Diary Of A Brew

In this article, Jim takes you through the genesis of the W/G Aggro deck that he’s working on and might play at SCG Standard Open: Worcester this weekend.

9/18/13 – 1:48 PM – Humanities Building Second Floor Bathroom, Stony Brook University

I’m sitting on the can, scrolling through my most recent article on the SCG Mobile app on my phone. I always like to read over my articles when they go up, and I notice two of the cards that I picked as "sleepers" that were right next to each other in the article happen to go really well together:

Those who know me know I’m a big synergy guy, and both cards are definitely ones that want to be more than the sum of their parts. Warriors’ Lesson seems like a really sweet card if you can get it to simply draw two cards for one green mana, but in my initial review, I only saw it as that. What it actually is beyond that is a very good heroic enabler; it allows you to target two creatures for only one mana.

It’s also really awesome with Fabled Hero; because of double strike, the Hero will actually deal damage twice, and you will draw two cards off the Hero alone!

Warriors’ Recall

G – Instant

Draw 3 cards.

Although it obviously requires some work, that sounds like a pretty sweet upside. I begin to brainstorm about pushing the heroic mechanic and maybe trying to push the double strike thing as well.

9/18/13 – 3:12 PM – The Writing Center, Humanities Building Second Floor, Stony Brook University

My tutoring appointment doesn’t show up for this hour, so I have some time to brew; I want to try to take the heroic thing to the max. Here is my first draft:

This is my first draft, and it will likely go through many changes.

These guys don’t really require much explanation, as they are some of the best aggressive options available in white and green. Two-power one-drops are always a staple in aggressive decks, and Soldier of the Pantheon is one of the best ones ever printed.

Precinct Captain provides a target to take some of the heat off of Fabled Hero while also playing well with the tricks and hopefully being pumped by Phalanx Leader. Voice of Resurgence, aside from just being a fantastic card overall, punishes your opponent for trying to interact with you on your turn in response to heroic or one of your pump spells.

These are our heroic guys, and it’s up to us to figure out if they are worth the trouble. Favored Hoplite after one targeting becomes a Kird Ape, and we are pretty happy with that. Phalanx Leader has a lot of upside, but to start it is a meager 1/1 for WW, which is pretty awful. Are they going to be worth the trouble?

Our tricks: Giant Growth is not exceptional, but it is playable. It’s an obvious heroic enabler and plays well with our double strike guys for some reasonable damage. Gods Willing is a simple one, but there are very few available options for one-mana green/white tricks. One has to wonder if this is better than Brave the Elements or if it’s even worth the trouble. Unflinching Courage is very swingy card that is not going to be great in some matchups, but I imagine there are a bunch of decks that simply can’t beat a Fabled Hero with an Unflinching Courage on it.

The card we are trying to make work. I hope the lesson is that it’s worth it.

Oh boy do we wish we had Sunpetal Grove. Even the green/white scry land would be a huge upgrade over Selesnya Guildgate, as we really don’t want to flood, but this is what it is.

9/19/13 – 6:34 PM – Room 3018, Humanities Building Third Floor, Stony Brook University

Professor Huffman is speaking at great length about how "kneeling" is a key theme in Richard II and how Shakespeare is trying to use it to show the inner workings of Bolingbroke’s character in comparison to Richard. Luckily, I already have my A- in this class, and TAs don’t really need to pay much attention.

I flip through my notebook at the list I scribbled the previous day.

It looks like I’ve built the deck like I usually do—too much in a vacuum. While the heroic thing might lead to some nutty draws, it seems like it is just far too weak to compete with the insanely high power level of cards in Standard. There are tons of powerful creatures we need to get through, like Boros Reckoner, Loxodon Smiter, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, etc.; there is also a barrage of powerful removal spells waiting in the wings to break up our attempt to assemble this synergy.

Are these weaker synergy cards really worth the work? We aren’t even playing four Voice of Resurgences, arguably the best two-drop in the format! While I very much appreciate cards that are greater than the sum of their parts, I think I often take it too far. I’m going to have to rethink how we can get some more power into this deck while still maintaining the idea.

9/21/13 – 11:57 AM – My Room, My House

My head hurts. I went to an awesome show last night, a memorial show for the late singer/guitar player of Long Island legends On the Might of Princes who passed away about a month ago. Aside from just being a great time overall, it was awesome seeing the local music community come together so strongly to remember one of their own.

Lots of loud music + a few drinks = a nice lazy Saturday morning; back to my brew!

I’ve decided that the heroic thing just doesn’t really have the legs or the support to go very far. The only heroic card that is going to remain in the deck is Fabled Hero, and we are going to continue to support the aggression backed up with some tricks and the card-drawing power of Warriors’ Lesson to help us refuel. If we get to draw a few extra cards off of double strike, that’s sweet too.

Next draft:

Moving off the heroic plan, I wanted to move a little further into the double strike direction. Fencing Ace is already a reasonable card—it is basically a 2/1 for two with upside—and if we can get it to do what we want, it will be doing a lot of work. Ajani, Caller of the Pride is an experiment; it can pump up our guys—most importantly our double strike ones—break stalls, and even jump a creature for a killing blow or provide even more double strike for our Warriors’ Lessons.

Selesnya Charm is a much more versatile card than Giant Growth, as we are trying to move in the direction of more powerful and versatile spells. This is a deck that can make excellent use of all three modes, and it seems like it will play well.

We are still only in theorycrafting stage since I have not gotten to play any games with the deck yet, but it looks like we are making some progress. I’m still concerned about the power level of Giant Growth and Gods Willing.

I wish Bandage were legal, as any sort of cantripping one-mana instant would be an excellent heroic enabler.

