By Tom De Wael
The goal of this piece is to get you started with deck building in Gentry. Keep in mind that this process is very personal and may vary for different people. The way I see it, there a 2 big approaches to get into the format.
The “Top” we are referring to here is the professional Competitive Standard scene. It is sometimes possible to get ideas there. This is an interesting approach if you are a die-hard tournament player (often referred to as a “spike”) who knows a thing or two about the tournament circuit and who is no stranger to the coverage over at The Mothership (www.magicthegathering.com) and/or knows his way around the net to find the latest decklists of decks that did well in Competitive events. (www.mtgtop8.com)
If you are not that Spike yet, you are wondering what I mean, and you want to get more serious about playing Magic in a tournament setting, you should check out those sites.
To build your own deck, Gentry players can go and have a peek at what decks are doing well in “official” Standard. Perhaps you even already have a Standard deck that you can convert to Gentry? While it may not be possible to “tone down” every Standard deck, take a look at the following list:
Since the release of Kaladesh, RG energy has been doing quite well in Gentry, despite having access to only 4 of the rares in the official Standard build. Sure, it gets a lot harder to draw that Pummeler, Hydra or Arlinn, but the major strength in this deck lies in its core of solid Uncommons like Voltaic Brawler and Longtusk Cub.
So what would a RG energy deck look like in Gentry?
Our first step is to make the mana base a lot more basic and add a few more lands, this is necessary because right now the list has way too many Rares to produce its mana, something we can’t afford in Gentry. We will also need to add lands because in the end we will need to add a few cards with higher mana costs to round out the deck.
Something like 22 lands seems more fitting for a Gentry build. To fix the mana add Evolving Wilds and/or the uncommon duals that have been downshifted in rarity thanks to the latest duel deck. (The red-green version is the one from Oath of the Gate Watch: Timber Gorge)
The second step is deciding what 4 different rares you want to play.
To select these you need to answer a few questions for yourself: Do you want to keep the Pummeler or not as it dictates a large part of the card choices? Hydra and Arlinn seem like clear winners but what about the other slot(s)?
There is no right or wrong answer and you can choose based on the rares you have, like or are willing to trade for. This is what makes Gentry so much fun to play, you can actually play that one cool card you’ve been dying to cast. Pummeler can be really devastating if not answered, but other Gentry players like more flexible threats like a Verdurous Gearhulk or Zada, Hedron Grinder (who pumps your whole team when you target it with pump spells and pushes the deck in the same direction as Pummeler does)
The next step is deciding which Uncommons to play, which can be quite the tricky task for some builds. In the case of RG Energy 8 slots are auto includes: Your 4 copies each of the early 2 drop beat sticks: Cub and Voltaic Brawler. These are so good early you’d always want multiples to cast in the early turns, thus we max out the number of copies we play.
Then the fight starts for the remaining 7 slots. You should decide if you want to maximize the numbers of the cards in those slots (4-3) or diversify them (3-2-2) over the last options, which are most notably the Servants (acceleration and mana fixing), Harnessed Lightning (removal) and Blossoming Defense (protection/pump).
The Servants are the most difficult to replace with common alternatives so I personally would play 3 or 4 of those. For the remaining slots I would most likely go for Blossoming Defense over Lightning because an aggro deck like RG Energy wants you to be proactive and well… just smash harder. Defense is also a mana cheaper than Lightning.
Last but not least it’s time to complete the deck with the commons. With around 22 lands, 4 rares and 15 Uncommons that leaves you with 19 slots. The official Standard list from before only has 12 so we need to pump these numbers:
The 4 Attunes for mana fixing and energy are an auto include. We have nothing better to do on turn one than to play a land that enters the battlefield tapped so getting these to get a jump start on our Energy while fixing our colors is indispensable, especially with Longtusk Cub, who enters the battlefield without energy of his own.
Finally we need to replace the loss of the rare creatures with some common ones and we can go for extra early ones like Thriving Grubs and Thriving Rhino or aim to have a bigger impact later in the game with Riparian Tiger or Spontaneous Artist.
A final draft of your Gentry deck that started from a Standard “netdeck” could look like this:
(* although I normally do not like playing Evolving wilds in this kind of aggressive deck, they do give you the option to include a splash color in the sideboard like blue for Negate, just don’t forget to include 1 island in the sideboard.
2. From the Bottom up
This is probably the most interesting way to build a deck if you are a relatively new player, so hear me out…
What I mean is that when you have only opened a few packs, only went to a prerelease or release (those for the next magic set called Aether Revolt are just around the corner) or did a FNM draft, you most likely don’t have the cards necessary to build a (competitive) Standard deck and even if you could get a deck together, your chances of winning (or just having a fun game all together) against the Standard top dogs like UW Flash, BG Delirium or Aetherworks Marvel, all with 20+ rares and/or mythics, are very slim.
It’s also possible you have been looking through the cards on www.gatherer.com or have seen one or more cards from the a set that will be released soon and wonder if you would be able to build something with them. Here too it can be tough to put something together that will have a fighting chance against established decks in Standard with lots of rares.
Besides, aren’t you tired of hearing/reading from people that card as certain card “is nice for commander”? Don’t you want to be able to build and play a 60 card deck and have a fun game with the cards you like? Then let’s take those cards and build a deck from the bottom up in Gentry. A lot of the principles we have identified in the top-down method will remain useful here too.
The first step is identifying what card(s) you would like to build around:
Do you want to put that specific angel in a deck, or give your Prerelease Foil Dovin Baan a home?
