Just a quick update on this one. I took out Thornling (even though he has been pretty good) for some of the reasons brought up by wobblesthegoose in the comments of How to Play With Marsh Flats. Essentially the deck only needs one Green mana source to operate (though it does need that initial Green)… Except when you consider Thornling. Thornling is very Green mana hungry, but the rest of the deck is pretty Black mana hungry (you actually need three of the four Swamps in play most games), not to mention needing two White sources in play for Baneslayer Angel.
The randomest cards are / were Behemoth Sledge (one-of plus one-of) which actually didn’t do enough in matches where the opponent could Lightning Bolt all your jones (which is ironically often the kind of match where the second copy went in) and Mind Shatter. Mind Shatter remains awesome, but you will often lose game one when you draw it if the opponent is faster than you are. Mind Shatter is more the kind of card that pre-empts a more controlling deck’s Cruel Ultimatum or messes up their ability to hit land drops when they are tapped for a Planeswalker. It’s not unconditionally good despite being unconditional card advantage.
All those came out for Putrid Leech (about as fine a man as you can get for a two-drop Zombie Leech).
The sideboard saw significant changes. Mind Shatter shifted from main to side as a new Game Two four-of (potentially) against more controlling decks, or decks with a significant Cascade component.
The biggest shift–at least in this test version–was moving away from Summoning Trap (which has yet to materialize for me, or even get cast despite my keeping double Summoning Trap hands against Counterspell decks) to Celestial Purge. The inspiration for moving to Celestial Purge came at a loss tonight to Ajani Vengeant. I had just spent a Maelstron Pulse relatively well, but then he had that best of Planeswalkers (one of the Ajanis probably is, anyway)… and whittled at my options over and over. I really need another card to deal with these kinds of permanents, I thought. It turns out that Celestial Purge is a Doom blade of sorts against the Red Decks (gain seven or whatever), and as pointed out by Alfrebaut, is really good Sprouting Thrinax suppression.
So there you have the current test version; it’s actually winning less than the previous ones, but not on account of any of the new cards (or the old ones missing, I think)… So I think it will have more potential to be better.
It doesn’t play Blightning, but other than that, I don’t know what kind of shots you can take against it. It has been playing superbly for me against everything; as much as I hate to admit this, it has a much better batting average than Black Baneslayer.
I guess the shot you can take against it is that this deck is all rares and mythics, making it super cost prohibitive for some players.
The deck plays three different game plans, all extremely potent.
The first is a Lotus Cobra based plan. Basically, you play Lotus Cobra and cross your fingers; if you untap with it, you can usually demolish your opponent. Typical turn three plays include Baneslayer Angel and an initially unimpressive Ob Nixilis, the Fallen. However in concert with one another, multiple Lotus Cobra activations can be truly disgusting. Consider…
Turn Four: Marsh Flats (adding B), sacrifice Marsh Flats for Swamp (adding B), Sorin Markov; put the opponent on 10, attack for 5-7… Unless the opponent has a Planar Cleansing, he is most likely dead to something on the battlefield already… Maybe even just the Cobra.
I generally dislike playing Maelstrom Pulse main deck (in Black Baneslayer I like to play it in the sideboard against attack oriented decks or Howling Mines), but it has been pretty good in this deck; without Red mana access, this deck needs something, and Maelstrom Pulse is the best candidate.
The second major plan is operating as a high quality creature deck; you can play Ob Nixilis on the third turn with Lotus Cobra, but that is often dangerous (unless you have a backup Ob Nixilis or the opponent has only shown Green or White mana); in this deck Ob Nixilis can just kill the opponent if you untap with it. There are eight Marsh Flats and Verdant Catacombs, and if you have Knight of the Reliquary on the battlefield, they are probably just dead if you have a removal spell (or maybe you don’t even need one).
You have solid resource management capabilities in the Junk Mana Ramp deck due to Grim Discovery, which is simply one of the best cards in Zendikar (considering the fact that Marsh Flats is a Ball Lightning in this deck).
The advantage Junk Mana Ramp has over the updated Jund Mana Ramp is that instead of going to six mana for Broodmate Dragon and Rampaging Baloths, this deck has the best fives; eight of them. It’s not like I need to sell you on Baneslayer Angel.
