Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A New Season


Well, a new Standard season is upon us. Goodbye to the powerful Control staples and Devotion enablers of RTR block, and welcome to our new Midrange overlords of Tarkir.

I've been thinking about what to play ever since Khans started getting spoiled, and as much as I loved the idea of punching bears, it seemed like Temur wasn't quite as strong as some of the other potential archetypes Jeskai aggro/tempo or Abzan midrange or even Sultai control.

At first, I wanted to test out the old adage about aggro dominating new metagames (using speed to prey on sub-optimal decks), but then I started thinking about cards like Courser of Kruphix, Sylvan Caryatid, Anger of the Gods, Drown in Sorrow, and Siege Rhino. Seemed grim. The the first week or so of actual tournament results came in ... and oddly enough, Midrange does seem to be the overall theme so far. Then Frank Lepore (currently one of my favorite Magic personalities) posted an article about a sweet-looking Temur Superfriends deck, and I was sold.

Get in the sleeve, my new dragon-speaking friend. ^_^

So I sleeved up the following, and gave it a whirl at the latest Tuesday win-a-box at Mox Mania:

Land (25):
3 Forest
2 Mountain
3 Wooded Fooothills
4 Temple of Mystery
4 Temple of Abandon
4 Frontier Bivouac
4 Yavimaya Coast
1 Mana Confluence

Doodz (20):
4 Sylvan Caryatid
3 Rattleclaw Mystic
4 Courser of Kruphix
4 Savage Knuckleblade
3 Polukranos, World Eater
1 Stormbreath Dragon
1 Surrak Dragonclaw

Superfriends (9):
3 Xenagos, the Reveler
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
2 Kiora, the Crashing Wave
2 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
1 Nissa, Worldwaker

Spells (6):
4 Lightning Strike
1 Temur Charm
1 Crater's Claws

Sideboard (15):
3 Anger of the Gods
1 Clever Impersonator

1 Temur Ascendancy
3 Nylea's Disciple
1 Arc Lightning
1 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
1 Disdainful Stroke
2 Reclamation Sage
1 Temur Charm

And here's how the matches went:

Round 1: vs. Abzan Midrange.
Game one was a super long grindy affair of Coursers and Caryatids staring each other down. I got in a few hits with Knuckles, Sarkhan, and/or a Nissa-animated land, but he was able to monstrous a couple of Fleecemane Lions, and they put a stop to everything. My Xenagos was pumping out Satyr tokens, when it occured to me that maybe I should start ticking him up. Then I looked at my board of almost a dozen creatures and asked my opponent, "What's your life at?" "I'm at 2." "Oh...." So I attacked with all my guys and killed him. "Sorry, I wasn't slow rolling you, I'm just not used to paying that close attention to my opponents' life totals!" Game two was pretty uneventful. He got stuck on two lands, and I think I curved out with Knuckles and Sarkhan. Win, 2-0. Record: 1-0.

Round 2: vs. Sultai Midrange.
First game, he was able to match me threat-for-threat very effectively, and was able to tick up Kiora in the meantime. I felt like I had a shot at maybe sneaking past the Krakens to finish him off, but then had three kill spells in one turn. I don't remember how games two and three played out, but I'm pretty sure Knuckles was involved. Win, 2-1. Record: 2-0.

Round 3: vs. Jeskai Aggro/Tempo.
First game he landed a turn-two Seeker of the Way, which beat me down pretty hard. He Jeskai Charm'd my Courser blocker, and, well, tempo'd me out. Second game I landed a turn-three hasty Knuckles, which he had to blow a Sarkhan on. Then I played a second hasty Knuckles, finished off Sarkhan, and made him use two Lightning Strikes. Third game, I was match him threat-for-threat while beating down with Knuckles. Win, 2-1. Record: 3-0.

