Going big. Really big. Vastly, mind-bogglingly big: A guide to Jumbo Praxis

Hi there, jez2718 here with a guide to the Jumbo Praxis build I took to the finals of ETS Week 7 and day 2 of the ETS Invitational, and have also been having success within TGP’s own ECL Sunday Conquest tournament. I’ve kept this under wraps so as to not help my Invitational opponents, but I am now free to tell the story of me and of Great-Kiln Titan.

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Once upon a time, when Tavrods roamed Myria…

In the beginning…

This deck has been a pet of mine for a while. I have been in love with Great-Kiln Titan since it was spoiled—and crafted 4 on day 1 of set3! I have long been of the opinion that CCGs are won by unfair nonsense, and a giant ball of stats that accrues more advantage turn by turn is just my kind of nonsense.

Early on, not long after the set dropped and well before the first ETS of 2018, some people on Discord were of the view that a bigger Praxis build, going up to GKT and even Novaquake, might be a strong contender in the new meta. The deck even made its way onto the Jan 4th RNGEternal Tier List alongside Spellcrag in the auspicious spot of tier 4! Alas, aReNGee was speaking cold hard truths: the dream of a meta of giant sentinels never materialized, and the deck they call “Argenport Midrange” reigned supreme.

However, never one to be discouraged by “dude your deck is tier 4”, in my preparation for the Season 1 Invitational I started to take another serious look at Praxis Ramp. It was not my first choice. That would have been JPS Nostrix, but with In Cold Blood being released only the week before it was too risky—one run in with Feln or Xenan in the top 16 and it would be all over. Argenport Midrange was the obvious choice, and indeed did win the invitational, but I did not feel comfortable playing the deck that everyone would be gunning for and I did not like my chances in a mirror against more experienced pilots like camat0 or Unearthly. I felt that my best chances of a deep finish lay in a deck that could high roll past anything, and a deck that can play turn 4 Heart of the Vault (or take over the game with GKT) can definitely do that. The deck had very strong ladder results, and after a week of in-house testing in TGP I settled on this list:


  Sideboard:   2x Bore | 4x Slow | 3x Purify | 2x Scorpion Wasp | 2x Devoted Theurge | 2x Flamestoker

Sideboard:

2x Bore | 4x Slow | 3x Purify | 2x Scorpion Wasp | 2x Devoted Theurge | 2x Flamestoker


The sinking of the Titanic…

This deck, for all the fireworks it is capable of, was plagued by a number of issues that would ultimately lead to my downfall at the Invitational. The core weakness of the deck is in the air. If Sandstorm Titan is dealt with, opposing Icarias, Champion of Cunnings, etc. can make short work of you. Even on the ground, the 5/7 stats of Tavrod could lock down a game. Scorpion Wasp was used to try to try to answer this issue, but the card is very clunky and doesn’t synergize at all with GKT. In season 2 this issue would utterly sink the deck, it just couldn’t handle Scream and later TJP ruling the skies.

Furthermore, even when things were going right the deck took its time actually winning. Xenan Obelisk may seem out of place in a deck with already huge threats, but making even the Temple Scribes into threats was needed to stop a wide board chump blocking for eternity.

Finally, the deck has a subtler, deeper issue. A few years back the (slightly infamous) Yu-Gi-Oh Pro Patrick Hoban wrote an article on “The Three Characteristics of the Best Deck”, which he outlined as consistency, auto-win potential, and lack of contradictions. I think the last one is often overlooked: when looking at a deck we should ask ourselves “in what ways does the core strategy of this deck get in its own way?” In the case of this deck, the answer is what I call the “GKT Dilemma”: to cast GKT you need plenty of power, but the more power you run the more often GKT flips a power with its ability. I tried to help mitigate this with Mystic Ascendant, but ultimately my GKTs hit power at a number of crucial moments in the Invitational causing me to suffer an early exit day 1.

Everything changed when Argenport fell…

During spoiler season, the announcement of Sandstorm Scarf immediately got me back on the hype train for Jumbo Praxis. The core weakness of the deck was in the air, so the card was exactly what was needed.

