Greaves and Sleeves

This past weekend was my first foray into Magic: The Gathering as a part of Team Gear Gaming (TGG for short). I went into the event weekend settled in on playing a tweaked version of Devoted Bow, a list that Zan Syed had posted about a week ago on Twitter.

The list combined one of my favorite modern archetypes ever in Devoted Druid /Vizier of Remedies combo with the potentially very potent, newly unbanned Stoneforge Mystic package. After seeing the list, and having it texted to me by two separate friends, I knew I had to at least sleeve it up and try it. It slid perfectly into the non-interactive deck style that I wanted to play in a format full of middling creature (uwX Blade, Jund) decks and “slower” combo decks (tron, scapeshift). The format felt perfect for a turn 3 combo deck that could morph into a long game creature deck with the Stoneforge package. Looking back, I am not sure how good the deck will be if the format speeds up, but right now it sits in great cross-roads of what the format has become. Fast combo, with a sturdy backup plan.

 I only got one casual tournament in with the deck, but from that test I quickly knew I wanted to diversify my equipment. Enter Darren Rucker, my best friend from college,  and his recommendation for Lightning Greaves . On the surface it showed promise by giving haste to a druid on turn 3 (t1 accelerant, t2 mystic get greaves, t3 greaves, land ,druid, equip). The haste was enough to sell me on trying it, but the true value would later shine in the protection. Being able to keep a druid on board for several turns was a key missing piece to this deck, as the druid dies to almost every removal spell in the format. In addition to a hasty, protected druid, my favorite play quickly become equip a Shalai, Voice of Plenty with the Lightning Greaves . This theoretically protected my entire board except the greaves, and it also makes me non-viable target. This means the opponent now needs to string together an artifact removal spell, then a big enough removal spell to kill the Shalai before they could even consider targeting my combo pieces or my face.  Other sweet uses for the greaves included getting to use Giver of Runes the turn it was played, protecting a threat such as a Knight of Autumn, or equipping a large Walking Ballista followed by an attack and then pinging them to death. The other section of the equipment package that I made revisions to was the sword selection. I like Sword of Feast and Famine and I think it lines up well against field of Jund, but Sword of Light and Shadow felt like it provided more resiliency to my list by giving my threats and combo pieces some potential recurrence possibilities. With my equipment set, I decided to also slot in a few other silver bullets including a Caustic Caterpillar and a Ranger-Captain of Eos .

I anticipated that Whirza was going to be big so I teched the caterpillar (Once again credit to Darren for the idea). I also felt from the small sample size of testing that sometimes I needed to fade just one turn against control hence the addition of Ranger-Captain. Here is what we ended up on for the Saturday MCQ hosted by Magelings in Columbia, MO:

Lands (21)
Silent Clearing
Nurturing Peatland
Verdant Catacombs
Misty Rainforest
Windswept Heath
Snow-covered Forest
Temple Garden
Snow-Covered Plains
Swamp
overgrown tomb
godless shrine
razorverge thicket

Spells (39)
Devoted Druid
Vizier of Remedies
Giver of Runes
Stoneforge Mystic
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Shalai, Voice of Plenty
Knight of Autumn
Walking Ballista
Duskwatch Recruiter
Eternal Witness
Ranger-captain of Eos
Caustic Caterpillar
Finale of Devastation
Eladamri's Call
Viridian Longbow
Sword of Light and Shadow
Lightning Greaves
Sideboard (15)
Burrenton Forge-tender
Path of Exile
Collective brutality
Collector Ouphe
Knight of Autumn
Gaddock Teeg
Kambal, Consul of Allocation
Plague Engineer
Thrun, the Last Troll
Worship

Over the course of the 7 round tournament, I got a good feel for the deck and for where it had some holes that could be filled. I went 2 – 3 facing the following:

