Most of the players here at Grand Prix Madrid showed up with established archetypes, but the Dutch duo of Daan Pruijt and Jan van der Vegt registered a more innovative deck. Yesterday, they went a combined 16-2, with only one bye between the two of them.
Jan van der Vegt (left) and Daan Pruijt (right)
Jan van der Vegt is perhaps best known for streaming Magic Online on a daily basis, but nowadays he is studying again and working on machine learning. Due to that change in focus, his streams are more sporadic and shorter, but despite his reduced preparation time, he told me that he was having a great time as always at the Grand Prix.
Daan Pruijt has a Top 8 from Grand Prix Strasbourg 2014 to his name and is the most frequently hosted co-host of Jan's stream. They had been good friends after they both competed at Pro Tour Honolulu 2012. When it came to building their deck for Grand Prix Madrid, Daan was the driving force. According to Jan, "Daan did 70% of the work, and I did 30%."
Elsewhere on the coverage page, we labeled the deck as "Black-Green Zombies" for clarity, but they had a more creative name in mind. At first, they were thinking about "Snakes on a Plane" because Noose Constrictor is a snake, but Smuggler's Copter is not exactly a plane, so that's why they settled on "Snakes on a Copter".
Their nearly mono-black deck is reminiscent of the black-red Zombies deck that you may have seen before. Instead of Lightning Axe as the key discard outlet, their list has Noose Constrictor. In the removal slot, they have Grasp of Darkness instead of Fiery Temper. And in the final slots, there are Tireless Tracker and Catacomb Sifter instead of Cathartic Reunion. (There's a mix between the green creatures because Catacomb Sifter is better against aggro decks while Tireless Tracker is better against slower decks.)
Despite these differences, their deck shares the same graveyard-oriented synergies as the black-red Zombies deck: The plan is to pitch Prized Amalgam to one of the many discard outlets—in fact, the deck has no way to generate blue mana other than Aether Hub—and to subsequently return Scrapheap Scrounger or Haunted Dead from the graveyard, which yields a free Prized Amalgam in the process.
"Prized Amalgam is the best card in the deck," van der Vegt claimed. "At least it's the most broken card; the best draws have two Amalgams," Pruijt added.
But in terms of power, Noose Constrictor isn't far behind.
Why black-green over red-black?
"The advantage of the green version is that Noose Constrictor allows you to do all kinds of stuff that red-black is not as good at," Pruijt explained. "You can easily pitch all of your Prized Amalgams and Scrapheap Scroungers, whereas red-black has trouble discarding a large volume of cards. With Noose Constrictor, you can easily discard 4 cards on turn 3, deal 6 damage to your opponent, and add 9 power to your board from your graveyard."
"Noose Constrictor is also a very good blocker against decks like White-Blue Flash and Mardu Vehicles," Pruijt continued. "And we get an extra nut-draw with turn-two Noose Constrictor and turn-three Voldaren Pariah. The mana base is still a bit of a challenge because you want to play Noose Constrictor consistently on turn two, but you want as few Forests as possible because of Voldaren Pariah. We now play 2 Forests."
"A final advantage of the green version is that it contains more creatures, which means that we can return Scrapheap Scrounger more frequently."
How was the deck conceived?
"It's a bit of an amalgam of all kinds of different ideas," Pruijt told me. "But I was inspired by watching Neal Oliver play a deck with Noose Constrictor and Ghirapur Orrery on ChannelFireball. It looked horrendous, but Noose Constrictor did impress me, and I did like Ghirapur Orrery as a sideboard card against Black-Green Delirium. They are holding cards all the time, while my deck is very good at playing out all of my cards. More generally, Black-Green Delirium has trouble with non-creature non-planeswalker permanents that cannot be hit by Natural State and that continually generate value, so this seemed like a promising direction."
"Ghirapur Orrery is great!" van der Vegt chimed in. "I've drawn four cards per turn on five consecutive turns against Black-Green Delirium. That was quite nice."
But to continue Pruijt's story on the deck's evolution, "I had some free time on an afternoon so I changed around some cards, went 5-0 in two consecutive leagues, and figured that I might be on to something. I kept winning, kept refining the deck with the help of Jan, and we eventually ended up with this finished product. On your own you can get a long way, but having Jan a sounding board helped a lot to turn this into a competitive deck."
Haunted Dead allows for some wacky plays
"Sometimes, when you're on the draw, you should discard a Haunted Dead to hand size on turn 1," van der Vegt mentioned. "If you have two Prized Amalgams in hand, then you can end up with 9 power in play on turn 3."
"You can also activate the same Haunted Dead twice, discarding two times two cards," van der Vegt continued. "But that doesn't happen all that often."
The deck supposedly matches up well against the field
"Black-Green Delirium is slightly unfavorable in Game 1, but we are favored in Game 2," Pruijt claimed.
Not every matchup is favorable, though. "Fast Mardu Vehicle decks can be tough," Pruijt said. "And our matchup against Aetherworks Marvel isn't fantastic, but we do have Lost Legacy in the sideboard to exile Emrakul, the Promised End."
But given that they would be happy to get paired against Black-Green Delirium and Blue-White Flash, the most popular decks in the field, their deck may have the right tools to compete in the current Standard metagame.
If you've been looking for a fun, powerful, and serpentine deck to play at a Standard Showdown event, then give this deck a spin!