But the biggest deal by far was Aurelian Merchant. A ramp dork that lets me always draw Scarf, Carnosaur or a crucial extra power: Yes, please! And it turned out that the silly pipe dream of Merchant into Novaquake was not so silly after all—it was a serious win condition. All together this let me cut a tremendous amount of fat from the earlier lists. Less ramp was needed which helped solve the GKT dilemma, especially as hitting Merchant off of GKT felt great, and with the late-game shored up by Merchant into Novaquake I could cut the clunkier plans of Ascendant and Obelisk. After a little tinkering I settled on the list I have kept pretty much unchanged ever since (swapping out some Torches for Purifys in the invitational due to the unified rules):



The Philosophy…

At the basic level, the philosophy of this deck is very simple. Ramp up to big threats ahead of curve, smash in with those threats, and finish off with GKT into either Novaquake or simply overwhelming card advantage. Y’know, it’s a ramp deck: it does rampy things.

To facilitate this, the deck is then a mix of ramp and payoff with a good dose of card draw to ensure that you draw plenty of both. The card draw units serve a second purpose: to gum up the board early on to give you time to get to your crazy late game.

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There is also a deeper layer of strategy to this deck. You see, unfortunately, some players of Eternal just like to watch the world burn—or rather, blow up in a big green explosion. How do we beat the control deck that simply waits for us to ramp out our big fatties and them simply kills them?

To answer this question, let me introduce a concept that will be familiar to Yu-Gi-Oh players: the “floater”. A floater is a unit that immediately replaces itself as it is played, or at least can’t be killed without replacing itself. The epitome of this concept is Temple Scribe, replacing itself with the card drawn. The crucial thing with floaters is that they don’t really count as a board commitment. If you Harsh Rule one of my Temple Scribes or eight of them, the net result is the same: you down one card.

 

Now look at the decklist: Temple Scribe, Heart of the Vault, Predatory Carnosaur, Thundering Kerasaur and GKT are all floaters, and Teacher of Humility and Aurelian Merchant both half fit the bill too.  This lets the deck grind surprisingly well against control decks since all of your threats are replacing themselves and must be answered immediately.    

The Cards…

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·For the most part, the card choices in the deck are fairly straightforward. Let us consider each category of cards in turn.

The Ramp

Alongside 25 Power, we are running 4 Seek Power, 2 Power Stone, 4 Trail Maker and 4 Aurelian Merchant, for a total of 39 Power sources. This I have found to be enough sources to consistently hit 8 power for GKT without either flooding or whiffing too often on GKT’s ability. Initiate of the Sands doesn’t make the cut on account of it being too fragile: losing a bunch of power to a Hailstorm is never a good feeling, and playing around that can really hurt your tempo versus control. Power stone is better and synergizes with GKT. Trail Maker makes up for the fragility by giving the vital influence you need to guarantee early Heart of the Vaults etc.

The Card Draw

A ramp deck wants a good mix of ramp and payoff. This makes card draw very valuable in such a deck, as it acts as both half ramp and half payoff. Each Temple Scribe will on average be 39/75 of a power source and 20/75 of a payoff card, and this also lets us get away with fewer pure ramp cards.

Now, some players (not naming any particular members of team Eternal Titans :P) have questioned the validity of running Lunar Magus in this slot, but I think it is the correct pick. First off, it has a key role shoring up your early game: a 3/4 for 3 that gains 4 life unless killed is a headache indeed for an aggro deck. Second, it is far better than the alternatives: do you really want to play Ancient Lore the turn you could be playing Sandstorm Titan? Third, the deck can break the symmetry better than most. Teacher makes the Nightfall trigger actually bad for the opponent, and the whole ethos of the deck is “if I get my ball rolling, nothing you have is going to matter”.

The Payoff

Now, this is where the fun begins! Many of these are obvious includes: no self-respecting Praxis deck doesn’t run 4 Heart and 4 Sandstorm Titan, and in a deck going up to 8 power, 4 Carnosaur (one in the Market) is pretty straightforward too. The 4 GKT go without saying. Rounding out these are 3 Alhed, 2 Kerasaur, and a Market Novaquake Titan.

