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By: Psychobabble, PB
May 01 2013 10:46am
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The release of the third expansion in a block is an exciting time for block constructed. All of the themes in the block are fully fleshed out, the card pool is bigger so there's more sweet interactions to explore and the format itself gets its time in the sun, with a pro tour showcasing it at the highest level of competitive play. I'm going to spend the next two weeks poring over the full DGM spoiler and picking out cards that I think will have an impact on the competitive block meta. I'll also be posting some highly speculative lists featuring the new cards - I only play magic on MTGO so none of the lists have been tested, they're basically thought experiments and evolutions of pre-DGM lists.

I'll be splitting up my review by archetype, roughly following the deck archetypes I identified in the previous articles in this series - Mono red aggro, multicolour aggro, midrange (split into GWx and BGx decks), BWR control and Sphinx's revelation control. Today I'll be covering aggro decks and GWx midrange. Just for reference sake, here's links to my previous articles on each of these archetypes:

Mono R aggro

Given that this is already a deck which can goldfish on turn 3 under not too unreasonable conditions, and given that it's a mono-colour deck in what's supposed to be a multi-colour set, it's not surprising that I don't think too many cards will slot into the deck.


Weapon Surge

This is a cheaper version of Dynacharge, which trades off an extra +1/+0 for first strike. Given that dynacharge is used as a kill condition in this deck, synergising with the "flood the board" plan to frequently be a 6+ damage for 3 mana spell, the trade-off is generally not going to be worth it. However, sometimes dynacharge is used to help creatures trade up in combat and in those situations, the first strike is likely to be relevant so I can see some number being substituted in for the more expensive overload spell.


Pyrewild Shaman

Recurring red damage sources have a long history of being strong, with chandra's phoenix being a recent example. These cards give the red deck a precious source of card advantage in a longer game and help to get in those last few points of damage after an opponent has stabilised the board. Pyrewild shaman is no chandra's phoenix, particularly given that it doesn't trigger off direct damage and is awfully expensive to recur, but it does have real strengths. Bloodrush is a form of haste, and enables you to do damage without committing cards to the board, and a 3/1 body isn't too far behind the curve, especially if you're able to give it first strike with the previous card discussed. I'm not positive the "all-in" mono red shell is where this will find a home, but I'm reasonably confident an aggro deck of some kind is going to want to play this card, at least in the board.

 

Example list

This is only a slight evolution of the current mono red list. I've upped the land count to 20 as a concession to the shaman, and cut one reckoner too - it's a very average card against control and I expect the meta to slow down even further post-DGM. The deck is already strong enough that I could actually see it surviving with zero changes, but this could be one direction that the deck takes:

DGM Mono Red
 
Creatures
4 Legion Loyalist
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Ash Zealot
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Firefist Striker
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Gore-House Chainwalker
3 Boros Reckoner
2 Pyrewild Shaman
31 cards

Other Spells
2 Dynacharge
2 Weapon Surge
3 Mizzium Mortars
5 cards
Lands
20 Mountain
20 cards

Firefist Striker

 

Multicolour aggro

While 2 and 3 colour aggro decks have lagged behind the mono red deck in speed and consistency in the recent meta, there's a few exciting options with DGM that could tip the balance in favour of these decks.


Spike Jester

A 3/1 for 2 mana is already pretty good, giving this thing haste, though, is bonkers. On an empty board, this is the most aggressive thing you can do in block in any colours other than literally multiple burning tree emissaries. And being able to trade with centaur healers isn't irrelevant late game either. This card has an inherently high power level, the question will be whether "all in" rakdos aggro has the tools to support it.


Blood Scrivener

...And segue. This is exactly the kind of card you want to keep the wheels turning once you've suicided all of your spike jesters and rakdos cacklers into opposing blockers/removal. If you play this as the last card in your hand after your opponent has exhausted all their resources dealing with your early aggression, you're going to be living the dream. Just make sure not to include too much removal in your deck, otherwise you might be unable to turn on hellbent after you play this guy.

And if you're looking for a hard hitting finisher, look no further. This is the most aggressive 4-drop in either of its colours in the current block. This is the latest in a long and successful line of hasty 4-drops (hero of oxid Ridge, hellrider, falkenrath aristocrat) and while this is nowhere near the aristocrat's power level it's the best we currently have. It's also harder to deal with in-combat than any of those previous cards which isn't irrelevant. I doubt that it giving haste to other creatures is going to be relevant often, but occasionally it'll make your (ghor-house chainwalker)s run a bit faster which is a nice little upside. I wouldn't want to go deep with it and try to make slitherhead work or anything though.

