Entries from January 2010 ↓

You Make the Play – Trusting Your Celestial Colonnade

It’s the first You Make the Play of the new year… or for that matter over three months! Featuring Celestial Colonnade and a host of new Worldwake cards!

The scenario:

You are playing a Raka control deck… U/R/W board control, no counters main deck, but lots of good cards. For sake of argument, this is your deck:

Celestial ColonnadePretend Raka Control Deck

4 Everflowing Chalice

2 Divination
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Spreading Seas
4 Treasure Hunt

3 Ajani Vengeant

4 Lightning Bolt

4 Baneslayer Angel
4 Day of Judgment
4 Path to Exile

2 Celestial Collonade
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Halimar Depths
4 Island
1 Kabira Crossroads
2 Mountain
2 Plains
4 Scalding Tarn

Before you make any comments (and I’m sure there will be comments), I am not pretending this is the optimal Raka-colors deck; this is just a with some stats that you can use to help formulate your solution to today’s You Make the Play.

The reason you went U/R/W over Grixis or Esper is that Everflowing Chalice can ramp you to Day of Judgment or one of two very good Planeswalkers on the third turn. Given the interaction between one of those and Treasure Hunt (as well as Halimar Depths and Treasure Hunt), it seemed worth running around Esper Charm and Cruel Ultimatum.

To you are putting a lot of faith in Treasure Hunt. You’ve cut down to 23 lands because of Treasure Hunt’s “cantrip” capability as well as the presence of Everflowing Chalice (aka Motherlovin’ Cup), which should help you get action.

Okay! The problem:

It’s a simple one… given the above deck, do you keep or no?

On the play?

On the draw?

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Treasure Hunt
Ajani Vengeant
Lightning Bolt
Day of Judgment
Celestial Colonnade
Scalding Tarn

I think this should make for an interesting discussion; I think you should think so, too.

So I am not going to work on the solution until we have at least 25 comments ๐Ÿ™‚

That shouldn’t be a problem. This You Make the Play drew 38!

LOVE
MIKE

Worldwake – Tectonic Edge

A review of hot new Worldwake uncommon, Tectonic Edge. Also free deck list!

Tectonic Edge

This card is masterful. U/W with Crucible of Worlds is currently my second favorite Extended deck. Tectonic Edge fits right in (at least sideboard) and will be some kind of wonderful in any attrition-type match against other decks vying for the control role.

Superficial comparisons can be made to two iconic cards:

Wasteland
“It’s worse than Wasteland!” Well… Yeah, it’s probably worse than Wasteland. That said, so what? Ancestral Vision is worse than Ancestral Recall, but managed to be a fine card. On that note, Tectonic Edge can give you a measure of redundancy over your Wastelands if you’re playing, say, a deck with 30+ lands that can play multiple lands, over and over. Its fundamental limitations on both the opponent’s minimum mana situation and the additional mana activation cost do in fact make this card less perfect than the fearsome Wasteland, but, again… So what?

Dust Bowl
Dust Bowl is another card you could have said was worse than Wasteland; in fact, in head’s up comparison, Dust Bowl is slower than Tectonic Edge, though it does not have the same [opponent’s] minimum mana requirement. On balance, Dust Bowl allowed you to sacrifice other lands, allowing for a long-term, methodical, assault on nonbasic lands that Tectonic Edge does not.

Ultimately – Tectonic Edge is probably strictly worse than a card that was strictly worse than another popular card (Strip Mine)… But should still be very good in a good many places. This is a card that I can see playing in my sideboard in Standard, going up to 28 or even 30 lands to fight decks like Jund or other Grixis or Esper control decks (you heard it here first). The non-destruction / cycling attack from Spreading Seas will leave a land in play, “allowing” the opponent to ramp up to four, giving you an open to ‘Edge. It’s all coming together, no? A great companion to Treasure Hunt and Jace, the Mind Sculptor provided you are not under threat of lethal force.

Snap Judgment RatingStaple / sideboard – high

LOVE
MIKE

P.S. Free Deck List

U/W Two Combos

1 Chalice of the Void
2 Crucible of Worlds
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Solemn Simulacrum
3 Sword of the Meek
4 Thopter Foundry

3 Gifts Ungiven
1 Repeal
4 Thirst for Knowledge

4 Kitchen Finks

2 Baneslayer Angel
1 Day of Judgment
1 Martyr of Sands
3 Path to Exile
2 Wrath of God
1 Yosei, the Morning Star

2 Academy Ruins
1 Ancient Den
3 Arid Mesa
1 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
1 Gargoyle Castle
1 Ghost Quarter
4 Hallowed Fountain
3 Marsh Flats
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
1 Mistveil Plains
1 Plains
1 Seat of the Synod
1 Snow-covered Island
3 Snow-covered Plains
1 Tolaria West

sb:
1 Chalice of the Void
1 Engineered Explosives
4 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Vedalken Shackles
2 Repeal
2 Baneslayer Angel
1 Day of Judgment
1 Path to Exile
1 Wrath of God

I really wish I had played this U/W deck instead of the other one in the Connecticut PTQ a few weeks back. Or at least some of the cards I missed, like Vedalken Shackles or the Thopter combo.

