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Rejected #PTEMN Brews: Zombies, Goggles, and RW Angels

Every time we test for the PT, there are a ton of brews that come close to succeeding, but in the end we deem not good enough. In this article, I’ll talk about three of the most interesting decks our team came up with, why they were discarded, and what they would need to be good enough. Later in the week, I’ll cover three more.

UB Zombies

For a brief moment in time, we all thought we were going to play UB Zombies. It had a great matchup against both Bant and GW, the two decks we thought were going to be the most popular, and it was doing something very broken when it worked—getting 6 creatures in play by turn 3 made you feel like you were playing Modern, and Voldaren Pariah was excellent versus any creature deck.

This is the list we had:

This deck is interesting, and not easy to play when you have an average draw (though your busted draws are quite easy). Jace, Cryptbreaker, Haunted Dead, and Pariah all give you a ton of choices. The best-case scenario usually involves a turn-1 or 2 enabler, followed by a Haunted Dead some some Prized Amalgams, but you’re quite capable of winning a late game as well, as Haunted Dead + Voldaren Pariah is a powerful combo—you only need 5 mana and 1 more creature to clear their board and leave yourself with a 6/5.

Ultimately, however, only Ondrej out of our entire team played it—to a 7-2-1 record—everyone else played BG Delirium.

What didn’t work: The deck was simply too weak to things that weren’t Bant or GW. You relied too much on your enablers, and the power level in your deck when things didn’t go well was very low. Basically, in your best draws you had 10 power in play by turn 3, but in your worst draws you were playing Grizzly Bears, 3/3s for 3 and 2/2s for 4. You were especially weak to the card Liliana, which we expected to be more present than it actually was—we thought it was one of the best cards in the set and most of our decks had 3 or 4. You could play more enablers to make yourself better against removal, but Infiltrator also dies to Liliana, and the others are very weak cards.

What this deck needs to be good: The SCG metagame. If 50% of the field is Bant and the next most popular deck is GW, then this deck is quite good—it crushes Bant. I highly doubt this will be the metagame we see, though, since emerge cards and Emrakul are both very popular. I would not recommend playing Zombies in the near future.

RW Goggles

The first RW deck I built was pure Goggles—not unlike the deck Justin Cohen played at the PT. I liked the Goggles package against most decks, and Emrakul + Nahiri was an interesting combination—Nahiri in particular was quite good with Fiery Temper. Originally I only had Emrakul to 13 the opponent with the ultimate, but I found myself hardcasting it more and more—it wasn’t that hard with all your mana sources and Drownyard Temple. This was actually our first Emrakul deck and it showed me that the card was very powerful, even if the deck wasn’t.

My first build was something like this:

This deck was interesting, and had some cute interactions, like, for example, Collective Defiance + Goblin Dark-Dwellers + Goggles. Normally, you can’t Goggles up a card if you’re casting it with Dark-Dweller, but if you’re escalating it, you can use the Goggles mana to pay for the escalate and then you get to copy the spell. Bedlam Reveler and Dark-Dwellers were two cards I wanted to try anyway, and they happened to be good with Nahiri in different situations as both have enters-the-battlefield abilities.

What didn’t work: Gideon. Gideon was a major problem for this deck. You could eventually kill it, but you would spend so many resources to do it, and sometimes you would still die. Avacyn and Dromoka’s Command were also problems.

What it needed: Away to kill Gideon without having to play a bad card like Exquisite Firecraft (which didn’t even kill it if they plus’d). Most people are not playing Gideon right now, however, so this point is a little less of a problem. Unfortunately I think you’re quite weak versus cards like Elder Deep-Fiend and Emrakul, so you’ve just traded one problem for another.

RW Angels

To try fixing the Gideon problem, I started adding more creatures to the deck. Around that time in testing, I fell in love with Brisela—it was just so powerful against Bant and GW, and it seemed worth trying to push, because if you ever got it online, it would beat virtually any board. Most people thought Gisela was the good one and Bruna the bad one, but I had the opposite opinion—Bruna was a powerhouse and Gisela was the cost you had to pay to be able to assemble Brisela.

Instead of building a deck that wanted to cast Bruna and Gisela, I tried building a deck that wanted to discard Gisela and then cast Bruna—this protected it against Declaration in Stone and Reflector Mage, for example. RW seemed the most suited for this, since you had Nahiri and Tormenting Voices to discard Giselas, as well as potentially Collected Defiance and Lightning Axe. I also liked Thalia’s Lancers quite a bit in this deck, since you could use them to get any Angel, a land, Emrakul, or even Goggles (which, by the way, Nahiri can also get with her ultimate). It’s also nice that you can Nahiri for Lancer and immediately get and cast Emrakul. I toyed with multiple versions with different numbers of Angels and other creatures, and my last try was one that went all-in:

This deck had some very clunky opening hands, since roughly half of it cost 5 or more, but it was also powerful. I saw it as a kind of reanimator deck—you just really wanted to throw Gisela in the graveyard and play Bruna as quickly as possible, but you could also win a game by just casting a bunch of Angels.

What didn’t work: At the time, I had 3 problems: the first was the number of clunky hands, which I didn’t really know how to solve as I wanted all the expensive cards in my deck. The second was Gideon, which was quite hard to beat. I originally thought having the Angels would kind of solve it, but in practice it didn’t, and I was still losing to Gideon from the GW decks. The third problem was that you were pretty weak to other Emrakul decks.

Problems #1 and #2 can be solved somewhat—#1 is not that big a deal (you accept some losses for clunky hands), and Gideon is not that common. Emrakul, however, now appears to be everywhere. We didn’t even think that was a big deal before, but it’s certainly a big deal now. Assembling Brisela and having to attack it into Emrakul is just not fun. Elder Deep-Fiend can also lock you out of many turns, as you have all sorceries, and can even tap Brisela.

What it needs: At this point, it probably needs a metagame that is so aggressive that it pushes Emrakul out, but not aggressive enough that it can’t compete. This seems very hard to accomplish, especially considering every card that is good against Emrakul (Transgress, Clash of Wills, Command, Infinite Obliteration, any sort of graveyard hate they eventually print) also hoses you. I’d stay away for the moment.

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