While I'm quite optimistic about rakdos' chances, and the guild has history in pre-GTC block as a top tier aggro option, I'm going to focus a bit more closely on boros aggro here because I honestly think it might get there. Where as BR is only able to compete with mono red on speed (well, and slaughter games), boros has the very distinct advantage of resilience and (surprisingly) reach through burn. Boros Charm is a part of that, but a few of the new options really enhance that aspect of the deck


Viashino Firstblade

This guy does one thing and does it well. Hits for 4. Once. But in a quick, aggressive deck with a lot of reach, that's all you need. The lack of evasion compared to skyknight legionnaire means he can't get in the second time as often, but he still does a good job of turning on battalion for your early drops and he hits really hard that first time.


Tajic, Blade of the Legion

I've played a fair bit with a pre-DGM boros aggro deck, and the lack of a solid 4-drop really hurts it. Firemane avenger is awesome if you can turn battalion on, but it has a severe case of "dies to removal" and with no haste or ETB effect to make up for that, it's very much lacking. This guy, though, this guy is real. Indestructible is the best evergreen keyword you can have on a creature and is specifically excellent in this deck, which loves having bodies around for battalion. Tajic gives the deck another way to punish supreme verdict and I really believe is going to be a solid curve-topper.


Warleader's Helix

I see this as the final piece in this deck. Boros charm is incredible against control, both as a wrath-counter and burn to finish them off. But it's pretty bad against aggro and other creature decks. Warleader's helix is an extra maindeck 4-damage burn spell that is AWESOME against opposing aggro decks. You want your 4-mana spells to win you the game, it doesn't take too much for that to be true of lightning helix's big brother.

 

Example list

I've played a lot of a pre-DGM version of this over the past week or so and I think the new cards have the potential to push an already borderline-competitive deck over the edge. This is probably the first thing I'll be sleeving up in the new meta:

DGM Boros Aggro
 
Creatures
4 Legion Loyalist
4 Boros elite
4 Ash zealot
3 Truefire Paladin
1 Sunhome Guildmage
4 Wojek Halberdiers
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Viashino Firstblade
3 Tajic, Blade of the Legion
24 cards

Other Spells
2 Boros Charm
2 Warleader's Helix
2 cards
Lands
4 Sacred Foundry
2 Boros guildgate
10 mountain
9 Plains
25 cards

Sideboard
2 Boros charm
2 Blind Obedience
4 Skullcrack
4 Mugging
12 cards
Tajic, Blade of the Legion

 

The board needs work, but I've been really impressed by Blind Obedience vs obzedat decks and, surprisingly, skullcrack vs any sort of control strategy, given how much other burn the deck has. I see skyknight legionnaire in the board as a replacement for legion loyalist in the creature matchups where he gets outclassed too quickly. I'm a big believer in keeping your maindeck as aggressive as possible in these kind of decks and sideboarding in inherently stronger options if needed, although it's certainly possible those slots are better used on something else. The mana base could really use some clifftop retreats, given that it wants to hit RW or RR on turn 2, after hitting W on turn 1 for boros elite, but guildgates are too awful to include more than 2 of them. It's a weakness of the deck but not a critical one I don't think.

 

The biggest weakness of midrange decks so far in block have been an inability to consistently beat sphinx's revelation-based decks. There's a few new cards which could help naya midrange decks out in that respect. In addition there's a tantalising prospect of a populate-based deck being viable for the first time, with a number of strong new cards for that archetype.


Zhur-Taa Druid

Mid-range decks want mana-acceleration and while I'd much prefer a farseek or rampant growth, this is probably better than gyre sage most of the time. The ping damage isn't irrelevant, giving your mana dork something to do when the ramp isn't useful (and opposing blockers are in the way) and the fact that it doesn't need any work to start accelerating is also relevant. There's not that many good 4-drops to accelerate into, trostani, selesnya's voice and ghor-clan rampager being the best options in a naya deck, but I still think this guy has a chance.


(Legion's Initative)

You might have been waiting for this to get a mention in the context of the boros aggro deck, but i'm pretty firmly of the belief that this is not an aggro card - boros charm being the wrath protector of choice there. Disrupting your curve to play and hold up mana for this, and telegraphing your move so obviously, is not what an aggressive deck wants to be doing. This has the potential to be excellent in a non-token based midrange deck though, giving you something to do with your early mana and protecting your game-ending bombs when you eventually play them. This would be much better if all of its cost were up-front (ie costed 4 and then none additional for the exile effect), but it still has potential as-is.


Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

And here's another excellent curve-topper. "Dies to removal" matters a heck of a lot less if you get 6 to the face out of the deal. He's good friends with Domri Rade, who also likes spell-light decks, and and if you've managed to soften your opponent up with a few hits from loxodon smiters and ghor-clan rampagers, it's not going to take much for Ruric to finish them off.


Voice of Resurgence

I'm not quite sure where it's going to end up, but I'm very confident that a card with this much inherent power is going to find a home in a block deck. Unlike in standard, there's no pillar of flame around to cheaply deal with this, so outside of blocking you're looking at 3-mana to answer this without it being a 2 for 1 (detention sphere, annihilating fire - both of which aren't that great either). I see this as actually quite similar to experiment one, in that it leaves behind a small but growing threat after a wrath, but whereas experiment needs a bit of work to get its regeneration up and running, this guy is almost always going to leave behind a dangerous body. The fact that the token is probably one of the better potential populate targets might be relevant, and it could form the basis of a deck built around that keyword.


