Category Archives: standard

Playing the Right Deck

If you’ve ready any of my artciles you know I’m not a casual magic player. I don’t have an EDH deck, I’ve never played type 4 and I attend FNM because the shop down the street from me gives away $90 in store credit to first place and $30 to second place (for $5 entry). There are two things I’ve learned recently that I think have made me a better magic player and I want to explore the first one today: playing the right deck, or how I learned to put down the Vampires and love Jund.

In any given tournament that I enter I play to win the entire tournament. Top 8’ing a PTQ or finishing inside of the prizes is always nice, but really I play because I want that top slot. I can only assume that this goal is the same for any other serious tournament player – why else would we spend endless hours playtesting and theorizing? Despite this, many players are guilty of handicapping themselves before a tournament even starts, defaulting them to a position of somewhere less than first, solely based on their deck choice.

Now, this doesn’t only apply to that kid who is here for his first PTQ with his 5 color ally deck he beats all of his friends with at lunch. No, this goes much further, extending into decks that many players consider viable and are even willing to enter tournaments with. While these decks may seem quite powerful in a vacuum, they simply are often not capable of winning a tournament because it simply cannot beat the best deck in the room.

A brief aside; despite the fact that people are complaining about Jund’s dominance, you simply have to realize that there is always a best deck. In Standard it’s Jund, replacing the dominance of Faeries from last season; in Extended, we see Dark Depths/Thopter Combo as far and away the best in place of the Riptide Laboratory-fueled Mono Blue Faeries of a year ago. While these decks are not necessarily the most popular (though Jund certainly is), they will be piloted by the best players and be at the top tables all day long. Thus, if you realistically want to win a tournament, you need to be able to fight these decks; if you cannot, you’re playing for 2nd at best.

Take Vampires for example. Inherently, this is an extremely strong deck – both [/card]Vampire Nocturnus[/card] and Mind Sludge are pretty unfair, you never get color-screwed, and most of your other spells pack a pretty powerful punch. Consensus says that you crush everything, that you’re the deck that everyone mentions to be “the deck I least want to see in the top 8”…except for Jund. And that, my friends, is a huge exception – the fact that you simply can’t beat the best deck.

Maybe you’ve beaten Jund 2 of the last 3 times at your local FNM, but I would need a lot more evidence than just that to overturn the popular consensus. And yes, I realize that Vampires won a 5K at some point this Standard season, but Affinity and Merfolk have also won Extended PTQs – I’d rather not focus on corner cases. The fact is, Jund is the best deck – you simply cannot ignore the results – and when it is occupying at least 3 spots in the top 8 of a tournament (up to a whopping 6 at GP: KL), you’re participating in a losing venture by bringing a copy of Twilight to the table.

Vampires is not the only deck of this sort. Playing some sort of GB Rock variation in Extended, chock full of Sakura Tribe Elders and Garruk Wildspeakers that have no hope of interacting with a flying, indestructible 20/20 or endless stream of Thopter tokens, has no realistic shot at ever winning. Steve Sadin, Limited Information author for the mothership and GP: Columbus winner, was once quoted in a Kyle Sanchez article stating that “During a lot of these PTQs, usually while IDing into the Top 8, I would realize that my deck was actually incapable of winning the tournament because it wasn’t capable of beating the best, most prepared player(s) in the room.” And that is the key, right there – if your deck is simply not capable of beating the best that there is (and I assure you, the best players will be playing the best decks), then you are doing yourself no favors but presenting yourself an unwinnable situation.

Now, much of what I’ve said so far may seem rather obvious, so hopefully I can explain out a few more pieces of advice. Beyond playing decks that, as described above, cannot feasibly win tournaments, you should avoid playing decks that are simply inferior versions of others and decks that fold to the same kind of hate.

For the former, let’s look at decks such as Boss Naya and Bant (not the Mythic deck, something more like the Junk decks that Bucher and Juza played at worlds). Now, at face value, these decks have very little in common – Jund wants to Cascade, Naya features sleek Ranger and Stoneforge Mystic packages, and Junk decks want to run out Baneslayer Angels. But boiled down, these are all simply aggressive mid-range decks featuring efficient creatures and some removal or disruption. I know, Naya can pack the Cunning Sparksmage combo postboard and Bant can do crazy things on a turn 3 start, but these decks are all essentially trying to accomplish the same thing by similar means. So why would you play something that’s proven to be a lesser form than the best, especially when it’s a bad matchup for you? Honestly, the best I can come up with here is that people are sick of playing with Jund, which means their sick of winning, which I simply can’t comprehend..but I digress.

As for the latter piece of advice, we should first consider the Dark Depths deck, easily considered to be the top dog in Extended. However, the deck is susceptible to a fair amount of sideboard hate, presented by Zoo decks in the form of cards like Bant Charm and Damping Matrix. So if people are packing hosers like these, why would you ever consider playing Affinity, a weaker deck that falls prey to the same hate? Similarly, if a card like Night of Soul’s Betrayal suddenly became a big hit to combat Thopter Foundry, your Bitterblossoms and Vendilion Cliques should probably stay in your trade binder.

What I’m trying to get at through all of this, is that at a given point in time there should probably only be a few decks that you should even consider playing. Card issues aside, if your aim is to win the tournament, you should be playing the best or playing what seeks to beat the best. Zac Hill once said that you should pose two questions when approaching a format, asking yourself what is the most powerful thing you can be doing and what is the best way to stop that. Consider these words next time you’re heading off to a tourney, hopefully leaving your Vampire Hexmages in the board in favor of some Putrid Leeches, Hellspark Elementals, or even Spreading Seas.

Opening the Vaults at the Superstars 5K *Top 16*

I generally do my best to keep up on deck tech. I don’t consider myself a rogue deck designer, most of my creations have been pretty straightforward or modifications of known strategies. I tend to look for interesting decks that I feel would be fun to play and tweak them. Sometimes this means I will play a straight tier 1 deck, and other days I’ll try something rogue. I tend to have this issue of not focusing as much on my own decks as much as playing the “bad guy” deck in our gauntlets and testing. I generally have 3 or 4 decks and offer to play whichever my opponent needs, and of course Jund was the matchup everyone wanted. While this makes me a fine a Jund player I really didn’t see myself playing infinite Jund on Jund matches so I’ve had my eye open.

What interested me about Open the Vaults was Niels Viaene’s performance at PT San Diego. Considering Boss Naya was the deck to beat leaving that tournament, I heard from folks on and off the team that Naya was not looking forward to playing against it at all. Yet there was no discussion on whether it was a valid deck or not. It seemed like a cool deck in the write ups, it just stumbled on mana in the finals. I asked around and no one had really played with it or against it. I had also played a lot of Turbo Fog and it seemed an auto-win over so many decks. However, Olivier Ruel did poorly with it at the PT and when we tested Boss Naya against it I just couldn’t beat its fast starts. I broke apart the shell and thought about playing U/W Chapin control but I knew testing would be even worse since it takes so long to resolve games. I finally just decided to put together Filigree, tested a few games, and took it to my FNM. I figured if it didn’t work I’d audible to Jund or just play Vampires at the 5K, which seemed decent in our testing.

Sideboard

Overall the strategy is pretty simple –

  • Cycle your men to get your combo and fill up the yard.
  • Use spreading seas as a psuedo-remand – it can definitely slow their mana down and gives you a card.
  • Use all your enchantment-based removal to shut down their men.
  • Stabilize your defense with Sphinx, or one of your artifact men if you have no choice.
  • Open the Vaults and win.

FNM Feb 26th

Round 1 vs. GWU Bant Ramp
Neither of these games was very close, with all my removal for his big guys going unanswered. We did have a nice O-ring battle over Baneslayer for a while but I pulled out a 117 life combo and Open the Vaulted a dead O-ring onto the angel.

Round 2 vs. Vampires
This was a closer match – I had multiple spreading seas in both games to make his Mind Sludges less valuable. In game two he had a Ravenous Trap for me when I open the vaulted, but I had enough time to hardcast an angel and gain enough life to survive, filled my yard, and Open the Vaulted again for the win. Sphinx of Lost Truths is such a power card with great toughness and a great way to refill your hand after getting hit by discard.

Round 3 vs. UW
I honestly don’t remember much about this matchup, but I did win it.

Round 4 vs. Eldrazi Green
In both games he curved out quickly into Eldrazi and I never drew wrath or an O-ring for his ultimate Garruk.

I walked away from the games feeling pretty confident in the deck overall, but felt I needed more answers to aggressive starts so I put in the 3 Journey to Nowhere main. I thought I would get Pithing Needles for the board as well but never got around to it.

I spent the remainder of the night practicing and making some extra decks to give out at the 5K so I arrived in San Jose at exactly 5 minutes til the tournament started and scribbled out my decklist quickly with the original sideboard.

5K Main Flight Feb. 27th

Round 1 vs. Chapin control: 1-1-1
I found myself staring down a string of PTQ top 8 pins attached to a rather old playmat. I was a little embarrassed of my worndown Windwright Mage mat, but after seeing his mat I brought it out.

Game 1 – He thought I was U/W as well at first (common mistake everyone made) – Then I Spreading Seas his early white sources and Tectonic Edges but this let him cast Jace. I eventually O-ringed Jace out, but he countered almost everything I cast, eventually drew Iona and called White, and that was basically game. This was about a 25 minute game mainly waiting for him to decide Jace effects and resolve draw spells

Game 2 – I sided in my negates, stopped his early Jaces, got the combo off going to 27, which he Martial couped, but I combo’d again to 91 life. We now had about 10 minutes left.

Game 3 – I get smashed down with Baneslayer to 6, but I had three negates in hand early and eventually got the combo through as we went to time. I dealt with Baneslayer, and swung for 24 on turn 4, but it wasn’t enough to finish the game out before time was up. So now I’m in the draw bracket…

Round 2 vs. Naya 2-0
Double Spreading Seas made short work of his mana, and I let him flail around with a Hierarch or two and saved my removal for his big finishers. Knight of the Reliquary and Ajani are the big threats out of this deck. My removal aced all his threats one by one. He did hit me a bit but I never got below 12 and ended both games well above 20 life.

Round 3 vs. UWR 2-1
Good games, but getting Open the Vaults was too strong- He had Jace but instead of drawing cards he kept fatesealing me. This is bad when you’re playing a slow control deck. I drew O-ring for Jace and eventually combo’d out. He got Ajani out really early on the second game and blew all my lands with Jace at one step away from ultimating me. In Game 3.Spreading seas kept him off red and Ajani and I combo’d pretty early and finished him out.

Round 4 vs. Aggro Red 2-1
My opponent was undefeated but freely admitted he didn’t play standard much. This was my worst match up and he quickly blew me out with Goblin Guides, Ball Lightnings, and direct damage.

