Deck Construction: Raw Dogs

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Raw Dogs is comprised of three successful Pro Tour players. Brian Hacker and Gab Tsang have been teaming up for money drafts around the Pro Tour since Kai Budde and Kamiel Cornelissen were just thought of as "foreign jank," and during that time they've won far more than they've lost. Jeff Cunningham rounds out the team as a slightly newer player, who is coming off a breakout season, with a top eight finish at Pro Tour San Diego.

Going into the deckbuilding process, Raw Dogs had no set plan. "We'll just lay the cards out and see what happens," said Hacker. "Ideally we'd like green/blue, red/black and white/something," elaborated Cunningham, "but it just depends on what's in our card pool." The team began by removing the cards that they consider completely unplayable, and then talked about their immediate gut reactions.

At first they looked to be going with the basic plan: red/black, green/blue and white/blue, but then the Dogs realized that they had received both Psychatog and Shadowmage Infiltrator, making a black/blue deck mandatory. The red was paired with green instead. White still needed a second color, and blue was the most natural choice. The black was much stronger than the white, containing goodies such as Cabal Patriarch and Faceless Butcher in addition to the aforementioned gold cards, so the white deck got the bulk of the blue cards. This led to a bit of a fight over the key blue graveyard fillers. Raw Dogs has both Compulsion and Cephalid Broker, but both the white and the black cards go well with them. Gab argued that the white/blue deck needed to get to threshold for such cards as Nomad Decoy, Hallowed Healer and the two Kirtar's Desire's, and also to get Glory into the graveyard. Brian thought they went better with the Psychatog and Patriarch, saying "If this deck gets out Compulsion or Broker, it can't lose!" In the end the Cephalid Broker went into the black deck because it was low on four casting cost creatures, and the white deck got the Compulsion. When I asked about the debate and some other small disagreements about cards later, Hacker said "I think it's good when teammates disagree on which cards are the best... It's important to get different opinions, and it also helps us have different roles within the team, especially in the draft portion of the event."

Attention then turned to fine tuning, which is where an expert team like this should really shine. In the green/red deck, the creature base was tweaked slightly to best support the two Ember Beasts. A few more blue cards were shuffled between the two blue decks. The team discussed whether the Chamber of Manipulation/Malevolent Awakening combo was worth playing, eventually deciding that it was due to the other combos available: Cabal Patriarch goes well with Chamber of Manipulation, and the Awakening seemed worthwhile with so many game winning creatures. The blue/white deck picked up a splash of green for Krosan Beast, supported by two Seafloor Debris. This then sparked a long debate over whether Krosan Verge was worth playing. In the end, it wasn't.

Upon completion the Raw Dogs seemed very happy with their decks. The red/green deck, which will be played by Cunningham, featured very solid creatures including Wild Mongrel, Phantom Centaur, Brawn and two Rabid Elephants- just the right amount of removal and tricks. The black/blue deck, piloted by Hacker, contained plenty of removal in addition to the amazing creatures. Tsang's white/blue deck looks to be a true powerhouse once it gets to Threshold, and has a nice mix of fliers and defense. When I asked them how they felt about their decks afterwards, the Raw Dogs were extremely optimistic.

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