Spoiler alert, I did not do well in the Standard portion, but I’d like you to know how it happened.
As usual, a few days before the Pro Tour I still had no idea what to play. This was disheartening considering the amount of playtesting I had done, and ultimately there was nothing that I liked, or rather felt like was a good choice for the Pro Tour.
I knew I wanted something that had a chance at beating RG Devotion and Abzan since those were the obvious decks to beat prior to the event. I also wanted a proactive strategy in case a percentage on the field comes up with something completely unexpected. Being proactive is better than being reactive when you don’t exactly know what your opponent is doing.
Fast forward to Thursday evening. I’m sad I haven’t found anything cool, I’m about to settle and register this deck:
I’m not excited about it—I basically thought I’d go with something I’m super familiar with. Some of the changes from my GP Buenos Aires list are there to stand a chance against the Rally the Ancestors decks.
Being pretty bummed about playing that, it didn’t take much from my friend Lucas Siow to convince me to change to what he was going to play. Of course, he didn’t shove it down my throat, but I thought I’d put my destiny in the hands of someone who seems to know what he’s doing.
That’s a bold audible eh? Lucas had been trying to break Demonic Pact for quite a while and eventually settled on Sultai, mainly to have access to Den Protector and Sultai Charm as reasonable ways to deal with the “lose the game” part.
The deck felt a lot like Sultai Control except that it had better punishing draws, as well as a nut draw. Turn two Jace, turn three Wayfinder, turn four Demonic Pact and at least one way to deal with it in hand.
Now, I don’t want to blame Lucas for my performance as it was completely my choice to sleeve Demonic Pact at the Pro Tour, however I can safely say that the deck is not great against anything interacting with you. By interaction, I mean mostly Thoughtseize and counterspells, but anything that kills your Jace is also an issue. For example, my nut draw I described earlier made me lose to my Pact twice at the Pro Tour when playing against Abzan. They Thoughtseized my Disperse after I landed Demonic Pact and Ultimate Priced my Jace. Three turns later I never found a Den Protector or bounce spell and died.
There is also the fact that in a long game, not all of Demonic Pact’s mode will actually do something relevant in a grindy matchup. They will keep extra land in hand for your Mind Rot, Abzan doesn’t always have a Courser to drain and gain 4 life, blue control decks have almost no targets at all, etc.
The deck definitely has some qualities. When facing a non-interactive strategy such as RG Devotion and Mono-Red, Demonic Pact is insane because they can’t stop you from bouncing it and all the modes are great.
Comparing Demonic Pact with Spoils of the Vault
Similarly, a percentage of the time you would just lose to the card no matter how well built around the card your deck is. Even if your deck had 20 bounce spells, you would infrequently die to your own card some amount of games. In a real world, you can’t afford playing 20 bounce spells as it would be horrible whenever you don’t have the enchantment..
Same for Spoils of the Vault, even if you have 4 of each card in your deck, your combo deck can’t bear the dead card in hand if you have too few life or too many copies of the needed piece in the bin.
Something slightly more proactive such as what Antonio Del Moral played seems better, since you have the off-chance of racing your own Demonic Pact.
The version I played is quite cool and is not easy to pilot if you’re looking for a challenge, but I would not recommend it if you expect many other blue and black opponents.
Thanks for reading and good luck at GP San Diego!