Critical Mass Again

I wish I had a PTQ!

I would play this:

Critical Mass 2009

2 Chalice of the Void
1 Engineered Explosives
3 Sword of Fire and Ice
3 Umezawa’s Jitte

2 Glen Elendra Archmage
4 Trinket Mage
2 Vendilion Clique
2 Venser, Shaper Savant

4 Kitchen Finks

1 Arashi, the Sky Asunder
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Tarmogoyf

1 Academy Ruins
4 Breeding Pool
1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
2 Riptide Laboratory
1 Seat of the Synod
5 Snow-Covered Forest
2 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Steam Vents
1 Tree of Tales
4 Wooded Foothills

1 Chalice of the Void
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Echoing Truth
2 Repeal
3 Arashi, the Sky Asunder
4 Ancient Grudge
1 Dwarven Blastminer

One of the things that dawned on me recently was how much better the cards are now than Gnarled Mass. I mean you can make the possibly true argument that Isao, Enlightened Bushi was better than Gnarled Mass, but Kitchen Finks and Vendilion Clique really make for a good argument.

It’s not that I’ve abandoned the White deck so much as I don’t think the White deck can win in a format where Storm is one of the top decks. You see Game One you have to be extremely lucky to win, and sideboarded your strategy revolves around Chalice of the Void; if the opponent is playing Luis Scott-Vargas’s version with multiple Shattering Sprees I don’t know how you can reasonably win. Sure you are going to beat the Fae, Red Decks, and so on but I think that an utterly unwinnable matchup against Storm is a dodgy proposition at this particular time.

On balance, this deck (that is, Critical Mass) has no such Storm vulnerability. In fact, I put it as the best deck in the format against Storm (at least from my experience). I have never lost to that kind of combo deck.

You have a couple of things going for you:

  1. Your Birds of Paradise accelerates out your Trinket Mage and supplements your operating mana, allowing you to stick a meaningful Chalice of the Void before you’ve lost the game.
  2. Your Birds of Paradise and Sakura Tribe-Elders give you a slight mana boost allowing you to play Glen Elendra Archmage with U open, as opposed to just tapping out and losing.

I really like the Storm matchup with this deck and would be comfortable playing it all day.

I like the Faeries / Wizards decks in general but I didn’t know how to win the mirror. The mirror seems quite miserable to me (but scouting from the LA floor from ManningBot seems to indicate that the mirror is highly skill intensive… I must confess that I don’t see how to gain an edge by play skill); however this deck has a fair edge over the Faeries / Wizards style of deck.

In a sense it maintains the old Kamigawa-era Critical Mass edge over Jushi Blue. You are a similar deck with fewer permission spells but tremendously more impressive mana and threats. I was in the process of beating up a Faeries player last week when he played Vedalken Shackles. I did some minor math and decided I would try to overwhelm his Shackles… A single hit from any of my significant threats would be enough. I played Iwamori of the Open Fist. He showed me Azami, Lady of Scrolls. I passed. Before the end he played an instant Vendilion Clique and drew two. I conceded game despite having no illusions of possibly losing a turn and a half before. As you can see the deck no longer has any copies of Iwamori of the Open Fist.

My current strategy is to just play a lot of Arashis. I’ve always loved Arashi and it seems fine at beating Wizards. I side the one main deck copy out quite a bit. I think I’ve only ever gone 5/5 against Zoo.

Speaking of Zoo, that is a nigh-comical matchup. You have Sakura Tribe-Elder, Kitchen Finks, and Umezawa’s Jitte all main, plus Engineered Explosives backup. Really, not a difficult matchup.

What is a difficult but not unwinnable matchup is Affinity. Critical Mass is a dog in Game One. I don’t think that the opposing win expectation is much over fifty per cent, but the Affinity Game One wins are all blowouts so it might “feel” very good for Affinity. Certainly they have some margin to play with if they run the multiple Master of Etherium version. Sideboarding makes Critical Mass a heavy favorite. You have all these great guys and all these Ancient Grudges both. I think that I have been generally lucky drawing Ancient Grudges in sideboarded games, but Critical Mass has been an overwhelming favorite in my experience.

B/G Loam has been interesting. This is a matchup that can go either way. I have won most Game Ones in tempo-oriented fashion, but like I said it can go either way. I’ve noticed that Critical Mass has become a heavier favorite in sideboarded games due to the inclusion of the second Relic of Progenitus. Previously I was concentrating on just not getting blown out by Life from the Loam and sometimes losing to the opponent drawing another one. The two Progenitus version has been much more steady and I think Critical Mass is a moderate favorite in sideboarded games, a slight favorite overall.

Overall I would not hesitate to play this deck the day after tomorrow. I have never tested it but I assume Critical Mass would be a dog to a well played and good version of the Martyr deck. Most of the other matchups seem managable if not favorable blowouts.

