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Dreck Tech: Prophecies Unfulfilled (A Cautionary Tale)

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Welcome back to Dreck Tech! If you missed last weeks article,  I went over the philosophy of this article series, and you should definitely check that out before continuing. These decks are not for the faint of heart.

Fun fact: I own 48 copies of Dark Prophecy. 37 (in a row) nonfoil and 11 foil.

The first thing one might ask is, “WHY?”

The answer, quite simply, is that I thought they’d be worth more now than I paid for them in September 2013. Boy, was I wrong.

Here’s the thing: back in July 2012 I moved from a small city with 2 shops within reasonable mass transit distance to a large city with none. I was in need of cash and I didn’t foresee myself making it to a shop regularly to play, so I sold my entire collection, save for about 10 cards. (Fast forward about 9 months later to when my current LGS opened its doors, and I’m kicking myself hardcore for that decision.)

Regardless, once Common Ground Games opened in Dallas, I had plenty of opportunities to draft and play sealed with no collection of my own. I wasn’t always the most serious constructed player anyway, playing Mono Red in every conceivable format besides Commander, which I am now wholeheartedly opposed to playing (again, an article all on its own). Still, considering it was April, and I had enough time to piece together a playable Standard deck in time for rotation, I figured I’d make some effort to do so. The problem was, I was about to get married in November and my cardboard budget was basically $0. (as a perfect example of how the grind of competitive Magic can skew one’s thinking, I present the following abridged conversation between my wife and I from October 2013:

Me: I think we’re going to head to Albuquerque for the Grand Prix at the end of November.

My Wife: So we don’t have enough money for a honeymoon, but you’re going to New Mexico 2 weeks after our wedding to play Magic?

Me: …

Needless to say, I didn’t take that trip. I don’t what the hell I was thinking, really. The pursuit of greatness is sometimes blinding.)

Trading was only minimally possible due to my limited card pool. Therefore, as the mechanics of Theros were spoiled, I began speculating on cards that seemed to interact with the new set. I only went for cards that were $1 or less due to my limited budget and the low risk involved. That way I’d have a playset for myself, and a couple to trade at a (hopefully) higher price if they proved useful in the format.

For reference, here are the cards I picked up September 1st, 2013:

31x Dark Prophecy
12x Underworld Connections
8x Nightveil Specter
8x Signal the Clans
12x Ajani’s Chosen
8x Renounce the Guilds
12x Rubblebelt Raiders

Obviously, I hit on a few of those. I got the Nightveils for $1 each and the Connections for $.50 each. The rest were a bust, unfortunately, but I was definitely on to SOMETHING. I appeared on the Spike Feed podcast around this time and predicted, correctly, that Gray Merchant of Asphodel was going to be a serious contender in Theros Standard. Unfortunately, I went in too deep on the wrong Black Devotion enabler. Nightveil and Connections both hit, and I’m glad I picked up extras before they did, but Dark Prophecy was not the droids we are looking for.

So, why Dark Prophecy? Why would I go so deep on this card when the other 2 had already seen a decent amount of Block and Standard play? There were a few reasons which, hilariously enough, closely echo the sarcastic reasons Patrick Chapin gave on our podcast why this card is so good. For one, it is a much more durable Black Devotion enabler than Nightveil Specter. If you are looking to finish a game with Gray Merchant, You want to have a high Devotion number when you cast him. Lightning Strike is a card I expected to see a lot more at the start of Theros Standard, and I didn’t realize just how little other removal actually could hit Nightveil.

Another reason I favored Dark Prophecy is I thought that Bubbling Cauldron and Festering Newt would be a serviceable combo in Standard. The interaction between the 2 cards is pretty powerful.  Adding Dark Prophecy to the mix allows you to replace the Newt you just sacrificed. This combo really would be a great fit in an Aggro Standard format, but we all know that Standard wound up going WAY bigger than X/1s, and even the Red Deck in the format runs 2/2s that Newt can’t profitably interact with. The 4 life is still relevant vs. them though, except you need a lot of creatures to make the card worth a slot in the deck.
Probably a good idea to show both cards here so the readers have any clue what either does. 

