As soon as Dragon’s Maze came out, I started brewing in preparation for the Star City Games Open in Somerset, New Jersey. It didn’t hurt that the event was right in my hometown — and on my birthday. My favorite card in the set, by far, was Ral Zarek, who can kill most creatures in the format, give a creature pseudo-vigilance, and his average ultimate gives you two extra turns. And having two extra turns in a deck with Kessig Wolf Run can easily mean a quick win.
The shell wasn’t easy to put together, however, and I went through many different lists before eventually creating this masterpiece. (Masterpiece may or may not be an exaggeration):
RUG by Rudy Briksza, SCG Open Somerset
This deck was very powerful in testing against a lot of expected midrange decks. The control matchup depended on how well I sequenced my spells, so I spent a lot of time considering my options there. I did feel that Huntmaster of the Fells, Thragtusk, and the planeswalkers gave me an edge.
Aggro decks, however, felt like a die roll matchup. I could Farseek into Huntmaster of the Fells or Ral Zarek and then into Thragtusk, or they could kill me as I cast the Huntmaster just as easily. At first I felt the need to jam my deck full of more removal spells, but as I kept adding them, I kept losing the focus of the deck. I was making my aggro matchup better, but I kept giving up games to the midrange and control decks.
Putting It Together
This deck is mostly self-explanatory, so I’m just going to go over some of the card choices. Ral Zarek is very awesome in most matchups except midrange decks, when you really want to be casting as many threats as possible to overwhelm your opponent, or just to keep up. I thought there would be a plethora of midrange decks at the Open, so I didn’t want to overload on Ral Zarek, settling on two copies.
Ral Zarek provides a lot of play options and allows you to keep aggro decks in check. He destroys a creature, forcing your opponent to kill Ral rather than deal damage to you. If they don’t deal with him, you untap into more creatures while allowing Ral to keep Lightning Bolt-ing their team. Control decks are cutting down on Detention Sphere or Oblivion Ring-type effects and moving closer to Planar Cleansing and Far // Away as their weapons. Consequently, Ral can realistically go ultimate and allow you to win the game on the back of several turns.
Yeva, Nature’s Herald has proven to be a house in green control decks. At worst, it’s a 4/4 body with flash. This allows you to block the aggressive decks while providing a clock against the control decks. I found sometimes I wanted a second one, but it was strictly against the control decks, so it should be in the sideboard. You’re not always trying to leave mana open, especially if you don’t have a threat. This deck has a wide diversity of threats, and if you don’t have a threat on the table, then you generally need one before Yeva.
I played a Progenitor Mimic in the sideboard, and it turned out to be good enough that I’m going to play one in the maindeck moving forward. In my second-round match against Jeff Thomas, who was playing Junk Rites, I would not have won if Progenitor Mimic was anything else. He had a Lotleth Troll with two counters on it against my board of Acidic Slime; luckily, I drew the Mimic and it was on to Slime-town on his lands. Having blockers for his Troll didn’t hurt either, but I had a Kessig Wolf Run so his 28 life soon dropped to zero. In Game 3, I curved a Thragtusk into Progenitor Mimic and had too many Thrag tokens and life for him to handle.
The only decks I lost to were Naya Blitz twice and once to Bant Flash. Blitz is a die-roll matchup, and I happened to lose the roll twice. In Round 6, sequencing my lands correctly would have allowed me to cast a Snapcaster Mage to block and save me some damage; but since I didn’t do that, I lost a pivotal third game.
I lost to Matt Costa playing Bant Flash on camera mostly because I played poorly in Game 1, and because I mulliganed to five in Game 3. In the first game, I was too busy trying to play around everything instead of just playing the deck the way it should be played. I tried to play around his deck and lost, because his deck plays that game much better. I saw a Dissipate off an Augur of Bolas and convinced myself that I couldn’t actually beat it. However, had I just played spells and forced Dissipate out of his hand, there is a good chance I would have resolved other spells and been able to win the game. The only good thing I did in Game 1 was play my Stomping Ground untapped on Turn 2. It forced Matt to play around Syncopate, which was not in my deck, for the rest of the match.
I just tried to force through damage in Game 2, deciding that if I kept the pressure on, his deck simply wouldn’t be able to keep up. As I kept attacking, I forced Matt to create blockers with an Advent of the Wurm token; even if he blocked, I was able to use Kessig Wolf Run to make the block in my favor. If he kept blocking, my other option was to cast Acidic Slime, Thragtusk, or my planeswalkers; he wouldn’t be able to counter them or put himself into a position to regain an advantage. I was used my Acidic Slimes to keep him off his white sources, so that he couldn’t cast either Advent of the Wurm or Restoration Angel. Once at a lower life total, he couldn’t play Temple Garden or Hallowed Fountain untapped, because my deck had Searing Spear, Ral Zarek, and Kessig Wolf Run.
Where do I want to go with the deck from here? I think I need to be more prepared for Naya Blitz, as well as Jund and G/R Aggro decks. And the original way I built the deck made it a bad mix between a flash deck and a control deck. I decided to take it in a control direction, and here’s what I’m considering now:
As good as Ral Zarek is, you may wonder why I’m not playing more copies. The answer lies in the format — with so many midrange decks, I really need to be casting answers as opposed to casting Ral. When the format moves away from midrange decks, he will be much better in this style of deck. I also cut the Wolfir Avengers for more removal, because they are very underwhelming against midrange decks. Turn // Burn is an incredible card, but having three in the maindeck proved to be too many; it can just sit in your hand while you need to be casting threats.
I’ll definitely be playing this deck in the coming weeks. It feels very powerful in a vacuum and is mostly off the radar. If you have any questions, please leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter (@itssobza). I also started a podcast with some friends about grinders called “Glory Seekers” — please check it out on MTGCast.com, and let us know what you think.
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