I woke up on Monday, freshly rested, and ready to play in the first PTQ of Pioneer week. 6am is really early for me, and I can’t say I was super excited to be awake so early. However, I was excited to PTQ, and happy that I could wake up, adjust to the time and register my deck. I gave it a once over, with the changes I made to it on Sunday, was satisfied and waited for the clock to start on round one.
I made a huge mistake though.
I registered the wrong deck for the event, and it didn’t dawn on me until I started to sideboard in the first match. When I sit down to test for an event, I name the deck something something PTQ. In this case, I named the first version of the deck Gruul Aggro PTQ. I don’t delete decks while I am testing because I want to see version changes and visually is the easiest way for me to do that. While I test, and make changes, I just open new copies and make the changes. So the deck that I wanted to play was named Gruul Aggro 2.
I registered Gruul Aggro 1.
I was looking for Bonecrusher Giant and bemoaning the fact that I didn’t draw them in the first game. I looked at the board, saw that they were not listed and glanced again to see the Lovestruck Beasts that I had taken out. Bonecrusher Giant, well, the Stomp side of it is good removal and pretty good against Fog, which I noticed I had a less then stellar game against. That’s why I made the change. I wanted something else besides a Ferocious Wild Slash that could stop damage from being prevented. With Questing Beast helping out there having access to Stomp I felt would help me against not only the aggro decks of the format, but also the Nexus of Fate decks.
I played against Nexus Fog twice, going 1-1. The matchup I won I came out of the gates fast twice, and they didn’t have the Fog. I just got lucky. The matchup I lost however, the Stomp would have gotten me the match. Monday’s PTQ was a lost cause as I started off 0-2, and was a little flustered with myself. I decided that I would play as many rounds as I could, and take it as a learning experience.
I went 3-5, which is just the worst kind of record, recordings losses to Bogles, Ensoul Artifact, Nexus, Black Green Field, and Mono Red Aggro. I beat Nexus, Mono Black Aggro, and Mono Green Ramp.
This is what I played Monday.
A quick overview of the deck.
8 Elves: With a full playset each of Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic hitting a three drop on turn two is super simple to do. These cards allow you to keep your foot on the gas peddle if you’re on the play, or if you’re on the draw, they help you steal the initiative from your opponent, allowing you to ramp to three on your second turn, taking a little bit of tempo away from them. One of the issues with Pioneer is that if you’re on the draw, it feels like a long hard climb to get back on even footing. These help you do that. On the other hand sometimes they get you to six mana on turn three with nothing to spend it on, so you’re just attacking with 1/1s. That is not ideal. I can see the point in removing two to go to six, but really I don’t think that’s correct. I am sure that you want all 8.
8 Three casting cost Goblins: Goblin Rabblemaster is clearly the better of the two, getting on bonus when it attacks for each goblin in play. Making one with haste each attack step helps you go wide, but also gives you an incredible threat to battle with each turn. Legion Warboss is a fine goblin, doing the same, adding a new attacker each turn, but trading the attack bonus to spread out the love a bit with Mentor. If I have the choice between the two, I lead with Rabblemaster on turn two, because it can be a powerful hit if left unanswered. However, I can see matchups that exist where Warboss would be the correct play, because you want an army of 2/2s to match up against Field of the Dead tokens if games go long. I may also be looking at this incorrectly, and have placed the higher early game value on the wrong goblin.
Smuggler’s Copter: Looter Scooter is not long for the Pioneer format I feel. The card has been jammed in to nearly every aggro deck in the format, and it feels like a very strong ban candidate. Being able to trade lands in for a fresh draw during the attack is solid, keeps up the pressure. Having this in the deck is also a way to use those goblin tokens that must attack every turn. If you don’t want them to attack, say because your opponent has a lifelink creature, you can crew the Copter with them and they suddenly can’t attack anymore!
Lovestruck Beast: I see the appeal to this card, it’s a huge body to throw down on turn two when you do not have a goblin to play. However, it’s easily chumped, does not play well with Domri, Anarch of Bolas and has the drawback of not being able to attack whenever you control no 1/1s. It blocks extremely well, but I don’t want to be blocking with this decks. I think the card is fine, I just want more versatility from the main deck, and I am wary of cutting it because of how well it plays with Embercleave. However, I ain’t never scared, and I think Bonecrusher will play better in the deck.
Questing Beast: Great card, gets through Field of the Dead tokens with ease, takes out opposing Planeswalkers, and makes damage unpreventable. Easy to cast, can come out on turn 3 and smack the face for four.
Domri, Anarch of Bolas: The plus ability is a nice bit of ramping, but more important against countermagic. The fight ability is super nice, where this card shines though especially in this deck, is the static ability. Giving your creatures +1/+0 changes the dynamics of the race and puts you in games that you might now have been in. However, I am not sure if this Domri is the best three drop walker for the deck. Domri Rade exists, has a fight ability and has an incredible ultimate if you get there. Where Rade shines is the plus ability, allowing you get an extra draw if the top card is creature card. I wish I knew the answer to this. I really do.
Once Upon a Time: Sam Black said if you weren’t trying to do broken things in the early days of the format you weren’t trying to win. Well, he said something close to that, I’m just far to lazy to look up the tweet. Once Upon a Time, banned in Standard, is another card that I am sure is going to be banned in this deck. If it weren’t free, it would be a fair card, but being able to find a land for your three drop, or an elf to play on turn one, or just a follow up play before you play the turn one elf is such a great thing for free.
Collision/Colossus: One side deals six damage to a flying creature, which comes up a ton thanks to Smuggler’s Copter, but it also deals with stuff like Spell Queller or Rankle, Master of Pranks. The other side of the card gives an attacker +4/+2 and trample, which is just wonderful with a large Rabblemaster. I see people playing with Ghor-Clan Rampager, which honestly, the card is fine, you get an attack bonus or a hard to deal with body out of the deal. However after being pummeled by flyers all day, I think I am gonna stick with the split card.
Embercleave: Instant speed equipment that is cheaper based on the attackers and gives a ton of abilities to is great. Double Strike and Trample is amazing. Plays very well with Colossus.
Wild Slash: When you have to kill cheap things in the format, you turn to Wild Slash. It’s slightly better than Shock thanks to the Ferocious text, but it’s just so meh to actually play. I want Abrade in the main deck. With Stomp and Questing Beast, having seven damage prevention cards is where I want to be.
Lands: There are 21 lands here, and no room for Rootbound Crag. Very rarely does the first land you play come in to play tapped, and Rootbound Crag will do that, which sets us back a turn in terms of development. I think I want a 22nd land, but if I do that, I will be cutting a mana elf. With the possible increase of casting cost in the deck, a 22nd land over the 8th elf seems a bit more stable.
Sideboard: There was so much that this sideboard failed to do for me Monday. I’m not going to address each card, but the numbers are off, one-ofs for Lava Coil, Heroic Intervention and Setessan Tactics are clearly wrong. Not having a way to deal with enchantments in the board lead to Ensoul Artifact eating my lunch and getting my face kicked in by Bogles. There is no non-basic land hate, so the plan against Field of the Dead was to cross my fingers and hope for the best. I liked having Pithing Needle, but it didn’t really do a ton for me, but Glorybringer, Aethersphere Harvester and Fry did do some work. I’ve really got to rework the sideboard to address more stuff.
Tuesday is another PTQ, and I will be running a reworked version of this back, hopefully able to apply what I learned today to the next one. I’ll have a write up of that one as well!
Eventually I will get to the mill deck again, Pioneer week just seemed more fun!
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