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Regional Pro Tour Qualifier Report

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Hey, everyone!

Over the last couple of weeks, I got back into Standard to prepare for the Regional Pro Tour Qualifier that qualifies for the Pro Tour in Madrid. I wanted to find a deck I could feel confident in, but it was a struggle at first. Dark Jeskai fits my playstyle, but it grinds too hard and has trouble closing games. Bant Company is a great deck, but I don’t like to attack and block if I don’t have to. It also hurts that everyone in the room will be gunning for me. Rally wasn’t an option for me because I would be tired, and the deck is hard to play. The mirror matches are grueling, and I would be unfavored due to my lack of experience. I liked Goblin Dark-Dwellers, but traditional Mardu Green wasn’t amazing. I then turned to my old standby of Abzan Aggro, but it was very bad against Crackling Doom decks. It’s also very awkward against Reflector Mage; I knew I couldn’t realistically win with Abzan.

After a week of research, I found a Mardu Green list by Adam Jansen that deviated from the norm and that went 5–0 in a league. It addressed most of my issues I had with the deck:

Once I saw this deck, all of my attention went back to Mardu Green. Seeker of the Way gains life so you can cast Read the Bones over and over again. Goblin Dark-Dwellers can flash back Read the Bones, which finds more card advantage and can eventually draw most of the deck. The single Kolaghan's Command buys back Goblin Dark-Dwellers as another avenue to generate card advantage. Read the Bones is the truth, and it deserves your respect.

Wasteland Strangler
The biggest draw to this deck was the removal suite. Silkwrap is miles ahead of Fiery Impulse in a world of Four-Color Rally decks. Now that Bant Company is popular as well, I need ways to exile Deathmist Raptor. This allows you to play Wasteland Strangler as a way to protect yourself from Dromoka's Command. You put the exiled creature back into the graveyard to create your very own Shriekmaw.

The exiling effects don’t stop there. Transgress the Mind dramatically improves your Ramp matchup while playing well with Wasteland Strangler. It’s also important to exile Four-Color Rally’s creatures so their Rally the Ancestors returns fewer threats.

Remember that Wasteland Strangler has devoid so it isn’t exiled by Ugin, the Spirit Dragon’s minus ability. It also can’t be targeted by Surge of Righteousness.

Abzan Charm was another great way to exile threats because it doubled as another card-advantage source. This Charm plays well in Mardu Green because you can exile a creature and then flash back with Goblin Dark-Dwellers next turn to draw cards.

I played this deck at a local tournament and had good results and a lot of changes I wanted to make. After a week of testing with Andrew Elenbogen, he pulled the trigger and played a new version in a Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier.

He lost in the Top 8 of the PPTQ at RIW Hobbies with this list:

This was also what Andrew and I played at the RPTQ the next day. Since he was able to Top 8 the six-round PPTQ, I felt confident the deck had what it took to compete in a tough field. There was about an hour during which I debated switching to Bant Company at the last second. I’m happy I stuck to my guns.

Sylvan Advocate
There are a number of changes we made to fundamentally alter the way the deck plays. This is not a Mardu Green deck anymore because it is solidly four colors. Sylvan Advocate is the best 2-drop in Standard, and it’s not close. It’s worth the strain on the mana to support playing four copies. Once the plunge into solid four colors was made, it was easy to add additional Abzan Charms.

The mana worked well for me all tournament, but there can be tough choices in the short run. Some games involve having access to all four colors with fetch lands, but you can only search for three in order to have a turn-two play. I went for the plays that let me cast spells on time rather than waiting on tango lands that give me more colors. This deck is full of removal, so you are good at slowing down the game. It’s all right to be land-screwed in the early turns because you can kill threats with 2-drops in the meantime.

We tried cutting the Wasteland Stranglers, but the matchup against Bant Company suffered heavily. Seeker of the Way eventually was cut because Sylvan Advocate did all of the heavy lifting in the early game. Once you have six lands in play, the Shambling Vent can attack for 4, which is enough life-gain to support Read the Bones. When you play four Sylvan Advocates, it’s all right to add additional creature lands, so Needle Spires made the cut. This card has gotten a bad rap so far, but it’s scary to be hit by a 4/3 double-striking land out of nowhere.

There were some additional singleton spells, such as Kolaghan's Command and Utter End, that were ultimately cut in favor of Roasts. Sometimes, Read the Bones is your first play of the game, and that’s not all right. Roast in combination with Silkwrap gives you plenty of 2-mana interaction to slow down the game so you can take time off to generate card advantage.

I went 6–1 in matches at the RPTQ. There were six rounds of Swiss with fifty-six players. This is close to the seven-round threshold, which means you need a good record to Top 8. I can’t expect a 4–1–1 record is good enough. If I lose a round, I need to go 5–1. This isn’t terrible because I will be on the play in my Top 8 match.