Game 2 – Spreading seas kept him off Ball Lighting mana. He got down early goblin guides but I Journeyed them. He really didn’t draw much more gas and I instead of cycling my two Architects of Will, I played them and kept him from drawing any thing else while I set up my Vaults.

Game 3 – He kept a two fetch land hand but failed to draw anymore land. At end of turn he would discard Punishing Fire instead of casting it – I think didn’t want to fetch for fear of decreasing his potential land count and I got down double sphinx to finish him off. He showed me a hand of Hell’s Thunder and Ball lightning after I finished him.

Round 5 vs. Jund 2-1
This was a pretty long match as we both got deck checked, then when I got my deck back we noticed my sleeves (which I had just bought) had some color imperfections in them. I had to re-sleeve after the match but it was definitely a distraction.

Game 1 – My removal aced his early Putrid Leeches, but I didn’t do much while he got quickly to Bloodbraid into Thrinax, and I didn’t get much down to block or trade.

Game 2 Was almost the same scenario with the top end of him casting Malakir Bloodwitch multiple times and my wrathing at least Three times. He eventually got some men to stick and hit me down to 4, and I Opened the Vaults back up to a very healthy life total and took him out.

Game 3 was similar to game 2 except my end life total was even higher. Admittedly though I would have lost without a topdeck Open the Vaults.

Round 6 vs. Naya 2-0
This was covered on Channelfireball. Again it was spreading Seas basically keeping him out of the game.

Round 7 – We draw in to the money round.

Superstars 5k – Top 32

Round 1 vs. 5-Color Cascade
Game 1 – This was a crazy matchup since I had no idea what he was doing. I seas his Exotic Orchard and Rupture Spire which allows him to cast Jace. I o-ring the Jace, but I’m stuck on 4 mana. He casts two enlisted wurms which cascade into Bitumous blast (no targets). I journey and wrath his men, and down comes Jace #2, which I eventually draw into O-ring for. He hit me with Bloodbraid into a Blighting (discarding Angel),and lands Ajani but Sharuum comes down with his pal Filigree Angel and Ajani dies. We trade back and forth a bit with him running extreme cascades but I Open the Vaults and my force overwhelms him.

Game 2 I seas his stuff again and deal with planeswalkers and Open the Vaults a small army which he has no answer for.

Round 2 vs. 27 land Jund.

Game 1 I get down early Spreading Seas, he casts rampant growth, and gets out a turn 3 elf, which I kill, and thrinax, which I kill, and turn 4 siege gang, which I wrath.

He casts broodmate and I wrath.

He casts broodmate again and I get out a Sphinx drawing and discarding 3 cards. I had OTV in my hand but never drew a third removal spell or put Angel in the yard. Broodmate took me out.

Game 2 he’s smart enough not to blightning me and though I can kill all his men on the ground, it’s his man lands that eventually get past me.

Thoughts:

The new sideboard is still a work in progress. Courier’s capsule is “most likely to get sided out” in favor of what game you’re playing, and depending on how many and what type of men your opponent is playing you go up or down on the removal. Pithing Needle tends to hit all the cards you would O-ring (Ajani, Jace) but it mainly combats the man lands as well, which this deck has trouble with. Mind Control goes in against U/W against baneslayers and Iona.

61 card Open Filligree v.2

Sideboard

Why and what do we name Magic decks?

If you have ever been to a decently large constructed Magic tournament, where you have to register your deck, you have been asked the question in no uncertain terms.

What's in a name? That which we call Jund by any other name would play as sweet.
What's in a name? That which we call Jund by any other name would play as sweet.

It’s right there. For some this is a trivial question, as someone has told them what to write there, but for others, deck builders, it is a momentous occasion. The line can read more like “If you should attain glory on this fine day, what would be the name of the weapon you have forged and wielded to your victory?” Besides, the act of naming is a fairly infrequent event in most people’s lives. The typical individual will name nothing more than their pets, children, and a few paltry academic papers. If you are an artist or author by profession or hobby, then perhaps you have more opportunity to name, but there are so few whom would have such a privilege and responsibility. Most of the time, things already have names by the time we become aware of them.

Deck builders have the above experiences with their vast and varied brews regularly. The decks are simultaneously like pets, children, and theses. The deck builder is artists, scientist, and author. There is a responsibility to name a deck well, as if you or your trusting compatriots do well in a significant tourney, the world will want to know, “What was that person playing?” They will want to know what configuration of cards are in your deck list, sure, but the first thing they look for is the name. By what do you call the deck, and what gives it such a name? To answer this, let’s look first at what functions a name can serve and also some names that already typify those particular functions.

The first function of a name is brevity. Imagine how painful the descriptions and dialogue of the MTG community would be if every time  a match was described it begins with “Well, he had four Putrid Leech, four Bloodbraid Elf, four Sprouting Thrinax, four…” eventually reaching a ‘versus’ and beginning all over again with another long list. What would be a twenty minute verbal description of what two deck met in a round can be brought down to merely a second. “The Semi-final is ‘Jund‘ versus ‘Boss Naya‘”. This isn’t as accurate as listing all the cards, but is a whole lot more practical.

Secondly, a name must be in some way relatable to the deck that typifies it, but this can be done many ways. The most important factor is that it is adopted for use by the Magic Community. If someone creates a deck and names it “Train Wreck”, but no one ever cares to know what that means, what cards are in it, or to call it by such a name when referring to the deck, then it doesn’t really get named “Train Wreck”. Maybe it is named “UBR Discard” instead because that became the name the group decided to call it. If I say “SphinxFire”, nobody will know that I’m referring to UWR Control, which I built essentially over a month before LSV popularized his build by performing well at a major event.

Some of the ways that we describe a deck using a name can vary. Sometimes we can simply refer to the colors of mana most used, sometimes using naming conventions WotC has given us as a shortcut. If the word ‘Naya’ appears in a deck, we know it plays Red, Green, and White, as those are the colors of mana associated with that shard in the Shards of Alara setting. Likewise, the word ‘Boros’ tells us that a deck uses Red and White. These naming conventions have caught on due to deck archetypes that have been played repeatedly using these colors and the associated strategies. However, color combination names don’t always work. Green and White dominated decks aren’t called Selesnya because not only does it sound like the name of a Russian rock band, but also because it is a mouthful and no Green and White decks featured prominently during the time period that this would have popularized.

Another naming option is to use a namesake, such as the deck’s creator. We have seen this recently with ‘Boss Naya’, which contains the color word to give you a basic description of the deck, but also contains the nickname of the decks creator, Tom “The Boss” Ross to tell you that this is his variant. This type of convention was also used in the name ‘Rubin Zoo’. This type of name allows people to find fairly specific deck lists for an archetype that may have many variants.

Perhaps you would rather just describe what the deck does or how it wins games. Names like ‘UW Control’, ‘Mono-Red Burn’ and ‘GW Aggro’ describe quiet acutely the color of the deck and the basic strategy.  Sometimes though, a deck will have an important interaction that the deck revolves around, using the key cards as namesakes, and describing what the deck does at the same time. ‘Dark Depths/Thopter’ and ‘Hypergenesis’ are examples of this type of naming, though this can be extended to mechanics that are key as well, such as ‘Affinity’ and ‘Dredge’. The point is to tell you in the name what the deck is going to try to accomplish.

My favorite is when a deck has an off-the-wall name that you actually think about for a moment to see how it relates to the list of cards to which it is associated. ‘The Hulk Gets Crabs’ and ‘Ruel Gets Crabs‘ are two recent and humorous examples. Assuming you know things like Ruel refers to Ranger of Eos, the deck tells you that card A gets card B and that’s a really good thing, and due to creative play on the names of the cards, you have a humorous and memorable name to boot.

There is occasionally a deck name that will be essentially useless if it wasn’t for the fact that it is tightly associated to the deck list, because the name is like a person’s name, essentially a pseudo-unique and undescriptive tag or identifier. ‘KarstenBot BabyKiller’, for example, has no meaning to me, other than that it is related to a certain configuration of cards.

I, personally, give my deck names some thought when I become happy with a brew and deem it worthy of naming. I also keep a mental note of things that I think should be deck names simply for awesomeness and am occasionally inspired to try and make a deck worthy of the name I have thought up. After reading about Rise of the Eldrazi’s monsters, I’ve got one particular deck I’m hoping to create and name in a particularly witty way, but for now I will keep the name to myself, so as not to spoil the fun of a finished product.

I know that this did not offer a solution to what naming convention should be used in naming a deck, but I hope that I have laid out the issue for discussion and look forward to revisiting the issue based on some feedback from my readers. Should we collapse these diverse naming practices into a stricter and subsequently more efficient nomenclature, or should we be free to name our creations however we like, provided everyone can know what we are talking about? Let’s hash-it out in the comments below and on Twitter. Hit me up @RobJelf.

Trying to Grind at Pro Tour San Diego and the New Standard

Attending my first Pro Tour last weekend was a hip-check to my Super Ego. I’ve been to dozens of card conventions and large tournaments, but this is the first time I attended when I wasn’t even invited to the big dance. There was never a VS System Pro Circuit Championship that I wasn’t qualified for. Since 2002 there’s only been one year where I participated in Star Wars CCG Worlds that I didn’t have a bye to the second day. And when Decipher had a Fantasy Lord of the Rings TCG contest for Worlds on their official website I was worth 15 points!

Joking aside, the transition to magic has been oft-fruitless and never had that been so abundantly clear than when I was on the side of the convention hall near the dealers, looking accross at the “pros” duking it out for zeros.

I will say that if you love Magic you should definitely attend a pro tour. 8 man events fire from 9am to 3am. You can play a MTGO Draft for free. Some of the tournaments have insane prizes (xbox, flights to San Juan, Foil uncut sheets of Worldwake), and there’s plenty of room to battle EDH style, trade, or loaf around dishing about the game.

I fancy myself a competitive Magic Player so I didn’t do anything *fun* last weekend other than a 2HG sealed event. I had never played 2HG and my brother and I built our deck pretty suboptimally since we didn’t understand that Pulse Tracker was an inherent powerhouse. We had some fair bombs for regular sealed decks, but 2HG is a much different breed.

