Running on Seaside Citadel

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 Bituminous Blast
4 Blightning
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Captured Sunlight
4 Deny Reality
4 Esper Charm
4 Enlisted Wurm

4 Baneslayer Angel

3 Arcane Sanctum
2 Arid Mesa
4 Crumbling Necropolis
4 Exotic Orchard
1 Forest
1 Island
1 Jungle Shrine
2 Mountain
2 Plains
1 Rootbound Crag
4 Savage Lands
2 Seaside Citadel
1 Swamp

2 Obelisk of Alara
2 Duress
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:

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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)
Esper Charm
Baneslayer Angel
Exotic Orchard
Savage Lands

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.


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#1 RidiculousHat on 10.19.09 at 2:21 am

okay, let’s begin.

4 Blightning
4 Esper Charm

3 Ajani Vengeant
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Captured Sunlight

4 Baneslayer Angel
4 Bituminous Blast
3 Deny Reality

3 Enlisted Wurm

2 Mountain
2 Plains
1 Swamp
1 Forest
1 Island
1 Arid Mesa
1 Marsh Flats
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Verdant Catacombs
3 Arcane Sanctum
2 Jungle Shrine
4 Rupture Spire
3 Savage Lands
2 Seaside Citadel
1 Crumbling Necropolis

3 Pyroclasm
3 Jund Charm
2 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Rhox War Monk
3 Wall of Reverence

needing UBW, RB, RW, RG, GW, UB, and WW… a mix of the fetchlands with a slight leaning towards red and white seemed good– red for early plays and white for ms. angel. the mana base has been VERY solid, and you absolutely need rupture spire. there will be games where you don’t play a spell pre-board until turn 4, so be ready for those.

i’ve been playtesting this deck for 3 weeks or so with help from the goodgamery crew– in particular, karl kahn and jarrod bright. jarrod pretty much redid the manabase from the ground up and it’s been working quite well. i’ve been playtesting mostly with jarvis yu and a few other ggers that had the beta. the results i’ve had are pretty different from yours.

your matchup against the control decks is slam-dunk unbeatable, especially with ajani v. attacking cards and mana at the same time is very powerful and i typically don’t board against them… you don’t want to disrupt your a-game, and ajani is a win condition all by himself if he has to be. you don’t need the 4th wurm to finish things off… if you get to 6 mana, you win. the deck is very good at being aggressive, as i’m sure you’ve found– they always run out of threats very quickly and then suddenly on turn 5 they’re at 9 life and have no relevant permanents.

however, this is not a metagame that has a lot of control decks– it’s dominated by aggro. i’m not too worried about jund, as you can go quite anti-aggro in the sideboard. it originally had day of judgment in it, but i don’t think that’s necessary if you want to beat jund… their creatures are a little bigger so you can keep the pre-board plan, bring in wall of reverence, or find some combination thereof. they’re one of the few decks where both of your plans are good. the aggro decks were part of the reason why we tested out ajani vengeant in the maindeck and it has been a smashing success– it really hurts jund a lot if you hit them for four cards and then lock down their only threat. boros landfall, on the other hand…

i’m sure you know calcano, and i hope you’ve playtested against his deck. it’s a nightmare. i have been t4’ed through a rhox war monk multiple times post-board. the matchup is about 50/50 after you bring in 13 cards and take out 3 denies, 8 mind rots, and 2 wurms. maybe the wurms shouldn’t come out, but i’ve never survived long enough to use them or need them. they have so much burn and they have a ton of draws where you’re just dead before you can do ANYTHING.

i’m not certain that this is the right choice in this metagame. it is a powerful strategy and you have two very potent plans, but you’re so slow to get off the ground that it might not be worth it. if goblin ruinblaster is played widely enough, the deck may no longer be able to win a tournament.

#2 xny on 10.19.09 at 5:57 pm

Play the Exotic Orchard. This gives you access to White mana, and if you hit one of the other 7 White sources in your deck you can cast Baneslayer and go to town. If you miss a White source then you cast the Savage Lands to ensure a turn 6 Enlisted Wurm.

#3 ProdigalT on 10.20.09 at 4:27 am

First off, the answer is Rupture Spire.

Second, you didn’t tell us what you boarded out, or if you boarded in anything other than Bolts, which would make this easier. But I agree with xny’s analysis except you can’t really go to town with the Angel. The Knight will be unreasonably large; large enough to get past Angel by itself (eot, sac Forest to get a fetch, sac fetch. Equip Sledge and attack with a 8/8, and that’s assuming he didn’t have any more lands in hand). If you didn’t board in a permanent solution like Maelstrom Pulse, you’re likely to need at least Wurm and Angel to beat it. Luckily, he’ll have no cards in hand and you’ve got good ones. Hopefully, the Wurm turns up some goodies.

#4 MTGBattlefield on 10.21.09 at 7:33 am

Running on Seaside Citadel…

Your story has been summoned to the battlefield – Trackback from MTGBattlefield…

#5 salar on 10.22.09 at 3:00 pm

I have to agree with ProdigalT, Rupture spire would definitely smooth out your mana base. When you aren’t doing anything your second turn laying a ruptured spire and just passing isn’t a bad thing.

Also having the bottom end of your cascade chain snagged out from under you with Thought Hemorrhage is unfortunate, which seems like a definite weakness to the deck. I’ve been playing around with Sedraxis Specter in this deck, and it works out rather well.

Sedraxis Specter is a card you can easily pitch to blightning and it would end your cascade chain. It by itself is card advantage, being able to unearth for a single attack after it dies. Jacob Van Lunen explained it beautifully, “For example, if your opponent casts a Blightning of his or her own, you discard Sedraxis Specter and another card. Your opponent used one card to take two cards and deal you 3 damage. Then you untap, unearth your Sedraxis Specter, and attack. Your opponent loses another card and takes the same 3 damage.”

It’s also a creature that comes down early and isn’t afraid to block those small aggro creatures, one of the things I think this deck has trouble with (up until the 5 turn).

You dilute your bottom-end cascade chain slightly, but I think it ends up making games less like a lottery.

As for the mini-You make the play. The exotic orchard is the land to play, the sooner you can get the baneslayer angel out the better. Most optimistically you draw a arid mesa and cash that in for a plains the next turn, have enough mana for the baneslayer. Hopefully you draw into a second baneslayer, at which point you can easily race a single knight with a sledge. If he discards no lands off the blightning, and doesn’t draw a fetch the next turn, it will be a 6/6. If he discards two lands (which I find unlikely since he discarded a enlisted wurm before discarding another land) it will be an 8/8, and a 9/9 at the largest. So at the largest I would say a 7/7. One of the cards in his hand is probably a baneslayer or another enlisted wurm. Playing the exotic orchard also opens up the possibility of drawing a captured sunlight, which would help slow down the game just slightly.

The safe play is to play the savage lands, which means that by turn 6 you will definitely have a creature. Even if you play the exotic orchard now, there is no guarantee you will be able to play baneslayer turn 5 or even the enlisted wurm turn 6. But, by going with the safe play the game may be over by turn 6. He may draw a bloodbraid and that would most likely end the game by turn 6, never allowing you to play the wurm. It’s safe, but it’s not the best play.

It all comes down to luck really, if you draw an arid messa, another exotic orchard, or a plains, you have a good chance of winning regardless of if he gets a bloodbraid, if you don’t draw another white source and he gets a bloodbraid then you may never get to turn 6 or even have anything to cast turn 6.

It’s kind of exciting how many possible outcomes there are in this situation, the board could be overturned in an instant depending on who draws what.

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