There are some sideboarding holes, especially now that GerryT’s hybrid Dark Depths / Thopter Foundry combo deck has become popular, but this version of U/W has still performed well for me. Since the third most common kill is Crucible of Worlds + Gargoyle Castle, you can probably see why Tectonic Edge would be good in this deck (at least in the sideboard).

The most common kill is something involving Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek; though my deck lacks either a Time Sieve or Ironworks combo to go infinite.

The second most common kill is Emeria + Miren + Yosei (you can set everything in this deck up with a Gifts Ungiven, Academy Ruins, and a little time).

Then of course there is something to do with the Martyr combo. I started with Conley Woods’s deck, swapped out Black for Blue, and steadily cut back on Martyrs as they were the weakest part of this deck [presumably without Phyrexian Arena]. Still good, and still cute given that you can turbo charge a post-Thirst for Knowledge Sword of the Meek with one ๐Ÿ™‚

My favorite Extended deck right now is G/R Scapeshift. I am about 20-0 with it… It seems to have a fair number of structural and sideboarding holes, but I have somehow managed to win [and dodge for the most part GerryT’s deck].

On Grixis, and Applying Grand Unified Theory by Thomas Dodd

Five With Flores is happy to have another post from our friend Thomas Dodd, aka @amistod on Twitter.

Thomas was instrumental in building the mono-Cascade decks and has been representin’ the blog with our signature decks at a number of 5K events, including a Top 16 with Black Baneslayer, you know, before it was cool.

Thomas is back with a great report — and response to the Grand Unified Theory of Magic — and Five is happy, as always to have him.


TerminateOn the Monday before the Atlanta 5k, I called my friend, Robbie Cordell, and exclaimed that I had found the deck for us to play that weekend. When I saw Mike’s Grixis list, it was right after listening to Kelly, Will and Mike discuss the Grand Unified Theory, and I felt like the veil had been lifted. My main problem with the Double Negative/Sphinx version is that Duress completely undermines the path to victory. There are as many as ten situational spells in LSV’s list. Once I realized that no card in Mike’s deck โ€œmissedโ€, I was hooked. (As you guys know from my stint with Black Baneslayer, I am absolutely obsessed with never missing a cascade.) Robbie and I began working with the list on MTGO several days before the 5k. Since the first thing I do when I start testing a Flores list is drop one of the expensive spells, I took out Sorin Markov and replaced it with a Terminate. After several matches, we started noticing a trend. We wanted more Nighthawks, and we boarded in the same cards in almost every match. Into the Roil is phenomenal against three drops, but with Verdant Catacombs, not even Spreading Seas could save me from the Leech. The Terminate is really a concession to Putrid Leech. I just canโ€™t seem to play decks that do well against that guy. Countersquall performed better than expected, and we moved it to the main deck. With the added space in the sideboard, this is what we registered:

Grixis Burn, by Thomas Dodd

2 Sorin Markov

4 Divination
4 Spreading Seas

4 Blightning
3 Countersquall
4 Cruel Ultimatum
4 Sedraxis Specter
2 Terminate

4 Burst Lightning
4 Lightning Bolt

4 Crumbling Sanctuary
4 Drowned Catacomb
3 Dragonskull Summit
4 Island
2 Mountain
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Swamp

sb
2 Malakir Bloodwitch
4 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Bituminous Blast
1 Countersquall
1 Earthquake
4 Goblin Ruinblaster
2 Pyroclasm

Apparently, Robbie and Mike canโ€™t lose to Vampires. I, on the other hand, canโ€™t seem to beat them reliably, and it was definitely a problem for me in Atlanta. Another thing I noticed was the lack of a cohesive sideboard plan. All day long, I had an uneven number of cards that I wanted in/out. I would like to give you thoughts on updating the deck, but I think the Esper build Mike posted [here] really covers the same points that I would make. In the weeks after Worldwake, you will definitely see me casting Day of Judgment on turn 3, and Sorin Markov on turn 5.

Round 1 – Mono Black Control – Eric

Eric’s deck wasn’t the best list I have ever seen; however, he had up to 4 Duress, Mindrot, and Mind Sludge after sideboarding.

I sideboarded in the Countersquall for a Terminate.

1-0 / 2-1 games

Round 2 – UWR Fog – Scott

I have to admit, this build completely took me off guard, and I wasn’t sure how to play against it. I sideboarded in the extra Countersquall and beat him in 3.

2-0 / 4-2 games

Round 3 – Vampires – Greer

Greer is a local player and I see him at all the Atlanta events. I know he is a good player who loves his linear decks. Game 1 was typical, and I sideboarded in my Nighthawks and Countersquall.

Game 2 I mulliganed to 5, and I was unable to overcome it.

2-1 / 4-4 games

Round 4 – Vampires w/ Red – Todd Anderson

I always enjoy playing Todd, but when his Bolts dispatched my Nighthawks, this match-up proved to be even worse for me than the mono black Vampire build.

2-2 / 4-6 games

At this point in the event, I decided to drop. The number of Vampire decks in the room was staggering. Three lists made the top 8, and I really believe that it was because the deck was so well represented. There was a swiss side event, and I knew the deck could perform, so I joined.

Round 1 – Junk Home Brew – Ric

I sideboarded incorrectly because I won game 1 so quickly that I didn’t really know what he was playing. Game 2 he had turn 3 Ajani and turn 4 Baneslayer. I couldn’t keep up. I really love decks like Grixis and Black Baneslayer because opponents tend to sideboard incorrectly. He boarded in Thought Hemorrhage, etc and kept a slow draw, so he couldn’t kill me quickly enough. “Misassignment of role = game loss.”

