Reworking Dragon's Maze precons

Discussion in 'Casual Decks/Variants/Etc' started by Oversoul, Jan 2, 2014.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    A couple of my siblings got me precons for Christmas. I'd asked for containers to store my cards, but hey, exacerbating the problem works too. I'm not complaining...

    It's been a long time since I've had precons. Actually, I can be more specific: I picked up a couple of the Invasion precons when they were new. That was over 13 years ago. I was 15 years old. I'm 28 now. So, it's been a while. I could think of some other ways to put it, but I think you get the idea.

    I intend to keep these decks for a bit, but apparently one thing that has not changed is that precons are underpowered. These will require a bit of adjustment in order to stop sucking. On another note, my 2014 New Years resolution is to add the occasional understatement to the things I say and write.

    I've sleeved these decks up and tried them out...

    Gruul Siege
    2 Cobblebrute
    2 Feral Animist
    1 Ghor-Clan Rampager
    2 Kraul Warrior
    1 Ripscale Predator
    3 Rubblebelt Maaka
    2 Ruination Wurm
    1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
    2 Saruli Gatekeepers
    1 Skarrg Goliath
    1 Slaughterhorn
    2 Viashino Shanktail
    3 Zhur-Taa Druid
    1 Zhur-Taa Swine
    1 Armed // Dangerous
    2 Ground Assault
    2 Gruul Cluestone
    2 Gruul War Chant
    1 Pit Fight
    1 Predator’s Rapport
    1 Volcanic Geyser
    12 Forest
    4 Gruul Guildgate
    10 Mountain

    Azorius Authority
    2 Ascended Lawmage
    2 Azorius Arrester
    1 Azorius Justiciar
    2 Haazda Snare Squad
    2 Jelenn Sphinx
    1 Lavinia of the Tenth
    1 Lyev Skyknight
    3 Silvercoat Lion
    1 Soulsworn Spirit
    2 Stealer of Secrets
    2 Sunspire Gatekeepers
    3 Wind Drake
    1 Arrest
    2 Avenging Arrow
    2 Azorius Cluestone
    2 Lyev Decree
    1 Martial Law
    1 Protect // Serve
    1 Restore the Peace
    2 Righteous Charge
    4 Azorius Guildgate
    10 Island
    12 Plains

    There are some pretty obvious cards to cut. The creatures that triggered abilities dependent on controlling gates are too situational. I have some notions already: the Gruul deck should get Kird Apes, for example. But I wanted to solicit here first, before I sift through my cards for ways to improve these decks. All ideas are welcome, although I do intend to make some attempt to maintain the overall themes that these decks represent (this may not even be possible for the Azorius deck because it's just that bad). The decks as they currently exist would be legal in RTR Block Constructed and such, but I don't really care about that. Almost all of my cards are much older than these ones, and I'll use what I have.
  2. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    Any certain decks types you expect to face regularly or just try to keep the decks to play and win against anything they might face?
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I don't usually try to metagame casual decks, and I don't have a playgroup right now anyway. There are a few people I might play online and use these decks and I might use them with my brother if I meet up with him some time in the near future. If I do play these decks against other people, they'll be relatively inexperienced players and my goal will just be to have these decks be built in such a way that my opponents have to use sensible deckbuilding and playing methods to beat me. Nothing too cut-throat: I'm saving all that stuff for you, Spidey. :p

    But seriously, the approach I'm taking now is any decks I build are either meant to be fun for inexperienced players to play against, while challenging them at least a little bit, or are built with competitive Legacy in mind. These are the former.
  4. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Nothing yet? Well, I'm pretending that I'm so far ahead on material for The Comboist Manifesto that I can totally work on these decks...

    Gruul Siege: This deck looks like it should be aggressive, but it's quite slow. There are no one-drops, and only a few two-drops. If this deck gets its way, after doing almost nothing, it dedicates turns 3, 4, and 5 to playing medium-sized creatures, then spends the rest of the game attacking with them. Bloodrush is the main mechanic of interest. Most of the non-creature spells are combat tricks or enhancements that complement Bloodrush.

