By Mats Clays
Hi, I’d like to write a short article about the deck I brought to the Gentry Invitational last Sunday.
This is a good time to write the article for several reasons. First of all, I am enthusiastic about the deck. Winning obviously helps. Second, the deck is a solid option for all aggro players looking for a deck to bring to Grand Prix Ghent (the Gentry event takes place on Friday night, it will be fun, be there!) and/or the Gentry Open (September 22nd, it will be fun, be there!). And third, because the deck will probably survive rotation making it a possible Gentry mainstay in 2020.
I’ll try and explain some of my card choices, I’ll give a mulligan and scry guide and I’ll talk a bit about the sideboard and post-rotation alternatives. Here we go.
The structure of the deck should always be roughly 1/3 land, 1/3 creatures, and 1/3 spells. If you want to tinker with the deck or when sideboarding, I’d suggest you always try and keep that structure in mind.
When making your mulligan decisions, you should look for a hand with both colors, at least one creature you can cast and at least one spell. Exceptions are hands with Mountains and mostly red cards. The early defense of Shock and the scry from Burning Prophet and Samut’s Sprint are key things to remember when keeping a hand without white mana. I have also kept hands without spells, but only when they had good mana and loads of strong creatures (Dreadhorde Arcanist should probably be one of those creatures). Don’t be afraid to mulligan, the deck operates fine enough with six cards.
Asking for both colors in your opening hand explains why I’ve included nine lands that come into play tapped. They take away some tempo, especially when you have two of them in your first three lands, but there is not a single card I want to see more in my opening hand than the first two-color land. When Stone Quarry rotates out, I’ll probably replace it with a Mountain. At all cost try and keep the number of Plains as low as possible, even if this makes Feather, the Redeemed a little harder to cast (it’s almost impossible to cast it with God’s Willing back-up, so don’t bother, try to bait some of your opponent’s removal and then just go for it and hope it survives).
Cards I tried that didn’t make the deck are Maximize Velocity (the Sorcery speed killed it), Gird for Battle (another Sorcery + it felt like a “win more” card) and Integrity // Intervention, although that card is probably a good starting point when Reckless Rage rotates out. I heard Sander talk very fondly about Tajic, Legion’s Edge. I had it instead of Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice for the first two months and in my opinion, it’s not even a close call, the angel is just so much better.
Cards that were suggested during the Invitational stream which I didn’t try are Infuriate (I have always liked the scry and haste Samut’s Sprint deliver) and Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants, which is probably a mistake on my end. If I were to play the deck again, I’d probably replace Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin with the white planeswalker. I like the extra resilience he brings to the deck, until he rotates out next month that is.
Talking about resilience, I have played my fair share of ‘all or nothing’ aggro decks that were capable of explosive draws, but ran out of options when the opponent managed to stabilize. This is not such a deck. I have often been surprised with the tough situations the deck manages to escape from. Just don’t run headfirst into your opponents’ sweepers, Gates Ablaze, Ritual of Soot, Planar Cleansing, Settle the Wreckage and Massacre Girl (often trough Neoform) being the most important ones to keep in mind.
There is one important rule when scrying: be greedy. Before you scry, think about the cards you need, then go and dig for them. The deck plays mostly four-offs, so if you need that Reckless Rage to take care of your opponent’s best creature, then, by all means, try to find it. Another golden rule, if you have three lands, never leave land number four on top, unless you are holding the game-winning Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice or unless you need it for a game-winning Boros Challenger +1/+1 activation. This deck has a low curve and few ways to spend excess mana, so avoid drawing too many lands.
The sideboard guide. Bring in Daybreak Chaplain whenever you feel you will not be the aggressor in the next game, probably replacing Tenth District Legionnaire. Play or Draw is vital when making this decision. Healing Grace is the best card vs mono-red decks, don’t forget it beats red removal coming from other decks too. Adamant Will is good vs Black removal (Ravenous Chupacabra, Spark Harvest) but don’t overload on “answers” unless you really need to. Chandra’s Pyrohelix has often exceeded my expectations, don’t leave home without them. Dual Shot is probably too narrow, not going to the dome being its main disadvantage, I have already replaced it with a third Chandra’s Pyrohelix. I don’t have a specific deck in mind where I’d bring in Demistify against, but I had some spare sideboard slots. I’d probably have boarded them in against Tom’s UW mill deck. Feel free to try something else here.
I watched the replay from the Invitational and I noticed myself making multiple mistakes, forgetting a Burning Prophet scry trigger in game 2 of my quarter finals probably being the biggest. What can I say? Arena makes me lazy and sloppy. I don’t like playing the deck on Arena btw, there are too many triggers I’d like to order, too many priorities I want to keep … but then again, I have always preferred tabletop gaming.
I’d like to wrap up the article with a question about Gentry. Do you feel some people are taking this format too serious? One of my friends who’s a decent player used to play Gentry but walked away from it last year. He wants Gentry to be a format where you can build a deck on Friday afternoon, take it to your FNM that same evening and go 3-1 or better. These days bringing an untested deck is an automatic 0-4 or 1-3 decision, which he believes scares many players away from the format. Is it even possible to keep Gentry casual and beginner-friendly, without taking away the deckbuilding and finetuning fun from more experienced players?
Da Great MC