But the card that is something special in this deck is Knight of the Reliquary. I noticed in the Pro Tour Austin Coverage how popular Knight of the Reliquary was in Ben’s and Brian’s Zoo deck, Ikeda’s Zoo deck, lots of Zoo decks… Probably it is good enough for Standard!
I found it excellent.
One of the important things I learned about playing with Knight of the Reliquary is how to properly manage my Marsh Flats. Maybe this is old hat to you but it took me a couple of games to realize that I should be getting Marsh Flats instead of basic Plains when using the Knight’s special ability… Just +1/+1 and possibly important Landfall triggers.
When Knight of the Reliquary and Lotus Cobra link arms, it is a mana and power (and power level) explosion!
The last plan, which is a plan you will most often execute against Vampires and control decks, is Planeswalker lock, specifically winning with Sorin Markov. If you haven’t played with Sorin yet… Do it. This is a card I started to take more seriously after seeing @conley81‘s Pro Tour Austin deck. Sorin is just unbeatable in some games; for instance Vampires has a huge number of 2/2 creatures where Sorin is just a progressive The Abyss that can only be breached by a small number of cards in the Vampires deck (typically Malakir Bloodwitch and sometimes Vampire Nocturnus). But unless they have previously emptied you with a big Mind Sludge, you can just out-quality the Vampires on the board with Ob Nixilis, Baneslayer Angel, or your many removal cards. Vampires is one of the best matchups for this deck, though it’s hard to point at any one single reason… Basically you are faster, your cards are better, and if you get Sorin in play, they are in a lot of trouble.
Even against some Red/x decks Sorin gives you a lot of space. Sorin kills every Bloodbraid Elf they can play while generating a profit; this leaves you room to spend your cards or set up your blocks anywhere else: all good.
Here is a rundown of the last five matches I played with Marsh Flats, Knight of the Reliquary, and Lotus Cobra tonight:
I lost Game One to a Malakir Bloodwitch off the top; I had a Behemoth Sledge but no man, and a Path to Exile. He had no cards… but I had only three life. It’s not like I would have unconditionally won on any other play, but it would have been a heck of a lot better than dead on board.
For the second game I sided out Mind Shatter for the other two copies of Sorin Markov; the second game I locked him with Sorin and he conceded fairly quickly out of frustration.
Game Three I got a turn three Baneslayer Angel; he got three copies of Vampire Nocturnus but couldn’t really attack me; I had a 6/6 Knight of the Reliquary and removal, etc.
This was a cool deck I have played against several times this week. Basically it’s Rampant Growths and so on, setting up super Valakut + Mountains action with Harrow… all that. I don’t know if he played Warp World, but he did play Bogardan Hellkite (and in a previous match a Valakut opponent ran out a Warp World which left me with three Baneslayer Angels and him with nothing good). Anyway…
Game One I went Knight of the Reliquary into Baneslayer Angel; Lotus Cobra (with Knight in play) to a Mind Shatter for six or seven. He packed.
Game Two he got double Oracle of Mul Daya and Needled me for Knight of the Reliquary. I had a Knight, but also two Maelstrom Pulses… Goodbye Pithing Needle and Oracles both. I eventually set up for a Baneslayer Angel on only six life; if he ripped a Mountain he could have killed me with double Valakut, but he ripped, ironically, a Hellkite.
Game One I shipped to Sunpetal Grove + Grim Discovery. Yes, that is a mulligan to two. I won’t say I almost won, but I was somewhat competitive. I steeled myself and elected not to concede; instead I recorded all of his cards for the next game. They were…
Lightning Bolt (my fifth turn Knight of the Reliquary)
Plains (from Naya Panorama)
Esper Charm (taking my Ob Nixilis, the Fallen and Lotus Cobra)
Offering to Asha (my second Knight of the Reliquary)
Esper Charm (Baneslayer Angel and Plains)
I conceded the turn he was going to go ultimate on Liliana Vess after making me dump my hand.
Game Two I played a turn three Ob Nixilis; this was a screwup because he had a Lightning Bolt (could have played Baneslayer instead). I followed up with Knight of the Reliquary, then screwed up on an Offering to Asha (I didn’t see that with my Lotus Cobra down, I could generate just enough Lotus mana to pay for the Offering).