My first event was the LCQ. My pool was pretty fair and I thought it would allow me to do some work. It was a RG ally deck with a light black splash for Bojuka Brigand and Nimana Sell-Sword to up the ally count to double digits. Its bread and butter was the Kazuul Warlord and the double Graypelt Hunter. My first heartbreak came in game 3 of round 2 when I passed the turn to my opponent while tapped out with a 2/3 a 2/1 and the warlord untapped. I was at 11 life and he was at 4. My only card in hand was a burst lightning that I could kick next turn. My opponent had 2 counters on Quest for the Grave Lord and a Hagra Crocodile and a Ruthless Cullblade on board. My opponent draws, putting two cards in his hand. He says “Well, he can’t block” and swings in with the croc. I go into the tank: I’ve already drawn out his Groundswell so I’m not super worried about the swing. I’m a little bit concerned about Vampire’s bite, which I haven’t seen but some people board in vs. red. I also know he hasn’t played either of the Bloodhusk Ritualists that he had. I felt that if I blocked and let him put a 5/5 zombie on the field, I’d be hard pressed to get my four damage in if he just drew the ritualist. I decided not to block and the two cards in my opponent’s hand were Harrow and a second Groundswell dealing me exactly 11 damage. I stayed in but I was pretty broken after that. I think I ended up 2-2 or 2-3.

I was however, geared up for Extended and sleeved up Combo Elves the night before I left for San Diego while I caught up on my favorite USA shows White Collar and Psych. I’m big into television so if anyone ever wants to talk tv, comment away; I watch a lot.

I didn’t have the opportunity to test the elves much because of all the standard testing for my friends and roomates on the PT, so when I went into the PTQs with it I ended up 1-3, 2-3; but I learned a lot about the deck and had the chance to chat up Matt Nass during some heated games of Guillotine over the course of the weekend about sideboard plans and I feel a lot better slinging it tomorrow at the local PTQ.

What I really want to get to though, is standard. Since worlds, about everyone on my team other than my brother (turbofog) has been rocking Marijn “I hate the world” Lybaert’s Jund list. After the event he posted up the deck with updates and it looked a little something like this:

We call this list STUND (stock Jund); it’s about the least spicy Jund list ever made. I top 8′d states with it in New Hampshire and it has fared well for my friend and top 100 constructed player on planet Earth Jason Ford; the dude who x-1′d the first day of the Pro Tour with the above list (swap out 2 Rootbound Crag for 2 Raging Ravine) and dealt talk of the town Tom Ross his only constructed loss all weekend.

Like I said, this list isn’t spicy. It doesnt put Siege-Gang in, which is what a lot of Jund decks are doing right now. It doesn’t even consider Rampant Growth or Explore, but instead opts for the board developing Borderland Ranger in the MD (with two more in the board!). Most people who look at Jason’s list and ask me about it question these Borderlands and the Chandra Nalaar most often. A lot of times Chandra just gets there, we even bring her in for the mirror (cutting 4 leeches and 3 Pulse, always – no matter what). Against control decks, she gets there in the face of Wall of Denial, in matchups with creatures she’s recurring removal. Borderland Ranger is a little bit harder to defend, so I’ve asked JFord to give me 100 words on why the borderlander. He gave me doulbe that.

“Borderland Ranger is probably the card that gets the most funny looks, besides maybe the Chandra in the sideboard. Borderland Ranger, despite only being a 1 of, is largely the foundation of the deck. It lets you essentially play 25.5 lands, fixes your mana, fetches a basic against pesky Ruinblaster shenanigans, and even acts as a body – a 2/2 should not be ignored. Some ask why I wouldn’t just play another Ravine in its spot, as manlands largely do much of the same – they let me play a higher land count with much of the same utility of a spell, and they even tap for 2 colors to boot. However, the manlands don’t let you develop as well. Ravine never actually wants to block a Bloodbraid Elf, as it will cost you both a land drop and an entire turn (to keep the mana untapped), on top of doing nothing for your Ruinblaster situation. Furthemore, Borderland lets me cast Garruk, Bloodwitch, and Chandra post board – not something that just one land outside of Savage Lands is helping.

Don’t find yourself falling into the trap of automatically shaving the one Borderland, either when initially building or when sideboarding. It is as much of a core to this build as the 4 Bloodbraids are. ”

That’s all pretty well said without even considering it’s red zone implications. It trades with bloodbraid and is great to block a leech when you’ve got mana up with a bolt backup. He also lets you keep a lot of unkeepable hands as well. Even though I do sometimes get burned by them (more on this later), I’ll keep a two lander with borderland and gas no problem.

Jason ended up 8-2 in the constructed portion and 46th overall at the PT, his second straight top 50 finish and he’ll be riding the train into San Juan later on in the year.

So after my PTQing was done, they had a WPN event on Sunday with a first place prize of a flight and hotel to the next PT in San Juan. I decided to sleeve up STUND (though when I sat down for round 1 I totally forgot that I put my fetches in my elves deck and had to run and snag Jason’s deckbox to avoid DQ). I ended up in the top 8 with a sole loss to white weenie where in G1 I had to mull to 4 with no land and game 2 he just had more threats than I had removal though I likely incorrectly terminated a Conquerer’s Pledge token when my life was starting to get low. I beat Bant Twice, B/R burn, and UW Control.

Some Highlights:

R1 vs. UW Control, dropped game 1 but got there on game 2 with a double bloodwitch hand and game 3 with Chandra’s Ultimate against 3 Wall of Denial.

R3 vs. Bant my opponent could’ve had the draw but decided not to kill my garruk w/ 4 counters and let my lone bloodwitch beat past his two Baneslayers for 7 when I topdecked burn while he was at 8 life.

R5 vs. B/R aggro my opponent. In game 1 my opponent stuck on two lands and all I saw was Goblin Guide and Hellspark Elemental so I think I kept a slower hand in game 2. He went t3 Ball Lightning, T4 Ball Lightning, t5 Elemental Appeal (soaking two of the damage with a borderland!) dropping me to 2 life. He has a lavaclaw reaches out and 1 card in hand so I’m forced to play Bloodbraid Elf and luckily I hit Blightning stripping him of his own Blightning. He activated reaches and traded with the Elf. I cast a Broodmate Dragon on 6 and he played Hell’s Thunder and traded with one. I cast BLightning leaving terminate mana up and stripped him of his searing blaze, swung in to put him to 8 life. He whiffs the next turn and I drop him to 4. He rips elemental appeal but I had the terminate (and a bit blast if he found burn, to try and cascade into my own burn) and I win while playing all but one of my spells with just 2 life against BURN.

In the top 8 I lost to a pro named Ari Lax in the mirror. I kept a 2 land w/ borderland Ranger hand on the play with a bloodbraid and a goblin ruinblaster with Thrinax and Blightning to boot. I didn’t get there and even though first place was flight and a hotel, second place was an uncut foil sheet of worldwake, third and fourth place got a foil set of worldwake. What’d 5-8 get? THREE PACKS. awesome. I ripped my 4th Quest for the Nihil Stone of the weekend in the WWK pack and burned the other two for warmth.

I have a lot more to say about standard, especially the “Boss” Naya that everyone seems to really like. By now everyone knows that Scott-Vargas whent 17-0 and Tom Ross got the Whammy hitting ninth by two % points. Knight of the Reliquary is not a must have card in the standard environment and dealears at the PT were actually sold out of them accross the board. I’m glad I picked some up when Zendikar first hit because now they’re up to $12. I will say that Knight is now an absolute must kill and you really cannot let Bant and Naya untap with a Knight in play or it’s curtains for you and your spells.

The Naya deck is interesting and I hope I get to take it to some FNMs soon. There is certainly concerns about the mana, as I heard all weekend how those of the CFB guys who ran it and didn’t do well were losing to their mana all day. I decided to chat up Jason about it since all we do is dink around on Gmail all day:

Mike: so you dealt tom ross his only loss.. what are your thoughts on his naya and how is that gonna hold up?

JFord: I mean..its kinda tough to say because it was just one match where both games were basically blowouts. It’s funny…the naya decks mana is worse than jund. I almost think it costs you too much to be playing wild nacatl, but if you cut those then ranger does much much less and so on. It’s another intrinsically powerful deck, but im slantted towards jund just cuz im a fanboy. You also gotta kinda question if the sparksmage/collar thing is too cute or whether it is that sick.

Mike: well it seems sick against these decks that are almost all creatures, the bant that sam black played or even in the mirror where you will exhaust their sejeri steppes right quick.

JFord: this is definitely true. But, then you gotta ask where the metagame stands. He did take down 3 other jund players..so maybe im just a sack haha.

Mike: haha, do they bring in the sparkmages against jund?

JFord: no I dont believe so

Mike: the buzz around the convention center was that the guys on that squad that did bad with the naya lost primarily to mana issues so that does say something.

JFord: yea i mean..the mana is pretty poor
like i said…the deck works pretty hard to make nacatl happen
and its like..is it worht it? Maybe.
But if you cut nacatls for better mana then what is your deck doing?
not a whole lot probably.
also not sure why they’re playing scute mob over dragonmaster outcast, but im sure they know.

Mike: i agree on the nacatl thing, but my big question is why not wooly thoctar. like, I dont see the point of the one drop because you’re mana is so iffy, why not take the approach of the bant decks which is to spit out a big monster on t3? Like knight is fine obviously, but when are you playing your ncatl?

JFord: Well… first, the Ranger of Eos engine.
Secondly, which piggybacks on it, is stoneforge mystic.
Basically, more threat density for your equipment.
Your guys dont have to be THAT good if you can play more/ get them down quicker
because the equipment should trump.

Mike: I guess ranger tutoring up two 3/3s dying to be equipped is good.

JFord: Right. And it lets you do cutesy things like scutes and gives more value to your 1 drops
so i guess its kinda cute..it’s also pretty good

Mike: looking at this naya list its actually pretty good, I hadnt broken it down.
its got some weak cascades though.

JFord: Its got a lot of em, but it isn’t like jund where you’re depending on them either.

Mike: no

JFord: but yea..bloodbraid in jund =/= bloodbraid in naya
not even close

Mike: I just imagine all those times you hit mana birds or a t4 scute mob youre like, “suck”

JFord: Yea, but if you have a hierarch or two down..hasty wooly thoctar?

Mike: I mean yeah that’s an upside……….

Then we started delving into Chapin’s UW List. Something that has a bunch of us here at Power9Pro.com kind of fired up. I think a few of us are going to explore that list quite a bit in the upcoming weeks. I know I already have my Jaces, including a German one, which is pretty sweet.

That’s it for this week. Not sure how I feel about throwing a chat into the article but we’ll keep it spicy. Editing that bear took longer than it would’ve taken to summarize the whole sh’bang. Standard definitely seems a lot of fun right now, and I’m looking forward to playing the standard queues on MTGO as well as some FNMs.

But for now, back to the grind of extended and sleeving up combo elves tomorrow morning in Beantown.

Til next time,

Mike Gemme
mike@power9pro.com
bobbysapphire on MTGO

How to Quest for the Goblin Lord in Standard.

Decks can sometimes come from the most off-handed and reckless thoughts or actions. It seems a fitting occurrence that such impulsiveness would get Goblins into my bag for a trip to our local store’s new “Playtest Tuesday” event. The plan was to have players gather at the store for a couple hours of building, trading, talk, and testing, followed by a brief casual three round swiss tournament. Part of the idea is to try out deck ideas that you maybe wouldn’t want to trot out at FNM, but still want to give a good shake.

