It is difficult to exaggerate how good my deck for New York States was. It was just far and away the best deck in the room, and as far as I can tell… Well, not only would I not hesitate to recommend it (or some closely related descendant) for upcoming Standard Opens / MTGO / etc… But so would most of the people who saw me play.
It has been a long time since I have gotten this many questions about a deck during the actual tournament; and for good reason… The deck was obviously fun for me to play, and everyone could see that. I played near the top tables most rounds and tended to acquire some railbirds. One reason was the addition of this card:
Sean McKeown welcomed me to his Druidic Satchel club on Saturday AM… It didn’t take much convincing. Drew Levin had pointed out to me on Friday that whatever advantage we had against Solar Flare (and whatever advantage Frost Titan would represent on the table, to say, lock down a Sun Titan), the Solar Flare opponent would inevitably have some kind of Doom Blade and / or Day of Judgment in grip when we played it. Frosty might be dead anyway.
All props to Sean on this one.
I briefly considered heavily speculating on Druidic Satchels because they are severely underrated right now. This is very likely going to be a Top 10 card in Standard for the rest of the year, a kind of cross between maybe four different very good planeswalkers—some kind of Jace; Elspeth, Knight-Errant; and Ajani Goldmane at least (Sean just called it “Jace”). It has a dramatic effect against both fast beatdown and long-game control decks.
In my U/R deck, you gain two life most of the time (awesome against beatdown, obviously, plus helps you plan by telling you what you are going to draw), put a land into play some of the time (awesome from a cheatyface standpoint, and great to be drawing lands), and make little guys a tiny percentage of the time.
The little guys are interesting for a couple of reasons. One of them is that they are indicative of drawing a Snapcaster Mage (best card in your deck, just as it is the best card in Standard). Usually I will untap and use Druidic Satchel a second time to make another 1/1 guy on my own turn if I know a Snapcaster is coming. Having a creature is great, not just because this creature-poor deck likes to have a blocker sometimes, but because you can put the opponent on the clock with them. Opponents can’t really block. Having the 1/1s as fodder helps you “turn on” Brimstone Volley for free. As you know from last week, Brimstone Volley is a Top 5 card that literally changes the way that Standard will be played.
Druidic Satchel represented a card that did lots of things for this deck. One of them is simply that we have a card that doesn’t eat a Doom Blade. You can tap out on turn three in a lot of matchups, and not really fear for loss. You can thaw, Thaw, THAW from there, and your opponent will basically eventually be kold. Sean had the right idea playing Ponder, which allows you to maximize the awesomeness of Druidic Satchel.
The other effect was that with three Druidic Satchels in my deck, I could now (along with my one Batterskull) achieve metalcraft. Ergo, I needed to swap in Galvanic Blasts. In Round One, I even got metalcraft and brained my opponent for four!
I liked Shock, in general, better than Arc Trail; so I moved most of those [back] to the sideboard. This actually screwed me up, and I didn’t have my swaps written down any more. More importantly, I decided to keep like one Arc Trail (instead of playing the fourth Slagstorm), and that probably cost me Top 8.
This is what I ended up playing at States:
I ended up using all my sideboard cards at one time or another, but that doesn’t mean my sideboard was right. One of the only ways you can really legitimately lose in this format is Geist of Saint Traft, which means you 100% need the fourth Slagstorm. I lost a game to Geist with Arc Trail in my hand, and that was awful, as the game was otherwise locked up (not surprisingly with all the point removal).
The numbers in the sideboard are also kind of messed up, as they are mostly things I just didn’t cut from previous version(s) of the deck rather than a well thought-out ballet of ins and outs. So when I played against Humans and Tempered Steel, I had more cards than I needed, yet managed to have not enough copies of the main card you need against the main thing that can happen to you.
The deck does lack some generic answer power. When the opponent presents a creature like a Phyrexian Vatmother, for instance, or something with protection from red, or even a common enchantment… It’s more or less there. Somebody runs an Oblivion Ring on your Druidic Satchel? It ain’t goin’ nowhere. I think we might have a window for Dismember, therefore, but I don’t think I would reduce myself to playing some kind of Into the Roil without kicker given the quality of cards otherwise. Another Frost Titan maybe?
Round One – U/B Tezzeret
This match was super easy. Basically the setup was exactly what you want if you are playing a deck like U/R… It’s kind of like the mirror match except they have to play all their cards on their turn, and you also get to play all of your cards on their turn. The only legitimate threat in a deck like this is probably Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas; so I successfully Mana Leaked all of those.
Sideboarded, it was more of the same, except I have the card Ancient Grudge, and he has the cards like… well… They are all artifacts.
Round Two – BUG Control
I kept two lands / no blue in Game One, not really knowing what kind of deck he had (but he had the look of RDW in his eyes, and I had a Galvanic Blast). He proceeded to Acidic Slime my Rootbound Crag.
Game Three… I dunno how I won. He played turn four Thrun, the Last Troll (I was kind of salty, as I had three Dissipates in my hand at the time) and also followed up with Garruk Relentless while I was tapped for Druidic Satchel (gotta try to get back in the game)… which he also Naturalized!
