The Pro Tour Approaches…

Pro Tour Dominaria is going to be a lot of fun to watch, but it’ll be even better to play in! Patrick Chapin is combing the metagame and looking at all the options! What deck would you play?

With Pro Tour Dominaria just days away, I’m kind of at a

Maybe, we’ll see. Let’s just assume for the sake of argument that Lich’s
Mastery (in a W/B Approach shell) isn’t very well-positioned because:

  1. 1. The R/B cards punish the white interaction it wants to play, while
    the white interaction that matches up right against them is better
    suited to a U/W Control deck.
  2. 2. The cards that make Lich’s Mastery different than any other W/B
    deck are (mostly) not that good against U/W Control decks.
  3. 3. It’s got a good game 1 matchup against a lot of decks, but that’s
    been true of lots of Approach decks. How much work is the Lich’s
    Mastery portion of the deck doing?

Speaking to point #1, R/B Aggro is one of my leading candidates for the
event. Scrapheap Scrounger, Rekindling Phoenix, Hazoret the Fervent, and
Glorybringer are basically a who’s who of cards good against Fumigate that
can be answered by Settle the Wreckage.

We’ve seen a lot of these decks over the past month, but here’s a current
build from this past weekend’s MTGO PTQ:

The one thing that always gets me about these decks is the nearly
universally agreed on trimming of Unlicensed Disintegrations. Some people
play just two!

Maybe it’s right because of just how many people play Teferi decks, but the
card is so powerful, I’d be inclined to err on the side of slightly too
many, rather than too few.

If you shift the focus away from Fumigate and towards Settle the Wreckage,
why bother playing Lich’s Mastery instead of some combination of Teferi,
Hero of Dominaria, Search for Azcanta, Pull from Tomorrow, Hieroglyphic
Illumination, and Glimmer of Genius?

Romani’s PTQ-winning U/W Control deck does a great job of speaking to point
#2. With seven maindeck counters to Approach, plus a lot of card draw
engines that will just completely take over the game if you’re both just
hanging out, the Lich’s Mastery deck would be under a lot of pressure.

Romani even features a pair of Torrential Gearhulks, which can rebuy a
crucial counterspell, as well as actually end the game against Lich’s
Mastery, itself. This is in in


contrast to Brad Nelson’s hyper-greedy build from the top four of the Team
GP in Toronto, the weekend before:

Brad’s deck was so pure, its only game 1 victory condition (aside from
concession) was decking…

Once Teferi has gone ultimate, it’s not hard to exile all opposing
permanents and completely lock someone out of the game. Then it’s just a
matter of time. Every turn, you can exile the land they play, which they
can’t keep up forever anyway. When you run out of cards in your deck,
Teferi can put himself back “into your deck” every turn.

Of course, without a single way to deal damage or remove Lich’s Mastery

What about fast combo?

Again… maybe.

The thing is, Karn and Teferi really put a lot of pressure on you. If
you’re dinking around for even a turn or two, the game will rapidly get out
of reach.

Then again, who even plays Karn, anymore?

The U/W decks typically don’t (and yeah, Teferi is a lot better). The big
R/B decks start with Rekindling Phoenix and have moved towards a mix of
Chandras and Hazorets for support. What’s more, a growing number of players
have looped back around to more aggressive red decks.

A return to Ahn-Crop Crasher is really the hallmark of this style, as one
can’t always be sure of just how many Soul-Scar Mages and Earthshaker
Khenras their opponent is packing.

These red decks tend to feature a lot of Shocks and Lightning Strikes,
along with the customary Abrades. The use of both is typically indicative
of no black splash, but even those that splash black may be want to pair
Ahn-Crop Crasher with a little extra spot removal.

Here’s an example of the Ahn-Crop Crasher style of red, aimed at ducking
under the mirror:

You know, if everyone wants to play this style of red deck, maybe Lich’s
Mastery isn’t so bad, after all…

Besides, if we continue to see an increase in popularity of G/B Constrictor
decks, that bodes well for Fumigate/Approach decks, across the board.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not speaking ill of this deck at all. It has some
respectable red matchups, and a single Fatal Push isn’t exactly the most
dead cards against Teferi. While G/B improves a lot after sideboarding, I
think it’s unlikely to turn the matchup around.

I have mixed feelings about the Chupacabra. On the one hand, it’s not
exactly at its best against Terferi and Rekinding Phoenix. On the other
hand, it’s better in an Adventurous Impulse deck, and the lower to the
ground people go, the better it is. Still, I’m not sure I can get over how
much it matters to be able to go after the other fours (Hazoret, Rekinding
Phoenix, Chandra, Karn, etc).

Interestingly, while some red players were going smaller than other red
decks, JMM found success going bigger than other G/B decks.

As if a playset of Verdurous Gearhulks wasn’t enough, JMM has two copies of
Liliana, Death’s Majesty, and not a Rishkar, Peema Renegade in sight to
help the Llanowar Elves get them onto the battlefield early.

Once again we see the near complete lack of potential dead cards maindeck.
More interestingly, there’s also absolutely zero Thrashing Brontodon,
maindeck or sideboard. Instead, there’s a little surprise waiting for us…

A Chupacabra among artifacts, Manglehorn sacrifices Cast Out/Search for
Azcanta equity to pick up Bomat Courier/Heart of Kiran/Walking Ballista
equity. I’m a fan here, especially with how well it plays into the
Adventurous Impulse/Liliana plan.

