The Pro Tour has come and gone. Goodbye Hawaii.
I have to admit, I’m a little saddened. As I said in my last article, this PT was a big one for me, Charles League. While I’m Silver Pro status—and by extension pre-invited to all of the RPTQs there are—Hawaii was the last stop on my Pro Tour gravy train for the time being. I needed to re-up this event. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite pan out this time. Things petered out at the end and I ended up with a lackluster 9-7 record. While that does net me an additional Pro Point, that’s little consolation.
In any case, my PT experience is what I’m talking about today. I’m going to focus a little more on Standard, but I’ll touch on Draft at the beginning just to cover it all.
I no longer have the title of Hawaiian limited king. Unlike my undefeated performance a few years ago, I ended having a couple imperfections this time around. I 2-1’d both drafts, each time drafting essentially the exact same deck. Here they are (I don’t remember my mana base):
I’m not going to dwell on limited too much. After all, I just wrote about my thoughts on Kaladesh limited last week. I’ll briefly mention a few things though.
First and foremost, for those who read last week’s article, you’ll note that I certainly practice what I preach! I entered the tournament hoping to draft a few key cards and each time was able to do exactly that. Gearseeker Serpent, the card I consider to be the top blue common of the set, was easily the card I was most hoping to pick up. Thankfully we were rewarded in each draft by grabbing a couple alongside some awesome enablers. In particular, I was stoked to draft both Consulate Skygate and Cogworker’s Puzzleknot in each deck for the exact reasons I suggested in my previous article. They not only reduce your Serpents early, but provide some nice breathing room while doing so. I was also happy to grab some great removal/interaction in each deck. Aether Tradewinds is almost always a great card, particularly alongside something like Experimental Aviator.
A few notes before moving onto Standard:
- In Draft 1 I frequently subbed out the Bastion Mastodon for an Aradara Express. While the former was a nice blocker and protected us while our Serpents went to work, the latter is a huge threat. An 8/6 with Meance is nothing to sneeze at in the first place, and having two Gearshift Ace means it was first striking more often than not. (The real impetus was that I wanted to “get” someone with the Gearshift Ace move that I discusses last week, but I’ll pretend that wasn’t a driving factor here).
- My first draft pod had Makihito Mihara in it as the only Magic player whom I recognized. Clearly we played first round. I won though!
- …only to lose round 2 though to what had to be the most aggressive Black/Red deck I’ve seen drafted in Kaladesh. Normally I consider Rakdos borderline unplayable in this limited format, but my opponent had me dead in a matter of minutes after multiple Unlicensed Disintegrations to supplement his early aggression.
- As a nice segue to draft 2, and to illustrate my point about Rakdos being bad, I beat my Black/Red opponent in the second draft (I don’t quite remember which round) by milling him out. You might notice the distinct lack of mill in my deck. I literally just sat there while my opponent’s Midnight Oil slowly burned out his library while he could never crack through my defenses.
- I ended up losing my match in the second draft in particularly frustrating fashion, drawing what seemed less spells in total than the number of rares my opponent was playing. Oh well; can’t win them all.
Overall, I still love this strategy for draft. Obviously if everyone at the table is gunning for it, it won’t work, but until then I’m going to force blue-based decks if I can.
I tried what seemed like everything. I tested the stock lists; I tested the weird brews. Nothing seemed to ever be more than “ok.”
At the beginning of the testing process, I was super high on Aetherworks Marvel. While I knew that the deck had some power behind it, after drawing my 100th Eldrazi when facing down a horde of vehicles, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to play the deck myself. Perhaps we should have given it a second chance, but we never really revisited the list after moving on to test other things.
Instead, I found myself literally the day before the Pro Tour unsettled as to what to registered. I had a backup plan—an “if all else fails” contingency option—but really wanted to find something that both felt great and was powerful.
That never ended up manifesting sadly. I was jamming whatever I could, even going so far as seriously considering playing a Panharmonicon-centered list as I really wasn’t stoked about playing our fallback list. Ultimately though I resigned myself to playing it, having no other real options. Without further ado, here’s the list I registered:
RW Equipment by Charles League
This is not the type of deck I normally play. I’m normally the value-oriented midrange player. I love casting Collected Company and Chord of Calling. I love gaining infinite life. This at least somewhat explains the Panharmonicon moment of desperation. I don’t think I’ve ever played a hyper aggro list in the past, and certainly not at a high level tournament such as this. In our testing though, RW Equipment was the list that both had the best overall record and the one that we had put the most time into testing.
When this deck is operating on all cylinders, I’m convinced its almost impossible to stop. It comes out of the gates fast with not only the two most aggressive one-drops of the format (Tool Guy and Nerd Ape) but creatures that pump our other creatures in play (Weapons Trainer, Bushwhacker and Outfitter). Unhindered and with a more-or-less-perfect draw you can actually kill an opponent on turn 3. While that never ended up manifesting at the Pro Tour, there were several games where I was attacking my opponent for 16 on turn 4.
The deck also has some resiliency and reach. Stone Haven Outfitter is actually an incredible card engine if you’re constantly trading with your opponent. Smuggler’s Copter is obviously quality, and Reckless Bushwhacker can provide an insane amount of reach particularly if we’ve already got a few creatures on the board alongside a Weapons Trainer.
Speaking of Weapons Trainer, the equipment in this deck is surprisingly potent. I never thought I’d see the day where Bone Saw would be constructed playable, but here we are. Inventor’s Goggles is where the real power lies though. If this deck doesn’t have a 1-mana 3/2 or 2/3 to play, it almost certainly has a Goggles which can lead to some overwhelming starts. Followed up with an Outfitter, and you’ve got yourself a 4/5 on turn 2 for instance (it’s an Artificer!).
The Sideboard is a little messy. We did the least amount of work on it, and almost certainly could have been better although I’m not sure exactly how. We tried some additional Allies like Lantern Scout, but that never actually actually felt good and so we never really dove down that rabbit hole. We tried to have a little bit of answers to every archetype, but we never had an overarching plan on how to approach each matchup that we expected. I would definitely keep the Selfless Spirits and would potentially look to adding a third Bushwhacker moving forward.
Ultimately, I did “ok.” I went 5-5, losing the last two rounds to stop me from getting that sweet, sweet invite. I flooded a little too many times over the weekend for an aggressive list like this to succeed. Oh well. I think the deck still has promise as an archetype moving forward (even though it might be overshadowed by the other Bushwhacker list from the Pro Tour), so if you’re looking for something sweet to pick up, here’s an option for you! If you want a more in-depth overview of the list, be sure to let me know in the comments and maybe I’ll write one up for next week.
Until next time,