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G/W Constellation in Standard

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Hey, everyone!

I'm back from my second Pro Tour in a row with a cash finish. While I didn't miss Top 8 on tiebreaks this time, I was able to land an 11-5 record with a deck that very few people saw coming: G/W Constellation.

Since I had 15 Pro Points this season from Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, the pressure was on for me to earn at least 5 points to hit silver. I began my testing by declaring I was absolutely going to play either Dig Through Time or Siege Rhino because they were the two strongest cards in the format. Unfortunately for me, Magic Origins proved to have too many influential cards, and I was left at the drawing boards.

How Did I End Up Playing Enchantments at the Pro Tour?

Pascal Maynard wrote an article--when Magic Origins was new--about G/W Enchantments. He didn't include a sideboard, but his main deck was pretty solid:

Since the article was designed to showcase the power of Starfield of Nyx, it seemed to be more of an experiment than a tournament deck. It seems that while Starfield of Nyx is powerful, I would prefer not to play four.

Starfield of Nyx
The bulk of my real-life testing was with a local group of Ann Arbor players who were qualified as well as a handful who were interested in helping. Stu Parnes is a local player who loves to play big green decks, so, naturally, he wanted to work on this once I showed him the decklist.

To begin, he played the Constellation deck at StarCityGames Open Chicago to test. Since there wasn't a sideboard posted, we had to make something up, and that didn't pan out well. The sideboard Stu played featured "good" cards such as Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Wingmate Roc, and Fleecemane Lion to transform against hate cards like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Back to Nature. This didn't work well because the main deck is so reliant on casting a critical mass of enchantments to operate smoothly. We discussed how to improve the deck's win rate in the middle of SCG Chicago, and the conclusion was to not sideboard at all because it was diluting the deck. This led to more wins, but it didn't tell the whole story since he was in the losing bracket already.

I didn't adopt the deck until the week before the Pro Tour because I was afraid of Back to Nature. Why was I not afraid of it until the last week, you ask? Rally the Ancestors had a breakout performance at SCG Richmond, which meant Pro Tour competitors would use their flex spots in their sideboards on Tormod's Crypts instead of Back to Nature. Abzan Constellation made the Top 8, but nobody was talking about it, so I felt confident I would dodge the specific hate.

In addition to Stu and I, Max McVety was another Ann Arbor local to take G/W to the Pro Tour. We hammered out a great list with a lean sideboard. This is what the three of us played at Pro Tour Magic Origins:

What Changed from Pascal's Deck?

The first thing you will notice is that this deck is pretty close to something Pascal posted when the set was released and then was forgotten by many. Here's the logic of the few changes that were made:

Eidolon of Blossoms
Starfield of Nyx is a great card against control decks and can close out a game out of nowhere. It shines when you have plenty of Silkwraps and Banishing Lights in play that can attack. In addition, you can boost Eidolon of Blossoms to a 4/4 because it costs 4 mana. Nyx-Fleece Ram becomes a 2/2, and Courser of Kruphix is a 3/3, so all of your enchantment creatures will deal extra damage thanks to the Starfield.

Where Starfield of Nyx is weak is when you cast it and it doesn't immediately impact the board against aggressive and midrange decks. It's also weak when Starfield animates your enchantments in the face of mass removal. I don't want to turn my Silkwraps and Banishing Lights into creatures in the face of a Dragonlord Atarka or Polukranos, World Eater.

We have an additional Sigil of the Empty Throne because it has lower diminishing returns than Starfield; I'm all right with two Sigils in play since that means more Angels. It's a great threat to resolve against control because the enchantments don't have to resolve to produce the Angel tokens, and they also survive Back to Nature.