My Tuesday afternoon was to be busy and as I’m about to head out the door I looked at all the halfway torn apart decks and my FNM deck and decided this simply would not do. Needing to get out the door, I quickly put together in my head the not-yet-complete Legacy Goblins deck that I’ve been piecing together and a seemingly random Uncommon out of Worldwake: Quest for the Goblin Lord, which I remember being last pick in a recent draft.

Goblins are a competitive consideration for Legacy, made occasional showings in Lorwyn-era Standard, and briefly blipped on the radar shortly after M10 was released. Decks built around the tribe can put out impressive damage very quickly; there was a new card to play with, and I had a core set of cards to pull from already set aside and aching to be played. Besides, the night was to be ideas and semi-casual competition, right?

With around ten minutes of searching and sleeving, I cobbled together the following decklist, although I will admit a certain amount of shame at the poor sideboard that I just slapped together:


I arrived at the store just before the tourney, and I didn’t really get any time for small talk or discussion of the deck. I quickly asked around for my missing Quests, as I only had that single draft reject when I built the deck, and the folks there were plenty happy to be rid of them.

With only three rounds, the night was due to go quickly, but I was excited to try out my contraption against some of the decks I saw there. My matches went Jund, Boss Naya, and ended on UW Chapin. I ask forgiveness as in my haste and the casual nature of the night, I lack detailed notes on each game, and that’s not really the point of this article anyhow, but I will recall briefly what I can.

Jund seemed to suffer from being Jund against the massively fast amounts of damage Goblins could dish out, being slow on mana, and only getting guys down on turn two and three allowed me to quickly roll them. Getting Quest online and dropping Chieftans into play as early as turn 3 didn’t hurt either and Jund stumbling on mana just laid down and died.

Boss Naya, other than the name giving flashbacks to my console gaming days, gave me figurative fits. I quickly applied ludicrous amounts of pressure game one, but quickly came under the hammer, quite literally, as a resolved Behemoth Sledge began to eat my guys and bring the Naya player from burn range to victory in short order. This is where I became grateful for one quick consideration I did make during my speed-building session: Tuktuk Scrapper in the SB.

This little Goblin Ally comes in with a handy Shatter that will handle a Sledge or Basilisk Collar and ping the owner of such implements while he’s at it. My only regret is not having at least one more SB. Thanks to the Scrapper, I take game two. Surprisingly, and thanks to game one’s Naya come back from the brink, game three ends with a draw due to a frantic race in turns with Naya only one (missing) top decked Lightning Bolt away from death.

UW Chapin is a frustrating and strange deck to sit across from. Game one, again I get a high-powered Warren Instigator in before there is anything the opponent can do, and I roll them like a ball downhill. Game two, and for this I kick myself, I fail to consider that the opponent might side in Kor Firewalkers, In my defense, I had not seen the UW Chapin list yet, so I was not fully informed, but I slapped a playset of Unstable Footing in just for such a circumstance.

Quickly applying pressure, I bring him down to the single digits when he drops a Firewalker. I mentally roundhouse myself, but also can’t help but smile at what may be one of my new favorite creatures.  Besides, even with him gaining life and having a protected blocker, my goblin swarm can get damage through, and if I resolve an Eldrazi Monument, the game will be mine. I keep him on low life, even with him countering my guys and gaining from it. Of course this means when I have him at two life he drops another Firewalker.  Thanks to Ruinblaster and Edge eating his manlands, the game goes on till he finally drops Iona, Shield of Emeria with only 2 minutes left in the round. We called it a draw.

Good for a cheap pack, I took this deck to play against some buddies the next night. My goblin horde has eaten a weak Vampire deck, a UB Ally Combo deck, and in the toughest matchup, they lost to a Bant Shroud deck, courtesy of Deft Duelist.

In discussion of the deck, we have considered a couple of splash opportunities, using either Arid Mesa to enable a Stoneforge Mystic package with Firewalker as a possible extension, or going with Scalding Tarn and a package of cheap and unexpected counterspells like Dispel to help power down things in the control match, or fend off opposing removal.

I’m personally leaning towards the white splash, allowing me to do tricks such as the one suggested by fellow Power 9 Pro team member Dillon Wilson, equipping SGC with a Basilisk Collar. Tentatively, I think the package will look something like this:

Out

In

The sideboard needs some help, but I know that I’m going to be looking for at least one more Ruinblaster and Scrapper, likely more Searing Blaze, and possibly a Path to Exile or two. I want to avoid going too Boros, but the power of the Stoneforge Mystic and Basilisk Collar are undeniable, and having a couple non-goblins allows me to run Assaults without leaving the door open. Another great thing is that the Quest for the Goblin Lord only cares about goblins as they enter the battlefield. Once it is online, it’ll gladly give everyone a +2/+0 boost.

Now, I’ll open up another thought or two for feedback which you can leave in the comments below. Should Voracious Dragon take the place of Eldrazi Monument? Should we look at Glory of Warfare instead of the Quest?

I’ve had a lot of fun with this randomly thrown together, Quest-inspired deck and look forward to working on it and making it as strong as possible. Is there a chance that WotC is throwing us a bone here and that the tribal deck that maybe poised to kick Jund off its throne is not Vampires, but rather Goblins? Packing synergy, speed, and power, I really think the little red guys have a decent chance.

Rob J.
P.S. Follow me on Twitter @RobJelf

Naya Boss by LSV: Official Deck Analysis and Discussion

In this video interview with Luis Scott-Vargas, we take a look at the deck strategy and play techniques for the Naya Boss build that propelled LSV to a remarkable 17-1 record at Pro Tour San Diego.

Hear LSV’s reasons for including one Basilisk Collar or Sejiri Steppe

One major comment I have is that back in mid-2009, LSV was claiming that players need to stop trying to play so much mid-range and focus on control. He basically implied that mid-range was a losing strategy. I suppose like everything related to Magic, it’s all format dependent.

Thoughts? Comments? We’d love to hear them in the comments below. :)

Hype, and testing Grixis in Standard

When it comes to Magic: The Gathering, hype is a strange beast. With the universal language of the internet greasing the wheels, a magic meta can spin out of control in a mere 24 hours. I fell into this trap last night playing in the latest online ptq. Today I’m going to take a look at what transpired over the 24 hours leading up to the PTQ and how I bought into the hype and got burned, and then address some of the same issues I’m dealing with in preparing my friend on the Pro Tour for PT San Diego.

Two weeks ago when I top 8′d my first PTQ, the meta was pretty much one deck: Dark Depths / Thopter (DDT). In the two weeks leading up to that tournament, DDT was absolutely dominant and top 8′s were littered with the list all over MTGO. I was more than happy to sleeve up a very fast zoo deck to beat them to the punch; it was such a good meta-call that I could play sloppy whilst drunk and on no sleep and still go 7-1 losing only to running turn 1 blood moons- but I digress.

The last two weeks have seen the online, Extended meta get mixed up a little bit more. There was a bit more dredge, some faeries, and a little zoo but most of the good players online were still playing DDT. I had tested some different zoo builds in that time and mainly not done great, but I finally settled on one with maindeck meddling mages with damping matrix in the sideboard and 3-1′d a daily event the night before the ptq.

When I looked at the decklists from the event the next day, there were a LOT of zoo decks that 3-1′d or better. And then I caught the lists fromt he Premiere event that started at midnight on Thursday morning and six of the top eight decks were zoo with Knight of the Reliquary, most with maindeck Jitte and one with main deck Blood Moon!

Well my friends and I went into crisis mode: we needed Deathmark in the sideboard; I needed Jittes, probably in the maindeck; my Goblin Guide had to be Knight now that it was going to be outclassed. My Gmail inbox was overloaded during my Thursday workday and the two hours after work leading up to the PTQ was crafting the perfect deck to beat Zoo and probably still be good against DDT.

Guess how many Zoo decks I faced: ZERO.
I even dropped a match to DDT, something I’d only done once and mainly do to mulligans.

Would three maindeck Meddling Mage gotten me past my gauntlet last night? Perhaps, I did face Hive Mind, Pox Rock and Thopter Foundry three times. Did Jitte win me any games? Nope. Did I attack once with Knight of the Reliquary last night? Septuple Nope.

I bought into the hype, and I got burned.

A card that has received a ton of Standard buzz lately is Jace, The Mind Sculptor. I’m expecting to have to face this guy tonight at Friday Night Magic as I battle for 90 in store credit so that I can buy my own 1.5 Jaces.

I have had the opportunity to play with and against the Mind Sculptor on Magic Workstation and so far I’m not buying into the hype.

My friend Jason Ford is Qualified for San Diego after his top 50 finish in Austin and we’ve been testing the balls off of Grixis and the new blue cards in Worldwake and here is some of the things we’ve found.

Treasure Hunt is doing just what you want it to. It’s smoothing out your draws and getting you a spell. Sometimes it flips another treasure hunt and it’s kind of lame and sometimes it gets you through three land and hits Earthquake after your opponent cast Martial Coup and has you dead on board.

Calcite Snapper is better than advertised. I’ve been loving this card. It locks down a board that can’t swarm, and when you’re packing 4 Lightning Bolt and 4 Terminate you can probably keep the swarm down. Then, when your opponent over-extends to push through, you can earthquake his team or drop a land and beat in for four.

Then there’s the aforementioned Jace. We’ve played a bunch of games with Jace and I think a blue deck won when he hit the table once, maybe twice. He’s not easy to protect as a Jund player can simply hold his Blightning or Maelstrom Pulse for when a Planeswalker hits the table. And unless you’re scrying for one right when he hits the table (which isn’t very gamebreaking) and Lightning Bolt will do.

Grixis, mainly, has not been cutting it. The deck is no Jund. It can do some fun stuff and has some strong cards but it has struggled to get the win. After some games there are always times where an Earthquake here would’ve won it, or if this Cruel ultimatum was a Sphinx of Jwar Isle the Blue deck likely would’ve won, but Jund doesn’t normally have those games where it couldn’t draw enough to win. What Jund does is unfair, what Grixis does isn’t.

One thing We’ve taken to doing with some of our standard builds is make a list with a bunch of singletons in it, so that we’re constantly hitting different “game plans” and generally get a taste for things that are working and arent. I would say that counters are not working right now, and spot removal is. I think if you’re playing blue and red, then you should pack Double Negative in your 75 because it’s at worst a cancel.

A couple more things about Grixis: you can leave Mysteries of the deep on the bench, you’ve only got 4 fetches in the deck and while instant speed is good, you’re better off just playing divination if you want to draw two cards.

