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Feature Article – GW ROFLstomp

Testing for GP Brisbane, and to a lesser extent Worlds, began as soon as we had the whole Innistrad spoiler. I was in Canberra at the time and this meant I would be testing with my old crew; JP Kelly, Anatoli Lightfoot, Andrew Vance and Jeremy Neeman rather than my current testing group in Melbourne.

We started discussing which cards we liked and what kinds of decks we could make with them. We speculated on which block decks would manage to make their way in to Standard and which new cards they would play. Tempered Steel and Birthing Pod seemed like the main contenders. Once the Starcity events started happening we were able to add Mono Red, UW blade and Solar Flare to our gauntlet. After the second Starcity open we added Wolf Run Ramp.

There were a couple of realizations that we made about the format as a whole. All the decks were less consistent than previous formats. Without [card]Preordain[/card] and with a significantly worse mana base, all the decks were losing more games to themselves than we would like. Tempered Steel has always done this but we definitely wanted our control decks to be a lot more consistent than they appeared to be. We really liked [card]Blade Splicer[/card], it was great against [card liliana of the veil]Liliana[/card] and the whole red deck. It felt awesome on both offense and defense. At one point I remember Neeman saying “I have no idea what deck I’m playing but I want it to have 4x [card]Blade Splicer[/card]”.

It felt like we had learned a lot but we still hadn’t gotten anywhere. There wasn’t a single deck we liked. It was 8pm on the Monday night after the first Starcity event and we were sitting round the kitchen table depressed about not having anything even close to a deck to play. I started looking through random Standard cards and chucking together what looked like a GW pile. There were 8 mana dorks, [card]Puresteel Paladin[/card], [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card], 6 swords, 4 [card]Mortarpod[/card]s, Garruks, [card hero of bladehold]Heroes[/card] and obviously 4x [card]Blade Splicer[/card]. JP wasn’t holding back on his disapproval (he rarely does) and the only defense I had was “You build something then!”

The first set of games we had I was up 66% against Tempered Steel, 70% against Mono red and 50-50 against the blue decks. Despite this there was a lot wrong with the list. The most obvious problem was the [card]Puresteel Paladin[/card]s. They weren’t really helping the deck do what it was doing well. They also needed more than ten equipment. They became [card]Porcelain Legionnaire[/card] and the [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] became [card]Gideon Jura[/card], shortly afterward these cards became [card]Mikaeus, the Lunarch[/card] and [card]Geist-Honored Monk[/card].

Two nights later we discovered UB. Wilfy Horrig, one of my mates from Melbourne sent me a list of UB control that he had been doing well with. We took it through our existing gauntlet and it tore it apart. With a few changes to the maindeck we were getting positive game ones against Tempered Steel and Mono Red while annihilating Solar Flare and UW. The GW deck I had just made wasn’t able to win even one in five games against UB. At this point it was pretty hard to justify any additional testing with GW, as we all felt like we were going to play UB. I can be stubborn though and I do like my home brews, so I continued tuning. I was struggling to get many games in against the other testers, because (somewhat reasonably) it was hard to get people to play against a deck they thought was a lost cause.

Then came the second Starcity open and with it Wolf Run Ramp. This deck is the real deal. It was smashing Red, felt really solid and was getting close to 50% of game one against UB. Post board it got a lot worse and it was getting closer to a 70% win rate. There wasn’t a single deck that was good against it.

That is, until we played against it with GW. It was pretty good, and then we added [card]Overrun[/card], turning the matchup from ‘good’ to a ‘massacre’. If Wolf Run drew [card]Slagstorm[/card] followed immediately by [card]Primeval Titan[/card] it was winning games – but they were the only games it was winning. Suddenly I started to get excited by GW again. If my only bad matchup was UB then maybe that was acceptable. While all my friends were going to play it, that was only five to ten people and I can totally accept that many bad matchups. Thrun out of Wolf Run was a beating post board against UB; maybe my deck could do that too.

At this point we had almost run out of time. I was boarding my plane to Brisbane thinking I was playing UB but wasn’t as sure as previously. We stayed at Aaron Nicoll’s mum’s house in Brisbane. Martin Juza arrived a few hours later. He had Shuhei’s Mono Green Wolf Run deck with him. The regular Wolf Run matchup was ok for UB, but Shuhei’s deck thrashed us. It had [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] and more turn one plays instead of just [card]Viridian Emissary[/card] and [card]Slagstorm[/card]. UB was losing game after game after game. GW however wasn’t losing any, without [card]Slagstorm[/card] they weren’t ever able to take a game.

