So, after a disappointing performance at Pro Tour Origins in Vancouver, I shifted gears on what I could do better to prepare for Grand Prix San Diego. At the PT I played 5 Color Rally, which I don’t regret. It was a solid deck, and is very powerful. However, with not having the information on how much Mono-Red and Thopters would show up, as well as not having the deck tuned as I normally would have with a defined meta, both factors contributed to my 1-4 standard record. At first I was working on what I could do to fix the Rally deck: sideboard options, main deck hedges, and new tech that I picked up from Hall of Fame member Makihito Mihara (who, by the way, was playing Rally at the PT). After taking Sunday off of Magic and heading to the beach to play B-Ball with the likes of John Finkel, Ben Stark, Paul Cheon, Gabe Nassif, Josh Utter-Leyton and others, I realized maybe it wasn’t the right time for the deck.
I arrived in San Diego on Monday, staying with one of my long time Magic buddies Andrea Biaggi, and we did not waste any time. It was nice to get together a bunch of friends from my old team Brute Force Games and start jamming. After a day or two I stumbled onto an idea: instead of playing what people think is the best deck, why not try to build a meta deck? What I mean by that is building a deck that is good against most, if not all, of the field. The most common phrase associated with this style is “well positioned”. So after realizing this, I started going over what was popular and how I could attack that. That’s the moment (Over The Top) Dragons was born. I took the base from a deck that I played at the first RPTQ at Kirwan’s Game Store. It was essentially a Black/Red control deck with Stormbreath Dragon, Thunderbreak Regent, and Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury as win conditions. With Mono-Red, U/R Thopters, Green/White Aggro, and Abzan what I considered the main players of the format, I devised a plan for each deck.
Starting with the aggro decks, I wanted to be able to have enough early game removal so that I could clear the way for my dragons. I went with Magma Spray, Bile Blight, and Draconic Roar. This package was great because it deals with tokens, as well as getting rid of problem cards like Hangarback Walker. The best thing about this removal package is that the sideboard can be packed with ways to basically deal with everything. Depending on what you’re playing you can upgrade your spells and morph into a heavy control deck if need be. Moving onto the only control deck I was expecting, Abzan Midrange, I picked a few tools, like Read the Bones, Chandra, Pyromaster, additional hand destruction, and my favorite sideboard card of the tournament, Gilt-Leaf Winnower. All of these cards help out by gaining card advantage or making sure that you can resolve important spells like Outpost Siege and Chandra.
Now, time for the creatures, and with the deck having “Dragons” in the name it would be safe to assume that I’m playing some. So with 4 Thunderbreak Regents, 4 Stormbreath Dragons, and topping the curve with 1 Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury, there is a total of 9. These are the finishers of the deck (or the quarterbacks of the team) but, like in football, the most important part of your team are the linemen. So my offensive line was led by Goblin Rabblemaster. He pushed guys out and dropped damage everywhere. Many games can just be decided by a turn 1 Thoughtseize into Rabblemaster. He is no Pack Rat, but can steal almost as many games. Then we have our rookie Hangarback Walker, our defensive line. It does everything. It gets in the way if you need it, turns sideways when its time to attack, and the best part: when it dies it leaves friends to help.
On to the game play. I finished Day 1 with a record of 8-1. My only loss was to Reid Duke piloting his Blue/Black control deck. The match-up isn’t great due to the fact I have so many dead cards game 1 and not enough to bring in from the sideboard. After having to mulligan a few times, I was defeated 0-2. The other decks I played against Day 1 consisted of 3 Abzan Control, 1 G/W Constellation, 1 U/R Thopters, and 1 Jeskai Aggro. Besides the match with Reid Duke, I only lost 1 other game all day. Moving to Day 2, much of the same decks were at the top. I went on to win 4 rounds in a row, beating G/W Aggro, G/W Constellation, Jeskai Aggro, and Thopters. Feeling very confidant and ready to get to the top 8, my round 14 opponent Michael Majors had other ideas. Michael was playing the break out deck of the tournament, U/R Sphinx’s Tutelage. I was able to take him to 3 games, but his deck proved to be as good as talked about and he was victorious 2-1. I was able to draw the next round with my friend Cory Burkhart to hopefully make the top 8. After a bit, I heard my named called for the top 8 and it put the exclamation point on the weekend! Not only did I play well enough to make it but I devised a deck that was set up very nicely to win the whole tournament. Also my friend Sammy Tukeman came in 10th with my list so I knew it wasn’t just luck, it was a payoff for time put in. So, good news: I made the top 8 and was qualified for the next Pro Tour. Bad news: I had to play Michael Majors again with his mill deck. Being on the draw game 1 as well as missing some vital land drops in game 2 and dying to my own Outpost Siege made it an easy 2-0 win for Michael. Thus, ending my run at the title.
In closing, I would say I had a blast building, working on, and playing this deck. Some of the changes I would make going forward are mainly related to the sideboard. So, for U/R Tutelage and U/B Control I wanted an early threat that is hard to get rid of. I’m going to try Bloodsoaked Champion as a 2-of replacing the Hero’s Downfall and Read the Bones. Many changes will be the result of what decks you expect at a specific tournament. If you expect aggro, maybe another Anger of the Gods, while if there is a lot of Abzan you may want more Gilt-Leaf winnowers or Outpost Sieges. I think I will be playing this at the Invitational in New Jersey in a couple weeks so we shall see how things change between now and then.
Here is the deck I piloted to top 8.
Over the Top Dragons