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Breaking Through – Satyrs in Sacramento

First of all, let me just take a minute to collect the reading public for a moment of silence. For it was last weekend where one boy finally became a man. It was last weekend where I finally took in the oh so sweet taste of Grand Prix Pro Points. It’s been awhile…

Despite doing pretty well at the last Pro Tour, my season count for Pro Points has been in the gutter thus far. I have missed some Grand Prix due to illness or weather that I could not avoid. And even when I show up, things don’t work. I have two or three Day 2 appearances in the 8 or 9 Grand Prix I have attended, and literally not a Pro Point to show for any of it.

Times are rough.

But, the only way to improve the situation is to keep moving forward and competing. Smooth out any problems you have along the way and keep stepping up to the plate. Having a bad quarter or third of a season means nothing if you have an excellent 2/3rds of a season after it. It was time to grab hold of my boot straps. New year, new chances.

Theros Sealed is not my favorite format. The draft environment is pretty solid in my opinion, but the lack of good removal in Sealed tends to make the bombs you play against feel a little more oppressive. That said, the cards are still fun to play with and there are a lot of decision points thanks to bestow and scry. I just prefer those elements in a draft environment more.

When I opened my Sealed pool, I wasn’t thrilled as I thumbed through a largely removal-less set of cards. Generally, I would post the pool here and explain why I landed on the deck that I did, but honestly, that effort would be wasted. My pool had three colors that were completely unplayable. Maybe I could splash a [ccProd]Shredding Winds[/ccProd] post-board against some deck and my pair of [ccProd]Dark Betrayal[/ccProd]s might be neat against certain matchups, but those are some of the highlights of blue, black, and green. Yeah, it was that bad.

Fortunately, there was a deck in my pool. Nestled in between unplayables was what appeared to be a really solid red/white aggro deck. A good aggro deck is still an aggro deck at the end of the day, which can be a big risk in a format like Sealed, but it was all I had. Debating the merits between playing aggro versus control was not even on the table, as there was no control deck to be had.

There were a few minor decisions regarding card choices for the red/white deck in front of me, and I will note those below, but for the most part, this deck was very easy to build.

[deck]1 Firedrinker Satyr
1 Hopeful Eidolon
1 Traveling Philosopher
1 Arena Athlete
1 Calvary Pegasus
1 Phalanx Leader
2 Wingsteed Rider
1 Two-Headed Cerberus
1 Observant Alseid
1 Labyrinth Champion
1 Akroan Horse
1 Hundred Handed One
1 Stoneshock Giant
1 God’s Willing
1 Spark Jolt
1 Ordeal of Heliod
1 Ordeal of Purphoros
2 Lightning Strike
1 Last Breath
2 Portent of Betrayal
9 Plains
8 Mountain
Relevant Sideboard
1 Deathbellow Raider
1 Favored Hoplite
1 Glare of Heresy
1 Last Breath
1 Peak Eruption[/deck]

Like I said, certainly solid, but not without flaws. The deck really did come together pretty easily. I was hung up on one decision toward the end of deck building that I am still not certain about. Basically, I chose to play [ccProd]Traveling Philosopher[/ccProd] over [ccProd]Favored Hoplite[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Deathbellow Raider[/ccProd] in my deck.

[ccProd]Deathbellow Raider[/ccProd] might have an extra point of toughness, but having to attack when I have no black mana in my deck might cause me to either lose the Raider or invest cards into keeping it alive that I would rather use elsewhere. In addition, the Raider is not a Human for synergy with the Pegasus, so it wasn’t even clear how much upside I was losing.

The more appropriate debate was between [ccProd]Favored Hoplite[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Traveling Philosopher[/ccProd]. Obviously the [ccProd]Favored Hoplite[/ccProd] is a better card, especially in draft, but cards do not exist in a vacuum. Even here, in what seems like a red/white heroic deck, I was not sure how strong the 1/2 would be in my deck.

First of all, if you look at my actual heroic enablers, I don’t have infinite of them and I certainly don’t have any spells that target 2 guys, allowing incidental heroic triggers should we have 2 different guys with it in play. Instead, I have a very limited pool of enablers. To be specific, I have 9 enablers and that is stretching it to the point of [ccProd]Potent of Betrayal[/ccProd] being an enabler even and [ccProd]Last Breath[/ccProd] being an enabler, which really only works on some of my heroes and even then, only some of the time. These 9 enablers sit alongside 5 heroes which would increase to 6 with [ccProd]Favored Hoplite[/ccProd]. When would I actually want to use any of my enablers on a Hoplite over another target?

Every enabler I use is one less hero trigger from the guys who actually have game winning outputs, like [ccProd]Phalanx Leader[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Wingsteed Rider[/ccProd].