Hmm . . .  is Fleeting Distraction legal?

Bleh, Avacyn Restored.

9/22/13 – 9:53 PM – My Room, My House

Despite Robert Griffin III’s struggles, Reggie Bush’s injury, and Eddie Royal’s inevitable regression, Jamaal Charles and Jimmy Graham go ham—I take down week three of my fantasy football league by a large margin. That makes me 3-0 on the season. #scoreboard [Editor’s Note: Must be so unreal nice . . . ]

9/23/13 – 5:09 PM – WUSB Studios, Stony Brook Union Second Floor, Stony Brook University

Just finished up my radio show,* and it went awesome—we gave away some tickets to a sweet new horror attraction on the island to two lucky callers who answered the horror-themed trivia questions correctly.

I have a little time to blow between now and my poetry class, so I’m gonna look over my list again. I’m actually going to get to play a bit tonight at the local shop and see how the deck plays out. I still want to try to make the deck a little more powerful in the abstract and try to utilize as many individually powerful cards as I can.

Next draft:

Again, we are looking for more powerful options. Fencing Ace seems kinda sweet, but there are a lot of ground guys for him to get through in Standard and I wanted to try some more traditional options. Judge’s Familiar is not the most powerful card, but it gives us another one-drop to help us stay on curve, plays very well with Warriors’ Lesson, and provides us with a little bit of evasion and disruption. Fleecemane Lion is just a really solid card that will provide us with a bit of a mana sink if we flood out in the midgame. It also is a great target for Unflinching Courage on turn 3 against decks relying on four-damage spells like Mizzium Mortars or Warleader’s Helix.

This is a big one. After the last few drafts of looking at Gods Willing, I really began to wonder why we weren’t playing with one of the most powerful cards available for any aggressive white deck in Brave the Elements. For one white mana, choose one: all of our guys are unblockable; counter target removal spell; counter target Anger of the Gods; prevent all damage to our creatures; and so on. Brave the Elements can do all the protecting that Gods Willing can and so much more. Every creature in the deck is white, so it literally has no downside. Also, with less of a focus on heroic, the need for a targeted spell is diminished. I would not be surprised if we go up on this one.

I’m pretty happy with how the deck looks so far, even if I think I’ve strayed pretty far from my original concept. The only card I really miss is Fencing Ace, and I wonder if I could get it back in and maybe make it work a bit better. Looking forward to battling!

9/23/13 – 11:27 PM – Brother’s Grim Games, Some Ghetto Shopping Center

Game time!

I got to play for about two hours tonight—about eight games versus Jund Control, six versus U/W/R Control, and four versus B/R/W Control—and after finishing up I definitely learned some things.

Jund was somewhat rough, although the games did not seem entirely representative. I lost a few games to strangely effective Rakdos’s Returns and a few to drawing a lot of Guildgates in the early turns. I think an overall lowering of the curve would help both of these problems. Brave the Elements was very good, and Ajani, Caller of the Pride sorta seemed like it was doing some stuff but more about it later.

I manhandled U/W/R Control, which was a bit surprising to me, but careful play and the power of Voice of Resurgence won the day.

B/W/R Control was rough. Tons of removal backed up with Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion was tough to fight through. Again, Brave the Elements was an all-star, and while Ajani would sit in play for a while, it really didn’t actually do anything. Casting Ajani felt like a wasted turn.

Important aside: Chandra, Pyromaster is the real deal. Whenever Jund or B/R/W Control had one in play, it drew out the same helpless feelings that Jace, the Mind Sculptor did back in the day, as with each 0 loyalty activation you feel the game slipping further and further away.

Midway through the set, I made the easy swap of the two Ajanis for the final two Judge’s Familiars. I was lacking in early drops and wanted to make sure my Warriors’ Lessons were more live.

9/24/13 – 12:56 AM – My Room, My House

Home and I should be sleeping but wanted to get in one last entry.

The deck seems like it has potential, but it’s hard to tell just yet what kind of format it will be facing.

Here are some final thoughts about the deck after playing with it and one last list for the night.

Spear of Heliod seemed pretty good. I only played one because I never wanted to draw two. Ajani, Caller of the Pride and Unflinching Courage were taking up the other three-mana creature-pump slots, and it didn’t target. Despite these things, the card was solid, and after adding the full set of Judge’s Familiars, it seems to get a lot better.

Want more. End of story.

Despite how amazing it is on a Fabled Hero, I think for now it should remain in the sideboard until we get a good idea of what the format looks like. It’s just too risky and swingy for the maindeck.

I feel like Precinct Captain never really impressed me all that much, but I can’t tell if that’s because it died a lot or just needed more support. I would like to test it more.

I haven’t given up on this one yet.

Voice of Resurgence has done a lot to prove itself over the last few months, and it’s very clear it’s one of the top creatures in the format. However, it is even better in this deck than usual, as you really force the issue with regards to making your opponent interact with you on your turn. Many times Voice of Resurgence will simply turn your Warriors’ Lesson from two cards into one card, a removal spell from your opponent, and an Elemental token.

One final list (with an extremely tentative sideboard):

It feels like the deck will do a very good job versus other creature decks while still maintaining the tools it needs to beat control decks. It also feels like it’s not really there yet. Where will it take me? Will I play it this Sunday at SCG Standard Open: Worcester? We will find out.

Thanks for reading,

Jim Davis


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*Check out my radio show "Say Whats Radio," which airs every Monday from 3:00–5:00 PM EST: www.facebook.com/saywhatsradio. If you are on Long Island, you can hear it on WUSB 90.1 FM; otherwise, you can stream it live from www.wusb.fm.