Here’s the quick and dirty rundown:

Round 1: Traditional Mardu Green, 2–0

Midrange matchups feel extremely favorable. Soulfire Grand Master doesn’t matter because it takes the opponent a long time to gain enough mana to buy back spells. I don’t care about the life-gain because this matchup is all about card advantage. With that being said, I would Silkwrap it early because there’s nothing else to do with it. Try to use Roast on Siege Rhino so you can save Abzan Charms to draw cards.

Round 2: Four-Color Rally, 2–1

I kept a two-land hand and didn’t see a third in Game 1. The game was still close for a bit because there are so many 2-drops in the deck. I like the matchup after sideboard. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet with Radiant Flames made an appearance, which is the best interaction—you get all the Zombies.

Roast
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Siege Rhino

Round 3: Colorless Abzan Aggro, 2–0

There are a lot of ways to kill Thought-Knot Seer, and it doesn’t fight Siege Rhino very well. In the late game, it’s a terrible top-deck for the opponent because it won’t take anything from my hand, but I draw a card when it dies. Abzan Aggro matchups are all you want to play with this deck. Goblin Dark-Dwellers is Shriekmaw. All of your exiling effects are great, and that makes Wasteland Strangler consistently a two-for-one. Strangler kills Warden of the First Tree and sticks around to block down a Sylvan Advocate or Shambling Vent.

Round 4: Four-Color Rally, 1–2

Once again, I kept a two-land hand and missed many land drops in Game 1. I had less early interaction, so this game wasn’t close at all. The second game went well because Radiant Flames is very powerful. In Game 3, I kept a hand with two Duress and Read the Bones. The first Duress missed, and so did the second a few turns later. Read the Bones drew me into a spell, but the rest of my cards were lands. It was a bummer because this matchup is fine, but my cards were awkward.

Round 5: Abzan Blue, 2–0

This Abzan Aggro deck plays less removal, but it loads up on counterspells, such as main-decked Stubborn Denial and sideboard Disdainful Stroke. I would play against this matchup every round of the event if I could. Stubborn Denial is able to counter spells often when you flash back spells with Goblin Dark-Dwellers because you’re investing 5 mana. Reflector Mage is great for you because it's a 3-drop that doesn’t apply much pressure and most of your creatures have abilities when they enter the battlefield.

Duress
Disdainful Stroke
Wasteland Strangler

Round 6: Abzan Blue, 2–1

This time, Abzan Blue was much closer. I tried ’boarding out Transgress the Mind for Game 3 because Disdainful Stroke was often the last card in hand, so it was missing post-’board. I cast Wasteland Strangler without the -3/-3 ability to good effect because my turn-two Transgress missed.

Top 8: Mardu Blue, 2–0

Going in, I thought this would be a close matchup, but it felt good once I started playing. The biggest issue to face is the card advantage generated from Treasure Cruise and Painful Truths. I made sure the 2-drop creatures (Grand Master and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy) never stuck around, which is where the opponent derives much of his or her board advantage. Monastery Mentor can get out of control, so I made sure to kill that on sight. I would play Sylvan Advocate on turn two or when I had six lands to play around Fiery Impulse. A 2/3 in the early game is all right because the Impulse won’t have spell mastery yet.

I was relieved to win that round because I wasn’t qualified for the next Pro Tour coming into this event. This is my fifth consecutive Pro Tour qualification, but I can assure you it’s still very exciting each time.

Sideboarding

Now that we got the overview of the matches out of the way, here’s how to sideboard:

Abzan Aggro

+1 Ob Nixilis Reignited, +1 Ruinous Path

−2 Read the Bones

I like every card in the main deck in the matchup, so I had to cut something. A couple times, I ’boarded up to sixty-one cards because I only wanted to cut a single Read the Bones. I had success in this matchup by killing all of the opponent’s creatures and playing Transgress the Mind before Gideon, Ally of Zendikar comes down. If it enters the battlefield, it isn’t the end of the world, but it’s annoying. Be sure to kill creatures before the opponent attacks to play around raid for Wingmate Roc. The card you strangle into the opponent’s graveyard should be the one under Silkwrap first because it stops Dromoka's Command from killing useful enchantments.

Ob Nixilis Reignited
Anafenza, the Foremost

Four-Color Rally

+2 Anafenza, the Foremost, +2 Radiant Flames, +1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, +2 Duress, +2 Kolaghan's Command, +2 Hallowed Moonlight

−4 Crackling Doom, −1 Read the Bones, −1 Ruinous Path, −4 Sylvan Advocate, −1 Abzan Charm

Dispel
I cut Sylvan Advocate because I want to cast an early Radiant Flames for 3. This matchup becomes all about stopping the opponent from doing something crazy; that plan is not solved by creatures attacking and blocking. I keep pressure on the opponent with Anafenza and Kalitas. Abzan Charm is a hedge against a transformational sideboard plan of Anafenza. It’s also good to draw cards at instant speed to keep up Hallowed Moonlight. Duress is usually good because it hits early copies of Collected Company. It’s also good later in the game because it can hit Dispel, Rally the Ancestors, and Murderous Cut.

