As I write this, I'm finishing packing up and confirming my flight information for SCG Atlanta this weekend. Originally my plans did not include traveling to Atlanta and just spending a relaxing weekend at home. However, when Tannon Grace called me telling me our friend Jonathan Job needed a third, it was hard to turn down. Job is a powerful wizard, and I've teamed with him before for a team event and I'm excited to join him and Brian Basoco as their Standard leg.
There was only one problem; since I wasn't planning on going, I didn't really do any of the prep work.
So when you find out Wednesday before an event that you're going to said event, what's the best way to approach that? With that little time, it's important to make the best use out of what you have. If this was an established format, it would be easier to pick a solid deck that's been performing well and jam a bunch of games. How to test well is another subject entirely, though. Without a lot of previous information, we have to work a little differently.
The first step is to consume as much content as is reasonable. It does mean you skim a lot of articles, but the idea is to see if someone has an idea that fits within your playstyle. During this time, you can also tru to tune into Twitch streams to see even more of what is going on. Once you have an idea of what's going on, try to figure out where you want to be. For me, I saw a lot of old decks with slight upgrades, but the decks I saw the least of were the Grixis Midrange and Midrange lists from last season. That being the case, I determined it was possible a lot of great decks would be going under the format or trying to go way over. With the Standard format looking like it's heading in one solid direction, I was perfectly fine with the idea of playing a control deck.
Decide Where To Be
Next, Llanowar Elves seemed like a great starting point for the format, so I wanted to head up to the next level. At the next level, I thought some decks might try to go around while the Llanowar Elves decks were trying to go through each other. Instead, I'm going to try to go way over them. Card like Fumigate and Settle the Wreckage are going to line up well against most of the aggro and midrange strategies. However, the key card control gained from Dominaria was Seal Away. If players have to play around Settle the Wreckage, Seal Away is going to be a fantastic as a way to punish them. Being cheap means we're going to be interacting earlier and on our own time when we need to.
Since that's where I wanted to be, I tried to revisit an old idea in Control. I discussed it a bit last week in my article, but I really want to see how the control decks play out. If everything works out right, I'll feel pretty comfortable. Plus, in one of the recent Standard format week ones, we saw Approach of the Second Sun over-perform. So it comes down to one of the last and most important parts of tournament prep, and that's testing.
So I got to testing. I started with my Approach list from last week and worked from there. While it is important to play enough Leagues to determine how good the deck is, there is a limit and it's very possible to burn out if you test too much in a single day. Overall, the deck performed well. I played against a lot of Llanowar Elves decks at first, as expected, and won, as expected. The Mono-Green decks felt like wonderful matchups with all the solid removal. It wasn't until the later Leagues that they started splashing a second color for Negate or Duress, but even then the matchup felt heavily favored.
As I got deeper into testing, I started playing against a lot of Control mirrors, which made my build a lot worse. So, I went to the drawing board a bit and came back with a slightly better plan. Part of the issue of building a sideboard is at first you just jam 15 cards, but it's important to have plans post board and for your deck to have the right amount of cards to bring in as you are boarding out. None of my builds at first had a reasonable sideboard plan and more often than not I was left with too many cards to board in and not enough to board out. At this point, I enlisted the help of the guy I replaced, Dave Thomas, to talk about sideboards. Once we solidified a better deck list, I was able to jam some more and the deck felt a lot better.
On sideboard cards, I have to say this; Lyra Dawnbringer is one of the best cards in this set. This card basically wins the game on its own and does something Regal Caracal never could: establish an incredible clock without being weak to some of the cheaper removal. Flying is incredibly relevant and comes up so much. Often, I would play Lyra Dawnbringer on turn five and the game would end. It would stall opponents out and turn the corner quick. Against the slower creature decks, it is the bees knees.
However, I still wasn't very satisfied. Approach of the Second Sun is a good card, but I'm not sure it's how I want my win condition to be. It's a little clunky, very expensive, and, most of the time, it doesn't even turn the corner. These creature decks hit hard, and trying to gain seven isn't always enough. So, I think I'm turning to Control. While your ways to win are a little easier to manage, the power level is higher and I think it adds some consistency to the deck. The more I played Approach, the less I liked the card and the more I liked the shell surrounding it. This list is likely where I'll end up and I'll talk about the deck more the next time I write an article because I've been having a blast playing it.
U/W Control -- Commander | Rudy Briksza
- Creatures (4)
- 4 Torrential Gearhulk
- Planeswalkers (3)
- 3 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
- Instants (18)
- 1 Commit // Memory
- 1 Syncopate
- 2 Blink of an Eye
- 2 Essence Scatter
- 4 Disallow
- 4 Glimmer of Genius
- 4 Settle the Wreckage
- Sorceries (2)
- 2 Fumigate