A few weeks ago Flores gave me a call at around 11 to tell me that we’re testing at noon. I rush out the door in an effort to get to Mike’s house as quickly as possible, since it’s a bit of a trip for me. My journey to Mike’s requires me to transfer at the 14th Street 8th Ave station. When I get on my second train, Ravitz and Osyp are already sitting down and looking awfully comfortable.
Why am I bothering to mention that Josh and Osyp were on the subway before me? Well, perhaps if you had a better understanding of our starting locations you would have an appreciation for this. See, Mike’s house is a couple of miles south of Osyp’s. Mike’s house is several miles north of mine. So not only did Josh and Osyp choose to take several trains instead of driving for a few minutes, they also went much further south than they should have.
/Begin Rant About my Flight
We go to board our plane and I have to duck my head considerably as the plane is noticeably shorter than I am. Beyond being uncomfortably small, the plane was little more than a rickety Greyhound bus that had been put out of commission with Paper-Mache wings crazy-glued on. The plane was, of course, propelled by two ceiling fans that Scott McCord had recently thrown in the trash.
If there is anything that I can do to make your flight a little bit more comfortable don’t hesitate to let me know.
Our flight attendant.
Notice how she didn’t ask if she could make our flights considerably more comfortable, or even just somewhat enjoyable… nope, she just said that we could tell her if we were uncomfortable. Now that I’m thinking back on it, she didn’t even offer to help make our trip more comfortable; she just said that we shouldn’t refrain from telling her what was causing us discomfort. I guess I missed out on an ideal opportunity to complain about everything that was annoying me about the airplane. Instead, you the reader are getting to hear about how I felt slighted by the quality of my flight.
And, if you’re into slapstick, I also cracked my head while using the bathroom. When I went to use the sink I was expecting running water. Instead, the sink was full of moist towelettes.
/End Rant About my Flight
For our first set, I’d be playing R/G against Mike’s pet G/W deck.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Civic Wayfinder
- 1 Gleancrawler
- 4 Loxodon Hierarch
- 4 Selesnya Guildmage
- 1 Tolsimir Wolfblood
- 4 Watchwolf
- 3 Indrik Stomphowler
Mike had a turn 2 Guildmage, a turn 3 Civic Wayfinder and a turn 4 Glare that sent me packing.
Mike’s only spell was a turn 4 Faith’s Fetters.
I thought I had a chance this game, as I had a Burning Tree Shaman and a Rumbling Slum against a fairly innocuous Glare-free board. However, a series of Hierarchs and Faith Fetters bought him enough time to win through G/W Guildmage.
Mike keeps a Forest, Bird hand and doesn’t draw a second land until turn 6. I’m able to pull this one out.
My draw is pretty slow, and I get blown out by Fetters and Hierarchs.
This is the third consecutive game in which Mike announced, “I’m keeping a dodgy hand.” However this one, like in game 5, failed to pay off as Mike had multiple Vitu-Ghazis and lost without a Forest anywhere in sight.
Mike gets his 4th consecutive poor starter and this time finally decides to mull. His six-card hand is even worse, and he dies before playing something other than a 2/2.
I had a pretty good draw but my cards were just completely outclassed. Not only were his plays strictly better than mine, many of them happened to gain him four life. My turn 6 Scorched Rusalka fails to seal the deal.
I’m forced to throw a second Cloak on my non-landwalking Sophisticate, in hopes of getting past his Hierarch and killing him before he draws a Glare, a Fetters, or even a Guildmage. Needless to say this didn’t pan out, as he had the Fetters for my 8/7 and I had nothing.
R/G’s mana issues were very apparent for me over the course of a ten-game set, as the deck is forced to keep more sketchy hands and take more mulligans than even the four- and five-color decks of the format.
Perhaps what frustrated me most about R/G is the deck’s lack of reach; there were many games where the G/W deck was able to go to dangerously low life totals as he had no reason to respect the minimal amount of burn that is found in R/G. Most of the games that I played I was able to put myself into a position where, if I ripped a second Char/Demonfire, I would have been able to win the game. Now, it’s entirely possible that I wouldn’t have been able to get into those types of situations if I had burn spells replacing creatures, but I can’t help but feel like the deck would benefit from an additional Demonfire.
The erratic quality of R/G’s draws, coupled with its relatively low power level, makes the deck a tough sell on paper. However, these drawbacks are very easy to ignore as the deck offers an inordinate amount of blowout victories.
This is the first time that I had shuffled up the G/W deck, and I was very impressed. I curved out very well with a series of Watchwolves and Hierarchs, before sealing the deal with a Gleancrawler.
Yada, yada Glare, yada, yada.
We both mulligan and, despite being behind to start the game, I’m able to completely turn the tides by drawing Glare.
A string of Fetters and Hierarchs allow me to take the game very easily.
I drew 4 Watchwolves and 2 Hierarchs, and was able to gain a sizable board advantage before I’m able to seal the deal with monsters plus Guildmage.
Mike gets a Cloaked Ledgewalker going, but I have Hierarch, into Stomphowler (killing his Cloak) into Seed Spark, and Mike has minimal follow-up plays. If he had had Sophisticates he might have been able to outrace me.
I cast 4 Loxodon Hierarchs.
So I won, right? Obviously not. Mike had the initiative this game, and was able to churn out a damage advantage through his Rumbling Slums to seal the deal before I’m able to draw a Glare.
Mike is once again able to Cloak a Ledgewalker, but he is greatly outclassed by Seed Spark into Tolsimir into Glare.
As anyone who has played Standard in the last four months already knows, R/G’s explosive elements allow the deck to take its fare share of wins from even the most unfavorable of matchups.
While it’s true that Silhana Ledgewalker coupled with Moldervine Cloaks offers the deck an alternative plan, and an additional long game strategy, we found that the Ledgewalker’s downsides greatly outweighed its benefits as it greatly detracts from your most explosive draws. It is rarely a good card to draw in the midgame even when aided by Cloak (and that’s without mentioning what happens if you draw an isolated Ledgewalker).
The fact that R/G has no ways to kill a Glare of Subdual makes a big difference in the game 1 matchup, to say the least. I think if R/G wants to have a shot at beating G/W, its sideboard would need at least a set of disenchant effects, if not something far more dramatic.
So if you’re looking for the most straightforward block deck possible, R/G is probably the best pre-PT deck available.
As for the G/W deck…
I didn’t understand why Mike had such an attachment to G/W before I played the ten-game set against R/G. The deck was in the driver’s seat in every interactive game we played; the drops were just too efficient. I think there were only two games out of twenty where G/W lost in a non-blowout situation.
Obviously, this matchup is heavily in G/W’s favor. I think if Mike had been more aggressive with his mulligans, he could have turned his set into a 7-3 instead of a 6-4. That being said, any deck that isn’t too specialized and can reliably take six games out of ten against R/G is well worth consideration for what is likely to be a very Gruul heavy PT.
R/G is very synergistic; just don’t try to do tricky things with it, and you should be fine. G/W is awesome, but I don’t know if it’s the best Hierarch deck available. It is, however, just like in Standard, almost certainly the best (streamlined) deck against beatdown.
PS- The next time that Mike and I do a matchup article, I’ll make a greater effort to eliminate redundancy (i.e., no double game descriptions). We thought this would be effective, as we could give our perspective from both sides of the matchup, but ultimately we chat too much to get a piece that isn’t greatly influenced by each others opinions.