Cruel Ultimatum isn’t that good. When your only 7 creatures have shroud, there’s a damn good chance you’re not getting a guy back from your graveyard. And playing things like Architects of Will is not even remotely the same as packing Mulldrifter like in the days of yore. A number of times the Grixis player has cast Cruel Ultimatum and still lost because it’s not that hard to play around discarding three cards, and in Jund when almost every creature you play is actaully two creatures, sacrificing one doesnt matter.

The thing that is ending games for Grixis is Sphinx of Jwar Isle. No he does not beat Baneslayer Angel but you have answers for that guy in Terminate and Jace. The only thing Jund has for this guy is double blocking with Broodmate Dragon (unless you’re dead on board already), which is pretty darn narrow.

There is some Buzz about using Everflowing Chalice to get you to Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker but that just further turns on your opponent’s maelstrom pulses. I know I’m focusing a lot on Jund right now, but if you’re not beating Vampires with this deck you need to see if you can beat Jund and UWR and we started with Jund. Grixis couldn’t beat it so we mostly moved on.

This is the list I would run if I was going to sleeve up Grixis, using Cruel Ultimatum Only in the Board. This might get you through Jund, but vamps and other control decks are still a major issue.

My opinion is that the blue decks are going to have trouble finishing games no matter what. Sphinx of Jwar Isle is clearly the answer in my eyes, it’s just a matter of getting to him.

For the record, I would just play Jund. Jund may have some issues with Ajani Vengeant and UWR (though I did get a 9/9 Raging Ravine to take out some Wall of Denials), but for the most part Jund isn’t losing much. I’ve been using Jund and beating the control decks at a steady clip, doing it without Great Sable Stag to boot. A lot of your removal is dead against these control decks obviously, but savvy Jund players are terminating their Sprouting Thrinax with Oren Rief out to make a little army in their opponent’s end step to push through damage and kill planeswalkers.

Thanks for reading,

Mike Gemme
Bobbysapphire on MTGO
mike@power9pro.com

Worldwake’s affect on Standard decks

Worldwake is an interesting set with a few tricks up its sleeve when it looks onto the Standard scene. We have some powerful cards that are sure to make it into every archetype available. Lets look at Jund first.

Jund became the most powerful deck when Zendikar first pushed Lorwyn and company out of the way. Jund only had to use a single card, Verdant Catacombs, from the Zendikar block. It was easy to build, and had so much raw power from cascade that decks could not compete with the card advantage. At Worlds, players were replacing Putrid Leech with Rampant Growth to help fix their mana, and ramp up to their more powerful cards such as Broodmate Dragon and Siege-Gang Commander. Now, Jund gets to look at the new face of mana ramping: Explore.

exploreImagine your turn 4 Bloodbraid Elf cascading into Explore. I like that it allows me to draw a card before I play my land, so I get a chance to draw a land that I might prefer to put into play. Explore will be a go-to mana ramp spell for decks that run off Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, or are trying to just play Warp World. It is a fantastic choice for many different decks other than Jund.

Speaking of lands, Jund gets the option of a couple new ones.

ragingravineRaging Ravine plays nicely with Explore, where it wouldn’t with Rampant Growth as it is a non-basic land and can’t be tutored up. Raging Ravine is the perfect example of how these new manlands are so powerful. They fix your mana and can be a threat at any moment. My friend Seneca pointed out a trick with this land as you can pay the 2RG multiple times to stack the “Whenever this creature attacks, put a +1/+1 counter on it” ability, so when it does end up attacking it will be granted multiple +1/+1 counters. This land can surely get out hand pretty quickly. The other beautiful thing about these lands other than being able to help your land and being almost no investment in a reusable creature resource, is that it will be living through Day of Judgment and will be unaffected by things like Sleep and Oblivion Ring. These lands will almost be invaluable in every deck they rest in.

Vampires is the pet tribe of Wizard’s right now. They want it to succeed, and they want it to be a powerful deck. With Worldwake they got their wishes. Vampires get access to a plethora of different spells one of them being Urge to Feed.

urgetofeedThis will be competing with the already powerful removal spells Disfigure and Tendrils of Corruption, but I see this replacing Disfigure in nearly all Vampire main decks. There is another removal spell that is returning from a hiatus nearly as long as I have been playing this game, its name is Smother. Both Urge to Feed and Smother are powerful cards, but Urge to Feed can do more relevant things such as kill Bloodbraid Elf, Ranger of Eos and even bring Baneslayer Angel down to size so that Vampire Nighthawk is able to tango with the big flier in town. The side to Urge to Feed that also interests me is its ability to pump an entire flock of Vampires. I can foresee turns where the Vampire player cracks a Marsh Flats and bring back their two Bloodghast from their graveyard, plays Urge to Feed on your Emeria Angel and pumps their entire crew of creatures getting ready for an alpha strike of their newly resurrected, now 3/2 Bloodghasts and a 3/4 Vampire Nighthawk. Its potential to turn combat so one-sided is what I love about this card. Smother on the other hand has fewer targets, but can hit things Urge to Feed can’t kill. For instance Smother can kill any token, be it a Broodmate Dragon token or a 5/5 Quest for the Gravelord zombie token. Smother can also hit the new manlands, which is pretty awesome. They both have their shining moments, but I foresee Urge to Feed being the crowd favorite by a long shot.

Another spell Vampires have in their clutches is Mires Toll. It is more of a controlling card but sure to be a hit among a lot of players.

mirestollIt reminds me of a middle ground between Ravens Crime and Blackmail, with a bit of Mind Sludge in there. I am still kind of up in the air about if it will beat out Duress, I’ll have to play with it a bit and see. What I do like about it is as long as they have cards in their hand, it will always hit, unlike Duress. It can also hit land, which might or might not be relevant. I do like the card though, it has a lot of power.

Vampire players get another gem in Worldwake, one that I think will be popular at first, but end up as a two-of in Vampires lists. Her name is Kalastria Highborn.

kalastriahighborn

Kalastira Highborn is obviously very synergistic with Bloodghast with perhaps even an Eldrazi Monument mixed in there. She gives the Vampire players a bit of reach, but she with be battling with Vampire Hexmage as the ‘other’ two drop to Bloodghast and you obviously don’t cut any of him for Kalastra Highborn as they are nearly meant to work together. Vampire Hexmage having first strike is sometime invaluable, but in some matchups it might not even be relevant. I see Vampire Hexmage getting the full boat maindeck slot while Kalastria Highborn perhaps comes out of the board. Her “put into a graveyard” clause sometimes does not as trigger as much as the Vampire player would like due to Celestial Purge and Path to Exile picking off Bloodghasts and Vampire Nocturnus‘ left and right. That all being said, Kalastria Highborn is a powerful card in matchups like red deck wins, where cards like Bloodghast are nearly useless. She also has a cool synergy with Bloodchief Ascension that almost cannot be ignored.

White decks of all shapes and sizes get some creatures that, for the most part, are highly efficient. Lets look at Hada Freeblade first.

hadafreeblade

This is the friend Kazandu Blademaster has been looking for. These two guys will work together with Honor of the Pure to create a serious army within the first few turns. Also, they are both Soldiers allowing Veteran Swordsmith to perhaps pump them into the red zone. Not to mention Ranger of Eos can pickup Hada Freeblade and bring him into the battle, along with Elite Vanguard and Akrasan Squire. There is another card that allies are going to enjoy, and coming in at instant speed is Join the Ranks.

jointheranksJoin the Ranks is a card that will usually be a blowout in Limited, but in constructed it can be a house too. Getting multiple triggers on allies at instant speed very powerful. Imagine having a Turntimber Ranger on the battlefield and then playing Join the Ranks as your opponent attacks you. Turntimber Ranger will get two +1/+1 counters, he will put two 2/2 wolf tokens into play and then you will get your two 1/1 allies. That is an army at instant speed. Lets look at Hada Freeblade and Kazandu Blademaster both getting two +1/+1 counters, probably becoming a 4/5 and a 4/4 respectively, and you are getting two 1/1 allies. That is without an Honor of the Pure on the field. It is a powerful card, but the only problem with it is that it competes with Ranger of Eos at the four casting cost space, and we already Conquerors Pledge. It has its work cut out for it, that is for sure.

White also gets Admonition Angel.

8bjdgc5ifh_EN

She is able to Oblivion Ring targets just from a landfall trigger, and has a steady 6/6 body for six mana to boot. If you are facing down an Admonition Angel and you can’t find removal, I feel sorry for you. There are going to be games where she comes down, you either Tendrils of Corruption her or perhaps you Terminate her. Then as you pass your turn, during their upkeep their Emeria, the Sky Ruin just brings her back. The mono white control decks are going to be cutting their Felidar Sovereigns and playing with yet another angel.

White decks get Silver Knight 2.0 in the form of Kor Firewalker.

korfirewalkerKor Firewalker is a creature that not only shuts down an entire archetype in Standard, but will be reaching his way across the formats. He makes Hellspark Elemental utterly useless, Ball Lightning just hit for a mere 3, and makes Earthquake cry. With his built in Dragons Claw, which is already in a few sideboards, you get the body of a soldier, and a seriously powerful sideboard card. Jund decks can kill it with Maelstrom Pulse and maybe block it with Putrid Leech. I see Smothers sliding into the Jund sideboard to kill this guy. The Boros mirror is going to be a fight to see who gets him out first. He isn’t exactly metagame warping, but his presence is sure to create a lot of waves.

Red also get some good cards. It might be all for not because of Kor Firewalker, but we shall see. The first card is Chain Reaction.

6mvou0qxyd_ENI nearly see this as a red Day of Judgment in some circumstances. Against Boros, obviously Pyroclasm is almost as useful, but it can kill Kor Skyfisher most of the time. Against Elf decks where they are all pumped up over 3 toughness, Chain Reaction can do some serious damage. I like because it can very easily do 3-4 damage to everything, which isn’t that common.

Next up, red gets Dragonmaster Outcast.

dragonmasteroutcastA new, and more powerful variant of Scute Mob, this gal can give you a board dominating presence in no time. Unfortunately, she has to live long enough for that to happen. Seeing as how every removal spell in the format can kill it, it isn’t going to be living long. It suffers the same problem as Elvish Piper, powerful effect, but too vulnerable. Obviously Dragonmaster Outcast has an advantage of only costing one mana, and she can be tutored up with Ranger of Eos, but at the same time, I just don’t see her being beyond a one-of card that you might get late game. She is good at what she does, but isn’t good at surviving.

Red got very few good cards, but the last one I think that will make some Red control deck happy is Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs.

kazuultyrantKazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs is the type of card that is costed just right. At five mana you can justify him almost all day long. Red doesn’t really get any good five mana spells other than Chandra Nalaar. The Tyrant and her seem like you could pair it with aforementioned Chain Reaction and you might just have a red control deck under your belt. Perhaps even some Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and some burn spells. I think Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs has just enough board presence and power to see play. I’m sure whoever builds this deck isn’t going to enjoy seeing Kor Firewalker though.

