Knight Of The White Peacock

Learn more about Theros/Born of the Gods Limited before Grand Prix Philadelphia this weekend by reading how Frank Skarren won a Pro Tour Qualifier last weekend!

I always wondered why rabbits are drawn to the alley behind New Chili and Curry . . .

The Saturday night before the PTQ, I made plans with Magic World Cup legend Joe Pennachio to get dinner and finalize our plans for leaving the following morning. We agreed to go to an Indian restaurant out on Long Island that has some of the best food in town.

As I drove to the restaurant, thoughts of delicious chicken tikka masala flooded my mind. I turned down a nearby side street to find a convenient place to park. Although this particular side street tends to be empty of other cars, it is both a blessing and a curse. There’s a huge fenced off construction site at the end alongside a single tall and dilapidated house. The sidewalk is all broken up and craggily, and there are no streetlights to be found. What’s more is there is always a small horde of rabbits running around the area for a reason I couldn’t ever deduce.

As I pulled down the street, I could already see two brown rabbits running in a circle near the lone house. I drove up a little closer, and what I saw next completely blew my mind. Next to the rabbits standing in the middle of the sidewalk was a gigantic white peacock. I quickly parked my car on the other side of the road and jumped out to get a better look. As I got closer, I saw that this animal was about as tall as my navel and had a tail roughly three feet long. Other than a small blue splotch near the top of its neck, the bird was pearl white from head to tail. It didn’t seem to mind my presence and continued to slowly saunter on toward the construction site. All I could do was look on in awe as it squeezed through a small gap in the gate and began to walk deep into the work area.

Just as it turned and disappeared behind a huge stack of crates, Pennachio pulled up behind me. Still awestruck, I practically pulled him out of his car and began furiously trying to widen the gap in the chain-link gate. In a worried tone he asked me what the heck I was doing. All I could do was mutter insanely about a huge white peacock and keep pushing.

Unfortunately this portion of the story ends here. A man in a white van pulled up and started to yell at us that we were trespassing on private property. When I asked him about the peacock, he looked at me like I was crazy and said he had no idea what I was talking about. As Joe and I walked toward the restaurant defeated, my thoughts were a complete haze. Why was there a peacock on a random Long Island side street? No one else was there to see it . . . did I actually see it? Am I going insane? All in all it was a very surreal experience. Joe and I decided to write it off as an omen of good luck, joking that it meant I was going to win the PTQ. That night I fell asleep with visions of peacock plumes dancing in my head.

Jumping ahead to the next morning, I was in Somerville, New Jersey about to get passed the sealed pool that would be mine to battle with for the first half of the day. As I unwrapped the decklist surrounding my card pool, the image of the white peacock still lingered in the back of my mind. Unfortunately I had to put it out of my thoughts for the time being since I was met with this very challenging pool:

I highly recommend you use the Sealed Deckbuilding widget to see how you would have built this bad boy before moving on. I’ll let you know upfront that this pool is not exceptional. The rares aren’t great, and the overall card power level is a little low. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a playable deck hiding in there somewhere.

At first glance it looks like there is an awesome R/W heroic deck waiting to be built. Double Akroan Skyguard is a good place to start, but if you look deeper, there just isn’t enough to back it up. Not only are you short on playables, but there aren’t enough ways to trigger heroic. While you could build this version of the deck, if you don’t open up with a two-drop into Fearsome Temper, you’re probably going to lose.

That being said, this is what I went with:

Why yes, that is a double Divination, double Temple, eighteen-land, three-color control deck. But why is it the correct build? The way the pool was situated, no two-color combination had everything I needed to make a strong deck. U/B came the closest, but it lacked the raw beef I dipped into green to make up for. While it might seem odd to splash for a five-mana 4/4, it needed to be done to round the deck out and came at a low opportunity cost. Between playing eighteen lands, Temple of Mystery, Opaline Unicorn, Burnished Hart, and two basic Forests, having a green source by turn 4 or 5 was a lot easier than it looks.

You might have noticed there are some interesting cards I chose to leave in the sideboard.

Fated Return and Kraken of the Straits would have functioned as basically the same card in this deck: a giant seven-mana win condition to slam into play once the early game was under control. Ultimately between the scry, card draw, bestow, monstrous, and Pharika’s Mender, this deck didn’t need to rely on a big card to come in and close things out. There’s enough card advantage and mana sinks to win the game with after it establishes control that adding a clunky card to gum up your hand in the early game just doesn’t make sense.

Bident of Thassa was the card that got the most confused looks when I showed my card pool to people. It’s an insane rare so you have to play it, right? Well, not exactly. In this deck you’re looking to play a defensive early game. Most of your creatures aren’t set up to take advantage of the card draw aspect of the Bident. Sure, later in the game forcing your opponent to send their team into your defensive army is powerful, but it isn’t worth the price of playing a card that will do very little on turn 4 against aggressive decks. Bident is much better here as a silver bullet sideboard card for other control decks, and I used it as such to win a tight game 3 against another BUG controlling deck during the tournament.

