October 9, 2015

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A Higher Standard - Still DRE

This past weekend I had a PPTQ weekend hosted by J & B Books in Trenton and P Market in Belleville. This means I had to build a standard deck the weekend after release. No time to scour SCG results. No real time to test all the new cards. This left me in a weird place. I had to put some music on and think.
As I scour through articles I hear.

Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say
But nothing comes out when they move their lips
Just a bunch of gibberish
And [explicit] act like they forgot about Dre” Eminem
– Forgot About Dre

I knew this meant I needed to play Abzan Control (DRE). Abzan Control was the previous king of the block. It would be foolish to forget about it so easily. The big three decks I anticipated for the weekend were Abzan Aggro, Jeskai and Atarka Red. All of these decks were soft to Languish. That paired with my preference for controlling midrange strategies lead me to lock in my deck choice shortly after remembering about DRE.

After some last minute additions like Greenwarden of Murasa thanks to the advice of Andrew Ting-A-Kee I found myself a list that I was happy with. Here is what I played in the first PPTQ and how the event went:

Round 1: Mono Red – Andrew Ting-A-Kee 1-0
Facing a friend round 1 is never good. The games went typical for when Abzan wins the matchup. I two for one’d Andrew when he put an enchantment on a creature and took over the game at a low life total. Luckily I knew Andrew had less burn then most so I felt safe hovering around 5 life in both games.

Round 2: Hardened Scales – Brandon Cormier 2-0
I was pitted against #bellevillepro Brandon Cormier for round 2. I saw he was playing hardened scales earlier and was very confidant going in. Only interesting thing other than me killing all his creatures was I used Ob Nixilis, Unbound’s destroy ability on my own Hangerback to make enough blockers that Brandon no longer had a chance.

Round 3: UW Awaken Control – Nathan 3-0
This deck was cool. It played Gideon alongside the best awaken spells as its main win conditions. Craziest part would be in game 2 where he cast the awaken take an extra turn card and killed me 2 turns faster than I thought he could. Nissa, Vastwood Seer proved to be too much for him though as it completely took over game 1 and 3.

Round 4/5: Intentional draws 3-0-2
Top8: Atarka Red – Justin
I was on the play for this match and ended up losing game 1 anyway. Game 2 I drew much better than he did and in game 3 he got me back by mulling to 5 and having the following turns.
Turn one: Monastery Swiftspear, attack go
Turn two: Monastery Swiftspear, Dash Lightning Berserker, attack go
Turn three: Dash Berserker again and Atarka’s Command
Turn four: Dash Berserker, Atarka’s Command again.
I had no chance.

That last loss left a bad taste in my mouth as I felt so close victory. I knew that the next day would provide another opportunity that I didn’t want to let slip by me. The next morning I made one small change to my deck. I cut the 4th Ruinous Path for the 2nd Murderous Cut. Instant speed removal mattered a lot more than the flexibility of Ruinous Path; at least enough to have only 3 Ruinous Path.

Here is what I registered the second day:

I felt good about my chances today. I only lost once the day before and it was to just one of those Mono Red draws that you can’t beat. I felt very ready to beat the field and there was no deck I was afraid to battle against.

Round 1: Mono Red splash black – Lyle Leeman 1-0
Lyle is from Kingston so I knew him well. I knew he would be on some sort of mono red strategy so I mulliganed accordingly. We had easily some of the best games of the weekend. I found myself making strange attacks with Shambling Vents while leaving my bigger creatures back on defence. Gaining exactly enough life to be out of burn range by 1 for 3 consecutive turns in both games!!

Round 2: Mono Red – Andrew Ting-A-Kee 2-0
I found out why Andrew loves to play Mono Red so much. His initials are ATAK. We had 3 good games this time but again I two for one him a couple of times and in game 2 I had one of those draws where my life total never stayed below 20.

Round 3: Hardened Scales - ???? 3-0
I forget my opponents name for this round but it was a matchup I experienced the day prior so I wasn’t too worried about it. Game 1 I only drew 1 removal spell so I learned a valuable lesson that without removal that deck will walk all over me. Game 2 he didn’t play his third land on time and in game 3 I killed all 5 of the creatures he drew.

Round 4: Abzan Aristocrats – Zack 3-1
Zack drew a combination of Evolutionary Leap, Abzan Ascendancy and creatures in game 1 and 3 and I lost because of it. This deck definitely looks good against Abzan but it needs to draw a couple pieces in order to be successful. Evolutionary Leap was the most impressive card to me. When his engine was online I felt relatively helpless unless I survived long enough to draw Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and not die to thopters anyway. This was the deck I didn’t want to face again.

Round 5: Atarka Red: Avery Mathers 3-2
I didn’t like that I could be possibly facing elimination after starting 3-0. If I was going to lose to someone who wasn’t from Kingston it would be Avery. He’s a great kid with a natural knack to the game. He just has to slow it down. In our match he drew 2 Monastery Swiftspears and 2 Atarka’s Command both games and rolled me over. Could I really be choking this badly after such a great start?

Round 6: Grixis Dragons: Justin Hockney 4-2
It was this round I realised my tiebreaker would hold up if I won and that me and my opponent would be playing a win and in match for the top 8. Game one I grinded my opponent out with Den Protectors and planeswalkers. My opponent made a very tight play in game 2 by not revealing a dragon to a Foul-Tongue Invocation and it won him the game. If he had revealed it I would have taken another line of play and not died to the Dragonlord Kolaghan he played the following turn. Then in Game 3 I played 2 discard spells on the second turn disrupting him a lot and finished him off with Shambling Vent and Den Protectors looping.

Top 8: U/W Awaken Control: Nathan Top4
I played Nathan yesterday and couldn’t be happier to be playing against control if I’m going to have to be on the draw for sneaking into top 8 in 7th. We play 3 very long games and after we are done the other half of the bracket has already determined the finalist and the Abzan Aristocrat deck was dead. It was a Mono Red player waiting for me in the finals. I could definitely win this but Avery had other plans.
Top 4: Atarka Red: Avery Mathers
This time when me and Avery play I felt ahead the entire time. He flooded out in game 1 giving me a pretty easy win and then in game 2 he mulled to 5 and I drew a lot of my sideboard cards. I drew very well in both of these games. I don’t think he could have done anything to prevent this loss. The new mulligan rule was not kind to him. He had only fetches for his lands and a one drop on his mulligan. He scryed the card on top though so he didn’t play his one drop. I actually got to despise it on the draw because of this. This awkward stumble definitely helped me win that game.

My Finals opponent didn’t want the invite so we prize split where he got $200 more credit than me and I got the invite. This meant I could relax for the rest of the PPTQ season and once again try and spike an RPTQ. It felt good to have my decision to stick with what I know (Abzan Control) over what everyone is telling me is the better version (Abzan Aggro) pay off. When I was playing the deck, I could tell it was very powerful and has a spot in this metagame. It was definitely the real deal.

I’d like to take a second to thank the judges for those events: Ryan Cameron and Michael Roesler. Both events were run very smoothly and were a lot of fun to attend. Also, a big thanks to P Market of Belleville and J & B Books in Trenton.

I’m going to write a more detailed article about my list in particular next time. I do think I’m on to something. If you played Abzan Control in the previous standard let me tell you, it’s still good. It still has the highest power level of individual cards and is very versatile.
It’s still DRE.

Twitter: @AndyAWKWARD
Facebook: Andy Football-Peters