Anyway I stalled on three lands forever.
On the last turn I actually drew the card I needed to win on the spot (Verdant Catacombs for a long ball Ob Nixilis with Knight of the Reliquary in play) but he spent his fourth Esper Charm on my grip.
This was frustrating to lose due to the ship to two, but moreso Game Two; I think I won this close one if I either played Baneslayer Angel over Ob Nixilis on turn three or if I figured out to pay for the Offering.
Game One went long, with me controlling a huge Ob Nixilis and finding the Thornling. Thornling went north with Elspeth’s help, forcing a block from Vampire Nighthawk (I didn’t want to put Ob Nixilis in that position due to Deathtouch); Thornling went both hasty and indestructable to win that exchange.
I lost the second with no Green. It would have / should have been an easy one.
Game Three I actually ran a savagely poor mis-click. I tapped my only Swamp to play Lotus Cobra and lost it main phase to a removal spell with Grim Discovery in my hand. The game was close but I ultimately got there with Sorin Lockdown.
I haven’t played this loose in a while; after winning the first I accidentally discarded my second turn Plains instead of putting it on the battlefield. I played out but it was not good enough.
I redeemed myself in the third though. He stalled for Red for some turns, which gave me time to develop.
So I finally caved and added Rupture Spire to my Cascade deck.
I don’t actually know what I was apprehensive about before… Rupture Spire has been great. The deck went from struggling (somewhat) to advertising some very valuable expectation.
Here’s the quickie-quick on how to play Rupture Spire in a deck like this…
Typically you want to play a comes-into-play-tapped land on the first turn; you know, Seaside Citadel… something like that.
You run out your Rupture Spire and pay.
You hammer the opponent with whatever kind of three you drew, after playing a regular land.
It’s that easy!
The down side on Rupture Spire is that it can potentially force more mulligans; for example you have a two-lander and they are both Rupture Spires; any other two-land opener combination and you can at least think about keeping (like if you have Arcane Sanctum and Savage Lands and two Esper Charms you will probably keep)… But with double Rupture Spire, that is a zero option (Remember Finkel’s Second Law).
The other annoying thing about Rupture Spire is when it is your fourth or fifth land and you are already rolling on spells. Like a lot of the time you will go comes-into-play-tapped land, comes-into-play-tapped land, comes-into-play-tapped land, Forest: Bloodbraid Elf… then you can go another Bloodbraid Elf or Captured Sunlight plus another comes-into-play-tapped land; however if your fifth land is Rupture
Spire [especially off the top] then you stall on four. This might not be the end of the world (you are already hammering them with awesome Cascade spells), but you might actually consider pointing Esper Charm at yourself in this spot–this is another somewhat common spot where Rupture Spire can slow you down.
I just pulled four lands out for four Rupture Spires while half-asleep… Not a lot of huge science here, but the Spires have been contributing (I made @RidiculousHat‘s eyes bleed).
The sideboard is transformative. You are no longer a “mono Cascade” deck sideboarded. You transform into a “regular” (but aggression-hostile alternate deck. The attitude sideboarded is more like a “classic” Standard deck (or like the Borderland Ranger deck of old)… Cascade for value rather than full-on ultimatum.
Here is a rundown of the last, you know, “five with” matches I ran with ye olde Black Baneslayer:
His deck was mostly esper with Red for like Double Negative (obviously a solid against YT).
I opened up on Esper Charm, which hit; then he sent Double Negative at Bloodbraid Elf.
My next play was Esper Charm, which I used to draw up and hit lands (it hit).
The next move was (another) Bloodbraid Elf, which stuck and drew out two cards with Esper Charm. He saved a Lightning Bolt for the Bloodbraid Elf itself… But he was out.
Baneslayer Angel obviously hit. And hit. And hit. And that was it.
Next one I opened up on Esper Charm, which drew out a Counterspell.
Sick as hell, dawg! Untap, Ajani Vengeant.
I worked him with Ajani for a few turns while emptying his hand. He hit all his land drops and played the Sphinx.
I was “winning” but stuck on four for a while so I couldn’t deploy Baneslayer Angel or Deny Reality, so Ajani died. That said, he was empty, if in command of a 5/5 shroud when I played Baneslayer Angel…
Baneslayer Number One, that is.