The last change is the addition of a twenty-fifth land. There weren't many games in which I felt flooded because of Courser of Kruphix, Sigil of the Empty Throne, and Eidolon of Blossoms. I would rather have too many lands than not enough. The fifth Plains is helpful when you get Frontier Siege going and need to cast plenty of cheap white enchantments like Nyx-Fleece Ram, Silkwrap, and Banishing Light. For this reason, I typically begin a game by fetching Forests, but fetch Plains in the midgame to cast multiple spells on the same turn.

What's the Deal with the Sideboard?

The biggest thing to remember about this deck is that it's highly linear. It does one thing and one thing only: casts a lot of enchantments. When you start sideboarding out those enchantments, the following cards become weaker:

Herald of the Pantheon

Rather than play "good" cards like Elspeth and Wingmate Roc, we have Sigil of the Empty Throne, Boon Satyr, and Suspension Fields because they happen to be enchantments. There are some matchups in which you can morph into control by adding Suspension Fields in addition to the Silkwraps and Banishing Lights in the main deck. This control morph is accomplished while still being based on enchantments, which is the main goal. I like this plan against big green decks such as devotion decks and thopters.

Boon Satyr is good because you can be sneaky and stick a threat when the opponent least expects it. Ugin comes into play and will immediately use the minus ability to blow up my board; I want to flash Boon Satyr and attack it the following turn. The Satyr is a real threat against control decks, rather than a Nyx-Fleece Ram, which the opponent couldn't care less about.

I also like Boon Satyr against red decks because you can reduce the curve and block small creatures. It's not a great threat, but I don't want a bunch of Starfields, Sigils, and Kruphix's Insights against cheap red threats, so it's a lesser of two evils.

Tormod's Crypt
Tormod's Crypt is not an enchantment, but it does fight your worst matchup: Abzan Rally. After playing against Shaun McLaren at the Pro Tour with Rally, I can say it was extremely lopsided. Going forward, I would either add additional Crypts or play none at all; two was not enough to compete. Given that red decks are popular and favored against Rally, I would opt to play none at all.

Nissa, Worldwaker was an anti-control threat that seemed great in theory against U/B decks with Perilous Vaults and Ugins. In reality, I didn't actually play blue decks at the Pro Tour, but I have enough Sigils and Starfields to threaten to resolve.

As for Plummet, it pains me to play such a reactive card that isn't an enchantment. The only reason I'm playing this is to beat Stormbreath Dragon. A threat with protection from white is serious business because the monstrosity ability can deal plenty of damage thanks to this deck drawing so many cards. Stormbreath Dragon can kill you in about two turns, so you have to have a Plummet ready. It can't be blocked by any creature in the deck--even Angel tokens. Mardu Dragons isn't popular, but it's a fine matchup if you kill Stormbreath Dragon. Its fine to play such narrow sideboard cards since over-'boarding isn't a good idea in this deck.

What's the New Decklist?

The deck didn't change much. The main deck has an extra Sigil of the Empty Throne over the second Starfield of Nyx. This deck is a well-oiled machine that wants to not interact with the opponent, and it does just that. I would be confident playing this list at Grand Prix San Diego if I were going.

The sideboard is also pretty similar. I swapped the space I allocated for Tormod's Crypt and Nissa for Arashin Clerics to account for more Burn decks thanks to Joel winning the Pro Tour and additional copies making the Top 8. While Abzan Rally remains a terrible matchup, it didn't make the Top 8 of Pro Tour Magic Origins, so I'm not worried about facing it often.

How Do You Sideboard?

The big decks after the Pro Tour are:

  • U/R Thopters
  • Mono-Red Burn
  • Green Devotion
  • Abzan Control
  • U/B Control/Sultai

U/R Thopters

Suspension Field
+3 Suspension Field

-1 Nyx-Fleece Ram

-1 Sigil of the Empty Throne

-1 Frontier Siege

The Suspension Fields are good against Ensoul Artifact creatures, but the post-'board games go a little slower. Thopters has plenty of countermagic in its 'board, and most people thought fighting that battle was a good idea. When there's too much countermagic, I want to cut a Frontier Siege because it's best when you are trying to go off unfettered. It's the same logic as Green Devotion cutting Sylvan Caryatids against U/B Control.