    Ruric Thar, the Unbowed: The foil rare for this deck. Because of his size and his direct damage ability, he very likely closes out a game when this deck is ahead, although he may hit the battlefield too late if this deck is behind. He's practically the only line of defense Gruul Siege has against flying creatures. I'm never particularly unhappy to draw Ruric Thar.

    Zhur-Taa Druid: This little guy is really cool. His ability would probably be better suited to a deck that used the Bloodthirst mechanic, as opposed to the Bloodrush that this deck uses. In a deck that attempts to win with huge combat damage, I might be inclined to use Llanowar Elves and such over a two mana 1/1 that has a similar ability. Notably, the damage is not targeted, which hasn't mattered to me so far, but could potentially be useful.

    The Bloodrush package: Slaughterhorn, Rubblebelt Maaka, Viashino Shanktail, Ghor-Clan Rampager, Zhur-Taa Swine, and Skarrg Goliath. Surprisingly good, if the rest of the deck does its job. All of these creatures are viable both on the battlefield and as combat tricks through Bloodrush. I don't know if I even own any other Bloodrush creatures, but these ones might be enough. I probably wouldn't mind this deck having some more Slaughterhorns.

    The vanilla creatures: Cobblebrute and Ruination Wurm: I am glad that Cobblebrute isn't Hill Giant, and having efficient creatures with sufficient power is necessary to make the combat tricks, but these creatures could very easily go.

    The pumpable creatures: Mostly inefficient. Kraul Warrior works because the deck needs two-drops so badly and has so few of them. Feral Animist becomes really good if opponents blow their removal spells on other threats, and have no answer to a late-game attacker with no evasion and no toughness. I'll probably cut these for better cards.

    Ripscale Predator: Very deadly in combination with Bloodrush and instant-speed combat tricks. Also very slow. For the same CMC, I could play Ruric Thar and turn a game around. Ripscale Predator can finish someone off, but is unlikely to win a close game. I'm ambivalent on this one.

    Saruli Gatekeepers: The worst card in the deck. There are four gates and this deck has no way to find them other than to topdeck them. If I draw two Gruul Guildgates, and not this, then its ability doesn't matter because I never drew it anyway. If I draw this, but only draw one Gruul Guildgate, the ability is useless. A 2/4 for four mana is mediocre, and even if the triggered ability does work, it's not that good.

    Gruul War Chant: It takes up turn 4, or possibly turn 3 if Zhur-Taa Druid was played. Those are turns on which this deck desperately needs to be playing creatures. Also, it scales directly with the number of attacking creatures, so Bloodrushing creatures onto a single attacker doesn't synergize with Gruul War Chant very well. Despite those issues, this card is pretty nice. If I have three attackers and my opponent has four blockers, I can still get damage through to my opponent.

    The removal spells: Ground Assault, Pit Fight, and Volcanic Geyser. Being able to use spells to kill enemy creatures is good. None of these spells are particularly impressive. Volcanic Geyser, from M13, is an especially strange inclusion. These cards take up four slots. I might just replace them all with Lightning Bolt, which would be preferable in most situations.

    Armed // Dangerous: The best split card I've played with since Life // Death, which probably isn't saying much. It's sorcery-speed and a bit expensive, but makes up for that with how freaking good these spells are and with the Fuse mechanic. If I do manage to get the six mana needed to play both halves, it can function as a combat wrecking ball by playing both halves on the same creature or it can finish an opponent off by casting Armed on a big creature and Dangerous on a smaller creature, then attacking with both.

    Predator's Rapport: In a close game with Ruination Wurm on the battlefield, this spell can make a big difference. So can something that kills my opponent instead of healing me. It's called Gruul Siege, not Gruul Lifegain.

    Gruul Cluestone: This deck does need mana acceleration. If I can't think of anything better, I'll probably leave these in.