Eldrazi Elves got a few powerful cards, the big one is Joraga Warcaller.

joragawarcallerThis is what Eldrazi Elves have been waiting for. He has lots of synergy with Oran-rief, the vastwood, he is an Elf, and he makes their army of Elves really large, really quickly. The problem with cards like Elvish Archdruid is you usually just don’t have something to dump all that mana into. Joraga Warcaller is the guy who can take all that extra mana and make it worth your while. There are going to be those games where you just go Llanowar Elves into Elvish Archdruid and from there you can just play out your hand. Perhaps you just play Nissa Revane, summon up a Nissas Chosen, and then tap your Elvish Archdruid for GGG and get your Joraga Warcaller like another Elvish Champion on the table. There is also the ability to not play Nissa Revane and just dump it all into Joraga Warcaller. He is the type of card where he is sometimes ‘just’ an Elvish Champion but there are also times where is like an Elvish God, giving all your other Elves +5/+5. A cool trick I see is where you play Joraga Warcaller, as he comes into play he pumps your army, then after you attack some guys and your opponent blocks, you can tap your Oran-rief, the vastwood to put a +1/+1 counter on your Joraga Warcaller to pump them all a little more. Seems like something you can only really pull off a couple times against one person, but throughout a tournament could catch lots of people off guard. Once you do it though, be sure get back to me on how surprised they were.

Another card that has some serious board presence, and works well with Oran-rief, the vastwood is Bestial Menace.

bestialmenaceFor five mana you can get six power worth of guys, and they are all green. Also, the three different named tokens are Maelstrom Pulse proof, so it isn’t shut down like a Conquerers Pledge would be. I remember Cloudgoat Ranger seeing a lot play back in his day, although that is a bit different as they put Kithkin soldiers into play and they were all pumped by Wizened Cenn, but nowadays we have Oran-rief, the vastwood to pump them all. Although, we don’t have Windbrisk Heights to put this spell underneath. Either way, times have changed, but Bestial Menace is still a powerful card either way you look at it. There isn’t much else Green would rather spend five mana on. You could argue Ant Queen but Bestial Menace is harder to handle with removal, and if next turn you are looking to play Eldrazi Monument then Bestial Menace is going to deal more damage, faster, unless you have a bunch of mana to spill into Ant Queen, but at that point, you are probably winning anyway.

Control decks have mustered some power in Worldwake, too. First off is their go-to draw spell Treasure Hunt.

treasurehuntThis is one of the cards I am really excited to play with alongside Ponder. Going first turn Ponder and then setting up a beneficial Treasure Hunt turn is going to almost be backbreaking for your opponent. Control decks are notorious for running 25-27 land as it is, so they are the ones who will be getting the most bang for their buck with Treasure Hunt. The library manipulation will go a long way for these hunters. This spell would be great with Brainstorm.

In comes, Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

jacemindsculptorHis ability to Brainstorm every turn without losing loyalty is incredibly powerful. Then, when things get rough, he can start Unsummoning to create an easier board for you to find your Day of Judgment or Essence Scatter to deal with that nasty Baneslayer Angel or Knight of the Reliquary. Perhaps, you are in a stalemate so you begin building up loyalty, deciding what your opponent will draw with his +2 ability. Also, like most Planeswlakers, his ultimate ability is usually game winning, and Jace’s is no different. Exiling their library and replacing it with their hand will almost certainly win you the game. This is an incredibly powerful Planeswalker, and deserves to see a lot of play in anything running blue. If people are talking about how the old Jace Beleren came down a turn earlier, just show them Everflowing Chalice.

chaliceThis can come down on turn two for the control deck and push out a turn three Jace, the Mind Sculptor kind of like old times. Everflowing Chalice doesn’t stop there though, it can get you to Martial Coup mana on turn five if you play it on turn four. Unfortunately it isn’t Mind Stone with the ability to draw you a card, but it can help cast some really powerful spells much sooner than certain decks would have ever seen. I see Everflowing Chalice finding its way into many decks that are more top heavy. Also, it is important to note that how it produces mana is by having charge counters on it. You can remove those with Vampire Hexmage. Also, if you want to stop your opponent from removing those counters you can set a Pithing Needle on “Vampire Hexmage” and it won’t be able to activate. I also see Jund and Naya decks perhaps packing Vithian Renegades in their sideboard to destroy their opponent’s Everflowing Chalices. It will be an important card for the control player.

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on Worldwake. Have fun at the Prerelease this weekend.

-Dillon

Premium Control: A New Deck for Standard

This past Monday I had the desire to build a new deck that could be competitive in the more or less fully-defined standard environment. However, this deck was a product of another long and arduous task that had come to completion earlier that day.

Yes, 6 months after the release of Magic: 2010, I have finished my playset of what is arguably one of the best creatures in standard, Baneslayer Angel. This card has been one of the most controversial aspects of modern Magic, primarily due to its prohibitive price tag. I’ve recently been in contact with some Magic players around the globe, discussing the necessity of Baneslayer Angels, and whether or not they are worth the price, especially when they play a role in some of the top decks such as Luis Scott-Vargas’ UWr control build which won the recent Star City Games 5k tournament in Los Angeles. So now, with my set on angels in hand, I wanted to make something new that wasn’t really on the radar. So I set about looking for other cards that would be good in a deck with my new angels.

Believe it or not, the card I chose to pair my 5/5 flier with has only one thing in common with the mythic rare: its huge power level and impact on the game.

Blightning is another one of the best cards in standard. The ability to take out planeswalkers is highly underestimated, and the advantage you get from a Blightning is almost game-breaking, whatever stage of the game it is.

These 2 cards have only been played together in one deck this season: 5 colour cascade, and I really didn’t like how shaky and slow the 5 colour mana base is in today’s standard, especially with everyone running Spreading Seas and Goblin Ruinblaster. Thus, I decided to do a build using only red, black, and white, along with some of the best cards these colours have to offer.

My guiding idea for this deck was to have cards that will be good during almost all parts of the game. I only play 3 different creatures in the deck, but they are all cards which require an answer immediately. In addition to the aforementioned Baneslayer Angel, I selected Vampire Nighthawk and Siege-Gang Commander.

Vampire Nighthawk is amazing at what it does, and is often a mini-Baneslayer Angel that is able to deal with Sphinx of Jwar Isle or Wooly Thoctar with relative ease. It’s a powerful threat that can also act as a wall against the aggro decks, and is a ton of power in a small package.

Siege-Gang Commander is one of the most overlooked cards in current Magic, only seeing play in some Jund variants. It demands an answer in the form of a sweeper, and in testing has been one of the most powerful cards in the deck, being able to punch in for immense amounts of damage if you can untap with him. Even Maelstrom Pulse is less effective against SGC than against other finishers. The most amazing thing that I’ve found about the goblin is that I often am able to win games by using him as a 7 mana Shock or even a 9 mana Flame Javelin.

Well, without further ado, here’s the current decklist.

RWB Premium Control

This deck’s main focus is to control the board with removal, and then eventually drop a threat. Ajani Vengeant is an all-star in this deck, capable of doing… well pretty much everything. The sheer amount of removal in this deck is key in ensuring that his ultimate goes off, which happens around 50% of the time, a surprisingly high percentage, and it makes the rest of your game almost a lock.

Terminate is a card that is boarded in against any deck that runs Baneslayers or Malakir Bloodwitch, but for game 1 I really find that the versatility of the current removal package is more effective. One match I recently played, my opponent was at 17, but I realized that my normal game plan wouldn’t simply work (he was a control deck packing Rite of Replication, and had something like 10 mana available). I then started casting burn spells during his end step, and was able to win that way, without having to risk getting my face bashed in by 5 Baneslayer Angels. This deck packs 13 sources of potential burn, and 4 more if you count Siege-Gangs. This gives the deck an alternate route to victory during games which go longer.

I’ve found the singleton Burst Lightning to be extremely effective, both at killing off creatures and (more commonly) taking out a freshly dropped Garruk Wildspeaker or Ajani Vengeant. However, too much burn would alter the focus of this deck too much for my liking, and you need the 4 Path to Exiles in order to have a good mainboard answer to Baneslayer.

Bituminous Blast is another great way of stabilizing the board. Sometimes it cascades into Ajani Vengeant or Blightning which is awesome, but more of the time it can take out 2 creatures at once, which is awesome when you have something like a Siege-Gang Commander out and you need to punch through.

If there is one thing I would like to improve about this deck, it would be the mana base. Unfortunately, the best cards in this deck are very colour-intensive, namely Vampire NIghthawk, Day of Judgment, Baneslayer Angel, Siege-Gang Commander. Note that getting all 3 colours is almost never a problem, but getting doubles of the ones you need is. I might fiddle with the number of Terramorphic Expanse, but I have a personal attachment for the card. Others might use Akoum Refuge, but think the expanse would be better. Because you don’t do very much in the early game, a few more ETBT lands don’t hurt that much.

The sideboard is pretty standard, and I’ll go through what cards I would board in against the top decks.

Jund
Obviously the Ethersworn Canonists come in here, to stop or at least slow down cascade effects. Celestial Purge is crucial in this matchup, able to dispatch Sprouting Thrinax. I would board out the Burst Lightning, Bituminous Blasts and 2 Lightning Bolt, because non-exile removal isn’t nearly as good against them.

UWr Control
All our targeted removal is pretty bad against them, so I would take out Bituminous Blasts and Path to Exiles for a Wall of Reverence (It blocks Sphinx of Jwar Isle), 3 Though Hemorrhage (name the aforementioned Sphinx), and 2 Malakir Bloodwitch (they get through Wall of Denial and Baneslayer Angel).

Grixis Control
Again we board out Path to Exile because it’s largely useless, and we put in Thought Hemorrhage for the Sphinx of Jwar Isle. Depending on how many planeswalkers they play you may board out some burn, but it’s usually pretty good when just sent to the dome.

Red Deck Wins
Here we board out Siege-Gang Commanders and a Bituminous Blast in favour of 2 walls and 3 purges. It is crucial to use exile removal on things like Hellspark Elemental, and burn-style removal for Ball Lightnings, but other than that your removal and lifegain should be enough.

Eldrazi Green
In this match, we want to have Thought Hemorrhage and Ethersworn Canonist. We can take out the Bituminous Blasts and 3 Siege-Gang Commanders, because they generally get outclassed by whatever elves can bring to the table.

Boros Bushwacker
Here we need to lower our curve and win out with lifegain. In come Wall of Reverence and, if you want, Terminates. Siege-Gang Commander is just too slow, as is Bitumonous Blast, so pick how much of each of those to remove. I would probably leave 1 Blast in, jest because It can cascade into removal or lifegain, but SGC will just provide chump blockers.

