Pro Tour Dominaria is over, and we’ve got a new metagame on our hands. Chainwhirler and… others. I showed up with a deck from the “others” category, believing that my matchup against R/B Aggro was pretty good. Unfortunately, I didn’t face any R/B Aggro decks in the tournament, but instead various Esper, B/G, and Mono-Red decks. This is the list that I, Brad Nelson, BBD, and Martin Muller (among others) played at the Pro Tour.
For those who’ve read previous articles about my Pro Tour decks, you may know that I enjoy exploring the origin of the deck, to understand the card choices and how the deck operates. Without that, it’s hard to get a deeper understanding of a deck.
As testing continued in the Revelation/Genesis house, it became clear that it was hard to find brews that could survive R/B’s Jund play style, with its proactive game plan and great sideboard. Going over the top of it was an option, but then it was too hard to fight U/W Control with its permission spells and card advantage. As time started to close in on us, we had to give up on brews, whether it was Constructs, legendary sorceries, or even Paradoxical Outcome variants, and focus on the stock decks.
At GP Toronto, I chose to play U/W Control with little practice leading up to the event. I chose to play the creatureless version, similar to the one Leo Lahonen played, and didn’t do too well. Post-GP, I didn’t like it because I felt like people played a lot better against it after it was a known strategy, and the deck was clunky. Sideboards had gotten better against it, and even game 1 felt more awkward.
It wasn’t until Martin Muller started tuning the deck, trying a few Glimmer of Genius alongside four Settle the Wreckage and topping it off with Torrential Gearhulk, that I got seriously interested in the deck again.
It was demolishing R/B pre-board. And I’m not talking about some 70/30 stats—the deck kept going something like 15-1 and 13-2 against R/B pre-board with its new shell. All the clunkiness of the old U/W deck with Pull from Tomorrow was gone.
First off, Settle the Wreckage is a weird card because while it gets worse if you play around it correctly, it also gets better the more of them you have, especially if your opponent is playing around it. If they attack with two out of their four creatures, you can just cast it, because if you have another one, you can get the rest with that one. If your opponent only sends in one creature and doesn’t pressure you enough, they can get punished by Glimmer of Genius instead. After you have 6 mana, Torrential Gearhulk overlaps by serving as either a Glimmer of Genius or a Settle the Wreckage, making it even harder to play around either one. The problem for the opponent is also that there’s a clear time limit. They can’t play too carefully and leave you to cast Glimmer of Genius and hit your land drops either. What is all of this leading up to?
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Being able to save Settle the Wreckage for when you have access to Teferi is the way you take over. Cast Teferi with 7 mana in play, use his +1 ability, draw a card and untap two lands, and now your opponent is in real trouble. If Teferi stays on the battlefield, you win the game, especially with a Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin. Attacking Teferi with everything plays right into Settle the Wreckage, but attacking it exactly for just enough lets cards like Seal Away or Blink of an Eye defend Teferi too. There are even times where your opponent attacks Teferi with everything since they can’t play around Settle the Wreckage, or you’ve played a couple already, and, oops, you just return it to your hand with Blink of an Eye, fog your opponent’s attack, draw two extra cards, and continue to ask the same question again: How are you dealing with Teferi?
With a new base in mind, we tried moving forward toward more sideboard games. Playing through the gauntlet made us realize that the Winding Constrictor decks roaming around Magic Online were a real problem for the deck post-sideboard. It was close to unbeatable. After sideboard, the Winding Constrictor decks changed in such a way that they didn’t really have to attack anymore to win against you.
With Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Walking Ballista already in the main, they added more Vraska, Relic Seeker, Nissa, Vital Force, Lifecrafter’s Bestiary, and Duress to help resolve their cards. With these, they started to grind better than the U/W deck and their smooth draws helped by Llanowar Elves and Adventurous Impulse made counterspells awkward. With Jeff Cunningham leading the trophy race, playing B/G Constrictor every time we played him, we were afraid that it was going to be a bigger presence than it ended up being at the Pro Tour, and we worked hard on a sideboard plan against it. It felt like we tried everything, but we couldn’t find a way to keep up with their card advantage, so we finally gave up on that plan and instead just tried to win. That’s how the idea of Approach of the Second Sun came to fruition.
Instead of trying to play their game, we thought of the idea to just hold serve and then present them with a real clock that won the game regardless of how many cards they had in their hand. Once G/B Constrictor sideboards into their grindy plan, they actually lose some focus on being aggressive, removing some number of Rishkar, Peema Renegade and Verdurous Gearhulk, meaning that you actually have more time—except grinding them out isn’t an option.
As we put this plan into motion, we started winning a lot more against it. We also figured out that having a few Approach of the Second Sun was a great tool for the mirror match in game 1. For those who don’t know, the mirror match pre-board usually plays out to the point where there are no real answers left in the deck, and having an advantage of counterspells or cards that matter that they have to be counter is a huge edge. Having 2-3 extra Approach of the Second Sun gives you just that, unlike Torrential Gearhulk, which gets Essence Scattered.
Logically, Approach of the Second Sun makes sense in the new metagame. Before, proactive decks like Sultai or Temur Energy played blue, giving them access to Negate and rendering Approach of the Second Sun useless post-sideboard, which isn’t the case anymore. Another upside to having Approach of the Second Sun in the main deck is that time is less of issue if you don’t have to keep putting Teferi back as your only win-con.
Content with our new game plan, we started working on our sideboard. Since Approach of the Second Sun gets a lot worse post-sideboard against control, making room for cards to bring in was a headache without impacting sideboarding against other decks too much. After a lot of work we finally managed to do it, moving the Torrential Gearhulks to the sideboard. This naturally gave us a bit worse of a matchup versus R/B, which at the time we felt was worth it given the upsides in other matchups. Our metagame miss later became apparent during the Pro Tour with an overwhelming amount of Red and R/B decks and not even close to as much B/G Constrictor and control as we assumed. But for a more diverse metagame, I like our list.