What Does It Mean to “Beat Everything”?

So I say a lot of stuff.

I mean, I say pretty much whatever I am thinking at the time; and maybe unlike other people I change my mind about things fairly often (based on learning, new knowledge, and so on). For example I didn’t like Sensei’s Divining Top at the beginning… But after some soul-searching, later the same year Patrick Sullivan expressed disappointment in me that I had gone from “the premiere topless deck designer” to, whatever, another Top-jockey.

Unlike many other people I consider myself flexible and am willing to change my opinion on things, hopefully, in the effort of improving as a person.

So the one thing I wanted to point out is that in this Top 8 Magic Podcast I said that I made a deck that “beats everything” … Before getting into the meat of this blog post I wanted to address what I mean by that.

For sake of argument say you had a deck that has 55% win expectation against every deck in the field. From the position of who beats what, this deck technically “beats everything” … But what is the win expectation of a player in an eight-round tournament?


Does this deck have superior win expectation to, say, every other deck in the field?

I don’t know. CawBlade variants have an above average win expectation as well. This has nothing to do with the fact that the 55% deck does in fact “beat everything” (in a sense). And I’m not saying that the MWC deck that I was referencing has a 55% win expectation per se; just using that number to make a simple argument.

Now I said on the big Twits that I would post an 11th-hour blog post before tomorrow’s National Qualifiers.

I wrote about my Mono-White Control deck in today’s Flores Friday on StarCityGames.com. Out of respect for Star City I am not going to reprint the deck list here; however I will address sideboarding with the MWC.

This is the sideboard I was playing with most recently in this week’s videos:

2 Contagion Clasp
1 Tumble Magnet
4 Baneslayer Angel
2 Celestial Purge
2 Day of Judgment
4 Kor Firewalker

That said, I pretty much just crammed in a bunch of cards that I liked that I couldn’t fit into the main deck and called that the sideboard. That is lazy sideboarding, though; so hopefully in the context of this blog post we can make some amount of incremental improvement.

If you want the MWC deck list (and to learn the frankly hilarious story behind it), I encourage you to pop the $.15 or whatever it costs to read over at Star City, here:

The approach we are going to take to refine the sideboard will be a bottom-up approach instead of a top-down. I asked the Indomitable Twitter Army to give me the five decks they were most interested in beating, and the answers are more-or-less these:

  1. U/W CawBlade
  2. DarkBlade
  3. RUG
  4. Valakut
  5. RDW

U/W CawBlade

Summary: U/W CawBlade has the advantage of being able to play two different games. It has an initiative-based game based on Stoneforge Mystic + Sword of Feast and Famine, and can also win a long game with Jace, the Mind Sculptor + Gideon Jura.

MWC has the ability to keep even and trade during the first ten or so turns of the game, matching Stoneforge Mystic and Squadron Hawk. You can possibly win or lose the game at this stage mostly depending on whether or not you hit your lands. This is a point in the game where Preordain really shines; and MWC ain’t got no Preordain. Luckily you have a good number of lands.

Unfortunately I have relatively little experience playing against a Sword of Feast and Famine + Mortarpod configuration of CawBlade (tons against people who are just going and getting Swords), so I can’t speak to an opponent who is primarily using his guys to keep you from equipping Sword of Feast and Famine to a Squadron Hawk.

Presuming your opponent is primarily trying to hit you with a Sword, you can either chump (presuming you are doing something proactive going the other way) or trade (ideally), or lean on your artifacts. For example, getting your Contagion Clasp and / or Tumble Magnet is going to be desirable at this stage.

Let’s assume that you live past the first few turns, and the initial Royal Rumble of small creatures. The typical CawBlade deck only has eight dudes, and you can catch them with a big Day of Judgment or All is Dust to remove the opponent’s swordsmen, hampering their long-term with Sword of Feast and Famine. So let’s talk about the Planeswalker phase.

Basically you can attack their Planeswalkers to death or catch them with All is Dust. You have to be a bit wary about when you are tapping out. It is often desirable to sit back and let them ‘walk you in exchange for powering up Everflowing Chalice with Contagion Clasp so that you can pay 2, 3, or 5 mana on an All is Dust. Luckily, once you are out of the initial 1/1 and 1/2 battling, the opponent’s actual ability to close out games is not at hyperspeed.

What sucks?

Nothing sucks completely. All your cards have at least some utility.

I think there is tension around Wall of Omens and Survival Cache because those cards presumably draw you into lands. However they, along with Wurmcoil Engine, fall into a not-bad but not-optimal bucket.