I have not missed Thirst For Knowlege, largely because the deck is so active and I can get some of the selection / card advantage back with Sakura-Tribe Elder and Sword of Fire and Ice… The one card I sometimes miss, though, is Pithing Needle (usually when faced with some annoying Vedalken Shackles).

Anyway, that’s my deck. I hope you get something useful out of it. Good luck this weekend to anyone playing. I suggest you obtain The Touch.


facebook comments:


#1 CMH2003 on 01.29.09 at 10:26 pm

Hmm seems good, what about troll over the finks, it seems like troll + metal stick = win.

Also was wondering if your read Interaction Advantage (or Card Advantage Is Wrong, Kinda) by Zack Hill and what you thought.

#2 wobblesthegoose on 01.29.09 at 11:24 pm

This deck looks SO SICK. Why! Why does there have to be this 3 week gap right in the middle of the PTQ season? And then everyone comes back with Conflux and all sorts of new tech. Ugh, I was just getting the hang of this format.

#3 mg on 01.30.09 at 7:34 am

Are the 6 pieces of equipment clogging your draws any?

#4 mg on 01.30.09 at 7:55 am

Also, what do you think of a singleton rude awakening?

#5 ReeceP on 01.30.09 at 8:08 am

Why are you being the Green Mage in the Blue format? I understand that it’s blue too – does that except it from what you wrote about being the Green Mage?

#6 admin on 01.30.09 at 8:23 am

What is Troll better than? Troll is basically good against Fae. And then, usually only with equipment. Against Zoo you are generally forced to block without mana open. Just worse in basically every matchup than Finks. I think Call of the Herd is generally better (v. non-Fae).

I haven’t read that article.


No. I really want to draw a Sword! Bird / Sword is surprisingly just game quite often if you have any support.

LOL. I have numerous ways to win. I don’t need an uncastable.

Just seemed super awesome. Played super awesome. Agree on being a Green mage. Now go ahead and check what deck over those two charts I was when I had the biggest positive ratings delta.

#7 lastsonofoa on 01.30.09 at 9:20 am

Hey MichaelJ..!. You probably get this all the time, but I figured I’d give it a try. I’ve got a deck idea I’ve been throwing around and would absolutley love your input on it. My email is Drop me a line if you’re interested in lookng at it. Thanks for the great articles and outlook on the game. Keep it up.

#8 thewachman on 01.30.09 at 10:27 am

I also was wondering about your thoughts on the article: Interaction Advantage (or Card Advantage Is Wrong, Kinda) by Zack Hill. I found it interesting and would love to hear your opinion on it.
Eric from Saint Louis
Mr. Suitcase on

#9 l_neiman on 01.30.09 at 11:25 am

Does Noble Hierarch merit consideration over BoP? Ancient Grudge is the only non Bant -colored spell you’re running, and that may be easy to fix by slightly altering your manabase (you already have Elders + a singleton Mountain and a Steam Vents, so maybe just add a Stomping Ground?). Hierarch can carry a Jitte, which may be relevant, though the obviously BoP is better for carrying a Sword. The Exalted can help you win Goyf battles and such, though, as well as making your fliers beefier.

Not sure this is correct, but it’s a thought.


#10 admin on 01.30.09 at 11:51 am

Still haven’t read it. Will read it maybe so I can have an intelligent conversation on this burning topic.

One of my favorite people! I think Birds > Hierarch because Birds carries a Sword over the top of The Red Zone. Hierarch can make a Kataki, which would be interesting… But I am fairly artifact-reliant myself. You make an interesting point about Goyf battles though.

#11 l_neiman on 01.30.09 at 12:01 pm

How about Path to Exile as a good Affinity answer that’s castable off of Hierarch and is also good in other matchups? You can still run a few Grudges, since it shouldn’t hurt your mana.

Hierarch’s Exalted also helps your Glen-Elendra Archmages and Trinket Mages get through Wizards decks’ 2/2s unscathed, and even lets your Elders trade against their 2/2s for tons of value, :-).


#12 oscar_leibowitz on 01.30.09 at 12:47 pm

How do you beat Vedalkin Shackles?

#13 admin on 01.30.09 at 12:52 pm

Like I said I wouldn’t mind a Needle. However I have been relatively fine against it by playing ‘goyfs et al that are too big in the short term, plus going over the top with equipments or stalling them with Vensers and Archmages; Explosives off the Steam Vents and Mountain have been fine as well. Sideboarded I have the Grudges and it honestly hasn’t been that big a deal due to the many Arashis et al.

