Believe it or not, Extended PTQ season is almost upon us. I really want to qualify for Pro Tour: Hollywood (a Standard Pro Tour!), so I started to throw together some decks and battle on MTGO. I usually try to build rogue decks bottom-up based on my expectations regarding the format, but this time I stared with an idea that I had kicking around for a while so I decided to run with it. BDM mentioned that because there was never a real Ravnica Block Constructed but for the team Pro Tour that we never got to see how certain cards would play out. The centerpiece of this deck is the incredibly powerful but almost non-existent played Pillar of the Paruns.
Despite its deceptive lack of popularity to date, Pillar of the Paruns offers an exceptionally powerful ability; to get the ability that it provides, you usually have to take a point every time you tap your land (awful) or play all artifacts (and not even Tier 1 there) or bin your land after three uses or something; to put it another way, as long as you pick your spells appropriately, Pillar of the Paruns is many times more powerful than a chase rare like Watery Grave, and comes into play straight. That said, in order to break Pillar of the Paruns, you basically have to play all multicolored cards… So that’s what I did. Multicolored cards are more powerful than everything else anyway. The only cards that don’t really fit are Tarmogoyf and Engineered Explosives. Tarmogoyf is… Tarmogoyf. How can you not play it in a deck
like this? This is actually a pretty good Tarmogoyf deck. Engineered Explosives is a strange oddity. It’s not technically a gold card, but it “plays” very gold. Engineered Explosives is a powerful card in this sort of deck for a couple of reasons: 1) You can make some good trades and then set up two-for-one against [other] beatdown decks, and 2) It’s just bonza against Counterbalance (which won the Pro Tour). Most Counterbalance decks don’t actually have a lot of counterspells, and you can over-pay into awkward Converted Mana Costs with just two colors of mana to remove the Counterbalance. Subtly, it is also a strong card against Dredge; Engineered Explosives won’t typically save you from Dredge’s best draws, but if you can stick it quickly, it should buy you at least one turn (and should functionally get you more than that) while you search for something like Gaddock Teeg.
The above deck was literally my first draft that saw play; I intended to screw around with the numbers a lot as the night went on, but it ended up playing out very well. The only definite things that I want to work on are the Vindicate count and the amount of Black mana (right now)… other than that, it seems very good. I used 11 of the sideboard cards, either as Wish targets or by sideboarding them in; the only card that I didn’t play was Tormod’s Crypt, but I still fear that that card, along with Extirpate, will be necessary at early PTQs. Then again, it may be more important to play anti-artifact cards, such as going up to four Putrefies after sideboarding for NO Stick or some deck like that. I wouldn’t mind a passive anti-Dredge card along the lines of a Mogg Fanatic, but the only thing I can think of right now is Sakura-Tribe Elder and that old favorite isn’t really tickling my fancy.
This is one of my favorite cards. A few months ago I was playing a B/W deck and claimed to have thrown a practice game against Grand Prix finalist Owen Turtenwald, holding “two or three copies of a super secret sideboard card” in a game where he burned me out perfectly; Gerrard’s Verdict was that card! The Verdict is largely misunderstood, I think. Because it is a discard disruption spell, people think of it as anti-combo or anti-control. While it is good against Storm combo decks because of its ability to delay the opponent’s path to critical mass, I think that it is only pretty good against control and worse against many combo decks, viz. Dredge. Where Verdict shines is against any kind of beatdown deck. It is an important route to card advantage in mirror-ish situations and really impairs the opponent’s ability to win with burn spells. The Verdict is in: This card might be better when it is hitting lands.
Four copies might be overkill, but Glittering Wish is actually very good in this deck, as well as very flexible. I was actually very happy when I drew this. Top-down Gold actually finds itself in topdeck mode pretty often, and Glittering Wish is about the best card you can draw in one of those situations; you go and get a Hierarch and start smashing! Against many combo decks I just Wished for something along the lines of a Putrefy and hit with two guys until they were forced to act.
It seemed very awkward to create a The Rock-related deck and play no Duress, Cabal Therapy, or new It! Girl! Thoughtseize. However, those cards are not thematically stable in Top-down Gold, so I tried to fill the gap with a multicolored card. I must say that Gaddock Teeg has been awesome for me so far, much better than he has been in Standard. He prevents Dread Return in matchups that are actually pretty bad at killing a 2/2, and he buys a surprising amount of time against decks that need to stick Deep Analysis, Mind’s Desire, or Tendrils of Despair.
Greg Weiss will not be happy with this choice, but in my defense, the deck needed a lower curve (at the time that I added Watchwolf) and Watchwolf is actually pretty good in this theme. He is definitely an overachiever.
