The Japan Metagame Diaries: Go Go Power Rangers!
I was a child of the 80’s and the 90’s, but sadly I grew up without cable. Back when I was young, the Fox network was still on pay TV, so I usually found myself hanging out with a neighbor down the street, watching the original Power Rangers (well, at least the first generation to appear on American TV). I’m talking about Tyrannosaurus, Saber-tooth Tiger, Triceratops, Mastodon, and Pterodactyl: the original 5. I remember how freaking cool it was when the green ranger and his Dragonzord appeared for the first time. I was in complete awe of how it could detach a part of its body and use it as a shield or spear, and when it joined with the Megazord? Holy #$%#. I don’t think I could sleep for 3 days after witnessing something so awesome.
So what does this have to do with Magic? Well, it was brought to my attention that a deck built around auras is called a Voltron/Megazord deck. It makes perfect sense. You take a creature, then suit it up into the awesomest damn Dragon/Lion/Bird/Soldier you’ve ever seen. When it attacks it strikes with overwhelming force, and it can suddenly get a boost of energy to vanquish your foes in the 11th hour. I’ve been playing GW Auras for 2 weeks now, and it continues to surprise me against the metagame. I made top 8 of a decent sized Theros Game Day (26 players), and just last week I finally accomplished one of my major MTG goals. I won a tournament at the premiere Magic the Gathering store here in Nagoya, Big Magic. And it wasn’t a small one either. 43 players showed up for 6 rounds of Magic, and the room was full of semi-pros and more than half were players that continuously make Day 2 at Grand Prix. PTQ winners, runner ups to The World Magic Cup Qualifier winners . . . and I absolutely steam rolled them.
I went 5-0 (10-1 overall), and since the 3rd person with a 4-0 record lost, I ended up winner of the event. I can not express how happy I am to finally achieve this goal. I’ve been living in Nagoya for more than 2 years now, and during those 2 years I repeatedly got my butt handed to me at Big Magic every Sunday. 2013 has definitely been a break out year for my Magic Career here in Japan. I’ve won a Grand Prix Trial, won a Game Day, finished 11th in a PTQ, and now I’ve finished on top at Big Magic. The only thing left is a day 2 or better finish at a Grand Prix, a top 8 or win at a PTQ, and winning a World Magic Cup Qualifier. I don’t know if all my training here in Japan will ever net me Top 8 at a Grand Prix, but I’m definitely in good company. Well, enough of that, let me tell you how I pulled it off with my deck.
|Selesnyasauras! – (The Green Ranger)|
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
|4 Temple Garden
4 Selesnya Guildgate
|4 Selesnya Charm
4 Unflinching Courage
4 Ethereal Armor
2 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
1 Bow of Nylea
1 Spear of Heliod
16 other spells
15 sideboard cards
While I was pretty happy with the build I used during Theros Game Day that netted me a top 8 appearance, I really have to give a shout out to Derek Madlem of Team Mythic (mythicMTG.com) for helping me to cut a few cards and to create better synergy with a few new additions. He suggested I drop my 4 Gladecover Scout, 2 Rootborn Defense, and a Fiendslayer Paladin for what you see in the current main board. Fencing Ace was really explosive for me. I was able to power it up with Unflinching Courage and Ethereal Armor, and there were a few matches that were decided by me flashing in Boon Satyr and bestowing it on him for 10 damage. Bow of Nylea was good against midrange decks with cards like Desecration Demon or Polukranos, World Eater because those decks didn’t want to lose their big creature by blocking, and Ajani, Caller of the Pride gave me clutch evasion just when I needed it. In the sideboard, I went up to 3 Pithing Needles because it’s great against both Esper control, GR decks using Domri Rade and other walkers, as well as devotion decks that rely heavily on Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. I also added in Scavenging Ooze to handle Whip of Erebos strategies.
So how’d I handle the metagame with this deck? I’ll break down the interactions, sideboarding, and strategies I used to go undefeated this last weekend.
- Game 1, UW Aggro (won 2-0): This player was just getting back into Magic after a long time and was using a preconstructed deck I believe. I was able to hit him hard with Fencing Ace + Unflinching Courage and between all the life gain and trample I was doing to him, he didn’t stand a chance. I kept putting on Ethereal Armors and it was tough for my opponent to race me at that point.
- Game 2, Naya Domri (won 2-0): This was basically a pre-rotation Naya deck using Angel of Thune and Kalonian Hydra. I kept a risky hand with a Soldier of Pantheon and 3 Ethereal Armors in game one, and it ended up being all I needed. I eventually drew a Fleecemane Lion, put a Unflinching Courage on it, then finished the first game with a Boon Satyr bestow. In game 2, I faced two early Kalonian Hydras, but luckily I drew 2 Selesnya Charms and took care of them on turn 5. My opponent dropped a Voice of Resurgence and Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, but I was able to keep pressure on him with a Fleecmane and Courage. He had to choose between lethal or blocking with both his creatures. I ended up sealing the game the next turn with a Pacifism when he tapped out for a Arbor Colossus.
