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Feature Article – Eighteen or Nineteen (English)

I think I have somehow managed to reach my goal of writing once every other week despite my hellish schedule of attending a Grand Prix every weekend this month. However, what has been most difficult for me is alternating between Limited and Standard Grands Prix, and the fact that I am extremely weak at designing new decks. While I was still in Milan I reported to Martin Juza that green decks that included [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] had become very popular in Japan and shared a few sample decklists with him. Juza considered that there would be little time — only two days — remaining before the Grand Prix after traveling from Milan to Brisbane, but in spite of this we ended up putting together the deck.

Here I simply fell victim to temptation. This deck’s successes are entirely the result of my stay with my friends Martin Juza and Aaron Nicoll, and I would like to thank them for their revisions.

This is the list I used at Grand Prix Brisbane:

Main Deck

[deck]4 Birds of Paradise
1 Llanowar Elves
4 Dungrove Elder
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
4 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Acidic Slime
4 Primeval Titan
1 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Rampant Growth
3 Green Sun’s Zenith
3 Beast Within
2 Batterskull
4 Garruk, Primal Hunter
20 Forest
2 Inkmoth Nexus
1 Mountain
1 Kessig Wolf Run
Sideboard
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Blasphemous Act
2 Arc Trail
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Tree of Redemption
1 Viridian Corrupter
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Inkmoth Nexus
1 Karn Liberated
1 Garruk Relentless[/deck]

My results were ten wins, three losses and one draw. I made 15th place and got three pro points.

I once again missed Top 8, continuing what happened at Grand Prix Milan, but because I have been focusing on studying Innistrad Limited lately I think my results were quite good.

I think for today’s article I will write about this deck, specifically my thoughts about its matchups and ways to improve it with a focus on sideboarding guidelines. The decks I played against were:

Red/Green Kessig Wolf Run 2-2-1
Solar Flare 4-0
Blue/Black Control 0-1
Mono-Red Beatdown 1-0

Comparatively speaking, it’s very interesting that even at Grand Prix Brisbane the dominant deck played by the vast majority of players was a version of Kessig Wolf Run Control similar to the one from the StarCityGames Open. The structure of this deck and that of Mono-Green “Outback Dunny” closely resemble each other and they both aim to have more or less the same board development, but there are some clear differences. To begin with, I will write about the distinctions between Outback Dunny and the StarCityGames Red/Green build.

Outback Dunny is a midrange beatdown deck.

This is the biggest difference between the two. The Red/Green build is a midrange control deck, whereas Outback Dunny is much more active in building the game state. [card]Primeval Titan[/card] is both decks’ end game, and both decks were constructed with the goal of being able to quickly play [card]Primeval Titan[/card] in mind. However, Outback Dunny is prepared to cast serious threats much earlier on. As time passes, it plays threats that gradually increase in strength. A powerful blow from a [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] is a truly fearsome thing.

At its fastest, through turn two [card]Rampant Growth[/card], turn three [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card], and then [card]Primeval Titan[/card]’s ability, a [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] will quickly grow out of control. This only happens with Solar Flare, but I have even seen the impressive spectacle of an Elder surmounting [card]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/card]’s -2/-2 effect and striking back.

Another huge merit of [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] is its having hexproof.

Outback Dunny can develop its mana a little faster than Red/Green. In terms of mana acceleration cards, it has five mana producing creatures and three [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] with which to get them. On top of this, there are four copies each of [card]Rampant Growth[/card] and [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card].

Red/Green usually includes one [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] and four copies each of [card]Viridian Emissary[/card], [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] and [card]Rampant Growth[/card] along with some number of [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card]s. At first glance, it seems like this deck has more mana acceleration cards, but the choice of [card]Viridian Emissary[/card] doesn’t make nearly as much sense in the competition to reach [card]Primeval Titan[/card] the fastest.

Occasionally, [card]Slagstorm[/card] will take out [card]Viridian Emissary[/card] thereby accelerating their mana when Outback Dunny’s [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] is simply destroyed. However, in this scenario even if Red/Green is on the play and Outback Dunny cannot play [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card], Red/Green still cannot summon [card]Primeval Titan[/card] on the following turn.

The solution is the combination of the two mana acceleration cards which most consistently allow [card]Primeval Titan[/card] to come out on turn four.

Outback Dunny’s land lacks flexibility.

It is the deck’s weakness. In order to make use of [card]Dungrove Elder[/card], the deck needs to come close to including as many Forests as possible. On the one hand, Red/Green is not limited in this way and is able to freely include lands with bonus abilities: four [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card], two [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] and some number of [card]Ghost Quarter[/card]s. Although this might lead to a noticeably smaller [card]Dungrove Elder[/card], it seems that in considering the future of Outback Dunny it would be a good idea to cut down on the number of Forests to some extent and add non-basic lands. The task for this deck is this dilemma and how to reconcile it.