Now that we’ve gotten the stinkers out of the way, let’s look at a few of the cards that did make the cut. Let me introduce you to two of the best:

Guy Registering Next To Me: "Why did they reprint Necrobite? It’s like the worst card ever."

Me: "Nah dude, Necrobite is great. I play it every chance I get."

GRNTM: "Haha, funny joke dude. No one in their right mind would ever play this thing."

Me:  "No, I’m serious. It’s a three-mana removal spell. What more could you ask for?"

GRNTM:  (while laughing) "You’re hilarious man."

Me:  " . . . Okay."

Please, please, please believe me when I tell you that Necrobite is busted. The reason most people don’t think it’s good is because they look at it from the wrong perspective. They see a clunky combat trick. I see Murder in a set where the best hard removal spell is a six-mana sorcery, not to mention it has the benefit of getting the occasional two-for-one or saving your creatures from removal.

In this deck I used Necrobite to kill everything from Nessian Asp to a Phalanx Leader juiced with an Everflame Eidolon, getting some Wavecrash Triton triggers along the way. Add in the fact that no one ever sees it coming and the card is a complete blowout.

Eternity Snare’s potential is a bit more obvious. Bestow is such an amazing mechanic because it removes the punishment factor from your opponent killing your creature with removal and getting a two-for-one. Eternity Snare is the one card in both sets that gets around this upside. If the Eternity Snare in my deck had been a Sip of Hemlock, I would have lost at least two matches to the bestow creature it would have left behind. Although it’s a little slow in Draft (albeit still very playable), it’s the bomb diggity in Sealed.

My matches were pretty straightforward. The deck played out in a very grindy fashion, often winning the game with under ten cards left in the library (we’re talking "deal over ten damage with Fate Unraveler" grindy). I managed to double draw into the Top 8, only dropping a single game throughout the Swiss to the other BUG controlling deck I mentioned earlier. My most exciting match of the Sealed portion however came in round 3.

I was playing against a U/G opponent splashing red for Xenagos, the Reveler. I was up a game, but he had managed to get his planeswalker out on turn 4. I was able to use Fate Unraveler’s trigger to keep Xenagos’ loyalty in check until I was able to bestow Nimbus Naiad onto Wavecrash Triton to take Xenagos out for good. Over the following turns we had a flurry of plays involving him throwing out threats and me fighting to answer them.

Nessian Courser with Aqueous Form? Eternity Snare.

Nemesis of Mortals with Nimbus Naiad? Necrobite.

As the dust settled, we had both managed to take out the other’s entire flying force while whittling each other down to a low life total. Since I had the bigger ground army, things looked good for me since he had to start chump blocking. Unfortunately a couple of turns before I was able to make the lethal attack, he drew a Chorus of the Tides that threatened to kill me before I could close out the game.

I slumped in my seat, sure there was no way left in my deck to stop the aerial assault. There were only two minutes left on the clock, so if he won this game, we would end up with an unintentional draw early in the tournament. As I put the top card of my library face down in front of me, my mind wandered back to the image of the white peacock. I smiled to myself; if the peacock really had blessed me with luck, this card would somehow win me the game, right?

And there it was. I was so focused on being out of removal spells to kill my opponent’s flier that I had completely forgotten that I still had Shipwreck Singer as a possible chump blocker. A blank draw step from my opponent later and I got to sign the match slip in victory. Call me silly, but at this point I was convinced the peacock was a being of divine magic.

To honor the mighty bird, I bought a pack of Super White KMC sleeves to protect my Draft deck for the final. It’s a small miracle I didn’t convince myself to hunt down a tattoo parlor to inscribe a white peacock crest on my arm.

The Top 8 draft itself was a rather interesting affair. The judges decided to put us in a tiny room behind a closed door that none of the spectators were allowed access to. Due to the privacy, cramped quarters, and eight water bottles encircling the table for us, it felt like we were a jury being locked away until we could reach a verdict.

The draft began, and I picked up my first pack, anxious to see what it had in store.

As you can see, all of the possible first picks were either green or white. While I knew the drafter to my left would take a green or white card too, I decided to pick Akroan Skyguard and hopefully move into a different secondary color.

The next pack featured Reap What Is Sown as well as a Fall of the Hammer with no rare in sight. I opted for Fall of the Hammer in hopes that the drafter to my right wasn’t interested in red and I could lock the guy to my left into G/W.

The next pack was bereft of both red and white playables, and although there was another Swordwise Centaur, I chose to draft a Nyxborn Triton and stay out of green.

As I picked up the fourth pack, I saw an old friend staring back at me:

People really don’t think black is good in BTT Draft, huh? Deciding there was no way I was going to repeat my mistake from Montreal, I quickly snatched up the Bile Blight. Four picks, four different colored cards . . .

Good thing my next pack had a Chromanticore!

Just kidding. But it did have a Ragemonger. At this point I decided that I was going to trust my instinct on red and black being open to my right and try to head in that direction. Ever the sucker for the Minotaur theme deck, Ragemonger seemed like a good place to start. As the pack closed out, I picked up a couple of Felhide Brawler and a Necrobite (score!).

