PDC is an all player run format on Magic Online. It consists of competitive games using exclusively commons cards. Games can be found in the "/join pdc" room and events can be found on the Magic Online official message boards. For more information please visit paupermagic.com.
This article is going to be different. I have been horribly busy with finishing up my assignments for this semester and putting in my last hours in the office. I also have to get interviews ready for next year's assistantship positions and deal with the general adversity of working in an office that just does not fit. On top of that, I was at the center of a PDC controversy this week, and I'll get to that towards the end of this article. Which leads me to the next aspect of this article: it is going to jump around a little. I have some theory, some issues and some tech... and hopefully, you lovely readers will eat everything up. Everybody ready? Cause here we go!
Tom (GloinOin) and I have been talking a bunch this week. You see, Gmail has this great function that will let you chat in their client. This means that at work, I can talk about Magic during my lunch break and whenever I have some down time. Awesome. Anyway, when discussing the different ways to beat control decks, Tom said something very interesting. Cloak Stompy, Deep Dog, and RG Aggro all have the same strategy towards victory over MUC, all of which are contingent on Wild Mongrel. All of these decks, in different ways, want to resolve a Mongrel or bait with a Mongrel in order to win against MUC. These decks also have the greatest chance to win against MUC as they are dense with threats to the control deck and also have many ways to play around the defensive Island deck. This got us thinking about the different broad archetypes that are present in modern PDC Classic. Taking a step back, we noticed a number of similar play styles that decks incorporate, and some cards they either run or approximate in their builds. This is still a rough sketch though and some decks fit outside of these known models.
These are the aggro decks and the aggro-control decks that seek an advantage through running Wild Mongrel. This includes the decks I've mentioned before and decks such as Aggro Rock, The Gambit, and other builds of Blue-Green that are not quite Deep Dog (such as the ones that play Man-o'-War and Gaea's Skyfolk). The Mongrel decks seek to stick their threats to the table and smash for twenty, usually with a disruption back-up plan. In fact, most aggro decks that try to play the Power game (as I spoke about it my last article) attempt to approximate the power of the Savage Hound (another word normally goes here, but it is not quite family friendly, so I will leave it out). Decks like 2Drop seek to approximate the Power of Wild Mongrel through playing creatures with three power. They do a solid job performing like the Dog because of their high power- not only are they offensive threats, but they must be dealt with. This is key about Mongrel and Mongrel decks- they must present a threat that must be dealt with, and present threats to back him up as well. MUC would not fear RG nearly as much if it was simply a Mongrel, instead of Mongrel, a face-down Nantuko Vigilante, and a bloodthirsted Scab-Clan Mauler and a River Boa. Mongrel decks rarely play the minimum number of threats, leading to board states like this quite often.
Mongrel decks are strong aggressive options. They seek, like all aggro decks, to play the maximum amount of damage in the minimal amount of slots. For the aggro-control Mongrel decks, this means their threats must be potent and resilient, and their disruption must also be strong and synergistic with the deck as a whole. These decks are ever present in the meta because of their ability to curve out and because of their adaptability.
Ah, the Spire Golem decks. Not all of these decks actually run the Golem, but nearly all the blue ones do. These decks are invariably control decks, relying on the ability to sit back on a creature and pick off spells and threats at will. Currently, all derivatives of the Mono-Blue Control strategy fit into this mode of sitting back on a creature and simply answering threats with bounce and counters (or removal) and win the long game.
These decks, like Mongrel decks, do not always need a Spire Golem to fit the mold. Golem style decks often sport Shimmering Glasskites, Errant Ephemerons, or a similar late-game creature. These decks tend to be disruption heavy and devote resources to protecting their win condition. Also like Mongrel decks, they are found in nearly every meta because they are constructed mostly of answers, and answers are always good.