The two cards that kept making me question this were the two Ordeals, as they just work so much better on a one-drop, but then I thought about that more. [ccProd]Ordeal of Heliod[/ccProd] is pretty solid on a Hoplite (although you do lose out on one potential +1/+1 counter) but how good is [ccProd]Ordeal of Purphoros[/ccProd]? If I am on the play and run out Hoplite into [ccProd]Ordeal of Purphoros[/ccProd], my creature has 2 counters on it after a single attack. That means that if my opponent chooses not to play a creature or plays one with 4 toughness, I have to either stop attacking with the Hoplite so as to not lose the Ordeal, or I need to be ok with Lava Spiking my opponent directly.

In my mind, that lowered the number of actual heroic enablers that I would want to use on the Hoplite on turn 2 all the way down to a single one ([ccProd]Ordeal of Heliod[/ccProd]) and that seemed so corner case that I just went with the more dependable, albeit boring, option in [ccProd]Traveling Philosopher[/ccProd]. I did board in Favored Hoplite for the Philosopher whenever I knew I would be on the play though, just to increase my chance of a nut draw.

If a few of my enablers had been dual targeting, then getting free value from the Hoplite would have pushed it over the top. I could not justify targeting my 1/2 with a [ccProd]Portent of Betrayal[/ccProd] or [ccProd]God’s Willing[/ccProd] often enough to ultimately include him though. Especially not when I would have a [ccProd]Phalanx Leader[/ccProd] trigger or [ccProd]Labyrinth Champion[/ccProd] trigger that would never be as a result. [ccProd]Last Breath[/ccProd] was a pump spell more often than it was removal in this deck, and I found that kind of funny.

The deck performed relatively well. While I did not have answers to my opponent’s bombs in the traditional sense, I was often able to just race and then use something like [ccProd]Portent of Betrayal[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Phalanx Leader[/ccProd] to push through the last bits of damage. I won a few games just off the back of [ccProd]Akroan Horse[/ccProd] (sometimes in combination with [ccProd]Phalanx Leader[/ccProd]), which was better in my deck than you might think.

While I was an aggro deck, very few of my creatures actually reach 4 power without me being very far ahead. And I even had a few fliers to get around it further. Honestly, that card is just so powerful that it would be hard for me to cut it from any Sealed deck.

I ended up going 8-1 with the deck which was slightly better than I would have expected. If I had gone 7-2, I would not have complained as the better decks I would face toward the end of the day could easily answer my aggressive plan and then just win with better cards. I managed to dodge that for the most part though and found myself in a good place going into Day 2.

Hopeful for Satyrs

My draft for Day 2 began with a pack that came down to 3 cards; [ccProd]Anthoussa, Setessan Hero[/ccProd], [ccProd]Time to Feed[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Stoneshock Giant[/ccProd].

I just ended up taking the Giant to avoid what I assumed would be a couple of green picks in a row behind me (the pack also had a [ccProd]Nylea’s Disciple[/ccProd]). Giant is probably the best card in the pack anyway. I followed that up with a [ccProd]Firedrinker Satyr[/ccProd] out of a bad pack and then got 2 [ccProd]Fanatic of Mogis[/ccProd] in the next 3 picks with a [ccProd]Chained to the Rocks[/ccProd] stuck in the middle. In fact, that entire first pack was insane. By the end of it I had another [ccProd]Stoneshock Giant[/ccProd] and some 10 or 11 playables between red and white.

After having such a good pack and passing green cards throughout the pack, I expected pack 2 to be much of the same but I actually got cut pretty hard. I assume the player to my left opened something really strong in white because the well dried up completely. I ended up playing 4 cards that I got this pack and one of them was my second [ccProd]Firedrinker Satyr[/ccProd] that I first picked.

I was even more confused by the way the packs were coming around the table. I took a [ccProd]Divine Verdict[/ccProd] in a pack that had both [ccProd]Titan’s Strength[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Satyr Rambler[/ccProd] in it, expecting to wheel one of the two. Instead, when I got the pack back with only 5 cards in it, a [ccProd]Sip of Hemlock[/ccProd] and a [ccProd]Vaporkin[/ccProd] were both still in the pack and both of the red commons were gone… what?

This actually happened again later on, once again involving [ccProd]Satyr Rambler[/ccProd]. I ended up with a deck that would have loved a few copies of Titan’s Strength, but my opportunity to get them passed with that 2nd or 3rd pick as I never saw another one. My deck ended up with a much worse curve than I would have liked, but my late game was actually decent:

[deck]Main Deck
2 Firedrinker Satyr
1 Favored Hoplite
2 Hopeful Eidolon
1 Calvary Pegasus
1 Satyr Rambler
1 Leonin Snarecaster
1 Flamespeaker Adept
1 Observant Alseid
1 Wingsteed Rider
1 Lagonna-Band Elder
1 Two-Headed Cerberus
1 Spearpoint Oread
2 Fanatic of Mogis
1 Borderland Minotaur
2 Stoneshock Giant
1 Chained to the Rocks
1 Dragon Mantle
1 Battlewise Valor
1 Portent of Betrayal
9 Mountain
8 Plains
Relevant sideboard
2 Divine Verdict
1 Glare of Heresy
1 Vanquish the Foul[/deck]

This deck certainly had some weaknesses, mostly due to a poor pack 2, but my lack of removal and heroic enablers was not quite as important here as I had so many ways to sneak through damage. Both of the Fanatics and the Stoneshock Giants can deal a lot of damage on any kind of board, similar to how I used Portent of Betrayal out of my Sealed deck.

