Flores Rewards Friday - Further Shenangans

Feature Article from Michael Flores
Michael Flores
6/5/2015 11:00:00 AM
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So on Make the Play Monday we came to a conclusion that you probably came to by yourself the first time you saw the Dragon Megamorph deck...it's super cool!

But you know what else it is?

The Rock.

As in “The Rock and His Millions.”

GB Dragon Megamorph is simply the most recent iteration of The Rock in a long line of decks that began with Jelger Wiegersma and most famously Sol Malka back when Phyrexian Plaguelord was a Standard-legal - nay, Block Constructed-legal- staple of green decks.

“The Rock” is most typically a black/green midrange deck combining the creature quality (and sometimes mana acceleration) of green with the efficient spot removal and disruption of black. Dragon Megamorph is a deck that has all that going on and adds the over-the-top power of the Dragons of Tarkir Dragonlords to one of the most historically storied baseline strategies in the history of the game (there's even a whole chapter on this in Next Level Deckbuilding).

To wit:

5C GB Dragon Midrange by Yuuya Watanabe
Finished 9th - 16th Place at 2015 Grand Prix Shanghai - 5/16
Main Deck
Sideboard
3 Courser of Kruphix
4 Deathmist Raptor
4 Den Protector
1 Dragonlord Atarka
2 Dragonlord Dromoka
3 Dragonlord Ojutai
2 Dragonlord Silumgar
4 Satyr Wayfinder
4 Sylvan Caryatid
Creatures [27]
2 Foul-Tongue Invocation
2 Hero's Downfall
1 Murderous Cut
3 Thoughtseize
Spells [8]
2 Forest (262)
4 Haven of the Spirit Dragon
3 Llanowar Wastes
4 Opulent Palace
1 Plains (250)
1 Sandsteppe Citadel
1 Temple of Deceit
4 Temple of Malady
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
3 Windswept Heath
Lands [25]
Deck Total [60]


2 Bile Blight
1 Courser of Kruphix
1 Crux of Fate
1 Dragonlord Dromoka
2 Drown in Sorrow
1 Duress
2 Foul-Tongue Invocation
1 Self-Inflicted Wound
1 Silumgar, the Drifting Death
2 Ultimate Price
1 Utter End
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!

Courser of Kruphix, Den Protector, and Deathmist Raptor are almost classic creatures for The Rock's strategy. These are all “high quality” creatures that can help grind out an advantage while presenting a reasonable (if not hyper-efficient) threat to beat up on control players. All of them can play above average curve defense to one degree or another (in particular Courser of Kruphix but perhaps most annoyingly Deathmist Raptor). Den Protector is of course reminiscent of Eternal Witness (down to the 2/1-ness), and Deathmist Raptor is like a Call of the Herd that flashbacks, and flashbacks, and flashbacks over and over and over again.

Thoughtseize is right up there with the Duresses and Cabal Therapies of The Rock iterations past.

Past versions of The Rock have often had big finishers to close out games above and beyond the value-advantageous green creatures there to build mana and slow down Red Decks. When Sol named the deck The Rock and His Millions he was referring to the squirrels that come bundled with Deranged Hermit (Deranged Hermit itself being kind of “a 9/9 creature” spread across five bodies). The most iconic version of The Rock (which won the very first Grand Prix Las Vegas in the hands of Mike Pustilnik and simultaneously the day two consolation prize Vegas PTQ by his playtest partner Mike Flores) played four copies of Spiritmonger; once substantial Legendary creatures became “a thing” Visara the Dreadful was added to many versions, a kind of over-the-top finisher and mid-range defensive measure all in one.

The Dragonlords continue this last portion of The Rock's deck design tradition, and arguably better than any of the mega-threats that came in earlier iterations. I mean what is bigger or better at killing small animals than Dragonlord Atarka? Dragonlord Dromoka combines a big butt with additional longevity in a different way. As long as it comes last, Dragonlord Silumgar is the biggest offensive game of them all, despite being the smallest, physically.

All this preamble (besides helping to connect Dragon Megamorph, a very new and innovative deck, to the long tradition of deck design that came before it for the past couple of decades) is meant to serve as an introduction to today's Celebrity Guest.

Welcome Sol Malka!

In addition to being a Grand Prix Champion with a Grand Prix Top 8 as recently as Orlando last year, Sol is largely credited with innovating The Rock archetype in general over ten years ago. Who better to help guide our plays with black removal supporting green creatures?

Let's see what Sol has to say about this week's plays:


Scenario One

“There's simply no reason to let the opponent untap with blue and have access to something like Stubborn Denial or Negate. All he has available now are protection and indestructible-granting spells and those don't stop an Edict. Killing his creature is clearly better than casting a creature of our own, too, since even if you play Courser and net a free land or two, that's worse than taking five or more damage and letting him draw two random cards off of Ordeal of Thassa. What's more, with an untapped land for turn four, you're in position to spend turns five and most likely six looping that Invocation with your Den Protectors.

“Good luck slogging through that, Heroic Boy.”

Sol Malka's Play: Main phase Foul-Tongue Invocation revealing Dragonlord Ojutai, play Opulent Place.


I can't disagree with a thing Sol says here!

The question is whether we play Foul-Tongue Invocation for great value (Dragonlord Ojutai-driven life gain + a two-for-one on both his two-drop and his Ordeal of Thassa) or playing one of our three-drop creatures to lay the groundwork for greater returns over time.

