SCG Daily – Pimp my Precon: Heavy Hitters

I’m busily turning the 8th Edition precons into well-oiled machines, one per day. On Monday I turned Lifeboost into a steam-powered chicken plucker soaked in rancid olive oil. Yesterday I turned Expulsion into an electric pencil sharpener, dripping with the SAE 30 I drained from my tractor. Well-oiled machines indeed. Today it’s time to tackle Heavy Hitters.

I’m busily turning the 8th Edition precons into well-oiled machines, one per day. On Monday I turned Lifeboost into a steam-powered chicken plucker soaked in rancid olive oil. Yesterday I turned Expulsion into an electric pencil sharpener, dripping with the SAE 30 I drained from my tractor. Well-oiled machines indeed. Today it’s time to tackle Heavy Hitters.

Here’s the rules:

Start with an 8th Edition precon.

Up the lands to 24 and then increase the commons in the deck to four to make it a 60 card deck

Play some, then add cards, using only

1) The cards from the other precons, plus

2) Whatever I get in the one draft I’m allowing per precon

3) Whatever I can accumulate by trading / selling cards from the precon.

The goal is to have the deck win at least 40% of games in some format. That may sound like low expectations, but these are bad decks to start with, and I’m adding next to nothing. Besides, I’m the one playing them, and I suck.

Today’s special is Heavy Hitters, the Green precon with assorted fatties. Here’s the starting decklist:

Heavy Hitters

2 (4) Elvish Pioneer C

1 Fyndhorn Elder U

2 (4) Lone Wolf C

2 (4)Wood Elves C

2 Hunted Wumpus U

1 (4) Nantuko Disciple C

2 (3) Spined Wurm C

1 Llanowar Behemoth U

1 Primeval Force R

1 Rhox R

2 (4) Giant Growth C

1 (2) Naturalize C

2 Rampant Growth C

1 Wing Snare U

1 Lure U

1 Rod of Ruin U

17 (24) Forest

There we go – 60 cards. This time simply increasing the number of good commons to four gets me well past sixty, but the deck does not look very good. I think it will be slow as molasses, and even upping the combat tricks means I will need some luck as I hit the Standard circuit.

It was. The deck tended to drop lands like crazy but have nothing to do with them, or stall at four lands and sit with a hand full of fat. Elvish Pioneer was fine, surprisingly. I often had one on turn 1, and enough extra lands to make him useful. Too often, though, the deck just died after that. Wood Elves are terrible – even Vine Trellis would have been better.

I won’t talk about the playtest games. Hands with 3 Forests, Rampant Growth, Giant Growth, Nantuko Disciple and Spined Wurm do not win when your opponent goes Mountain, Mox, Slith Firewalker, with another Slith on turn 2. I took this into both the casual and tournament practice rooms, and did not get a single win. It was way too inconsistent.

The draft: Well, Knut says people don’t want to read about drafts, so I’ll keep this short. I played against an opponent with a 1750 rating and an insane deck (Mahamoti Djinn, Air Elemental, 2 Dehydration, Confiscate, Thieving Magpie, 2 or 3 Aven Fishers, Aven Cloudchaser, Aven Flock, Staunch Defenders, Horned Turtle and had splashed Black for Dark Banishing and two(!) Gravedigger) and I won that draft by decking him game 3 with Inspiration. I drafted again with the winnings. I also snagged a Predator’s Strike and Beacon in a MDF draft. So back to the precon.

The precon deck was highly inconsistent. The answer to that is to work on the mana curve. You need to drop creatures every turn, because all this deck does is beat. Here’s an example:

1cc: 4 Elvish Pioneer, 1 Child of Thorns

2cc: 3 Grizzly Bears, 2 Humble Budoka, 3 Sakura-Tribe Elder

3cc: 1 Trained Armodon, 1 Gnarled Mass, 2 Lone Wolf, 1 Isao, Enlightened Bushi

4cc: 2 Nantuko Disciple

5cc: Llanowar Behemoth, Spined Wurm

6cc: Primeval Force, Rhox, Moss Kami

2 Giant Growth

2 Naturalize

1 Predator’s Strike

1 Reclaim

1 Beacon of Creation

2 Rampant Growth

23 Forest

I moved the Wing Snare, Lure, Rod of Ruin and Hunted Wumpus to the sideboard. I added a Humble Budoka and two more Naturalizes to the sideboard, along with stuff like Choke. Tel-Jilad Chosen might be a cheap answer to anyone playing Vedalken Shackles, but I only have one. Having seen lots of Green recently, I added 3 Rushwood Dryads.