Premium control is a great deck to play, it’s powerful, yet fun at the same time, and few decks know how to play correctly against it. I strongly encourage you to take it to some tournaments and try it out. If any of you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at zak -AT- power9pro.com or via my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

Provincial Championships Tournament Report (7th)

Hello everyone and welcome to the week after The 2009s. I hope that everyone had a great time and that we have some new rising stars in the Magic community. Please excuse me not writing anything for a while, as my workload for school has been extremely busy, and I’m reduced to about 1 Magic tournament a week (if that). However, the much-needed rest that is the Christmas vacation is fast approaching, so I hope to refocus some of my energies on Magic.

The night before the tournament, after I got home from work, I had to come up with the final build for my deck. My choice? A variant on Gerry T’s “Spread ‘Em”. I liked the deck a great deal for a few reasons. First, it has a stellar matchup against the likes of Jund and Naya, both of which I expected in full force. Second, post-board it’s matchup against RDW and Boros is extremely close, and infinitely better than game 1. However, I did not expect a great deal of Boros decks (turns out I was wrong).

The 2009s in Edmonton was a gongshow to put it lightly. The day before, Edmonton became immersed in about a foot and a half of snow, probably more in some parts. The entire Highway 2 was closed down, which meant that all the people from Calgary could not make their way down, including teammate Sean, which was disappointing. I woke up at 7am on Saturday, Dragon’s Egg in hand (on shoulder?) and was all ready to go smash some face. Unfortunately, life enjoys throwing curveballs at us. Unfortunately, the entire city’s bus system had gone down due to the weather, yet neither their transit help line or their website would admit to this fact. I only found out because I was able to get a hold of a judge at the event who filled me in. He promised that they would keep registrations open for a half hour, and I was able to snag a ride to get to the site with 5 minutes left.

However, all was not well and good. I was looking through my deck and filling out my list at breakneck speed when I noticed my deck was playing 26 land. I knew this couldn’t be right, as the list I had been testing prior to the event only had 25. So I moved my last Convincing Mirage from my sideboard to the main, and had to think of what I had on me that could replace a sideboard card. The only other cards I had on me were a red deck wins that I had intended to lend to a friend of mine, who ended up not showing up that day. I took the only card that I thought might, just might work. Manabarbs. I was in such a rush that anything would be better than not having a sideboard at all, so at the very worst I was running a 14 card sideboard, so sue me.

Here’s the decklist I filled out.

And the sideboard looked like this:

Now there are some card choices here that are not standard. The most obvious of these is Stoic Angel. The reasoning behind the Bant Angel is threefold. First, It is a solid four drop creature that I found the deck needed, something that could go on the offensive once my opponent’s mana was sufficiently screwed. Second, the angel provided a solid form of defense against one of my worst matchups, Eldrazi Green, as well as a way to potentially pull out a game 1 against Boros.

Obviously this deck should play a full set of Baneslayers, but some people simply don’t have them. No one in my city is selling them for less than $60, and I can’t justify spending that much when I have to pay off some debt for my new computer.

Just as I was about to go hand in my decklist and pay my entry fee, Jason Ness (the organizer) yelled out “Pairings for Round 1 are up!” I was flabbergasted, and rushed to see if I could still get in. Jason, being a pretty understanding guy, paired me against the player who would have had a bye, and I was all set to play. Compared to the stress of getting to the site and registering, playing a few rounds of Magic seemed quite easy.

Round 1 – vs David (UWR planeswalker control)

Game one is great for me. I screw him out of red and ensure he only has a single white mana so I cast an Ajani Vengeant who goes ultimate, and he can’t deal with a Sphinx of Jwar Isle.

In game 2, he has Wall of Denial which makes for a hard time getting to his life. To top it all of he casts his own Ajani Vengeant, which locks me out of my red mana. This in turn results in me not being able to cast my copy of the planeswalker, and overall mana screw (hot helped by his copies of Spreading Seas) prevents me from casting something big like Obelisk of Alara or Sphinx of Jwar Isle to try and win out. When he blows up all my lands and swings with a pair of shrouded sphinxes, I scoop and we go to game 2.

Because there are only 5 minutes left in the round, I go all out aggro in a hope to win it all, because his deck will not be able to kill me before time is called. In come Deft Duelists, Rhox War Monks and the 2 more Stoic Angel (a creature matters more to me than something like gaining 4 life against his deck).

I get a great start, with turn 2 Deft Duelist and turn 3 Rhox War Monk. However, his Wall of Denial makes my aggro plan go awry, and the last of our 5 extra turns is up with him at a precarious 5 life.

0 – 0 – 1

This is an awkward spot to be in. A round 1 draw means that each round I’ll be getting paired up or down, mostly up for the rest of the tournament, but I still have to win 4 of my next 5 in order to top 8.

Round 2 – vs (another) David (Bant)

I lose the die roll, and we both play Seaside Citadels to start. He has a Noble Hierarch and eventually a Rhox War Monk. I simply make all of his lands into islands and swamps, and I have the Day of Judgment for a timely 3 for 1. On my next turn Ajani Vengeant comes down and starts further decimating his mana. Eventually, I resolve both a Baneslayer Angel and a Sphinx of Jwar Isle and I think I’ve got the game won. He casts a $60 mythic angel of his own, and passes the turn to me. Thinking for a fair bit, I swing with Sphinx of Jwar Isle, and leave Baneslayer back to block in case my plan doesn’t work. He falls for my trap and blocks the sphinx with his angel. Combat went something like this:

Me: Attack with Sphinx?
Him: Block with Baneslayer.
Me: Okay, it dies.
Him: No, first strike.
Me: Yes, Ardent Plea has exalted.
Him: Ohh S***! (looks at hand, dejectedly)

I proceeded to win game 1 from there on out. I board in the Wall of Denials to protect against a possible Rafiq of the Many, as well as Oblivion Ring to take out his Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise, lest they make make mana and allow him to, you know, cast spells.

He plays first, and has a Noble Hierarch. My turn sees a Jungle Shrine and he plops down a second land and a hierarch. Luckily, he doesn’t play any more lands, and on my turn 4 I get a 4-for-1 Day of Judgment, taking out the mana dorks as well as a Qasali Pridemage and Emeria Angel. He draws a couple lands after that, but they’re not enough to stop a Sphinx of Jwar Isle.

1 – 0 – 1

Round 3 – vs Devin (Jund)

I was quite happy to face Devin, as his deck is probably my deck’s best matchup. A turn-two Spreading Seas on his Savage Lands was just the first in a long chain of mana denial spells. Follow them up with a Day of Judgment and a Baneslayer Angel, and game 1 is easily won.

Game 2 is much the same, with him having to have Broodmate Dragon and her baby sit back while Baneslayer cruises into the red zone. Although my first angel gets hit with Terminate, my second one sticks, and I win the round handily.

2 – 0 – 1

Round 4 – vs Sylvester (Jund)

I was so happy to see Dragonskull Summit and a forest from Sylvester, who had asked me before the game “Are you playing Jund or anti-Jund?” to which I shrugged and said “we’ll see.” Again, not much to say here, as the match is almost a bye for our deck, and Sylvester had to deal with some mana screw in game 2 to make a bad situation worse.

3 – 0 – 1

Round 5 – vs Sean (Turbo Fog/Jacerator)

Sean was playing one of the worst matchups for my deck. I had scouted Sean’s deck and knew that my matchup was abysmal. However, I committed myself to play the Magic I possibly could. Game 1, I was able to resolve an Ajani Vengeant, which was able to go ultimate. Follow that up with a Sphinx of Jwar Isle, and the turbofog deck had nothing to do, and got the win in game 1.

After sideboarding out Spreading Seas and adding in Oblivion Ring and Manabarbs, my opponent and I were called by my good friend Matt who was judging for a mid-round deck check. Nothing was wrong with our lists, but some of Sean’s cards were boxed, and he received a warning.

Sean cast a turn one Pithing Needle, naming Ajani Vengeant. This turned off my strongest out against the fog deck, and I wasn’t able to break through his wall of fogs.

I decided that a more aggro approach would be prudent, and so out came the expensive creatures in favour of more lightweight ones from the board. Spreading Seas aIso came out to ensure maximum mana denial had to win this one fast.

In game 3, I was told we had 10 minutes left, but that was extra time we had been granted due to the deck check. The judge behind me began to take on my shuffling duties for things like fetchlands, and directed the game pace. I went first with a land, and he played a Glacial Fortress. On turn 2, I cracked a Misty Rainforest for an Island with a Convincing Mirage in hand. Due to his desire to keep the game moving, the judge said “go” just after I got my island, and the entire crowd laughed when I told the judge my turn wasn’t done. His land was made a forest, as was the one he played next turn. He evetually dropped a Howling Mine, and I was able to cascade a Bloodbraid Elf into an Oblivion Ring to rid him of the mine. He dropped another land and another mine, and I repeated my turn, with an elf into a ring to get rid of the mine. Adding a Deft Duelist was enough to win the final game while he was hold white spells he
couldn’t play.

4 – 0 – 1

Round 6 vs ???(???)

When I sat down at table 1, my opponent and I agreed to draw, which would get us both into top 8.

4 – 0 – 2

Top 8 – Quarterfinals vs Olav (Boros Bushwacker)

After going an entire day without playing against the super-fast red white deck, I had to face in a match where it really mattered. Game 1 was just us going through the motions, as we both knew it wouldn’t be a probable for his creatures to decimate me.

My sideboarding was obvious. Duelists, Walls, Monks and Angels all come in, and the more expensive stuff and lack screw packages come out. Game 2 sees the antithesis to game 1, with Deft Duelist, Wall of Denial and Rhox War Monk making it virtually impossible for the aggro deck to bring me down from a life total well above 30.

Game 3 is a nail biter. I get down a duelist and a wall, and he has Plated Geopede, Steppe Lynx, and 3 fetchlands. After he casts a Ranger of Eos to get even more dudes, I start to panic, but I soak up all the hist well after gaining life with Captured Sunlight. I’m at 7, and cast my MVP for the day Stoic Angel. All of his army remains tapped, and my Angel is set to take him down, as he continues having to make poor combat decisions with only a single creature. I get him down so that I will have game next turn. He has 2 cards in hand, and 5 lands out. I’m racking my brain to see what he could possibly have. My mind settles on the fact that he needs a Burst Lightning, a Lightning Bolt, as well as a 6th land to cast them both if he wants to pull it out. He draws, gasps, and shows me his hand.

Lightning Bolt
Burst Lightning
Arid Mesa

Surveying the board, I sigh, and extend the hand.

