Full disclosure: I didn’t think Boros Feather was a good deck going in to the Grand Prix last weekend. I played it because it was fast, fun and I preferred Modern to Standard by a mile so losing the main event would give me the opportunity to play a better format. I fully expected to lose quickly, but after some lucky draws, unlucky opponents and good matchups I found myself undefeated on Day 1, then into the Top 8 before finally falling in the semifinals.
4 Clifftop Retreat 5 Mountain (343) 8 Plains (331) 4 Sacred Foundry 4 Adanto Vanguard 4 Dreadhorde Arcanist 4 Tenth District Legionnaire 4 Feather, the Redeemed 3 Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin 4 Defiant Strike 4 Gird for Battle 3 Reckless Rage 2 Samut's Sprint 3 Sheltering Light 4 Shock Sideboard 2 Healing Grace 1 Reckless Rage 1 Sheltering Light 3 Lava Coil 4 Tocatli Honor Guard 1 Gideon Blackblade 2 Legion Warboss 1 Tajic, Legion's Edge
I built my deck specifically to play fast and dangerous. There are a lot of people out there who have been trying to make Feather work, but I wasn’t trying to make the deck consistent and instead was as greedy as possible. I cut all the Gates, making my mana risky but ensuring I wouldn’t have a land enter tapped. I shaved down to 21 lands even though the deck is as mana-hungry as a deck can be with a curve that ends at 3. I added Krenko back to the deck over a more solid option in Gideon, then paired with Samut’s Sprint for maximum greed.
To my delight, all the greed paid off. Krenko overwhelmed people all weekend, creating board states opponents couldn’t recover from. Sprint caught people off guard as they attacked, leaving vulnerable planeswalkers dead to my hasted creature. Players were punished all weekend for tripping up early, having no way to win after missing a third land drop or not casting their first spell until the third turn.
My matches were always over in a flash. On average, there were 30 minutes left in the round at the end of my matches. The mulligans took about as long as the games themselves, which with how the deck was built, happened a lot. The formula I used for mulligans was this:
1) 2-4 land with both red and white mana
2) At least one castable threat
3) At least one noncreature spell
4) Be willing to mulligan down to four cards before breaking the first three rules.
The number of mulligans makes you miss playing on Arena. Over the course of the tournament, I twice mulliganed to 4, a handful of times to 5 and too many times to count started at 6. This is what happens when you play greedy. YOLO.
Matchups and Tips
Most matches come down to whether opponents can deal with your threats. If your Feather or Arcanist are running wild early on, you have almost surely won the game. Mono-color decks are the best matchups. I say mono-color instead of just Mono-Red just because I happened to run into a Mono-Blue Tempo player in Round 4 and a Mono-Green Ramp deck in round 12.
Command the Dreadhorde variants and Golgari Land Destruction also seem favorable for Feather, as both gun for slow planeswalker decks and this deck is the opposite of slow. Gruul Aggro and Bant Ramp are close matchups that can go either way. Finally, Esper Hero variants depend a lot on the build. The more creatures they have then the better off you are.
I didn’t keep detailed records, but here’s how my matchups played out overall:
- Mono-Red: 3-0
- Command the Dreadhorde: 3-0
- Bant Ramp: 3-0
- Esper Hero: 1-1
- Golgari Land Destruction: 1-0
- Mono-Green Ramp: 1-0
- Mono-Blue Tempo: 1-0
- Gruul: 0-1
- Jeskai Walkers: 0-1
Perhaps the best feeling anyone can get against a Red player is casting Healing Grace to counter a removal spell, gain life and then rebuy it with Feather to run it back again every turn. If you hate Mono-Red, I’d suggest giving this a try. The deck has a great Mono-Red matchup and I managed a perfect 6-0 game record in my three matches against it thanks to a little luck from bad Experimental Frenzy hits.
