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TeamCFB: The Pantheon Deck Techs – BG Rock and Naya Zoo

(Players piloting Obliterator Rock: Reid Duke [10-5-1, 42nd], Matt Costa [10-6, 86th])
(Players piloting Naya Zoo: Owen Turtenwald [11-4-1, 15th], Paul Rietzl [9-6-1, 89th], William Jensen [9-7], Sam Black [3-5])

Reid Duke – Obliterator Rock

“Behold blessed perfection.” -Sheoldred, Whispering One

B/G Obliterator Rock is the epitome of midrange. It features a healthy suite of discard spells in conjunction with diverse removal to handle any problem permanents you might encounter. Its creatures are hand-picked to defend you early, but also to close the game quickly once you’re ready to do so. The goal in the early game is to play defense against aggressive decks, and to set control and combo decks off-balance with disruption. In either case, once you’re ready to turn the corner, it will only take a couple of turns for your giant creatures to finish off the helpless opponent.

The five distinct creatures in the main deck all play a crucial role:

[ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd]: Many have called it the best creature ever printed, and Obliterator Rock reminds you why. In a deck with discard spells and cheap removal, it’s not uncommon for Tarmogoyf to attack as a 4/5 on turn 3. The speed and efficiency of the card leads to many easy wins against any opponent who misses a beat. It also happens to be one of the best defensive cards against an opposing Zoo deck.

[ccProd]Dark Confidant[/ccProd]: This may seem like an odd choice in a world of [ccProd]Wild Nacatl[/ccProd]s, but the fact is that Dark Confidant will always shine in a deck full of cheap removal and disruption. Frequently, a turn-1 discard spell can clear a safe path for Dark Confidant, and he can provide an immediate and irreversible advantage starting the turn after you play him.

[ccProd]Scavenging Ooze[/ccProd]: While the mana cost in the upper corner might lead you to think of Scavenging Ooze as a two-drop, the actual goal is to cast it a bit later, after the dust settles from a flurry of early-game action. Scavenging Ooze grows huge in this deck, and it serves to trump Tarmogoyf, [ccProd]Knight of the Reliquary[/ccProd], [ccProd]Snapcaster Mage[/ccProd], and just about anything else in a creature mirror. It also provides all-important life gain and incidental graveyard hate against combo decks.

[ccProd]Kitchen Finks[/ccProd]: The best way to stabilize a game against a Wild Nacatl deck. Kitchen Finks bridges the gap and ensures you can survive to cast your four-drop creatures.

[ccProd]Phyrexian Obliterator[/ccProd]: Finally we come to the deck’s namesake card, and its heaviest hitter. Phyrexian Obliterator brick-walls a ground attack like no other creature in Magic can. Once you’re ready, it effectively turns into a 5/5 unblockable, which is particularly important against opponents intending to block with Kitchen Finks, mana dorks, Lingering Souls tokens, or anything else.

Though one of the more powerful creatures available in Modern, Phyrexian Obliterator has seen little play due to its extremely demanding quadruple-black manacost. Obliterator Rock has a pristine mana base, and this is one of the biggest reasons to choose it over its cousins Jund and Junk. Because it is only two colors, you can comfortably fetch basic lands at any point in the game, saving critical points of life against Zoo and protecting you against the dreaded Blood Moon. [ccProd]Twilight Mire[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth[/ccProd] enter the battlefield untapped at no cost, and fix your mana immediately, allowing to make maximum use of both green spells like Kitchen Finks and Scavenging Ooze and black spells like Obliterator and [ccProd]Victim of Night[/ccProd].

B/G Obliterator Rock is one of The Pantheon’s choices for Pro Tour Born of the Gods primarily because of its excellent matchup against opposing creature decks. This includes Zoo, which we expect to be the most played archetype. Beyond that, the respectable clock and healthy mix of disruption mean that the deck has no clear weaknesses, and is not more than a small underdog even in its worst matchups.