Basically the best of the one-for-one gold cards… The question is not four Vindicates or no, but whether or not to add the fourth to the sideboard for purposes of Glittering Wish.
There are only three because this card is the epitome of a card that you would want to get with Glittering Wish. You probably don’t need me to explain too much about this card.
Doran, the Siege Tower
I have been itching to play this card in Extended since it was printed. I am a little sad that I don’t play Birds of Paradise, but not sad enough that I won’t play all four copies… This card is basically Phyrexian Negator, but with less downside and a lot of surprising synergies. Doran was the glue that determined the color choices for this deck, marrying Pernicious Deed to Gerrard’s Verdict and Vindicate.
The first sketch I made tried Ghost Council of Orzhova in this slot as a four-of; then I had Ghost Council in the sideboard as a singleton… The big BBWW didn’t fit due to color difficulties and Loxodon Hierarch fell into his place as the premiere four drop. The main deck can accommodate exactly Three Stupid Elephants(TM Patrick Sullivan).
This card is a non-bo with both Gaddock Teeg and Pillar of the Paruns… and it’s still awesome. Awesome against beatdown; awesome against Counterbalance; pretty good against Dredge. You just have to plan ahead a little with this deck, measure your drops and anticipate the opponent’s moves and you should be fine, even with the built-in disharmonies.
1 Godless Shrine
1 Overgrown Tomb
4 Pillar of the Paruns
4 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
4 Treetop Village
1 Snow-covered Forest
4 Snow-covered Plains
I played Treetop Village because the main was a little creature-light (blame Engineered Explosives). I’d like a little more Black mana. There are sometimes some awkward draws when you have an Extirpate and your Black source is Pillar of the Paruns. Usually it’s your own fault, though, and you could have chosen better with Windswept Heath before drawing Extirpate, thinking “I have all my colors; I have Pillar of the Paruns!”… awk.
4 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Thrill of the Hunt
1 Gaddock Teeg
1 Pernicious Deed
1 Armadillo Cloak
1 Loxodon Hierarch
I had as many as four Armadillo Cloaks main in sketches (largely as Jitte competition) but between Deeds, Vindicates, and Explosives, Jitte fighting isn’t all that important. I’ve run the Cloak numerous times, usually on Doran; it’s a beating.
Being able to Wish for Teeg is just primo in this deck.
For your anecdote-absorbing enjoyment, I played several hours in the Tournament Practice Room of Magic Online to gauge this deck a little. I think the results were pretty good for a first time out.
My first match was against a good man with Heartbeat; he had beaten me the night before when I was B/U/G, so I kind of thought he’d be Heartbeat. I kept a hand that could drop Tarmogoyf and then Wish up Gaddock Teeg. He had many Fogs, as this deck will, but didn’t seem to have a Teeg solution so I eventually overwhelmed him. A second Tutor got Mortify so I had a little additional Heartbeat of Spring defense.
The second game was pretty easy as well. I led on Watchwolf, Wished for Teeg, stuck it and Doran, and sat back with two Extirpates in hand. On his sixth turn I could have re-played Teeg post-Remand but I decided to leave him with four mana for a Fact or Fiction or Gifts Ungiven. He didn’t bite so my two Extirpates didn’t do anything. Gaddock and company were enough.
In the first I mulliganed but had a good draw nonetheless. I started smashing on threat density, weathering two Deeds and ending up ahead on the board. I don’t really know what happened… We were in topdeck mode and I had a 27-5 edge in life… But he won. He ripped Edict, Goyf, Loxodon Hierarch, and Smother whereas I drew some lands.
The second game played into almost the same position, attrition with me up on life. I have Engineered Explosives, just waiting for him to make a drop… So of course it’s the only drop that I can’t kill, Loxodon Hierarch. I think I could have played this one a little better, actually. At one point in the game I had a Teeg in play, a Teeg in hand, and an Engineered Explosives with three counters. I elected to fight and save the Explosives. It ended up getting blown up by a Pernicious Deed anyway. With a blocker I could have stalled for one turn against Treetop Village and drawn out of it (two Glittering Wishes on top).
The Rock is actually the hardest matchup for a mid-range control deck like mine. It’s like a mirror but they have more card advantage, viz. Eternal Witness. I am a big advocate for active decks, but in this matchup, Top-down Gold is not going to set any land speed records; as such, The Rock has time to gain card advantage.
It turns out my vanquisher was none other than my long lost friend Sayan Bhattacharyya; Sayan last beat me at Regionals 2000, claiming the Northeast Regional Championship as the co-creator of Parallax Replenish (my only loss on the day). We chatted and he watched most of the rest of my fights for the evening.