1-0 / 2-1 games

Round 2 – Grixis (Double Negative) – David

I knew going into this tournament that Mike’s build would crush the mirror, and I really expected there to be more of these decks in Atlanta. At one point, I played Blighting, he played Negate, and I Countersqualled. 5 life and 3 cards, please. The 8 pack of Land Destruction is really over the top.

2-0 / 4-1 games

Round 3 – Boros Bushwhacker – Taylor

I had just watched this guy smash Vampires, and I was very happy to play him, considering my sideboard. Game 1 was very easy and after +2 Pyroclasm +1 Earthquake, not even Ruinblasters could save him.

3-0 / 6-1 games

Round 4 – True Mirror – Jared

These were two brutal games that were very close: just two Mages slugging each other with Blightning. He boarded in Nighthawks and I added more removal.

4-0 / 8-1 games

Round 5 – Grixis (Double Negative) – J

J was playing the Doubly Negative version of the deck, with the exception of main deck Blightning. I won Game 1, but Game 2 he found a Cruel Ultimatum first. Game 3 I was on the play and mulliganed to 5. His first play was a Blightning, and that was it for me.

4-1 / 9-3

The mulligan at the finish line was painful but overdue, considering how well the deck performed. I was very impressed with the list, although it might have been a poor choice for this tournament. It was tough to overcome the weakness to Bloodghast. Robbie ended the day at 6-3, finishing just outside the top 16.

There is a lot of buzz about different applications of the Grand Unified Theory. All cards have text that explain what they do, but when looking through a broader lens, the impact of the card may be far more than what the actual text says.

Would you play a card that says: 3W, sorcery, draw 2 cards, target opponent discards a card? That has to be worth 2UB at least, and we all know U > W!

At States last fall, I was observing a match where Vampires was playing against Boros Bushwhacker. Both players had several cards in hand, but an empty board. The Vampireโ€™s hand was Doomblade, Infest, 2 Gatekeeper of Malakir, 2 Fleshbag Marauder.

After several turns of Draw-Go, Boros untaps and plays Ranger of Eos, getting Bushwhacker and Steppe Lynx. He is attempting to have one big turn while still being resilient to an Infest, so he passes the turn.

The Vampire casts an end of turn Doomblade on the Ranger. The Vampire player draws a land, passes, and loses that next turn. The correct play would have been to untap and kick a Gatekeeper of Malakir with Doomblade up for the Steppe Lynx. The Vampire player automatically cast Doomblade without realizing that he was just throwing the card away. The Grand Unified Theory can be applied on the fly to help you navigate tricky situations.

In closing, I want to give a plug to some of the guys out there that are really turning out some entertaining and educational content. You guys should really be listening to: Yo! MTGTaps and Limited Resources on the MTGCAST podcast network. If you arenโ€™t reading QuietSpeculation.com and following Kelly Reid on Twitter, you are really missing out on a wealth of knowledge regarding the financial side of Magic.

Thomas Dodd
amistod on Twitter / MTGO

Another Good Use for Umezawa’s Jitte

Concerning:

Lots of great and fun cards, like…

Umezawa’s Jitte โˆ™ Kitchen Finks โˆ™ Sakura-Tribe Elder
Tarmogoyf โˆ™ Bloodbraid Elf โˆ™ … and Umezawa’s Jitte

While I was doing research for another article I hit upon what, at the time, seemed like an unusual deck list. It was a hybrid beatdown deck featuring basically every card that I already like to play… Kitchen Finks (basically my favorite), Sakura-Tribe Elder (still my favorite despite what M10 did to the old boy), and Umezawa’s Jitte. I could forgive the Tarmogoyfs and so on because the deck also played the Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows combination that I so admired from Brian Kibler’s Pro Tour Austin-winning deck list.

But the coolest part?

It was also a combo deck!

So you have this angle of just good Green creatures… Literally the kind of creatures I probably like to play too much (see “The Greenest Mage of All” posts here and here over at Top8Magic), but then the deck also has a full-on Scapeshift kill!

I was used to seeing Scapeshift out of Ceta-colored decks, Blue all the way to their Cryptic Commands… but this could work, too.

(Just) Jund Scapeshift

Umezawa's Jitte3 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Kitchen Finks

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Scapeshift
4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Tarmogoyf

4 Lightning Bolt
4 Punishing Fire

4 Grove of the Burnwillows
6 Snow-Covered Forest
6 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
4 Stomping Ground
2 Treetop Village
2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

sb:
3 Extirpate
4 Thought Hemmorhage
4 Ancient Grudge
4 Blood Moon

This main deck is basically the default “what everyone is playing” for this archetype with no modifications from YT. The sideboard is informed from looking at a bunch of different deck lists and not resorting (for once) to Akroma, Angel of Fury.

You probably get how the main deck works already if you are reading this blog; in fact, you are probably ahead of me because I just saw this deck ๐Ÿ™‚

… But the sideboard probably takes some explanation.