These decks are new to the game, but are quickly making a niche in the PDC landscape. These are all sorts of deck, ranging from pure aggro to pure control and everything in between-except combo that is- that seek to run a Grim Harvest engine. The engine comes alive in the late game, and it generate a massive advantage at that point. The problem is getting to that point. This lends itself to decks that have either a highly aggressive or highly defensive early game. In the case of the former, this means either aggro or aggro-control with a back up plan of utilizing Grim Harvest, such as the Gray Skies deck from last time. Defensive decks that seek this advantage are not popular right now, but most likely would have a similar plan to Golem decks, but probably with more utility creatures to use the Harvest to the maximum potential. The instant is a powerful way to generate incremental advantage, something that few other cards in PDC are capable of. Relatively new to the game, these decks have yet to find their role in the meta, but seem to thrive in control and aggro-control environments, where their late game engine can generate a sizable advantage.
These are the grinders- those decks that will slowly eat your resources until you rip out your hair, put up you hands, and yell: “I quit!” Unlike Golem decks, they tend to run few counter spells and mostly run on-board answers such as spot removal. These decks tend to run some sort of recursive element to keep a steady supply of answers available. Like Golem decks, they tend to run hard to deal with threats, such as Twisted Abomination, but can also run a series of smaller threats, as is the case of Parlor Tricks.
Although similar to Golem decks in construction (few threats, card advantage, massive answers), these decks play fundamentally different games: one seeks to render your threats useless whereas the other seeks to never let you play a threat. Successful exhaustive decks are relatively new to the field as well, and as such, they too are just beginning to find their spot in the overarching PDC meta.
Big Win Decks
These decks, as the title suggest, seek the big win. These can range from the combo decks seeking to power out dozens of goblin tokens or deck than wins behind a huge Kaervek's Torch or even a multiple Swamp powered Corrupt. These decks are almost always control or combo, as those decks are able to set up their win conditions, and unlike aggro, need the big win in order to win. They often have defensive pieces such as removal or light counter magic, and a number of slots dedicated to pulling off their win. These decks wax and wane in popularity, mostly because they are at their very best in a meta that is light on disruptive strategies. Their abundance of answers and inevitable win help them against aggro, as they often just sit back until they win. However, if the environment leans towards incredibly fast aggro, these decks find themselves in hot water. Their niche is very small, but when that niche exists, these decks can dominate.
No one likes playing against control. It is often a frustrating prospect when a deck has an answer for nearly every threat you try to deploy. However, every deck in PDC should have a game plan against both styles of control: Golem/Counter based, and Exhaustive based. The following discussion is by no means a fool-proof plan to beating control, but rather a jump off point. As cards enter the format, decks evolve, and who knows what the next set will bring to Classic PDC.
As mentioned above, the Golem decks are those that react to spells as they exist on the stack. Their defense is made up almost exclusively of countermagic. If a threat sticks, it can often spell the end to their day. Before Planar Chaos, this mean a River Boa could often spell game over, but with the advent of Piracy Charm, decks have had to change their approach.
Perhaps the most underplayed card against control currently us Duress, and when it is played, it is often played incorrectly. Too often Duress is run out turn one against an untapped Island. Currently, this is just wrong as it draws the weakest counter in the deck: Force Spike. More and more, I am believing the right play is to wait until there are two untapped Islands and walk the Duress into the impending Counterspell. Why? Usually, the spell you will most want to take with the Duress will be the Counterspell anyway, by waiting a turn you have negated the usefulness of Force Spike and still achieved a near-optimal result. This is an important fact to remember while playing against MUC and other Golem decks: render as many cards of theirs useless as possible.
Golem decks also play the game of amassing resources. Eventually they will be able to counter every threat you play This means that Mongrel and other aggro decks have to play differently. First, they have to stick a threat that can win the game if unmolested. This can be anything from the aforementioned River Boa to the ever-present Wild Mongrel, or any other sufficiently durable beater. In order to do this, you must exhaust the answers of the Golem deck. This means playing for an opening. I wish I could give a hard and fast answer for how this works, but the only advice I can give is wait for the opening. This can come as early as turn two, when you are holding two two drops, or as late as turn six, when your hand is all creatures. The idea is to waste their counters on threats that are not key to your victory (but do help) and then stick that winner.
This brings us to our next point: throw as many “I have to counter that” spells at them. This allows you to play the real punishers late when they are already on the defensive. Also, play cards that answer their vulnerable threats; no Golem likes facing Ancient Grudge.
