Welcome to the 7PDC Wrap up. In this week’s article I’m going to provide some of the impressions that I have come away with when looking at the event fields and top performing decks from 7PDC 17-19. The last few events for 7PDC have seen some significant development.
The Gatherling entries and Top 8’s for these events can be found here:
7PDC 1.17: http://pdcmagic.com/gatherling/eventreport.php?event=7PDC%201.17
7PDC 1.18: http://pdcmagic.com/gatherling/eventreport.php?event=7PDC%201.18
7PDC 1.19: http://pdcmagic.com/gatherling/eventreport.php?event=7PDC%201.19
Over the course of these events, we have seen a continued variety of deck types in the overall field, but I think the most important element of these events has been the emergence of two decks that need to be dealt with when planning for play in 7PDC. For the first time since the early season success of UR Fae, players have a focus on what they need to be able to beat in order to expect to do well. The two decks I am referring to are GW Tokens and URW. I don’t necessarily mean to state that these are clearly the “best’ two decks in current Extended. The make-up of Extended has seen a wide variety of successful strategies this season. However, the combination of having GW Tokens and URW in the field together right now has made it difficult for other decks to handle them at the same time while being able to stay close enough to their own strategy and finally handle the wide range of decks a certain week may present.
GW Tokens is not the fastest deck in the field, but it has emerged as the top Aggro strategy currently due to its ability to quickly create a sizeable board presence that is resilient enough to answer many of the strategies geared to stop it. Its’ ability to create, maintain, and then utilize a mass creatures for and explosive win provides it with the most depth of the Aggro decks available. It is capable of using lifegain and multiple blockers to prolong the game until the time arrives where it can Alpha for the win. It is also able to answer a wide variety of removal via toughness boosters and an ability to re-generate a large board quickly. Finally, it has access to Enchantment removal to answer other Aggro strategies such as Boggle Rock, and the ability to generate sufficient card advantage and lifegain with 187 creatures to create a strong long game.
URW (either in controlling or some similar aggro-control forms) is likewise probably not the “best” pure Control deck available, but the synergistic combination of different elements from the three colors it utilizes create a very versatile package that can answer the often varied field very well. URW taps into White for lifegain, efficient evasion, and Enchantment/Artifact removal, Blue for counters, and Red for creature removal or reach. The deck then further utilizes several 187 enhanced creatures Such as Lone Missionary, Sea Gate Oracle, and Subterranean Shambler to provide a powerful complement of pseudo spells that double as a sizeable creature force with which to win with. Finally, the deck abuses these 187 abilities of its men through reusability via Kor Skyfisher and Momentary Blink. These all combine to form a massive card advantage machine that can respond appropriately to the majority of the decks it faces. Subterranean Shambler (combined with Blink or Skyfisher) in particular has come into play recently to provide these decks with a main-deckable sweeper that can handle creatures larger than x/1 and at instant speed when needed.
Does this mean that these are the only two decks to choose from? Certainly not, it merely means that something other than simply running a good deck and expecting to win is not good enough at this time. Players have to consider the above two strategies specifically when building to be confident in their chances.
So, what else is out there then for people to play other than the above and how can they adjust for success?
For Aggro decks WW is still good, but in my opinion isn’t currently fast enough to kill GW Tokens before it can amass enough blockers and/or lifegain to stabilize and counterstrike for the kill. An option for WW players may be to shift away for the typical Soldier build to a more evasive structure with a higher number of fliers and possibly its own complement of boost spells to quicken their clock. Alternatively, a splash into Blue for example for counters, draw, tricks (like Blink) or some more depth to its flying fleet. RW Landfall is also still solid and has access to sweepers itself to help vs. Tokens. Speed is not really a problem here, but more resiliencies may need to be added in order to deal with the removal and card advantage of UWR. Boggle Rock and Exalted based decks may be out in the cold without major adaptations against both Tokens and URW. Finally, Red based decks such as DDW or RDW have the speed and in the case of DDW the evasion to kill quickly. The main issue these decks need to address is the level of playable lifegain currently and whether they can find an answer to it.
Aggro-Control/Midrange decks have been played in many different builds this season. I think the most viable builds to look at in the current Meta would be Mono Blue Aggro Control, WB “Vultures” and good old UR Fae. Vultures strikes me as having the most difficulty of the three. While it packs a good amount of card advantage, evasion, and removal, it is hampered by the fact that a number of its creatures have 1 toughness themselves. With players knowing they need to kill large numbers of small guys, this deck appears to be open to splash damage. In addition, Extended decks right now are quite creature heavy. This means that there are plenty of blockers available and Vultures typically doesn’t run any specific threat that must be dealt with. Mono Blue Aggro Control feels like it has a good chance to succeed. With a large number of evasive creatures; a number that provide disruption or card advantage; this deck is capable of fielding a strong offensive force while stopping key spells of the opponent. In the abstract, it has a good chance versus URW through nullifying its 187 effects to a certain degree via counters. The main question for Mono U Ac in my mind is whether it can form its offense quickly enough to kill GW Tokens because it doesn’t have access to a sweeper spell of its own to combat a large mass of threats. Finally, we have good old UR Fae. The main hole in Fae’s structure (in my opinion) is that it can be weak to burn strategies or really fast Aggro. Those deck types are not really being played successfully at this time and they have their own issues with the current Meta anyway. So, it may be an opportune time for it to strike. It has access to red sweepers that won’t hurt its own force and good card advantage coupled with counterspells that may provide difficulty for URW.
For Control players, the main options would be UB or UR Control. For these two decks the tools are there. I think the main thing that UB Control has to look at is the number of creatures it runs. Current builds have been more creature heavy and counter light. They have strong card advantage tools, but lean more on removal than counterspells for answers and like Vultures do not have a legitimate threat as a win condition. Black has access to sweeper spells in Festercreep and Shrivel, but they do not provide the same power as Red’s blinking Shambler. For this reason, being able to stop GW Tokens toughness boosters is key and targeted removal just can’t do that. Also, I have been mulling over UB Control myself recently and I am left with the feeling that what it really lacks is a strong finisher to end games quickly rather than by attrition. One possibility that has stuck out in my mind is Nightwing Shade (I’m not saying it IS the answer, but rather something I see as test worthy). Some UR Control builds recently have resembled the sort of structure I envision for UB with a creature light make-up and dependence on counters and removal. I think the biggest question for UR Control is whether it is strong enough to be a better choice that URW. It looses the lifegain, blinking Shambler, and Enchantment removal that White lends. Does the space for a larger counter compliment balance these losses. I’m not sure.
This week’s event will be the final one before Worlds and an excellent opportunity for players to test some options to combat the “Big Two”. I see many “possibilities” out there. Whether the proper choices can be made by players in construction remains to be seen.
Thanks for reading