More to come (more Baneslayers, that is)… Concession.
On Twitter @amistod has been trying to get me to play Sphinx over Baneslayer Angel; his argument is that if you untap with Sphinx you generally win.
I don’t agree with him in that if you untap with Baneslayer you win about as often, plus you get to play out of stuff like Anathemancer, too.
Interesting game… He started on Putrid Leech but stalled.
He pumped for two every turn, but I was all comes-into-play-tapped and wasn’t doing anything past the the Blightnings and Esper Charms… Nothing to fight his Putrid Leech head-on.
Then I got there with Deny Reality and he packed.
Second game he conceded quickly to my discard plan.
I don’t typically sideboard much, if at all for Jund. All my cards are good… It’s a matter of their being super quick more than anything else; I will sometimes bring in 2-4 Lightning Bolts in Game Three if I am on the draw, but not typically on the play.
Four Color Control
Game One was very competitive as he raw drew three Blightnings. That made the game “very interesting” as they say. I got rid of his hand back, and he topdecked Sphinx. I topdecked Baneslayer. Baneslayer won of course.
I thought I was going to bowl him over in the second, but he had Swerve! He turned one of my Blightnings against myself! That certainly un-landslided it. I got back in there but we were both coming off the top. He drew and played Courier Capsule. With great discipline he waited until the end of my turn to fire it (what if I drew Blightning?) … Unfortunately I drew Esper Charm and re-emptied him. That was the beginning of the end.
I had played v. him a couple of times before… But his deck is heavily anti-Jund, so I take a little splash damage on that one (think Sphinx of the Steel Wind).
I don’t know why I am telling you this but you should know…
I won the first game on a common error on his part.
As usual v. control I opened up working him with discard spells. He made Jace Beleren to get out of it, targeting only himself, putting Jace to below three loyalty. That allowed me to kill Jace with Blightning while erasing his hand!
If he had played Jace so both players would draw card instead, the game might have gone differently.
Games two and three he got me with Identity Crisis.
I had marginal lead on the board, but no hand after turn six or so.
In Game Three he was down to two cards when he played the Identity Crisis, so I had an open to rip almost anything and wreck his hand… But I drew a land. He drew four Counsters off the top to protect His Shroud Phinx.
You know… Mono-White Steppe Lynx.
I got Game One with the dramatic personae if you know what I mean.
He bum rushed me in the second… I was all swimming in hobos.
In the third I got a bunch of Rhox War Monks going but screwed up. He had multiple Honor the Pure in play and I got lazy on Lightning Bolt. I could have just killed his Lynx on my turn but instead I gave him the empty-handed open to draw Arid Mesa to demolish me (can’t respond to both triggers). Instead, I was forced to chump with two beautiful Rhox War Monks.
I worked my way back up to the point where it was no longer interesting. I didn’t die, so I got the space to Ultimatum him a bunch… But that one turn was what mattered; I just got mad lucky to Cascade out of it (or maybe it wasn’t lucky, now that I think about it).
Four wins, one loss in this five-match set. I really like this deck (which you probably know).
I figured I’d do something a little different today and maybe run it regular-like.
It has one Summoning Trap.
1. What is this, some kind of a Q & A?
Yes. That’s exactly what it is.
2. Okay smart guy… How come you don’t make YouTube videos any more? I really liked those.
Thanks! I appreciate it. I will probably go back to actively making the fivewithflores videos on YouTube but not in the immediate future. I used to have a really nice MacBook Pro that I did the videos on and I don’t have that computer any more. Any fivewithflores fans make videos on the PC?
But let me make it up to you. Just pretend that Scarlett Jo is michaelj (or you might not want to):
3. Sounds weak… Why don’t you make PodCasts any more then?
That is a little different. I still think of myself as making PodCasts (and regularly)… Albeit a little less frequently. We are all just really busy (at least relative to when I was kicking out PodCasts every week with BDM). Longer hours and more responsibility at the day job, plus more kids! I guess I can’t blame everything on Clark, but it is still a different life than during the Charleston PTQ season, for instance. Don’t worry–we are all still active PodCast making machines!