Neither of these reasons are too far off base. Historically, new Standard formats tend to trend towards Aggro decks, as Control doesn’t yet have a format to solve, and with the right mix of removal can overwhelm the Midrange decks. So the presence of Lightning Strike wasn’t a far-fetched call, and Newt seemed to be a decent answer for the expected Aggro meta. The meta as a whole just didn’t shape out the way I expected, even if I got one of the decks right.

I’ve attempted 2 versions of DarkDevotion.dec over this Standard season. The first was on Theros Game Day, a full month before Owen Turtenwald took the archetype to victory in Albuquerque. I took the list all the way to the finals, losing to a WBR control deck. (admittedly not the best representation of the Standard meta.)

Here’s the list as I can best remember it:

This deck was capable of some extremely high Devotion counts, and had the awesome win more combo of Abhorrent Overlord tokens and Dark Prophecy. The Newt/Cauldron combo was sided out in literally every matchup, however. Liliana was great for being able to fetch up a Blood Crypt to fuel a giant Rakdos’s Return. The most glaring omission is Underworld Connections. I felt like it was too slow and wanted the card draw to come at the expense of my opponent’s removal, or from my own Cauldron activation.

Obviously, once Owen’s list hit the scene, I quickly adopted it, and reluctantly relegated Dark Prophecy to my trade binder. My creature base was pretty close to his in my initial attempt (1 Pack Rat because that’s all I owned at the time. Would have been more if I had them) but his deck streamlined the archetype and didn’t try to do anything cute. Dark Prophecy or no, I wanted to kill people with Gray Merchant, and there’s no questioning a master like Owen. Eventually, though, as it always is with me and Standard, I grew bored with it and wanted to try something new.

For me, Game Day has always been an opportunity to try out my crazier ideas. Considering all the trolling I had endured from my friends about my love of Dark Prophecy, I wanted to give the card another shot, and hopefully take some of them out in the process at the Journey into Nyx Game Day. Sadly, this also meant giving Festering Newt another shot as well.

This deck, in my opinion, makes far better use of Dark Prophecy. Not only are there tons of small creatures that will kill your opponent if not swiftly dealt with, once they ARE dealt with, Immortal Servitude allows for a total blowout. Again, every single game, the Cauldron/Newt combo was boarded out. This combo is terrible and has no use in any deck. I do still enjoy Cauldron as a sac outlet for Prophecy as a way to take yourself out of lethal burn range, but Newt is pretty useless unless you also want to run Bogbrew Witch. (I like me some rogue brews, but if you’re sleeving up Bogbrew Witch I feel sorry for you. Everyone has to draw the line somewhere.) 4 Dark Prophecy is way too many, but I was just being stubborn and forcing my point. The card I missed the most from my previous Mono Black builds was Gray Merchant. So many times I could have cast one for lethal damage but didn’t have one in my deck to cast.

With all that said, I really enjoy many of the interactions in this deck, and will probably give it one more shot before rotation. IF I don’t play RB Minotaurs at M15 Game Day (using Oracle of Bones + Worst Fears/In Garruk’s Wake/Toil // Trouble because I’m insane) I’ll probably play this list:

This is a pretty sweet combination of the 2 concepts. You play creatures your first couple turns, stick a Dark Prophecy, and as your opponent starts dealing with your threats you get to replace them. Brain Maggot and Thoughtseize help steal any blowout answers to your plans. Eventually you overwhelm your opponent with your board presence, or you stick a lethal Gray Merchant. I wish there was room for a second Immortal Servitude, and probably a few more removal spells, but that’s the problem with brewing up these sort of decks, isn’t it? There’s never enough room for all of the silly cards to also include real cards. Did I just call Immortal Servitude “real cards?”

I hope you enjoyed this week’s article! In 2 weeks I’m going to explore infinite mana in Standard. I gave it a spin last weekend at FNM and spun out badly, but it’s close.

Yo! MTG Taps!

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