I ended up going 2-1 with this deck, beating Martell’s mediocre draws on camera and then splitting my last two matches. My 3rd match was extremely close and I think I could have won if not for a crucial mistake in game 2. In game 3 though, a really interesting interaction came up.

I had a [ccProd]Firedrinker Satyr[/ccProd] that seemed like it was going to become useless quickly. My opponent had big green monsters in his deck and my life total had dipped all the way down to 5. With 8 lands in play and nothing going on in my hand, I then drew [ccProd]Hopeful Eidolon[/ccProd]. It took me a few seconds to actually realize what was about to happen. Eidolon negates all of the damage that the Satyr does to you. I was able to pump twice, taking no damage and attacked for 4 lifelink out of nowhere. Unfortunately, this interaction only existed in play for another turn or two and I ended up losing the game, the interaction was a neat one to pick up on, especially since I had two copies of each card.

Slowing Things Down

Despite being red/white aggro for the entire tournament thus far, draft 2 had me go another direction. I opened up on both [ccProd]Spear of Heliod[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd], but the Spear is so much better that this wasn’t too tough of a choice. I then was passed another [ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd], this time accompanied by [ccProd]Voyage’s End[/ccProd]. I went with the better card in [ccProd]Voyage’s End[/ccProd], aided in my decision by the knowledge that I had just passed a [ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd].

Despite getting off to a fairly aggressive start, the cards that were coming around were much more defensive. [ccProd]Coastline Chimera[/ccProd]s just kept coming with almost nothing competing with them in the packs. Eventually, in pack 3, I saw a very late [ccProd]Lash of the Whip[/ccProd] (around 8th or 9th) and took it as my deck was so slow, it could likely afford the splash. I then got passed another [ccProd]Lash of the Whip[/ccProd] next pick and then a [ccProd]Triad of Fates[/ccProd] with only 3 cards left in the pack. I decided to splash my three black cards and ended up with the following deck:

[deck]1 Leonin Snarecaster
1 Calvary Pegasus
1 Lagonna-Band Elder
2 Scholar of Athreos
1 Meletis Charlatan
1 Observant Alseid
3 Coastline Chimera
1 Heliod’s Emissary
1 Triad of Fates
1 Celestial Archon
1 Sealock Monster
1 Traveler’s Amulet
1 Gods Willing
2 Voyage’s End
1 Spear of Heliod
2 Griptide
1 Divine Verdict
2 Lash Of the Whip
7 Island
7 Plains
3 Swamp
Relevant Sideboard
1 Gainsay
1 Ephara’s Warden
1 Firedrinker Satyr[/deck]

Yes, even in my deck without anything remotely red in it, I still ended up drafting a [ccProd]Firedrinker Satyr[/ccProd]. Old habits die hard I guess.

If you are astute, you might notice that the above deck is actually 41 cards. I was clearly not astute when I registered it, because that was unintentional. I believe I forgot to count either the Amulet or the Triad of Fates in my deck total and I did not realize this until I was pile shuffling during my first round.

After a brief discussion with some friends/teammates, it was confirmed that I can board down to 40 cards for every game 2 and 3 situation, so I did just that, usually boarding out that Snarecaster.

I played my first round on camera and think that I played pretty well for the most part. The big mistake I made was failing to play around [ccProd]Triton Tactics[/ccProd] in a crucial turn during game 2. I had tunnel visioned on him having [ccProd]Lost in a Labyrinth[/ccProd] and totally forgot about Tactics being a card, despite it being the more commonly played one. I knew my opponent had [ccProd]Lost in a Labyrinth[/ccProd] in his deck though and had not yet seen the Tactics, so I just blanked. That is almost certainly a lack of preparation keeping me from being intimately familiar with all of the cards in a format and I lost game 2 because of it. I recovered and went on to once again 2-1 the pod.

My loss came to an extremely good Mono-Black deck that featured 3 copies of [ccProd]Keepsake Gorgon[/ccProd]. It turns out, those 3 black cards in my deck were basically the only black cards in the entire draft that did not end up in my opponent’s deck. It was a rough loss, keeping me from Top 8’ing, but his deck was better and he deserved the win.

Wrap Up

With Born of the Gods just around the corner, obviously the 3x Theros format is not so relevant, but some of the interactions were still important to pick up on. It was surprising to see how deep this format can actually be, even 3 months into its existence.

I would like to congratulate Tom Martell on his win. He played very well in the Top 8 and if you get the chance, I would go check out that coverage here.

As for me, this week is another Grand Prix in Vancouver but the format is now Standard. I am unsure of what I will be playing but if I have my way, it will be something sweet. To anyone going this weekend, stop by and say and hi! As always, thanks for reading!

Conley Woods

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