I took this off for playtesting. Having a mana curve means the deck drops threats more consistently. I debated Vine Trellis and Rampant Growth. Growth works better with the Beacon and thins the deck, but Vine Trellis can tap to pump the Behemoth, and slows beats. That said, the deck is usually dropping fairly hefty creatures consistently, so it rarely needs a wall. Even when I don’t drop a creature and a Slith Firewalker sneaks through for a counter, I can always leave a 3/3 back thereafter and solve the problem.

I’m wondering whether this deck might work as a Vanguard deck. I have not played any Vanguard as of yet, but it is easier to get a Vanguard Standard game in the casual room than a Standard one right now, so I’ll give it a try. Here are the rules for Vanguard.

With Vanguard, I add my avatar card to the deck as 61st card, and I get to use its abilities. I have the basic five avatars, plus the Higure I got for playing the Betrayer’s release event. Higure gives me a starting hand of 6 cards, 23 life and the ability “Whenever a nontoken creature you control deals combat damage to an opponent, take a random creature from your library, reveal it, and put it into your hand.” Prodigal Sorcerer gives me eight cards to start with, 22 life and “At the beginning of your upkeep, look at the top card of your library. You may put that card into your graveyard.” Both of these seem like card advantage, which is good. I’ll start with Prodigal Sorcerer, and see how this goes. Other options include the Goblin Warchief (all your attackers get +1/+0) and Ernham Djinn (whenever you play a creature card, put a 1/1 Saproling in play.)

I built the deck, both as a Type Two and a Vanguard deck, but I ended up preferring the Goblin Warchief instead of Tim as the avatar, hoping the extra bonus on attackers in an aggressive deck will help out. It actually did – or, in one case, would have if I hadn’t failed my smarts roll.

Game 1: 666Devildog with Jitte tricks (not sure about avatar)

He was playing Blue for Fabricate, plus Jitte and Arcbound Workers and Myr Retrievers. This game showed just how broken Jitte was. He opened with Worker, I opened with Pioneer and a second land. He played a second Arcbound, and a Jitte. I attacked, used Predator’s Strike to trample over the first Arcbound and made a second Pioneer. He made a turn three Jitte, and ignored my beats. I dropped Nantuko Disciple and some Humble Budokas, but Jitte tricks and Myr Retriever, made it quite difficult to sneak damage through. However, I reclaimed the Predator’s Strike and managed to force the final damage past the Jitte. In the game, I managed to cast several Pioneers, a Child of Thorns, 2 Budoka, 2 Nantuko Disciples and 2 Predator Strikes, while all my attackers got a power boost, and I still almost lost to Jitte and four 1/1 creatures.

Humble Budoka was key, since Jitte could not target it.

Game 2: MakoeyesX ??? (Higure avatar)

Not sure exactly what he was playing – probably Black something. He was badly mana screwed and cast a single Rend Flesh all game. My deck started with a Pioneer, and never looked back. Speed kills.

Game 3: Knight_Owler, mono-Black Control (Ink-Eyes Avatar)

He took my Beacon of Creation from my opening hand, but didn’t do much more. I opened with beaters, and Budoka, and quickly smashed him with my 3/2 bears. He had some Divining Top action, but nothing else of note until he was dead – which was about turn 5.

Game 4: LawPricer: White Weenie (Akroma Avatar)

This game had some weird problems. All his dudes got Vigilance via the avatar, and he had Glorious Anthem. He attacked, I Naturalized the Anthem during declare attackers, then blocked his 2/2 with my 2/2 – and only my guy died. Next turn, I attacked with my Elder, he blocked and the game went directly to his main phase, skipping damage and, I think, his draw. He conceded and left, and I rebooted. He had me beat, in any case.

Game 4b: Ebony513 mono-Black Demons and Ogres (Royal Assassin)

I have played him before. He has a pimped version of Dark Devotion. He got out Nightmare Lash, plus an Ogre Marauder (equipped) and a Takenuma Bleeder. However, his avatar, my pingers and the Nightmare Lash all brought him down to almost no life. In my final turn, I held back two creatures to block, so my attack just took him to two, but missed the fact that I could have swung with everything and beat him, because he could not have blocked with the Bleeder without dying. He didn’t see it either, because next turn he attacked with the Bleeder, and died to the Bleeder’s effect (combined with his Avatar.) What can I say? It was late, and we were probably both tired.