Interesting. It’s not the strongest card in an Adventurous Impulse deck to
begin with, and I think I’d possibly be concerned about how creature-lite
(or creature-devoid) the Teferi decks are. That said, scry 1 isn’t the
worst and it’s probably a little underplayed to begin with.

This format is so heavily dictated by the power of snowballing advantages
generated by unanswered threats, it really does increase interest in
discard spells that may not only remove a key card, but give us the rundown
on what we’ve got to play around (thereby informing our sequencing).

This line of inquiry has generally been bringing me back to the same spot.
It usually goes something like this:

  1. 1. The tapout threats are incredible and hit from a lot of angles.
  2. 2. Discard spells can clear the way and let us play them in the right
  3. 3. What are the best threats at each spot on the curve we can play?

While I was originally most interested in W/B, most of the W/B cards don’t
actually line up all that well against R/B. Many of the best R/B threats,
however, get a lot of their strength from their resiliency or the impact
they have when they enter the battlefield. This makes them less desirable
to pair with discard spells (which decompress the game). To understand this
idea, just think about the difference between Duress + Lyra Dawnbringer and
Duress + Rekindling Phoenix.

You know, if they don’t draw Unlicensed Disintegration (or we snatch it
with Duress), Lyra Dawnbringer would sure mess up these red decks…

Once we’re talking about “best things you can tap out for”, we eventually
are going to make our way back to The Scarab God. This is not the
card you want to see when you’re looking at a Ravenous Chupacabra in your

MARGIN_CALL’s list has so many of my favorite cards right now. I
particularly enjoy the use of a full playset of Vraska’s Contempts on top
of the three Ravenous Chupacabras. A playset of Fatal Push also means
something quite a bit different when you’ve got Chart a Course and Champion
of Wits in your deck.

Chart a Course has got to be one of the most consistently underplayed cards
in the format. For how much people love cards like Tormenting Voice, you’d
think they’d be in for the version that gives you more choices of what to
discard, is better against permission, and very frequently doesn’t even
require you to discard a card at all (Yeah, Kitesail Freebooter!).

Champion of Wits hasn’t been nearly so underplayed, but is still a nice
inclusion here. It’s not really all that great in the format right now, but
getting rid of dead cards is nice, and this list is pretty short on

I’ve mentioned it in previous weeks, but I would give some serious thought
to Never. It’s not as good a card as Vraska’s Contempt or Ravenous
Chupacabra, but we’re already basically going to want to play as many
four-drops as we can get away with. For instance, we don’t even have Karn
in here (…yet).

Now this is the four-drop I actually want to make room for. Maybe
it’s just me, but this format seems ripe for a Hostage Taker take-over.
Hostage Taker is just so well-suited to the “tap out for game-winning
threats” experience. It’s also one of the best cards you can follow a
Duress up with.

I’m still not sure I can get into maindecking Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. It’s
probably right to; the card is quite good and we need twos. It’s just,
Goblin Chainwhirler seems so busted and I would not want to walk face first
into it.

Gifted Aetherborn isn’t quite as good a card, baseline, but it sure is nice
against these red decks and these green decks. Maybe we don’t necessarily
need four Walking Ballistas?

This format is not so neatly constrained to such a small box. CONTRAP put
up a top 8 finish with the following U/R Wizard deck, hitting the format
from a slightly unexpected angle.

While this deck plays fairly similarly to other recent U/R decks, it does
have a couple tricks up its sleeve that present different challenges and
are best to be aware of before running into.

For starters, Adeliz is not like most prowess threats. In some ways, she’s
got a little bit in common with Monastery Mentor and can completely take a
game over if unchecked.

Warlord’s Fury is mostly just a one-cost cantrip for triggering all of our
prowess (and importantly, capable of being “cycled,” even if we have no
creatures). It’s also a nice way to get our Ghitu Lavarunner online early.

Reduce is an underrated counterspell that can usually get the job done when
we’re putting someone under pressure, and then leaves us with a potent
virtual “Time Walk,” denying our opponent the better part of a turn’s worth
of mana without costing us an additional card. The extra attack goes a long
way in a deck like this and we even get extra prowess triggers.

Wizard’s Lightning and Wizard’s Retort aren’t exactly revolutionary new
angles, compared to Abrade and Disallow, but every bit of tempo matters.

Now this is an effective weapon against Settle the Wreckage and
Torrential Gearhulk.

Goblin Chainwhirler may not be as good here as it is in Mono-Red, but it’s
just kind of a messed up Magic card. Besides, we’re even playing an extra
Mountain in the sideboard to help support it, and we’ve even got the
Soul-Scar Mage combo ourselves.

You know what’s even more fun than giving all of our opponent’s creatures
-1/-1? Giving them -2/-2, including that Winding Constrictor over there…

Finally, I’d like to turn your attention to this little diddy, right here:

IHUGIU’s New Perspectives deck is a little different than most we’ve seen.
For starters, it’s Sultai, rather than Bant or Bant splash black.

A full playset of Shadow of the Grave? What sorcery is this?

Why choose when you can play both? Stacking these up gets us a lot of extra
mileage out of Vizier of Tumbling Sands, and with all of these Shadow of
the Graves and Razaketh’s Rites, this is a New Perspectives deck that
really does “go off.”

We can reliably draw our entire deck and drain someone all the way out with
our single copy of Faith of the Devoted. Even if we have no cards in our
library, we can cycle a lot of cards and activate it before the draw
actually resolves.

Why make their removal spells live, game one?

Okay, I’ve gotta get back into the lab. If I can’t come up with something
quick, I’m going to be deciding between R/B, U/W, and B/U…

…But it calls to me.