On April 11, 1997, I was in Paris to play my very first Pro Tour. Fourteen years later, I’m back in Paris to play my nth PT (lost track), with a
renewed enthusiasm. The season has just started, and I’m back to wash away last year’s disappointment.
Ten days before the PT, I called up Guillaume Matignon to talk about an issue I had concerning part of his report on Worlds. We discussed it a bit; he
apologized and offered me a few days in Bayonne at his place where some Frenchies — Gabriel Nassif, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, Lucas Florent, Bastien Perez,
and Bastien Lodo — along with Patrick Chapin and Michael Jacob would be testing for the PT. Bayonne is only three hours away from Toulouse, so I packed
and went. Guillaume picked me up at the train station where we would wait for another fellow to arrive, PT Columbus Champ Pierre Canali.
Guillaume’s family owns three apartments close to each other, able to host 10+ people. The place was great, with a lot of room, the ideal setup to
playtest and draft. I have been to places where Magic players have gathered to get ready, small rooms for a dozen players. It often gets messy real
quickly. I really believe that the place you decide to prepare is as important as the people you’re there with…
I had been keeping an eye on all the decks online but hadn’t played that many games of Standard since Worlds, so I had a lot of catching up to do.
At Worlds, I ran Mono-White Quest
. I think the deck was really good; unfortunately, I played the first day really badly and only managed to go 3-3. One of the main reasons I didn’t
think the deck was good anymore was that it was now losing the power of our sideboard tech against Valakut: Leonin Arbiter — Refraction Trap works a
lot worse against Slagstorm than it does against Pyroclasm. The plan just wasn’t good enough anymore.
Everyone was working on his own brew, trying to figure out how it could beat… well, everything. I picked up Kuldotha Red and just won all the games I
played against control. I could see where the plan could go wrong though. While four Wrath effects weren’t good enough in the first game, 8-10 would
definitely do it to beat Kuldotha Red, pretty much every time. 50-50 against Valakut in game one was fine; dropping down to 20-30% after board was a
problem… Also, losing to W/G was problematic. When your opponent plays a lot of guys bigger than 1/1, it means trouble for lil’ Goblins.
Patrick and Guillaume were working on their Tezzeret deck; Wafo was going back and forth between W/U and B/U… Lucas, Pierre, Gab, and I decided to work
on the W/G Quest deck.
Compared to the Mono-White version, the deck is a little less explosive but more consistent, as it also requires a few more lands, 22-23 instead of 20.
It has late-game solutions in the form of Vengevine and access to a toolbox thanks to Fauna Shaman.
Here is the list we ended up with and that Lucas, Bastien, Pierre, and I played at the PT:
- 2 Birds of Paradise
- 3 Ornithopter
- 1 Kor Outfitter
- 3 Kor Skyfisher
- 1 Stoneforge Mystic
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 4 Squadron Hawk
- 1 Sylvan Ranger
- 4 Memnite
- 3 Glint Hawk
- 1 Phyrexian Revoker
Nico Bohny Top 8ed the Pro Tour with a deck similar to this.
- 4 Ornithopter
- 1 Kor Outfitter
- 4 Kor Skyfisher
- 1 Stoneforge Mystic
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 4 Squadron Hawk
- 4 Memnite
- 4 Glint Hawk
Most lists of W/G Quest run 23 lands and no Birds of Paradise/Sylvan Ranger. They rely on their lands to provide the mana they need. We only ran three
Glint Hawks, three Ornithopters, and three Kor Skyfishers, which in theory made the deck less explosive. However, we cut a land to replace it with a
creature, making up for the slight loss of explosiveness for consistency.
Birds and Sylvan Ranger provide you with the colored mana you’re missing, especially against control when your dual lands become Islands (because
they’re enchanted by Spreading Seas). Sylvan Ranger is a fine target for Fauna Shaman when you want to have the fourth land that will allow you to cast
Concerning the mana base, we cut two Stirring Wildwoods for two Plains for a couple of reasons. First of all, the manland doesn’t allow you to cast
your Quest on turn 1; neither does Sunpetal Grove, but you really want your lands to enter the battlefield untapped as often as possible. You’ll also
realize that you’ll almost never activate the manland ability. Control has Spreading Seas and a ton of Tectonic Edges to keep them from attacking.