Advent of the Wurm

Speaking of good populate targets. This seems possibly more likely to have a home in standard, where the fact that it's a spell has good synergy with delver of secrets. We already have a 5/5 for 4 in block (deadbridge goliath) which sees only marginal play, adding flash as an upside and "dies to cyclonic rift" as a downside probably won't cause this to see play just for the body. If there is a populate deck out there, though, then this is going to be a key part of it, as 5/5 trample-wurms are the best thing you are realistically going to be able to populate.


(Scion of Vitu-Ghazi and Wake the Reflections)

Unlike the previous card, these two aren't even borderline playable if a populate deck doesn't exist. However, the possibility is there that it does and, if so, at least the scion and possibly even the sorcery will likely be a part of it. Each of these cards are going to be good if you get a 3/3 centaur out of it, and great if you get something better. The fact that the scion is at least ok on an empty board means that it's more likely to see play than wake the reflections, though.

Example list

There's been a few pre-DGM rogue populate lists that have cropped up from time to time. The core of the deck is pretty obvious - experiment one, call of the conclave, trostani, selesnya's voice and armada wurm are all key pieces. Gyre Sage helps you ramp to your bigger threats and is just a nice beater in a deck that plays as many beefy bodies as this, vitu-ghazi guildmage is more like a 6-drop than a 2-drop, but is awesome to re-build your board late game vs control and can also be a speedbump vs aggro if necessary. To these cards I've added voice of resurgence, scion of vitu-ghazi and advent of the wurm, all of which look excellent in the deck. The biggest weakness with the below list seems to be the lack of 3-drops, but I don't believe main deck (loxodon smiters) or (centaur healers) are necessary given how many large bodies you're able to put on the table even with only 2 mana. The deck runs pit fights in the board as an out to legion loyalist who can make life very difficult for you, especially if paired with firefist striker to make it effectively impossible for you to block. Speaking of difficult to block, loxodon smiter gets the nod over centaur healer in the board because with so many 3-toughness creatures in the deck it can be difficult to block boros reckoner sometimes. As I said, I'm quite unsure as to whether this deck type will get there, but I do think it has potential.

DGM Populate Midrange
 
Creatures
4 Experiment One
4 Gyre Sage
4 Voice of Resurgence
2 Vitu-ghazi Guildmage
3 Trostani, Selesnya's Voice
3 Scion of Vitu-Ghazi
2 Armada wurm
15 cards

Other Spells
4 Call of the Conclave
4 Advent of the Wurm
2 Rootborn Defenses
4 Selesnya Charm
10 cards
Lands
8 Forest
6 Plains
2 Grove of the Guardian
4 Temple Garden
4 Selesnya Guildgate
24 cards

Voice of Resurgance

 

Conclusion

Many of people seem to be underwhelmed with the standard applications of DGM, but it's a set that is sure to shake up the block constructed meta. A lot of the cards which are outclassed by other options in standard will get their chance to shine in block and potentially become standard role-players after the rotation of ISD block. Join me next week for an overview of the rest of the cards of interest, I'll be looking at cards for the BGx midrange, BWR control and UWx control deck types.

 

5 Comments

Why didn't you mention by xger at Wed, 05/01/2013 - 15:49
xger's picture

Why didn't you mention Rubblebelt Maaka for RDW? It seems like a more likely inclusion than pyrewild as from my experience with the deck, if you aren't in a position to win by about turn 4 or 5, it's pretty much over anyway. The one mana bloodrush seems a lot more useful more of the time.

The boros deck only has 51 cards...and 25 lands for a speed based aggro deck seems like too much.

You might be right re makka, by Psychobabble at Wed, 05/01/2013 - 18:14
Psychobabble's picture

You might be right re makka, I just couldn't see the deck playing giant growth when it would rather anthem with overload. The shaman has a different role, but agree it could be one the deck doesn't want.

The boros deck does actually have 60 main deck cards, the deck list generator doesn't work with DGM cards and I forgot to update the summary numbers. You're right that it should be 24 lands though, and it is missing 3 legionnaires in the board.

Ya I wasn't sure if the maaka by xger at Wed, 05/01/2013 - 22:14
xger's picture

Ya I wasn't sure if the maaka would go in either. I had just dismissed the shaman early on as it seemed inferior most of the time to maaka.

people play slaughthorn, they by JXClaytor at Thu, 05/02/2013 - 04:31
JXClaytor's picture
5

people play slaughthorn, they may play the makka, testing will tell if it is good enough right?

I imagine it will get played by xger at Thu, 05/02/2013 - 15:33
xger's picture

I imagine it will get played somewhere at least, which deck in particular is a different question...