    Gruul Guildgate: I don't have any Taigas and if I did, I probably wouldn't put them in this deck. I could replace these with fetchlands or something, but they get the job done. There are too many lands, though. Or there will be once I cut some of the bad cards and add more mana acceleration. So we'll see.

    Azorius Authority: Not Gruul? Then die! I need to test this one a bit more. It's even more problematic than the Gruul Siege deck. I was going to post my thoughts on this one too, but I'll hold off for now...
  5. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Azorius Authority: This deck is even slower than Gruul Siege. While it's largely ineffective, the idea is obviously for this to be a control deck, which is probably true of almost all white/blue decks. Apparently the mechanic of interest for Azorius in RTR Block is "detain." I don't remember encountering it before I saw this deck. While the mechanic itself is very much in flavor for Azorius, it's mostly underwhelming. The idea behind this deck is "stop opponents from being able to do stuff." In principle, that is totally viable. As this deck stand currently, it can only actually do that a little, and can't do enough to win while it's doing that. When I tested Azorius Authority against Gruul Siege, initially Azorius Authority lost every game. After the first dozen attempts, things turned around and Azorius Authority went on a winning streak, partially because I got terrible draws with Gruul Siege. Lacking other cards with the "detain" mechanic, I can't directly strengthen that part of the deck. But I'll see if I can find other ways to bolster the capacity of this deck to control the game.

    Lavinia of the Tenth: The foil rare. Strong against red decks, but a 4/4 that costs five mana isn't particularly impressive as a presence. She has the potential to really punish opponents, but only on the turn in which she enters the battlefield. By detaining all nonland permanents that opponents control, she makes a much bigger splash than the other cards in the deck. She also costs five mana, so it might be too late to salvage the game by that point. One idea I'm considering is to add cards to this deck that can take Lavinia off the battlefield and then put her back, getting more use out of that powerful enters-the-battlefield ability.

    The rest of the Detain package: Martial Law, Lyev Decree, Lyev Skyknight, Azorius Arrester, Azorius Justiciar, Soulsworn Spirit. Martial Law is almost always good. The creatures and the Lyev Decrees are more situational. If one already has an advantage with creatures on the board, these guys can string the advantage out, preventing an opponent from recovering. Opponents play potential blockers, they get detained, and another attack goes through unchecked. Viable in principle, but mostly pretty fragile and prone to failure. I can't just cut the whole Detain package. It's the centerpiece of the deck. Even though they're the cheapest, the Azorius Arresters and Lyev Decrees are probably the weakest components here. If I cut any Detain cards, it will be some of those.

    Haazda Snare Squad: In keeping with the "lock down opposing permanents" theme, but this is a bad card. A 1/4 for three mana seems like the sort of thing that would be used defensively, but its ability only works while attacking, and only prevents a creature from blocking. Detaining a creature is better than just tapping it. If one detains an opponent's creature, that creature can't block and won't be able to attack next turn. Also, the ability requires white mana payment, which would throw off a mana curve if this deck had one (which it doesn't).

    Stealer of Secrets: I'd prefer Scroll Thief. But this card does work. I'm tempted to run Thieving Magpie in this deck.

    Flying creatures: Jelenn Sphinx, Ascended Lawmage, Wind Drake. Jelenn Sphinx is another instance in this deck of a creature that looks like it would be defensive, but has an offensive ability. The important detail here is that, unlike Haazda Snare Squad, Jelenn Sphinx has vigilance. It would be a really great card if it didn't cost five mana. The flying creatures here are a bit overcosted for what they do, at least in this deck. Jelenn Sphinx's ability would be nice for a deck that attacks with a lot of creatures, possibly one based on generating tokens. Ascended Lawmage has hexproof, which could be useful in the right deck, but this deck has no auras meant for its own creatures and only a single copy of an instant that is meant for its own creatures. Wind Drake is the most efficient of these creatures, but is also the most replaceable. I can do better than a generic 2/2 flying creature for three mana.

    Silvercoat Lion: Not much to say about this one. It's fine in this deck because this deck doesn't have any other two-drops. It usually ends up serving as a blocker, but can potentially act as a damage source in conjunction with creatures that detain opposing blockers.