  • Round 1 – Bant Eldraziblade – WW
  • Round 2 – Whirza – LWL – very close set of 3 where I accidentally shut off my ability to haste combo by playing an ouphe too early with greaves on board
  • Round 3 – Enduring Ideal – WW – Knight of Autumn and Caustic Caterpillar with Sword of Light and Shadow were lights out
  • Round 4 – Four Color Control – LL got Saheeli’s expertised into Ancestral Vison’ed which was neat
  • Round 5 – BW Shadowblade – LWL – close set of 3 where he snagged path out of my hand on a key turn with Tidehollow Sculler and I forgot to board in my Plague Engineer for Lingering Souls as I didn’t see them g1 or g2.
  • Drop at 2-3

 The deck plays a lot like a slightly slower midrange version of Pod blended with a faster version of Kiki-chord leaving you with a powerful toolbox deck that has the capability to combo off turn 3 or play the long game against other grindy decks. The holes that needed to be filled involved the Jund matchup and having sustainable threats, the Whirza matchup and having some more disruption for their combo, and resiliency against Death’s Shadow discard. Against big mana, it really was just a pure race, and I am the more consistent combo deck on turn 3 compared to Amulet and Tron. The deck really shined against other fair creature decks outside of jund. I played against Bant Eldrazi 2 times over the weekend and bant ephemerate  and felt in control all 3 matches. Overall, the deck felt pretty strong but I was a bit unsatisfied with a 2-3.

I decided to test out mono-red prowess that evening in the hotel in Kansas City and slammed my head into the wall that is Jund for 2 hours before deciding I was just going to stick to Devoted Bow. With that decision made at midnight, I then went about making changes with the help of the team to plug the aforementioned issues.

First, bow was fine, but it felt pretty mediocre. It had won two games on the day, but both of those games I had a separate just as good win con in hand up assembling the combo. I decided to cut the bow due to feeling like it was 1 too many win cons and was the weakest of the win cons and add back in Batterskull. This helped with the Jund match-up and even more so with the already favorable fair creature match-ups. It also cemented a very solid burn match-up to be probably a 70/30 match-up.

Secondly, I wanted to make several changes in the board. Collective Brutality did not do much for me all day but I knew having some form of flexible disruption was needed so I went down to 2. Next, Worship felt bad all day as it was non-tutorable. Gaddock Teeg did virtually nothing against almost every deck I really wanted it for in testing (Tron, Amulet) so I decided my plan would be to just race them. This turned out to be the correct line I believe. I added in another big threat in Avacyn to help in the Jund matchup, a Selfless Spirit to help with Oblivion Stone against Tron and board wipes against control and then added another Ouphe for the Whirza and other stoneblade match-ups.

Here is where my list ended up going into Sunday:

Spells (39)
Devoted Druid
Vizier of Remedies
Giver of Runes
Stoneforge Mystic
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Shalai
Knight of Autumn
Walking Ballista
Duskwatch Recruiter
Eternal Witness
Ranger-captain of Eos
Caustic Caterpillar
Finale of Devastation
Eldamri's Call
Batterskull
Lightning Greaves
Sword of Light and Shadow
Lands (21)
Silent Clearing
Nurturing Peatland
Verdant Catacombs
Misty Rainforest
Windswept Heath
Snow-covered Forest
Temple Garden
Snow-Covered Plains
Swamp
Overgrown Tomb
Godless Shrine
Razorverge Thicket

Sideboard (14)
Burrenton Forge-tender
Path of Exile
Collective Brutality
Collector Ouphe
Knight of Autumn
Selfless Spirit
Kambal, Consul of Allocation
Plague Engineer
Thrun, the Last Troll
Archangel Avacyn

My day went as follows at the MCQ hosted by Gamecafe on Sunday:

