Planeswalking into Pro Tour Magic 2015

Posted in Top Decks on August 1, 2014

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

I've spent the last two weeks testing for Pro Tour Magic 2015, and as a result I have played a lot of Magic with a lot of different decks. There are some cool things going on in this format, although the big decks are very hard to compete with. Today, I want to share some of the cool decks we tested, although I can't quite reveal what we ended up choosing to play in the Pro Tour, as this article does go up the morning of.

The first place I started was with my dear friend Chord of Calling. Chord has done good work for me in the past, and it combines quite well with Burning-Tree Emissary. Emissary, conveniently enough, shows up in a deck that already does a good job of generating a ton of mana and has a lot of green cards in it. Add to that the other new expensive toys that green got, and we have the beginnings of what could be something very explosive.

Mono-Green Devotion

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Ever since Makihito Mihara made Top 8 in Dublin with Green Devotion, I've really enjoyed playing the deck, and adding one of my favorite Chords certainly doesn't hurt.

The basic plan of the deck is to generate green mana in copious quantities, after which it usually finds some way to win. The classic package of accelerants and Coursers helps it set up, after which it hopefully uses either Nykthos or Nissa to start pushing the amounts of mana it can make into the double digits.

Once it has that much mana, there are a ton of very sweet things it can do. The easiest way to win is to get to six mana and just cast Garruk. He draws you so many cards so rapidly that you will almost assuredly overwhelm your opponent. Another cool thing that comes up is using Garruk's -3 to put in the one Hornet Queen. That's not a high-percentage play, but it is pretty awesome.

Nissa helps enable the deck's mana plan, as well as just kill any opponent who doesn't have mass removal. Hitting for 4, then 8, in rapid succession, is powerful, and Nissa is why there is a lone Darksteel Citadel in the deck. Two might even be right, as a 4/4 indestructible land is actually very hard to deal with. It dodges all the removal in the format save Devour Flesh, as cards like Detention Sphere and Cyclonic Rift refuse to touch it. It is very cute, but I think the Citadel may actually be better than Mutavault or a Forest in this deck.

Chord is a way of playing extra copies of Nylea more than anything else, as she is one of the best cards you can have when things are going well and the worst when they aren't. That's the perfect card to tutor up when the first scenario exists, and having only one copy means you are way less likely to get stuck with Nylea against a removal-heavy draw from the opponent. Chord also gets some nice silver bullets like Scavenging Ooze, Nylea's Disciple, and Reclamation Sage, as well as the extremely powerful Hornet Queen.

One card I had high hopes for but ended up cutting was Genesis Hydra, although I do think it might be playable once Lifebane Zombie rotates out (you will be hearing that a lot in the coming months). Hydra is a great card when you have a lot of mana, but it really needs to be cast for seven or eight mana to be effective, and this deck would rather have cards like Chord or Polukranos that cost less and still do a lot, because Garruk takes up so much space at the top of the curve (and rightfully so).

This deck can also be tweaked in many ways, although most of them involve cutting Nissa. That isn't necessarily bad, especially since Xenagos is ready and waiting to take her place.

Green-red Devotion

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Adding Xenagos is a big plus, although sadly there isn't really room for Domri Rade in a deck that also wants to play Chord, Xenagos, and Garruk. Burning-Tree Emissary even helps cast Xenagos, which is nice, and by leaving out Nissa you no longer are barred from playing Temples, which adds another little bit of consistency. A black splash would be almost as easy, and I could see running Pharika, God of Affliction to Chord for, as well as Garruk, Apex Predator. Biggest Garruk is awesome, and I'll take any excuse to play him.

Green devotion is very sweet to play, and even though Burning-Tree Emissary will be a big loss come Khans of Tarkir, not having to deal with Lifebane Zombie is way bigger, especially because there are going to be additional new cards to play with.

Another deck I've enjoyed playing involves Planeswalkers. Lots and lots of Planeswalkers. Ever since Barry Smith got 2nd at the StarCityGames.com Open in Kansas City, this deck has been fairly popular on Magic Online, and I expect to see it represented at the Pro Tour.

Jund Planeswalkers

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Much like the RWU Superfriends decks from a few years ago (although, admittedly, teaming up Jace, Ajani, and Elspeth used to be a lot more intimidating), this deck aims to gain incremental advantage through walking the planes, a strategy many (tall) people have used in the past.

When you play a Planeswalker and it's able to protect itself for a turn, then you play another, each turn that passes puts your opponent in a bigger and bigger hole. Removal spells only exacerbate this, and eventually you are just too far ahead on resources. The combination of Xenagos and Vraska protect you (and themselves), letting Chandra draw cards and buy time until Garruk comes down and ends the party.

One thing that is really funny about this deck is that the Planeswalker ultimates are horrendous. It's actually insane how bad they are, despite each of the Planeswalkers themselves being awesome. Xenagos has no creatures to put into play and Chandra has no relevant spells. Garruk gives your opponent an emblem you will rarely use, and Liliana might steal something good from your opponent, but certainly isn't getting anything from your graveyard. Vraska actually has the best ultimate, and she is not usually known for her strength when it comes to ultimates. This isn't a huge criticism of the deck, since a Planeswalker living for four or five turns is usually good enough, but it's just funny how all of these different ultimates just happen to do so little.

The mix of removal spells is something that should change week to week, as they are all good in different situations and against different decks. As long as you have enough ways to kill Master of Waves, Mutavault, Desecration Demon, Stormbreath Dragon, Pack Rat, and Courser of Kruphix, you are probably good.

We've come up with a few more brews, some of which we will be battling with this weekend. Only time will tell if they are good, and hopefully next week I get to write about how great they were (it's happened once before since I started this column, and it always feels pretty good). I expect to see a lot of Mono-Black, Mono-Blue, Courser of Kruphix decks, and WU decks this weekend. I've written plenty on those in the past, so I didn't feel the need to repeat myself, but I don't think I'm alone in looking forward to seeing what other decks people bring. There will be other options, and it will be interesting seeing what they look like.

LSV

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