    Sunspire Gatekeepers: Even worse than Saruli Gatekeepers. I hate drawing these guys. They have to go.

    Arrest: Fits the theme. Arresting is kind of like a more prolonged version of detaining something. But it does cost three mana to get rid of a single creature. When I play white, I'm used to paying one mana for that result.

    Righteous Charge: Sorcery-speed? No thanks.

    Avenging Arrow: Letting Ruric Thar attack me so that he deals damage, then casting this to kill him and taking 6 more damage from his ability has made me hate this card. Also, Avenging Arrow is overcosted. Again, if I want to get rid of creatures, I have some white spells that can do that and do a better job of it.

    Restore the Peace: Haven't found cause to use it yet. There's only one copy and the games in which I've drawn it, I didn't get a chance to use it. It seems lackluster, but it could also synergize nicely with the Detain package, especially Lavinia.

    Protect // Serve: So much worse than Armed // Dangerous. I usually don't bother with combat tricks in my decks, but that's because my decks are usually combo decks. I'm ambivalent on this one. I could replace it with a better card, but that goes for almost everything else in the deck.

    Azorius Cluestone: Same deal as Gruul Cluestone.

    Azorius Guildgate: I have a few Tundras, but I'd feel silly using them in a deck like this. These will either stay for their mana-fixing or get cut for acceleration of some sort.
  6. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Well, I've had a bit of a change of heart. I didn't get very far, but I'd added some cool stuff to these decks. I went back on those changes and decided to keep everything Standard-legal. This is new territory for me. No seriously, in 16 or so years of playing Magic, I've never built a Standard-legal deck. The closest I've come has been helping friends build block-constructed decks a couple of times, and now, making substitutions in preconstructed decks. At first, I didn't involve myself in the format due to practical considerations, and then at some point it became a thing I avoided on purpose. Apparently I'm too old for that crap, and it occurs to me that I might as well play around with cards in the environment they're primarily designed for. I have no immediate plans to actually play in Standard tournaments or even build real Standard decks. This is just a sort of mental exercise. I have some Standard-legal cards, so I'm constraining my changes to these decks and seeing what I can come up with.

    That said, I'd still happily take suggestions.

    From the Dragon's Maze packs I was given during the holidays, Gruul Siege got a second Ruric-Thar, a fourth Zhur-Taa Druid, and a third Gruul Cluestone. Not much for quantity, but for this specific deck, that's considerable quality. I wasn't as lucky when it game to Azorius cards: the only Dragon's Maze card I added was a Runner's Bane. Mostly, I cut some bad cards in both decks in exchange for more useable Theros cards. The two decks are evenly matched in my testing so far. The Gruul deck bulldozed the Azorius deck in the first two games, but lost the third due to Daxos of Meletis and the fourth due to an aerial assault backed up by "Detain" effects on its big creatures. I put several "Bestow" creatures in both decks, and I'll have to decide whether or not to scale back on that.
  7. Terentius The Instigator

    I'm in a similar boat to where you are in regards to Standard. I don't plan on playing competitively, but I had a bunch of Theros cards from drafts, so I slapped together a block RW Heroic weenie, and it's one of the weakest decks I've ever made.

    My friend (not the one mentioned in my other threads, but the other one I recently got into Magic) started with a Gruul pre-con and built his first deck off of that. Being new, he is largely Timmy like most of us were when we started, and he kinda went overboard with mana dorks and things like Garruk and Abundance and such to pump out Vigor and Pathrazer of Ulamog*. Anyway, I don't know if you're willing to buy singles, but a lot of the Gruul rares are cheap: Rubblebelt Raiders, Borborygmos, Gruul Ragebast; I see you already got a couple Ruric Thars. How come you don't like Pit Fight? Would Prey Upon work better? In any case, Bloodrush is the backbone of Gruul, and Ghor-Clan Rampager is a workhorse/champion.

