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THE MANA DORK — The Planeswalker Deck Challenge, Conclusion

by May 7, 2017

The Planeswalker Deck Challenge, Conclusion

“What possible circumstances could render these draconian measures necessary?”
— Dovin Baan

We took a bit of a break for Amonkhet’s release (and a couple of soapbox moments), but we’re back with the final installment of the Aether Revolt Planeswalker Deck Challenge.

Here’s the idea: I believe that the Planeswalker Decks, as currently constructed, are a solid product with which to introduce new players to Magic… but they could be so much better. They could be built with more competitive cards, greater synergy, and an eye towards a strategy that better fits one of Magic’s established deck archetypes, rather than simply featuring a mechanic from the newest set.

For my first step in testing this out, I competed with the Ajani Planeswalker Deck in Aether Revolt Game Day at A Muse N Games, using only the contents of the deck and included boosters. I posted a result of 1-3 — with my single round win coming as a result of facing off against a homebrewed combo deck that was intimidating in function, but failed to fire in the games we played. While the result looks good on paper, I felt incredibly outclassed on the battlefield, as my Silkweaver Elites regularly went up against Torrential Gearhulks and Winding Constrictors.

I then brewed a Dovin Baan-themed deck, following all of the rules both formal and informal that Wizards follows with their Planeswalker Decks — with the exception that I would include many more complete playsets, and did not have access to the unique commons, uncommons, and rares that proper Planeswalker Decks come with.

Finally, I competed in a Tuesday Night Standard event at A Muse N Games with the Dovin Baan deck.

So, how did I do?

ROUND 1: TEMUR TOWER
My first match-up was against “the saviour of Standard”. Temur Tower decks were posting some good results in competitive events, breaking into the well-established two-deck metagame of Mardu Vehicles and Copy Cat combos. How was my pure control deck going to do against a more modern, midrange-y, value-based control deck?

It began in tension. We played land drops and Shielded Aether Thieves, and eyed the battlefield warily from behind our carefully-sculpted hands. I was digging hard for an Aetherstorm Roc or a Long-Finned Skywhale, something that would let me go over the top of their defenders. They were digging hard for a Dynavolt Tower so that their deck could come online.

I hit their first Dynavolt Tower with an Ice Over… and promptly realized the weakness of the card. Ice Over doesn’t actually tap down the permanent it enchants, nor does it prevent triggered abilities (or some activated abilities) from happening. Not only would my opponent get at least one use out of an Iced Over Dynavolt Tower that was untapped, it would continue to build energy for them.

After a long, hard battle, they eventually won off of activations from their second Dynavolt Tower. I had taken them nearly to time, however, with a bare handful of minutes left for Game 2… which they won quickly with a couple of early manlands.

Round Record: 0-1. Games Record: 0-2. (I’m a Hedron Crab!)

ROUND 2: GREEN-BLACK CHITTERING HOST

“Dude, what is this? You won a Standard event the other night with RW Dwarves! You broke the metagame! Why aren’t you playing that now?” — a passersby, to my opponent

“Man, I just wanted to play with Chittering Host. Chittering Host is cool.” — my opponent

My opponent was not wrong. Chittering Host is indeed cool. It is also… menacing… to face off against. There were some minor delirium synergies in the deck, but at its core, this was a classic “Rock”-style deck that swarmed the board with small creatures and sought to resolve a Chittering Host for an alpha strike.

Game 1 saw me hold off some of their beaters with a couple of early Shielded Aether Thieves (seriously, those guys are bros), until I eventually — finally! — resolved a Skywhale and protected it. I ground out the win by flying over the top with the Skywhale and clogging up the ground with Aether Thieves and various answers.

Unfortunately, I would make a critical mistake in Game 2. I was beating down again with a Skywhale and had a Baral’s Expertise in hand, while their board grew and grew and grew. Nervous, I cast the Expertise to bounce a couple of tokens and value creatures… and not the Westvale Abbey that had been sitting on my opponent’s side of the battlefield since Turn 3 or so. They recast some small creatures, sacrificed their board, and immediately began swinging with Ormendahl, Profane Prince for the game.

Game 3 ended with another critical mistake on my part — I kept a greedy hand instead of mulliganing it away. Chittering Host chittered all over my cold, dead bones in short order.

Round Record: 0-2. Games Record: 1-4. (I’m a Calcite Snapper!)
 

 

ROUND 3: RED-GREEN PUMMELER

Okay. Alright. I didn’t face off against Mardu Vehicles tonight — the matchup my deck had mostly been built for — but I’m about to shuffle up against RG Pummeler, another aggressive deck that relies heavily on artifacts. This is good. This is a good thing. I’m ready for this. I was made for this.

Game 1: I was not made for this.

Game 2: I have answers! That’s two Pummelers down! Thank you Fragmentize! Now I just need to hit a Long-Finned Skywh — oh, dear, that’s their third Pummeler… oh, dear, that was my face.

Round Record: 0-3. Games Record: 1-6. (I’m a Wandering Tombshell!)

CONCLUSION AND MOVING FORWARD

I should get better at playing Magic.

In all seriousness, though — this deck felt so, so much better than the Planeswalker Decks I tested. Pushing Temur Tower to time and almost winning a second game over a GB Rock variant may be Pyrrhic victories, but I will take them. I felt like I always had answers, and a line of play towards a solid win condition, instead of feeling completely outclassed by Turn 5 — like a Ford Pinto trying to race a Lamborghini.

I will admit to perhaps some bias — since I built the deck from scratch, I knew its lines of play and outs quite well, as opposed to having to learn the deck while I play it, as I did with the Planeswalker Decks. But I feel that this is minor in the grand scheme of things. I’m still inclined to wonder how much of the 0-3 round result is due to the power level of the various cards and how much is simply due to my play mistakes, as detailed above.

Going forward, I’ll change up a couple of things — I will keep the $11 limit for the 59 non-planeswalker cards in the deck, but I will likely change the distribution of rares, uncommons, and commons, and I will buy two booster packs to add to the deck, just like the regular Planeswalker Decks.

We will see how it works. I’ll be continuing the experiment for future Magic sets — albeit in fewer columns, since I don’t want this space to become the Planeswalker Deck Dork! — until I feel like the Planeswalker Decks are at a good place in their construction.

Until then — onward, to glory! And by glory, I mean getting viciously beaten in Standard games, all in service to my audience.

 

DO YOU DARE TO COMPLETE THE TRIALS OF AMONKHET? AND ALSO POSSIBLY A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY?
 

The Trials of Amonkhet are underway at the store — complete various Magic challenges with various friends in various formats to earn shiny lazotep d20s and d4s! Make sure to ask at the store for details.

And in July, the Fantasy Flight Store Championships are happening! Compete in official Fantasy Flight Organized Play events for Star Wars Armada, Star Wars Imperial Assault, Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures, and Star Wars Destiny for sweet prizes and the respect of your peers!

See you at the store!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. Do not ask him what was in the hand he kept. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column on all things Magic!