Mono-Blue Control, Erayo sub-theme
This deck was very French. Wafo-Tapa recently talked about playing a Mono-Blue deck in Extended, and Pierre Canali actually played one at the recent Pro Tour. I have actually playtested against Pierre playing a very similar control / Erayo hybrid with Ninjas… This deck reminded me of that in a lot of ways.
The first game was pretty odd. I was color screwed for Black but was able to get out enough in my predominantly Green and White deck to be competitive. Very late I drew a Pillar of the Paruns and he flipped Erayo and got a Vedalken Shackles. I ripped basically the only card I could, Watchwolf, to bait out my Pernicious Deed, but with only one mana open. He got one of only two cards that would prevent him from getting blown out in Cryptic Command, to bounce my Pernicious Deed. I probably should have popped for one; Sayan and I discussed… Does that even kill Erayo, or is he a two? Point being I would have gotten a two power Ornithopter to stay alive (the guy he had under Shackles was Doran), because not popping even with the uncertainty around Erayo was tantamount to scooping anyway. I had six cards but only one Black, so there was no way to bait past Erayo as all my cards were Black somehow!
I got the next two in unspectacular fashion. Just knocked a few heads starting turn 2… No Shackles, no problem. This matchup is one of the ones that have me rubbing my chin RE: sideboarded games and multiple Putrefies (for Vedalken Shackles, also Erayo on the stack).
He led with Lotus Bloom and some come-into-play-tapped nonbasics so I ran an Engineered Explosives for nil and a second turn Teeg. Sure enough, these cards were awesome. He suspended another Bloom on the second turn, so my Explosives got double value. He followed up with Chrome Mox sticking a worthless Insidious Dreams. I just beat down for a while. Eventually he showed me a hand of Draco, Seething Song, Dovescape, Form of the Dragon, and Enduring Ideal.
He went first turn Mox, Burning Wish for Pyroclasm; this was problematic because I did, in fact have the Teeg. I just Gerrard’s Verdicted him, nabbing Form and the Pyroclasm, making Teeg free and clear. Turn 3 concession.
He opened on Gemstone Mine, Chromatic Star.
I played Watchwolf.
Normally I dislike aiming a Vindicate on a Gemstone Mine with two counters, but he did miss his second land drop… He had Edge of Autumn, though, so it wasn’t as cool as I would have liked. I ripped Teeg and his draw wasn’t getting any better.
Game 2, he played a turn 2 Dark Confidant, and another, and kept flipping lands. The game was close, but he ran three Desires off of one Desire… You know.
The third game we both went to Paris. He Duressed my Gerrard’s Verdict. No problem; I wished for Teeg… He Therapied Teeg. Then I went Doran and he went Bob. It took a lot of concentration to Vindicate Bob but he missed his third land drop. I made a small error in not getting Godless Shrine with my Windswept Heath (I had Pillar of the Paruns)… I later drew into two Extirpates and couldn’t cast them. It didn’t end up mattering.
At about 3am I finished up my first playtest session with this new deck against a not-quite-top flight RDW. He had Brute Force and main deck Threaten. Threaten might have been awesome but he took a Doran wearing Armadillo Cloak not realizing that I still controlled the Cloak (80% of PTQ players will make this mistake… It’s been seven years since Armadillo Cloak was in Standard). I think this deck would probably wallop a tuned RDW, let alone a budget one.
Game Two I sideboarded legitimately for the first time.
-2 Engineered Explosives
-4 Glittering Wish
+1 Thrill of the Hunt
+1 Pernicious Deed
+1 Armadillo Cloak
+1 Loxodon Hierarch
I actually drew the one Cloak and plopped it on my third turn Doran, Red Zone for seven on turn four.
At the end of this first time out I was 5-1 (with my only loss being to one of the best technical players I’ve ever met… Sayan followed up his Northeast Regional win with a U.S. Nationals 10th that year); in most PTQs, that’s draw distance!
If the Worlds PTQ were tomorrow, I’d play this. It seems like a Haterator-type deck but with more “get out of jail free” cards, though fewer automatic ways to win narrow matchups. Just the ability to Stone Rain with Vindicate is a nice addition to the deck, though obviously being less reliant on creature pump and more capable of destroying permanents (specifically creatures) is welcome. I’d like to add a little non-Pillar Black mana, though I’m not sure how. A basic Swamp would be good if people want to play Andre’s JustUs Goyfs or other Destructive Flow decks, but there is no good way to find that card in this deck. Maybe another Godless Shrine? I wouldn’t mind an Aura Mutation… It was in one of my sketches and I immediately wanted to Wish for it in an early matchup. This deck doesn’t have very many activated effects, so Suppression Field might be a good option, as well, possibly even main deck.
Thanks for reading.