The best draw the deck is capable of is a second-turn Dreadhorde Arcanist into Turn 3 Tenth District Legionnaire plus Gird for Battle, which lets you attack for 9 with some scry as a bonus. I had two games over the weekend where the opponent had seen enough by turn 3 and we moved on to the next game. It feels really good when it’s lunch time and you finish with 40 minutes left on the clock.
At least five times during the Grand Prix I managed to assemble Feather and Reckless Rage against one a green deck. In a number of these games I didn’t even bother attacking and just held down the fort until I had mowed down the entirety of the opponents’ field, which at times included most of their lands thanks to Nissa, Who Shakes the World. This mechanic is much more than a gimmick and is my favorite interaction in the deck.
In game 3 of my Top 8 match against my Bant opponent, I kept a hand with Krenko and Sprint. I played a couple of Shocks on mana dorks to keep his board in check until turn 4. Since I had nothing in play, he made the mistake of attacking with his only creature and leaving his baby Teferi unprotected. After Krenko knocked Teferi to 1 loyalty and made a small army of tokens, my opponent was forced to Deputy of Detention the krenko rather than the tokens, only to have Deputy killed, the Goblins finish Teferi and my opponent all but dead.
Tocatli Honor Guard was crazy good all weekend. From shutting down explore packages to protecting my important threats from Deputy of Detention, Hostage Takers and Massacre Girls, Tocatli just put in work. I probably had four post-board games where an opponent had to sheepishly run out a Hostage Taker or Deputy as a speed bump while the board state grew out of control.
A Less Greedy Update
2 Boros Guildgate 4 Clifftop Retreat 4 Mountain (343) 7 Plains (331) 4 Sacred Foundry 4 Dreadhorde Arcanist 4 Tenth District Legionnaire 4 Feather, the Redeemed 3 Tocatli Honor Guard 3 Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin 1 Gideon Blackblade 4 Defiant Strike 4 Gird for Battle 4 Sheltering Light 3 Shock 3 Reckless Rage 2 Samut’s Sprint Sideboard 3 Healing Grace 3 Lava Coil 2 Thrash//Threat 2 Gideon Blackblade 2 Legion Warboss 1 Tajic, Legion’s Edge 1 Tocatli Honor Guard 1 Reckless Rage
Before the internet explodes over the idea of main deck Tocatli, hear me out. First, Adanto Vanguard is just bad in this deck. I boarded some number out in every matchup–even in matchups where protecting itself from removal was really good–because it still just gets stonewalled by a large blocker or a bunch of Hero tokens. But you still need the 2-drops to fill out your curve, and you want one with value later in the game. On turns 4-6, it’s important to be doing multiple things a turn and that’s a lot harder to do with 3-drops. While there’s plenty of matchups where Tocatli won’t do a lot for you, there even more where it does a lot, including the most important job protecting your important threats. This deck is a Sheltering Light away from being really good, but until then you have to do what you can to keep Krenko and Feather out from under Deputies and Hostage Takers.
The rest of the updates are pretty easy. A couple Gates for better mana. Cut a Shock for the last Sheltering Light in the main to protect the boys. A bit more Gideon both main deck and sideboard. Some updated removal options to help with bigger creatures after board. I didn’t feel good about the list I took to the Grand Prix (and I still am not too high on it even after making Top 8), but this list is starting to feel like something I’d get behind.
A Side Note on Mythic Championship Invites
I’ve seen several people talking about how invites work now that players have to pay for travel expenses. I personally did not play any MCQ events as I had no inclination of “winning” that prize. The Top 8 just happened to come along with the added bonus of the invite, which I inquired about deferring and was quickly shot down. I will not be attending Barcelona, and personally find it odd at best WOTC would not allow players to use qualifications for the event in their region. The current policy really takes the air out of my “prize” and leaves me feeling bittersweet about my weekend. I’ll just leave it at that.
This was my first tournament report and hopefully there will be more in the future! Until then…