4. What was the answer to that You Make the Play?
Look very closely at the game state:
Tim Gillam asked what I had sideboarded in. Fair question, but I don’t know how much it matters based on this game state.
We are gearing up to smash with a Blightning here. He has two cards in hand. We have no clear next play because we can’t cast anything in our hand with the mana we have access to; if we were going to play Esper Charm, we’d have to pull an Island probably.
Given that we have to topdeck, I think we should topdeck ourselves into the best possible situation.
Originally I was playing Savage Lands (you can even see Savage Lands “highlighted” as the top-left); but I thought better of it.
The right answer here is Exotic Orchard.
Exotic Orchard taps for white. Playing it puts us in a position to pull Plains, Arid Mesa, or another Exotic Orchard to go straight to the big girl next turn. Even if we don’t hit our untapped White, we can Savage Lands into Forest the following turn to hit the Enlisted Ultimatum.
5. Did you figure out how to play Rupture Spire?
The short answer is yes, but I’m not getting into it right now. Instead, check out this deck:
As-Yet-Unnamed Three-color Bombs
1 Behemoth Sledge
4 Grim Discovery
2 Mind Shatter
4 Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
2 Sorin Markov
4 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Baneslayer Angel
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Path to Exile
It has been testing pretty well so far. Lotus Cobra has been absolutely explosive. The ability to actually make plays on turns two and three was like a memory before this deck. And your turn four is often a Sorin plus a Pulse (take that Pyromancer’s Ascension deck!).
Verdant Catacombs headlines a new take on Jund Mana Ramp. Just how linear is Landfall?
Without going into too much detail, this is basically the third major build of the Landfall Mana Ramp deck. It started as really, really Landfall-based all the way down to Bloodghasts.
As of this evening I cut all the Khalni Heart Expeditions; there was just too much mana ramping in the deck and not enough gas. I moved two copies of Sorin Markov to the main deck, and upped the land count to 25. The land had to go up not just because of cutting the Khalni Heart Expeditions, but because I at the same time cut four basics to play four Savage Lands.
Previously the deck was “all basics” … That is, eight Zendikar dual lands and fifteen basic lands. With all the mana ramping that was fine… However the other night I finally lost to that awful Pyromancer’s Ascension deck.
If there is one deck that I always beat with every deck it is the Pyromancer’s Ascension deck. The Black Baneslayer deck can beat Pyromancer’s Ascension consistently with three trips to Paris under its belt (trust me, I’ve had to), and this deck can at least compete with aggressive Scepter of Fugue sideboard games (though I have also won with Maelstrom Pulse and Ob Nixilis of course). However this one game my opponent had Ajani Vengeant and kept my lone Mountain tapped… With only a single true source of Red in my deck (regardless of how much virtual Red access there is), I could lose to Ajani, spot removal, and so on.
That said, I think the deck has a lot of potential. If not for Black Baneslayer, I would probably like this deck best (I like them both):
This deck is structurally fairly similar to my 2009 Regionals era Jund Mana Ramp deck; it is the same colors, at least. The difference here is that instead of a pure two-for-one theme, we have more of a mix of cards, including some flexible removal (Maelstrom Pulse) that I usually try to avoid playing, and Sorin Markov on the top end (quite good, seemingly everywhere).
This deck is a pretty consistent performer, though you can get some awkward hands with two or three pieces of mana and multiple six mana plays. You usually have to keep.
I played about four matches with the Version 3.0 of this deck tonight; here’s how they went:
Game One we were racing, me with some kind of wonderful, him with multiple Vampire Nighthawks; in this game I was introduced to the “Deathtouch” feature on the aforementioned Nighthawk (who knew). He peeled Vampire Nocturnus and I lost on the last turn, my own kill in hand.
Game Two was a blowout. My stuff was just bigger; he didn’t draw (or maybe didn’t play) Mind Sludge.
Game Three was a super fast acceleration game. Turn two Rampant Growth (two to three); turn three Harrow (three to four), play land, Rampant Growth… Turn four Rampaging Baloths plus a land (that is, plus a 4/4 Beast). I drew three removal spells and he only drew four guys.
2. Jund with Sedraxis Specter
We went to three… In the third he drew all his Lightning Bolts but failed to ever peel a Forest. His first two Bolts had to shut off my Planeswalker and the others half-traded for Borderland Rangers. I was able to overcome him with two Rampaging Baloths; two Maelstrom Pulses sat back in reserve.
