Running the Maze

Posted in Perilous Research on May 16, 2013

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Welcome back to Perilous Research,'s exclusive Magic Online column. Pro Tour Dragon's Maze starts tomorrow. Be sure to follow along with the live coverage here on or Pro Tour Dragon's Maze will pit the best players in the world against each other in matches of Return to Ravnica Block Constructed and DGR drafts. Last week, I examined the new Limited format and talked about some of the archetypes I've had success with thus far. This week, I'm going to take a look at the new Block Constructed format in an effort to better understand what's about to unfold tomorrow on the biggest stage in competitive Magic.

The first results of post-Dragon's Maze Return to Ravnica Block Constructed are in! We finally have some groundwork for the upcoming PT that should help us set the stage for all the action. The best players in the world will be using these decklists to establish a metagame. Let's get right into it with some decklists:

Severus's Golgari

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Golgari decks have performed well in Return to Ravnica Block Constructed thanks to the excellent curve and efficient removal offered by the two-color combination. Dragon's Maze gives the deck access to Putrefy and Varolz, the Scar-Striped, two powerful cards that fit perfectly into the archetype. The deck plays like most aggressive decks you're used to, but the scavenge cards make you much better post-Supreme Verdict than most decks of this variety. You're going to want to be extremely aggressive with this deck in every matchup that isn't Mono-Red. Vraska the Unseen comes in against controlling decks and punishes them for tapping out for Supreme Verdict. Desecration Demons are excellent in the mirror and against Black-Green-White decks. Golgari Charm counters Supreme Verdict and functions as an erase/counterspell/combat trick/board sweeper against a lot of the decks in the format.

Black-Green-White decks get access to Voice of Resurgence, Advent of the Wurm, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, and Obzedat, so playing straight Golgari over black-green-white is certainly going to weaken the raw power level of your deck. However, the consistency and aggression that straight black-green offers seems to be well positioned given the current format. The one-drops are, however, less than stellar against Voice of Resurgence, and the prevalence of that card might deter people from playing this archetype in large numbers. Then again, maybe people will just play more Desecration Demons and run over the Voices in post-boarded games as long as the opponent doesn't find Selesnya Charms.

smalltownmagic's Mono-Red

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Mono-Red is showing up in huge numbers in the latest Daily Event results, but we probably shouldn't be too quick to assume that it's going to be a major player at the Pro Tour. The deck picked up Weapon Surge and Rubblebelt Maaka with Dragon's Maze, which certainly improve its combat suite a great deal. The deck used to have trouble breaking through 3/3s or 4/4s, but these two cards go a long way in ensuring you'll be able to attack with your team every turn. Voice of Resurgence is very strong against the Red deck and, in conjunction with Centaur Healer and Advent of the Wurm, decks playing green and white may pose some big problems for the Red deck. The deck wants to overrun its opponents before they can establish any kind of board presence. We'll have to wait and see how many Druid's Deliverances and Riot Controls people are playing tomorrow before we get a handle on how relevant the Red deck will be in the later rounds of Pro Tour Dragon's Maze.

Mult4ni's Esper

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Esper decks are still a huge force to be reckoned with. Notion Thief didn't seem to pick up much play in the first post-Dragon's Maze Return to Ravnica Block Constructed event. Sphinx's Revelation decks will have to worry about Sire of Insanity, but that card is still fringe in the Block Constructed format and the deck still has plenty of ways to deal with it at instant speed, especially because there's no Cavern of Souls in the format. The deck now gets access to Far // Away and Ætherling. Far // Away is one of the stronger removal/tempo cards in the format and Ætherling may be the best finisher. I expect this deck to show up in big numbers at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze and I would be surprised if at least one copy didn't make the Top 8 of the event. I'm not sure how much Sire of Insanity there will be, but I'm confident that this deck has what it takes to flourish, even in a hostile environment.

