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Decks We Didn’t Play at the Pro Tour

Every time we prepare for a PT, we build a bunch of different decks. Most of those decks are flat-out bad, but some have real promise that we don’t end up exploring for one reason or another. Today I’m going to talk about the decks that didn’t quite make it, but that could be very good if someone found the missing pieces or if the metagame changed a little bit.

BUG Whip

Possible additions

What it did

This is a Sidsi Whip deck that’s more focused on the interaction between Whip of Erebos and the new planeswalkers. Due to the way rules work, if you flip a Jace or a Nissa, you get to keep the planeswalker side forever, which makes the interaction pretty strong and almost unbeatable in the late game, since you have infinite planeswalkers. Jace is also a spectacular card in this deck regardless of Whip, since you have a lot of control over when you flip him because of Wayfinders and delve cards.

Why it didn’t work

Because we had no idea how to build it. There are so many cards I want in this deck. I want 4 of each of Sylvan Caryatid, Sidisi, Courser, Den Protector, Raptor, and Jace. I want spells to flashback with Jace, I want creatures to mill with Sidsi and to return with Whip, I want to play multiple Nissas in a 4-color deck that doesn’t really want to play a lot of Forests.

It’s impossible to fit everything you want in this deck, and perhaps the right configuration is one with four Raptors, or perhaps it’s one with zero Raptors. Perhaps it has four Sidisis, perhaps it has zero. Perhaps it has four Coursers, perhaps four Caryatids, perhaps zero of both. The truth is that I don’t know which configuration of the deck is the best and, despite testing a lot of them, I still couldn’t figure out, so I didn’t play the deck because being wrong in this regard seemed very bad.

What it needs

Someone who is better than me at fitting all of those cards in a single deck. This shell is incredibly powerful, and the synergy is absurd—all the cards are good by themselves and much better with each other. The problem is that you have to choose a number of them. If someone is able to choose well, I think this is a tier 1 deck.

UR Goggles

Options

What it did

This is a deck that Alexander Hayne built and that we thought (or at least I thought) was very promising. It uses Pyromancer’s Goggles in conjunction with the red card draw spells (Magmatic Insight and Tormenting Voice) to pull ahead. Since those cards discard as a cost, you only copy the effect, which translates into discarding one card and drawing four. This deck made great use of Mage-Ring Network, which accelerated into Goggles or into Ugin. Killing people in a timely manner was an issue, so we added one Crater’s Claws. Between Pyromancer’s Goggles and Mage-Ring Networks you could just lethal them with the one spell. The deck rarely flooded out because of the red spells, so we were comfortable with playing 28 lands.

“But PV, is this better than the Mill deck?” Honestly, I’m not sure. The Mill deck has a much faster clock, but it’s also much worse at controlling the game. It’s better at racing, but it has to race. The Goggles deck is bad at racing, but doesn’t have to race, so that’s not a problem. It’s also less vulnerable to enchantment removal like Dromoka’s Command, and Goggles is better against cards like Reclamation Sage than Sphinx’s Tutelage, because if you get one use out of your Goggles that’s already very good, but one use out of Tutelage does absolutely nothing. Tutelage is the kind of card that either kills them or doesn’t do anything, whereas there’s a lot of room for Goggles to be good even if they aren’t dead. It’s a defensive card as well, as opposed to being purely offensive.

Why it didn’t work

Because it was very soft to planeswalkers. Ashiok, for example, was totally unbeatable, since it came down early enough that it just grew bigger than anything you could do. Even a planeswalker like Xenagos was a big problem, and the deck lacked the instants to kill Nissa before it flipped in the late game. Perhaps more Fated Conflagrations are a solution, but if you’re on the draw that’s still too slow against Ashiok, since it’s going to be at 7 by the time you can cast it, and they often get something out of their planeswalker even if you kill it. Dromoka’s Command was also very good, since it stops all your removal spells, and we thought that card was going to be popular.

What it needs

Either a metagame where people don’t play many Commands and many planeswalkers like Ashiok, or one in which they print a red or blue card that can deal with those in a better way than Fated Conflagration.

UB Demonic Pact

This was the last version of my first Demonic Pact attempt. The card itself is very powerful, and locks them in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” spot. If they play their guy, you kill it, if they don’t, you make them discard it, and that’s particularly effective when you add Languish to the mix. It does, however, require significant investment, such as playing bad cards like Disperse and Silumgar’s Command.

Why it didn’t work

You just died to your Pact way too often. We had a playtesting session where I died five games in a row to my own Demonic Pact in spots where I felt like I couldn’t possibly lose the game. This deck is a bit short on ways to deal with them (only 5 bounce spells, 2 Ugin, and 4 Jaces), and if they disrupt you in some way (counterspells, Thoughtseize), then suddenly you’re dead.

What it needs

More ways to deal with Pact. The problem is that those aren’t good cards. I don’t want to play 4 Disperse 3 Void Snare, for example. You’d never die to your own Pact then, but would you be able to beat anyone if you didn’t draw Pact? Right now, I think this deck needs another way to “incidentally” get rid of Pact. Perilous Vault could be OK, but then that’s bad with Jace, so perhaps you don’t play Jace. They do curve well, after all, since you can go Pact into Vault into sac it, and that’s very good with the Pact discard ability. If there is ever a UB card like Dromoka’s Command, which happens to get rid of it while doing something else, then I think this deck could be good.

BUG Demonic Pact

This is the second build of Demonic Pact that we had (and we also had a third one that was basically UB splashing Sultai Charm as a way to get rid of Pact and to deal with Gaea’s Revenge). It was interesting, but ultimately also had to play some bad cards to get rid of Pact, and it was somewhat clunky. I think it was better against disruption, since you had Den Protectors to get cards back and an actual clock so you could kill them before Pact killed you. The problems, in the end, were mostly the same—Pact was great, but way less great when it lost you the game.

Goblins

What it did

Attack for a lot, basically. Our Goblins list was very standard, except that we identified very early on that the average 20 lands was not nearly enough for a deck that couldn’t afford to miss its third land drop. We went up to 22, and added two Rogue’s Passages, which were excellent with the number of high-power attackers (Piledrivers, Rabblemasters).

Why it didn’t work

Sweepers. The deck was very explosive, but had a lot of trouble with cards like Languish and Drown in Sorrow. The way your deck worked, you generally couldn’t hold back, you had to commit everything, and then those cards would just beat you on their own.

What it needs

An environment with fewer sweepers. Right now, Drown in Sorrow is not that good against the red decks, so this card is much less likely to show up in people’s sideboards, which is great for you. Instead they have cards like Arashin Cleric, which are not nearly as effective. At the same time, the resurgence of Abzan Aggro and GW might mean an increase in the number of Languishes compared to the post-PT metagame, and those decks are all packing Tragic Arrogance, which is also great against you. If we can get a metagame with the first characteristic (no Drowns) but not the second (Languish/Tragic Arrogance), then I think this deck could be really good.

Each of these decks has potential, and if you have any ideas on how to make them better, let me know!

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