“Boom Satyr,” Chandra’s Dominance, & Defining Range

Figure out what you should play in Standard at #SCGCLE as Anthony tells you about what he played last weekend and what he’s thinking about playing this weekend.

"Boom" goes the dynamite.

Gotta get that "boom, boom, boom."

However you want to joke about it, Boon Satyr isn’t here to play games. It shows up, kicks butt, and leaves. Supreme Verdict? That’s fine; let’s keep the ball rolling. That 5/5 Wurm token is about to get ultra-scary too.

What really pushes Boon Satyr over the top—besides being a great bridge when your early drops aren’t good enough anymore but when your late game isn’t quite there yet—is how it makes those early drops good enough again and how it makes your late game that much more ridiculous.

This past weekend in Worcester, I played G/W Aggro. The deck tech can be found here.

I was primarily expecting a ton of red decks, some mono-white decks, and a lot of green-based midrange decks, all of which are put on the backpedal or at the very least impeded by Boon Satyr. I felt very confident in these matchups, and Boon Satyr was the card I wanted when faced with the problem cards of Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Stormbreath Dragon. I would happily trade a Satyr for a Blood Baron, and having access to a +4/+2 pump spell made racing a Dragon much easier. Despite being a deck with a lot of relatively simple creatures, there was a ton of play and macromanagement to it. Ajani, Caller of the Pride provided that big push that this deck needed. I really liked the deck and the card choices and would absolutely play it again if I had another chance despite my poor performance.

So what happened?

My preparation was lacking. I did not prepare for this event like I would most other events. I did some work with Christian Calcano and his Esper Control deck, but that was it. I usually do a metric ton of studying the format and trends and make a decision based on that. I don’t playtest a lot because I usually work alone, but I generally put in as much effort as I can into preparing every way I can. I simply didn’t do that this time around, and I certainly suffered because of it.

I was stubborn. I refused to budge from the possibility of finding something else. I was sure that the deck was the deck to play (and I still think it is), and I wanted to prove that. I got caught up in trying to prove a point instead of simply focusing on my game and my game only. This is a huge issue and one that must be fixed very soon if I want to improve.

The deck was pretty far out of my range. Put simply, I’m not great at working with multiple creatures that have a lot of play to them. This is why I didn’t play any sort of Aristocrats deck last season. Combined with the previous two reasons, my incapability of piloting the deck really showed. I wound up playing super poorly and was not really in the matches all day.

As far as the actual deck, there are some pretty big problems for the deck going forward.

First, the power of Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver really shows against G/W. You already have a problem pushing damage through, and a turn 3 Ashiok can be incredibly brutal right from the get-go. Cards like Soldier of the Pantheon can help combat this since it’s yet another early 2/1 that doesn’t get hit by Azorius Charm, but this is dependent on if you’re base green or base white. You can still play the Soldier if you’re base green, but your already shaky mana base may cause that move to be ambitious.

Going along with the first option, lowering your curve overall may be a solid consideration. When I first built the deck, I went through a lot of iterations involving Elvish Mystic and other ramp spells. I eventually went smaller and smaller until I got to where I was with this build. You can certainly go even smaller with cards like Call of the Conclave, Daring Skyjek, and maybe even a Skylasher if you really want to push that way. The problem with this strategy is that the smaller you go, the softer you are to Anger of the Gods. Now, I actually think that Anger of the Gods, while effective at dealing with a lot of your creatures, isn’t that backbreaking if you play smart, but sometimes there isn’t much you can do about losing your Fleecemane Lion and Voice of Resurgence in one fell swoop.

Giant Growth is a card that comes to mind when you want to save a creature from Anger of the Gods as well as kill an Ashiok on the spot, but how much are we willing to spend a card to do that? Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and Giant Growth is a fine option when you really need to defend against and kill something.

The last issue may not seem like one at first, but it certainly could have contributed to the deck’s poor performance last weekend. Which build is the best build? What’s the focus? There are so many ways to build G/W that it can be overwhelming. Do you go over the top with Archangel of Thune? Do you play small ball with the previously mentioned Soldier of the Pantheon, Experiment One, and company? Maybe somewhere down the middle with more three- and four-drops? Streamlining the deck, knowing what your plan is, and executing that plan with the best cards possible for it is very important. It’s very easy to want to jam Advent of the Wurm when you’re trying to maximize your early game or Kalonian Hydra when you’re a token build. Figure out what you want to do and do it!

All of this said, you can’t get it right every time. This deck was one of the less exciting decks I’ve built and played, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Not every build is going to be a tournament-winning masterpiece, and while you should aim for nothing less than the best you can, failing does not mean you aren’t on the right track. Despite my incorrect assumption of not running into a lot of the cards that are very good against this deck, it’s still a very powerful machine that will do well with the right tuning. What that is, I don’t know, but I’m sure it can be figured out and wouldn’t be surprised if G/W won the Open next week.

Regardless, the big question still remains. A question that has left many baffled, confused, and in some cases downright lost. A question that even I have trouble figuring out.

Why the heck did I not play Chandra, Pyromaster?!

Well, this goes back to the stubbornness factor. The truth is that I definitely should have played a Chandra deck, mostly because I knew that if there was a week where she would be amazing it was last week. I opted to bench Chandra because I knew that the G/W deck was good against her, that G/W was better positioned.

