Entries Tagged 'Decks' ↓

Ten True Facts About My Prognostic Sphinx Deck

  1. I “picked” “literally” the worst time to make a sweet new rogue deck. There isn’t even an open Open! (this weekend is the Journey into Nyx prerelease, etc. etc.)
  2. This is a Tapout Blue Control deck in the tradition of Jushi Blue; a much different kind of deck than most Standard Control decks. The goal is to scare off attackers with Prognostic Sphinx, then get in with Prognostic Sphinx. Patrick Chapin talks about Semi-Soft Locks in books like Next Level Deck Building; an unchecked Prognostic Sphinx is like a Sensei’s Divining Top with fists… Grinding the opponent out while punching him for three.
  3. I know Master of Waves looks weird in this deck, but it’s a much better than Prognostic Sphinx’s original sidekick (the Keiga to Prognostic Sphinx’s Meloku if you grok)… Arbiter of the Ideal. There are relatively few ways to kill a Prognostic Sphinx, but Edict effects don’t care about Hexproof. Master of Waves gives you bodies (plural) to help defend Prognostic Sphinx against Devour Flesh et al for a turn. Then once you start attacking with Prognostic Sphinx… You grok. Anyway, Master of Waves will randomly beat a Red Deck in Game One a fair amount.
  4. Even with four Master of Waves, four Tidebinder Mage, and two Staff of the Mind Magus, you can lose to a Red Deck. It’s true 🙁
  5. That said, this deck is superb against Red Decks.
  6. It’s even better against black control decks like Mono-Black Devotion or the polychromatic black variants. Those decks started off as tough opponents (especially in the Arbiter of the Ideal days). Nullify is quite good against lots of their threats, including Underworld Connections. Don’t get cocky and lose to Gray Merchant of Asphodel, though.
  7. Speaking of Nullify, it is not good against U/W Control variants. This was a little counterintuitive for me (I assumed an advantage) but we actually have fewer interactive spells / Counterspells than U/W or Esper in Game One. U/W actually has a decent number of trumps over us (Supreme Verdict > Prognostic Sphinx, Sphinx’s Revelation > Opportunity, more in-matchup relevant permission + Thoughtseize) though it is winnable in Game One. Pithing Needle became a late sideboard edition to fight Planeswalkers.
  8. I generally dislike Pithing Needle but this is actually the perfect deck for it; Pithing Needle sometimes does nothing but it is pretty mana efficient in decks that have bulk card advantage spells like Divination or Opportunity.
  9. Voyage’s End is generally better than Cyclonic Rift, but when Cyclonic Rift is good (say against multiple Planeswalkers or Assemble the Legion, where you have time to set up) it’s backbreaking.
  10. The deck was originally soft to opposing Mutavaults; Encroaching Wastes made for acceptable Mutavault defense but now also makes for good disruption. This is especially the case against non-blue mid-range control decks. And hitting an Underworld Connections? Whew.

Here’s the deck, en total:

Prognostic Sphinx Tapout

4 Ratchet Bomb

1 Aetherling
2 Cyclonic Rift
4 Dissolve
4 Divination
3 Master of Waves
4 Nullify
3 Opportunity
4 Prognostic Sphinx
1 Syncopate
3 Voyage’s End

2 Encroaching Wastes
13 Island
4 Mutavault
4 Temple of Deceit
4 Temple of Enlightenment

1 Pithing Needle
2 Staff of the Mind Magus
4 Jace, Memyory of Thought1 Master of Waves
4 Negate
4 Tidebinder Mage



Bogbrew Witch &c. | Bogbrew Beatdown!