    *I would just like everyone to know that when my friend played Pathrazer of Ulamog for the first time, I destroyed it with Tephraderm + Contested Cliffs and regenerated Tephraderm. Ker-freakin-SPLAT.
  8. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Oh, most of the cards I've ever bought have been singles. But I don't know that I'd do so for these decks. I guess it depends.

    I think I was trying Prey Upon for a while. Neither it nor Pit Fight are in the current version, but they pretty reasonably could be. I originally cut them back when I was planning to use anything in my collection to modify these decks. Pit Fight is a more situational damage spell than a lot of the older ones I have. It's not that Pit Fight sucks, but that I was thinking I'd prefer Lightning Bolt. Pit Fight could go back in. I've been testing a lot of different options. Initially the Gruul deck was dominating the Azorius deck, but after the latest round of changes, the Azorius deck might be slightly stronger than the Gruul deck. Both decks have a lot of "Bestow" creatures because I wanted to try those out.
  9. Terentius The Instigator

    I haven't played against any of the Azorius cards, but I have a Venser deck with Kor Hookmaster that can repetitively tap creatures for a turn, which may be similar. If the Gruul deck is being overpowered by Detain, then I guess the counter is to increase numbers? Which would explain why you'd want more Slaughterhorns (I'd prefer the Ghor-Clan Savage or whatever the RG one is, just because Slaughterhorn looks like a big cow). I believe Gruul has a guildmage that can turn lands into 4/4 tramples for RG also...

    As for Daxos, Pit Fight would lick him nicely. Though a Bolt would too, with added versatility. But the theme!
  10. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Kor Hookmaster was initially going to be put into my deck before I changed my mind about keeping the decks Standard-legal for a while. You have the right idea, but really, most of the "Detain" cards aren't even that good. I'd like to combo Lavinia of the Tenth with Venser, Sojourner. That'd be something.

    Oh, it isn't. What happened was that Gruul was totally dominating most games against Azorius, then I tweaked both decks. Since the last round of changes, Azorius is up 10 games to 8, which isn't that overpowering. That's what I meant about how the Azorius deck might be slightly stronger, though. Before I made changes to these decks, if Gruul got off to a faster start, it always won, whereas even if Azorius got off to a faster start, sometimes Gruul would just win outright with Ruric-Thar or a well-timed Armed // Dangerous. Gruul still beats Azorius down if it comes out faster, but has a harder time coming back from behind now.

    I could still try to tweak both decks. Some of the cards I put into the Azorius deck are working perfectly (like Runner's Bane). Others are cards I added because they're very good and I opened them in packs, but they just don't work well enough in this particular deck (like Master of Waves, which would be awesome if the rest of the deck worked with it). There are some situational changes I'd still make to the Gruul deck. Destructive Revelry is amazing right now, because it always has a target, but wouldn't be so great if its opponent had fewer enchantments.

    I just think Slaughterhorn is a great card and the price is right for it. Three mana and a nice Bloodrush for just one mana. It's almost like having a creature that can alternatively be a Giant Growth. That's not to say anything is wrong with Ghor-Clan Rampager. Given the choice, I'd bump up the numbers on that one too.

    Skarrg Guildmage. I hadn't thought of him. I don't have any, but if I happen across them, I'll pick them up. A 2/2 for two and both abilities look pretty good.

    Oh, the game I was talking about in which Daxos wrecked the Gruul deck happened back when Pit Fight was still in the Gruul deck, I just never drew it. What happened was that the Gruul deck drew a hand with lots of mana and a couple of big creatures, but Daxos came out right away and the Azorius deck was one turn ahead, able to repeatedly steal cards from the Gruul deck before the Gruul deck and use them. Daxos is far from invincible. Pit Fight does kill him. It can also work for him if he flips it before it's topdecked. It's a matter of which cards are drawn and when.

    That being said, I think you're right about Pit Fight being pretty useful. I'll probably put it back in once I readjust these decks. I should post updated decklists, so people can scoff at my poor decision-making.