So, it seems to me that these are the differences between Mono Green and Red/Green Kessig Wolf Run. As for my thoughts concerning the matchup in practice, in game one Outback Dunny is at an advantage, but I got the impression that in games two and three the matchup is even. Regarding the advantage in game one, the comparison I drew earlier about the amount of mana acceleration in each deck has a lot to do with it. Often Outback Dunny can play [card]Primeval Titan[/card] earlier on, and the number of Titans also differs. Even if you cast [card]Primeval Titan[/card] and they follow up with one of their own, when you untap you can get two additional lands. It’s obvious that the first player to summon a Titan takes an overwhelming lead. Additionally, Outback Dunny has [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] and four copies of [card]Garruk, Primal Hunter[/card] to back it up.

It’s a similar game to last season’s Valakut mirror despite the fact that the current environment has four additional mana acceleration cards.

However, I feel that this difference shrinks after sideboarding. The problem is that when the game cannot be won by an early Titan, it lacks a deciding factor as both sides pack in countermeasure cards to disrupt each other.

Cards like [card]Acidic Slime[/card] come in in order to destroy [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card], and [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] is poorly equipped to deal with its deathtouch. Additional [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]s are the worst. No matter how big of an Elder you have, [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] has the troublesome property of making tokens after the two tangle with each other. On the other hand, not doing anything simply leaves you racking your brain for an answer.

The reliability of [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] also decreases. In game one both players only have [card]Beast Within[/card] to deal with it, but because [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] is added after sideboarding there is the risk of it making a turn completely useless.

It was the deck I played against the most in Brisbane, and it was the most difficult matchup when it came to what to remove when sideboarding. There is no doubt that you should cut down on the number of [card]Dungrove Elder[/card]s and higher mana cost one-ofs and two-ofs, but when removing them consider what kind of outline for game development you are creating. On Day One of the Grand Prix in order to destroy my opponent’s [card]Primeval Titan[/card]s I put [card]Blasphemous Act[/card] in, but in most cases this plan was too slow once the Titan was played.

Eventually on Aaron Nicoll’s advice I began using [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] more aggressively despite the [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] risk, and it seems like Juza feels that keeping [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] in and siding out [card]Batterskull[/card] and [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card] is better.

Side in:
2x [card]Ancient Grudge[/card]
2x [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card]
1x [card]Karn Liberated[/card]
1x [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card]
Side out:
1x [card]Forest[/card]
2x [card]Batterskull[/card]
2x [card]Dungrove Elder[/card]
1x [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card]

Versus Solar Flare:

If you look at my results you can see that this is an extremely good matchup for Outback Dunny. I played against this deck four times and won every round. Even at the best of times Solar Flare’s ways of dealing with [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] are few, and in the three mana range [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] supports this plan best.

Left alone [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] puts a clock on your opponent and Solar Flare is forced to take action only to be faced in return with [card]Garruk, Primal Hunter[/card] or [card]Primeval Titan[/card]. There will be another assault regardless of whether or not they counter it. Generally this pattern is most of what decides the match.

The only thing you need to be careful of is an early [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] taking control of the board. However, while a three color deck that assembles all its colors flawlessly every time might be a reality with the powerful lands from Legacy or Modern, in today’s Standard environment the advantages of having a mono colored deck should be evident.

After sideboarding, I feel it is best to add [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] in a continuation of the aggressive plan from game one. It goes without saying that accelerating into a Sword off of a mana creature is always strong. The cards you take out are definitely [card]Batterskull[/card] and [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]. This is because they both have a high mana cost, and it is not a matchup where you need to gain life. The standard is to take out one other card that doesn’t contribute to mana acceleration, but [card]Beast Within[/card] must stay in. This is because you absolutely need to destroy their [card]Sun Titan[/card] and [card]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/card].

Side in:
2x [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card]
1x [card]Karn Liberated[/card]
1x [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card]
1x [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card]
Side out:
2x [card]Batterskull[/card]
1x [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]
1x [card]Forest[/card]
1x [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card]

Versus Blue/Black Control:

I must confess, until I went to Grand Prix Brisbane I didn’t think Blue/Black Control could exist in this environment. Moreover I thought it was a bad matchup because I took a double mulligan and dropped game one to my opponent, quickly losing game two as well. However after looking at a Blue/Black decklist, the matchup actually seems to be very favorable as Aaron Nicoll said.

Blue/Black’s means of stopping [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] are extremely limited. Elder is difficult to kill with [card]Black Sun’s Zenith[/card], and [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card] and [card]Primeval Titan[/card] are not very effective [card]Doom Blade[/card] targets, as their work has already been done. Blue/Black’s only lifeline is its eight counterspells and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], and if even one threat resolves the game is decided. However, I don’t think Outback Dunny has an overwhelming advantage.