This is bar none my favorite deck in Standard right now:


Bogbrew Beatdown

3 Bubbling Cauldron

4 Festering Newt
4 Bogbrew Witch
4 Lifebane Zombie
4 Tragic Slip

1 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
4 Cartel Aristocrat
1 Sin Collector
2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

4 Lingering Souls
4 Restoration Angel

4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
1 Orzhov Guildgate
6 Plains
8 Swamp
2 Vault of the Archangel

2 Devour Flesh
1 Doom Blade
4 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
3 Sin Collector
2 Fiendslayer Paladin

You may have seen a previous version of the deck on Twitter, which featured only three Bogbrew Witches main, but Skirsdag High Priest. I actually have great respect for making 5/5 Demons… But I made exactly zero, total, the whole time I was playing High Priests; I also attacked with one maybe once, though I don’t know what I was waiting for. Sin Collector has been largely better but hasn’t produced fireworks exactly; though the synergy with Restoration Angel has been pretty exciting in some matches.

I tested BDM’s more white-based Extort / Archangel of Thune deck more than any other decks of this class… But I think this one is the best of the B/W lot from a win expectation standpoint, though it of course has no Angelic Accord, which is what sent all of us down this road to begin with. You know…

“Bubbling Cauldron + Angelic Accord is basically a Batterskull.”

Brian’s deck doesn’t play the Bogbrew Witch combo, but I have grown to love those 9-12 cards tremendously over the past week or so. Though these decks can win on various dimensions I find myself becoming excited every time I can start chaining a Bogbrew With; and have had meaningful internal debates about whether I should try to stick a Witch, bait with a Restoration Angel at the end of the opponent’s turn, and the relative impact of a Witch on four versus Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. To tell you the truth, killing the opponent with just Festering Newts ain’t no joke. Sixteen you.

Festering Newt is one of the most surprising little cards you can drop on the first turn. Stromkirk Noble on the first turn has been one of the most bedeviling drops to play against for the past year and more for me; especially because my intended blockers have usually been Snapcaster Mage and Borderland Ranger… But Festering Newt is such a great answer! You can block and trade. They can remove it with Pillar of Flame, sure, but that is true for most everything; and essentially all other interaction will result in a dead Stromkirk Noble. Given the propensity of a Stromkirk Noble to get out of hand, I’m generally fine just blocking and trading one-for-one.

Lifebane Zombie is great in this deck; and overall great in the metagame. I have been stealing Boros Reckoners or Ghor-Clan Rampagers and then trading with Flinthoof Boars or Hellriders quite often. Lifebane Zombie is of course just as great with Restoration Angel as Sin Collector… Maybe better because Lifebane Zombie > Sin Collector.

The deck has a good amount of life gain, which buys a lot of time against aggro. It does not have a huge amount of lasting power against control, though; if you don’t keep your Bogbrew Witch around for a couple of untaps you are liable to run out. That is the struggle with this version, which has o Sign in Blood and no Angelic Accord. Sam Black suggested Dark Prophecy, rather said he didn’t think 0 in 75 was possibly right. Possibly he is right! Dark Prophecy would surely give the deck some lasting power against control, or in attrition matchups.

Anyway, just wanted to share this.

Like a lot of pleasantly surprised bogBrewers, I didn’t expect I would be playing many Bubbling Cauldrons in Standard but the combo has been very effective. It is just fantastic against aggro decks that want to race you as well as removal-poor midrange creature decks. Though this strategy can very likely be improved, it is going to be my jumping off point come the impending Theros rotation.


Angelic Accord, Podcast, etc.


Angelic Accord, version 1.0

2 Bubbling Cauldron
1 Elixir of Immortality
3 Trading Post

3 Bogbrew Witch
4 Festering Newt
4 Sign in Blood
3 Tragic Slip
4 Vampire Nighthawk

3 Angelic Accord
2 Fiendslayer Paladin
4 Lingering Souls
2 Terminus

4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Orzhov Guildgate
5 Plains
7 Swamp
1 Vault of the Archangel

3 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
2 Fiendslayer Paladin
2 Orzhov Charm
1 Tragic Slip
4 Duress
2 Terminus
1 Liliana of the Dark Realms

For anyone wondering about the deck BDM and I were talking about in the most recent podcast the above is it.

