Brewing for Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze (Part 1 of 2)

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Hey guys and gals, this week’s article is going to be in two parts, simply because it’s a lot to read (and write) at once. A number of my friends are qualified for Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze, so I thought I’d do my part to help them in preparing their decks for Return to Ravnica Block Constructed. I am going to approach this in the same way that I’d approach any new format, so at first what I’m going to do is review which “playable” cards are available to build with, which archetypes exist in the pre-Dragon’s Maze metagame, and how those archetypes might change post rotation. In the second half of this article I will continue the deck discussion as well as discussing new archetypes which might arise as a result of Dragon’s Maze cards.

Step One:  Off to Gatherer! (http://gatherer.wizards.com)

After a quick search through Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, and Dragon’s Maze I identified which cards were good enough for constructed play (or close enough to at least think about) and plopped them into a spreadsheet separated by color, converted mana cost, and guild. Here is the Google Docs version of it for reference: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0As_1tU_4Id_kdExsMjc1a1hsbjYzYTdBeGJxbmhjSXc&usp=sharing

Step Two: Now that we have a frame of reference for the format, let’s look at which decks have been successful in pre-Dragon’s Maze Block Constructed.

Esper Control

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This is a “good cards deck” that takes advantage of some of the most powerful mythic rares in the format. The game plan is simple: slow down aggressive decks with cheap removal and creatures that either block well or act as removal until the game can be locked up with a large Sphinx’s Revelation into either Obzedat or Angel of Serenity. This deck is also fairly well positioned in the control mirror, as it applies early pressure and plays 3 Detention Spheres to combat early planeswalkers and has 3 copies of Obzedat, a card which is typically very strong against control strategies.

2  Azorius Guildgate
1  Dimir Guildgate
4  Godless Shrine
4  Hallowed Fountain
6  Island
1  Orzhov Guildgate
5  Plains
4  Watery Grave


27 lands

1  Angel of Serenity
4  Lyev Skyknight
3  Obzedat, Ghost Council
2  Precinct Captain


10 creatures

4  Azorius Charm
3  Detention Sphere
4  Jace, Architect of Thought
4  Sphinx’s Revelation
4  Supreme Verdict
4  Syncopate


23 other spells

Sideboard

1  Angel of Serenity
1  Blind Obedience
3  Cancel
4  Dispel
3  Dramatic Rescue
1  Keening Apparition
2  Orzhov Charm

What changes for this deck post-rotation?

Well, on the plus side this deck gets a lot of new tools to fight both control and aggressive decks. It gets three new removal spells in Far//Away, Renounce the Guilds, and Warped Physique, as well as two very powerful tools to fight Sphinx’s Revelation in Council of the Absolute and Notion Thief. The deck also has access to Blood Baron of Vizkopa as a threat which is immune to most of the removal in the format, Debt to the Deathless as another finisher which is immune to removal spells, and Obzedat’s Aid as a means of returning fallen planeswalkers, Detention Spheres, and creatures.

On the down side however, the format also gets a few new tools to fight against decks like this. Voice of Resurgence punishes players for operating at instant speed and is resilient to Supreme Verdict, Advent of the Wurm is a 5/5 threat that can come into play on the same turn that Supreme Verdict is cast, and the Ready half of Ready//Willing is yet another boros charm-type effect to allow decks to effectively “counter” Supreme. These sorts of decks will also be more likely to maindeck Rootborn Defenses given that token generation and the populate mechanic will be more powerful in general.  That’s not all the bad news though. This deck also has to contend with Sire of Insanity, a card that threatens to force the control player to answer it the turn it enters play or be resigned to topdeck mode in a desperate attempt to find outs. As a result, control players will have to be extremely careful when opponents are representing Sire mana on their approaching turns. Lastly, the same tools that this deck gains to fight against Sphinx’s Revelation decks (Council of the Absolute and Notion Thief) can also be used against it, and aggressive blue decks gain cards like Spell Rupture and Manaplasm to keep Revelation from resolving .

Next up,

Mono Red

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This deck’s MO is quite clear: bash until a lethal Dynacharge gets cast, or bash until Supreme Verdict gets cast and then recover with a few creatures and a lethal Dynacharge. This strategy is weak to bigger creature decks and risks being overpowered by the mythic rare-laden blue decks, but it has explosive draws with the now infamous Burning-Tree Emissary and can punish slow starts or mulligans from any archetype in the format.

 

19  Mountain


19 lands

4  Ash Zealot
4  Boros Reckoner
4  Burning-Tree Emissary
4  Firefist Striker
4  Foundry Street Denizen
4  Gore-House Chainwalker
4  Legion Loyalist
4  Rakdos Cackler


32 creatures

4  Dynacharge
1  Madcap Skills
3  Mizzium Mortars
1  Mugging


9 other spells

Sideboard

2  Act of Treason
2  Annihilating Fire
4  Frostburn Weird
3  Mugging
4  Skullcrack

What happens post-rotation?