Overall, you’ll find it extremely frustrating to have your lands enter the battlefield tapped.
A little playing tip: against control or anyone running mana disruption (Tectonic Edge), if you’re not holding a Vengevine or don’t need your fourth
land right away, keep it in your hand. You’re already very tight on mana, especially on colored mana (double green for Vengevine). You don’t want to
risk your opponent blowing up two of your lands while you’re waiting to draw your Vengevine and therefore not be able to cast it anytime soon. If
possible, keep a Forest in hand that will provide you with a green mana right away, no matter what.
I already talked about Sylvan Ranger, so let’s get to Phyrexian Revoker. It seems a little random but has a real purpose in the deck. First of all,
it’s an artifact. We cut an Ornithopter, and we needed to replace it with another cheap artifact in case we need one for the Glint Hawks (we cut one of
these as well). In our playtest games, it was extremely efficient against all sorts of control decks. It stops Ratchet Bomb and most importantly, Jace.
When your opponent plays a Jace Beleren, he expects you to attack him (Jace) and therefore save a lot of time (and life). Then, he’s free to play
another Jace (either Beleren or Mind Sculptor) that you will have to attack again… When you lock down the first Jace with a Revoker, whichever it is,
you don’t need to attack it. If your opponent doesn’t sweep your board, he won’t be able to use his Jace nor play another one from his hand.
What I really liked about our version of the deck was its sideboard. The Quest strategy is very draw dependent. A turn 1 Quest will be likely to win
you most games, which means around 45% of the games (in game one). It gets a little worse after board when your opponent runs Divine Offering or more
mass removal (up to eight for Valakut). Also, while your plan can wait against control, a Quest on turn 3 or 4 would probably work too slowly against
any aggro deck like Vampires or Mono-Red; it will probably be a dead draw.
We included an equipment toolbox along with two extra Stoneforge Mystics (maybe go up to four?): Bonehoard is a huge threat against any deck killing
your creatures; Sword of Feast and Famine gives you an extra pro-green sword against Valakut (making your Kor Firewalkers unkillable/unblockable, more
on that later) and pro-black against Vampires (same statement with Firewalkers as against Valakut) and U/B; and Basilisk Collar makes sure you get out
of the red when you’re low on life against aggro decks.
By removing the Quests against aggro, you give up the chance to win games with Argentum Armor but gain a lot in consistency.
I don’t really like Nico’s sideboard for a few reasons. Leonin Arbiter is annoying for Valakut players, and the matchup is probably one of the hardest.
However, I don’t think they change the matchup so much. He doesn’t run enough Refraction Traps to protect them reliably, and they just die like the
rest of your team to a Pyroclasm and Slagstorm. The Devout Lightcasters are very hard to cast and very dedicated to one matchup, Vampires, which is far
from being awful.
Before I move on and give you the ins and outs, I’d like to tell you the changes I would’ve made to the deck if I had to play it again:
-Maindeck: The only card that was unimpressive for me during the tournament was Phyrexian Revoker. It worked great for the others playing the deck, so
I guess it still deserves its maindeck slot; could be replaced by a fourth Skyfisher.
-Sideboard: There are two cards I would take out from the sideboard, Thrun, the Last Troll and Leonin Arbiter. On paper, Thrun is the ultimate threat.
However, it wasn’t doing much during the games. When you sideboard it in, you have to take out a high-casting-cost card, since you don’t want to have
too many four-drops, and that usually means Vengevine… but overall, Vengevine is just superior to the Troll. You need six mana to make sure it won’t be
killed by a Day of Judgment, and it also dies to Black Sun’s Zenith. Overall, very unimpressive.
The second one is Leonin Arbiter. This is not a creature you’re going to tutor for with Fauna Shaman against Valakut, and it’s just going to die like
his little friends when it’s on the board. I know it’s a pain for the R/G player, but it’s just not reliable enough. I wasn’t even sideboarding it in
at the end of the tournament.
