopefully you’ll get bestowed with a connection that heralds in a new age of countless delights.

This deck, which I like to call "Agent of Dates," has a lot of new cards in it and is really looking to maximize two very powerful bestow cards from the new set. The only seriously playable bestow card in Theros was Boon Satyr, and while it has proven to be a solid role player, I think both of these cards are much more powerful:

Bestow is fantastic because of its ability to create both card advantage and tempo—sometimes one spear isn’t enough. Yet unlike very persistent cards like Thragtusk, Kitchen Finks, and Strangleroot Geist that do an excellent job of refusing to die, bestow creatures provide an immediate and powerful effect on the board.

Oftentimes the best way to deal with Kitchen Finks or Strangleroot Geist was simply to ignore it, take the two or three damage a turn, and go over the top. It’s going to be very difficult to go over the top of the 6/6 flying monster that Herald of Torment creates or the huge ground threat that Eidolon of Countless Battles presents. Being able to play them as Auras also gives them a very haste-like feel, which further adds to the pressure. Then once dealt with both leave significant threats behind to continue the beatings.

Bestow is so good that we are even willing to overpay for it a little bit because we plan on going in so deep. Neither Hopeful Eidolon nor Spiteful Returned is nearly as good as our marquee bestowers, but they are going to do the jobs we ask them to do. As creatures they are enchantments, which is going to be important, and as Auras they target, which is also going to be important. Each serves a purpose against different decks, with Hopeful Eidolon being good against any sort of creature deck and Spiteful Returned being surprisingly effective against any control deck.

This pair is the backbone of the deck. Anyone who has played with or against Agent of the Fates in Limited knows that the card is extremely difficult to beat if you can’t kill it immediately. Before Born of the Gods, most of the cards you could target it with were only playable in Limited. Now we have eight fantastic bestow creatures that curve very nicely with it along with a few other bestowers and some more goodies to bring it all together.

Hero of Iroas provides you with your other ideal bestow target and also does some heavy lifting by decreasing the bestow cost of all of your bestow creatures. This is important because it takes them from playable to very efficient—if we were using Hero of Iroas to bring these costs from "too high" to "playable," the deck would fall apart. But he is here simply to give us a good target and to make our curve even better. Turn 2 Hero of Iroas, turn 3 bestow Eidolon of Countless Battles, turn 4 bestow Herald of Torment is a hell of a curve.

Here we see the last of the synergistic part of the deck. Ethereal Armor has seen quite a bit of play in both Pauper and Modern. All it asks is that you play a bunch of enchantments, and lucky for us not only are we playing enchantments but over half of our creatures are enchantments as well, which will lead to some rather hefty bonuses. It also provides an outstanding heroic trigger for Agent of the Fates, killing a creature for only one mana and leaving you with a huge deathtouch first striker. Spirit of the Labyrinth is just a synergistic beater that has some nice splash damage on any sort of Sphinx’s Revelation deck.

The last few cards in the deck are tried and true Standard staples. Soldier of the Pantheon is the best one-drop in the format and is a nice target for Auras since it can’t be Detention Sphered, Azorius Charmed, Abrupt Decayed, or blocked by a number of creatures. Soldier does an excellent job at filling out the low point of the curve.

Orzhov Charm is the most versatile removal spell available to us, and interestingly enough all three modes are relevant. Notice that the first mode bounces the creature and all of the Auras attached to it, which could be a good way to save your creature and Ethereal Armors or get a bunch of extra Agent of the Fates triggers.

Underworld Connections should need no introduction at this point, and the fact that it is both an Aura and an enchantment is an excellent bonus. Underworld Connections gives us a nice late game, and while there is some mild anti-synergy with it and Spirit of the Labyrinth, it’s not that hard to just draw your extra card on your opponent’s turn.

One of the most difficult things when it comes to deckbuilding in a new format is trying to find the balance between synergy and power. Is it wrong that Brimaz, King of Oreskos is not in this deck? Is not playing Thoughtseize silly? Is Orzhov Charm really the best removal spell? These are questions that I don’t have the answers for yet, but I think in a format’s early stage it’s usually best to take ideas to their extreme before dismissing them.

It’s also important to theorize what you think the format is going to look like and then figure out the best way to attack it. As of right now it looks like not much is going to usurp the pretty established metagame of Mono-Black Devotion, Mono-Blue Devotion, Sphinx’s Revelation Control, and G/R Devotion and Monsters. Our deck seems like it should have a reasonable plan against most of these decks; it’s just a matter of the power level being high enough to compete.

Against control decks, our bestow creatures will be pulling some serious weight against their removal, while Underworld Connections can help us outgas them. We also have ample sideboard options at our disposal. Against the base blue and green devotion decks, their lack of removal should allow Agent of the Fates and Ethereal Armor to run rampant.

