Before the Pro Tour started there was some buzz about the Dutch combo deck. I thought we had tried to keep it somewhat secret but most major teams seemed to know what was in the deck just not the exact numbers. They also didn't know how consistent it would be.
We chatted some with Bob Maher and Neil Reeves, who found themselves without a deck for the Pro Tour and they asked how good our deck was. When we told them it was capable of winning on turn two, and play around Force Spike at the same time they was impressed and bought the deck from us. Yesterday, Bob Maher, Neil Reeves, Arjan van Leeuwen, Kamiel Cornelissen, Noah Boeken, Frank Karsten and myself played it. By now I guess you all know what's in it, but I'll try and give an impression of how the deck works exactly and some of its history.
Victor van den Broek
The Angry Hermit part 2 deck has two game plans really. There is the Hermit/Ghoul combo part and the standard reanimator theme. The Hermit plan is to get a Hermit Druid into play, activating it and either get the one Mountain in the deck that way, or milling your entire deck because you already drew the Mountain or one of the four Onslaught Fetchlands in the deck. After that, you Exhume a Sutured Ghoul, remove some fatties in your graveyard from the game, and attack with it because it has Haste due to an Anger in the graveyard.
This is the easy way of doing it. There is also a Krosan Reclamation
in the deck to function as a Demonic Tutor if you have no deck left – you just shuffle two Exhume
s back in. Even then, the deck doesn't play as easy as it sounds. Your opponent tends to want and disrupt you, people kill the Hermit Druid
, they Diabolic Edict
you, et cetera. That's why the Duress
es and Cabal Therapy
are in the deck, to make sure you do win once you mill your deck.
The other plan is very straightforward. You Entomb either the Verdant Force or the Avatar of Woe, against Sligh and Reanimator respectively. Afterwards you get Exhume it back into play and cross your fingers and hope to win. You generally do though. Of course, after doing that, you can still play the Hermit Druid and put pressure on them some more.
Now I've been asked a lot over the weekend how good the deck is and why only three out of six people made day two with it if it's that good. The answer to that is that the deck is extremely difficult to play. You only get a few turns and if you mess up in those, you're dead. There is no coming back from an empty library. I went 1-3 with the deck, throwing away two matches to mistakes. When I see Kamiel and Bob play the deck here at the Pro Tour, I see them making decisions that I would've made differently. I guess that's why they're 7-2 and 8-1 and I flunked out.
Kamiel Cornelissen posted a decklist that contained Hermit Druid and Sutured Ghoul idea but it missed some key cards. We built a first version of the deck, playtested it a bit and it was discarded as being too inconsistent and it lost to Sligh, of all matchups. A version was still brought to GP Copenhagen, where it was played in testing a bit more, but the real changes to the deck didn't happen until our way back from Amsterdam Airport. Jelger Wiegersma, Ruud Warmenhoven and I sat in a train and I suggested the deck should run Verdant Forces instead of the 10/10 fader from Nemesis, Skyshroud Behemoth. It could also run Entomb to get them in the graveyard and Exhume to get it out again – the standard Benzo plan. Also, by adding a Krosan Reclamation to the deck it made sure that just the Hermit Druid was a one-card combo that could kill the opponent.
Still though, in testing the deck was losing more than it was winning. It felt really strong and I wasn't ready to discard it just yet. I changed the deck a little bit more to include Krosan Colossus and it got a lot more stable. Ruud and Jelger took the deck to one of the local draft evenings and rejected it once more – as it lost to Sped Red. I got pretty frustrated by this and played the deck against Cathy Nicoloff, who was staying at my place for a while. We toyed around with the deck and in the end; I wasn't losing to Sligh anymore. Other matchups, such as the Rock, Tinker and Reanimator were all very good matchups ranging from 70 to 90% in games.
Then in the airplane to Houston, we almost rejected the deck for the fourth time. It lost to Psychatog and it was losing to Coffin Purge. Due to a lack of answers to those threats we pretty much stopped working on it, until Peter Gysemans suggested Defense Grid as an answer. I have no idea how we hadn't thought of it, but we didn't. It turned out to be perfect, and the deck got played the way you see it at the Pro Tour. The deck seems to draw big crowds to it, because it looks like one of the most spectacular decks out there. And of course sometimes you just deal 10 with an Anger you cast. Great stories are made at this Pro Tour, like at every one of them.