The Kerasaurs were once Marisen, the Elder, as she has a wonderful “army in a can” aspect to rebuild from a Harsh Rule. But Kerasaur is far better. Control can never kill it for value and must kill it immediately or else they won’t be able to play without drawing you through your whole deck. Versus Alessi decks, the card also shines digging you to your key answers whilst they try to grow Alessi past it. Finally, the overwhelm can be a big deal versus Grenadin/Kennadin decks.

Alhed might seem a little odd. Why not Worldbearer Behemoth, wouldn’t that be better in a deck wanting to ramp? I prefer Alhed for a couple of reasons. First, in a deck that can have 5 power very early on, 5TT is nicer to have to meet than 5TTT. Second, Alhed serves the purpose the Xenan Obelisk did in the past: making cards like Lunar Magus or Teacher into relevant cards going into the deep late game. Third, Praxis has no hard removal, and Alhed makes Merchant for Carnosaur the best thing a Praxis deck can do to kill a large unit. Finally, and rather importantly, Alhed can do some powerful things to help close the game out when you have a lot of power. For example, a board of GKT + Aurelian Merchant with 9 power can immediately become a threatened kill by going Alhed and using its ability on Merchant to replay it to grab Novaquake for the kill next turn. The synergy with GKT is pretty strong, immediately replaying the unit bounced, and the ability to refresh Hearts, Carnosaurs, and Merchants can be vital. It can even be used to get a second shot at a Novaquake that was blocked by a Stand Together.  

Finally, all that needs to be said about Novaquake is that it wins games. A lot of games. Without it, many decks, especially Kennadins or Cirso decks, could board stall forever and eventually turn the tide. Novaquake makes every GKT threaten to immediately end the game, and even in a pinch can be summoned off of Heart or Sandstorm Titan. Disregard it at your peril.  

The Future…

With the recent wave of nerfs and buffs, it is hard to say what the meta will look like going forward.

Alessi decks were a challenge, often grinding to a halt behind a huge aegis lifestealing Alessi, and various other aegis units of varying sizes, holding back a full board out of Jumbo. Novaquake couldn’t break a stall through Stand Together, so you had two plans: First, you could try to deck out the Alessi deck. Second, and more commonly, you would try to get ridiculous amounts of power and then use Alhed to get a huge Carnosaur and use Alhed’s ultimate and Temple Scribes to killer all of their huge lifestealers in one turn before A-spacing for lethal. But Xenan Initiation on a huge overwhelmer versus a small dork could end the game before you got to a turn like that. Thus the nerfs to Alessi decks are good news for Jumbo.

Likewise, Praxis Displacer was the main tool tokens had to push through your giant sentinels so that nerf helps Jumbo have a lot of tools just to stall out Tokens and then win with the better late game. A key play in this matchup is marketing for Disjunction to kill Obelisk as they are attacking.

On the whole, I expect Jumbo Praxis to be a solid choice going forward. It has strong matchups versus both of the remaining un-nerfed aggro archetypes (Feln Berserk and Skycraggro) and is very good at preying on time midrange decks. Furthermore, Sandstorm Scarf gives it solid play versus the flying decks currently in the meta. Control decks can be more difficult, but they need to have a critical mass of sweepers and card draw to deal with the plan of slow-rolling your threats and leaning on the power of floaters against a removal deck. Icaria control decks are therefore not a huge worry for this deck, but if more all-in control such as Temporal becomes prevalent that is a bigger issue for Jumbo.

The deck’s true weakness is to highly “unfair” decks like Kennadins or Xenan OTK. But with the buffs to Zuberi and Inquisitive Crow both favoring proactive decks, I do not foresee the meta becoming dominated by these sorts of combo decks.

Be sure to join TGP on Saturday, September 8th for the ECL Highlander Special Event. Highlander is a format where you can only have one copy of any (non-power) card in your deck. Seek Power and Petition count as power for the purpose of Highlander. The tournament starts at 12:00 PM EDT with registration closing at 11:30 AM EDT. Who knows, maybe you’ll find some janky highlander version of Jumbo Praxis.