3. Ranger of Eos Naya
This deck featured newcomer Scute Mob and was pretty exciting.
In the first game I just traded with him “one for one” … My first Ob Nixilis bought it to a Lightning Bolt (I planned for this to give up due to having Grim Discovery in hand). He grew his second Scute Mob and I played a Broodmate Dragon. He came in with his now-large Mob and I chose to double block it with Dragons; one went down and I took three from the Ranger of Eos to go pretty low, but I knew one of his remaining cards was another Scute Mob and the other was a topdeck. My remaining Dragon came in, then I played DI Re-buy on Misty Rainforest and my lost Ob Nixilis, finished with that flurry and a Rampant Growth. Ob Nixilis is so crazy.
Game One I thought I would win despite drawing only two Harrows and two copes of Ob Nixilis. It turns out he was able to race usuing multiple platforms.
Game Two I was ahead but didn’t really know how to translate that into a win.
Then I drew a Planeswalker.
All of a sudden he was pretty locke ut of doing anything.
I was already getting kind of annoyed at MTGO at this point; but there wa a lot of lag and my session with the Landfall Ramp had to end on a sour fiish.
Game One I thought I had it despite drawing only two Harrows and two copies of Ob Nixilis for spells. He raced with Nighthawks but I just couldn’t beat a pair of Malakir Bootwitches.
Game Two was kind of a narrow win, but it was a win. I didn’t really know what to do (I knew his cards and so I knew my creatures were probably not going to make it long)… But then I drew my Planeswalker and controlled his board until I could profitably tap him out with the Mindslaver function.
Game Three was super close (like Game One and its three spells… I probably could have won if I played my lands in different order… He was at 2 the turn before he won). It came down to my playing Ob Nixilis instead of Broodmate Dragon with two Dragons and Sorin Markov back. His Vampire Nocturnus showed a Tendrils of Corruption, and it just didn’t register that he could have Gatekeeper of Malakir for my Black Ob Nixilis, the Fallen.
If I had played the Dragon, my worst case scenario would have been five or six in. I would have had the next Broodmate Dragon for more attrition, and could have won with the big swing on Sorin Markov plus Ob Nixilis. Instead, I lost to exactly lethal: 11 points.
2 Obelisk of Alara
3 Ajani Vengeant
4 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Lightning Bolt
So that’s the new mana base.
Without boring you with too many details I have found the deck to win essentially every matchup as long as its mana comes out.
That is not idle smack talk… It’s just a fact, and a dual-edged vulnerability. I have been trying to figure out what is “wrong” with this deck. In the best terms, the strategy has one of the deepest Stage Ones of any competitive deck, ever. The deck almost can’t make a play before turn four, and I have lost games where I hit my first six land drops and never played a spell!
This is very clearly a Stage One problem.
It has only gotten worse with the transition from Vivid lands and Reflecting Pool to the current mana base.
Because I recognized the Stage One issue, I pulled Enigma Sphinx in favor of more Seaside Citadels (previously the aforementioned Sphinx and one Sunpetal Grove). I am still not 100% happy with the mana base. Not at all, but it has certainly gotten better (that said, Rootbound Crag should probably be packing up his desk if you know what I mean).
I played many matches last night in the Tournament Practice Room (not playing tournaments until I can get my own side of the street relatively garbage-free), and lost matches that I found inexplicable.
I lost to one of those new-fangled [almost?] permission-free four- or five-color control decks, which I think Cascade should be a heavy favorite. I hit turn three Blightning and turn four Captured Sunlight into Blightning… and then stalled on four for the next four turns while he went from crippled to dominating position by topdecking Esper Charm and Jace. Any land drop would have been game, I think (I had three copies of Deny Reality in hand, and he had already discarded one of his Cruel Ultimatums). After I recoverd somewhat and put myself once again in a decent position he pulled Cruel Ultimatum; I held back Enlisted Wurm over Deny Reality… and flipped into Bituminous Blast with no targets on board.