In a format as deep and uncertain as Modern, playing with [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Inquisition of Kozilek[/ccProd] has tremendous value. It means there will be no surprises; you’ll always know what your opponent is up to, and will never be caught off-guard by a surprise combo or transformative sideboard.

On the flip-side, this deck has plenty of surprises of its own. I’ve already mentioned Phyrexian Obliterator, which is a powerful, complex, and (hopefully) unexpected card which players will have little experience dealing with. There’s also the deadly [ccProd]Slaughter Pact[/ccProd], which is an extremely challenging card to play around, even for players who know it’s coming! We expect [ccProd]Splinter Twin[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Birthing Pod[/ccProd] to be popular strategies, and in these matchups you can give the appearance of a defenseless soon-to-be-victim, only to ambush them with Slaughter Pact and watch their entire game plan crumble! Slaughter Pact also happens to be an excellent defensive card against haste creatures—say, [ccProd]Thundermaw Hellkite[/ccProd]; and flash creatures—say [ccProd]Restoration Angel[/ccProd]. Sometimes, it’s simply a removal spell that allows you to catch up on tempo, which is especially valuable when you’re trying to stabilize the game with [ccProd]Liliana of the Veil[/ccProd] on turn 3.

Additional surprises in the sideboard include [ccProd]Thrun, the Last Troll[/ccProd]—an unstoppable threat against blue control and a brick wall against Wild Nacatl decks; and [ccProd]Sword of Light and Shadow[/ccProd]—a lategame powerhouse that also happens to be one of the best ways to trump an opposing [ccProd]Bitterblossom[/ccProd].

Obliterator Rock is not a flashy combo deck, nor does it have the brutal speed of Zoo. Nevertheless, it’s an effective build of a tried and true strategy, and we feel it’s an excellent choice for Pro Tour Born of the Gods. We’re looking forward to continuing the proud tradition of Thoughtseize into Tarmogoyf.

Tentative Decklist
[ccDeck]4 Treetop Village
1 Forest
4 Swamp
2 Overgrown Tomb
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Marsh Flats
4 Twilight Mire
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Woodland Cemetery
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Thoughtseize
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Dark Confidant
4 Scavenging Ooze
3 Abrupt Decay
1 Victim of Night
2 Slaughter Pact
2 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Liliana of the Veil
2 Kitchen Finks
4 Phyrexian Obliterator
—–Sideboard—–
3 Fulminator Mage
3 Creeping Corossion
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
2 Deathmark
2 Thoughtseize[/ccDeck]

-Reid

Owen Turtenwald – Naya Zoo

As I write this, it’s the day before Pro Tour Born of the Gods and I’ve made my final decision on what deck to play. I’ve gone with a Naya Zoo deck that is reminiscent of decks from past formats like Extended. I worked really hard on the deck and I feel like it has a strong proactive game plan, as well as being consistent and having a high power level. I’ve always loved [ccProd]Wild Nacatl[/ccProd] and I’m thrilled to have a chance to play with it once again. Here’s my deck!

[ccDeck]4 Noble Hierarch
4 Wild Nacatl
1 Birds of Paradise
4 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Scavenging Ooze
4 Lightning Helix
4 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Loxodon Smiter
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
2 Thundermaw Hellkite
4 Arid Mesa
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Marsh Flats
3 Verdant Catacombs
1 Plains
2 Forest
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Kessig Wolf Run
2 Stomping Ground
2 Sacred Foundry
1 Temple Garden
—–Sideboard—–
2 Blood Moon
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
2 Stony Silence
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Wear and Tear
1 Shatterstorm
2 Combust
1 Rule of Law[/ccDeck]

The biggest question I get about the deck is why do I play one copy of [ccProd]Birds of Paradise[/ccProd]? I must admit that I was resistant at first as well, but after a ton of games played I wouldn’t play the deck without it. This deck is aggressive and without a fast draw you’re going to fall behind quickly in most matchups. I didn’t like the fact that if I didn’t draw a [ccProd]Noble Hierarch[/ccProd] or a Wild Nacatl that I just had no turn one play.