He got two Wolves before I played Slagstorm to hit players so I could kill his Garruk (remember he is beating me up with Thrun at the same time!)… I played a Frost Titan, and we kind of hit Mexican standoff, but over the course of the game, he played Surgical Extraction on my Brimstone Volleys and Slagstorms, and I didn’t have any great way to get through his Thrun. Basically I had to Thaw and search and draw until I hit the other Frost Titan, while Dissipating all his Frost Titans. Luckily, I am awesome, and this was accomplished.
Still don’t know how I beat Thrun / Garruk like that :)
Round Three – Illusions
I managed to lose the second game to Moorland Haunt, but Illusions is basically the dream matchup in general, right? I have a ton of Shocks and Snapcaster Mages; he has a ton of… creatures that die to Shock, Galvanic Blast, and the one Arc Trail!
I almost lost to Molten-Tail Masticore in the other two games, but got out of it both times. In Game One, I let him resolve it, under the impression he would discard DI cards before realizing this was a terrible life decision, until he tapped at the end of my turn to brain me for four (the nerve!)… I realized I might lose to that piece and was forced to throw two burn cards at it.
Round Four – Mono-Black Infect
This match was kind of the worst. I stopped on two in both games; he didn’t actually know the rules of Magic: The Gathering; etc.
I could have made one decision differently (I chose to Galvanic Blast a Signal Pest rather than an Inkmoth Nexus) but never really had the mana to operate. Game One I Blasted and Leaked his first four plays, but then I was done, never playing a third land. Game Two, I made every desperate play (except maybe for the Pest over Nexus one) to hang on until I hit 5-6 mana, but you can only hang on nine poison against a Phyrexian Vatmother so long.
I don’t know whether making the opposite Blast would have been able to force a third game, and his deck was probably legitimately hard to beat for me (no Dismember for Vatmother, and Phyrexian Crusader is very good against the non-permission parts of my deck)… But stalling on two both games was… Did I mention it was kind of the worst?
Round Five – U/W Control
Both the games I won had exciting plays. Game One was a ho-hum game I could have won 100 different ways. U/R just has a structural advantage over other Standard control decks (all my plays are instants; I can dominate with Druidic Satchel where they have essentially no analogue). However I said it was exciting, and this is why: I “randomly” Galvanic Blasted his Snapcaster Mage, followed up with quad Brimstone Volley. Ting!
Round Six – U/W Humans
Game One I made the mistake of letting him hit a second Honor of the Pure when I had the game otherwise locked up with red spells. He had plenty in the graveyard to feed it! However, I drew the one Batterskull to stay alive against his numerous 3/3 creatures until I could dig and Snapcaster Mage a bunch of Slagstorms. I think he played it right, but it probably wouldn’t even have been a contest if I hadn’t let him hit the second Honor.
Game Two I was winning, but he hit Geist of Saint Traft with Honor of the Pure in play. I lost very quickly. As I said earlier, I had the Arc Trail in my hand when I lost and even drew Dissipate the turn after Geist resolved, so this one was kind of a pisser.
Game Three was one of those games where you really scratch your head afterward. He was on the draw and did not have a first turn play. His second-turn play was Honor of the Pure, and I had Mana Leak. He played two guys; I killed two guys. In fact, on turn five, I had 20 life still! Then he resolved Honor of the Pure and Geist. I drew about 5-9 extra and never saw a Slagstorm.
That was it for the Top 8 dream :(
Round Seven – Tempered Steel
This one was pretty easy.
He had pretty mediocre draws both games, and my deck is basically tailor-made to demolish his deck. After sideboarding I am just Shock variants, an Arc Trail, life gain, and Ancient Grudge. And like I said, his draws were not great.
Round Eight – Wolf Run Ramp
I had a counterspell for basically every threat he played and even drew Ancient Grudge in Game One! Unexciting from a game-play standpoint.
I was for the most part happy with my play, though both of the plays I can remember not liking were in matches I lost (Signal Pest over Inkmoth Nexus, letting Honor of the Pure #2 stick); though I won the second of those two. The biggest decision I would have changed would have been to play the fourth Slagstorm. You are unlikely to lose to most of the decks we know about in Standard (Solar Flare, Wolf Run, beatdown), but Geist of Saint Traft—which in fact usually comes with pump effects next to it—is a real problem.
I don’t know if it is time to talk about how to sideboard for the mirror yet, but I would not be surprised if that was the direction of the dialogue two weeks from now. Snap suggestion was to go with the fourth Druidic Satchel in the sideboard, but there is no way four Satchels and two Batterskulls are ever going to out-land four Ancient Grudges (assuming no one is horribly mana-screwed). Another blue six—Frost Titan, maybe Consecrated Sphinx—might be the right way to get ahead.
If you are playing Standard this week, I would really encourage you try this deck. It was fantastic for me, exciting for others to bird, and really seems to match up well against all the popular decks in the format.
Good luck and have fun gaining two, Thawing a land into play, and / or making a little guy approximately 1/10-1/15th of the time.
Firestarter: How about Desperate Ravings?
Patrick Chapin sent me an 11th hour suggestion to cut Think Twice for Desperate Ravings. I didn’t bite. What I might consider, though, is cutting Forbidden Alchemy for Desperate Ravings. Simply, there is a world of difference between two and three, and even more between three and eight. Subtly, you can completely revise the mana base to run more basic Islands if you go this route, and that might be awesome.
Possible Desperate Ravings version:
Might want to put some more thought into the sideboard, but this is probably pretty good :)