A few weeks back, I read about Kyle Sanchez’ latest creation over at Star City Games, and was immediately smitten. As I don’t normally keep up with Standard in the post-children era of my life, I slowly acquired the missing cards, and finally got to take it out for a spin at a local tuesday night $2.50 tournament with mixed but generally positive results. Below is the decklist I ran, which was an earlier incarnation of the deck which Sanchez pseudo-advocated after trying a different list at his States tournament. He didn’t post this list exactly, but it seemed to me the point he was advising people to begin from, so I tried to coat-tail his work and heed his advice. The list:
I spent a lot of time goldfishing this deck, but it’s trickier than it looks. On the surface there’s the benefits that come from the 8-pack of Birds of Paradise / Noble Hierarch, which means the deck often plays 3′s on 2 and 4′s on 3. So it can be speedier than it looks.
The main plan of attack (especially against anyone not suspected of packing discard) seems to be to stock up on crabs, hitting for occasional archive traps when possible, snaring up extra traps along the way, and generally stalling. Ideally, you’ll have at least one active knight of the reliquary and 2+ crabs the turn you seek to go off. I found it hard to resist the temptation to run out an early crab, but when I did run one out early, it always felt like a mistake.
Once you have some crabs and a knight, you can drop some crabs and go absolutely nuts on knight-sacrificing forests / plains into some manner of fetchland, and back into another basic. This is usually enough to do the trick, especially if you’ve already managed to land a trap or two.
The nice thing is that having HUGE knights is trivial, so there’s always the fallback plan of swinging with knights, and I won one game on something like turn 5 with this route, punishing his missed land drop.
Anyway, the tournament went awry, and I finished the four rounds at 1-3. But my spirits are high. I am very unfamiliar with the metagame (played my first EVER game against Jund) as well as with my deck. ALL of my matches went to three games, and most of the three losses seemed like they were marginal… easily converted into wins with more practice and knowledge.
So round 1 I faced planeswalker control, which was my one win, and seemed by far to be the easiest matchup. Game 1 was solidly in my favor, but in game two he brought in Quest for Ancient Secrets, which seems to be the nemesis of this deck. I had no out, as I stupidly did NOT side in the wargate / needle package in game 2… again, unfamiliarity was the culprit. Game 3 I wised up and brought in needle, dropping it with wargate on turn 4 and naming Quest, which he already had on board. Winning was academic from this point, as he never drew an answer to the 1-drop artifact.
Round 2 I faced an unorthodox vampires deck with sanguine bond and tainted sigil. This was the match in which I learned how important it is to save crabs for one big turn, not run them out incrementally, as I lost the deciding game on the turn he drew his LAST (fucking) card! Epic “d’oh” on that one. One more crab activation at any point would have done it, and two incremental crabs ate it to his doom blade and what not. So I chalk this one up to unfamiliarity as well.
Round 3 was Jund, and it wasn’t as scary as I thought! I was playing Glen Goddard of States and recent Mark Rosewater article fame. He’s a longstanding pillar of the Albuquerque Magic scene, having owned the main Magic shop in town for a decade or more before selling it a few years back to work on his events company SunMesaEvents. Anyway, he wasn’t running Putrid Leech, which was great. I had lots of time to set up, and nuked him good in the first game. He came back with deadly blightning disruption and timely bolts in response to fetch lands in the second, and in the third, I died to his beats without ever finding a single trap or snare… either would have done the trick as he had < 13 cards in the library when we finished. So another very close match, and against the format bugaboo to boot!
Round 4 I lost to pure random weirdness… my opponent had a jacked up hodge-podge of a deck, the main line of attack of which seemed to be Jhessian Infiltrator + Vines of Vastwood. This really threw me for a (stupid) loop when he killed me in game 2 because I didn't path his Lord of Extinction (which against my deck was basically lethal at all times!) on my own turn, instead auto-piloting to his turn, then path-ing it during combat, only to take roughly ten billion damage when he vines'ed in response. Tsk tsk… … auto-pilot will getcha every time. Anyway, he went on to win game 3 because… get this… his main deck has 68 cards in it. He had 7 cards in his library when he won. So again… this is not expected to be common.
I love the deck. I love the multiple angles of attack. I love how some draws just deck fools seemingly effortlessly. But then again, it’s a nail-biter. Lots of matches went to time. All of them 3 gamers. Tons of shuffling. Tons of decisions. Lots of math, albeit mainly just easy counting.
I would definitely recommend giving it a try. Fun and challenging and not at all mainstream from what I could tell. Nobody seemed to have heard of the deck, and many of my games drew a 4-6 man crowd in a tournament with something like 14 people or so. Lots of “cool deck” comments and the like.
So anyway, I was VERY happy to be back in a standard tournament, even if the competition included only about 50% canonical decklists. I also like the deck as a choice for folks like me who play eternal formats, but can’t quite keep up with the Joneses in Standard… you don’t need the super-money stuff, and most of the cards are ones you’ll want in Legacy or Extended anyway (fetches, ranger, hierarch, knights) or they’re dirt cheap (all the other rares). This was a large part of my deck choice process, as my p9p teammates know. I didn’t want to spend a lot on cards that I would seldom play with, not being a Standard regular.
I like the way the deck is put together as is. Negate is huge against control. Angelsong was helpful against aggro, as was war monk. I think I’d like another needle in the side, as sometimes I was wishing I had the option to grab a second when there was a Quest as well as a planeswalker, but it didn’t seem to make a win/loss level of difference.
My only real innovation here is suspect… I’m not sure it’s a good idea, but I plan to try it: throwing one Arid Mesa in the mix somehow, either in place of one expanse or one catacombs / tarn. Not sure which. The reasoning here is that every once in a while, it would have been SUPER helpful to be able to use a knight to search up a fetchland that could result in an untapped plains, as when you want to drop a ranger or a knight or leave path mana open. I think the danger, of course, is that forests are key early, so you don’t want to dilute the ability to open with (fetch-into-) forest -> BoP / Hierarch and go from there… the optimal opening. So we’ll see what some testing shows on this issue.
So there you have it. Sanchez Ranger Crabs. Fun as hell. Holla back in the comments, and if anyone knows KS, send him this way, I’d love to see a comment from the deck’s originator. Peace.