I was a little worried that I had made too many changes to GW. This can happen when the decks you are testing against change. Your testing metagame becomes inbred if you make too many changes, your deck can stop beating anything at all. I had been testing against Red and Tempered Steel and now I was testing against Wolf Run. I decided to run through the whole gauntlet with Neeman just to make sure. GW was still beating everything but UB. I hastily revised my sideboard, making sure there were three [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card]s and a couple of [card Sword of Feast and Famine]Swords of Feast and Famine[/card]. I was pretty exhausted and crashed early.

After getting to the venue I had some time to burn, having received two byes for the tournament on ranking. I thought I would try my luck at the GPT’s to see which deck felt better and hopefully pick up the third bye. First I played the GW deck and lost to Bant Shape Anew. Awesome! I couldn’t feel too bad though as during games two and three I repeatedly missed land drops. Next I played UB. First round I beat a competent Solar Flare player but round two I received a game loss for not de-sideboarding and lost a close match to Wolf Run. I was pretty annoyed and decided to take a couple of hours off. I loaned my GW deck to my good mate from Melbourne Tim Fondum as he wasn’t really feeling the UB list. Tim is a good friend of mine and an excellent magic player. He’s attended multiple pro tours but his commitment to med school prevents him from doing much testing. Priorities right…

Once he reached 2-0 I decided that if he won byes I would play GW, otherwise I would stick with UB. He ended up winning the byes defeating Wolf Run, Tempered Steel, Solar Flare and Mono Red twice. Despite my decision I was still on the fence, Isaac Egan had just managed to win byes with UB and most of the good players I know were set on playing it. Tim at least, had his deck for the GP and he ended up taking it all the way to second place.

This is the list Tim ran:

GW Overrun/GW ROFLstomp

[deck]4 Oblivion Ring
2 Mortarpod
2 Overrun
3 Elspeth Tirel
3 Garruk Relentless
4 Blade Splicer
2 Geist-Honored Monk
2 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Hero of Bladehold
2 Viridian Emissary
1 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Gavony Township
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Razorverge Thicket
4 Plains
8 Forest
Sideboard
3 Naturalize
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
3 Thrun, the Last Troll
2 Sword of War and Peace
1 Inkmoth Nexus
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter
1 Mortarpod
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/deck]

Tim was obviously very happy with the list. After the tournament I told him I was going to write about the deck and we had a discussion about what could be done to improve it.

The first thing we discussed was [card]Elspeth Tirel[/card]. It was fine, but costing five meant it was very hard to resolve against control and didn’t have a big enough impact on the board in other match-ups, and against decks without sweeps [card]Geist-Honored Monk[/card] was a lot better. Decks with sweepers generally had counters for Elspeth. A card that Tim and I think would be good in this slot is [card]Midnight Haunting[/card]. I originally dismissed it due to my lack of anthems and general dislike of “weak” cards but I think it could actually be a great fit. Being able to have an instant threat against control definitely takes them out of their comfort zone, they can counter [card]Midnight Haunting[/card] but that would usually leave them without a counter for your main phase threat. [card]Midnight Haunting[/card] isn’t that much of a threat on its own but it only takes a [card]Mikaeus, the Lunarch[/card] or [card]Gavony Township[/card] to turn it into a very quick clock. At the moment I’m torn on the last maindeck slot, the options are a third [card]Midnight Haunting[/card] or a third [card]Overrun[/card]. They work well together which makes the choice awkward. It’s like choosing between a seven drop and your 18th land in limited. At the moment I’m going to run the third [card]Overrun[/card] but I wouldn’t be surprised if this changed shortly.

I also want to add a third [card mikaeus, the lunarch]Mikaeus[/card] to the list. Mikaeus was only a two of due to being a legend. I had three for a while and occasionally I was stuck with two in hand which led me to dropping one. In retrospect, that’s actually ok, since having one in play is pretty awesome. I eventually went back to two when I was looking for space for Elspeth.

The [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] was added at the last minute before the tournament as a better way to get past [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] and to make your Thruns do a lot more damage against control. At the time I was cutting my own [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] and [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] was a way for me to hopefully strengthen the control matchups whilst not completely ignoring Red. As it was, they’re just not what the deck was after. I’m going to try [card]Shrine of Loyal Legions[/card] in the board as an additional way to pressure UB Control. They are slow and clunky but hard to deal with and threat diversity is a good thing against a deck like UB.

The [card elesh norn, grand cenobite]Elesh Norn[/card] and [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] are the tutor targets for a flipped Garruk. Flipped Garruk is pretty rare though and most of the time you won’t even want to tutor for an enormous threat. Tim also mentioned that [card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/card] had been better then Birds for the entire event. I’m not sure on this but he has more games with it then I so I made the change.

