Feb 9, 2017991 views

Constructed Testing for Pro Tour Aether Revolt - Massdrop East/West: Article #3

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Hello!
My name is Jarvis Yu, and I’m currently a Gold level Pro with Massdrop East. I’ve been working with the team formerly known as East-West Bowl since Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch.
Every Pro Tour, it’s important (and interesting!) to see how our testing actually worked and didn’t work.
Very early in our testing (exact post date is January 6th), we had a version of Saheeli Jeskai Control, courtesy of Rob Pisano.
The earliest version looked like this:
4 Shock
4 Harnessed Lightning
4 Anticipate
3 Negate
2 Revolutionary Rebuff
3 Disallow
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Saheeli Rai
3 Felidar Guardian
4 Torrential Gearhulk
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Inspiring Vantage
4 Aether Hub
4 Wandering Fumarole
2 Needle Spires
7 Island
Sideboard:
3 Kozilek's Return
3 Dispel
3 Authority of the Consuls
2 Summary Dismissal
2 Hope of Ghirapur
2 Decommission


A lot of the slots in the deck were very specifically metagame dependent (e.g. Shock, Revolutionary Rebuff, and Negate), so we waited a few weeks to see what the StarCityGames Opens would tell us in order to adjust our deck.
However, the deck was discovered by many other players at the Opens. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that Saheeli Rai / Felidar Guardian synergize very well with Torrential Gearhulk and Glimmer of Genius. This deck quickly became one of the two major litmus testers.
Tommy Ashton came up with a very interesting energy-based combo deck based on the premise that ‘Greenbelt Rampager, Servant of the Conduit, and Paradox Engine is infinite untaps.’ Given the presence of another manaproducer (Cryptolith Rite or something similar), you could actually generate infinite mana.
Tying these concepts together, here’s the list he came up with:
4 Greenbelt Rampager
3 Duskwatch Recruiter
4 Servant of the Conduit
4 Longtusk Cub
4 Winding Constrictor
3 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
3 Verdurous Gearhulk
1 Walking Ballista
3 Oath of Nissa
2 Fatal Push
2 Attune with Aether
1 Cryptolith Rite
2 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
3 Paradox Engine
4 Blooming Marsh
4 Aether Hub
2 Hissing Quagmire
8 Forest
3 Swamp
To the best of my knowledge, no one actually tried this exact list very much (although I ended up trying and abandoning straight Green Black Cryptolith Rite with Zulaport Cutthroat later). We mostly learned how about the power of Winding Constrictor which led to Mark Jacobson’s building ‘Black-Green Hardened Scales’ which ended up extremely close to the lists that were played in the early Opens.
This Black-Green Counters deck ended up being the second major litmus tester.
About at this stage of testing, we had many ‘brews’ that needed to go through the gauntlet versus these two decks.
Ricky Chin first came up with an innovative take of Green-White Tokens (splicing in Saheeli Rai combo):
1 Heart of Kiran
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
4 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
3 Saheeli Rai
1 Declaration in Stone
2 Sram's Expertise
2 Stasis Snare
4 Oath of Nissa
3 Felidar Guardian
1 Archangel Avacyn
2 Servant of the Conduit
4 Sylvan Advocate
2 Tireless Tracker
2 Verdurous Gearhulk
2 Canopy Vista
6 Forest
2 Fortified Village
2 Inspiring Vantage
5 Plains
2 Westvale Abbey
4 Aether Hub
2 Botanical Sanctum
Oath of Nissa is able to backdoor find both pieces of the combo (as well as let you more easily cast Saheeli Rai). You can also cast Saheeli Rai off Sram’s Expertise as a sort of peculiar mana fixer.
However, the more people on the team tested the deck, the more they said that the combo didn’t quite belong, and the manabase didn’t work 100%. However, the main takeaway from this deck was that Oath of Nissa synergized very well with Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian.
