Reclined on a faux leather chair, surrounded by a lush library of scientific journals, bathed in soft light, I don’t feel at ease. I feel tense despite the warm autumn tones of the wallpaper. The lacquered wood of the crown molding boxes me in while the rivets in the chair’s material digs gently into my back. Not enough to hurt, but enough so that you don’t forget they are there. Diplomas from Ivy League schools adorn the walls, certificate after certificate after certificate proudly boasting and validating my therapist’s credentials.
“Tell me Austin. How do we get these snakes off your Brain?”
I shudder and grimace at his words while Painful Memories slink back into my Mind’s Eye.
“Doc…I don’t think about…reptiles anymore. Not since what happened Saturday,” my words reflecting the Whispering Shade of man far past gone.
He leans forward, his intrigue now stoked. What strange Mental Agony might I posses that he might be able to publish to earn further renown.
“The Gearhulks Doc…”
“Yes, yes Verdurous Gearhulk is in your deck, what about them?”
“But you’re wrong Doc….nothing about Saturday was Verdurous. It…was Torrential”
Oh you didn’t wanna read about my MtG Emersion Therapy Fan Fiction? Well let’s table my psychosis for the time being and talk about standard.
Friday night I cobbled together Brennan DeCandio’s winning 75 just like I had planned to. What I didn’t plan for was losing a lot over and over and over again. The deck felt powerful in testing on Wednesday night and it certainly had great potential, especially when you curve Winding Constrictor into Rishkar, Peema Renegade, but I kept getting outclassed as the games went longer and longer. It was like everyone got the memo from last weekend and realized that Winding Constrictor is must-kill on sight. Most of my matches came down to casting the Constrictor on turn 2 and the game was decided on whether or not it was immediately answered. Your turn 3 play of a 1/1 for 2 is a whole lot less impressive when your snake gets hit with a Harnessed Lightning every time.
One of the most important lessons I took away from my Friday night MtGO losing session was that I need to stop playing the night before an event. I’ve talked in the past about deck anxiety and how I often feel overwhelmed or unconfident in my deck decision right before crunch time. Playing a whole bunch and losing only ever compounds this stress and in the future I’m going to avoid testing the direct night before an event. Getting no sleep because I’m worked up certainly isn’t doing my play any good that’s for sure. If you stress yourself out over the same sort of things, I suggestion you join me in this Friday testing embargo.
Unsure of what to do, I toiled between what exactly I should play. I floundered between regressing to my beloved Mardu Vehicles, just because it was an archetype I felt more comfortable and confident with. I even stressed concocted some truly terrible decks on the notion that Elder Deep-Fiend might be incredibly well-positioned. In the end, I decided to just stick with what won and jam B/G delirium. Even if I wasn’t confident in the deck, this was the first PPTQ of Aether Revolt Standard, and I could always chock it up as a learning experience. And a learning experience it was.
So how did B/G and I fare? Well, my snakes died immediately and I got crushed by Torrential Gearhulk round after round. The 75 just didn’t feel like it had the tools or was crafted in a way to beat control, and my experience definitely reflected that. Zero hand hate other than the Cranial Extraction-style Lost Legacy left my flailing in the face of big blue Gearhulks and board wipes like Fumigate. The non-artifact clause of Lost Legacy really came into effect when I found myself losing to a pile of a beefy card by the name of Torrential Gearhulk. Non-blue Gearhulk decks though? I busted those up with giant snakes and trampling demons. The deck felt great at brawling in midrange creature mirrors, especially with the ability to Traverse the Ulvenwald for more copies of Verdurous Gearhulk and just roll through whatever feeble creatures your opponent is expecting to block with.
B/G as constructed with Brennan’s build is obviously powerful and seems well-situated if creature matchups are the name of the game. Unfortunately for Grim Flayer and Rishkar, Jeskai Saheeli was the top dog this past weekend at the Open, and Copycat is here to stay. If you’re looking to stick with your black and green cards, I’d recommend finding a way to hedge the Jeskai Saheeli matchup. This doesn’t just mean an additional To the Slaughter to help break up the combo, because that’s not actually the problem with the matchup. Interacting with the combo is actually quite easy between Grasp of Darkness, To the Slaughter, and Walking Ballista. No, how you often find yourself losing is drowning in the waves of Torrential Gearhulk. Now that Copycat has tuned and adapted its removal to adequately answer B/G Delirium’s threats, it’s the card advantage and selection of Jeskai Saheeli that beats us. Slamming fat Demons and Gearhulks into play means little when they are efficiently answered one by one and we have no real card advantage to keep up with, while our removal rots in our hand.
If you’re looking to adapt and evolve with the 5/6’s, look for more stable cards capable of grinding, the sort of thing that the slower, more controlling versions of B/G Delirium often utilize. Tireless Tracker, Liliana of the Last Hope, and Grapple with the Past are all potential mainboard cards that work with enabling delirium and grinding out our opponent. The big thing we’re missing of course is Emrakul, the Promised End. And it’s certain that her banning has helped Jeskai Saheeli rise to the top.
Post sideboard, there are a few changes we can make as well to help shore up the Copycat match up. More traditional hand hate, like Transgress the Mind or Pick the Brain can replace Lost Legacy now that we know that Copycat isn’t a fragile, all-in combo deck. Yahenni’s Expertise has lost a lot of stock as small creature-based aggro decks continue to underperform. If you’re looking for space to add some additional sticky threats to combat Copycat, Yahenni’s Expertise is the first place I’d start trimming.
It’s hard to offer any concrete 75 with Pro Tour Aether Revolt looming right around the corner, so let’s just keep our eyes peeled to coverage and latch onto whatever the best of the best reveal. The new team aspect of the Pro Tour has seemed to stoke the fire in quite a few pros, and everyone seems doubly ready to prove themselves. They aren’t just playing for themselves anymore, and with their teammates counting on them, I’m sure we’ll see an increased level of commitment and ingenuity! I can’t wait!
I talked about the changes that the Standard metagame underwent at SCG Richmond in this article. For more analysis of how the tournament shaped Standard going into Pro Tour Aether Revolt, read this article by Roman Fusco.
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