So I didn’t go to the Philly 5K yesterday.
I had an open from Mrs. MichaelJ, but I opted out of playing Magic on consecutive weekends (speaking of which, I will probably update on the New York State Championships… not that there was much of a story there). I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to spend a lot of time with my daughter the past couple of months. She is up and out the door to school (you know… showing no mercy at chess and all that) before I am even up, and I am typically home after she goes to sleep. So it felt kind of going in different directions to bitch about not being able to see my daughter and then opt out of one of the two days per week I can actually see her.
As correct as I feel like that decision was, I still would have liked to have played in the Philly 5K. I put a decent amount of work into Standard even after States, and I think that I had the right deck to play.
For anyone who has any kind of Standard action going on, I heartily recommend this Shaheen Redux:
3 Essence Scatter
3 Jace Beleren
2 Mind Spring
1 Sphinx of Lost Truths
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Kabira Crossroads
4 Sejiri Refuge
3 Sphinx of Lost Truths
2 Quest for Ancient Secrets
4 Celestial Purge
2 Kabira Crossroads
My man GRat (friend who I ironically met at the Philly 5K last year) pointed out that the last post was missing three cards… He wasn’t sure if they were Jace Beleren or Oblivion Ring! Obviously they were — and remain — Jace.
This deck is quite good even against other control decks.
At first I was having problems with Grixis-style control decks. However those get easier if you play according to the old Carlos Romao rules. If you concentrate on fighting their Sphinxes with your Essence Scatters and their Cruel Ultimatums with your Flashfreezes, you will be ahead of the game; there is some issue about a four color version presenting also Ajani Vengeants… Probably you have to fight those with Flashfreeze early, and then hope to draw into more Flashfreezes… Otherwise you’ll probably get pinned by the Cruel Ultimatum anyway (but see below about trying to overload back).
However your early game card advantage is just so much better than theirs… Knight of the White Orchid hitting is just so spectacular! For sure you have too much creature kill, but you can get value against a Sphinx with a Martial Coup, say… and you can run the bonus on Path to Exile on ye olde Baneslayer Angel if that is going to come up.
The tough version of Grixis control to beat is the one with main deck Sedraxis Specter; dunno what to say about that noise… I certainly haven’t figured out how to beat it! Chalk it up to a bad matchup.
Jacerator is basically impossible in game one. I think you should concede on the spot in order to preserve time to win the sideboarded games; speaking of which, I was able to win handily with just three Cancels and one Quest for Ancient Secrets (took the four spots held by Luminarch Ascension in the previous version). However you still have a super awkward deck against them. Basically I was siding in Wall of Reverence to potentially block Baneslayer Angel… not that that ever came up.
With three Cancels and a Quest, I was pretty capable of fighting potentially lethal Archive Traps, protecting my Jace from his Jace, and sometimes even getting the lockdown with Iona (typically name White to prevent Fog effects and Wrath). Again, not a hard matchup after sideboarded (at least not relative to Game One, which is nigh-unwinnable). The present version of the sideboard reflects the fact that there are just so many dead cards… I tried to build with an eye to flexibility across other matchups.
Which brings us to the bonus Kabira Crossroads.
This land card is positively spell-like.
When I was playing Barely Boros and thereabouts, I absolutely hated seeing that card come up. My rationale with it now is that it is a smasher against beatdown decks, but also useful against other control. Really against another control deck you just want to hit land drops, and this is — hey — two more lands.
As to fighting other control decks, this is what I’ve found:
You don’t have a Cruel Ultimatum. That is pretty obvious by looking at the deck list. However between Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Mind Spring, you play like you have a relatively effective threat tandem. I have even found that Flashfreeze can be pretty good as a Force of Will. It’s generally most useful for fighting Ajani Vengeant and / or Cruel Ultimatum depending on which control version they are. However since many of these decks rely on Double Negative as a defensive card, you can sometimes Counterspell their Counterspell with Flashfreeze… Double Negative is Red!
I still don’t like the other version of the Sphinx.
I may be a bit too greedy with Sphinx of Lost Truths, but I just can’t cotton to playing the six mana Keiga wannabe in this deck. I have just faced off against too many six mana Sphinxes with my five mana Baneslayer Angel and come out on top. I understand that it is relatively monolithic against Jund, but drawing three extra cards while containing their treats can be pretty goood, too! Jund is obviously the soft matchup… Not bad, but not spectacular like Red Deck Wins or the G/W-based decks (which in my experience, are not difficult), nor extremely challenging like Jacerator. Jund can go either way, but Shaheen thought enough of the matchup to remove Spreading Seas. I think that success is probably best ensured by staying out of the way of Blightning as best you can (go figure).
The other thing is, this Shaheen deck is super fun to play!
I have played Shaheen-esque U/W decks across the different formats that he has been able to successfully brew (even Extended), and even with cumbersome cards like Mind Spring, this one is my favorite of the lot. Its ragged curve makes for interesting games with a lot of interactivity. I have really enjoyed setting up games to resolve multiple copies of Knight of the White Orchid [with value]. This is also basically the only deck I have played where I am perfectly comfortable playing Jace as a base -1 Planeswalker rather than a +2 to start (even against Red Decks). The ability to refill with Mind Spring, especially after getting value with Jace gives you enough card advantage redundancy that you have the rare liberty to expose your Planeswalker to more direct interaction.
So for what it’s worth… That’s what I would have run.
Currently Reading: Battle Royale