Welcome back everyone! Two weeks ago we opened Will of the Masses and looked at the theme of the deck, its strengths and weaknesses, and its best and worst cards. This week I will play the first two rounds of matches and will change 10 cards to hopefully improve the deck. As a reminder, this is the current state of the deck:
Will of the Masses by Wizards
At the time of writing, Khans of Tarkir has not yet been released on Magic Online so you will see a lot of Magic 2015 and Theros Block cards.
First round of matches
The first match went rather badly. In Game 1 I kept this starting hand in the hopes of drawing either a Plains or any green creature.
Sadly that didn’t happen. She surprised me with an Ensoul Artifact, which hit me for 5 at Turn 2. Well, now I know how it is to be on the receiving end of this card. I was able to Naturalize the artifact, though. But that didn’t help much since I drew no other cards that I could cast. In the meantime she played Young Pyromancer, several burn spells and another Ensoul Artifact which let to a quick loss.
My starting hand in Game 2 was much better and pretty close to the optimum you can get with this deck:
Afterwards the game took a bad turn when she found a second Young Pyromancer. I decided to attack with the Wurm, which was probably a mistake. A Shock and three elementals finished it off. I followed with another bad play by summoning the Seraph of the Masses with only the two tokens left on the board. That meant the angel was 3/3 and could die to a Lightning Strike, which it promptly did.
Results Match 1: 0-2 LOSE
Match 2 started better when I got this starting hand with a lot of playable cards:
I tapped the Plains and the two tokens and cast Devouring Light. Nice! For the first time I felt like the deck actually was working. I emptied my hand for a couple of soldiers and the Will-Forged Golem while she played Brimaz, King of Oreskos. Like I said last time, this card would fit right into our deck too. But with a price tag of about $17 he would nearly break our 20-dollar budget on his own. Currently our deck stands at about $1 by the way.
But let’s return to the actual game: She tried to mount a defense but I cast Triplicate Spirits. Getting three flyers is very nice, and I beat her down to 6. I played a Selfless Cathar whose +1/+1 ability would have been the victory, so she conceded.
In Game 2 she was stuck on 2 mana a long time while I was able to build the board up to Feral Incarnation.
You’ll notice she’s still at 20 life despite not being able to cast much. That shows that our deck is really slow right now. That would have nearly cost me the game. She played Brimaz on the next turn. I attacked her with everything, sacrificed the Selfless Cathar and brought her down to 5. She played Hall of Triumph and used Brimaz to stabilize the board. She managed to hit me down to 10 before I could play Hornet Queen, who could finally kill her 9/10 cat king.
She conceded shortly afterwards. That shows that Hornet Queen is a really powerful card, but the mana cost is way too high and it doesn’t have convoke. Chord of Calling is starting to look very attractive.
Results Match 2: 2-0 WIN
I used my creatures to play Seraph of the Masses. She played Brain Maggot and sacrificed her creatures to the Blood Bairn to attack me for 6. I finished the game with the help of Selfless Cathar and Titanic Growth.
I used my tokens to convoke Triplicate Spirits. She played Dreadbringer Lampads in return. On the next turn I attacked with my spirits and used the token to convoke Seraph of the Masses as a 6/6. She played Quag Sickness on it, making it a 1/1 and attacked me for 5 damage bringing me down to 14. On the next turn I attacked with my soldiers and then used my other creatures to convoke Feral Incarnation which was utterly misplayed. Do you see why?:
Yeah. Playing the Incarnation will boost the Seraph to 4/4. So I should have convoked in the first main phase and then attacked with the angel for 2 damage more than I did with the soldiers. Oh well. She decided to attack me and bring me down to 9. In return, I shoved my creatures to the red line on my turn and finished the game.
Results Match 3: 2-0 WIN
Analysis and first round of changes
Okay, this deck went 2-1, which isn’t bad for a fresh out of the box Wizards deck. Let’s see what went well and what went badly, and if my first impression of the deck and its cards held true.
Firstly the convoke mechanic did work very well. I was able to cast Living Totem, Triplicate Spirits and Seraph of the Masses with ease. On the other hand, it is also true that the deck struggles to get its biggest creatures – Phytotitan and Hornet Queen – onto the battlefield since they don’t possess convoke. Nevertheless I was able to win Matches 2 and 3 against the two slower decks since I could build up my team and then go for a ton of damage. But I stood no chance against the first deck, which was way too fast and aggressive.
That means that we have to strengthen the early game of this deck. As I see it, we can take two different routes here. On the one hand we can include cheap, efficient creatures that can create early pressure like Sunblade Elf and Fleecemane Lion. On the other hand we could take a defensive approach with Sylvain Caryatid and Hornet Nest. The problem with an aggressive approach is that you cannot attack with your creatures and then use them afterwards to convoke something. But you face the same dilemma with defensive creatures that won’t be defending anything if you tapped them for convoke.