This led us to explore hybridized decks (including the 4 Color Saheeli deck that Robert Graves top 8ed the StarCityGames open in Columbus with). These decks tended to not do very well versus pure Jeskai Saheeli control, due to the fact that the creatures weren’t actually very threatening, and so it was easy for Jeskai to cast Glimmer of Genius to find Torrential Gearhulk and stabilize the board quite easily.
Another deck that stayed late into our testing was Blue-Black Metalwork Colossus. Up until the Wednesday before, Ben was having decent results with it as follows:
4 Cultivator's Caravan
4 Prophetic Prism
4 Metalwork Colossus
4 Metallic Rebuke
4 Glint-Nest Crane
4 Hedron Archive
4 Renegade Map
1 Elder Deep-Fiend
2 Gonti's Aether Heart
3 Glassblower's Puzzleknot
2 Seer's Lantern
2 Baral's Expertise
3 Implement of Combustion
4 Island
4 Sanctum of Ugin
2 Inventors' Fair
4 Aether Hub
3 Spire of Industry
1 Mountain
1 Swamp
Sideboard
1 Implement of Combustion
1 Baral's Expertise
2 Walking Ballista
3 Fatal Push
4 Transgress the Mind
2 Tamiyo's Journal
2 Pacification Array
This deck survived in testing for a long time, until we sat down on Wednesday before the Pro Tour, and I played versus Benjamin Weitz in a 15 post sideboard games set, where Jeskai Saheeli emerged victorious 11-4. He tried a lot of different sideboard cards (up to and including Bomat Courier, and Skysovereign, Consulate Flagship).
But the issues were that a: Negate was extremely good at hitting setup cards, b: the Colossus deck lacked a clean answer to Spell Queller, and c: Quarantine Field was a very clean answer to Metalwork Colossus that couldn’t be hit by Transgress the Mind.
Similarly, I had a deck I really liked up to this point…
Inspired Statuary Aetherworks Marvel:
4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
4 Tireless Tracker
3 Whirler Virtuoso
2 Rogue Refiner
4 Servant of the Conduit
4 Woodweaver's Puzzleknot
4 Aetherworks Marvel
2 Inspiring Statuary
3 Baral's Expertise
4 Harnessed Lightning
4 Attune with Aether
4 Botanical Sanctum
4 Aether Hub
7 Forest
2 Island
1 Mountain
4 Evolving Wilds
Sideboard
4 Negate
2 Dispel
2 World Breaker
2 Aether Meltdown
1 Baral's Expertise
1 Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
1 Shock
2 Radiant Flames
The major issue with this deck was that versus a competent Jeskai pilot you were unfavored in game one, and the situation improved to about a slight favorite in postboard games.
If the Jeskai Saheeli pilot knew to just avoid going for the combo and keep scrying to counterspells and Torrential Gearhulks and Glimmer of Geniuses, you were done for. If they tried to go for the combo, it was easy enough to break it up with 1 Harnessed Lightning and follow up with an Aetherworks Marvel which made it difficult for them to actually kill you (since you could spin Marvel in response and hit yet another Harnessed Lightning or even one of your Baral’s Expertises (usually not great in the matchup) to break up their combo). Occasionally, Tireless Tracker would go uncontested, and Marvel would win a game that way, but it wasn’t a particular common occurrence.
About at this point in testing, we had two major camps of decks: Green-White Midrange, and Jeskai Saheeli Control.
The major draw to the Green-White deck was that it had an extremely good record versus Jeskai while having a decent proactive plan.
Here’s what Pascal Maynard ended up registering in the Pro Tour to that end:
3 Archangel Avacyn
4 Heart of Kiran
4 Lambholt Pacifist
3 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
4 Thraben Inspector
4 Toolcraft Exemplar
4 Walking Ballista
3 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Stasis Snare
7 Forest
4 Canopy Vista
4 Fortified Village
9 Plains
Sideboard
2 Ajani Unyielding
1 Authority of the Consuls
3 Declaration in Stone
2 Fragmentize
2 Fumigate
2 Quarantine Field
2 Tireless Tracker
1 Westvale Abbey


