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. Just like my last 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.
Parallel to what I was doing, Steve Rubin was also toying with Angels a little bit. This is one of the versions:
This version was significantly better against GW since it had Tragic Arrogance and Displacer. Displacer was awesome with all the mana sources and enters-the-battlefield abilities, and it was also a great combo with Hallowed Moonlight. The lands are a bit all over the place, but we didn’t know which ones we liked more, and decided to play many different ones to try them out.
What didn’t work: The deck was clunky and lacked card advantage—there were simply too many mana sources and cards that did nothing for a deck with no card drawing other than Hedron Archive. On top of that, getting your Hedron Crawler killed by Liliana was awful. Even worse is being locked out of the game by Thalia even though you’re a mono-colored deck because you have so many nonbasics.
What it needs: A more GW-based metagame. I think you’re weak to other Emrakul decks, even if you can tap it with Displacer, having Tragic Arrogance in your hand when they Emrakul you is devastating. All in all, I think this is another deck that was interesting and had some potential but ended up a victim of the new metagame.
Our version of BW Planeswalkers was performing pretty well in testing; it’s remarkably similar to the one Travis Woo just got second at the GP with. This is what we had:
The biggest discovery with this deck was how good Oath of Liliana was. Against Bant, for example, you’d be happy killing any of their creatures, and then the Zombie would make it almost impossible for them to kill any planeswalker you followed it up with. Against slower decks, it could be used as an extra ways to apply pressure. Most importantly, it’s Emrakul-proof, as it doesn’t target, so if you have that and they Emrakul you they can’t do anything about it. We also found out that having Moonlights and Descends made your deck really good against Zombies.
What didn’t work: Having Lilianas and no creatures was somewhat of a bummer, but still something we could work with, as the ultimate was quite strong in this deck. The biggest problem was that post-board you got a bit worse against everything, since so many of your wins came from your opponent having bad cards in their hands. Bant, for example, became a bad matchup—we expected Bant to be about 30% of the tournament, and I thought having a bad matchup against it post-board was unacceptable.
What it needs: A good sideboard plan. Nowadays you probably have to adapt and play some Transgresses, because Emrakul is so popular, but I also think you suffer some splash damage from Emrakul, as cards like Clash of Wills and Transgress are good against you. It’s hard to find a balance. Perhaps you can have a more transformative sideboard and play a bunch of Kalitas’s and Avacyns against Bant.
We quickly identified Liliana as one of the most powerful cards in the set, and set out to try to play it in as many decks as we could. Along with BG Delirium, Grixis was the deck that best utilized her 3 abilities—it wanted to kill small dudes, it had powerful creatures to bring back, and it was a control deck that could use the ultimate. This is what we had:
Liliana + Jace was a great combo, as was Liliana + Dark-Dwellers, basically giving you a ton of late-game power with cards that are also okay in the early game (plus the Liliana + Silumgar combo). You have a lot of removal to deal with basically anything, and your mid-game is powerful with Kalitas and Dark-Dwellers. This is a deck that I felt had a lot of potential and I wish we had explored it further.
What didn’t work: Before the new set, you could play Radiant Flames against Bant, which would kill all their creatures and none of yours. Right now, however, there’s Spell Queller, which basically means you can’t play Radiant Flames, as if they ever counter it it’s gone forever, even if you manage to kill the Spirit. As a result you have to play Languish, which is much worse with all your x/4s, and also more expensive. On top of that, the mana base was quite poor, needing early blue and red mana on top of BB and RR.
What it needs: Another 3-damage sweeper that doesn’t get owned by Spell Queller would be ideal—perhaps we’ll get one next set. Also a tri-land, please.
To sum it up, here are some of our conclusions for Standard—hopefully someone can apply this knowledge better than we did:
- Liliana is very powerful. A shell that can fully utilize its 3 abilities is very likely to be good. We tried to do that with BG Delirium, but there are many other combinations that can also do it (like Grixis). Even if you can’t utilize her -2 at all, she’s still a very powerful card for a control deck.
- Oath of Liliana is also a great card, and it’s especially good versus Emrakul.
- Voldaren Pariah/Prized Amalgam/Haunted Dead combination is very strong, and I think there must be other shells for it that are not UB Zombies.
- Gisela is the bad Angel, Bruna is the good one. The key to a good Brisela deck, if it exists, will be to be able to play Bruna without having to spend a turn casting Gisela.
- Emrakul is a powerful end-game in a lot of decks, you don’t need to turbo it out for it to be good.
- Eldrazi Displacer + Hallowed Moonlight is a great combo, and both cards are good by themselves.
- Geier Reach Sanitarium is quite good if you have cards you want to discard to break parity.
- Thalia’s Lancers is a real card—4/4 first striker for 5 looks quite weak for Constructed, but the ability to search for any late-game card is powerful, and it’s also a Human to return with Bruna.