I don’t want to spend a huge amount of time talking about the strategies, plans, and angles various on this deck as it ended up being a bit less than super awesome; but as BDM raved in the podcast it is fun to play, [presumably] fun to watch, and capable of some pretty exciting comebacks.

If you brave yourself up to give Angelic Accord a swing, keep these things in mind:

  • Trading Post + Angelic Accord is the basic combo. Once you have both of these in play, it is rare that you will do anything but discard to Trading Post every turn. But be careful! You have to discard before the opponent’s end step if you want to crash with a new 4/4 on your turn.
  • Bubbling Cauldron + Angelic Accord is basically a Batterskull. Almost anything can catalyze the first 4/4 Angel. You can crash on your turn, sacrifice the Angel, gain four, and net a fresh (untapped) Angel to block on your opponent’s turn. Okay, I’ll bite… It is probably a bit better than a Batterskull. Ya got me.
  • Elixir of Immortality allows you to loop your Festering Newts. The limit on the Bogbrew Witch combo is that you can only search up four Festering Newts. But if you can put your Festering Newts back into your deck, you break the normal limit on Bogbrew Witch. I don’t know if you’ve played much Bogbrew Witch in Standard, but the other two halves of the combo win a lot of games for me. Somehow… A real thing.
  • You can activate life gain abilities on both your turn and your opponent’s turn in order to trigger a single Angelic Accord twice per cycle. Truth.

Did I mention there is a new Top8Magic podcast up on ManaDeprived? Well there is! And BDM is back!

If you are somehow too lazy to click one of the several links to ManaDeprived on this page / in this post, I suppose you can listen to the cast here:

(I suppose.)

Hope you <3 it! LOVE MIKE

First Pass on Champion of the Parish

At least before we have a lot of tangible tournament results, I am thinking there are two main interesting cards to think about for Standard with Avacyn Restored:

  1. Delver of Secrets (surprise surprise), and
  2. Cavern of Souls

Specifically, Cavern of Souls gives you another dual land to play first turn Delver of Secrets (and through a Mental Misstep, if that matters)… Plus you get to play Champion of the Parish for double the possible aggressive starts!

Now if you are trying to buff a Champion of the Parish you need to configure your deck list a little bit differently. The Delver deck is already chock full of Humans (Delver of Secrets and Snapcaster Mage, for instance, are both Humans)… But Geist of Saint Traft isn’t. I decided to go a little bit of a different direction and swap Geist of Saint Traft with Blade Splicer. Blade Splicer is a little bit weaker on offense (2 + 4, with the 4 evasive being a bit more damage than 1 + 3 and the 3 not evasive); but the 3 [Golem] striking first (and potentially generating a fine synergy with Intangible Virtue) makes for an elite defense.

Please keep in mind this is just a first pass:

Champion Delver with Avacyn Restored v.1

4 Delver of Secrets
4 Gitaxian Probe
2 Mana Leak
4 Ponder
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Vapor Snag

2 Gut Shot

4 Blade Splicer
3 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Honor of the Pure
4 Champion of the Parish

4 Cavern of Souls
4 Glacial Fortress
6 Island
2 Moorland Haunt
1 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast

1 Batterskull
1 Consecrated Sphinx 
2 Dissipate
2 Mental Misstep
2 Negate
1 Gut Shot
2 Celestial Purge
1 Revoke Existence
3 Timely Reinforcements

Whether Intangible Virtue or Honor of the Pure is the right buffing enchantment is up for grabs, I think. It is a question of how much you care about Vigilance versus buffing Champion of the Parish; I have Honor of the Pure right now because this seems to be a bit of a “Champion” deck. I am sure you can see the hyper-aggressive starts like…

  • Champion of the Parish –> Gather the Townsfolk…

Or better yet:

  • Champion of the Parish –> Champion of the Parish + Delver of Secrets

I am not super satisfied with this pass right now. For one, I don’t even know which is the right two drop enchantment! Other things kind of up in the air…

2 Mana Leak + 2 Gut Shot… I am neither elite against G/R Ramp nor against other Delver decks in the main; when I was playing 2 Gut Shots in Baltimore I felt like a smart guy, but right now many Delver players are main decking three Gut Shots! I felt like Mana Leak was a compromise-able card based on my previous Cavern of Souls blog post (i.e. players like G3rryT and Jonny Magic are playing only two).

