I didn’t meet with Team Pantheon until the Monday of the Pro Tour, even though I had played some Constructed beforehand and knew the metagame for the most part.
I was happy with our version of Jeskai Black, but decided to give Stephen Sloan’s BG Aristocrats deck a chance. It had a promising start, winning a couple games against Atarka Red and the first 3 games against GW Megamorph, but after that the wheels fell off and I ended the set even at 4-4.
I tried to tweak the deck, but it didn’t seem to make a difference until I decided to stray and add a creature that didn’t cost 3 mana or less: Smothering Abomination. Grim Haruspex isn’t good in every matchup, but it shined against GW—it was the card that I always wanted to hit with Collective Company there. Abomination acted as Companys 5 through 8, since opponents don’t have a great way of removing it—it dodges Valorous Stance and Silkwrap.
I tweaked the mana base by adding fetchlands, giving me better mana and access to red for the sideboard. An added bonus is that you get to thin your deck and increase the odds of hitting with Company, which I desperately needed since I cut a non-negligible number of 3-cmc-or-less creatures.
After more games and a few online queues, I felt like I was getting somewhere, but unfortunately I was running out of time and couldn’t convince anyone to spend their last day working on the deck. The Jeskai matchup wasn’t great and I didn’t think the deck would end up broken, so I didn’t push it too hard.
I did spend all my free time on Thursday playing the deck on Magic Online. I did well overall, but lost to all my Jeskai opponents and Abzan opponents with Anafenza. The Jeskai matches were all close though, and I didn’t think people would actually play a ton of decks with Anafenza at the PT.
I did beat all the random brews as well as all the red decks, but I was still on the fence between Jeskai Black and BG Aristocrats. I felt like I had a better matchup against red and GW with BG, and I didn’t want to play the Jeskai mirror since I hadn’t had time to test it. I liked Reid Duke’s Esper deck, but I wasn’t confident in my ability to play control quickly enough.
Here is what I ended up registering on Friday morning:
I definitely cut it thin with only 19 creature hits with Collected Company, but I kept most of the high-impact ones.
I ended up cutting Blisterpods even though they’re good in small numbers, partly because I couldn’t fit all the cards I wanted into my sideboard, so I cheated and ran 1 Duress and 1 Evolutionary Leap in the main.
Radiant Flames is key against Mono-Red and I might even want to bring them in against some versions of Jeskai.
Outpost Siege comes in against Jeskai and control as well as the mirror, where the Dragons mode can shine depending on the board state—being able to ping their Zulaport Cutthroat at instant speed sounds good in theory.
I went with Duress mostly untested, hoping the card would give me a shot against Jeskai and control. You can have some number after sideboarding against Atarka Red as well if you suspect that they left in pump spells.
At the time of writing, I was 4-4 in Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar and 2-3 in Constructed, but I punted a very close match and didn’t run especially well either. I hope to play the deck at full proficiency on Day Two, and I look forward to tuning the deck even though it has some inherent flaws. You might catch me doing so on Twitch since I’ve decided to get back into Magic more seriously, and I plan on streaming some Constructed on MTGO after the PT, so stay tuned!
Gabriel “YellowHat” Nassif