One thing I will give him… His strategic game was admirable. I stalled on three in the last game, and he drew three copies of Thought Hemorrhage. He immediately went for Esper Charm… and unfortunately I had two copies in hand. He saw I had two Obelisks of Alara in hand, too, and made his second Thought Hemorrhage a six-point Blightning, and when I started to recover, he just named Blightning itself.
The Obelisk of Alara naming made YT a victim of opportunity, but the other two plays were superb because they cut off the bottom of my Cascade chain. So once I got finished being manascrewed, I had the privilege of playing with a buffoonish Talruum Minotaur and about 1/3 the value of a Loxodon Hierarch for the same mana cost. Even in-matchup breakers like Deny Reality get really unexciting with the threes cut (though you can flip Ajani Vengeant and that is pretty awesome). Anyway, didn’t win.
I had some frustrating losses like the above early in the evening, but after adding another Seaside Citadel and cutting the Enigma Sphinx, results improved over the course of many, many matches.
One of the excuses I have for not updating this blog as much in the past couple of weeks is that I have been playing almost nothing but Black Baneslayer / Mono-Cascade. In more than 15 years of Magic I have never had this experience before… As you probably know I have deck ADD. Even during the term when I was designing decks like Critical Mass and Jushi Blue I could not stay loyal and focused. I was always branching to Wild Gifts, then URzaTron, and even G/W and R/W creature decks. I just love to design decks and I just can’t help myself… Or at least that’s how it was.
There is a true joy that comes with playing this deck that I have never experienced before… Not even with a Napster or a Masques Block White deck.
It’s really rewarding to be able to plot out how the next X turns are going to go; as long as you have a spell to cast, some amount of the next turn is predictable. Yeah, he starts to beat on you with his Putrid Leech and Sprouting Thrinax, but you can confidently empty his hand before moving to the Baneslayer Angel phase of the game, or you just keep chaining him with Cascade spells, generating incremental advantages that lace and loop together until the opponent falls further and further behind that victory becomes unimaginable.
One deck that Black Baneslayer absolutely, positively, always beats is Pyromancer’s Ascension. I played against that deck half a dozen matches last night, including mulligans to five and I think even four, faced off against multiple Mind Springs for six or thereabouts, and failed to drop a match. I wasn’t keeping great attention but I don’t think I dropped a game. Basically their deck doesn’t do anything disruptive, nor does it ever pose a remote chance of killing you before Pyromancer’s Ascension comes online, so you have all the time in the world to get your mana straight. Blightning is great, per usual, and even though I don’t recommend actually pointing Esper Charm at Pyromancer’s Ascension, you can if you have to, and it’s fine. Usually through the middle turns you Deny Reality their only X, and / or Pyromancer’s Ascension (which will force counters resets) and eventually you can kill them with Enlisted Wurm or Bloodbraid Elf or whatever.
So there is the new mana base.
Plus there is some griping about not hitting land drops.
And here is a minor You Make the Play…
So this was an epic battle, at least so far as preliminary mana testing in the Tournament Practice Room goes.
Game One he played a turn two Lotus Cobra and utterly demolished me with it. Bloodbraid Elf, Baneslayer Angel… I kind of lost track but it was brutal.
I sided in Lightning Bolts for Game Two but his opener was Knight of the Reliquary, and it was immediately in 4/4-ville. I could see where the game was going but I hit my lands and played super tight.
… And by super tight I mean I played the cards I was given.
The only play that mattered whatsoever was when I had some “exact mana” multiple spell turn laid out, but I forgoed (forwent?) it in favor of a potentially loose life gain move.
Then I realized he could topdeck Bloodbraid Elf and I could very well be dead. So I played Captured Sunlight (the only one I had in my deck that game) instead (which pained me), because I accomplished half of what I intended to do.
Of course he flipped Bloodbraid Elf and I realized what I genius I am 🙂
It was a nailbiter but I managed to win Game Two on one life.
So here’s the shot for Game Three:
He openend on Knight of the Reliquary again.
I had the hot draw with the ability to actually play my spells, heavy on the threes.
I hit turn three Blightning and already have turn four Blightning mana queued up.
The only question is, given my hand of:
Blightning (about to be put on the stack)
Which land should I play?
Look at the game state; how many cards does he have in hand? How big is his Knight? How big is it likely to become soon?
Who knows what your next card is going to be?