Match 1: ??? Green good stuff (Elvish Champion)

I played him in the tourney practice room, where I was testing the blue precon I’ll talk about tomorrow. This was the first really tuned Vanguard deck I faced, and it was brutal. He won the roll and opened with Forest, Birds of Paradise, Birds of Paradise (off the elf). My land, Pioneer, land looked a bit pale in comparison. Turn 2 he played Forest, Sword of Fire and Ice, equip Bird. I played Forest, Pioneer, beat for two, and Naturalized his Sword once he attacked. He played another Sword of F/I, then Troll Ascetic. I beat, then played some random creature and conceded when he played a Sword of Light and Shadow.

Game two was closer, with me getting some damage though with Predator’s Strike and beaters, and managing to get Nantuko Disciple active. I got him to three, but he had an active Troll Ascetic and all I had was a Lone Wolf, so I sat back hoping to draw a Giant Growth. Duh! – if I had attacked, my Avatar would have made the Wolf a 3/2 and I would have won, but I gave him another turn and he cast Gifts Ungiven for some broken mix of stuff: CoP Green, Witness, Crystal Shard and Plow Under, IIRC. He had plenty of mana and I was tapped out, so I lost.

That appears to be a tier one Vanguard deck – the first really rare-filled deck I have faced. The elvish avatar is really powerful – extra mana on turn 1 is great.

Game 7: Galloponte, MBC with foil lands, Moxen (???)

He had a solid deck, but I had speed. He dropped lands, Moxen and Guardian Idols, and cast Night’s Whisper and a Promise of Power for cards early, but had enough removal that he kept me from getting much damage through. I finally got a Budoka on the table, and he cast Reiver Demon. I went “all in” at that point, casting Primal Force with just one other card in hand, and dropping to two Forests. If he had a Terror, I lost. He didn’t, but he tapped out to cast two more Night’s Whispers and something else, dropping to five life. I untapped, declared attackers and the cast Predator’s Strike to trample over the Reiver Demon for exactly enough damage to kill him.

Once again, the deck seems to work quite well. The secret is the mana curve. I have mentioned it before, and I will again, that a decent mana curve and aggressive decks, coupled with a reasonable amount of tricks and answers, seems to be enough to make most decks competitive in the casual play and tournament practice forums. Some of this is because a lot of the decks are not tier one, and part of it may be because I worked hard at timing my tricks, but it is mainly because a solid deck that stays aggressive can win – and the fact that even the Pioneers beat for two didn’t hurt.

The Giant Growths have become Predator’s Strikes, and the Primal Force should be another Moss Kami (trample >> more fat.) The deck would be much better with Eternal Witness and more Beacon of Creations, but that’s hardly a surprise.

I started playtesting this deck before the Vanguard release events. I wasn’t sure whether I would play in those – and so far, I have not. From the game descriptions, you may have noticed that the Elvish Champion deck was by far the best I faced. That is not surprising – that is the best avatar by far. Here are some stats, as of Tuesday morning, from the MTGO boards:

Top 8 Appearances (Overall)

Elvish Champion: 207

Akroma: 26

Prodigal Sorcerer: 21

Etched Oracle: 8

Seishiro: 5

Serra: 3

Raksha: 3

Karona: 1

Two-Headed Giant: 1

Higure: 1

Birds of Paradise: 1

Arcbound Overseer: 1

Starting with a extra card and a Llanowar Elf in play seems pretty good – and things like turn 3 Plow Under or Tooth and Nail win the game. Since I don’t have the cards for a tier one deck, and don’t have the right avatar, I don’t expect to be playing in the Vanguard release tourneys, either.

I have a fairly aggressive build, with a bunch of 1/1s, 2/2s and 3/3s, plus some combat tricks. That build seems to favor the Goblin avatar – it is designed for fast beats. It also seems to be the best approach I can get out of this precon.

The Prodigal Sorcerer avatar provides card selection and works best with more controlling decks, or decks with a better mid or late game. I think a green Prodigal Sorcerer deck would use more Rampant Growths and so forth, plus evasion finishers like Rhox. The problem is that those decks have no chance against the Plow Under / Elvish Champion decks.

Higure doesn’t seem all that useful in my deck. I do, occasionally, get some fast beats going with Elvish Pioneers and the like, but Higure can find creatures like the Elvish Pioneer in mid or late game, which does very little for your game at that point. The Higure avatar calls for evasion creatures, and the only evasion this deck has comes via Predator’s Strike and Moss Kami.

I still have a couple questions (but I’m at deadline.) The biggest is whether the Lone Wolf is worthwhile. On some occasions, the Wolf can force lethal damage through. However, for the same cost, I could have a 3/3, which is generally better. However, I started with a precon, and the Wolves were included. I guess I would say play the Gnarled Masses if you have them, otherwise play the Wolves.

Gotta go now, I have some more work to do on the Blue precon.


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