Under the Radar with Ojutai

Posted in Event Coverage on June 21, 2015

By Peter Rawlings

Many of the well-established pillars of Dragons of Tarkir Standard are out in force in Providence this weekend, with popular archetypes such as Abzan Megamorph, Esper Dragons, Abzan Aggro and Red-Green Devotion each putting double-digits worth of pilots into Day 2. But lurking hidden among the top tables are a number of lesser known variants, stealthily propelling their pilots ever closer to the Top 8. I spoke with three of these players about their under-the-radar deck choices, and about the one thing their varying decks all have in common—Dragonlord Ojutai.

Oliver Tiu had a single loss through 13 rounds with his five-color Dragon deck.

Olivia Tiu, a 17-year-old from nearby Massachusetts, had a lone loss to blemish his 12-1 record after the first 13 rounds of play in Providence. His deck of choice? A base Black-Green deck running five colors worth of Dragons. Tiu chose the deck because of its strong match-up against Green Devotion strategies and the various flavors of Abzan he—correctly—expected to make up a larger chunk of the metagame.

If there's a weakness for the deck it's at the extreme ends of the metagame, where aggressive red strategies and controlling decks like Esper Dragons can be a struggle, Tiu said. Fortunately, since he already considered the green decks to be easy for him to beat, he was able in finalizing his decklist to devote a hefty portion of his sideboard to shoring up Games 2 and 3 against those less favorable match-ups. A heaping helping of Bile Blights and four Drown in Sorrows come in against Atarka Red, while Duress serves double duty, coming in there and against Esper Dragons, he said.

But the final change Tiu made was to shift two copies of Dragonlord Dromoka to the sideboard, to make room for the full play set of Dragonlord Ojutai. Not wanting to go too overboard on the number of Dragons in his starting 60, Tiu opted for Ojutai largely thanks to its relatively inexpensive 5-mana casting cost, he said.

With two more rounds left play Tiu, whose previous best Grand Prix finish was a Top 64 at Grand Prix Worcester, looks well positioned to make a run at the Top 8.

Also sporting Dragonlord Ojutai and hovering near the top tables was Eric Severson. He was playing a Bant Megamorph with three copies of the blue-and-white Dragon. He'd worked on the deck with Benjamin Weitz and Mark Jacobson, who both made the Top 8 at Grand Prix Toronto with the deck a few weeks back.

Eric Severson was hoping his Bant Megamorph deck would carry him to the first-place finish he needed to clinch Silver.

“In Toronto, I felt like we clearly had the best deck in the room,” he said. Severson is still high on the archetype, though he has made a few tweaks in reaction to changes in the metagame, he said. For instance, he trimmed one copy of Ajani, Steadfast and found room for an additional copy of Disdainful Stroke in his main deck to help against Esper Dragons. He is still running one copy of the 4-mana Planeswalker, however, as using it to make a vigilant Dragonlord Ojutai is “one of the best feelings there is,” he said.

How do matches with Bant Megamorph tend to play out against the field? “In most match-ups I'm really playing the aggressor,” Severson said, often trying to land an early Fleecemane Lion to put the opponents on the back foot, while following it up with heavy hitters like Ojutai and Elspeth, Sun's Champion.

At 11-2, Severson is hoping for a Top 8 here. After making the finals of the Team Grand Prix in Portland earlier in the season, he's been traveling to as many tournaments as possible in hopes of reaching Silver status. But thanks to a ton of 11-4 finishes, he needs to put up an exceptional showing to reach that status here in Portland—nothing short of taking home the trophy will get him there.

Jack Champagne made his first Grand Prix Day 2 with an Abzan deck splashing Dragonlord Ojutai.

Jack Champagne, a player from Concord, New Hampshire, had two losses heading into Round 13, and was playing an Abzan deck that had also managed to squeeze in three copies of Dragonlord Ojutai. He had based his original deck on a design by Caleb Durward, but made some of his own changes, such as swapping out Fleecemane Lion for Satyr Wayfinder.

The Wayfinder helps facilitate cards like Haven of the Spirit Dragon, since the 1/1 creature will often bin a Dragonlord that can be bought back down the line when needed. The Satyr also helps against Atarka Red, he said, since “in that match-up you really need to be able to play two spells in one turn to catch up—and the plan to do that is with a cheap Murderous Cut.”

Champagne had also built his deck with Esper Dragons in mind, crafting a plan that leans heavily on Foul-Tongue Invocation to invalidate opposing Dragonlord Ojutais in Games 2 and 3, all while churning out colorless creatures with Mastery of the Unseen. The colorlessness is especially crucial in order to get around Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, he said, “because once you bring in Foul Tongue, Ugin and possibly Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver are the only cards that really matter in the match-up from them.”

A loss in Round 13 set Champagne's Top 8 hopes back a notch, but it's still been a strong run for a player in his first ever Grand Prix Day 2.

Oliver Tiu – Five-Color Dragons

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Eric Severson – Bant Megamorph

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Jack Champagne – Dragonlord Abzan

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