I went a near perfect 7-9 at Pro Tour Kaladesh last weekend. “Near perfect,” I say, because I lost the last round playing for perfection. At that point, I was a clean 3-3 in Limited and 4-5 in Constructed, and a win that final round would have given me the nut record. 1-2 in Limited on Day 1, 2-1 on day 2. 3-3 overall. 3-2 in Constructed on Day 1, 2-3 on Day 2. 5-5 overall. 4-4 both days, 8-8 overall. They call that the nut average. It doesn’t get more average than that.
Instead, I sucked the big one and threw it all away by losing the last round of Swiss and falling to an ignominious 7-9 record. I blew it, and I’m ashamed of myself for that. How can I ever redeem myself?
Players are eliminated from receiving any extra Pro Tour benefits when they pick up the 8th loss, but did that stop me from continuing to battle in hopes of achieving that 8-8 record I craved? Hell to the no it did not. Just to be clear, if I had won that last round to go 8-8, I would have told people that I was 8-8 and they would have assumed that I lost the last round playing for 9-7, because nobody stays in and keeps playing after they’ve been eliminated. They just drop instead. People would have never expected that I was actually 7-8 and won a meaningless last round just to pad the stats. That’s the kind of value you don’t get every day. It’s like starting 0-3 in a tournament, winning out to finish 5-3 and then complaining about “missing Top 32 on tiebreakers.” If you don’t battle it out, you lose out on the ability to trick people into thinking you had a close-to-reasonable tournament that barely fell short instead of the reality that your tournament started short, was constantly short throughout, and ended up being also short, but not by as much.
It’s the little things.
I ended up playing a stainsy B/R Aggro deck in Standard. I won’t post the list here out of respect for the sanctity of the game. Let’s just say that 6 people on the team played the deck and I had the second-best record at 4-6. We had a 39.5% win percentage with the deck. I’ve been rounding that up to 40%—another small piece of value I refuse to leave on the table.
I spent the entire week working on a different sort of deck, however. It’s a deck that was putting up some pretty strong results in our testing, to the surprise of everyone except myself, and in fact I just finished 5-0’ing the first League I played with the deck on MTGO, which I believe is definitive and logical proof that the deck is unbeatable. I mean, if it’s never been beaten, it stands to reason it cannot be beat. If A, then B. That’s just cold, hard logic.
So, like I was saying, I spent the entire week leading up the Pro Tour playing—surprise surprise—a durdle-y B/W Midrange deck. The deck had the best removal in Standard alongside Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and Archangel Avacyn, two of the most powerful big threats in the format. It was putting up great results against almost everything except turbo Emrakul decks, and that was something that could be addressed in the sideboard with Lost Legacy.
So why, exactly, did I abandon it for the Pro Tour? Well, it was struggling to beat a W/R Gideon and Avacyn deck that we had also built. We came to the conclusion that the W/R deck was better at doing the Gideon + Avacyn thing than the B/W deck was and so we abandoned B/W. Then, the W/R deck was struggling to beat other decks like B/R aggro, which we thought might be popular, so we abandoned that as well. We should have then gone back to B/W, but for some reason we never did, to my eternal chagrin.
I should have just taken the gamble and played Kambal, but I did not. No Kambal, no future. I should have eaten my Kambal’s Chunky Soup, but I did not. I dropped the Kam-ball. I could have started Panther’s quarterback Kambal Newton in my fantasy football league, but I did not. (Okay, that was actually a wise choice). I Kam, I saw, I conquered. Kamballer status.
Let’s take a gander at the list, shall we? It plays the best creature in Standard, so you know it must be good. That creature is Thraben Inspector. Did you think I was going to say Kambal? Heavens no. Kambal has the same stats as Riot Devils. Thraben Inspector really is the best creature in Standard. I wish I was joking, but for once in my life I’m playing it straight. Innistrad is struggling to pick up the pieces after Emrakul, the Promised End’s destruction, and Thraben Inspector is the new queen. I’m working on a Thraben Inspector and Old Rutstein fanfic piece as we speak.
This is way different than traditional B/W Midrange decks in that it’s a Smuggler’s Copter deck. Smuggler’s Copter is, believe it or not, really good in B/W. B/W is a traditional Jund style deck in that sometimes you draw a bunch of removal against decks where you need threats or you draw a bunch of threats in situations where you actually need removal.
Smuggler’s Copter lets you filter that out. Smuggler’s Copter also does one other thing in this deck that it doesn’t really do that well in other decks. It blocks! Almost every other Smuggler’s Copter deck is trying to play an aggressive game plan, but in this deck, you’re just trying to protect Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and let Avacyn take over the game, and Smuggler’s Copter is actually really good at playing defense and helping you loot your way into the big threats you need or the lands to cast them. It also serves as a reasonable clock in matchups where you just have to kill them quickly, like Aetherworks Marvel decks.
Smuggler’s Copter is also really strong with Avacyn. You can give your creatures indestructible, and then crew Smuggler’s Copter afterwards and block with it to flip Avacyn, or you can play Avacyn, and when they kill her with the trigger on the stack, you can then use Avacyn to crew Smuggler’s Copter and have an indestructible Smuggler’s Copter to eat an attacker with. It works really well in every regard. It also doesn’t die when you flip Avacyn.
This deck has great removal, a great top end, and access to great cards in the sideboard. The only thing it is missing is that B/W is notoriously short on good creatures to crew the Smuggler’s Copter. We tried everything, and I mean everything. I had Aerial Responder in there. I had Drana in there. I tried Pilgrim’s Eye and Selfless Spirit. I even tried Squire.
Thalia, Heretic Cathar ended up being the best creature for Smuggler’s Copter. She is just really good in this format. Smuggler’s Copter has caused the average size of creatures to go down since you don’t need a big creature to crew Smuggler’s Copter, and a smaller creature with abilities is better at that. A 3/2 first strike is really good in combat now, and Thalia’s disruption is really good as well. If you have a Thalia in play, they can’t play a creature and crew Smuggler’s Copter with it, and it messes with a lot of lands in this format.
Kambal ended up being the next best creature to crew Smuggler’s Copter. Kambal has pretty weak stats, but his ability is actually pretty good. It’s a good clock against all the artifact decks, and it can provide a nice buffer against aggressive decks since they can’t just burn you out from 9 life with a Kambal in play. Also, every time you play Kambal, you can do what I do and just yell out “KAAAAAAMMBALLLLLLLLLLLLLL.” That’s a small extra piece of value.
I’ll be honest—I have no clue if this B/W deck is actually great or not, but I just keep winning with the deck in testing, so until someone proves me wrong, I’m going to keep with it. I was winning with it in Pro Tour testing. I’m winning with it on Magic Online. It looks super janky, but maybe it is actually just great and maybe I’m a big dumb-dumb for not playing it in the Pro Tour.
One last anecdote from the Pro Tour: I had turn-1 Thraben Inspector into turn-2 Smuggler’s Copter so many times in testing that teammates started to comment on how often I started games out that way. Not to be outdone, in my very next draft, I started out a game with turn-1 Oviya Pashiri into turn-2 Smuggler’s Copter. I was out of control. I couldn’t be stopped. I would have it no other way.