One thing to consider about Wall of Omens is that a Wall of Omens will contain just a Stoneforge Mystic + Sword of Feast and Famine (i.e. there is no matching Squadron Hawk). Another thing to keep in mind is what your curve is at. If the opponent doesn’t have some kind of legitimate creature removal, Baneslayer Angel is actually quite a bit better than almost anything else, provided you aren’t being demolished by Tumble Magnets.

-4 Survival Cache
-1 Wurmcoil Engine
+1 Tumble Magnet
+3 Baneslayer Angel
+1 Expedition Map

Expedition Map probably seems a bit odd as we are taking out a colorless creature, but you want another land (ideally for Eye of Ugin) as you are upping curve.


Summary: Darkblade is actually just a better CawBlade against you. Your Tectonic Edges are a bit stronger and your special lands are a bit stronger as they have less Tectonic Edge action, but Inquisition of Kozilek is spectacular against you.

To be honest, despite a good record against CawBlade in aggregate, I have struggled more with DarkBlade with MWC.

-4 Survival Cache
+2 Contagion Clasp
+1 Tumble Magnet
+1 Expedition Map

I would leave in Wurmcoil Engine because it is quite good against Go for the Throat, and Baneslayer Angel isn’t. Contagion Clasp is pretty good here as Hawk suppression early, and of course the card is too good with Tumble Magnet.


Summary: RUG is a powerhouse cross-strategy deck. It includes explosive mana from Lotus Cobra, sheer power from Jace, the Mind Sculptor, an aggressive man-land, and equal Blue supplementation equal to CawBlade.

The most important thing is to keep from being blown out by Lotus Cobra. If you are playing a fair game, you are going to win. Tumble Magnet is good against Raging Ravine, and to a lesser extent, Inferno Titan… But honestly, who cares? You need to tap Primeval Titans but just taking damage isn’t a huge deal for you. Additional consideration is Precursor Golem, and Tumble Magnet is not very good against that card.

Obviously ever Contagion Clasp in your collection is in. Day of Judgment is arguably better than All is Dust in this matchup because of Precursor Golem. I would play to keep from getting blown out and try to win a long game, as if you can keep from auto losing to their Top 10 paradigm-warpers Jace and Lotus Cobra, your long game is actually superior.

-1 Tumble Magnet
-4 Survival Cache
+2 Contagion Clasp
+1 Expedition Map
+2 Day of Judgment

Survival Cache is iffy in this matchup due to being kind of awful as a mid-game topdeck against Inferno Titan or Avenger of Zendikar (and can even be goofy against Lotus Cobra + Lightning Bolt). You need the Expedition Map to make up for it.


Summary: Valakut can be customized in any number of ways. There is a huge difference between playing a Summoning Trap deck with Lightning Bolts and even Pyroclasms main and a turbo turbo version with Green Sun’s Zenith, Lotus Cobra, and no creature suppression but Tumble Magnet; especially early game. The possibilities on blowouts are so swingy, and whether or not your little dudes survive (or you can sneak in with an Inkmoth Nexus) varies grandly. That said, the most important thing is to contain Primeval Titan. That’s it. That guy either beats you outright or finds a bunch of copies of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and that onetime Top 10 card beats you. If you can contain Primeval Titan, you can fight Valakut heads up with Tectonic Edge, and again, your long game is simply superior.

This configuration presumes the Lotus Cobra version, which seems to be more popular (Contagion Clasp for Cobra, Tumble Magnet for Primeval Titan, Expedition Map for Tectonic Edge):

-4 Survival Cache
-1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
-1 Wurmcoil Engine
+2 Contagion Clasp
+1 Expedition Map
+1 Tumble Magnet
+2 Day of Judgment


Summary: Don’t die. This one is yours to win. Goblin Guide + Kabira Crossroads is a sick combo!

-4 All is Dust
-1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
-1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
-1 Eye of Ugin
-3 Stoneforge Mystic
+1 Tumble Magnet
+3 Baneslayer Angel
+2 Celestial Purge
+4 Kor Firewalker

Overall strat is to side out all the expensive cards, focus on cards you can cast as long as you are not manascrewed, and crush with color hosers and life gain.

Weird pull here (which you wouldn’t make against Boros, say) is Stoneforge Mystic. Swords are still gas, especially if you apply one to a Kor Firewalker, but spending a bunch of mana in the hopes of being blown out by a Searning Blaze is loose at best.

In sum, I think I’d cut a Baneslayer Angel for an Expedition Map.


Post Script: The “Modern” MichaelJ Model

The MWC deck is viable according to the “old” paradigm of deck design; that is, you should play it (if you are going to play it) because “it beats everything” (supposedly). However longtime readers (or should I say followers of this blog) know that my current paradigm, that is the paradigm I used to build Naya Lightsaber, qualify with Grixis Hits, and so on know that I currently build by trying to play the most Top 10 cards possible.