After a brief review period, I picked up pack 2 and was met face to face with a Kragma Warcaller. It was on like Donkey Kong.

Here’s the final product in all its beauty:

I have to say looking at it again now that this deck is awesome. The curve is nice and low, and it has the insane combo of Ragemonger and Kragma Warcaller. Plus it has good removal to round things out. The double Mogis’s Marauder and Gray Merchant of Asphodel fit perfectly as game enders thanks to the plethora of black mana symbols in the deck. Fanatic of Mogis may look strange in the sideboard, but the deck was too low on red symbols and too tight on card slots to make it worthwhile.

In the quarterfinal I had to play against my friend Alexander Finchler, who comes from the same local store as I do. He had drafted a doozy of a U/B controlling deck complete with Pharika’s Cure, Returned Phalanx, Shipwreck Singer, double Siren of the Silent Song, and Agent of the Fates. He was the only other black drafter at the table and because of this was my worst matchup (the two copies of Mogis’s Marauder in my deck were basically useless against his army of black creatures).

Fortunately the luck of the white peacock had not left me yet. The literal last card that I got during the draft was a 42nd pick Dark Betrayal, a card that usually doesn’t end up being a last pick even when there aren’t a lot of black drafters. After being easy dismantled in game 1, I was able to use Dark Betrayal in both games 2 and 3 on critical turns to get the edge I needed to win.

In the semifinal my opponent was playing a G/R monstrosity deck. Game 1 he played a little too aggressively and tried to race my Kragma Warcaller instead of trading with it. Although he came very close to winning the race, I don’t think I could have won if he had taken a more defensive route.

Game 2 was simply amazing. I ended up keeping a speculative hand without a Swamp following my opponent taking a mulligan to six. After making no play on turn 3, he missed his fourth land drop. Although I had yet to draw a Swamp, I was able to play Ill-Tempered Cyclops on turn 4. Missing his land drop again, he passed back. I drew my fifth Mountain and was unable to do anything but attack for three. Finally he drew his fourth land and dropped a Polis Crusher into play.

The next draw step gave me another uncastable black card. Starting to get worried, I passed back. He quickly attacked me for four and played an Anvilwrought Raptor. At this point I really needed to draw a Swamp or was going to start falling irreversibly behind. A tap of my white sleeves later and a Swamp glided off the top my deck.

Tap three, cast Ragemonger. Tap three Mountains, cast Kragma Warcaller. Attack for eleven.

Next turn all my opponent could do was play a Nessian Courser and pass back, leaving his creatures back to block.

My turn. Tap two Mountains, play double Felhide Brawler. Play Mogis’s Marauder, attack for an unholy amount of damage.

Onlooker: "Holy #$%^."

After such an explosive victory, I moved on to the final round feeling extremely confident. My opponent was on a U/G deck that had very few ways to defend against the threat of my double Mogis’s Marauder. Unfortunately game 1 didn’t go as planned. I mulliganed to six and kept a one-land hand that didn’t quite get there.

With my back against the wall, we moved on to game 2. Although my opponent wisely boarded in a couple of Crackling Triton to stem my early offense, they ended up being his downfall. A Bile Blight I had been holding was able to clear them both out of the way in one fell swoop and put my opponent too far behind to recover.

It all came down to the final game. Over the first few turns my opponent used Omenspeaker to hold off my early offense. He played an Artisan of Forms on turn 3 that he tried to Ordeal of Nylea the following turn, copying my Tormented Hero, but I had the Bile Blight to punish him. I curved an Ill-Tempered Cyclops into Kragma Warcaller and started to bring the beatdown. My opponent was able to use an Ordeal of Thassa on Omenspeaker to fight back, but he was way behind in the race.

On his final turn of the game, he attacked with Omenspeaker, triggering the card draw from Ordeal of Thassa and putting me down to eleven life. He followed it up with a Courser of Kruphix, which put a land into play from the top of his library, gaining him a life and revealing Aqueous Form.

Although the Mogis’s Marauder in my hand wasn’t enough to seal the deal (I couldn’t give everything intimidate because of Ill-Tempered Cyclops), I had decided to board in Portent of Betrayal and was fortunate enough to have drawn it a few turns earlier. The combination of removing his blocker and adding two power to my attack force was enough to put away the victory.

Although it didn’t appear like I had to win that turn, my opponent solemnly revealed after the match that he had the win if he was able to untap. He would have used the Aqueous Form on top of his library in conjunction with Boon Satyr’s bestow and an Aspect of the Hydra to kill me from my seemingly safe life total.

Winning this PTQ was one of the best feelings in the world. Not only am I back on the Pro Tour, but I get to test with all of my best friends again. To add a little icing to the cake, when I got home I did a search of "white peacock" on Google. As it turns out, peacocks are only white when they have a rare genetic mutation. I know you might not be as superstitious as me, but all I’m saying is if you happen to stumble upon this mystical creature, I highly recommend booking a flight to the next Grand Prix.

Or at very least buy a lotto ticket!