There is [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd], of course, but I liked having a turn one play that worked so well with the expensive spells in the deck—[ccProd]Knight of the Reliquary[/ccProd], [ccProd]Loxodon Smiter[/ccProd], [ccProd]Chandra Pyromaster[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Thundermaw Hellkite[/ccProd]. I hated my hands where I passed on turn one, then a turn two 1/2 Tarmogoyf or Scavenging Ooze. These hands are weak and only good when you know your opponent is also playing a creature deck with a large amount of removal. I like having turn two [ccProd]Knight of the Reliquary[/ccProd] and I want that to happen more often. It’s also important to note that against decks like Affinity and Birthing Pod, they can’t ever remove it, so if you have it on turn one it’s just better than playing two lands on the first turn. This point cannot be understated and is very good when casting certain spells a turn sooner, especially ones that win the game immediately like [ccProd]Rule of Law[/ccProd], [ccProd]Shatterstorm[/ccProd], or [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd].

I wanted to go bigger in Zoo mirrors and nothing does that quite like 4 Scavenging Ooze and 4 Knight of the Reliquary in the main deck. [ccProd]Lightning Helix[/ccProd] doesn’t hurt either, and lets you be a little more liberal with your shocklands to develop your mana base and not die to a [ccProd]Tribal Flames[/ccProd]. Even Loxodon Smiter laughs in the face of Wild Nacatl and Lightning Bolt.

I added Loxodon Smiter to the deck when I started running into problems handling [ccProd]Liliana of the Veil[/ccProd]. It was also shockingly strong against [ccProd]Remand[/ccProd], [ccProd]Anger the Gods[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd]. When people aim to beat Zoo, they try to play a ton of cheap removal and sweepers, and often they can’t handle a critical mass of 4/4 or bigger creatures. After all, it isn’t really that much worse to have Noble Hierarch into Loxodon Smiter than it is to go Birds of Paradise into Knight of the Reliquary. These hands come up more often than you think and make the deck more consistent and harder to hate. Redundancy is king.

I’ve liked [ccProd]Thundermaw Hellkite[/ccProd] since day one, and is one of the main reasons to play this deck. It’s the best topdeck in a Zoo or midrange mirror match since it hits hard and is usually difficult to kill. Thundermaw Hellkite gives any player with [ccProd]Bitterblossom[/ccProd] a serious headache and can also completely blow out cards like [ccProd]Spectral Procession[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Lingering Souls[/ccProd].

Similarly, Chandra Pyromaster is extremely effective against Bitterblossom and other Faerie cards while also killing a surprising amount of creatures in the format. It kills creatures like Steppe Lynx, Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise, Steel Overseer, and Dark Confidant. Even in a Jund mirror or against UWR control it’s very hard for them to interact with a planeswalker, and drawing two cards a turn will result in a win against these matchups very often.

The sideboard is a mix of the most effective sideboard cards I could think of, I tried to go hard and play cards that win the game singlehandedly in their respective matchups as often as possible. Shatterstorm will almost always force the Affinity player to concede when cast, I like playing one because it’s a land mine that floats around in my deck and punishes my opponent for playing such a linear strategy. Also, when you have an incredibly sick blowout card, it makes mulligan decisions a lot easier in the matchup. Rule of Law and Blood Moon do this well, as I previously mentioned.

I think I’ve played more games of Magic, tried harder, and cared more about this Pro Tour than any other I can think of, and I for one am proud of the list I have ended up with. I made a list of the decks I expected to face and played against them all day—Affinity, Splinter Twin, Zoo, Faeries, and Birthing Pod leading the field. I recognize that my deck has a few bad matchups—Scapeshift and Storm to name a few—but I also recognize that these decks will probably not be played as often as other decks and I wanted to focus my efforts on beating the decks I think will be played in large numbers.

By the time you read this the Pro Tour will be over and my fate will already have been decided. I hope it’s a good one.

Owen Turtenwald

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