Once Blue/Black reaches six mana and can summon any creature in their deck it becomes a serious threat. I think I’ve already talked about how much trouble [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] can be in my discussion of Red/Green, but [card]Grave Titan[/card] is just as bad and the game is over when they draw additional counterspells on your turn with [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card]. You always want to hold one [card]Beast Within[/card] to deal with the Sphinx, the complication being that it is a dead card until turn six if you draw it at the start of the game. I side out [card]Acidic Slime[/card] because they do not have [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] and their mana base is relatively stable, but it might also be fine to side out one copy of [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] instead. This is because there are not very many things [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] can find, and having to pay one additional mana is a little difficult.

Side in:
2x [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card]
1x [card]Karn Liberated[/card]
1x [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card]
1x [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card]
Side out:
2x [card]Batterskull[/card]
1x [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]
1x [card]Acidic Slime[/card]
1x [card]Forest[/card]

Versus Mono Red:

In this matchup Outback Dunny has a considerable advantage.

Once you get [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] or [card]Batterskull[/card] just being able to attack more or less amounts to winning the game, and [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] is a sturdy wall that sometimes swings back as a powerful attacker. After sideboarding I add [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] and [card]Tree of Redemption[/card], the thirteen point life gain card that can be found with [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card].

When playing against Mono Red you need to be careful of your opponent leaving back blockers in the hopes of activating [card]Koth of the Hammer[/card]’s ultimate ability. Additionally there is the issue of an air battle waged with [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card]. Swapping [card]Viridian Corrupter[/card] for [card]Acidic Slime[/card] was Juza’s idea, as Corrupter is more useful in destroying [card]Shrine of Burning Rage[/card].

Side in:
1x [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]
1x [card]Tree of Redemption[/card]
1x [card]Viridian Corrupter[/card]
1x [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card]
Side out:
3x [card]Beast Within[/card]
1x [card]Acidic Slime[/card]

So, here are the changes I would make if I were to play this deck again. I would include a few more cards that are effective in combatting White/Green. For Red/Green, I would increase the power level of the cards [card]Primeval Titan[/card] can find.

Happily, I did not play against either the human or token versions of White/Green at the Grand Prix. However, I suspect that it is a difficult matchup for Outback Dunny and that in the future I will play against it frequently. White/Green’s [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card] is a serious problem that is difficult to deal with, and what is worse, [card]Mirran Crusader[/card] may also be present.

[card]Blasphemous Act[/card] might be effective against these two cards, but I think I would take a different approach because I didn’t feel great about its performance at the Grand Prix. Since there is a sword that grants protection from white in the format, I would use it to be more aggressive thereby taking an eye for an eye. This also increases [card]Dungrove Elder[/card]’s value in the matchup.

Secondly, while this method won’t leave Red/Green high and dry, it is a simple solution – albeit one that still has some serious practical problems. How many Forests should you cut? Clearly, a 2/2 or 3/3 [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] on turn four is basically worthless. On the other hand, a [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] that can swing as a 4/4 or 5/5 the turn after it is summoned is strong. For now, I am depending on my impression from the Grand Prix which is that it is possible to exchange one Forest with another land, and that first priority should be adding a copy of [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card]. Even drawing this land is usually good enough because it becomes your opponent’s first target. Limiting yourself to one Mountain means that there is the possibility that it can be targeted with [card]Acidic Slime[/card] or [card]Ghost Quarter[/card] making it so you cannot activate the Wolf Run, but [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] serves as an alternative mana source. From your opponent’s perspective, even though [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] is on the battlefield they have to be prepared to target the Mountain. Generally because Red/Green runs two copies of [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] [card]Ghost Quarter[/card] is played, but this role is replaced by the second copy of [card]Acidic Slime[/card]. In a game that drags on, you want at least enough land destruction in your deck to cope with your opponent’s [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card]s: in short, a minimum of two such cards are necessary. I think the changes I would make would be based on this.

Regarding [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card], I think I might play [card]Arc Trail[/card] instead depending on the metagame. If the environment has more [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]s, I think [card]Arc Trail[/card] is better.

Well that’s it for today. Until next time! I tried very hard to get this to you as fast as possible.

Here is the revised list:

[deck]4 Birds of Paradise
1 Llanowar Elves
4 Dungrove Elder
4 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Acidic Slime
4 Primeval Titan
1 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Rampant Growth
3 Green Sun’s Zenith
3 Beast Within
2 Batterskull
4 Garruk, Primal Hunter
19 Forest
2 Inkmoth Nexus
1 Mountain
2 Kessig Wolf Run
Sideboard:
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Sword of War and Peace
3 Ancient Grudge
3 Ratchet Bomb
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Tree of Redemption
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Karn Liberated
1 Dismember[/deck]

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