This is the list I would play if I played a standard event tomorrow:

GW Overrun/GW ROFLstomp version 2.0

[deck]4 Oblivion Ring
2 Mortarpod
3 Overrun
2 Midnight Haunting
3 Garruk Relentless
4 Blade Splicer
2 Geist-Honored Monk
3 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
3 Birds of Paradise
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Hero of Bladehold
2 Viridian Emissary
4 Gavony Township
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Razorverge Thicket
4 Plains
8 Forest
Sideboard
3 Naturalize
2 Surgical Extraction
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
3 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Inkmoth Nexus
1 Mortarpod
3 Shrine of Loyal Legions[/deck]

These are the plans in the important matchups:

RED:

The Red match-up is great. Pretty much every card in their deck is significantly weaker and slower then it was a year ago. The deck is good, but you really notice the change in power level when you’re playing aggressive threats against them and they aren’t being [card lightning bolt]Bolted[/card] and [card]Searing Blaze[/card]d. Generally the plan is to get your threats out as quickly as possible while using [card]Mortarpod[/card] and Garruk to control their team.

[card]Oblivion Ring[/card] is versatile but I usually save it until most of my hand is in play, playing it too early really hampers your board development.

-3 [card]Overrun[/card] +2 [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card] +1 [card]Mortarpod[/card]

While [card]Overrun[/card] will usually just kill them, the match-up is already good so I’m looking to avoid win-more cards. Thrun looks like a weird card to side in but the draws they have that actually beat you are the ones where they have a couple of early threats and remove your blockers. They’re certainly not getting past Thrun!

WOLF RUN:

As I previously wrote, the only games Wolf Run wins are the ones where it sweeps you and plays a quick Titan. Post board they will go up to four [card]Slagstorm[/card] and possibly some [card]Arc Trail[/card]s as well. This makes the match-up a fair bit tougher. Usually against sweepers you want to take out some Birds and bring in the [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] but you can’t afford to do this against Wolf Run as slowing down is a good way to loose to their game plan rather then just their sweeper.

-2 [card]Midnight Haunting[/card] +2 [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card]

UB CONTROL:

UB Control is the hardest possible match-up. Game one is terrible as they have so many answers for all your threats and after they resolve a turn 6 sphinx there’s no way you can come back.

-3 [card]Overrun[/card] -2 [card]Mortarpod[/card] -1 [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] -3 [card]Mikaeus, the Lunarch[/card] +3 [card]Thrun, the last Troll[/card] +2 [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] +1 [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] +3 [card]Shrine of Loyal Legions[/card]

Post board you are more resilient to sweepers, have less dead cards and have the massive trump in the whole that is Thrun the last Troll. The games are truly competitive but given you are probably down a game its pretty hard to come out with the match win.

Solar Flare:

This matchup is a bit of a grind. They have a lot of ways to stop your aggressive starts but not that many answers to Garruk. Game 1 can go either way depending on the quality of their draw.

-3 [card]Overrun[/card] -1 [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] -2 [card]Mortarpod[/card] -3 [card]Mikaeus, the Lunarch[/card] +3 [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card] +2 [card]Surgical Extraction[/card] +1 [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] +3 [card]Shrine of Loyal Legions[/card]

You board much the same as against UB except instead of [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card], which is pretty inefficient against [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card], and for [card]Sun Titan[/card] you have [card]Surgical Extraction[/card], which significantly restricts their late game.

TEMPERED STEEL:

You will lose a lot of game ones against Tempered Steel. That being said the match-up is totally fine, you have a bunch of removal for their threats and an excellent game plan. When they get their nut draw though, there isn’t much you can do about it.

-2 [card]Viridian Emissary[/card] -2 [card]Overrun[/card] +3 [card]Naturalize[/card] +1 [card]Mortarpod[/card]

Post board things get a lot better. [card]Naturalize[/card] is excellent and [card]Mortarpod[/card] gets better when they are less likely to have a [card]Tempered Steel[/card] in play. [card]Overrun[/card] is good but you don’t need it to win. Since the match-up is favorable I’m comfortable reducing the amount of win-more cards. [card]Viridian Emissary[/card] also gets the chop as they aren’t likely to try and attack through it.

Token Town

-1 [card]Mortarpod[/card] -2 [card]Viridian Emissary[/card] +3 [card]Naturalize[/card]

They have Wrath which is a total blow out but other than that it’s only their amazing aggro draws that worry you. Your creatures are faster, bigger and better and [card]Overrun[/card] just kills them.

This was an awesome deck to build despite the constant criticism. I ended up making top 8 with UB but I kind of wish I had played this instead. I think GW ROFLstomp is very well placed at the moment. If you expect a lot of people to pick up UB control then it’s not the best choice. If not I think you could do a lot worse than sleeving up [card]Overrun[/card] and ROFLstomping people into the dirt.

Dan Unwin
Sledgesliver on MTGO
[email protected]

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