seymourws's Selesnya

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The Selesnya deck got an absurd boost of power with Dragon's Maze. Voice of Resurgence and Advent of the Wurm are probably the best two cards in this deck and Rootborn Defenses is going to cause nightmares for players who lean too hard on Supreme Verdict. This deck should completely dominate its aggro matchups, especially post-board, when it gets access to Trostani, Selesnya's Voice. Unflinching Courage also comes in from the board against aggro; punishing opposing decks for tapping out with an Armadillo Cloak effect is usually going to be game against decks like Mono-Red. Druid's Deliverance and Centaur Healer further push those matchups to the point where they're almost impossible to lose barring mana/mulligan issues. I'd like to see another copy of Rootborn Defenses in the sideboard here for Supreme Verdict strategies. I expect this deck to show up in reasonable numbers at the Pro Tour and I expect the archetype to perform reasonably well. Wayfaring Temple seems nice with Selesnya Charm, but I'm not sure if three is too many. We'll find out tomorrow, though.

Dasklumpital's Black-Green-White splashing Red

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I thought a lot about which Black-Green-White deck I should discuss today. In the end, I decided to present the list that seemed to offer the most power. This deck has all the makings of a boogieman going into the PT. Look no further if you're looking for a collection of the format's most powerful cards. This list is a bit rough, seeing as it came from the first Return to Ravnica Block event on Magic Online. I expect a polished version of this deck to be the breakout deck at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze. Obzedat, Ghost Council; Sin Collector; Sire of Insanity; and Voice of Resurgence do lots of work against the control decks, especially the Fog archetype.

The deck is a beast against more aggressive strategies: Voice of Resurgence continues to shine in these matchups. Varolz, the Scar-Striped; Advent of the Wurm; Abrupt Decay; Loxodon Smiter; Lotleth Troll; and Putrefy make the deck a nightmare in the early game for creature-based decks. The instant-speed turn-four Advent of the Wurm into Scion of Vitu-Ghazi on turn five is a nail-in-the-coffin play against other black-green-based decks. I expect decks like this to drastically shape the format in the days leading up to the Pro Tour. Expect big numbers from this archetype and expect multiple copies of decks like this in the elimination rounds at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze.

ehhh's Go-Fog

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Imagine my surprise when I opened up the document with the decklist information from the first post-Dragon's Maze Return to Ravnica Block Constructed event on Magic Online and saw this as the first decklist. Are you as confused as I was? ehhh's deck uses lots of card draw to ensure that he can Fog his opponent into oblivion and reset the board from time to time with a Supreme Verdict. Eventually, he can deliver a killing blow with Ætherling. The sideboard may seem strange, but the Pithing Needle, Dispel, and Psychic Spirals ensure the deck has a strong game plan against the control decks while the Selesnya Charm and Renounce the Guilds give more outs to Obzedat, Ghost Council. Well, it's looking like players are going to need to get pretty creative to beat this one.

Turbo-Fog strategies are traditionally nightmares for creature-based decks. Fortunately, the Return to Ravnica Block Constructed format offers some nice cards to help defend against this monstrosity. Obzedat, Notion Thief, and Voice of Resurgence are the first cards that come to mind; we can expect a lot of Voices tomorrow and that card in conjunction with Rootborn Defenses, Golgari Charm, or Boros Charm should be enough to punish players for attempting the Turbo-Fog plan. However, the Turbo-Fog strategy doesn't roll over to these plays, they just make the game more difficult for it. Those of you who have read my columns for a while will know that I absolutely despise Turbo-Fog decks. There's very little that's more frustrating than watching an opponent draw a bunch of cards while just casting Fogs over and over as you try to attack for the win. What's worse is that you need to over-commit to the board against these Turbo-Fog decks to prevent them from using Sphinx's Revelation as a super Fog that refills their hand with more Supreme Verdicts and Fogs. I hope cards like Obzedat, Notion Thief, and Voice of Resurgence are enough to keep this deck in line. I dread even the thought of playing this mirror match, especially Game 1.

We're just one day away from the Pro Tour and the metagame is beginning to take shape. Be sure to check out the latest Daily Event results here for an up-to-date look at what tomorrow's tournament is going to look like. Don't miss the live action as it unfolds tomorrow! I've been putting off the May Standard Deck Compendium in hopes of having a larger sample size of post-Dragon's Maze results. Next week, I'll be sure to dive head first into the new Standard format so we can get up to speed on the PTQ format and get you qualified for Pro Tour Theros!

Knowledge is Power!

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