Since I couldn’t decide, I think I will go with a hybrid approach. I’ll include a couple of efficient small creatures that can do some damage in the first rounds. I also include Hornet Nest that can serve as a deterrent when the smaller creatures will be used to convoke something. The neat thing about Hornet Nest is, that while it has only 2 toughness you get hornet tokens equal to the damage dealt, even if it exceeds 2. This can seriously increase our convoke potential.
I also want to include Chord of Calling to have a way to get our fatties into the game. But I won’t do this in this round of changes since I first want to strengthen our token base. So let’s get to the first round of changes. For those of you who are new to this series, a quick reminder: I will only swap 5 cards per round of change and there will be a total of 4 rounds of changes per deck. At the time of writing, Khans of Thakir is not yet available on MTGO so I am restricted to Magic 2015 and Theros Block cards.
In the last article I said that Overwhelm, Meditation Puzzle, and Sanctified Charge were the weakest cards in the deck. I still think that is true for the first two cards mentioned. But some readers suggested that Sanctified Charge was better than I valued it. I never drew it in the 6 games I played so I cannot comment on it. I will leave it in the deck for now, though.
(III) Nissa’s Expedition -1
While this card can improve our mana base, I don’t think we want lands. Instead we want creatures to use convoke.
(IV) Titanic Growth -1
Yeah this card is also nice, but I think we can include better ones. I also like Gather Courage much more in this deck, especially if you play it for free while tapping your defending Hornet Nest. This way you might be able to kill the attacking creature, get some tokens and still have a Hornet Nest for the next round.
(V) Wall of Mulch -1
Okay, it’s the only way our deck can draw cards. But it is a very inefficient way. I rather have other spells on the 2-mana slot.
(VI) Hornet Nest +3
I really want to see this card in action. You don’t want four of these in the deck since they are sometimes useless in the starting hand. But I want to draw one of them every game so three is an optimal amount.
(VII) Fleecemane Lion +2
A 3/3 for 2 mana is very nice and it can get monstrous later. Since it is green and white it can also provide colored convoke mana, depending on the situation. My only concern is that it may be a bit taxing on our mana base. Together with Sunblade Elf we are now dependent on getting a Forest and a Plains in our starting hand.
Okay, great! That’s the first round of changes. Those 5 cards cost about two and a half tickets at the Academy’s sellbots. That brings the total cost of our deck to four dollars, which is very budget-friendly. So here is the current decklist:
Will of the Masses by Gurkengelee
Okay, great! Let’s head back to the tables.
Second round of matches
In the first match I was up against a weird UGB deck that sported only flyers. Which was the worst case scenario for Hornet Nest. Oh well.
I got a very nice starting hand and 5 power on the board on Turn 2.
She played Warden of Evos Isle. I think that is a nice card in limited but it lacks some power in standard. She attacked and played Warrior’s Lesson to draw a card and then played Illusory Angel. On my turn I had a couple of options:
I could either attack and exile the angel with Devouring Light. Or I could attack and exchange creatures with the help of Gather Courage and then play Hornet Nest. Or I could decide to not attack and instead to convoke a Siege Wurm. Since she played blue I was afraid that she might have Hubris or something similar, sending my Wurm back to the hand. That would have set me back two turns, which would have been unacceptable. So I decided to attack and use Gather Courage, saving Devouring Light for a juicier target. She decided to block the Oreskos Swiftclaw and both creatures died. I played the nest whose only job would have been to convoke something.
I hoped for Naturalize or Devouring Light to deal with the bird but was disappointed. Instead I played Selfless Cathar, Raise the Alarm and Living Totem. I probably would have lost the game but I drew Sanctified Charge. Hey look, the card is not that bad after all!
Results Match 1: 2-0 WIN
In Match 2 I was up against a Wizards of the Coast employee who played . . . something?
I got a Plains on Turn 3 and played the Oreskos Swiftclaw. It was stopped hard by Anvilwrought Raptor. Since I couldn’t attack into the first strike bird, nothing happened for a couple of turns until he played Liliana Vess and used the -2 ability to tutor a card. I attacked, killed the planeswalker, and lost a spirit token in the process.
I continued to play the Phytotitan and on Turn 9 I finally found Devouring Light and attacked. I exiled the bird and brought Kevin down to 15. He played Ring of Three Wishes, which didn’t help at all and he died the next turn.
In Game 2, I decided to keep this starting hand despite the lack of spells, since his deck didn’t seem to be fast.
The game lasted 5 turns, then he surrendered.