You can play a sideboard like this one a couple of different ways, including staying straight Gruul instead of going Jund. I decided to go Jund because Extirpate is just that damn good, in particular against Thopter Foundry combo decks. Ancient Grudge is about my favorite Extended card ever… So how could it not join the party? I’ve already got Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kitchen Finks, after all.

Anyway first impression of this strategy was “how can this deck compete with other combo decks,” followed by “I really don’t see how I can compete with a deck featuring Baneslayer Angel” … But after having played it for a while, I really like the feel of the deck.

My first outing was against a Living End combo deck.

He got all kinds of cycling and so forth, but my deck was a bit shy for threats. Anyway he cycled Street Wraith a couple of times but otherwise evoked Shriekmaw to kill my Tarmogoyf… stuff like that. Fulminator Mage kept me off of seven for a while, but he just didn’t kill me. I played two or three copies of Search for Tomorrow and a pair of Sakura-Tribe Elders (the second one was actually Samwise Gamgee at the end of The Two Towers, Umezawa’s Jitte in one slithery hand, ruling the board.

Oh well, you can be 7/7 some other day. What I really want is a basic Swamp.

Kill ya. [Before you kill me, you filthy combo deck!]

I wouldn’t have needed his Street Wraiths because of my Sakura-Tribe Elder beatdown and some Punishing Fire action, but I can’t complain.

Game Two he just drew no Cascade spells. He cycled and cycled and I just played Thought Hemmorhage for Livinig End and he was pretty kold.

I played against a couple of men running the Lightning Bolt Deck… Not surprising, especially for online.

The frustrating part was being essentially unable to sideboard despite losing Game One in the first outing.

I just hit my Kitchen Finks on turn three and it was really easy to win.

I also played against some “rogue” (ahem) type decks and another combo deck (though which kind escapes me). All dubyas so far.

I do think this deck lacks a little bit of “I win” flexibility (for instance, it has no way to disrupt the fastest Dark Depths draw), but all-in-all I was very pleased and I think I will sleeve up a version of this for my next Extended PTQ, provided I play in another one.

Firestarter:
What do you guys think about Dead // Gone? It seems like maybe I should sideboard that; just another card that you can bring in against beatdown (though this deck seems generally advantaged), but also the three mana side can fight 20/20 Coldsnap guys better than, you know, the nothing we have right now.

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading: Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come, Part 2

Another Hit Featuring Sorin Markov

Concerning:

Sorin Markov Iona, Shield of Emeria (kind of) Solar Flare
[terrible] Sphinx of Jwar Isle Awesome Sauce … and Sorin Markov

I know that some of these newly beloved decks are going to be outmoded fairly quickly due to the impending appearance of new cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but I kind of wanted to flesh the site out a little bit; what with all the little fake posts since Worldwake preview season started.

I still really like the Grixis Burn deck, but Standard has become kind of monotonous; what, with winning nonstop with the aforementioned Grixis Burn deck ๐Ÿ™‚

I don’t often read random Magic forums, but today’s post actually involves multiple [different] such trips. I was reading one where about 4-5 pages of an otherwise 40-page Grixis [Control] thread was de-railed to chat about my own Grixis Burn. I must say…

People are terrible.

When the main criticism of a deck is that it doesn’t have enough Sphinx of Jwar Isle… I don’t even know what to say. And that is saying something considering I have no qualms about voicing my own damn opinion about any damn subject any damn time of the… Hot damn!


Damnation
This is a completely gratuitous image of Damnation.
Much like the entirety of Figure of Destiny, it has nothing to do with the rest of this post.

Yesterday I heard about a Solar Flare colors deck and decided to make my own. [Like I said a minute ago,] I looked over some Magic forums and decided that as cool as a cheatyface Iona, Shield of Emeria might be, I would just rather play awesome cards with multiple different colors to be able to deal with Iona (presuming that she hit the battlefield at all) [if it came to that]. The first time I hit the pseudo-mirror, my opponent had to pick up Iona due to an Into the Roil (Iona on White), which I followed up with Malakir Bloodwitch and Sorin Markov; I finished her off with Path to Exile (the second incarnation was, understandably, set to Black).

So my Solar Flare colors deck is very much influenced by Grixis Burn. Of course there is almost no burn element whatsoever (and also no Grixis) but many awesome cards are available, such as namesake Sorin Markov, a re-buy of Spreading Seas, and a dabbling of Countersqualls (you know, the ones I said I would go one-and-one with, possibly, against the somewhat clunky copies of Into the Roil).

Here it comes! I am calling this the version 1.0 despite making minor mana tweaks. I think BDM (aka @Top8Games would approve of the mana… It is similarly, if not identically, sick relative to the Grixis Burn mana base.

Sorin Markov Flare version 1.0Sorin Markov

3 Sorin Markov

2 Divination
2 Into the Roil
2 Jace Beleren
4 Sphinx of Lost Truths
4 Spreading Seas

2 Countersquall
4 Esper Charm

4 Baneslayer Angel
3 Day of Judgment
4 Path to Exile

4 Arcane Sanctum
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Island
2 Kabira Crossroads
4 Marsh Flats
2 Plains
4 Swamp

sb:
4 Duress
2 Malakir Bloodwitch
4 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Into the Roil
2 Countersquall
1 Day of Judgment

The main advantage to this deck over Grixis Burn is the availability of Esper Charm. Esper Charm is not quite as powerful as Cruel Ultimatum, but it is about a million manas faster; I typically use it to destroy the opponent’s hand alongside Duress a la Black Baneslayer to prevent the opponent from getting to Cruel Ultimatum mana [+ Cruel Ultimatum], though it makes for a fine Divination. I have even used Esper Charm to destroy Pyromancer’s Ascension with the second counter on the stack. Basically, that card is awesome and it is relatively shocking that not a soul has been playing it for months: Esper Charm in and of itself is basically reason enough to at least experiment with Dromar colors.