3 Blade Splicer or 3 Gather the Townsfolk? This one is pretty debatable. I went with 3 Gathers because we have shifted Cavern of Souls to a primary source of White mana… but it doesn’t actually cast a Gather the Townsfolk… Same reason I dropped the Moorland Haunt count by one (it doesn’t contribute to the Moorland Haunt activation). I guess you can cut a Gitaxian Probe… But that’s like my favorite card in Standard, so please don’t do that.

Obviously this version doesn’t have the “race you with an Invisible Stalker” functionality of the straight Delver deck; that said, I found Invisible Stalker to be the weakest card in straight Delver, worse than a Champion of the Parish, certainly, if you don’t have a Sword of War and Peace or a Pike.

The sideboard is medium-straightforward. The only weird card is Consecrated Sphinx. I actually kind of fell in love with that card in Delver playing a variation of Caleb Durward’s Delver list, whereas I give Jace, Memory Adept a rating of “uh… I guess it’s a card” in most situations.

I do think Mental Misstep is an absolute must for Delver, even though it is a bit weaker now that Cavern of Souls will be entering the Standard Arena… But if you watched Chi Hoi Yim work over Robbie Cordell in the finals of the Birmingham Open (and how could you not, with the attractive and charismatic Joey Pasco YT on the mic?) … You know what kind of havoc Mental Misstep can levy in the Delver mirror… Especially on the draw and when setting up Timely Reinforcements.

Speaking of which, a month or so ago I felt like the Delver mirror was my best matchup in Standard due to my figuring out Mental Misstep (and I know that is ironic as I finally lost the Delver mirror playing for Top 8, on camera)… and the truth is, my Invitational deck was nowhere near as prepared for other Delver decks as this one.

I think the tensions in Standard are going to be interesting. This version — whether you stay with Honor of the Pure or move [back] to Intangible Virtue — is pretty on-par with the “tokens” Delver decks in terms of tokens production + buffing (they are going to have some mix of Midnight Haunting and Lingering Souls instead of Gather the Townsfolk and Blade Splicer), but one Golem can rumble pretty adequately with multiple regular tokens, and you can use your Phyrexian mana to set up a favorable Gather, don’t forget. On balance you have much faster and more explosive mana, and you have literally twice the aggressive draws with Champion of the Parish to get in early damage and put the opponent (or any opponent) on his heels.

Again, just a first pass, but certainly adequate for… say… the first week’s FNM.

I am pretty sure if I were playing in the Rhode Island Open this weekend I would be playing four copies of each of Delver of Secrets, Champion of the Parish, and Cavern of Souls though… Those cards are too good and too fast to ignore, plus they are great together and make for wild synergies with token producers and everything else you want to do with the best deck since Caw-Blade Exarch Twin.



FNM Hero Report with Aether Adept (if you can believe it)

Unbelievably, this is the second Five With Flores post devoted to Aether Adept.
… I can’t believe it either!

Jon Medina invented this thing called FNM Hero where he has to start from scratch with a budget of only $100.

For some reason Medina has chosen to try to “go infinite” at Magic with a bunch of garbage (though given the budget constraints, non-garbage might be hard to come by).

You can actually build a semi-reasonable deck in Standard for under $100 (emphasis on “semi-“).

I decided to try this:

4 Aether Adept
1 Consecrated Sphinx
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Gitaxian Probe
3 Gut Shot
4 Mana Leak
3 Mental Misstep
4 Ponder
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Thought Scour
4 Vapor Snag

21 Island

4 Corrosive Gale
2 Dissipate
3 Flashfreeze
1 Gut Shot
1 Mental Misstep
4 Stitched Drake

Obviously the Snapcaster Mages and one Consecrated Sphinx are going to be the most expensive cards; I don’t recall Jon’s exact pricing strictures, but you can get Snapcaster Mage for about $17 on Amazon.com so I assume that using resources other than the most high profile sites you can get the rares for under $100. Everything else is pretty negligible in terms of cost.

