Saturday, September 28, 2013

Theros, Part 2

Last week was just the tip of the iceberg. After my first foray into Theros I was eager to play with the set again. I learned a lot from my mediocre showing in the prerelease and felt that I had a better understanding of the format going into this morning's release event.
Of course traffic was conspiring against me. Bridge and exit closures meant I was one of the last players to arrive for the 11am event. I make small talk and enjoy my coffee before receiving my six packs. This is what I opened:

Dauntless Onslaught
Decorated Griffin
Fabled Hero
Hopeful Eidolon
Last Breath
Leonin Snarecaster (2)
Ordeal of Heliod
Phalanx Leader (2)
Scholar of Athreos
Setessan Griffin
Silent Artisan
Traveling Philsopher

Benthic Giant
Crackling Triton
Lost in a Labyrinth
Thassa's Bounty
Triton Tactics
Stymied Hopes

Baleful Eidolon
Blood-Toll Harpy
Dark Betrayal
Disciple of Phenax
Felhide Minotaur (2)
Lash of the Whip (2)
Loathsome Catoblepas
March of the Returned
Morgis's Marauder
Pharika's Cure
Read the Bones (2)
Returned Centaur

Borderland Minotaur
Boulderfall (2)
Ember Swallower
Lightning Strike
Ill-Tempered Cyclops
Messenger's Speed (2)
Minotaur Skullcleaver (2)
Ordeal of Purphoros (2)
Priest of Iroas
Rage of Purphoros (2)
Rageblood Shaman
Satyr Rambler
Wild Celebrants

Artisan's Sorrow
Centaur Battlemaster
Defend the Hearth
Feral Invocation (2)
Nessian Courser
Nylea's Presence
Pheres-Band Centaurs
Satyr Hedonist (2)
Satyr Piper
Savage Surge
Sedge Scorpion (2)
Shredding Winds (2)
Time to Feed
Warriors Lesson

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
Akroan Hoplite
Destructive Revelry
Pharika's Mender
Psychic Intrusion
Sentry of the Underworld

Artifact & Land
Bronze Sable
Guardians of Meletis
Unknown Shores

This was quite a pool. Unlike my last event there was an abundance of awesome cards. I knew I wanted to play red or black and I immediately tried the pseudo-Minotaur tribal deck. It looked awesome but the curve was just not something I loved. I wanted to have something to do at all points of the game as I am a firm believer that tempo matters in Theros limited. Trading off early drops with their bestowed monsters can be a huge swing.
After looking at Rakdos I examined Golgari. While I liked the deck, I wanted to make sure I didn't like it just because it was my favorite color combination. I put together multiple decks: Orzhov grind, Selesnya Heroic, Gruul monsters, and Boros aggro. My blue did not have enough cards and even though Ashiok's draw was strong I wanted to be two colors.
As time dwindled down I went back to the beginning, laying out the Rakdos and the the Golgari decks. One just looked better to me:

9 Swamp
8 Forest
1 Baleful Eidolon
1 Blood-Toll Harpy
1 Disciple of Phenax
2 Felhide Minotaur
2 Lash of the Whip
1 March of the Returned
1 Morgis's Marauder
1 Nighthowler
1 Pharika's Cure
2 Read the Bones
1 Returned Centaur
1 Artisan's Sorrow
1 Centaur Battlemaster
1 Feral Invocation
1 Pheres-Band Centaurs
1 Savage Surge
2 Sedge Scorpion
1 Time to Feed
1 Pharika's Mender

I went with the Golgari deck because I felt it was the best at playing the mid and long game. I had plenty of removal and ways to clog the ground. March of the Returned and Pharika's Mender meant I would be able to get back my multiple deathtouch blockers to help keep monsters at bay. The triple deathtouch crew combined well with Time to Feed. Double Read the Bones was a huge draw. After underestimating Nighthowler last week I wanted to give it a shot and this seemed like a perfect deck for a pseudo-Lhurgoyf.
My plan was to block early threats and eventually win on the back of a Nighthowler bestowed creature (or the Nighthowler itself  or crack through for a ton with Morgis's Marauder. I ended up running the second Felhide Minotaur over the Nessian Courser purely for devotion to black.
Last week I played against all new faces; this week I would be dealing with the familiar.
Round one I was up against Brendan with his Gruul splash black deck. Game one we both mulliganed and discarded early. I laid the beats with a Sedge Scorpion but eventually he wiped my board with Anger of the Gods. He managed to draw out of early woes and started sticking large monsters (and made them bigger). He played the Hammer of Purphoros and I decided to play a Disciple of Phenax just to see more cards before scooping. I swapped a Savage Surge for the second Invocation between games.
Game two I elect to play and start with a Sedge Scorpion. We both developed out boards and Bredan got to the point where his creatures with monstrosity will overwhelm my smaller forces. So of course I ripped the Morgis's Marauder and attacked for exactly lethal.
Brendan elected to draw game three and we traded early beats. I stuck a Blood-Toll Harpy that he was not able to block. However by this time my adversary had played out multiple large beaters and had me on the ropes at two life while he stood at seven. My hand yielded a Nighthowler for the Harpy, which made it large enough to swing in for victory.
These games were all fantastic. I felt as if every decision mattered and were full of good back and forth. This is what I had hoped for and the first round delivered.
Round two saw me paired with a friend and regular Commander opponent Jess with a pretty sweet Grixis deck. Game one I was on the play and started applying early pressure. Jess was able to set up her defenses and cast an Ashiok of her own. I took it out after one activation thanks to a Harpy that was wearing an Eidolon and an Invocation. Jess wiped out two of my creatures with Curse of the Swine but she was not able to punch through. Two of my threats were Dissolved but Jess tapped low for a threat. On my turn I Morgis's Mauraudered in for the victory.
Game two was far less interesting. Jess mulliganed to six and stuttered on her development. Even with an Underworld Cereberus on her side of the table my consistent draw overran her poor one.
My partner from the Return to Ravnica 2-Headed Giant Prerelease, Michael, was my opponent in the third round. Michael had a strong Izzet deck that pulled all sorts of tricks to keep my board empty in the first game.
Game two we were at parity until I was able to bestow my Harpy with the Nighthowler. Michael did not have an answer for my ever growing attacker and had to Steam Aurury to try and find something. Unfortunately, this made the Nighthowler even better and he lost shortly thereafter.
Game three was more of the same with Nighthowler doing all of the heavy lifting. The horror got up to a 12/12 this match and did a very good impression of The Abyss. If The Abyss could deal damage that is.
Round four I got paired against Seth and we decided to draw. Good for me because we played for fun and is Oros deck smashed me in two quick ones.
I was very pleased with my deck. Not only is Theros a format where tempo and attrition matter, but it is one where you can play to your strengths. I know I am at my strongest playing grindy black green decks. If I was more comfortable playing green-white smash or red-green monsters I could have built one of those. As it stood, I got six packs for my efforts.
And of course now I can't wait to draft.


Joshua Claytor said...

Well done alex!

Brendan McNamara said...

Our match r1 was fantastic and you definitely ground out the victory. Both games 2 and 3 were so close. It was a pleasure!

I'll be writing it up as well for my column at HOTC which should be out on Thursday.