Card Breakdown:

3 Sorin Markov
Basically what we run in Grixis Burn. Esper Colors / Sorin Markov Flare doesn’t have the access capability for a Cruel Ultimatum, so you need some kind of flashy finisher to make it worth playing a non-straight burn / non-Bloodbraid Elf deck. Sorin seems good enough, and has performed superbly thus far.

2 Divination / 2 Into the Roil (+2) / 2 Jace Beleren
Basically these cards are all sharing the one-and-a-half slots left over in a 26-land deck. One possibility was to just play with 4 Divination (as in Grixis Burn) but in the absence of Cruel Ultimatum I felt I needed a persistent threat for other control decks; Planeswalker + Planeswalker is a potentially good front line; remember as well that unlike a Grixis-colors control deck, I can’t Lightning Bolt my way out of an opposing Jace Beleren, so just playing my own is a potential disincentive.

4 Sphinx of Lost Truths
Just piling on the big cards to make up for the lack of a Cruel Ultimatum here. Between this and Sorin, the deck has a fair amount of big mana force… The typical winner for this deck, more often than even beloved Baneslayer Angel.

4 Spreading Seas
I actually find this to be one of my favorite cards in Standard. Sometimes it outright Mind Twists the opponent when you are on the play and they are planning to lean on a Savage Lands; other times it just lets you keep a two-land hand, and then you cantrip into a Jace Beleren or Divination, and it’s like you never had any problems to begin with.

2 Countersquall (+2)
Just an awesome card.

Although probably, unlike Grixis Burn, this deck could afford to just run Negate. Shhhhh… don’t tell anyone.

4 Baneslayer Angel
You know how I feel about her!

Today I was validated (as usual)… Protracted attrition fight against a five-color Blue deck. He is also packing Sphinx of Lost Truths and I make the first move by pointing Path to Exile at his Rhox War Monk (setting up for Divination turn three, and I don’t want to discard). Anyway, I have more card drawing but it takes me forever to find Day of Judgment; when I do, it is a blowout trading my Baneslayer Angel for his multiple Sphinxes, Bloodbraid Elf, some other five power guy… Basically a bunch of gas.

He untaps and slaps down his last card — Sphinx of Jwar Isle.

Same fight as it ever was!

I have about six cards in hand and answer with Baneslayer Angel with Countersquall back up.

Same fight as it ever was!

3 Day of Judgment (+1) / 4 Path to Exile
I probably need the fourth Day of Judgment.

Becker, undoubtedly, would find a way. (hint hint)

Of the sideboard cards, Duress is the most amazing. How have I not played this longtime favorite card in a tournament in more than three years? It’s great against Cruel Ultimatum in particular. Credit to Osyp Lebedowicz for this one, though he suggested it for Grixis Burn (kind of like how I made Giant Solifuge in the Red Deck but it ended up in the URzaTron sideboard).

Anyway, that’s the new deck.

I just made it last night, but for what it’s worth, I haven’t lost a match yet (about 7-0 to 8-0 range). Most of my opponents were Double Negative-style Grixis decks. The closest match was when I went ultimate with Sorin Markov versus a Sphinx of Jwar Isle and my opponent was gripping Courier’s Capsule + Negate. It was particularly embarassing as I had three Countersqualls in hand.

I played his Courier’s Capsule but forgot to hold down ctrl

Doh!

The plan was to counter with his own Negate, but instead I lost to the Vampire Nighthawk that he drew off the Capsule the next turn!

Have fun.

LOVE
MIKE

P.S. If your opponents at FNM or whatever are Grixis Control, play this deck. If there is one thing I know, it is that you have basically no possible chance of losing to a deck with Double Negative in it. Although I’ve tried! For instance, right before posting this I successfully Countersqualled a Sphinx of Lost Truths into play with Arcane Sanctum in play, and hit F4… With Duress in hand and my opponent with only one card.

… It was Cruel Ultimatum.

I eventually came back from nil, behind his Sphinx of Jwar Isle, to win via a trio of Sorins, with a Countersquall doing the last two points of damage (though to be fair it was protecting a Sphinx and a Baneslayer Angel).

But come on… Was I really going to lose to Sphinx of Jwar Isle?

Treasure Hunt and Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Concerning:

Worldwake common Treasure Hunt :: Worldwake mythic rare Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Jace, the Mind SculptorFirst of all, I don’t even know how these cards are real.

Let’s talk about the chase [mythic] rare first.

I had to look at the card a little bit, but I think Jace, the Mind Sculptor will end up being one of the strongest cards out of Worldwake. While it will take six turns of consecutive “plus” abilities to get to the point of a lethal Ultimate, once Jace fires off the [-12], yer dead. Mind Twist + Archive Trap (that is, lots of Archive Traps), all in one.

The other abilities range from pretty good to great.