  • Round 1 – Bant Ephemerate – WLW
  • Round 2 – 4C Saheeli – WW
  • Round 3 – Whirza – WLW
  • Round 4 – Jund – WLL – very tight G1 and G2 and then went to G3 with 6 minutes left and he dropped Tireless Tracker + removal to take the win.
  • Round 5 – Tron (Michael Byars) – WW – two of the best drawn hands with the deck I have had where I had combo T3 on G1 and T4 of G2, and Byars stumbled during G2.
  • Round 6 – Bant Eldraziblade – WW – Two extremely close games against a great player. We had a strange board stall game one with his batterskull and Eldrazi displacer and my two giver of ruins and the combo but no pay off. I finally hit a duskwatch recruiter on the last possible turn before he could smash my reality.
  • Round 7 – 4 Color Saheeli – Intentional Draw locking us both for Top 8

Overall I came out of the swiss 5-1-1 locked into 7th place going into the top eight which put me against 1 of the 2 undefeated players. I played against Adam Boyd in the quarters and he was on Grixis Death’s Shadow. We both drew well and played some very tight magic, but I ended up just losing off one missed trigger from Kambal and a timely second plague engineer from my opponent to kill both my Giver of Runes and keep my combo off the field. A great tournament run ending in a 7th place finish in an 83 person MCQ. Additionally:

  • Bennett, another TGG team member, took 9th (5-2)
  • Darren, best friend from college took 14th (5-2)
  • Nathan, good friend in AR took 25th (5-2 or 4-3)

After a fun weekend of hanging out and playing many games of Magic with the team, I am excited to see what the next few tournaments bring. We had a lot of great conversations on different decklists, sang some great early 2000 hits, and cheered on each other’s wins throughout two day trip. I was also pleased to hear that down in Little Rock, another TGG member, Caleb Bowlin put up a top 8 in Standard at an IQ. Two top 8 appearances on our first weekend out as a full team feels pretty satisfying to me.

As far as changes moving forward I still think there is some room to add one of answers into our board as Finale of Devastation and Eldamri’s Call really make the deck a flexible tool box. I have added in some graveyard hate in Anafenza and have cut the Brutality completely in favor of trying some hand disruption on a stick in Tidehollow Sculler. There is a chance the Anafenza should just be a Yixlid Jailer, but that will come out through some quick testing. Finally, I have added in a Phyrexian Revoker to help in the Whirza and Planeswalker based match-ups as well. An additional potential card I have been mulling over is Leonin Arbiter to help in big mana match-ups, but it really taxes my manabase as well if I don’t start with an accelerant and have multiple fetches in hand.

The exciting thing about the deck is it will only get more flexible as more creatures are printed. For example, Hushbringer from Thrones of Eldraine looks like a hot potential tech for Whirza and other combo-based decks.

Overall, the deck is fast, flexible and a ton of fun to play. I would recommend this deck as a great learning curve deck for combo in modern as it makes you flex your muscles in knowing when to go midrange with Shalai and when to try and hit the combo. Big shout outs to Darren Rucker who really helped me iterate, to Team Gear Gaming, Nathan House and Michael Byars for all of the testing during the week and weekend, and Gear Gaming itself for the sponsorship.

Below is my current list that I plan on running over the next few tournaments for those interested:

Spells (39)
Devoted Druid
Vizier of Remedies
Giver of Runes
Stoneforge Mystic
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Shalai
Knight of Autumn
Walking Ballista
Duskwatch Recruiter
Eternal Witness
Ranger-captain of Eos
Caustic Caterpillar
Finale of Devastation
Eldamri's Call
Batterskull
Sword of Light and Shadow
Lightning Greaves
Lands (21)
Silent Clearing
Nurturing Peatland
Verdant Catacombs
Misty Rainforest
Windswept Heath
Snow-covered Forest
Temple Garden
Snow-Covered Plains
Swamp
Overgrown Tomb
Godless Shrine
Razorverge Thicket

Sideboard (14)
Phyrexian Revoker
Path of Exile
Tidehollow Sculler
Collector Ouphe
Knight of Autumn
Anafenza, the Foremost
Kambal, Consul of Allocation
Plague Engineer
Thrun, the Last Troll
Archangel Avacyn

– Nick Ingram

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