Players piloting this deck: Reid Duke (Top 8), Jamie Parke (Top 8), Tom Martell (14th), Andrew Cuneo (20th), Huey Jensen (Top 50), Owen Turtenwald (Top 50), Jon Finkel (Top 75), Gabriel Nassif, Gaudenis Vidugiris

It is 11 p.m. here on Thursday night in Atlanta, and we just adjourned our final team meeting before we assemble tomorrow to kick off the PT. The team is overwhelmingly on a BUG control deck that grew from an initial shell developed by Andrew Cuneo and then refined and tweaked by everyone. We initially started with 1-2 Sphinxes, but the number kept creeping up as the card proved impossible for control decks to deal with.

As always, the last few slots are in flux but the deck will look very similar to:

4 Temple of Malady
4 Temple of Mystery
4 Temple of Deceit
6 Swamp
5 Forest
1 Island
2 Mana Confluence
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Courser of Kruphix
0-2 Polukranos, World Eater
0-2 Reaper of the Wilds
4 Prognostic Sphinx
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Silence the Believers
2-3 Drown in Sorrow
1-2 Bile Blight
3 Kiora, the Crashing Wave
2 Read the Bones
1 Dissolve
0-1 Unravel the Aether
1 Psychic Intrusion
Sideboard
3 Thoughtseize
3 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
1-2 Drown in Sorrow
1 Bile Blight
2 Feast of Dreams
2-3 Unravel the Aether
1 Agent of Erebos
1 Dissolve

As you can see from the ranges, there are a few last minute changes in the air. We had settled on a main deck with 2 Polukranos, but I’ve been pretty unhappy with the card as it is poorly positioned against all of the black removal in the format. I suggested making the switch to Reaper of the Wilds tonight after dinner and the team is currently divided on what to play. Both cards have advocates and the fact that Reaper is a lot better in the mirror makes it a little awkward to stick with Polukranos. I think the most likely result is we split and play 1 of each, but we will figure that out in the morning.

The other slot still up in the air is the third Drown in Sorrow vs. the second Bile Blight vs. the first Unravel the Aether. We have room for 2 of these, and it is unclear which one moves to the sideboard. This is really a metagame call, but with all the scrying, the consensus opinion is that we want access to a disenchant effect main, so it looks like one of the removal spells will be getting the boot.

So how did we wind up on this deck? Our team hasn’t been this united on a deck since we all played Bant Control in the last Block PT. We tested every archetype we could think of but didn’t find anything that really blew us away. I thought there was a great chance Sam would be able to break it with some kind of enchantment combo deck or graveyard recursion theme, but the aggro trinity of U/W heroic, mono-red, and mono-black was just too punishing.

We expect a pretty wide open field, with the front runners being Naya and mono-black. Esper, Junk, Reanimator, mono-red, and U/W heroic will all be represented in significant numbers. I wouldn’t be shocked to see something like W/G heroic, mono-green devotion, or an enchantress deck also spike in popularity. In an open field where you expect to play against a lot of decks, we decided to go for a powerful reactive strategy. This deck has the best answers with the black removal and a resilient finisher in Prognostic Sphinx. It is well positioned against aggressive decks while not giving up too much ground in control mirrors. Kiora has had mixed reviews on the team but if left unchecked she generates tremendous advantage.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a way to also fit Elspeth in the deck, so we are missing the other pillar of the format, but we are very good against her. Sphinx ignores the tokens to kill her in two hits and our sweepers can clean up the tokens she leaves behind. It is a little awkward to be “splashing” removal with the Caryatids, but they are just so good at accelerating out an early Sphinx, which is very difficult to deal with. Finally, the one-of Dissolve and Psychic Intrusion are nods to the control matchups. Dissolve is a great tool in fighting against opposing Sphinxes and Intrusion is the best trump, taking an Elspeth or Sphinx from their hand and turning it against them. All of the decks need to play more spot removal than they would like, so there are a lot of dead draws in game 1s in these matchups. Adding in a few haymakers goes a long way toward letting us steal games when we draw the right cards.

The Polukranos vs. Reaper of the Wilds consideration is tricky. Polukranos is much better against aggressive black decks and mono-red, both of which have a lot of 1-toughness creatures that can’t survive monstrous. It can also get big enough to end the game in 2-3 hits, which is a nice clocking ability we otherwise lack with our low-power creatures. Against control decks, Polukranos just sucks up a Silence the Believers or a Banishing Light without generating any advantage, so the hexproof ability on the Reaper is much better. We also have no real way to get an opposing Reaper off the board and we don’t have Elspeth to create infinite chump blockers, so it is a scary threat that we can best answer with a Reaper of our own.

The format has so much scrying in it, and this deck especially can effectively dig for answers better than most others, so powerful silver bullets make a lot of sense. We have one Agent of Erebos as a silver bullet for reanimator or any random graveyard decks that we may have missed or didn’t anticipate (Sam spent a lot of time building a Strength from the Fallen mono-green deck that was almost good enough). We don’t have a lot of counterspells but if we get our Sphinx online we can dig to them to protect ourselves long enough to close out the game. On the removal front, we opted for maximum redundancy as we just want to trade 1-for-1 every turn until we can get ahead with a Sphinx or we can strive a Silence.

Hopefully by the time you read this we’ll have put a few copies of our deck into the Top 8 and you will be watching one of us raise the trophy of PT Champion.

-Tom