I tested a lot of Delver last month and I knew going in that this deck would be even weaker to tokens than regular Delver of Secrets decks. Oh well. Obviously I played against 50% tokens.

The beauty of this is that even though I was playing a super budget deck with literally 21 Islands and 4 Aether Adepts, people still complained about Delver of Secrets. I mean the card is a penny and also the best card in Standard. What do you expect me to play? Maybe a mid-range Green creature for four times the cost and half the power?

Anyway I played four rounds in the Tournament Practice Room. It’s not like I made the next Naya Lightsaber or anything, but the results were pretty promising. I didn’t play real tournament queues because… Well, it should be obvious. But I figured that FNM (Jon’s forum for his project) is less competitive than a PTQ / SCG Open (which is what I would prepare for in queues). Here is what happened:


His deck was a fully loaded Pod deck.

If he is reading this he probably wants to jump off of the top of Birthing Pod, maybe into the mythical river Lethe to forget.

Anyway, I kept a triple Delver, one land hand in Game One. He was defeated. Yes, he got one of my Delvers with a Fiend Hunter. The next turn I flipped Mana Leak, turned the other two over, and it was never really close.

In Game Two he got three Birds of Paradise; conveniently I got three Gut Shots, using a combination of “drawing them off the top of my [budget] deck” and Snapcaster Mage[s]. I also Mage’d up double Flashfreeze, which was excellent.




I got the first game with “Mental Misstep your Champion” / Snapcaster Mage Mental Misstep, and then getting my one Sphinx online.

Game Two was a heartbreaker if we can consider fake budget decks “tested” in the Tournament Practice room heartbreaker-eligible games. I basically got him to three with scotch tape, spit, torn fingernails, and desperation. He had one card, and it was a Doomed Traveler I had bounced. He had two Crusades but I had basically never allowed him to get the pounce with creatures. I had an Aether Adept and an Insective Aberration in play.

What can he rip?

Obviously the Tom Martell commemorative Lingering Souls is the only card that saves him there, so that is what he got. I looked at the shiny Vapor Snag in my hand and frowned. I guess he could have played Day of Judgment there, but the outs were thin. I had one mana open at the end of his turn, so Mise Thought Scour.

… Flipping over what would have been the game-winning Corrosive Gale.



(If in fact we can consider this a hearbreaker-eligible game, again).

Sadly he had Vault of the Archangel in play so I didn’t really think it was worth playing out given his army of 3/3 flyers.

Game Three I got frustrated at having such substandard cards and threw it in too early. I guess if you are going to do an experiment like this you shouldn’t really take that attitude. I guess none of my cards are godawful (except Aether Adept, maybe); but not having basic defensive stuff like Ratchet Bomb or a way to get back in a game that starts to fall out of your hands is pretty annoying.


BW TOKENS (again)

G1 – I was actually pretty worried because my hand wasn’t aggressive and he got a one-two guy-Gather draw… And then conceded turn three when I Mana Leaked his Intangible Virtue. Um, okay. I’ll take it?

G2 – I got a fast double Delver draw, Leaked him once, and then got him to death on a Vapor Snag. Ho hum. The Vapor Snag turn was pretty interesting. He had four lands in play and a Sword of Body and Mind; he had two tokens from previous token generation. I was kind of weighing my options and decided I was going to Snag his Sword attempt, and at least make him tap all four lands to get the Sword online (plus take one less, I guess). But then he played pre-combat Honor of the Pure. Well that’s two mana down! He equipped one of the tokens, I bounced, he right-clicked, etc.



G1 – I kept a one-land double-Delver draw. I Probed him to see Merfolk Looter and flipped my first Delver with Gut Shot. I was so rich I did not even Gut Shot the Looter until the second time it came down.

