Finkel’s Phantom Eldritch Deckbuilding

Posted in GRAND PRIX SYDNEY 2016 on July 30, 2016

By Neale Talbot

The man hardly requires an introduction any more. An amazing nine Grand Prix Top 8s, including two wins. A staggering 16 Pro Tour Top 8s, including three wins. Hall of Famer. Magic Legend.

Jon Finkel.

Finkel arrived on Monday with members of Team Pantheon, one of the premier teams flying in to contest GP Sydney.

Jon Finkel

"I've been to Australia a few times. We [Team Pantheon] are staying over in Bondi Beach, which is kinda far, but we need to find a house that could fit enough people. We've got eleven or twelve people, our twelfth just arrived. It's a really nice area. Very convenient for what we're doing, where we're a block of away from a bunch of places to eat, coffee shops. I mean, the beach is less relevant, but it's still pretty nice you know, we walked over there the other day. I wish the winters in New York were like this.

"I'd like to do well here, but - don't get me wrong - it's far less important than the Pro Tour. I'd like to do well enough to qualify for Worlds. I think it's 11-5, but it's uncertain, because it's a moving target and there's so many other people, so if everyone has great tournaments, I need to go 12-4. If they have terrible tournaments maybe I get through with 10-6."

I asked Finkel about how Team Pantheon prepared for the limited format for GP Sydney and what he thinks of the new keywords in Eldritch Moon.

"We've done a number of drafts. At the end of the drafts we have a talk, we go through what are the best commons, then the uncommons, which uncommons are below the best common, which are above it, and rares, what's the best there.

"It's hard to rate a keyword. Of the Escalate cards, there Collective Defiance, that's really good, Borrowed Grace is good in the right deck, Collective Brutality is pretty solid. They are mostly pretty solid, the Escalate cards. Some of the Emerge cards, say, It of the Horrid Swarm is not really that great. Mockery of Nature isn't that good. Abundant Maw is not that great when you're being an aggressive deck. Distended Mindbender is pretty good. Wretched Gryff, the flying draw-a-card, is pretty solid for a common.

"Most of the Emerge cards are sort of worth the sacrifice cost. You've got Lashweed Lurker; if you think of it as paying three mana to give my four-mana creature +2/+2 and put a creature on top of my opponent's library, that's pretty good. And obviously there's some synergies to take advantage of."

Sorting through the sealed pool, Finkel spoke about his approach to deck building in the current format.

"When building a sealed pool, it's about looking at your colours, seeking rares, and judging power of level of the pool. I feel like Wizards have generally tried to make it so that each colour pair has a thing go on, like red/black you've got the aggressive Vampires deck, red/blue there's an instant/sorcery prowess type deck, red/white you also have an aggressive deck, red/green is a classic one that's more midrangey.

"This pool does not look that good to me, but I haven't done that many of these, so I'm unsure what a good pool looks like. In this pool, the red cards look like the strongest colour so far. Not superb, but okay. Devils' Playground is almost a bomb rare. Incendiary Flow is really good."

The first deck Finkel pulled together was Black/Red:

Finkel's Phantom Black/Red Deck

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"I do like Thermo-Alchemist." Finkel said, "I mean, Thermo-Alchemist don't really belong in this deck I'm trying to build here, theme-wise. It's absolutely more at home in the blue/red deck. But it's a point unblockable, and it'll do.

"But I think there may be a better red/white deck."

With that, he pulled together the following White/Red deck.

Finkel's Phantom White/Red Deck

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"I think I prefer this as a Red/White aggressive deck. I wish I had a little less four drops, more two/three drops. But this deck is capable of some really good draws. Turn 3 Brazen Wolves, Turn 4 Stensia Innkeeper, especially on the play.

"Stensia Innkeeper varies a lot. In an aggressive deck, it's very good. If you're on the play, play a three drop, play that guy Turn 4, you're very very likely to win. Theoretically you could side it out on the draw, but probably not, because you know your deck is still trying to play out pretty aggressively. Maybe your opponent stumbles, maybe they have a five mana play, or a two and three mana play, and they can't get them out."

With that, Finkel wrapped up the deckbuilding. I thanked him, and he went off to continue to prepare for the day ahead.

Here's the complete pool, if you'd like to compare how you'd have built your deck to the two decks Finkel pulled together. If you missed the Pre-Release weekend, and couldn't make it to GP Sydney, it's a great way to test your deckbuilding skills and compare them to a master.

Finkel's Phantom Sealed Pool - GP Sydney

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