I’m not cutting Transgress the Mind, so I have a lot of hand disruption. The most annoying creature to exile with transgress is Nantuko Husk because creatures become sacrificed in response to Silkwrap; this makes rally better than usual. The opponent’s is still a combo deck, but it has the ability to bash you with random value creatures; make sure you respect your life total.

I like Kolaghan's Command because it’s a way to kill an early Jace and make the opponent discard. This is better post-’board because the opponent probably cut some Rallies to make room for Murderous Cut.

I don’t like fetching a Forest in Game 1, but with Anafenza and Abzan Charm, I like it more. It also helps when you are cutting Crackling Doom.

I’m still on the fence about Infinite Obliteration in this matchup. You can name Nantuko Husk on the play to take it from the opponent’s hand. This card is responsible for making Rally the Ancestors great, so this is something to consider.

If you have both Anafenza and Kalitas in play, your opponent chooses which effect to apply since he or she controls the object in question (the creature that died). This means he or she will choose Anafenza. Since Anafenza is exiling instead of Kalitas, you won’t gain a Zombie token.

Bant Company

+1 Wasteland Strangler, +1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, +2 Radiant Flames, +2 Duress, +2 Hallowed Moonlight

−4 Crackling Doom, −1 Ruinous Path, −2 Goblin Dark-Dwellers, −1 Transgress the Mind

Beware that Dromoka's Command can counter the damage on Radiant Flames. This is less likely to happen, as the opponent will take out some of them in favor of Disdainful Stroke (the opponent will keep his or her creature count high to hit on Collected Company). I cut some Dark-Dwellers, so there are now only six things that are countered by the Stroke; the opponent may ’board up to three copies. Also be aware that leaning on Silkwrap and Radiant Flames makes Dark-Dwellers less useful to begin with. Make sure to Wasteland Strangle the opponent’s creature exiled from Silkwrap first if possible. Sometimes, you shouldn’t because there may be a Deathmist Raptor under the Silkwrap (clever girl).

Hallowed Moonlight
Kolaghan's Command

Ramp Variants

+1 Infinite Obliteration, +2 Anafenza, the Foremost, +2 Kolaghan's Command, +2 Duress

−3 Crackling Doom, −2 Roast, −2 Silkwrap

Take these numbers with a grain of salt because there’s a version that plays mana dorks and one that doesn’t. Kolaghan's Command is great against either one because it kills mana dorks and artifact acceleration. Anafenza is in there because you are the aggressor; try to stick a threat and then attack the opponent’s hand. Infinite Obliteration is in here to name World Breaker because it triggers Kozilek's Return and Sanctum of Ugin when it is cast.

Atarka Red

+2 Anafenza, the Foremost, +1 Wasteland Strangler, +2 Duress, +1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, +2 Kolaghan's Command, +2 Radiant Flames, +2 Hallowed Moonlight

−2 Crackling Doom, −1 Ruinous Path, −3 Transgress the Mind, −3 Read the Bones, −3 Abzan Charm

We’re ’boarding in a ton of cards because the main deck is about fighting fair decks. Crackling Doom is great at killing one creature, but tokens can be annoying. Hallowed Moonlight is good against Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Hordeling Outburst, and Dragon Fodder. Wasteland Strangler will trigger if you Silkwrap a nontoken creature, but also look for cards exiled from the opponent’s Abbot of Keral Keep or delved cards from Become Immense.

Kolaghan's Command is better at killing creatures than clunky main-decked removal spells because it makes the opponent discard a card, too. Anafenza is another creature to ’board in, and it is all you want against a bunch of 1/1 tokens.

Radiant Flames
Ruinous Path

Mardu Blue

+1 Ob Nixilis Reignited, +2 Kolaghan's Command, +2 Radiant Flames, +2 Anafenza, the Foremost, +2 Duress, +1 Ruinous Path

−4 Crackling Doom, −2 Roast, −2 Wasteland Strangler, −2 Transgress the Mind

This matchup is a grind fest, but you have the upper hand with Kolaghan's Command and Goblin Dark-Dwellers. Watch out for Disdainful Stroke; Duress becomes great post-’board to take it. Transgress becomes worse because the cards left in the opponent’s hand will be things like Dispel and Disdainful Stroke. Radiant Flames is there to make sure you don’t die to Monastery Mentor. The opponent may not cast a Mentor immediately because it will just die, so it will make Transgress the Mind live more often. Ruinous Path is there to kill Chandra, Flamecaller or transformed Jaces; the awaken ability is also very relevant in the late game.


After the tournament, I would not change a single card. I highly recommend this deck for future Standard tournaments. It’s very fun to play, and it wins a lot, too.

Thanks for reading,

Kyle


Before Stadium tournament:

After Stadium tournament:


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