[+2] “Look at the top card of target player’s library. You may put that card on the bottom of that player’s library.

This ability is “fine”; for one thing, it will either help you hit your land drops or give you in some matches detailed information about the opponent’s topdecks, allowing you to plan your turns and resource expenditures to match. For another thing, this [+2] is the only clear path to [-12].

[0] Brainstorm!

What the!?!

I mean this is pretty awesome as it is, but when paired with Treasure Hunt, [0] is upgraded to Ancestral Recall (or better)!

[-1] Unsummon.

I think it’s kind of goofball how two different cards that cost U are on two different lines on Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and the one that the Sinestro Corps would offer a ring to is the [0] and the seldom-played near-Constructed Unplayable gets the [-1], but who am I to argue with Erik Lauer (I assume) on this?

[-12] Kill ya.

You better warm up your Blightnings, son. I don’t think many will be walking away from this Ultimate.

Okay, now let’s move to Treasure Hunt.

Treasure Hunt

BDM pointed out in last week’s Top 8 Magic podcast that this is a card that I have tried with all my heart to make. I have paid a full mana more for Gift of the Gargantuan, which also is not 100% reliable in two-for-one-ness. Treasure Hunt will generally be worth slightly more than one card, but in the cases that it only gives you one card, that card will always be a spell.

There are many great combinations with this card, including the Legacy deck that is just all full of lands, but I predict the most iconic will be in concert with Jace, the Mind Sculptor (as they, like Spectral Force and Scryb Ranger, come packaged in the same color, in the same set).

Treasure Hunt… This is basically my dream card, my Lash Out of the set, if that makes any sense.

Jace is Staple / Flagship and Treasure Hunt a firm Staple.

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading: Captain America: Road to Reborn

What Makes Bestial Menace the Coolest?

Concerning:

Bestial Menace (Worldwake uncommon)… and that’s pretty much it, actually.

Bestial Menace

Aesthetics:
Five mana, six power (but no evasion or anything… trample… nothing like that). That puts Bestial Menace slightly above expectation RE: mana v. power and toughness. For example Kodama of the North Tree (five mana for six power) was two toughness shy of this spell; and Bestial Menace also has three bodies to distribute more / better blocking possibilities. In a word, good.

I think it was Evan Erwin who first called Bestial Menace the Green Cloudgoat Ranger… This card might be slightly less powerful than Cloudgoat Ranger for the “same” mana (Cloudgoat Ranger was six power over five bodies, or potentially five on a flying body, but it also had additional utility, such as using the tokens from a fresh Cloudgoat Ranger to pump up one already ready to brawl). That said, Oran-Rief, the Vastwood makes for something else alongside these tokens.

And to go the full-on aesthetics, Bestial Menace is quite flavorful. I love anything with a Snake, but I think a Bear might have been a more iconic 2/2; that said, the presence of cards like Master of the Wild Hunt actually increases the value of Wolves, so we can’t complain on that front.

… But how did this card not include a Beast? It’s in the g-d name!

Where Can I See This Fitting In?
In short, lots of places.

If there is an equivalent of last years’ G/W tokens deck (Standard), Bestial Menace would be a fitting fit in the Cloudgoat Ranger spot (and Cloudgoat Ranger was probably the strongest [non-Planeswalker] spell in the mix.

The modern inheritor to those decks, Mono-Green Eldrazi / Nissa Revane decks can LEGO Monument to Menace in two ways (the latter with the poor 1/1 Snake token likely giving its life for the good of the team and the bad of the bad guy’s life total).

As for boogeyman Jund? Not at this juncture… But I have been wrong before.

Snap Judgment Rating: Staple

LOVE
MIKE

Worldwake – Dragonmaster Outcast

Concerning:

Dragonmaster Outcast [from Worldwake]
The Champ (aka Coimbra)
Antoine Ruel (the card, not the Pro Tour winner)
… and Dragonmaster Outcast!

Well, if the Champ says so…

Dragonmaster Outcast

So here comes the first of Five’s Worldwake card chatty chatties. And it’s a big one… in a little package. If you want to read — or actually listen to — more Worldwake chats from me (and @top8games, and @sloppystack) give this a listen: Worldwake Preview, Part 5. That is one of several parts of a Podcast that BDM, WillPop, and I ran this week over at Top 8 Magic. Good stuff, as ever.

So what about Dragonmaster Outcast?

Aesthetics:

This card seems pretty good.

As Coimbra says, it is a monster if you go and get it with Ranger of Eos. The question is whether — as a singleton or a redundant threat — it is superior to Scute Mob.

The advantage to Dragonmaster Outcast is that many 5/5 flying creatures over many turns are more powerful than a single, increasingly powerful (but non-evasive) Vampire Hexmage victim-to-be.

The advantage to Scute Mob is that it is a much faster threat. As soon as you hit your mana threshold, Scute Mob can start to battle, whereas there is a full additional turn in between the appearance of your first Dragon and the first attack that you get out of it.

Another possibility is that you just play a whole bunch of these little guys. When initially testing Naya Lightsaber, I often lusted for a second copy of that bullet.

Where Can I See This Fitting In?

