Deck Tech: Grixis Thopters with Hunter Cochran

Posted in Event Coverage on January 10, 2016

By Corbin Hosler

Hunter Cochran played a Mountain on the first turn and passed. Silently, his opponent celebrated, just a little. After all, no one-drop from a deck leading with Mountain was surely a good sign. When naught but a Goblin Fodder followed, things began to look even better.

Then came the first surprise: Thopter Engineer on the third turn. A ping from the thopter was annoying, but not a big deal. Tapping out for Monastery Mentor was sure to pull ahead in the token war.

But the surprises kept coming. Pia and Kiran Nalaar on Turn 4. Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury on the fifth turn. Suddenly, Cochran's odd collection of cards had turned into a very real attacking army, and he won the game on the spot.

Who says innovation in Standard is dead?


Hunter Cochran — Grixis Thopters

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Hunter Cochran arrived in Oakland with a self-described “brew of a deck.” That didn't stop him from rattling off a 5-0 start.

“Most people see Thopter Engineer and run the other way,” Cochran admitted. “But I think this deck really has legs and is better than a lot of the meta decks.”

And after several weeks of piloting what he calls “the definition of a brew,” Cochran may have the last laugh. He took down a large local tournament with it last month and was off to a perfect start at Grand Prix Oakland entering Round 6.

“The Thopter tokens seem innocuous at first, but three or four turns down the line it really becomes of a problem,” Cochran explained. “People don't want to counter or kill the Engineer, but it really adds up fast with Pia and Kolaghan. It's good for the same reason Mantis Rider is good, because flying and haste is really important. Obviously it's not as good as Mantis Rider, but your mana is a lot better and you don't have to play off-curve because your lands came into play tapped.”

What works perfectly with a token theme? Drana, Liberator of Malakir. Making essentially her first appearance at the top tables of a premier event, Drana gives Cochran's deck the “free wins” he said are important to secure in Standard against a stumbling opponent, something that occurs somewhat often given the complex manabases many decks run.

In many ways a hybrid of the token decks that have found Standard success and the Dragons lists that have recently emerged, Cochran's deck gets the best of both worlds. A quick start backed up by Drana or Pia and Kiran Nalaar spells quick wins from time to time, but the top end of Thunderbreak Regent and Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury mean that Cochran isn't afraid to go late in games.

“You just play out the little guys and keep attacking, and sooner or later they have to point spot removal at them, and then they just can't handle a dragon after that,” he explained. “If people want to bring in Radiant Flames to kill the little guys it means they don't have much left over for the big guys, and since I'm mostly two colors and can play Foundry of the Consuls, they're always at risk of just dying to thopters and Kolaghan.”

With so many small threats and resiliency to removal, Cochran lists Dark Jeskai and other blue-based decks among his best matchups. On the other end of the spectrum, Abzan is consistently tough, and a big reason why he touches on a third color in his sideboard.

“There aren't any blue cards in the main deck, but Disdainful Stroke out of the sideboard is really good,” he explained. “The mana in this deck is really good, and most of the time it's just like playing a two-color deck. The blue is really unobtrusive, and something like 85-90 percent of the time you have access to blue on Turn 4 when you need it for Stroke.

“This deck still has room to grow; I think it needs another Fiery Impulse in the main and there's a few sideboard slots I'm not sure on. But I think it has what it takes to become a major part of the meta, and I'm happy to be playing it.”

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