The matchup is a bit tough. Your creatures will be dying, a lot, and you want to make sure that when one survives, it’s going to do a lot. Vengevines
with Bonehoard is part of the plan that relies mostly on the Elemental to come back as often as possible. That’s where the fourth Skyfisher should be
useful. If they run Grave Titan, you can replace a Quest for a Devout Lightcaster (don’t if they run Wurmcoil Engine).
W/U / Caw-Go:
The reason why you add a Stirring Wildwood is because they will be disrupting your mana. Adding a land is the best way to fight that plan. And who
knows, one day you’ll be able to attack with the 3/4. The matchup against W/U can take various forms. You can win very fast if they’re not holding a
Day of Judgment early or a Divine Offering, or in the long run with Vengevines.
The problem with Squadron Hawk is that… well, they don’t do anything. They fuel your Fauna Shaman that is unlikely to survive; they die to all sweepers
and are just too slow for the beatdown. When you take them out, you open a lot of room for your sideboard strategy. Your plan is to attack as soon as
possible with either an armored creature (in the best case) or with any of the Swords (Body and Mind being a bit better since you may be hitting key
components of the combo on the mill). Kor Firewalker is the best target for all equipment, as it survives most sweepers (except for Ratchet Bomb… but
you can’t do much against that). Journey to Nowhere will probably give you a turn or two when you play it on a Primeval Titan.
Kuldotha Red and Boros:
In this case, the Wildwood gives you an extra white mana to cast the Firewalker. The rest of the plan is quite logical and already explained above.
Kuldotha Red is probably your best matchup. His guys don’t match yours, and as soon as you start gaining life, the game is over.
Against Boros, Kor Firewalker is also the best way to stop Geopedes. The Boros matchup becomes a lot more complicated when they run Cunning Sparkmage.
Mortarpod might solve that problem. That equipment along with Basilisk Collar gives you more or less the same potential to kill about any creature
thanks to deathtouch for four mana and a guy against other random decks…
I don’t think this matchup is as bad as people think it is. Your guys are very resilient; Kor Firewalkers give them a hard time, and it’s game over
when the Sword of Feast and Famine hits the board. Just make sure you have a backup creature to sacrifice to Gatekeeper.
What I like about this deck is that it doesn’t really have a bad matchup and can have really powerful draws no one can do anything about. The downside
is that you will have to learn how to mulligan. A hand without a Quest or a Fauna Shaman is probably a mulligan, whatever you’re playing against. Maybe
Vengevine can save your draw. Things are a bit different after board when you take out the Quest plan against aggro. Lands and spells should be good
Here is how it went in the Constructed portion of my tournament:
Round 1: David Larsson with Vampires 2-1
Round 2: Szymon Pekala with W/G no Quest 2-0
Round 3: Brian Kibler with Caw-goÂ 2-1 (Covered on the Mothership)
Round 4: Kyle Boggemes with UBÂ 0-2
Round 5: Gunnar GeiÃŸler with ValakutÂ 0-2
Round 12: Joe Bono with Caw-Go 2-0
Round 13: Frederico Bastos with Vampires 2-0
Round 14: Santiago De Paoli with Valakut 2-1
Round 15: Thomas Ashton with Caw-Go 1-2
Round 16: Gabriel Nassif with Caw-Go 1-1
6-3-1, although I should have lost the last match against Gabe who ended up playing the new Caw-Go deck that he was given the day before the
After the first five rounds, Lucas Florent was 5-0; Pierre Canali was 4-0-1; I was 3-2; and Bastien Perez was 2-2-1. 12-4-1, a fine score. Florent
finished at 7-3; Bastien didn’t make Day 2; and Pierre totally crumbled on the finish line.
With a 4-2 score in Limited, I finished the tournament 49th, raking up five points to start the season a bit better than last year. I also played a lot
better than usual on the weekend, only giving away one game (I should stop doing that at some point…) with my double Carnifex Demon, double Grasp of
Darkness, Kuldotha Flamefiend deck…
I would definitely recommend this deck to anyone playing Standard. Caw-Go is probably a better deck but not by very much…
Until next time!