    At some point, this became more an exercise in what I can do with my new cards than anything about preserving theme. If I wanted to go for theme, I have a big stack of Guildpact cards that could considerably improve the Gruul deck (Azorius would lose out, as my collection has very little Dissension). Once I get sick of having Standard-legal decks or, failing that, the format rotates, I might still do that. I'd like to see how Zhur-Taa Druid gets along with some "Bloodthirst" guys. I think they'd be good friends. But I don't know about all that. I didn't pick these precons. I have them because they were gifts. My true allegiance lies elsewhere...

  11. Terentius The Instigator

    Zhur-Taa Druid would work swimmingly with Bloodthirst, but a lot of the Gruul Bloodthirst guys aren't the most cost-efficient. I find the best one to be Scab-Clan Mauler, but if I were to run him I'd always be thinking "man, I wish I could T1 Zhur-Taa Druid, T2 Mauler". Otherwise it might be easier to just run Kalonian Tusker, which my Timmy friend does. Theme violation!
  12. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Scab-Clan Mauler would probably be the most tempting one, but there are others. Gorehorn Minotaurs might be worth it. Skarrgan Firebird is pretty nice. I'd also consider Stormblood Berserker and Skarrgan Pit-Skulk (they have synergy with Bloodrush). Petrified Wood-Kin might be viable as a finisher.
  13. Terentius The Instigator

    Oh yeah. I was only mentioning non-rares for some reason.
  14. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Well, I haven't taken these apart yet, but I probably will soon. I have other decks I want to focus on and, if nothing else, I can use the sleeves. There's a chance I'll eventually get around to making these non-Standard decks, but the experiment is over. With the limited selection of Standard-legal cards I have (and blowing money on ridiculously expensive Legacy cards meant I couldn't possibly justify buying cards for these decks too), there's not much more I could do to refine these, and they're not very fun to test against each other because almost every game is one-sided. I don't mean that I built one deck much better than the other. I mean that between these two decks, whichever one gets going first always wins, and the matchup is completely dependent on opening hands and the first two or three topdecks, with the rest of the game being a foregone conclusion, even if it takes ten or so turns to actually reach completion.

    These are my final decklists, at least for the Standard-legal upgrades I gave the decks...

    Gruul Siege
    3x Rubblebelt Maaka
    2x Viashino Shanktail
    1x Slaughterhorn
    1x Ghor-Clan Rampager
    1x Zhur-Taa Swine
    1x Skarrg Goliath
    2x Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
    1x Ripscale Predator
    4x Zhur-Taa Druid
    1x Scavenging Ooze
    1x Deadly Recluse
    1x Satyr Hedonist
    1x Young Pyromancer
    1x Leafcrown Dryad
    2x Spearpoint Oread
    1x Nessian Courser
    2x Gruul War Chant
    1x Ordeal of Nylea
    1x Giant Growth
    1x Titan's Strength
    1x Flames of the Firebrand
    1x Pit Fight
    1x Armed // Dangerous
    2x Destructive Revelry
    1x Bow of Nylea
    3x Gruul Cluestone
    4x Gruul Guildgate
    9x Mountain
    9x Forest

    Azorius Authority
    1x Martial Law
    3x Lyev Decree
    2x Azorius Arrester
    1x Azorius Justiciar
    1x Soulsworn Spirit
    1x Lyev Skyknight
    1x Lavinia of the Tenth
    2x Stealer of Secrets
    2x Scroll Thief
    1x Thassa's Emissary
    1x Nimbus Naiad
    1x Hopeful Eidolon
    1x Vaporkin
    2x Omenspeaker
    1x Battlewise Hoplite
    1x Daxos of Meletis
    2x Ascended Lawmage
    1x Master of Waves
    2x Jelenn Sphinx
    1x Hundred-Handed One
    1x Runner's Bane
    1x Pacifism
    1x Arrest
    1x Frost Breath
    1x Aqueous Form
    1x Restore the Peace
    2x Azorius Cluestone
    4x Azorius Guildgate
    10x Plains
    10x Island

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