It can certainly be attractive to try to net an extra card (land) with Courser of Kruphix + gain a little life, but the main problem there is that the opponent is just going to draw extra with Ordeal of Thassa if we give him a shot.

So let's not give him that shot.

Per Sol's comments with WW open the opponent can Gods Willing us, but with his only source of blue tapped he can't Stubborn Denial us.

Gods Willing doesn't stop a Foul-Tongue Invocation here; if ever there was a spot to take a shot, this is it.

Mike's Play: “Same as what Sol says.”


Scenario Two

“We're very dead to Atarka's Command, Stoke the Flames, and such no matter what we do, so our goal is to gain a meaningful (read: Dragonlord Dromoka, not Courser of Kruphix) amount of life ASAP and cut off the number of lethal draws we give our opponent.

“We get to block three of his seven attackers whether we cast the Caryatid or flip the Deathmist Raptor getting back the other Deathmist Raptor. With Sylvan Caryatid, Courser of Kruphix still has Zurgo covered, so when he alpha strikes we Remove Zurgo and one token while falling to three life.

“Morphing also leaves us at three life but eats one more token...but doesn't let us cast Dragonlord Dromoka unless the card hiding under the second Courser of Kruphix is an untapped land, and there's less than a 25% chance of that. Once we attack with Dragonlord Dromoka once (considering we've got a second Courser to play and possibly a land in the mix to give us two more life), he's got essentially no outs.

“The turn after we cast Dragonlord Dromoka, he's got five tokens to our Dromoka, two other blockers (assuming our Sylvan Caryatid was tapped to cast Dromoka) and we're at 3, so Wild Slash on either us precombat or the token Dromoka blocked leaves us at 1.

“The best play therefore is to cast the Sylvan Caryatid and leave him with exactly two draw steps to pull a three-damage spell before we effectively end the game.”

Sol Malka's Play: Cast Sylvan Caryatid (using Forest and Haven of the Spirit Dragon), pass.


What we have here is the classic tension between tight and romantic play.

Sol's suggested play is the tight one. It has a slightly less dramatic outcome, but -- if all goes okay -- we end up with Dragonlord Dromoka in play presuming we untap with the Sylvan Caryatid. And like Sol said, landing Dragonlord Dromoka one time is probably going to put the game away.

On the other side is the greedy play. Rather than going for the consistent -- if lower return -- outcome, the greedy side risks a little more for a bigger return, at least short-term.

If we pass with five mana open rather than spending two of our five mana on the Sylvan Caryatid, we can flip our face down Deathmist Raptor to get another Deathmist Raptor (face up or face down) and still block three creatures; the difference is that we can kill an additional creature rather than bouncing it off of a 0/3 wall.

There is less than a one-in-four chance of our getting a land out from under our Courser of Kruphix that will allow us to play Dragonlord Dromoka the following turn, but every time the land is there we look like geniuses (this is one of the main reasons people still go to the greedy play well). At least in this case, worst case scenario (“worst case” being that we don't draw a land rather than he just rips a Stoke the Flames) we can still play both Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix in the same turn, setting us up for Dragonlord Dromoka still...albeit having given the opponent another look or two. Which, against Red Decks, is about the worst thing you can do when life points are shy.

This is not to say that the greedy play might not get you there in this scenario (it very well might); or that greedy play isn't sometimes right (tight play is bad if you're behind, and it is going to keep you behind)... But in this scenario in particular I think Sol was right on. The alternative play will be okay a lot of the time, but Sol's line is super predictable so we know not only how we get to where we want to get... But also specific context around what the opponent might be trying to draw in time.

If you're interested in a really concrete example of “tight v. greedy” imagine going second against a UW Heroic deck. He taps out for Hero of Iroas on the second turn and passes.

You play your second land. You can kill the Hero of Iroas immediately on your turn with a Pharika's Cure. That would be the tight play. The opponent is tapped out, so you know your Pharika's Cure is going to land.

Some players like to try to get even more value. They want to wait on the Heroic to run out Ordeal of Thassa so they can get the two-for-one. That is well and good when everything is going your way...but imagine it's not. Imagine before playing Ordeal of Heliod your opponent plays a Plains. He is now representing Gods Willing! Worse yet, he might actually have Gods Willing! Your chances of landing your Pharika's Cure went from 100% to something substantially lower in the blink of an eye...or the tapping of a single Plains.

Will you respond to Ordeal of Thassa with Pharika's Cure? Based on how you didn't play the previous turn, you pretty much have to. If it hits you get a free Ordeal of Thassa and two free mana; if he has Gods Willing you traded your removal card and two free life for 3/4 of a Gods Willing but are now going to get plowed for a ton of damage (something like a net negative seven swing) and he is going to draw extra cards!

Sometimes, greed is good. But tight is more consistent and predictable. In Magic, tight play tends to be the more successful of the two styles, if the less exciting, over time.

Mike's Play: “Whatever Sol said.”


Prizes!

This week's prizes (well, additional prizes) go to:

1. Andrew Volz
2. Andrew Nash

Andrew Volz and Andrew Nash agreed with both Sol Malka and YT on the above two Dragon Megamorph Rock scenarios. Great job Andrews! $25 TCGplayer.com gift certificates are yours! Make sure you send a message (not a wall post) to our Facebook page - MTGatTCGplayer - to claim your prize!

More Monday.

LOVE
MIKE




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