MWC has a fair number of Top 10 cards (overall #2 card Stoneforge Mystic, Squadron Hawk, Tectonic Edge, and arguably Tumble Magnet); but clearly it lags CawBlade’s Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Mana Leak; and Preordain.

If I don’t play MWC, I will play U/G Genesis Wave, as encouraged by Josh Ravitz and Brian David-Marshall. This would be my deck list:

4 Frost Titan
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

4 Acidic Slime
4 Genesis Wave
4 Joraga Treespeaker
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Overgrown Battlement
4 Primeval Titan

6 Forest
4 Halimar Depths
4 Island
2 Khalni Garden
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Scalding Tarn
4 Tectonic Edge
3 Verdant Catacombs

4 Tumble Magnet
3 Wall of Tanglecord
4 Spreading Seas
4 Obstinate Baloth

U/G Genesis Wave plays a fair number of Top 10 cards (certainly more than MWC)… Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Primeval Titan; Lotus Cobra; Tectonic Edge (and arguably Spreading Seas and Tumble Magnet). That said, it certainly gives up Mana Leak and Preordain.

The U/G Genesis Wave deck has plenty of very good cards but actually exists at a crossroads. It is a “modern” designed deck from one standpoint but also leans on MWC’s advantage (U/G is actually the best deck in the format both against other Jace decks and other Titan decks). On balance, MWC basically never loses to bad decks, whereas U/G is traditionally somewhat soft to Boros or Kuldotha Red (argh on that one).

So for those of you looking for the U/G Genesis Wave deck, that is the current listing.


facebook comments:


#1 Frelance on 04.15.11 at 10:01 pm

I encourage you to pop the $.15 or whatever it costs to read over at Star City

Not to suggest that you’ve ever in your life paid for it, of course

#2 MTGBattlefield on 04.16.11 at 2:27 am

What Does It Mean to “Beat Everything”?…

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

#3 pinoy_magic on 04.16.11 at 4:03 am

ey mike used your MWC deck today. went 5-2. lost to valakut and caw go.

i really feel the valakut matchup is dismal. really think leyline of sanctitiy is a necessity here.

in the uw caw go matchup i lost cuz i didnt hit my land drops. i think baneslayer won’t do anything in the matchup so i think that can get the axe to make space for leylines and divine offerings.

great work on the deck mike. keep it coming.

#4 admin on 04.16.11 at 4:04 am

True story; however I paid for Brainburst Premium multiple times back in the day

#5 Dyno on 04.17.11 at 12:24 am

I’ve been playing the deck on MODO and I have to agree it seems to have a horrible valakut matchup. Leyline of sanctity seems like a good idea, but I don’t know how I feel about the idea of cutting baneslayers. They’ve performed quite well for me.

As I believe you mentioned somewhere, the deck does perform very, very well against the various “joke decks” you tend to find in head’s up queues. I love the fact that I’ve won more than half my games with poison while playing a mono-white control deck with zero infect creatures. The combination of inkmoth/magnet/clasp is so sick and can be put in practically any control deck.

Any further input you may have on the valakut matchup is much appreciated. Thanks, Mike. Hope you did well at regionals.

#6 HumorMe on 04.19.11 at 8:15 am

If this deck catches on and you need a mirror match card, Keening Stone is quite a beating! Might be good against control decks, too, although there aren’t many of them around right now.

#7 HumorMe on 04.19.11 at 8:01 pm

Ugh, nevermind. Stupid Eldrazi shuffle the whole graveyard back in, don’t they? I was thinking it was just them. Probably not worth the sb slot anyway, although it is a rather satisfying way to win against miscellaneous control decks.

#8 New Phyrexia, Big Red, Stuff We Liked This Week… and Vibrators | Mixed kNuts on 04.21.11 at 5:25 am

[…] the deck he switched to after deciding the Mono-White deck he touted on Friday at SCG – the deck he said on the podcast beats everything – wasn’t good enough? Nice Job, Idiot? I’m so confused – there’s just too […]

#9 johnny54467 on 04.24.11 at 9:10 am

I played this list at a Nationals qualifier yesterday. I finished in 9th place, missing top 8 by my second tie-breaker. I don’t really consider myself that strong of a magic player, and I know I made a ton of mistakes throughout the tournament. But I recognize this and am constantly trying to evaluate each of my games in order to improve.

What I found looking over yesterday’s tournament is that the vast majority of my losses were to artifacts. Precursor Golem was a huge problem for me one match. The other match I lost to a guy who played double sword of feast and famine against me.

I don’t know if I’m looking too far into it, and I’m sure there were things I could have done differently but I can’t help but feel a couple divine offerings could have helped

You must log in to post a comment.