- Game 3, RBW midrange (won 2-0): Double Soldier of the Pantheon and Fiendslayer Paladins let me get around my opponent’s removal such as Dreadbore in game 1 for the win, and in game 2 he mulliganed to 5 and couldn’t get anything on the board to stop my assault.
- Game 4, Colossal Gruul (won 2-1): My opponent “surrendered” in game one, turn 4 when I removed his Polukranos with my Selesnya Charm then put Ethereal Armors on my 2 Fencing Aces. Garruk, Caller of Beasts and Domri Rade gave my opponent too much advantage in game 2 which led to my only loss of the day, but in game 3 I nullified his advantage with Pithing Needles. This made him rely heavily on top decking the card he needed, and I was able to systematically take out his threats before ending the game with a Monstrous Fleecemane Lion bestowed with 2 Boon Satyrs.
- Game 5, Esper Control (won 2-0): I played a very balanced game in the first game, putting in two creatures early and attacking to get him to use a Supreme Verdict, dropping Voice of Resurgence afterwards to protect myself from spells on my turn, and then I continued to put pressure on him each turn, flashing in Boon Satyrs and Selesnya Charm tokens when he was tapped out or after a board wipe. In game 2, I had 3 Boon Satyrs in my hand by turn 3 and kept on dropping one at the end of each turn to put the pressure on him. The game went long, but I eventually dropped a Fleecemane Lion and turned it into a monstrosity, then pumped it up with 2 Unflinching Courages and an Ethereal Armor. Not even a pumped up Aetherling could stop the damage from getting through. Glare of Heresy was also clutch, removing a Detention Sphere from my Voice to give me more power later on.
Having beaten a UWR control, Esper control, Naya midrange, and a few Mono black Devotion decks the past weekend at Theros Game Day really helped me to hone my game against a wide variety of decks, and all the cards seemed to fall in the right spots this last weekend for this perfect result. Keeping fast hands and having both white and green mana are very important with this deck. In the games I have lost, I kept bad mana, mulliganed to 5, or played slowly. I tried to keep the curve low (2.18 average), and it’s really helped me to play fast and to have a balanced attack. Fleecemane Lion and Voice of Resurgence have been absolute beatings against my opponents, and Selesnya Charm has been key in almost all of my wins with this deck. I’ve also been very satisfied with Pacifism in the sideboard against aggro decks such as Colossal Gruul, and Pithing Needle has actually won me a few games by stopping Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Domri Rade in their tracks.
I recommend this deck in the current metagame because it definitely throws players for a loop. They think it’s GW aggro, but it has the speed of GW weenies and evasion not unlike Bant Auras from the previous block thanks to the deck’s hodge podge of protection and abilities. I realize that the cost might put off some players though. Thanks to Voice of Resurgence, Fiendslayer Paladin, and Temple Garden, the deck averages out to about $326 if you’re building it from scratch. Usually the Voices alone will price this out of many people’s pockets. It’s possible to play this deck with Gladecover Scouts instead of Voice (though you lose resiliency against control), and maybe cutting the Scavenging Oozes from the side, but I don’t know if I would recommend it. If you’re looking for a budget version of this deck, then look no further. For a 3rd of the price, I built a second deck that uses similar strategies and has a comparable power level. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my re-designed blue ranger deck, Azoriusauras!
|Azoriusauras! – (The Blue Ranger)|
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Azorius Guildgate
|3 Brave the Elements
1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
4 Detention Sphere
4 Aqueous Form
4 Ethereal Armor
1 Spear of Heliod
17 other spells
15 sideboard cards
The deck comes in at a paltry $115 if made from scratch, and has a whole new batch of combat tricks you can play with. Judge’s Familiar gives you early evasion and helps buy you an extra turn against control, Precinct Captain supplies you with a steady stream of Soldier tokens when paired up with Aqueous Form (plus scrying!), Lyev Skyknight will shut down a planeswalker or monstrous ability for one turn while you attack into untouched, and Daxos of Meletis has built in evasion from creatures bigger than 3. A simple Ethereal Armor on him will hurt your opponent, gain you life when he hits, and let you get card advantage later in the game if you have the mana to play those cards. Azorious colors also give you access to the extremely powerful Detention Sphere (which also adds to Ethereal Armor’s bonus), and Brave the Elements allows you to protect your creatures or alpha strike for a win. I originally had the Azorius Charms in the main deck, but I felt like protection was a lot more important than life gain or drawing an extra card in the first game.
In the sideboard you would play Azorius Charms (life gain) and Pacifism against other aggro decks, Swan Song works well against control and Gods, and Rapid Hybridization will destroys cards like Blood Baron of Vizkopa that you won’t be able to deal with otherwise. This list hasn’t been as extensively tested in the metagame as the GW version, but I think it will surprise you if you play a few matches with it. The list will probably change a little more as I play with it more, but if you find a better mix I’d love to hear it.
Well, there you have it. Two Aura decks, one pricey and one budget, and dozens of ways to beat your opponent. Try them out and I’m sure you’ll have fun finding out all the deck’s other little interactions and I also think cards you didn’t think were that great before will surprise you! (If you end up playing the blue/white one, I’d be interested to hear how it does in your meta! Let me know what you think and what changes you’d make.) As always, comments are welcomed and encouraged. Thanks for reading.