Beyond the obvious Naya / Ranger of Eos action, another option would be a regular old one drop in a Red Deck. Is it as offensive as Goblin Guide? Not on the first turn, certainly. However, Red Decks have never needed great — or even very good — creatures to excel. This Mons Goblin Raiders can get some pro-action under its belt, and really pan out later in the game (should it go long). In particular, Dragonmaster Outcast is almost necessarily synergistic in a Red Deck with Valakut in Standard.

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player – High *

LOVE
MIKE

* Was obv kidding with that Flagship comment on Top 8 ๐Ÿ™‚

From Archive Trap to Kitchen Finks

Concerning:

[the former] Archive Trap Kitchen Finks
Baneslayer Angel
Archive Trap (again) and Kitchen Finks (again… repetitive, isn’t it?)

Archive TrapMost of you have probably read this week’s Top Decks, where I detailed my U/W Traps! deck, centered around Archive Trap, searching up Archive Trap, generally destorying Scapeshift combo decks, &c.

For a while I thought I had THE SECRET TECH (and the Traps! deck is actually pretty good) but I realized I was winning more than half of my games with Baneslayer Angel. Of which I had only two… In a deck that had so many resources centered around the Archive Trap win.

I kept the shell — lots of cantrips including the full four main deck copies of Relic of Progenitus, all the Remands (seldom played in Extended), and Repeal — but changed out the kill cards to the much more straightforward Kitchen Finks and Baneslayer Angel (that is, all four).

I have been very happy with the deck.

It isn’t the fanciest U/W deck you can play (Luis asked me if I couldn’t spare two slots for the Thopter Foundry combo), but it is highly consistent.

Old-ish School U/W

4 Relic of Progenitus

4 Cryptic Command
1 Echoing Truth
4 Remand
1 Repeal
2 Spell Snare
4 Think Twice

4 Kitchen Finks

2 Day of Judgment
4 Baneslayer Angel
4 Path to Exile
2 Wrath of God

4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
8 Island
4 Mystic Gate
4 Plains

sb:
2 Ravenous Trap
1 Echoing Truth
2 Jace Beleren
3 Repeal
4 Shadow of Doubt
2 Spell Snare
1 Wrath of God

For the most part I am trying to keep pace with the best cards / mana consumption theories that I am currently developing. I know I have touched on the best cards theory (up to and including the last post on Cruel Ultimatum), but if you want to check out what we have been calling the “Grand Unified Theory of Magic” … The pages have started to unfold over at Top 8 Magic.

Speaking of which, there are some unusual choices here, so I figure a card rundown maybe in order.

Relic of Progenitus
My deck only has about 24 lands, so playing a large number of cantrips is helpful to keep my mana flowing. Relic of Progenitus “just” as a cantrip is about perfectly costed. The tappity tap ability costs 1 on a Scrabbling Claws; the Tormod’s Crypt ability is worth bagel, but the cantrip bit is worth about a U. Sometimes awkward with Think Twice, but otherwise a near-perfect main deck tool that sometimes randomly costs the opponent 24 virtual mana.

Ravenous Trap
Supplemental to Relic of Progenitus. This might be a bit of an over-shoot, though.

Cryptic Command
Probably the best hard counter you can play in Extended. Its mana efficiency, and the nuances therof, would probably be worth an article, blog post, string of Tweets, whatever, some day in the future.

Echoing Truth
I have to play one as insurance against Empty the Warrens (where Repeal is much weaker) and Dark Depths when the opponent has a one mana Chalice of the Void on the battlefield. Probably the least exciting card in the deck, yet it proves tremendously useful on a regular basis.

Jace Beleren
I just wanted a good catch-all threat in my sideboard for fights where my opponent has a reasonable chance of killing all my men… All my poor, life-gaining, men.

Remand
This card is super good! It doesn’t get played in Extended enough, but it is very effective against Ancestral Vision, Hypergenesis combo decks, and in rare cases, non-suspend spells… Like your own Cryptic Command when the opponent points a Muddle the Mixture at it… Just more cantrip action for mana development while managing the board.

Repeal
Super great against Dark Depths, any Zoo variant, randomly picking up a Runed Halo or sometimes a Planeswalker… I could probably be convinced to play all four; the presence of the plus-three gave me room to cut a supplemental Day of Judgment from the sideboard, making room for the third and fourth copies of…

Spell Snare
This card is just perfect. There are so many near-perfect cards available in this strategy. How great is a card that can stop Tarmogoyf, Bitterblossom, Cranial Plating, Thopter Foundry, Umezawa’s Jitte, Vampire Hexmage… and about a zillion other awesome cards, even on the draw.

Think Twice
This is probably the card most likely to elicit a raised eyebrow from my beloved readers. Running both sides is generally an over-pay of 1-2 mana. Kelly Reid of Quiet Speculation suggested Whispers of the Muse, but I think that card is too slow for a tap-out Blue control deck like this one. Think Twice is just a much better topdeck than Ancestral Vision, which is why it got the nod in this deck list. The gap of one card drawn is counterbalanced by Think Twice’s instant speed, flexibility, superior mid-game utility, and essentially guaranteed attrition capability against other Blue decks. Think Twice is sometimes awkward with Relic of Progenitus, but discipline goes a long way here.

Kitchen Finks
This creature is just exactly what the deck needed as a Baneslayer Angel supplement. It’s fast against RDW, it’s tough against removal, you can cover it with a Remand… Lots of good things going for this one.

