THE MANA DORK—The Planeswalker Deck Challenge, Part 3

Get out your boxes of bulk, it’s time to start brewing!

In the last two instalments of the Mana Dork, I’ve been talking about the Planeswalker Deck Challenge, where I competed with the Ajani Planeswalker Deck at Aether Revolt Game Day in order to demonstrate that the Planeswalker Decks could do more to set new players up for success.

I was incredibly lucky—I opened Ajani Unyielding in one of the booster packs for the Ajani Planeswalker Deck, along with a Greenwheel Liberator and some excellent uncommons. With this, I went 1-3, with 3 game wins across 9 games—well above par for what people currently expect for a Planeswalker Deck.

But I maintain that I shouldn’t have to be that lucky to get that win total. So in today’s edition of the Mana Dork, we’re going to brew our own Planeswalker Deck, following all of the restrictions Wizards sets for their official ones.

Shall we?

BREAKING IT DOWN

The Planeswalker Decks follow a well-established structure:

  • They promote the current set
  • They feature a custom version of a Planeswalker in that set, tuned for casual play
  • They include two copies of a custom rare card that tutors for that Planeswalker
  • They include three copies of a custom uncommon permanent that gets a benefit when you control that Planeswalker
  • They include four copies of a custom common card flavoured for that Planeswalker
  • They include four copies of a land that taps for both of the colours in the deck

Additionally, when we look at the decklists themselves, as well as the MSRP of the product and how it is produced and released, we can draw two more conclusions:

  • The deck should be worth about $11—the cost of a Planeswalker Deck when you take away the two booster packs it comes with.
  • Outside of the new cards specific to that Planeswalker Deck, they should have about two rares, 10-11 uncommons, and 12-15 commons, depending on how much land is in the deck.

Finally, there’s one more conclusion we can draw—based on the number of cards that have only one or two copies, we can deduce that Wizards includes incomplete playsets in the Planeswalker Decks in order to encourage new players to go out and buy booster packs to complete them.

However, I’m going to disagree with that last premise. I think that one of the purposes that Planeswalker Decks should serve is as an example of proper deckbuilding. Teaching new players what a consistent deck looks like is, I think, a better use of a pre-constructed product—as well, a more consistent deck does better against its opponents and therefore gets players more excited about the game. So for those reasons, I will ignore that restriction and include as many 4-ofs as I can in our brew.

(I should note that we are also forced to do without the custom cards each Planeswalker deck gets. In the next phase of this project, I will be competing in Standard events at A Muse N Games, which means I have to use cards that are legal in Standard—not ones I dream up for a column!)

Putting it all together, here are the rules we will follow for our deck:

  • One planeswalker
  • Four rares from the current block
  • 13-14 uncommons from the current block
  • 16-19 commons from the current block
  • Four copies of a land that taps for both of the deck’s colours
  • Grand total of $11 or less after the planeswalker.

So, which planeswalker are we going to brew around?


AKA, “THE BAANHAMMER”

Dovin Baan is my favourite character from Kaladesh—he is relentless and uncompromising, he flawlessly executes everything he sets out to do, he has the driest sense of humour in the Multiverse, and his journey as a not-quite-villain trapped in between doing the best for the people of Kaladesh and obeying Tezzeret’s orders was fascinating to follow.

However, despite how awesome he was in the stories, his planeswalker card has yet to see tournament play. Even with Blue-White Flash spending several months in 2016 as a top-tier deck, Dovin failed to make a mark.

So let’s change that, shall we? Dovin lends himself well to a control strategy, with his +1 neutering potential Crew activations and his -2 granting us card and life advantage. So our Dovin deck will be a classic blue-white control list.

Let’s start with some rares.

Baral’s Expertise is reasonably flavourful—Baral is one of Dovin’s underlings in the stories—and very powerful. Since Dovin’s +1 ability cannot hit Vehicles, we’re going to need a good sweeper for our well-wheeled opponents. Baral’s Expertise gives us something that can answer most major threats in the format (outside of other planeswalkers), and a free cast of something else in our hand. Free is good, right? We’re going to have three copies of Baral’s Expertise.

