Saturday, January 12, 2008

Doran Rock Extended

I can't remember when the last time I was allowed to play in a non-team format PTQ. I believe it has been 3 years since I had hit the gravy train and never had the chance to join the party. Today, Level 3 is no longer Level 3. It is virtually “Level 3”, but without the appearance fee, it often meant less than $2500 per annum for a Level 3 player. But in exchange, Wizards allows us to participate in PTQs, which I have been waiting to do for so long. Playing in PTQs is very different from a PT. You don't fly across the globe to play Magic, you get to hang out with all your local buddies, and most importantly, the level of tension is much less. Every time I went to a PT and if I made subtle decision mistakes, the tension never goes away and I would be angry at myself. In a PTQ I don't felt as bad even if I made the largest mistake on earth. I mean, I'll be good once I get home.

Okay, enough on the introduction. Let's move on to the real stuff that you are looking for. Basically me and my mates gathered for a couple of times and formed about 6-7 metagame decks. I started on Gift Rock with the addition of Doran and I instantly fell in love with it. It's a three mana 5/5 without drawback, makes Cranial Plating and Goblin Piledriver look like a nerd while giving extra love to your Birds of Paradise and Tarmogoyf. What more can you ask for? I was switching constantly between the Gift Rock and the Doran Rock, and both featured 4 copies of Doran, the Siege Tower.

After various testing, I decided to try my hand with the aggro version at the PTQ since it is easier to play, uses less Stamina and time to win compared to the ever complicated Gifts Ungiven... but no doubt they are both powerful decks. Here's my Doran Rock List:

Doran Rock Terry Soh
Main Deck:

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Dark Confidant
4 Doran, the Siege Tower
3 Eternal Witness
3 Loxodon Hierarch
4 Tarmogoyf

3 Cabal Therapy
3 Living Wish
1 Profane Command
3 Thoughtseize
1 Umezawa's Jitte
4 Vindicate

2 Forest
1 Godless Shrine
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
3 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plains
2 Polluted Delta
1 Shizo, Death's Storehouse
1 Swamp
1 Temple Garden
4 Treetop Village
4 Windswept Heath
2 Wooded Foothills
2 Duress
1 Eternal Witness
3 Gaddock Teeg
1 Harmonic Sliver
1 Kataki, War's Wage
1 Loxodon Hierarch
3 Pernicious Deed
1 Shriekmaw
1 Umezawa's Jitte
1 Yixlid Jailer

Before I start to talk about the deck, let me explain why Rock is my deck of choice. Obviously, Doran is a great addition to the deck, but one hidden gem had given me enough assurance to play Rock. He is Mr. Gaddock Teeg. Let's see here. In the past, Living Wish for Kataki meant good game for Affinity, and wishing for Jixlid Jailer has the same effect on Dredge. Now, an unanswered Gaddock Teeg meant good game for UrzaTron decks, Minds Desire, Enduring Ideal and to a certain extent Dredge as well. This is just insane. This is the main reason I had been avoiding playing these decks, because I don't want to lose to Gaddock Teeg.

For Tron decks, you will need to have a Counterspell ready, or else don't even think about casting Mindslaver, Repeal, Gifts Ungiven, Engineered Explosives and so on. For Desire and Ideal, you MUST draw a Burning Wish and a win condition in order to go off. Adding to the fact that Doran Rock hits hard with its creatures, your opponent wouldn't have that much time to assemble the appropriate pieces to deal with Teeg before dying.

Naturally, Rock has always been a black green based deck that has discard, removal and a bunch of good creatures. Rock has also always been a slayer of beatdown decks because of the barrage of removal and fat creatures that stall the board. Rock usually doesn't do well against other greedier midrange decks like Tron or fast combo decks like Desire or Ideal, due to the lack of pressure. Now, Doran fixes the pressure part and Gaddock says “you better do something about me or die”.

Explanation on card selection:

4 Birds of Paradise - best all time accelerator and now he even attacks for one with Doran.

4 Tarmogoyf
4 Dark Confidant
4 Doran, the Siege Tower – The aggressive guys in the deck. There is no reason to run less than 4 of each in an aggressive Rock.

3 Loxodon Hierarch – He fuels Dark Confidant and gives you game against aggro. 3 seem like the right number, as he is fairly expensive.

3 Eternal Witness - Once my all time favorite card, he is never bad, but he's not very aggressive unlike its comrades. Make sure you notice the interaction of Eternal Witness and Profane Command or Witness getting back Witness in a long battle of Attrition.

3 Living Wish – This is similar to the 5th to 7th Vindicate, or finding game winning creatures like Kataki, Jixlid and Gaddock Teeg.

3 Thoughtseize
3 Cabal Therapy – 3 of each seems right. Also, never run Duress over Thoughtseize. Despite the life loss, Thoughtseize is always better in most scenarios. Either you play against a deck where life is irrelevant anyway, or otherwise you would want to discard cards like Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant or Goblin Warchief instead of the non-creature spells. Cabal Therapy is just awesome, but ideally, you would prefer to draw 1 of each to balance it out.