Sadly, not much. The Burn half of Turn//Burn is only 2 damage for 2 mana, which is not exactly a rate to write home about, so the card will probably be killing mono red’s creatures for blue decks more often than it’s being cast by mono red. I think the only positive that this deck really gains from Dragon’s Maze is that converting it into Rakdos is more appealing with the addition of Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch, Spike Jester, and Sire of Insanity, in addition to Blood Scrivener perhaps. I’m not sure if this deck is looking for either of Scrivener or Sire, because it seems to be abandoning any concept of Late Game in attempts to end the game as quickly as possible, but Exava, in addition to excellent black unleash creatures such as Hellhole Flailer and Thrill Kill Assassin may be what this archetype needs to push through some of the other creature decks in the format. Also, the addition of Black opens this deck up to playing Pack Rat out of the sideboard in creature mirrors. For those of you who played a lot of RTR limited, yes Pack Rat is almost as stupid in RTR block creature mirrors as it was in RTR limited.

Unfortunately for this deck I think the negatives are a bit more pronounced than the positives. Green/White midrange decks which already can give the red deck issues are highly incentivized by Voice of Resurgence, a card which is extremely good against early aggression, and Advent of the Wurm. And both of these cards will be encouraging people to play one of the red deck’s worst nightmares, Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice. In addition to this, the new versatile removal spells in the format, Turn//Burn, Far//Away, and Warped Physique are all excellent responses to early aggression. I’m not about to say the red deck is no good anymore without testing, but it certainly faces challenges in the full Block constructed format.

Neeeeeeeeext!

Borzhov Midrange

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This deck is the more aggressive compliment to the Esper Control list from above. Rather than casting Jace and Sphinx’s Revelation to gain card advantage and gain life this deck uses Rakdos’s Return, Aurelia’s Fury, and Dreadbore, along with a higher threat density to ensure that it doesn’t really care about those cards, or whichever other cards the opponent might be holding in hand, and to attack the opponent’s life total proactively. This deck’s sideboard also boasts two of the most powerful anti-control cards in the format, being Assemble the Legion and Slaughter Games, as well as the most efficient removal spell against aggro, Mugging. This is the “Jund” of the format.

4  Blood Crypt
3  Boros Guildgate
4  Godless Shrine
1  Mountain
3  Orzhov Guildgate
4  Plains
1  Rakdos Guildgate
4  Sacred Foundry
1  Swamp


25 lands

3  Alms Beast
1  Angel of Serenity
1  Aurelia, the Warleader
4  Boros Reckoner
2  Desecration Demon
3  Obzedat, Ghost Council
2  Precinct Captain


16 creatures

3  Aurelia’s Fury
4  Devour Flesh
4  Dreadbore
2  Mizzium Mortars
3  Rakdos Keyrune
3  Rakdos’s Return


19 other spells

Sideboard

1  Angel of Serenity
3  Assemble the Legion
2  Merciless Eviction
4  Mugging
3  Slaughter Games
2  Underworld Connections


15 sideboard cards

How will this change?

This deck seemingly benefits immensely from the new set. It gets Sire of Insanity, which is arguably the most promising card in Dragon’s Maze and will certainly perform well in the Sphinx’s Revelation-saturated block format; It gets Sin Collector as an early drop against aggressive decks and a walking duress against control decks; It gets Blood Baron of Vizkopa as a resilient threat which is relatively good against aggro; It gets wear//tear which is one of my favourite sideboard cards in recent memory; and it gets renounce the guilds, which may prove to be a potent removal spell in some matchups.

What gets worse for this deck? The worst implication of Dragon’s Maze for this archetype is probably the strengthening of other potential midrange strategies, again due to cards like Advent of the Wurm and Voice of Resurgence. I could see this deck struggling against a Selesnya or Bant midrange deck that was designed to grind out midrange matches with permanents (rather than draw spells) that create card advantage. I have a feeling this archetype will remain a good choice in the coming format.

Selesnya Midrange:

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This is a precursor to what might end up being the dominant midrange strategy after Dragon’s Maze is realeased in light of the excellent Selesnya cards I’ve been mentioning repeatedly through the first half of the article, though it’s already achieving quite a bit of success online. The strategy is simple: Go bigger than everyone else, beat supreme verdict, and lock up creature matchups with Trostani. I’m sure that either a version of this deck or one with some blue cards in it will be one of the popular options for post Dragon’s Maze block constructed.

8  Forest
1  Grove of the Guardian
7  Plains
4  Selesnya Guildgate
4  Temple Garden


24 lands

1  Angelic Skirmisher
3  Armada Wurm
3  Centaur Healer
1  Deadbridge Goliath
4  Experiment One
4  Gyre Sage
4  Loxodon Smiter
3  Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice


23 creatures

4  Call of the Conclave
1  Collective Blessing
4  Rootborn Defenses
4  Selesnya Charm


13 other spells

Sideboard

1  Aerial Predation
1  Angel of Serenity
1  Centaur Healer
2  Druid’s Deliverance
4  Frontline Medic
1  Keening Apparition
3  Pit Fight
1  Pithing Needle
1  Sundering Growth

What changes? This deck gets Voice of Resurgence and Advent of the Wurm, two of the best cards in the new set, as well as Renounce the Guilds if the need arises. This deck doesn’t really care too much about a lot of what the other decks are gaining, though the increased diversity and strength of spot removal in general will have a mildly negative impact. This strategy will certainly be a consideration for anyone Pro Tour bound.

That’s all for Part 1. In Part 2 I will follow up with a few more pre- Dragon’s Maze decklists before leading into a few brews that I think might be worth investigating.

Thanks for tuning in!

Glenn McIelwain

_GMac_ on modo

@glennmcielwain on twitter

 

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