Well, it was about 11pm in his part of the US when I played this match. He was probably half asleep. I hope.
Results Match 2: 2-0 WIN
In Match 3 I played against a WB Orzhov deck. My starting hand was okay and I played Fleecemane Lion on Turn 2.
Annoyingly she played Stab Wound on it, turning it into a 1/1 self-killing kitten. I used a Living Totem to beef it back to 2/2 and also played a Hornet Nest. She played Nightveil Specter. What’s the matter with all those flyers? My nest was still good enough to convoke Seraph of the Masses who instantly died to Orzhov Charm.
But that didn’t matter because I drew another one and played it. It died to Doom Blade. Great. My own lion then proceeded to kill me.
In Game 2 I probably should have mulliganned because you don’t want Hornet Queen in your starting hand.
I played Fleecemane Lion on Turn 2. On Turn 3 I decided to not attack but instead to Raise the Alarm and convoke a Living Totem. To my utter annoyance the lion acted as a magnet for Stab Wounds again.
Both of us built up our boards and I proceeded to attack with the lion, which, to my relief, was finally killed by Typhoid Rat.
My vain hopes of getting back into the game were destroyed when she played Bile Blight on my Living Totems. With only one soldier token left I went down to 10 before I found a Siege Wurm to cast. Obviously it died to Doom Blade as soon as it hit the board. Two turns later and on 2 life, I finally found a third Forest to play the Hornet Queen. She played Sign in Blood and I was already typing “good game” before I realized that she played it on herself. She noticed it too.
While the queen itself died to Orzhov Charm the tokens were enough to stabilize the board and I brought her down to 6. Which was when she played Congregate to get back to 20. Another Bile Blight on the tokens then sealed my fate.
Results Match 3: 0-2 LOSE
Analysis and second round of changes
While we went 2-1, I am not hugely satisfied with the performance of the deck. Especially Hornet Nest didn’t block a single creature in three matches. Of course that was mainly because every opponent was sporting tons of flyers. I still have hopes for the card and maybe next week, when Magic 2014 and Return to Ravnica Block rotate out of Standard, we will see fewer creatures with flying.
Another thing I sorely missed was enchantment removal. There are a ton of enchantments in the Theros Block and this deck only has one Naturalize. Normally these are sideboard cards but since I don’t have the option in this format to include a sideboard, I think I want to raise the count of Devouring Light to four to function as a makeshift aura removal. It can also helps against gods, even if I didn’t encounter any in the last 6 matches.
That Hornet Queen nearly turned the last game around shows that this card is a huge boon to the deck. That it sat about 5 turns in my hand while I waited for a Forest also shows that it is not made to be hard-cast for me. I think it is high time to include Chord of Calling.
I feel slightly positive about the aggressive setup with Sunblade Elf and Fleecemane Lion. They can really put out some early pressure. There have been some situations where I decided to attack instead of convoke but that was when I could cast the creature on the next turn anyway. So I think I want to further pursue this way by adding more aggressive creatures to the deck.
So lets see which changes we make here.
(I) Feral Incarnation -2
This isn’t necessarily a bad card. It provides you with 9 power and 9 toughness for 9 mana and convoke, which is a very fair deal. But I would rather draw Chord of Calling instead and bring Hornet Queen into play.
(II) Naturalize -1
Off you go.
(III) Midnight Guard -2
I like Hornet Nest more in the 3 mana slot, and 2 power for 3 mana is not very exciting.
(IV) Chord of Calling +3
In you go. Now please be as good as I think you are. You want three copies of Chord of Calling in your deck and one copy of each creature you want to convoke with it. That way you lessen the chance to draw a fat creature in your starting hand while Chord is acting as copies 2 to 4 of that creature. So currently it is like we have four copies of Hornet Queen in the deck.
(V) Devouring Light +2
So this is what our deck looks like now:
Will of the Masses by Gurkengelee
Chord of Calling is quite expensive at over 2 tickets per copy. This brings the total cost of our deck to about 11 tickets. That is still within our budget and leaves 9 dollars wiggle room for later additions.
Our deck performs, but I think it can do better. I am still positive on Hornet Nest but it has to show some value in the next set of matches or it will be thrown out again. I hope our creature base proves strong enough to cast Chord of Calling regularly. The deck also built some resilience against sweepers. Hornet Nest is a very good card against Anger of the Gods and Fleecemane Lion has the option to become indestructible. While not yet perfect I think the deck will perform better in the next matches when Khans of Tarkir has rotated into Standard.
What do you think? Is Hornet Nest the worst choice ever? Do you think that taking the aggressive approach is good? Please use the comment section or write me under the screenname Gurkengelee on MTGO.