She’s mad at me.

Like, real mad.

Chandra was everywhere on Sunday. At some point at the top tables, she greatly outnumbered the amount of Jaces, Ashioks, and Elspeths, and in a lot of cases, she was alongside them. I believe that she showed up as often as Jace, Architect of Thought and Domri Rade did in the Top 32, and that isn’t an accident. People are starting to realize that planeswalkers these days don’t necessarily need to inherently protect themselves if they provide enough translative pressure, card advantage, and/or value over the course of a couple of turns.

These would be my two starting points. On one hand, we have a pretty heavy midrange deck that utilizes hard hitters on top of efficient disruption, card draw, and removal to back the game plan up. On the other, we have a variant on the Mono-Red Aggro decks we saw last Sunday, looking closer to the R/G decks of last season but a bit bigger and with a bit more staying power. While these are not the exact lists I’d play, these are examples of how I would utilize Chandra offensively and in a more utilitarian role.

The fact of the matter is that Chandra has proven herself as one of the premier planeswalkers across multiple formats, and as long as players continue to play these creatures that thrive in a midrange game, Chandra will continue to shine. It’s also pretty convenient that her abilities epitomize exactly what I love to do in Magic, which is the use of constant, residual, streamlined effects that enable a wide variety of offensive options. Want to go over the top? Chandra can help you do that. Want to keep the chip damage going? Let’s keep up the Chandra’s Phoenix flow.

Now, the term range can be pretty hard to figure out for some players. Oftentimes it’s oversimplified. Simply being an aggro or control player does not really define your range; it just says what you prefer playing. From my understanding, one of the better explanations of range is "what can you do competently in the spectrum of archetypes?" What kind of aggro decks are you good at? You may be awesome at playing Mono-Red Aggro in Standard, but you may not be so hot when piloting Affinity, an aggro-combo deck, in Modern. While you may be adept at playing Jund, a heavy attrition deck based on pure creatures and removal in Modern, Legacy Jund, an attrition deck based on card advantage and constant two-for-ones, may be an entirely different animal.

For example, I feel that I’m more comfortable playing in the spectrum of aggro, aggressive midrange, and spell-based attrition decks. So Mono-Red Aggro, G/R Aggro last season, and U/W/R Geist of last season fit me very well. Heavy control decks (Esper Control this season) can be a bit more difficult for me to grasp, creature-based midrange decks (The Aristocrats last season, Jund in Modern) are further out of my range, and sequential combo decks (The Epic Storm and Belcher in Legacy) are so far out of my range that I wouldn’t even bother. Here’s a (very) rough visual example of what I mean:


Don’t ever give me a Legacy Elves deck!

While you don’t have to be as specific as that, it surely wouldn’t hurt, especially if you’re trying to identify what your strong points are as a player and what you feel you could work on more. Going about it this way could make the difference in deck and card selection and makes it easier to work with others within your range as well as learn about things that are outside of it. There’s a reason why the Matt Costa and Patrick Sullivan tend to play similar archetypes when they’re viable and available. They know exactly what they want out of their game plan and style, and they use that to create, tune, and play the best decks they can relative to their range.

With that said, I highly recommend that you don’t shy away from learning new things and expanding that range. There will certainly be times where that aggro-midrange deck will need to be on the defensive, and learning control elements can help you overcome those situations. On the flip side, learning aggressive strategies can help teach you when to "turn the corner" in your control deck after stabilizing or your tempo deck when you’ve fallen behind and are surmounting a comeback. Not only that but you’ll have a better understanding of what players will do with certain archetypes, sequences, and plays, which in turn will help you act accordingly. I hadn’t touched a control deck before until I played U/W/R last season, and learning the ins and outs of basic control strategies and fundamentals helped my aggro and midrange game so much as a player and a builder.

This isn’t restricted to Constructed, as you’ll find all of these elements across Limited formats. If you aren’t familiar with combo, try drafting a combo deck in the next Magic Online Cube event you play if it’s there for the sake of learning how to build and execute that strategy. If aggro isn’t your strong point, play Mono-Red Aggro at your next FNM. If you feel that you’re a well-rounded player, then try something that utilizes multiple elements of the spectrum. The learning possibilities are so vast that there will always be something you can pick up along the way.

This weekend is the always fun but competitive New York State Championship. Last year I helped two people make the Top 8 with the same deck, but this year I’m looking for more. If I had to make a decision today, I’d probably play something close to the R/G Aggro deck or Mono-Red Aggro, but with U/W/x decks being all over the place here in New York, we’ll need a good plan against them. It’s a good thing that I have Chandra on my side regardless of my deck choice. Hopefully we can blaze a trail all the way to the plaque. What decks do you think will be a good choice going into this weekend? What cards do you think will be the breakout of the weekend? Pro Tour Theros is only a week away, and everyone’s watching closely to see what others can do in this new Standard format. I’ll be going back to ol’ reliable, as I should have done last weekend.

May you always have four Burning-Tree Emissarys when playing against Chris VanMeter!

Anthony "Pyromaster" Lowry
Twitter: @aulowry (#teamchandra)
Magic Online: aulowry