I haven’t included a sideboard because this is a first draft, but it could have any number of these cards:

Thoughtseize Sin Collector Doom Blade Dark Betrayal Erebos, God of the Dead Pacifism Holy Mantle Gift of Orzhova

While certainly in its infancy, this deck definitely intrigues me. There’s some powerful things going on, and I’m curious to see how they will stack up against all the powerful things already going on in Standard. If nothing else, this deck is almost entirely available in Block Constructed and could be revisited there.

What do you guys think? Do we have a possible contender here? Or just a pretender that’s better off as an FNM deck?

Rotisserie Part 2

Last week we took our first look at the rotisserie draft of my Cube I’ve been running for the last few weeks, and we were about five picks deep for each player. (If you’re unsure what a rotisserie draft is, check out the previous article for the full scoop!)

I’d done a pretty good job at setting myself up for the deck I’d decided I wanted to put together before the draft had even started: G/U Lands. I was looking to assemble Strip Mine and Crucible of Worlds / Life from the Loam while taking advantage of the many powerful nonbasic lands the Cube has in conjunction with things like Lotus Cobra, Oracle of Mul Daya, Primeval Titan, and blue card draw.

One of the really interesting things about a rotisserie draft is that because you can see all the picks it’s very clear what decks are currently being drafted and what decks are not. There really shouldn’t be any overlap because then both players are clearly hurting each other’s chances in the draft. This means that once a player commits to a deck it’s pretty clear that the other players will mostly avoid it and the cards that are specific to it. After I made my first five picks, things were going rather well:

Strip Mine Fastbond Upheaval Lotus Cobra Primeval Titan

It seemed pretty clear that I was not going to be taking Tolarian Academy, Dark Ritual, or Fireblast anytime soon, and likewise nobody would be taking my Crucible of Worlds anytime soon either. I decided that despite how important either Crucible of Worlds or Life from the Loam was to my strategy that both of them were so undesirable to anyone else that I could continue to pick up contested cards first. I knew I wanted a heavy mana denial component in my deck, so I picked up a Rishadan Port to go with my Strip Mine.

And once again I underestimated the man, the myth, the legend: Frank Skarren.

Frank had taken the aggressive mono-red path and seemed to have free rein of the color at this point in the draft. He then decided to be the cold, harsh voice of justice. As Frank would be wheeling two picks before I got my next one, he scooped up both the Crucible and the Life from the Loam with his next two picks.

I was floored.

However, it really was my fault. Obviously Strip Mine and Crucible of Worlds is an obscenely powerful combo—especially with Fastbond—and I should have secured it when I had the chance. While I was rather annoyed that Frank had chosen to cut me (and only me), I made my bed, and now I’m sleeping in it.


So the draft continued, and I decided I needed to take a little bit more of a mana ramp approach while still maintaining the land synergy.

Wasteland The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale Treetop Village Maze of Ith Simic Growth Chamber Mishra's Factory

I was able to secure basically every nonbasic land I wanted along with a lot of card draw and enablers to go with them. I wanted Academy Ruins, Mindslaver, and Engineered Explosives to be part of my Life from the Loam / Gifts Ungiven endgame, but Jay decided to move in on that plan way before I was willing.

Aside from that I missed out on some cards I really wanted like Mox Diamond and Sensei’s Divining Top, but for the most part I’m feeling pretty good with how things are going. All of my card draw and the busted power of Fastbond is going to be my guide versus combo opponents, man lands and mana denial will be the cure for my more controlling/midrange opponents, and I will be leaning rather hard on The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale and Maze of Ith against my more aggressive opponents.

One of the most amusing parts of the draft was once again started by Frank, as he made e a pretty big leap from his mono-red deck into the Savannah. While this started a mild land murmur, his next pick of Windswept Heath began what I now refer to as the Great Land Grab of 2014.

Just like in a fantasy football or hockey draft, once one person takes a quarterback or goalie, everyone else thinks, "Oh crap, I need a quarterback!" and it starts this stupid mad rush. A few rounds later and almost every fetch and dual land in the Cube was gone. Luckily I was still able to secure my two bounce lands, which would be very important with all of my "play an extra land" effects. As I’d also planned on getting Creeping Tar Pit, Pernicious Deed will be an excellent card for me against many of the decks at the table.

Aside from Frank’s already notorious Crucible of Worlds / Life from the Loam wheel cut, other cuts began as well. Tendrils of Agony was separated from the Storm deck, while Bloodghast was separated from Skullclamp. Cutting is a very interesting exercise in a draft like this, as you are going to have to play against each other person in the draft and six of those seven matches are going to be against decks that each cut is irrelevant against. Since this is the first time any of us has rotisserie drafted my Cube, it’s interesting to try to figure out what amount of cutting is correct.

The draft will be finished up this week and played out this Sunday after an Invitational Qualifier that I will also be playing in, so look forward to that next week with coverage of the matches as well as the full draft breakdown. Following that will be the next episode of So You Think You Can Brew, where Brian Schlactus looks to defend his title as he and his next opponent take their first crack at Born of the Gods!