Release weekend has become a ritual of Limited PPTQs, and I love it. In years past, I’d go play some “release Sealed” at a local store. Now I get to do it with a chance to qualify for a chance to qualify for the Pro Tour. Maybe not that different in a practical sense—you’re basically playing for fun and prize packs either way—but at least the cake of lies looks tasty. Hour of Devastation Limited has proven fun so far, and I was excited to play against solid competition.

I sat down to the deck build with images of sphinxes and removal spells dancing through my head. I actually did open [casthaven]Curator of Mysteries[/casthaven] and plenty of removal, but my deck ended up going in a different direction. It didn’t take long to figure out this is what I needed to play:

Overcome with Cats

Creatures (14)
Sacred Cat
Rhonas’s Stalwart
Oketra’s Avenger
Dauntless Aven
Pride Sovereign
Ramunap Excavator
Harrier Naga
Defiant Greatmaw
Solitary Camel
Vizier of the True
Winged Shepherd
Sifter Wurm

Spells (9)
Mouth // Feed
Rhonas’s Monument
Sunset Pyramid
Appeal // Authority
Cast Out
Compulsory Rest
Farm // Market
Lands (17)
Desert of the Indomitable
Survivors’ Encampment
Cradle of the Accursed

Sideboard (27)
Mummy Paramount
Quarry Hauler
Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs
Oashra Cultivator
Giant Spider
Djeru’s Renunciation
Beneath the Sands
Dagger of the Worthy
Traveler’s Amulet
Crook of Condemnation
Survivors’ Encampment
Khenra Charioteer
Open Fire
Sand Strangler
Blur of Blades
Wildfire Eternal
Unquenchable Thirst
Curator of Mysteries
Hour of Eternity
Dread Wanderer
Bone Picker
Cartouche of Ambition

[casthaven]Pride Sovereign[/casthaven] is basically [casthaven]Pack Rat[/casthaven]. The rest of my rares are underwhelming, but I knew I needed to play green. [casthaven]Sifter Wurm[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Overcome[/casthaven] are both power uncommons, as is Rhonas’s Monument in a creature-heavy deck. [casthaven]Appeal // Authority[/casthaven] does a ton of work in this sort of deck, and might actually be better than [casthaven]Overcome[/casthaven].

I considered playing three colors, but straight green-white looked better. I didn’t want to waste card slots on mediocre mana fixing like [casthaven]Traveler’s Amulet[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Manalith[/casthaven], especially when my power cards dictate a heavy dose of creatures. [casthaven]Ambuscade[/casthaven], [casthaven]Farm // Market[/casthaven], [casthaven]Cast Out[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Compulsory Rest[/casthaven] provide plenty of removal, so there’s not much value in splashing the red removal.

[casthaven]Sunset Pyramid[/casthaven] is amazing that provides great card advantage for not much mana. Selesnya decks tend to lose when they run out of cards, but with the pyramid and [casthaven]Mouth // Feed[/casthaven] I was able to avoid that problem. The only tough call was whether to play [casthaven]Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs[/casthaven]. Maybe I should have—it’s strong with deserts and blocks a lot of annoying creatures—but I decided it was too awkward with my two big pump spells. The last cuts in a sealed deck don’t tend to matter that much as long as you sideboard well, so I felt safe bringing in the wall when it would be good.

The deck isn’t overpowered but it is consistent and strong. The mana is mostly good, so it will generally curve out. [casthaven]Overcome[/casthaven] isn’t as strong as [casthaven]Overrun[/casthaven], as it generally does three or four damage less than the famous game-winner. Thus you want to get in more damage early, which can be tricky when you don’t want to trade creatures. Having two [casthaven]Oketra’s Avenger[/casthaven] definitely helps here.

The tournament played out well. I lost round four to my friend (and tenth-place finisher in the GP Vegas Limited main event) Brandon Montoya, who had an absurd red-black aggro deck that curved out perfectly. I had the worst tiebreakers of the one-loss players in the final round, so I had to play it out. I won a close match and earned the second seed in the top eight.

Going into the draft, I was looking to play blue, green, or maybe both. I don’t like white or black very much, and while I like red, I felt it would be the most drafted early in the format. Things worked out pretty well, though I ended up a few cards short of what I was hoping to draft.

UG Tempo Spells

Creatures (13)
Proven Combatant
Slither Blade
Frilled Sandwalla
River Hoopoe
Feral Prowler
Spellweaver Eternal
Aerial Guide
Devotee of Strength
Sinuous Striker
Vizier of the Anointed
Honored Hydra

Spells (11)
Trial of Strength
Rhonas’s Monument
Uncage the Menagerie
Essence Scatter
Unquenchable Thirst
Consign // Oblivion
Strategic Planning
Lands (16)
Desert of the Mindful
Desert of the Indomitable

Sideboard (16)
Quarry Hauler
Zenith Seeker
Countervailing Winds
Tragic Lesson
Benefaction of Rhonas
Life Goes On
Beneath the Sands
Ipnu Rivulet
Cradle of the Accursed
Luxa River Shrine
Mericless Eternal
Dauntless Aven
Disposal Mummy
Winged Shepherd

I started with [casthaven]Uncage the Menagerie[/casthaven] over [casthaven]Puncturing Blow[/casthaven]. That could be wrong, but I like being able to draw a couple two drops on turn four, or three three-drops if the game goes longer. I picked up [casthaven]River Hoopoe[/casthaven] fourth or fifth pick, and gladly slid into simic tempo. I wheeled one of the two [casthaven]Riddleform[/casthaven]s I saw in pack one, and was happy to get it. U I wish I could have gotten both, and the fact that one got taken suggested I might be fighting a little bit for my colors. [casthaven]Uncage the Menagerie[/casthaven], bounce spells, trials, and cartouches all work well with [casthaven]Riddleform[/casthaven], and I like it as much in blue-green as in blue-red. [casthaven]Overcome[/casthaven] also works well with the enchantment flier, and I was lucky to pick one up a few picks into pack two.

The Amonkhet pack start well, with [casthaven]Honored Hydra[/casthaven] into [casthaven]Rhonas’s Monument[/casthaven], but it ended up going really poorly for me. The only creatures I saw were expensive ones. While blue and green both felt fairly open in pack one, I suppose someone upstream slid into blue or green as a secondary color for their deck. I never saw any blue or green cartouches, which was also disappointing. It turned out someone else was also drafting blue-green, but he was two to my left, so I think I mostly got unlucky with the third pack. Even so, this deck is capable to winning against anything.

I crushed a black-white deck in the first round of the top eight. I curved out, drew my good spells, and was into the semifinals quickly. Unfortunately in the top four I flooded out after great starts in both games against red-white, and came up short. Drawing any spell, even [casthaven]Strategic Planning[/casthaven], probably would have won either game. So it goes.

The other blue-green drafter took down the PPTQ, confirming my belief that simic is the strongest combination to draft in the early format. Green has so many good creatures, and blue now has a lot of good cheap creatures and tons of interaction. Red-white is still good, but I think you want to be playing either blue or green, if not both.

I’m headed up north to Toronto this weekend for the Grand Prix. My confidence is high. Hopefully the gods will be on my side.

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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