I’ve always been a fan of the sweet combo deck—the kind of combo deck where you really get to do some stuff. You know, the kind of combo deck where your opponent has to sit back and watch you do some stuff for a while.
I happened upon this interesting RG Rites deck while I was playtesting for GP New York with the Team Ann Arbor guys. The deck was the brainchild of Invitational Champion Max McVety and PT Fate Reforged Top 16 competitor Tyler Hill. The two of them brewed the deck up before the Invitational but ultimately ended up shelving it in favor of other decks.
With GW Tokens being such a known commodity and the “best deck,” I was interested in finding a linear deck that had a good matchup against it. The Rites deck caught my eye.
RG Cryptolith Rites
Tyler Hill and Max McVetey
In many ways RG Rites is like a cross between GW Tokens and GB Aristocrats because it incorporates elements from both decks. The key difference, of course, is that the secondary color is red as opposed to black or white.
The deck really harnesses the power of the Thopter. One of the really cool things about the deck is that Thopter Engineer grants haste to your artifact creatures, which enables the heart of your combo.
Crytolith Rite is already a pretty messed up card but generating artifact tokens that have haste and tap for mana is a whole other level of messed up. The interaction allows you to chain multiple spells together in the same turn.
The combination is especially crazy with Evolutionary Leap since your tokens can immediately turn themselves into more cards. Hangarback Walker essentially costs 2 and says “put the next 2 creature cards from your library into your hand.” Pretty sick value.
Another key interaction is that the deck is very good at generating flying creature tokens that can attack opposing planeswalkers. The fact that it’s packed with hasty, evasive creatures is what drew me to it in the first place.
When a deck makes copious amounts of mana, eventually you need to cash it in somewhere…
Dragonlord Atarka is a great big mana payoff card that you can reasonably cast. In fact, you can put Dragonlord Atarka onto the battlefield as quickly as turn 4:
Turn 1: Endless One
Turn 2: Crytolith Rite
Turn 3: Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Turn 4: Dragonlord!
Not a bad draw!
The deck also has a +1/+1 counters matter theme going on. Avatar of the Resolute has really impressed me lately. In fact, I’m currently playing it in my GW Tokens decks as well! The fact that it has trample and reach is exciting. The fact that it can randomly become gigantic is also great.
In a deck full of tokens, it’s a common play to use Nissa, Vastwood Seer to put counters on all of your creatures and then drop a huge Avatar.
Endless One has also proven to be pretty awesome. It serves as a 1-drop for your hands that have Cryptolith Rite but it is also a formidable threat in a deck that can make a ton of mana. It is very nice that Endless One can be big enough to survive Languish and Grasp of Darkness, and can’t be hit by Ultimate Price!
The RG Rites deck is also very adept at quickly getting to flip Westvale Abbey. I know, I know, so is Aristocrats. One of the cool things that has come up in testing is that this deck has a really sweet way to win the Ormendahl, Profane Prince on Ormendhal fight by blocking with and sacrificing Thopters to burn your opponent’s relevant creatures.
The upside of the deck is that it is very fast and can out-grind almost any controlling strategy with card advantage.
The downside is that the deck has a little bit of a “glass cannon” feel to it. We found that the deck tends to be softest to other linear decks. In particular, Max and Tyler originally abandoned the deck for the Invitational because it has a rough time against Mono-White Humans.
The Humans deck hits a little bit harder and has Declaration in Stone to cleanly answer a Westvale Abbey. The 4 Lambholt Pacifist and 4 Rending Volley are clearly a hedge against White Weenie decks. I was ultimately pretty satisfied that the White matchup was passable by the end of tuning the deck.
The deck isn’t bad against decks that cast Languish because you can sacrifice your team and draw tons of cards to rebuild. The problem is when you get swept by decks that can also put you on a fast clock like Ramp or Selesnya Aggro.
Ultimately, we couldn’t think of ways to fix the way the deck interacted with these 2 cards and decided the stars weren’t aligned correctly for this deck. It was a close call but I decided to take the safer road and play GW Tokens instead since it was the deck I had the most practice with.
Yet, it is worth noting that I think the RG Thopters deck could end up being pretty nicely positioned in the future if removal-heavy control decks make a strong showing. The fact that the Thopters can essentially grind forever is very annoying against control.
The most regrettable thing about not trying out this sick brew at the GP: So many missed opportunities to say “GET TO DA CHOPPA!!”