Hello ladies and gents, Harrison here with another Magic: The Gathering article for you folks. This past Saturday I attended my first PPTQ in this Standard format, and I was excited to play. With fresh Pro Tour results, I knew I’d be seeing a mix of the top decks that showed up there, such as Abzan Midrange, Atarka Red and the elephant in the room, Jeskai Black. While at the FNM leading up to the event I was going to be playing the ‘best’ deck in the format. Unfortunately, I decided after a mediocre 2-1-1 that I was better off running with something I was much more familiar with. I decided on an updated version of my Temur Midrange deck (which you can read about here).
2 Stubborn Denial
4 Draconic Roar
4 Frost Walker
4 Rattleclaw Mystic
4 Savage Knuckleblade
2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
2 Temur Ascendancy
4 Thunderbreak Regent
3 Shaman of the Great Hunt
3 Woodland Wanderer
2 Kiora, Master of the Depths
2 Crater’s Claws
4 Cinder Glade
4 Frontier Bivouac
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Yavimaya Coast
3 Lumbering Falls
[Main Deck: 60 Cards]
3 Disdainful Stroke
3 Radiant Flames
2 Reality Shift
2 Stubborn Denial
1 Temur Ascendancy
[Sideboard: 15 Cards]
I must ‘axe’ you a question …
This updated list is infinitely more aggressive, and I believe much more capable of actually winning games. While Omnath, Locus of Rage is great when you can cast him, getting to seven mana more often than not is too late. Same with Dragonlord Atarka. Getting angry with cards like Shaman of the Great Hunt and having main deck removal and counterspells is the best line you can make with this deck, and I wanted to maximize that as much as possible.
After the fact, there’s only a few changes I would like to make. While the singleton Dispel proved to be very useful, I desperately wanted another one. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Crater’s Claws. The Claws never really came through for me, being either too slow against Atarka Red or just a win-more card when I have a board state. Speaking of Atarka Red, I think it is, at the very least for Game 1, my worst match-up. The changes I would make to help that would be
-2 Crater’s Claws
+1 Feed the Clan
-2 Naturalize (Sideboard)
+2 Feed the Clan (Sideboard)
Yes, Feed the Clan. My best weapon against Atarka Red, and anything else trying to close out the game quickly. And not completely useless against control decks either, representing (with Ferocious) another two turns of them attacking with Dragonlord Ojutai to get me off the table.
Once I arrived at the event down at Good Games Gold Coast (with a little unintended detour through Logan) I found 26 other players ready to compete. With Head Judge Johnny Tong, assisted by Alex Norris, we would be playing five rounds of Swiss, followed by a cut to Top 8.
Round 1, Esper Dragon Control, 0-0
Whenever you play a deck that can qualify as aggro or midrange, one of the most important skills is knowing when to flip the switch, to go from maintaining your resources and playing cautiously, to attacking and trying to close out the game. Today was going to be a massive test of this aspect, as almost all of the matches I would play sat at the extreme ends of the aggro-control spectrum.
Unfortunately my opponent in Game 1 spent too many turns at only four land, and Kiora, Master of the Depths provided a heap of value. With a threatened ultimate next turn, my opponent had to use his Utter End to banish the walker, leaving me able to quickly take him out. Temur Ascendancy would provide its first of many outstanding performances Game 2, giving me fantastic value on every creature that let me quickly grind out my opponent.
Round 2, Esper Dragon Control 2, 1-0
Yeah, it was going to be that sort of day. With the opposite problem to my Round 1, I found myself stuck on four lands for too long and my opponent quickly wiped me out. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy proved that he deserved his price tag in the second game, being just too good value for me to get past. After two very different rounds against two control decks, I was 1-1 and needed to win the next three to guarantee my spot in the Top 8.
Round 3, Atarka Red, 1-1
Oh, Atarka Red. While I may dream of a format where mono-red isn’t hideously strong, I don’t see it happening any time soon. My opponent smashed out a win in Game 1 in just four turns, the dream team of Hordeling Outburst and Atarka’s Command coming in strong. Game 2 I played some of the most cautious Magic I have played with Temur, and despite falling to just two life I managed to pick up the win. I had visions of defeat in my first Game 3 of the day as my opponent lead Monastery Swiftspear into Abbot of Keral Keep into a second Abbot into a second Swiftspear off the top. With a brief prayer and expecting my PPTQ run to be ended, I ripped a Radiant Flames off the top and cleaned up. Following up the Flames with a Woodland Wanderer was too much for my opponent, and I still had a shot.
I love the smell of Napalm in the morning!
Round 4, Jeskai Black, 2-1
With all the preparation I’d made for it, it would be disappointing to not go up against the breakout star of PT:BFZ at least once. While Jeskai Black is capable of amazing exchanges of card economy and is legitimately one of the best, if not the best deck in Standard right now, you pay for that by it being also probably the most difficult deck to successfully pilot. My opponent’s apparent inexperience cost him Game 1, as two critical errors in developing his manabase left him unable to play any sort of effective Magic. Game 2 the turn three Mantis Rider proved too good, getting in a full 21 points of damage over the course of the game. I can blame bad draws as much as I want, but sometimes you just take those lumps. Mantis Rider is a fantastic card, after all. Game 3 had a lot of back and forth, but a Sunken Hollow being forced to come into play tapped gave me the opening to strike, running out a Savage Knuckleblade with Stubborn Denial that proved just too good.
Round 5, Atarka Red 2, 3-1
Yeah, so this is Standard. After consulting the standings it was win-and-in for the Top 8 for both myself and my opponent, and he took a blistering lead, hitting the turn 4 ‘combo’ of Become Immense with Temur Battle Rage for a ridiculous 18 damage. Game 2 my defense was too much for Atarka Red to break through, with a well-timed Reality Shift saving me 12 points of damage. Game 3 I caught the double lucky break of my opponent’s unfortunate mulligan to 5 cards, and a turn 3 Flames that cleared the board, putting me in second place in Swiss standings and in a guaranteed seat at the Top 8.
Enough of the Raging, GET IN THE BALL!
Quarterfinals, Jeskai Black 2
Play six rounds, go up against three decks. Competitive Magic can often be a downer. Seeing as I’d come in second in Swiss, I had the play in Game 1 and lead out strong with a pair of Frost Walker … straight into my opponent’s removal. I fought back and forth with all three of my counterspells coming out, but Hangarback Walker was too much value to overcome, especially combined with a total of 8 points of damage from my Yavimaya Coast.
To try to combat that I had previously experimented with an alternate mana base that played more fetches in the form of Windswept Heath and a single Prairie Stream, that would do the dual job of giving me a fetchable blue source and a fourth color of mana for Wanderer and Exert Influence. However, I found that it wasn’t worth the inconsistency that came up, especially given that Thunderbreak Regent has two red symbols, and Knuckleblade effectively has two as well (one to cast, one to give haste).
Game 2 started slowly with both of us taking the time to develop our mana. I bit the bullet first and ran out a Thunderbreak with what I thought was sufficient protection.
I was wrong.
While I got a handful of attacks in, Crackling Doom took care of my Regent and I was unable to get back in the game. Just like that, I was eliminated from the Top 8 and the competition.
Now we just need Snapping Doom and Popping Doom.
It’s tough to make it as far as the Top 8 and then get immediately knocked out, but that’s part and parcel of competitive Magic. You take those loses, find where your mistakes were, and try not to make them again. With the exception of the Claws, I was happy with my deck and how it ran, and I look forward to the next event.
Thanks for reading ladies and gents, and I’ll talk to you next time.