Many annoying planeswalkers, Heart of Kiran, and a fast clock are hell for Jeskai to deal with. Heart of Kiran in particular is a 4/4 flier that requires Aether Hub alongside Harnessed Lightning for most Jeskai builds to kill which is a tall order and also opens the gateway for the Green-White deck to deploy threats. In addition, Lambholt Pacifist forces a similar sort of ‘deal with this’ mode of play, due to the fact that it’ll flip into a 4/4 as well.
The combination of those plus Stasis Snare and Walking Ballista make it very challenging for Jeskai Saheeli to navigate its way to victory.
The list that most of us chose to play for Jeskai Saheeli Control was close to this:
4 Anticipate
4 Disallow
1 Dynavolt Tower
2 Fumigate
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Harnessed Lightning
2 Negate
1 Oath of Jace
4 Saheeli Rai
1 Shock
4 Torrential Gearhulk
3 Felidar Guardian
4 Inspiring Vantage
4 Aether Hub
7 Island
1 Needle Spires
2 Plains
1 Port Town
2 Prairie Stream
3 Spirebluff Canal
2 Wandering Fumarole
Sideboard
2 Dispel
1 Dragonmaster Outcast
1 Dynavolt Tower
1 Fragmentize
1 Fumigate
1 Immolating Glare
2 Negate
2 Quarantine Field
2 Radiant Flames
2 Spell Queller


It’s still unclear to me that this is actually the optimal manabase since it has a ton of lands that come into play tapped after turn three, but we did manage to innovate in a few ways. Dynavolt Tower was a decent alternative angle attack that could also be searched up by Saheeli Rai’s ultimate. It also was a decent way to insulate yourself from opposing combos as well as be another card advantage engine.
Dragonmaster Outcast is excellent in postboard games since it is an extremely cheap threat that was easy to protect with our plethora of countermagic.
The major failures we had in testing are as follows:
Not testing a version of Green Black Energy aggro. I happened to note that this had the best overall win percentage at StarCityGames Richmond, but we never got around to testing it.
Trying to tune Mardu Vehicles to actually be decent versus the versions of Green-Black aggro that were ‘known’ before the Pro Tour.
Not predicting that other teams would end up on Mardu Vehicles because the deck was the best choice versus Jeskai Saheeli.
Not keeping track of what matchups needed to be worked on while keeping a coherent thread of ‘what matters / what works / what sideboard cards would be potent’ constantly updated.
The software we used wasn’t particularly helpful in this regard, since it wouldn’t push an updated thread to the top because it sorted by the original date.


Going forward for Grand Prix Pittsburgh, it’s important to have a deck that doesn’t completely fold to Mardu Vehicles. Unfortunately that means most of the brews that tried to durdle (Metalwork Colossus, any combo deck involving Paradox Engine) are basically dead on arrival here.
I would look to try the Inspiring Statuary Aetherworks Marvel deck the most for Grand Prix Pittsburgh. Its biggest predator was Jeskai Saheeli, and I really would not expect much of it given how it actually got crushed at the Pro Tour. Mardu Vehicles wasn’t the best matchup, but it was definitely winnable, and postboard games can be made positive depending on how much room you want to make for the matchup.
I welcome any questions re: our constructed testing process!
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westrom, MarkJacobson, and 1 other
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Thanks for the report Jarvis. I have a question with the future of Jeskai Saheeli... The deck seems to have a decent game vs GB decks (maybe a bit worst vs the energy build) and I found that the Jeskai decks could highly increase their matchup vs Mardu by SB some Fragmentize, Release the Gremlins and/or Weaver of Lightning. How do you see the deck viability going forward, mostly now that they are out of the spot... Thanks
MatuGermany
A lot of people tend to overestimate how good they matchup against Mardu vehicles. Sometimes your cards will line up well against them, but other times they will have a multi-avenue attack. Scrounger, Vehicles, Gideon, and potential counterspells all present different difficulties. In addition, their natural aggression makes it tough to perform your combo. I'm not very experienced with Jeskai Saheeli, but it might take a meta shift for it to come out again. BG and Mardu seem to be dominating right now, with some Marvel decks (4 color?) being the wildcard.
Do you have an updated list for the inspiring statuary aetherworks marvel deck? I'd be very curious to see how you build it and tune it against Mardu Vehicles
ciago92
i think mardu still isn't a great matchup, but i'd recommend loading up on some number of release the gremlin / natural state versus them to try to combat Heart of Kiran. ALong with that, Kozilek's Return might be valuable, especially in conjunction with World Breaker or Ulamog.