4 Vindicate – Versatile, flexible, etc. Just throw it on anything that stops your path to victory. I never board these out once.

1 Umezawa's Jitte
1 Profane Command – I play 1 of each to have a chance to draw them. They are not the key to the deck, but drawing one in the midgame is simply awesome. You never really want to draw 2 either; therefore 1 of each seems like the right amount.

Lands - I added Okina and Shizo to the land base, taking out a couple of basic lands as a direct replacement. I mean, it's a free bonus to Doran, so why not? The only downside is increased vulnerability to Blood Moon, but people never really board it in against Rock and very few decks actually run Blood Moon. I know I wanted to play 4 Treetop Village and 8 fetchlands so that was simple. The current configuration of duals (3 Overgrown Tomb, 1 Godless Shrine, 1 Temple Garden) seems like the correct way to go. You always want to draw a Tomb as black and green is your main color. Having 1 of each of the other duals gives you flexibility to optimize your mana in different situations.

Matchup Analysis

Before going in depth on each sideboarding strategy for a specific matchup, you may ask, “There are at least a dozen viable decks in Extended, how do I prepare for so many matchups when Living Wish has taken up half of the sideboard?” The answer is by playing flexible sideboard cards in a wide metagame. For example, Tormod's Crypt is focused to fight Dredge, but that's all it does. On the other hand, Gaddock Teeg stops Dread Return, which is a key spell that Dredge would need to resolve to win instantly, but overall, it has less impact compared to a Crypt. But the thing is, Gaddock Teeg could be boarded in against four different decks, while Tormod's Crypt is only good against one deck and your sideboard has only so much space. Therefore, my boarding plan was simple:

-- 2 Gaddock Teeg and 2 Duress against control/combo decks
-- 3 Pernicious Deed and 1 Umezawa's Jitte against creature strategies

This is the basic theory, but in the actual game you might board differently against a specific deck, or depending what sideboard cards your opponent brings in etc. Nevertheless, it is always good to have a basic plan in mind to make sure you are on the right track. As 7 slots had been devoted to Wish targets, I decided to equally split up (4 each) the rest of the slots for both control/combo and creatures.

Goblins, Zoo
+ 3 Pernicious Deed,+1 Jitte, +1 Eternal Wtiness, +1 Hierarch, +1 Shriekmaw

-3 Thoughtseize, -3 Living Wish, -1 Cabal Therapy

The Living Wish is swapped for the one-ofs in the sideboard, as Wish is too slow in this matchup. Discards are near useless, so take out all Thoughtseize and 1 Cabal Therapy to swap for the Deeds and additional Jitte. Leaving 2 Therapy maindeck after boarding is fine, as you get a chance and know your opponent's game plan. If you don't like it, you can board in random creatures like Gaddock Teeg or Kataki as chump blockers instead of the remaining Therapies.

+3 Pernicious Deed +1 Jitte

-3 Thoughtseize, 1 Cabal Therapy

The only difference between Goblins/Zoo matchup and this is that you keep the Wishes to fetch Kataki, that's all.

Desire, Ideal, Tron
+2 Gaddock Teeg, + 2 Duress

- 1 Jitte, - 1 Profane Command, -1 Loxodon Hierach, -1 Doran

You bring in 2 Gaddock Teeg into the deck and leave 1 in the sideboard. In this way, you have 5 Gaddock Teeg. Duress is additional ammunition in addition to Thoughtseize and Therapy. The whole game is about discarding their key spells, resolving Teeg and protect him. I used to board out all the Hierarch in this matchup, until I found that his Regeneration ability is actually relevant against decks with Burning Wish as they usually fetch Pyroclasm to deal with Gaddock. Once you could untap with both Hierarch and Gaddock in play, it is near impossible for them to deal with him.

+ 2 Pernicious Deed, + 2 Duress

-1 Jitte, - 1 Birds, -2 Doran

Counterbalance decks are neither aggro nor control and this often dragged to a long game. Their weakness is the board, as they often commits a lot on the table, like Mox, Counterbalance, Explosive, their own Goyf and Confidant etc. Deed is useful against them, but I believe 2 is enough, since you would need to keep your board fairly equal. Once you have Hierarch + Deed combo, that is often game. It is very hard to determine the slots to bring in and out against Counterbalance, because they are neither aggro or control. You want to have discards to deal with their engine and card advamtage, at the same time, you want to have answers to Dark Confidant and Tarmogoyf . Practice this matchup post-sideboard, it is very crucial to know the true value and effectiveness of each card since you are trying to fight them in all aspects.

This morning I went to my local PTQ and I made Top 8 with this deck, but losing to a Monoblue Aggro Control deck in quarters. The deck seems to be working well in the current metagame. I don't think I would many any change to the deck, as I felt happy with maindeck and the amount of sideboards I can bring in against each deck. I recommend you to give it a try. Apparently lately I had been switching from a control player to a beatdown player. The joy of beating down while you had seen your opponent hand has nothing is invaluable.

By Terry Soh