This was the message I inevitably got every time I booked and rebooked flights from Chicago to Dallas. My final effort to attend Grand Prix Dallas was a $900 one-way ticket leaving at 7am Saturday and arriving around 9:30am. I had no plan for getting to the site from the airport or even for returning to Chicago, but I had a great deck for the weekend and felt confident, so I was willing to pay a small fortune and figure things out as I went along. Alas, at 1:30am American Airlines sent me that same dreaded message I'd received all day: “Your flight has been cancelled”. I quickly looked for a flight that would still get me there on time and nothing was remotely feasible.
Looking back, I took a risk by not rescheduling for an earlier flight after hearing about the forecasted storm, and ultimately this resulted in missing a Grand Prix I really wanted to compete in. In an effort to get this sour taste out of my mouth that would otherwise linger for a whole month (since there are no pro level events for a month), I last minute booked a flight to Vegas for the SCG Invitational this weekend. By the time you're reading this, I've likely already begun playing round 1.
End travel disaster interlude
Today I would like to share with you the Selesnya deck I was going to play in Dallas, how to play and sideboard in the most common matchups, and what changes I would consider for this weekend.
I expected Monoblue Devotion to be the most played deck in Dallas, and it was. This version of the deck is geared to deal with the blue deck. We have hard to handle threats and answers to all their biggest threats. In testing I was crushing it.
While we are favored in game one, we are heavily favored in games two and three. Cyclonic Rift is usually their only way to beat us as long as we have a halfway decent draw. Second turn Skylasher followed by a third turn Unflinching Courage is probably my favorite line against them. Their only out to that is to Cyclonic Rift the Unflinching Courage mid-combat, Rapid Hybridization their own guy, and then block with the 3/3 green frog lizard. I considered leaving in Voice of Resurgence to lessen the effectiveness of these kinds of tricks, but the 2/2 body matches up so poorly against most of their cards that it's just not worth it. All of our other cards are excellent against blue and Voice is only decent (which sounds odd since the card was designed to be good against blue – specifically against Counterspells).
Save Scavenging Ooze until as late as possible. They'll have to exhaust their removal spells on whatever we play, so leaving Ooze until the end means we can make it a huge monster. The downside to this strategy is that it gives them time to exile it with Lifebane Zombie, so if the rest of the cards in your hand are spells, might as well play it in order to blank the zombie's triggered ability. If you're holding Boon Satyr or Mistcutter Hydra though, it's usually best to play the Ooze last.
This matchup is a little better than 50/50 pro-board, and remains about that post-board because both decks improve. The first game Banisher Priest is a good answer to Desecration Demon or to Pack Rat since they have less removal spells, but after board the Priest is a lot less resilient against all their removal and also tends to get exiled a lot by Lifebane Zombie since that is the first creature they generally play. It's just much better in game one, if for nothing else but to buy a turn to attack and then draw a removal spell away from our other threats.
Post board our plan is to overwhelm them with an unending stream of threats, many of which are resilient to their removal spells (pro blue, regenerate, voice, flash, bestow, etc). From the perspective of the control deck, it's just too hard to leave all the windows closed. They need specific removal spells at specific times to deal with our creatures, and it's usually too difficult for them to accomplish. Post-board they get Fiendslayer Paladin which is pretty strong against us, but we still have plenty of ways to fight through it. A card worth considering is Glare of Heresy in the sideboard. It's good at dealing with Detention Sphere, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and sideboarded Paladins. It is also stellar against the White Weenie decks (Orzhov and Boros).
Speaking of these heavy green cards, Boon Satyr is exceptionally good against all the control decks. It pressures Jace and plays around Supreme Verdict. It's the exact opposite of Banisher Priest, which is great against White Weenie and Monoblue Devotion but pretty terrible against the control decks.
Witchstalker is very similar to Boon Satyr in that it's great against control and not so good against aggro. It is a bit less pronounced though. It's a little better against aggro and a little worse against control. So it's more of a hedge than Boon Satyr.
Polukranos, World Eater is a card I thought might be great. It answers Master of Waves and Lifebane Zombie while being big enough to attack past Blood Baron of Vizkopa. In testing, however, it was too slow and not worth the cost of sitting in our hands uncastable in the early turns or if we're choked on mana. It is not nearly as good in this deck as Advent of the Wurm, though I'm still considering it as the last one-of slot if we decide to run four of every other card in the 75 and 23 total lands.
Time to Feed is conditional in a different way. It kills the creature but at the expense of losing our own unless we have a large creature o the battlefield. This is a strong answer to Master of Waves and a reasonable answer to Lifebane Zombie and even Blood Baron of Vizkopa (or Stormbreath Dragon for that matter). Like most removal spells, it's pretty horrible in the control matchups. It's one of the least reliable removal spells against the aggro decks, but also one of the few ways to deal with specific threats such as Master of Waves.
Card-by-Card Breakdown against the Field
In order to determine which cards should be in our 75 and which cards in our 60, let's consider a list of all the cards in the above list (from part one) or under consideration (from part two) and evaluate how good each card is in the four most common matchups. On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being best) against: Black Control, UW/Esper Control, Blue Devotion, and White Weenie (W/R, W/B).
Based on the above chart, I decided Banisher Priest and Boon Satyr were each worth running main deck, even at the expense of having to play four guildgates. This may be wrong, but at least it gives us the highest power level of cards. I came up with the following 75 and sideboard plan:
The two hardest parts about this method for deck tuning are: (1) intuitively evaluating each card's merit in each matchup on a 1-5 scale, and (2) figuring out which main deck and sideboard configuration yields the maximum total points for each matchup. For the first one I feel I did a fairly good job after having done lots of testing in each matchup these past two weeks, and even if I missed a few points for the second part, I'm at least close to optimal because each matchup looks very good post-board and reasonable to good main.
This has been an interesting experiment. I have no way to know how things would have gone with the first list in Dallas, but I'm excited to see how they go in Vegas with the second one.
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