#14 Joe on 01.30.09 at 1:13 pm

If you’re considering Noble Hierarch, then it’s for his damage bonus through Exalted yes? But does it really make the difference over Birds? Sakura is usually on the defense and Glen is swinging for 3 sure, but if it’s against a deck where it might matter like Wizards, then they’re running Riptide Lab anyways, so the point becomes moot. And Sword pounds 2/2s anyways, but only if it gets in there and it’s much more likely to do so on Birds. As for the Exalted winning you Goyf battles, you already have some of the best equipment out there to win. And since we’re talking about Conflux, you could also just Path to Exile their Goyf and not even worry about it. Also, and this may seem silly, but I like Rhox War Monk over Kitchen Finks. Everyone disagrees with me so it’s probably wrong, but it just seems like a 3/4 Lifelink who not only beats Kitchen Finks in a fight but also gets away from practically every direct damage spell out there while gaining you more life than Finks if it gets in a swing or two…..Seems good.

#15 bk on 01.30.09 at 5:01 pm

You’re really tempting me with the idea of a UG deck in this block. I mean an aggressive deck that plays Sakura Tribe Elder? Where do I sign? I don’t think this one is really it though. I think it seems pretty weak vs. affinity, all in red and burn. I don’t buy that this deck beats storm either. This deck probably beats Mike Jacob style BG, but I don’t think it could buy a win vs. Cloud. All this said, I’ll probably steal liberally from this list at some point in this season when I decide a UG deck has to be the answer to the format. Mine will probably run some big hairy planeswalkers that you’ll hate.

4 breeding pools? Seems like a lot in a deck that never needs more than 2 of either color. I’d play more sack lands or filters. I’d definitely make some of this manabase attack my opponent too.

#16 bk on 01.30.09 at 5:01 pm

this block meaning extended of course ๐Ÿ™‚

#17 admin on 01.30.09 at 5:09 pm

I don’t really care what a bk says so much as he says it ๐Ÿ™‚

That said…

I dunno about burn. Seems like they are a Kamigawa/Mirrodin deck that I always beat with this kind of a Kamigawa/Mirrodin deck back in the day.

Storm you DEFINITELY beat. I don’t want to hear it from you regardless of what I said with that first line.

Game One against Affinity you are at a disadvantage. It’s not an insurmountable one but you really don’t like them to draw multiple Masters (which I hear you don’t even play). Sideboarded I have never had a problem.

All-in I will take your action, bro. Engineered Explosives, Venser, chump blockers, and Echoing Truth? Are you sure on your position? Half the time I have a Protection from Red Birds on D while I whittle away with another attacker + equips. This deck plays three copies of a card that All-in can never beat. And remember no one likes All-in more than YT.

You can definitely beat Cloud I don’t know what you’re talking about. They can beat you too. Glen Elendra + Progenitus and anything beats their weak offense.

XOXO, Gossip Girl

#18 Diego on 01.30.09 at 7:06 pm

I don’t think this decks is competitive at all, the deck is base blue, wich mono blue is best, you only run green to play tribe elder and finks, wich aren’t needed with the present metagame. Cards like Ancient grudge and Tarmogoyf are splashable. I just see this as an effort by michaelj to win against faeries (Arashi), but this strategy won’t make it.

I like your blog a lot, please keep it up.


#19 GRat on 01.31.09 at 5:20 pm

I like it. I wouldn’t be opposed to testing this at PSU in the next week or two.


#20 kenseiden on 01.31.09 at 9:07 pm

hello Mike, long time no see! I have been hidden in the shadows just reading (some of) your post, but not commenting them. Good thing that more people are present in the forums now.

I dont know about other people, but I get really confused when I see a new deck list. I mean, I love the iniciative and the will to break the format, but I fear im looking to ANOTHER deck to worry about. And dont get me started: as any potential ptq player, its ANOTHER deck to test against a even bigger gauntlet, another deck to improve, etc. I mean, its a lot of work!

Looking forward to some playtesting, games reporst, the like. Stay tooned!

#21 mason on 02.01.09 at 11:27 am

UG Haterator… nice.

This deck generates so much mana – unlike Wizards you can comfortably run 4 Archmage. Seems really amazing vs the Wizards deck since it isn’t the end of the world if it gets Shackled (comes back to you after it Persists, and you have so few non-creature spells). Then you can go down to 1 Chalice and drop the miser’s Arashi.

#22 wobblesthegoose on 02.01.09 at 10:45 pm

Speaking of massive mana, you really want a Sigil of Distinction in there in place of one of your swords to be able to demonfire out your opponent.

The fact that it gives your late trinket mage another target is also awesome.

#23 Bliss crater on 02.02.09 at 10:56 am

Agree on the Sigil of Distinction being an option.

I’ve been trying 4 Noble Hierarchs in place of the tribe elders and lemme tell ya, they’re golden. She makes the deck more redundant and tight allowing for more consistent turn 2 finks, trinks and cliques. She also exalts your attacker; often serving as an additional Okina! 2 Okinas running at once, can you imagine?! ๐Ÿ˜›

This deck is highly exciting to me, mainly because i’m a sucker for a bird chopping away at the opponent with a blade. I think it will definitely be evolving tho…..*eyes kitchen finks*

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