Decks such as Parlor tricks do not pack nearly as much countermagic, so the plan of attack is slightly different. Discard is much more powerful against these decks as they do not have counterspells. Mindstab and Duress are both golden, as they are powerful attacks; one broad and one pinpoint. Keeping a threat on the table, however, is more difficult, due to the massive amounts of removal the Exhaustive decks tend to pack. Here, the best bet is to assault all out, and deal as much damage as possible early, before the control deck can establish a good foothold in the game. This way, topdecked burn spells become more effective. Another potent tool against these decks is land destruction. A well timed Stone Rain can often set them back two turns because of the Ravnica bounce lands.
Discard, land destruction, unsolvable creatures, and other disruption are all key cards in beating control. While it is not always right to main deck these cards, sideboarding them can often help the control matchup, as long as they fit the deck. Additionally, Grim Harvest can often hamper control strategies as it is very hard to get rid of. This card is strong early and powerful late, and can often match the card advantage in the late game control matchups (although by that time, the control deck will often have a net card advantage, the Harvest just helps you keep pace late).
Okay, so this card is sick. I mean sick. I mean it totally changes nearly every aggro deck in PDC. And not because it goes into every deck either, but rather because it provides another option for these decks. Think about it: every marginal aggro deck just got a late-game combat trick and potential fatty. That might just be enough to push those decks from marginal to viable. Did I mention that he can go into nearly every deck, with out a problem? It will be ridiculous!
Okay, let me elaborate. First, this card will contend for a spot in RG aggro. That alone should be an indicator of how good it is, as only the best cards in those colors even get considered. The fact that it both fits the curve, distracts from other morphs, and is a potential 5/5 late means that this guy fills multiple roles: beater, finisher, and covert operative. Great stuff! Oh, he also lets you madness out a Basking Rootwalla. More beats!
In the same vein, it opens up design space for another potential RG deck. This one would be more Madness and Threshold oriented, featuring the usual cast of Mongrel and 'Walla along side the Raiders, but also a supporting cast of Werebear, Springing Tiger, Fiery Temper, Lightning Axe, Krosan Avenger, and other goodies that are synergistic. The deck might compete for a top aggro spot, but I do not expect it to usurp the king of the hill anytime soon.
In this vein, you can seriously expect a large number Izzet Madness/Threshold decks. These decks would most likely lean towards aggro-control, and feature decent men like Aquamoeba and Looter il-Kor, backed up by the usual suspects, and perhaps Chainflinger. Throw in some countermagic and burn, and you might just have a deck that could be a contender.
And I would be remiss to forget talking about all the three color madness possibilities this card opens up! Suddenly, BGR, RUG, UBR Madness decks suddenly become viable options. The presence of Morph on Raiders means that these decks would be more of a two color and splash option than a committed three color deck, but I could be totally wrong here.
Rakdos Madness has also finally reached a critical mass of cards that beg for someone to build the deck. The additions of Deepcavern Imp and Ichor Slick on top of the powerful Dark Withering and Strangling Soot combined with good discard outlets of the Raiders, Trespasser il-Vec, Putrid Imp, Lightning Axe, and others and the solid little beater that is Gobhobbler Rats means that the deck has reached the point where it nearly builds itself.
I for one, can not wait to try a pair of Raiders in my beloved Deep Dog. Future Sight is going to be an interesting time.
This occurred during round one of a Standard PDC event on Sunday, April 29th. I was running UW Triple Linear (imagine, Fish, with Rebels, Slivers, and Momentary Blink). I was in game three against my opponent playing Parlor Tricks. I was facing down a dire situation and about to lose. I still had outs in my deck that would have bought me time. As we were the last game going, we had quite a few watchers. This led to the game crashing with me on the perceived brink of defeat.
We went to sideboarding and waited for the host to make his decision. He said we should play game four. I won, and then was met with jeers from certain participants. They felt I should have conceded in the face of imminent death. I felt that as long as I had outs, I had the right to play and to not concede. You can find much of the arguments and a better description of the situation here. What I ask of you, the community, is what would you do in my situation? I had hope, but it was about as much as Luke had of hitting that exhaust vent before Han showed up to save him. Replies would be awesome.
And keep slingin' commons!