Burn

Arashin Cleric
+3 Arashin Cleric

+4 Boon Satyr

-2 Kruphix's Insight

-1 Starfield of Nyx

-2 Sigil of the Empty Throne

-2 Frontier Siege

Despite my best efforts I, want to add seven cards in this matchup to both lower the curve and have the Clerics as a silver bullet. When I add nonenchantment spells, I want to cut some Insights in order to keep the odds of hitting three spells favorable.

Green Devotion

Suspension Field
+4 Suspension Field

-1 Starfield of Nyx

-3 Nyx-Fleece Ram

I feel confident about the Devotion matchup after I have twelve cheap ways to interact with creatures. The Rams don't do much, as I would rather just remove the creature that's attacking me. Starfield is embarrassing when it animates my removal spells so they can be killed by Polukranos and Atarka.

Abzan Control

Boon Satyr
+4 Suspension Field

+4 Boon Satyr

-4 Nyx-Fleece Ram

-4 Silkwrap

Suspension Field kills all of Abzan's key creatures except Nissa and Den Protector. It's worth noting the opponent may side out Siege Rhino, as this is already an established card to take out against Green Devotion.

The matchup is very grindy after sideboard, and you need to be prepared to face Tragic Arrogance. Nyx-Fleece Ram is bad against Tragic Arrogance because the opponent can leave you with just the Ram.

U/B Control/Sultai

Starfield of Nyx
+1 Starfield of Nyx

+4 Boon Satyr

-4 Nyx-Fleece Ram

-1 Silkwrap

These decks will probably have Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, so I feel comfortable leaving in multiple Silkwraps over Rams. Just try to force threats like Sigil and Starfield until one resolves; they will often win by themselves. Expect the opponent to 'board in countermagic and take out Languish and Bile Blight.

Would I Play This Deck Again?

While these linear strategies aren't usually my cup of tea, I had a lot of fun piloting it. There's always a feeling of joy when your opponent rereads your card because it seems too good to be true the first time. This happened many times with Kruphix's Insight and Sigil of the Empty Throne. Yes, the Insight really does draw me three spells most of the time.

Tragic Arrogance
It's clear Constellation has a great matchup against U/R Thopters since I played against it six times and only lost to Mike Sigrist (I missed my third land for about five turns in Game 3). Max also went 7-3 in Standard with Constellation and beat Thopters each time.

There's always a chance the red decks have a nut draw you can't beat, but Arashin Clerics will help address this. I lost to Atarka Red during the event, but I think it's a fine matchup with so many main-decked Nyx-Fleece Rams.

The real question you need to ask yourself when deciding to play Constellation is how many Back to Natures, Ugins, Perilous Vaults, and Tragic Arrogance people will play. It's not always right to play this deck, but I think U/B Control is on the downswing thanks to red and Thopters being so popular, and that means fewer Ugins and Perilous Vaults. Tragic Arrogance is only played in Abzan Control sideboards at the moment, and some players have two. Matt Sperling's Abzan Control list he used to Top 8 the Pro Tour didn't have Tragic Arrogance, so that's another positive note for Constellation. Back to Nature can be played in Abzan decks and Devotion, and those numbers will fluctuate based on the popularity of enchantments. This deck doesn't yet have the traction to cause players to play such narrow sideboard cards.

Since Max and I both fell a win and a draw short of Top 8'ing the tournament, Constellation will receive less press than if we made it to the Sunday stage. This is another good reason to play the deck. It needs to actually Top 8 some things before you worry about shelving it due to there being too much hate.

My verdict is that this deck is very playable in the short run thanks to which decks performed well at the Pro Tour. I felt that I had a great deck for the metagame, and I can't see that changing in the next week.

Thanks for reading, and good luck crushing people with bulk rares!

-Kyle


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