But there is an interesting mental exercise…
What land do you play?
… So, why is this interesting again?
As you could probably tell from the screen shot, this actually came up for me last week, playing with my Mono-Cascade deck*. I was going to just run out Mountain…
Why would I run out Mountain?
When you play this kind of a deck enough–even now that we’ve layered it with four main deck Baneslayer Angels–you try to play around Anathemancer. I know it’s only turn two… But really, you start to train yourself to play Mountain in these kinds of spots as a default.
Anyway, I thought to myself, if I pull Blightning, I can play it on turn three anyway.
It was at that point that I realized my error.
There is only one right play: Reflecting Pool.
Because you have an equal chance of drawing Blightning or Esper Charm!
Your path is clear starting on turn four. If you only want to consider four mana spells, you have no issue. Any order of your next three lands will allow you to play a pair of Bloodbraid Elves. In this deck, that two-turn sequence is automatically devastating. The opponent will be under pressure and will be down four cards… That’s just how the deck is designed.
But if you draw an actual three mana spell, you can put yourself so far ahead come turn four or five that the opponent will be in topdeck mode whereas you will be playing Ultimatum Magic (that is actually part of the reason I like the Mono-Cascade deck the best… It is just ferociously more powerful than basically everything else that people seem to be playing… but more on that later).
So in this case, you can see that playing Reflecting Pool is the best turn two play. The next best play is Plains.
If you play Plains and then draw Blightning, you can play Reflecting Pool or Mountain and cast the Blightning; it is inferior to Reflecting Pool on turn two because in this case you will have to take a counter off of your Vivid Creek in order to play the Blightning. This may or may not be relevant in the particular game at hand, but this kind of haphazard play can and will have a negative effect on your long term victory prospects if you are not aware of it.
… For the exact same reason that playing Reflecting Pool is better than playing Mountain on turn two.
We sometimes talk about the general rules in Magic.
Zvi calls this one “Finkel’s Law” (it was made popular by myself and Justin Polin during our short term at Brainburst Premium): Focus Only On What Matters.
Some people who listen to the Top 8 Magic Podcast know that Finkel actually has more than one law. This is a second one: Magic is a game of options. Generally the better play is the one that preserves the most options.
So in this case, playing a Reflecting Pool on the second turn is better than a Mountain because it helps leave open your options… You will be able to play Esper Charm or Blightning on turn three, regardless of which (if either) you draw.
By the same token, playing Plains is better than playing Mountain on turn two, but worse than playing Reflecting Pool because it shines a similar light (or lack thereof) on your options. You will theoretically be able to play either three mana spell, but if you draw Blightning, you will have to spend a counter on your Vivid Creek that you would not have to spend if you instead played Reflecting Pool first. That Vivid counter might end up mattering.
So what really happened?
I actually just pulled another land (either Plains or Exotic Orchard, I don’t remember). He was playing a U/W deck of some sort and got annihilated by discard into more discard into sixth turn Enlisted Ultimatum… Just like they all do! 🙂
The first land drop was simple. The second one, less so.
Opening grip was nothing to write home about, but solid enough. I actually have this hand as better than 60% against the field:
The first land drop is simple… Of course you run out the Vivid Creek.
The opponent makes life somewhat easy (that is, he doesn’t play some kind of Isamaru, Hound of Konda) by playing a Terramorphic Expanse into an Island.
So you haven’t drawn card number eight yet (that is part of the surprise).
The play should be simple… But it might not be as easy as it seems.
What land do you play next?
PS Obviously the deck in question is Black Baneslayer Cascade Control. Part of the reason I haven’t posted much recently is that I just play this deck over and over and I can’t stop. I really think it may be my favorite deck of all time (at least to play). If you need the deck list to make your decision, here is a re-paste from last post:
Culmination of a lot of the tech I have been working on for Standard. No Sylvan Caryatids is a nod to Patrick Chapin. Nothing but two-for-ones. Wish I could have gotten this in the hands of a good pilot for the GP but just finished it.
I had a day off this weekend from shooting Supernatural, and I was walking around downtown Vancouver on Saturday, sampling all the artisan coffee I could get my throat around. At one point I saw a pair of guys walking towards me wearing gamer shirts. Black short-sleeved, one Halo and one Call of…