4 – 1 – 2

I ended up getting 7th place overall, and was happy to have top 8ed my first ever big tournament. I like the playmats we got, even though the years haven’t been kind to Serra Angel. I really like Spread ‘Em as a deck, and give major kudos to Gerry T for coming up with the idea. It’s an awesome deck, being fun to play and extremely powerful, but that is obviously heavily metagame dependent.

Props go out to Jason Ness, the organizer/head judge, who coordinated a giant pizza delivery for lunch. He’s a terrific organizer who has organized Grand Prix tournaments in the past, and is a valuable asset to the Alberta magic scene.

I’m relieved that the heavy competitive magic season is done. I can get back to school work, enjoy the holidays, and not worry about attaining the perfect 75 card list. I’ll still write here, especially over the holidays, and I hope that you all had fun with your respective championships. We’re heading into Worldwake spoiler season, so expect lots of commentary on Smother, Celestial Collonade, and Leatherback Baloths. (Hint: They’re awesome!).

As always, email me at zak -AT- power9pro.com with questions or comments, or you cna check out my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

2009 States Primer Part Two: Introducing Red Black Burn

Right now I’m looking out my window, staring at a foot of snow. With the event site for my Provincial Championships 3 hours away under normal driving conditions you can imagine how long it would take to get there this weekend. Due to the increased likelihood of winding up in a ditch, I’m afraid that I’m not going to brave the journey, as much as I want to. For those of you who saw part one of my States Primer you might recall I promised a deck, so without any further ado:

Black Red Sunburn

3 Bloodchief Ascension

4 Burst Lightning

4 Lightning Bolt

3 Terminate

4 Blightning

4 Earthquake

4 Goblin Guide

4 Plated Geopede

4 Hellspark Elemental

3 Hell’s Thunder

2 Arid Mesa

1 Scalding Tarn

2 Marsh Flats

2 Verdant Catacombs

4 Teetering Peaks

4 Dragonskull Summit

4 Swamp

4 Mountain

SIDEBOARD

4 Duress

3 Pithing Needle

3 Volcanic Fallout

3 Deathmark

1 Terminate

1 Bloodchief Ascension

What a beauty.

Red Deck Wins has no game against Baneslayer. Not so with this deck. Bloodchief Ascension turns the burn mirror into a breeze and best of all we get to play Blightning. Nobody sees this deck coming. It has some of the best features of Barely Boros without the terrible weaknesses. If you were looking for a deck to play, then congratulations, you found it.

The deck bares a strong resemblance to the powerful red decks played at Worlds. In a nutshell, it ditches the 4 mana spells and x/1 men for powerful black cards and tweaks the mana base accordingly.

The Matchups:

Jund – A good matchup. Most of their spells are based on killing creatures and you have few of them. Half the time a Bloodbraid cascades into nothing relevant. The number one threat they have is Blightning. They may be tempted to remove their Pulses against you, so be sure to mention how great Bloodchief Ascention is against them before sideboarding. If you do a good sales job they will have one more dead card for you in games 2 and 3, because your Bloodchiefs come out along with a single Terminate for Duress. Terminate is OK against them but it is one of the few cards that aren’t great. If you want to make the matchup extra strong take out a Needle from the board and replace it with a Mind Rot to give you an extra virtual Blightning.

Boros – A good matchup. Take out 2 Goblin Guides and 2 Hell’s Thunder for 3 Fallout and 1 Bloodchief. You can often catch them for multiple creatures with your mass removal spells and a well-timed Blightning can prevent them from having an explosive turn. Skyfisher can be a minor problem, but it’s nothing to worry about as long as you don’t take to much damage early. An early Bloodchief will often win the game for you. Save your Terminates in case of Baneslayer when possible post-sideboard and the match will be a breeze.

Eldrazi Green – A good matchup. Take out your Goblin Guides and bring in a Bloodchief, a Terminate and 2 Deathmarks. Kill their big stuff before they can make tokens and pound them. They are often way too slow if you kill their mana elves.

Other good matchups include Mono Red, TurboFog UWR and Magical Christmas Land, all for obvious reasons.

There are a few tricky matchups. Bant and random white lifegain decks can prove to be problematic and Naya can be a bit tricky. If you expect to see a lot more Naya than Red and Boros consider maindecking an extra Terminate in place of a Bloodchief. Your sideboard strategy for these types of decks is to load up on targeted removal spells to kill the big threats like Baneslayer and Rhox War Monk.

In conclusion, this deck is a great choice for States. It gives you an excellent chance to win and is both fast and easy to play. It beats most of the popular decks out there and you have a big edge if they don’t have a sideboard strategy for you. No matter what you play, best of luck and have fun this weekend, because really thats what States is all about.

-Sean

Sean@power9pro.com

@SeanP9P on Twitter


2009 States Primer Part One

December is finally here! This year that means two things, Christmas sales and the 2009 State Championships, news of which I was the first to report on earlier this fall. This time around States comes after Worlds, so we have a pretty good idea of what the metagame has in store for us. In part one of my States series I’ll take a look at the top decks so you know what to look out for this weekend.

The Top Dogs:

Jund

In the post Worlds metagame there can be little doubt that Jund is king. Posting an impressive 51% of decks that finished 5-1 or better in Rome, Jund is clearly the defining deck of the format. The raw power of being able to cascade yourself out of almost any situation makes it very difficult to attack. Almost every card in the deck is a two-for-one, so defeating it requires a very focused strategy. If you are looking for a last minute deck you could do far worse than Jund. Even with its impressive results, I feel people don’t give this deck the respect it deserves.

3 Bituminous Blast

4 Blightning

4 Bloodbraid Elf

1 Boarderland Ranger

2 Broodmate Dragon

1 Garruk Wildspeaker

2 Great Stable Stag

4 Lightning Bolt

3 Malestrom Pulse

4 Putrid Leech

4 Sprouting Thrinax

2 Terminate

3 Dragonskull Summit

3 Forest

3 Moutain

1 Oran-Rief

4 Rootbound Craig

4 Savage Lands

4 Swamp

4 Verdant Catacombs

Also, be on the lookout for variants that cut in Putrid Leech, often in favor of Rampant Growth and Siege-Gang Commander. I don’t care for the change personally, but untaping with SGC out is pretty scary.

Naya

The deck that took home the title at Worlds is no doubt a worthy contender. It’s nearly endless supply of powerful monsters can overwhelm many decks. In exchange for this awesome power your mana can be a bit awkward. Many of the strategies to combat Jund have some crossover into this matchup in the way of Goblin Ruinblaster. This deck might not appear at States as much as it should due to the hefty price tag. A set of Baneslayers alone can be upwards of $200, if you can get your hands on them at all. It’s something to keep in mind when predicting your local metagame.

Boros

The second most successful deck at worlds is also a fine choice. This deck may have fallen off the radar a bit of late and I don’t feel that’s justified. The deck is solid and has a slightly favorable Jund matchup to boot. You also have the fact that people aren’t gunning for you and may catch some by surprise. If you want an alternative to Savage Lands this weekend, Boros could be a good call.

The Other Players:

GW, Junk and Bant

These decks tend to play various knights, angels and other threats in the hopes of overpowering the Jund menace. Although the attempt is noble, an experienced Jund mage can often power through your men. The deck failed to gain traction at Worlds and ultimately I have to advice against it. Naya is simply a stronger deck choice right now.

Eldrazi Green

The allure of random green monsters have been on the forefront of the Magic community since the Anderson’s took down the Star City 5k last month and I’ll admit that my inner small child loves the thought of bashing with an endless army of beasts, insects and elves. Sadly as long as Jund is around, the deck will need to remain on the bench.

Magical Christmas Land

Ever since Lotus Cobra has been spoiled people have dreamed of casting turn 3 ultimatums. Conely Woods sleeved up the deck for the Pro Tour and lived the dream. The best part about his take on the deck is that it actually does something in the event that your Lotus Cobra dies or, gasp, isn’t in your opener. I’m still not sold on the deck due to its poor red matchup, but it may be the most fun deck around right now.

Vampires

I imagine some duelist’s this weekend will continue their undying support of team Edward at states. Stay alert for their telltale pale sleeves that sparkle ever so slightly in the light. In all seriousness, the vamp deck isn’t that bad. It is a little underpowered, but if you get lucky with having black cards on top at the right time for Nocturnous, even poor matchups can be won. Someone did 6-0 Worlds with the deck after all. I’m not suggesting that you pack the deck on Saturday, just be prepared for it.

RDW and Barely Boros

Red Deck Wins is a solid deck choice that I think will be popular with budget card slingers this year. The problem with this deck is its difficulty powering past lifegain cards like Baneslayer Angel. If someone untaps with one against you it is almost always over. Some decks try to combat this deficiency with Mark of Mutiny or Act of Treason but I find these cards to be quite underwhelming otherwise. Mike Flores has recently suggested a version featuring a splash of white for Ajani V and sideboard Paths. I like both decks, but I think the Flores version is a little stronger.

UWR Control

A few lists are running around competing for the mantle of the format’s control deck. These decks run different combinations of planeswalkers, sphinxes and angels to fight Jund. While certainly not bad, they suffer from Standard’s poor card draw and counterspells. I would recommend this deck if not for the influx of aforementioned burn spells.

Turbo Fog

While this might be a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to Jund, I expect fog to see plenty of play at Champs. While you do have a good matchup with the top deck, don’t be fooled into believing it is unlosable. A well-timed cascade into pulse can leave you playing catch-up. I think in many ways it is a sign of the warped format. Without a true control deck or a proper combo deck, the format becomes a slew of midrange cards running into each other. In any case, I would leave fog at home and try a deck with more Blightnings.

Spread ‘Em

The LSV titled, GerryT created, cascade monster is quickly becoming a popular 60 in the format. People’s enjoyment over mana screwing Jund is in many ways like their desire to watch the Yankees lose. Unfortunately, the secret is out. Jund never forgives and rarely forgets. People know how to play their fetches now if they suspect the cascade onslaught. Furthermore, the deck is a bit of a glass cannon, needing to transform entirely to fight of the likes of Boros. It’s good for a spot of fun, but I’d be surprised to see it bring home my Province’s trophy.

The Rest:

I’ve gone over a few of the big decks for this year, but you can expect all kinds of wacky homebrews at States that might not find their way to a Pro Tour stage. Unlike a PTQ, there is little pressure to perform, so don’t be afraid to take a risk. Casual gems like Valakut and Crypt of Agadeem are sure to make it to the battlefield somewhere. And who knows? Cascade Swans burst on to the scene after regionals; maybe the next great deck is sitting on your kitchen table right now.

So what do I recommend? None of the above. My list is so crazy nobody has posted it yet. Interested? Then come back for part two tomorrow!

Until tomorrow,

Sean

Sean@power9pro.com

@SeanP9P on Twitter