Our other rare slot will be spent on a good finisher for the deck. Several of the commons and uncommons we’ll be using give us Energy, so Aetherstorm Roc—an absolute house in Limited—will fit in nicely. Generating tons of Energy and tapping down creatures for days, Aetherstorm Roc is an ever-growing flier that will do a great job of taking out both planeswalkers and opponents with ease. And, let’s not forget—we can cast it for free off of Baral’s Expertise!

Going by TCGPlayer’s Mid price for these cards, we have spent $4.55 of our allotted $10—$4.20 for the Expertises, and 0.25 for the Roc. We’re in good shape—a good deal of value should be in the rare slot.

Onward!

Glimmer of Genius is the strongest draw spell in Kaladesh block and one of the strongest currently in Standard. Getting to scry before we draw is extremely good—we can filter away lands we don’t need, or answers that won’t answer what’s in front of us. And if one of the top two cards is something we want, we can guarantee drawing it. This card is seeing play even in non-Energy decks, so the fact that it produces Energy for us is a lovely bonus. We’ll take three copies.

Shielded Aether Thief and Aether Meltdown are both two-drop instant-speed answers to creatures and Vehicles that generate Energy, which, y’know. Sign me up, right? The Thief even gives us a good Energy outlet with its card draw. Three copies of the Meltdown and four copies of the Thief, please!

Finally, Long-Finned Skywhale has done a ton of work for me in draft and I have to feel good about including it here. Despite its blocking restriction, it can still get in the way of many of the best creatures in the format—but with all of our other answers it shouldn’t have to, and can ideally just beat down with 4 power in the air every turn.

3x Long-Finned Skywhale and Aether Meltdown and 4x Shielded Aether Thief and Glimmer of Genius puts us at 14 uncommons and another $2.96 spent—right on target.

We’ve got $3.49 left for 16-19 commons and four special lands. Can we do this?

The answer is yes. Dovin always has answers.

Specifically, these answers.

There is only one white or blue common in Kaladesh block where Dovin Baan is referenced in the flavour text—and lucky for us, it’s a great answer to the inexpensive Vehicles everywhere! Four copies of Fragmentize go in the brew, helping to reinforce the Planeswalker Deck flavour, along with four copies of Ice Over.

As I mentioned in the first part of this column series, the “Copy Cat” combo featuring Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian is also seeing tons of play (despite not performing well at Pro Tour Aether Revolt). So we’ll need some answers that hit both parts of that combo, as well as many other targets. Four copies each of Negate and Revolutionary Rebuff should do us well here.

Finally, Meandering River is the designated uncommon tapland for our colours.

4x Fragmentize, 4x Negate, 4x Ice Over, 4x Revolutionary Rebuff, and 4x Meandering River all add up to another $2.23—we’re done, with an impressive $1.26 to spare!

GET BAANED AT OUR ON-DEMAND STANDARD EVENTS AND THE GPT FAREWELL TOUR

Our list is complete—and now, it’s time to take it to the shop!

The Standard Spring 9 Week Challenge continues until April 16th. A Muse N Games will be running Standard tournaments every Tuesday at 7 PM, as well as additional tournaments Sunday March 12th at 2 PM and Saturday, April 15th at 2 PM. Compete in enough Standard events and you can earn alt-art battlelands!

On top of that, we’ve got On-Demand Standard happening—make sure you’re at the store with three other folks who want to play Standard, and we’ll fire up a sanctioned event with prizing for a $6 entry fee!

Registration is now open for the Amonkhet pre-release—sign up now for $35 Early Bird registration!

And finally—just announced—A Muse N Games is hosting the 2017 GPT Farewell Tour! Before Grand Prix Trials close down for good, you’ll be able to attend no less than ten Trials for the Grands Prix in Vegas and Montréal later this year. First place in a GPT at AMNG wins an exclusive playmat!

See you at the store!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games, and is going to have way too much fun searching through AMNG’s bulk boxes to build this deck. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column on all things Magic!