Round 4: vs. Mardu Midrange/Superfriends?
So I got to play against my friend who started his own blog/website last year (Red Deck Winning). He said he had never actually won the box before, so he wanted to go for it this time. Cool, I wouldn't mind doing it myself either. I'm not sure if I've actually won the box either .. I usually split.
Game one was the good one. The first few turns were spent matching threat-for-threat, which him killing my creatures and planeswalkers, and disrupting my otherwise excellent opening hand. I was able to get him down to about 10 life or so, when I ran out of threats. I went on the burn plan at that point, holding two Lightning Strikes and a Crater's Claws. However, he made me discard one of them. I fired off a Strike, but he took my Claws. I don't remember the exact sequence, but I think I got another threat in there and got him down to 3 life. He knew about the Strike, and couldn't do anything about it
Second game, I don't remember much about, just that he drew a lot of land, and I draw a lot of threats. A friendly handshake, and that was that. Win, 2-0. Record: 4-0.

Yeah! So I won the box. I felt kinda bad for my red friend, but he was very gracious about it. I would not have been disappointed at all had he won. Overall, I'm pretty sure he's actually a better player than I am. I think most of the time we get matched up, whatever I'm playing is better suited to match up with whatever he's playing. I tend towards grindy/midrange decks, and he tends toward aggro/burn decks. So it was pretty ironic this time that I won by aiming burn to his dome, after he kept answering my proactive threats.

Anyway, two major shoutouts:

/// !!! K N U C K L E S !!! \\\

  • Knuckles! Holy crap this card is good. It's like some kind of awesomely delicious combination of every card I loved in my Elephants deck from last year. Like Fanatic of Xenagos, but better. He's a huge body and a serious threat at a very manageable cost. Love him!
  • Sarkhan! What a great card. I haven't played with a planeswalker with this much utility in a long time. He's an immediate threat and an immediate answer in one card. Like a beautiful mashup of Mizzium Mortars and Stormbreath Dragon. Love it. The third one is definitely going into the maindeck.
And onto the more mundane, less-exciting analysis:

Is "bivouac" even a real word?

  • Mana base was all right for the most part, but can stand to be tweaked. First, I love scry-lands, but having 12 lands that always ETB tapped was a bit much. I wasn't really hurting for green sources, so maybe I can sub in a Shivan Reef for one of the Bivouacs. And 25 lands might be a bit much. I have lots of scry effects, seven mana dorks, and four Coursers. I should be able to hit 5+ mana pretty easily most games. I can probably cut one of the Temples.
  • Xenagos did a lot of work for me in my other Superfriends decks, but this one .. I felt like I wanted to be a little more proactive at four mana. Most of the time, crapping out a 2/2 dork every turn wasn't terribly exciting, and getting a bunch mana wasn't much better. I found myself siding him out a lot.
  • Chandra and Kiora, on the other hand, did a lot of work for me. I used Kiora's "two Explores" ability almost exclusively, and let Sarkhan and Knuckles be the actual threats. But having the option to let her play defense if I need to isn't the worst. Chandra fulfilled a similar role, except she was the more proactive one--helping me dig for gas to help win games. The two of them play similar roles, and I'm happy to have them. I might move the second Chandra into the maindeck, too.
  • Nissa wasn't too shabby either. She provided another way of generating threats in the grindy games. And she's an easy sideboard-out against faster decks. I'm not sure I'd want to add a second one, though. She's good, but if I had the option to play her or Sarkhan, Sarkhan will get the nod every time.
  • I'm not entirely sure what to do about the sideboard. I thought, "eh, some good cards against control, some good cards against aggro, some naturalize effects, and that random clone card." The 3x Angers are definitely staying in. I might consider going up to 4 if I start seeing more Aggro around. I never really wanted to bring the Reclamation Sages in against anything, so those might get cut. I like the idea of having Magma Spray, because sometimes you just need to kill an annoying varmint before it deals 8 points of damage to you over the first four turns. I never actually got to use Clever Impersonator, but I suspect that it's sweet enough to justify having two to bring in post-board.
  • Other cards to consider: Sagu Mauler as another top-end threat. Maybe something more proactive in the 4-cc slot.
All-in-all, I love the deck. Lots of fun to play, and with a new metagame, lots of room to grow and evolve over time. Hooray, Standard is fun again! :)

Well, I could go on and on about other stuff, but I think that's enough for now. I have a lot to write about regarding Judge stuff, but I'll save that for another entry.

Thanks for reading!