As you might have read on Top 8 Magic, Bloodbraid Elf is probably going to be a very popular card in the Constructed portion of this weekend’s Pro Tour Honolulu.
The tournament described there (and mentioned again in my column Top Decks at the mother ship) included four copies of Bloodbraid Elf in every deck in the Top 8, plus a gigantic percentage of “four Bloodbraid Elf” listings in the decks of the Top 96. As far as starting points go, this is a profound one. I’ll tell you why…
(And by the way this is a theory I put forth both at movie night at Jonny Magic’s on Wednesday and again at lunch today with Matt Wang, Will Price, Becker, Mark Young [happy birthday!], and the duo of Seth Burn and Zvi Mowshowitz… pretty much everyone agreed on both occasions).
In most formats we have beatdown decks, and they try to do something pretty quick.
Then we have combo decks, and they try to do something pretty dumb.
“I’m still with you!” -Zvi
Then we have control decks, and they either try to slow down the beatdown decks or prevent the combo decks from doing something dumb, but they’re not usually particularly good at both at the same time.
Now in some formats we have another kind of deck called The Rock.
The Rock is not usually fundamentally good, but it can be good against some of the other decks in the metagame.
The Rock is characterized by being slower than the beatdown decks (but typically full of creatures), less controlling than the control decks, but either via disruption or progressive card advantage, capable of competing with two if not all three of the other decks types we have described.
One thing to remember for purposes of this discussion is that The Rock is not Not NOT (necessarily) a B/G big guys and discard deck. It can be that (of course!) but Zvi taught me that The Rock is a way of thinking. A mono-White deck might be The Rock; a B/U/R tempo-oriented Block deck can be The Rock too (especially if it is about getting a bunch of two-for-ones instead of actually controlling and dominating the game).
The reason the 32 Bloodbraid Elves are interesting is that — maybe for the first time ever — we are approaching a format where The Rock is the default.
What does this mean?
It’s pretty interesting, actually!
When a mid-range creature deck is the default deck, typically the best deck is the slowest version.
Do you remember an Extended Pro Tour a few years ago where The Rock was one of the most popular decks? Which was the best version?
“I’ve got four Spiritmongers!”
“I’ve got four Spiritmongers and a Visara the Dreadful.”
Which is the best deck?
The guy with four Spiritmongers, two Visaras, and another one in the sideboard!
So how does that intersect with the initial discussion of Bloodbraid Elf?
My idea was that in order to trump in a world where everybody has Cascade two-for-ones, the best strategy would be to go big — as big as you can.
You’ll notice that a fair amount of the Jund-colored Bloodbraid Elf decks have Broodmate Dragon… Why not play a couple of copies of Karrthus main deck?
That’s not enough for me… If the mana is good enough for every deck under the sun to splash for Bloodbraid Elf, then it’s good enough to stretch to play Cruel Ultimatum!
But that’s not all!
I would also have played a couple of copies of Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, at least in my sideboard.
I don’t know exactly how I would have laid out the mana, but I think I would have played only Terminate and Maelstrom Pulse for low curve (then I could ensure that my Bloodbraid Elf and/or Captured Sunlight would always hit removal), Traumatic Visions to counter other people’s bombs and keep me drawing lands, a couple of copies of Voices of the Void to exploit the card advantage inefficiencies of the format, and then top up on the big threat bombs… Broodmate Dragon, Karrthus, Cruel Ultimatum, and Nicol Bolas.
Bolas might not be as silly as he sounds… Think about it like this. A lot of the decks out there play Obelisk of Alara. For eight mana they get five life, a -2/-2, you know. For eight mana I GET NICOL MOTHERLOVING BOLAS.
I haven’t seen any of the decks from Honolulu yet…
And to be perfectly honest, I haven’t tested very much Alara at all…
But that’s what I would have suggested 🙂