I was all set on playing U/W control at the TCGPlayer 5k in Orlando this past Saturday. I spent almost the entire week prior on MTGO grinding 8 mans with it and winning almost every single one. However during that week I heard rumblings – rumblings of Alexander Hayne winning his WMCQ with an Elf Rally deck.
I tried my best impressions but couldn’t find a list I really had great success with. I scoured the interwebs for his list only to come up empty. I decided that Mr. Hayne and I have had enough interactions in the past that it wouldn’t be that unreasonable to ask him for the list. He of course was at Worlds already and never got around to responding to my inquiry. That is until my 6:00am alarm goes off Saturday morning and I received the following decklist sometime during the night.
I am eternally grateful for getting the list, however, it put me in an awkward position. I had a bold decision to make and even though I really liked my U/W control list I disliked how long it took to win games. I didn’t want to put myself in that position if I could help it.
Fast forward and I’m 5-0 in the 8 round event and proceed to get some unfortunate pairings. A Temur Dragons deck with Stubborn Denial was a bit too much to overcome as he got wind of what I was playing and never tapped out. Then the next round a top decked burn spell while my opponent was facing an unknown lethal Rally the Ancestors the following turn was quite the blow. I finished the event 6-2 and went home to continue my testing online.
After winning 11 of 12 straight 8 mans I can confirm this is in fact the best deck in Standard and Alexander Hayne is indeed a genius. Being a Rally deck that isn’t dedicated to being a Rally deck really gives it a huge edge over the traditional versions. Let’s go over what exactly is going on here because this deck attacks on a very different axis.
Let me start by saying this deck is first and foremost an aggressive Abzan deck. A reasonable amount of time you will win your games by simply playing a bunch of elves quickly and casting a Shaman of the Pack and playing Chord for a Shaman of the Pack. Then there are also draws where you just curve in to a Siege Rhino backed by a removal spell or two. These are the draws that really punish your opponent. Not because you have an aggressive draw and pummel your opponent in to the ground – Rather because they have a false sense of information. They see an aggressive deck and board for it. This plays heavily in to your favor. Let me explain.
Round 5 I played against a Hangarback Abzan deck. After killing my opponent with a multiple Shaman of the Pack draw he boarded for what he saw. Taking out his Anafenza, the Foremost and boarding in Languish. Then in game 2 I played a couple of Satyr Wayfinders and ended up casting a Rally the Ancestors and making him lose 52 life on turn six. My opponent simply had no idea what was going on until it was too late. Ironically the decks that pack Anafenza, the Foremost which in theory is the most powerful card against Rally the Ancestors are actually favorable matchups. Since the only game they have against you is Anafenza and they don’t play hand disruption, all you need is a well-timed removal spell and they can’t really slow you down.
This is also a very intricate deck to play. You have a lot of difficult decisions to make as early as turn two that can influence the rest of the game. Do you play your Elvish Visionary on turn two, or do you play your Satyr Wayfinder? Do you Chord for Siege Rhino or Shaman of the Pack? Am I even supposed to Chord here? Do I fetch for a Plains with Windswept Heath or a Forest? A lot of these decisions ultimately determine if you win or not and are often not very clear cut. My recommendation is spending some time familiarizing yourself with the deck. This is not something you can just pick up and expect to win.
Here are some tips and tricks with the deck for those I’ve sold on the deck that may help the learning curve a bit. Always lead with Elvish Visionary if you have the choice between that and Satyr Wayfinder unless you need to hit a land. Visionary allows you to turn on your Dwynen’s Elite and gives the illusion you are a dedicated Elf deck. There are games where you simply won’t want to cast your Wayfinder for the sake of concealing information. Granted I don’t recommend this strategy on turn two for example, but if it’s much later in the game and you’re in a winning position it’s often best to conceal that information.
Chord of Calling is most often used one of three ways. The first and most powerful way is after you use Rally the Ancestors. With all of your creatures entering the battlefield, you will often have enough to then Chord of Calling for Shaman of the Pack and that is often enough to beat your opponent on the spot. Another option is to Chord for Sidisi, Undead Vizier to then find either a Rally the Ancestors or maybe a Siege Rhino depending on the situation. You can also do this in response to a removal spell for additional value sometimes. Finally you can Chord to either fill up your graveyard with a Satyr Wayfinder or Siege Rhino for some life gain. Of these three choices I most often find myself using Chord in conjunction with Rally after all my creatures enter the battlefield and trigger. You can gain extra damage by responding to the triggers on some of your creatures. For example if a Rally returns Shaman of the Pack, Dwynen’s Elite, Elvish Visionary and two Satyr Wayfinder. The best play would be to stack your abilities so the Elite resolves first, then Chord for Shaman of the Pack so that when your original Shaman of the Pack trigger finally happens your opponent will lose an extra life for having an additional elf in play. It’s best to do it in this order in case your Satyr Wayfinders happen to mill the remaining Shaman of the Packs from your deck then you would no longer have this option.
Rally the Ancestors can often be used as a very effective defensive tool as well. A perfect example I have is against a RG Devotion deck where oftentimes they will ramp out a Dragonlord Atarka and clear your board. They then immediately send the team that often consists of Courser of Kruphix, Whisperwood Elemental and all of the morphs. These are perfect opportunities to Rally for value as not only do you achieve all of your enter the battlefield effects again but are able to trade in combat, which allow your creatures to go back to the graveyard rather than exile for further Rally plays.
That’s all I got for today. With the weeks winding down on this Standard format these last few weeks will be the last chance to enjoy decks like this. If you’re on the PPTQ grind I highly recommend giving this deck a try. You won’t be disappointed you did.
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