At long last, the post-Zendikar mana base for the Mono-Cascade deck… Will Seaside Citadel be the answer to our post-Reflecting Pool / post-Vivd Crag mana base woes?
[Also a bonus You Make the Play!]
Okay, let’s start at the end. This is the current version of the Mono-Cascade deck (at least how I have been tuning it):
Black Baneslayer version 2.2
4 Baneslayer Angel
3 Arcane Sanctum
2 Arid Mesa
4 Crumbling Necropolis
4 Exotic Orchard
1 Jungle Shrine
1 Rootbound Crag
4 Savage Lands
2 Seaside Citadel
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?
Think hard about this one.
Currently Reading: The Book of Lies