Many players brought Goblin Rabblemaster and Stoke the Flames this weekend. Others registered Mantis Rider and Seeker of the Way. And yet another group of players went with Fleecemane Lion and Collected Company. But there was only one brave soul who chose to put all of them in the same deck.
Yesterday, Yohan Dudognon scored a perfect 9-0 record, and today I looked to find out a little more, sitting down with him to get the lowdown on where his deck came from and how he thinks his card choices will stack up against the field. For reference, here's his list.
The Man behind the Deck
Dudognon is a 29-year old Ph.D. student in organic chemistry from Marseille, France. He has a nice list of prior accomplishments, including several Grand Prix Top 16s and stint on the French National Team in 2012 and 2014. "But this is the first time I've gone 9-0 at a Grand Prix," he said. "It feels pretty awesome!"
What's the Game Plan and Where Did the Deck Come From?
Dudognon built the deck himself and calls it Yoyo Company after his nickname Yoyo, based on his first name Yohan. "I saw Collected Company and tried to find the right shell," he explained. "I tried various three-color and four-color combinations, but I eventually concluded that you get the best possible creatures in WURG. Many of them have haste, so you can play Collected Company on your own turn and attack immediately."
Dudognon's deck contains 22 hittable creatures, which gives him 1.69 creatures per Collected Company on average. The probability of hitting zero creatures is low: only 5%. "I read some articles on the math behind Collected Company, and based on those, I decided I wanted to have at least 22 creatures," he explained. "All of my creatures are very good, so sometimes I hit one and it's still acceptable. If I hit two, it's often game over."
When asked about the ideal opening for the deck, he explained that he liked to have a tapland on turn one, followed by Fleecemane Lion, Mantis Rider, and Collected Company. "An even better curve is Rattleclaw Mystic into Collected Company, hitting two 3-drops on turn three That's nearly unbeatable on the play."
This isn't the first tournament that he has played the deck in. "I went to the French RPTQ and went 4-2. I didn't have Arashin Cleric in the sideboard yet, and I lost to two mono-red decks. Still, I thought the deck was quite good. My friends told me not to play it at the Grand Prix because it's too unstable, but it did well in my testing, and I think it was a good choice."
The Mana Base
Speaking of stability, how about the mana base? "The mana base is not as bad as people think. I have fifteen green, fifteen white, fourteen red, and fourteen blue [sources]. I only have single-color cards except for Stoke the Flames, which I can convoke with twelve red creatures, and a singleton Elspeth, which costs six mana. So the mana base works quite well."
Dudognon's numbers really look solid and they get even better when you include Rattleclaw Mystic. To get to this mana stability, Dudognon needed eleven lands that enter the battlefield tapped, but that's acceptable when the quality of the cards is so high and when you want to cram as many 3-drops as possible into the deck. Going tapland, tapland, 3-drop, followed by a steady flow of high-quality cards is a reasonable path to victory in Standard.
Some players fill their Collected Company decks with as many cheap creatures as possible, but Dudognon has left room for plenty of instants. These allow him to interact with his opponents, to trigger Seeker of the Way, and to have options after passing with four mana. "I often want to play Collected Company on my own turn and hit haste creatures, but it's important that it's an instant. It's great to pass with Ojutai's Command and Collected Company. If they cast Siege Rhino, I'll counter it; otherwise, I'll play Collected Company."
Ojutai's Command in particular has surprised opponents all weekend. "One of the main strengths of the deck is that people don't know what to expect, so they misplay and don't sideboard well. Ojutai's Command turned out to be good: it can counter a big Dragon like Dragonlord Ojutai, it can gain 4 life against Mono-Red, and it's so unpredictable that many opponents fell into the trap. I had a third Ojutai's Command in my deck at first, but I wasn't sure it would be good enough, so I wanted something else. I added Elspeth in that flexible slot as a good late-game card that can trump most things people can do. I haven't drawn it yet, though, so I'm not sure it's better than the third Ojutai's Command."
Matchups and Sideboarding
I asked Dudognon how his deck fared against the top decks in Standard and how he would sideboard against them.
"I had some problems versus Mono-Red initially, but I fixed it with Hornet Nest and Arashin Cleric. I still lose nearly all preboard games, but I'm very favored after that. Hornet Nest is particularly great with Dromoka's Command. I board in all seven creatures, as well as Dromoka's Command, Ojutai's Command, and Negate. I remove Goblin Rabblemaster, Stoke the Flames, and Valorous Stance," he explained.
"I tested against Esper Dragons and found the matchup to be positive, like 60%. I plan to board in all of my blue cards, giving me a nice suite of countermagic, and take out Seeker of the Way, Valorous Stance, and Dromoka's Command."
How about the other matchups? "Abzan Aggro can be hard. On the play, it's tough to keep up the pace of their curve. On the draw, I think it's fine. Abzan Control is a deck that I tested ten games against, and I think it's a slightly favorable matchup. Bant Megamorph is positive. Mantis Rider is really good against them, and after sideboarding I gain Hornet Nest."
Tips and Tricks
When I asked Dudognon about interesting plays that came up during his tournament, he stressed the importance of planning ahead. "You have to think about your lands. In Round 9, I had Mantis Rider, Yavimaya Coast, Plains, and Mana Confluence in my opening hand. I played Plains on turn one, but that eventually meant that I was unable to cast Savage Knuckleblade on turn three. I'm not sure it was a mistake, but this is a deck that may need red-white-blue and green-blue-red mana on turn three, so it's important to think about how to sequence your lands," he said.
Another tip he gave is that the deck plays differently before and after boarding. "Game one it's a very aggressive deck. After that, the pace slows down. Especially against controlling decks, I play creatures on turns two and three and then slow down to play a more controlling game with counterspells and Collected Company."
As one of my last questions, I asked Dudognon if anyone else was playing this deck at the Grand Prix. "No one in the world played this deck before," he answered with a smile on his face. "But it's amazingly fun to play, so I can recommend it to everyone."
Between aggressive creatures, card advantage, and strong interactive spells, Dudognon has assembled something fearsome. Could this deck play a major role in Standard going forward? It certainly has all of the right tools!