Maybe you like a card like Unlicensed Desintegration that dictates the kind of cards that should be played around it or you want to build something around the mechanics of a new set like revolt or improvise in Aether Revolt? How about making a deck that spews out as many thopters tokens as possible with Whirler Virtuoso? How about making an entire colorless deck with Wastes, a special type of basic lands that only appeared in a single set? All these cards will look for synergy in other cards you play and thus give a theme and a strategy to your deck.
Let’s take one of my favorite cards that’s in standard right now: Eldrazi Displacer.
It has an infinite combo with Brood Monitor (you sacrifice the 3 Scion tokens it makes, exile and return the Monitor, which gives you 3 new Scions to rinse and repeat the process). This engine you can either steal infinite life with Zulaport Cutthroat or repeatedly trigger other abilities that care about creatures dying, growing Bloodbriar or Gavony Unhallowed into sheer infinite proportions.
The core would look something like this:
The next step then becomes to look at what other rares would look great in this shell. If we end up sacrificing a lot of things, perhaps we can achieve Delirium (having 4 or more card types in the graveyard) which makes Ishkanah an option? Another way to go is including some other interesting creatures to blink (quickly exiling and returning a permanent) like Verdurous and Noxious Gearhulk. Another way to go is to have more ways to find the Displacer, making search effects like Eldritch Evolution and Traverse the Ulvenwald options?
Important factors to consider when building from the bottom up is what we have available and/or how much we want to spend (or trade ?)
The next step is identifying which Uncommons go well with this game plan.
8 slots are reserved for the combo pieces Brood Monitor and Zulaport Cutthroat. The remaining slots can be used for utility creatures/spells to help find the combo in Duskwatch recruiter, Diabolic Tutor or Catacomb sifter, and uncommon removal like Murder and Fatal Push.
The next step is to go looking for Commons to complete the deck. For this specific combo style deck I chose to go really pro-active and fill the deck to the brim with creatures and ways to get the combo out. That means mana creatures like Loam Dryad and Ulvenwald Captive as well as utility in Altar’s Reap and Grapple with the Past.
We end up with the following list:
GWB Displacer/Brood Monitor Combo
1 Eldrazi Displacer
1 Noxious Gearhulk
4 Brood Monitor
4 Zulaport Cutthroat
4 Duskwatch Recruiter
2 Catacomb sifter
4 Loam dryad
4 Primal Druid
4 Ulvenwald Captive
Wait… What… How about the lands when we start building from the bottom up?
I wanted to address this specifically as it’s a question I hear people ask at drafts or sealed events (like at prereleases or release drafts). While it is a bit more complicated, the simplified version I have been using for years is as follows: You count the number of mana symbols of your cards and divide that by 2 to determine the number of lands (so 1 manasource for each 2 symbols) rounded up.
For the above list that is:
33 Green -> 17 forests
13 Black -> 7 swamps
1 white -> 1 plain
That would mean playing 25 lands, which is too much given there are also mana creatures in the deck to help us out. Gentry allows us to play some fixing that’s very rarely used in official Standard, yet is a format staple in gentry (did you know it has an FNM promo version by the way?).
That makes our mana base 9 Forest, 8 Swamp, 1 Plains, 4 Evolving Wilds -> 22 lands (Editors note: Then add in some Tranquil Expanse, Foul Orchard and Forsaken Sanctuaries to finish up, just make sure you keep the one Plains in there)
But wait, what about your sideboard in Gentry ?
Very well you noticed …
I have found this to be a big challenge of the format for the following reasons:
Your 4 rare slots and 15 uncommon slots are usually already used up by your main deck so there is no more room in your sideboard for cards that target specific colors or strategies since these types of cards are usually Uncommon or even Rare.
The format is REALLY diverse. In fact, last Gentry Open we counted 15 different archetypes among 26 players.
The trick here is identifying the specific problems your deck might be facing.
It’s not a bad idea to splash blue to have access to negate for your RG energy deck or have some (extra) creature removal (prey upon, rabid bite) or artifact and enchantment removal (appetite for the unnatural, natural state, .) or some kind of area effect like flaying tendrils, …
(Editor’s note: An article focused on sideboard in Gentry will come out shortly after Aether Revolt is released)
Gentry allows us to build and enjoy a much more diverse meta game and is a much smoother introduction to constructed play than official Standard where good decks have been in the range of 300+ euros the last couple of years, and absolutely crush a lot of budget decks.
The advantage of the top-down method is that it gives already enfranchised standard players a way to get in the gentry format (you just need a deck box with an extra 60 sleeves with some different commons and you can switch in a copies of your top notch rares like Lilliana or Gideon) and some of your Uncommons so you can actually play.
On the other hand it gives new players a way to build a deck (like the RG Energy deck) that they can gradually upgrade to a full standard deck with trade/cards they get from prize support or by buying more product.
The advantage of the second method is that you can try to build a deck around cards you opened and really like, or a way to take your prerelease pool or FNM draft deck and try to build as strong a deck as possible with.
If you are thinking about building something with a certain card or choose to build something around a specific mechanic, don’t hesitate to send me a message or talk to fellow players. Don’t forget: Gentry is all about inclusion, fun but also a little about competition !
Tom (the other one)
Tom is a family man with 3 kids and an amazing wife that fell in love with constructed again thanks to Gentry. He has been playing magic since Visions (1997) and in his grinding days qualified and went to the Pro Tour 4 times (Los Angeles , Nice, Kuala Lumpur and Kyoto), he also was a Grand Prix regular and managed to make day 2 at Gp’s a dozen times back int he day you needed to win 7 rounds on day one to advance.