Shadow of Doubt
If you can’t Archive Trap someone…

It also poops on Boseiju, Who Shelters all ๐Ÿ™‚

Day of Judgment
I wanted to play a mix of this card and Wrath of God for Meddling Mage purposes.

Baneslayer Angel
[this space intentionally left blank]

Path to Exile
“” “” “” “” “”

Wrath of God
I think people are just not used to playing against this card. They keep playing into it. Hopefully tomorrow that trend will continue.

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading: Warbreaker (Sci Fi Essential Books)

Building a Better Cruel Ultimatum

Concerning:

Cruel Ultimatum โˆ™ Grixis Control Decks
State Champions โˆ™ Misplaced Black Cards
… and Cruel Ultimatum

So for anyone who has felt out in the Five With Flores cold for the past couple of weeks… Well… I was in the sun and enjoying myself for about two weeks, and even when I got back to New York, I never un-vacation-ed.

Until now!

So this first post of the New Year is actually gonig to be one that I intended to write before the break… but better. Because I made the deck list better!

Inspired by a podcast featuring the 2009 Maryland State Champion Lloyd Frias over at Yo! MtG TAPS! at MTGCast, I decided to work on a Grixis control deck with what might at first glance seem like misplaced Black cards. Specifically, cards like Malakir Bloodwitch and Sorin Markov.

Sorin is actually the best, so I decided to play a bunch of him in my main.

I am very against playing mediocre do-nothing cards such as Double Negative, Traumatic Visions, and the like, and decided instead to build my deck based on the best, most efficient, possible cards in the format. I know! Go figure!

(Why doesn’t everybody else do this?)

That means no boring Sphinx of Jwar Isle, &c. Instead, inspired in parallel by a loss I detailed in this here article about Kabira Crossroads, I realized that Sedraxis Specter is simply the highest quality threat creature that can be mustered by Grixis mana… This really shouldn’t be surprising.

So what do I mean by the best cards?

In this case I went with a combination of the cards that anyone in his right mind would consider the best (Blightning, Lightning Bolt), and pushed the design in their direction… Supplementing the deck list with speed, card drawing and cantrips to hit my land drops, and the full four Cruel Ultimatums. Really! All four!


Grixis Burn version 1.1

3 Sorin Markov

4 Divination
4 Into the Roil
4 Spreading Seas

4 Blightning
4 Cruel Ultimatum
4 Sedraxis Specter

4 Burst Lightning
4 Lightning Bolt

4 Crumbling Sanctuary
4 Drowned Catacomb
3 Dragonskull Summit
4 Island
2 Mountain
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Swamp

sb:
1 Doom Blade
2 Malakir Bloodwitch
2 Vampire Nighthawk
4 Countersquall
1 Earthquake
4 Goblin Ruinblaster
1 Pyroclasm

This deck has three broad branches that all interlink with one another.

The first of them centers on Sorin Markov, intersecting with Cruel Ultimatum, Lightning Bolt, and Burst Lightning. It is pretty clear that Lightning Bolt is one of the strongest cards in Standard, but the amazing thing is that Burst Lightning is arguably better in some situations for most decks. The solution is to play both. You can probably already see that between these two spell slots, we are already representing enough damage to kill the opponent entirely via direct damage.

However it becomes easier to get there if we start the opponent on 10, with the help of Sorin Markov.

Now between these three direct damage sources (with Sorin acting conditionally as Vicious Hunger), Cruel Ultimatum starts looking better than ever. You can very realistically knock the opponent to 10 on your turn 6, blow up his blocker with Cruel Ultimatum, come in for Sedraxis Specter (3) and the Cruel (5), and then finish the opponent off with the last Vicious Hunger bit, all over the course of two turns. There are lots of paths, but that one is the kind that will get the biddies jumping in the back of your convertible and all that.

The second thrust for this deck is the combination of Blightning and Sedraxis Specter into Cruel Ultimatum as a discard overload. Together these cards are effective, but they also serve as a cumulative edge both against other Grixis-type control decks and Jund. Jund’s main incentive is to beat you with Blightning, and Sedraxis Specter helps you by softening Blightning as well as serving as a de facto Blightning (three damage and net one card) from the graveyard.

Finally the remaining Blue cards — Spreading Seas, Divination, and Into the Roil — Voltron to lace the deck’s lands and spells together.

Honestly Into the Roil is the weakest card in the deck. I can see taking a couple of them out for some main deck Countersqualls, but every time I want to make this change, I bounce a Broodmate Dragon token or something, make Garruk look bad, and Into the Roil sticks. The weakest card it may be, but it is not “weak” per se.

The sideboard features lots of Vampires. I particularly like Vampire Nighthawk, which has been invaluable as a defensive stopper. I used to have all four, but I had to make room for Countersquall. The deck basically only ever loses to Vampires if it gets hit by Mind Sludge; you know how this one goes. Countersquall is also very synergistic — Blightning-like, really — as a combination of a card that is a decent spell but also a burn spell grafted on.

In case you are playing in any Star City 5Ks or whatever, I think you should play this deck. I have been playing it in Standard for about five weeks running and it is in my opinion the best 75 currently available. One of the things I like best is its complete domination of U/W-type Control decks, which have gained in popularity over the past month or two. It is very reassuring to play Blue cards but not do-nothings, I think you will agree.

LOVE
MIKE