After shaking off the rust and trying out some of the new cards, I Top 8’d one of the last old-school PTQs in Green Bay, and I’ve continued to test and tune in preparation for GP Memphis.
Here’s my updated list:
The tl:dr version is that Hornet Nest is live vs. most of the field, and here it does more than usual thanks to synergies with Setessan Tactics, Chord of Calling, and Chandra self-pings. It’s more of an engine piece than a mere wall.
When mulliganing, make sure your hand has something to do before turn three. In game one, that’s only a mana dork, but in game two that can include Magma Spray. After going to six, you can loosen the criteria and keep everything with something to do by turn three. The deck rarely goes to five.
A few new cards found their way onto the list. Whisperwood Elemental has some great synergies with the deck. Like Chandra, it works well with Courser, and like Xenagos, the Reveler it provides fodder for Setessan Tactics. It’s a great Chord target against decks with sweepers, and it helps turn on Chord itself.
In the sideboard, Outpost Siege has been merely fine. Unlike Chandra, it takes a turn to get going, doesn’t take out blockers, and doesn’t have synergy with Hornet Nest. Still, it’s another card to bring in against UBx control, and it can help find the more relevant cards.
Scuttling Doom Engine is somewhat untested, but I had a free slot to work with and someone in my Twitch chat suggested it as a Chord target against GB ramp-into-Ugin. In that matchup, Whisperwood Elemental is somewhat lackluster except against Ugin specifically, and I wanted a card that was good against Ugin that was also good against the rest of the GB deck.
How is Bees vs. Control?
It’s intuitive to be worried. After all, we have these three-mana 0/2s and Setessan Tactics, and those can’t be good here.
Well that’s true, they aren’t exactly ideal against control. On the other hand, a lot of decks have some number of maindeck cards that are dead against control. Consider Hornet Nest this deck’s Bile Blight or Murderous Cut, only you can use them with Chord or Chandra, and sometimes you can even fight something.
Another worrisome aspect of the deck is the creature-based acceleration. This usually makes a deck weak to sweepers, but we have enough resilient-type threats to make up for it. There’s a big difference between ramping into a Xenagos or a Whisperwood Elemental as opposed to a Sidisi or a Siege Rhino.
Whisperwood in particular matches up well against both Crux of Fate (due to the sac effect) and Ugin (due to the colorless 2/2s, which are immune to Ugin’s wrath effect). It’s a source of multiple bodies, which are immune to Bile Blight thanks to manifests being nameless. I usually Chord for Whisperwood in this matchup over other prime targets like Ashcloud Phoenix or Stormbreath Dragon.
In the matchups the deck wants to shock things, it’s the control deck, and Spray is the better removal spell due to the existence of Ashcloud Phoenix.
What’s are the deck’s bad matchups?
When I stopped playing the deck after the TCGchampionship, it was because Mardu was gaining in popularity. Mardu could approach from a few different angles, and the combination of early pressure into planeswalkers (like Chandra) and closing out the game with some burn was too much for the Bees to handle consistently. Bees was still a fine deck, just less fine than it had been.
Fortunately, Mardu isn’t that popular anymore, but some RW variants have a similar game plan. 2-drop into Brimaz into Chandra is almost unbeatable, as even if you manage to deal with that board you’ll still take too much damage and end up dying to burn. On the other hand, 2-drop into Rabblemaster is very beatable, so I wouldn’t say it’s so much a matchup thing so much as the opponent’s card choices, the die roll, and how well the draws line up.
Sidisi Whip has fallen out of favor due to the popularity of Ugin, but that’s another tough one. You can tempo them out with some evasive threats and well-timed removal, but if both decks play out an average game then Whip will make it hard to race. Torrent Elemental in particular bricks the whole Hornet Nest plan, and it even taps down creatures you might’ve used to Chord up a surprise blocker.
Overall, the deck has a lot of good openers and powerful lines. It’s consistent and forgiving while still having some room to outplay the opponent.