G2 – This was a weird game where I countered everything and he didn’t have a second White for Sun Titan for several turns despite drawing lots of extra cards. He sat on a Nihil Spellbomb for a long time, which wasn’t actually that annoying, but was kind of a Greater Gargadon ticking down its time counters if you know what I mean. I wasn’t going to get out of the game with Snapcaster Mage is what it meant. Anyway, I countered everything but my deck doesn’t actually have that many counters and he eventually got the Titan and I conceded.

G3 – Probably the most improbable game I have played in months. I have a not-very-aggressive hand, but eventually get Consecrated Sphinx in play. I have previously Probed him and it seemed safe. Well of course he picks that turn to rip Sun Titan and naturally had Phantasmal Image. The next two turns we play cat-and-mouse with him getting the Image but me having Vapor Snag and Gut Shot. He then gets an Oblivion Ring and I can’t defend the Consecrated Sphinx. Now at this point he has a fake-Sphinx in play and I had a line where I could have played Thought Scour to start the “we both draw as much as we like” phase of the game. I could have drawn tons, gotten the tools necessary to deal with both his Titan and Image, or maybe even double-Leaked the Ring, but I didn’t see it at the time. Instead I just bounced his Sphinx so I wouldn’t have to deal with a Sphinx and tried to play the tempo game. Incidentally I had drawn 4-6 cards with my Sphinx and they were all g-d Islands.

I got some Delver beats in and put him to a bad spot. I drew Ponder and found Vapor Snag and two Islands. I probably should have shuffled. I kept the Snag, bounced his Titan and got in with an Adept and Insectile Aberration, putting him to one. Now there are lots of problems with this play. For one, I put myself in a spot where I knew I had lands on top and I would end up having to chump block. My implementation was also bad, but then again, it was 1:30 and I was playing a pretty Baxterized deck so maybe I can be forgiven? I could have waited a half-turn and bounced better even if I kept the Snag / Island / Island tops. The way I did it, he could re-play Sun Titan, get Phantasmal Image, and copy Insectile Aberration, locking me pretty badly down.

Now the game wasn’t over!

I of course had the Islands on top and had to chump his Titan after one attack.

Now it gets really weird.

He rips Trinket Mage (!?!) and gets the Nihil Spellbomb from last game. Now he has Spellbomb + Titan for a draw engine. The other half of the Spellbomb is also annoying as I pick that turn to draw Snapcaster Mage (or rather, Thought Scour into Snapcaster Mage). There is both a Vapor Snag and a Gut Shot in my bin and he is at one life.

The Snapcaster has to chump. Predictable.

In the ensuing turn he casts Forbidden Alchemy, binning Spellskite, and brings that back.

I draw not Vapor Snag but Gut Shot. Will he F6? No.




Like I said, “improbable.”



Both my second and fourth rounds were winnable. This is remarkable as I figured Tokens was an awful matchup, plus my deck lacked such basic functionality as “non-Island lands” or the plenty of white, viz. Geist of Saint Traft and Moorland Haunt. Think a Moorland Haunt might have won some of those one-point games? In particular I really wish I saw the Thought Scour catalyst “we both have Sphinxes” play in real time. That would have made for a story, wouldn’t it?

Now as bad as the structure of this deck is for FNM Hero purposes, I actually like some of the stuff. I was all ready to credit Caleb Durward with Consecrated Sphinx in Delver, but it turns out that way back in September my first Innistrad deck list had not just Delver of Secrets when the rest of the world was still playing Phantasmal Bear, but Batterskull and Consecrated Sphinx as two ofs, each. Man, I am smart at this! In any case, I found Consecrated Sphinx outstanding in this deck, and I think I would actually play 1-2 in “real” Delver.

Anyway, I got tired of not having Geist of Saint Traft in my deck and packed it in. That said, I think with a bit more focus you can probably 4-0 FNM even with a Baxterized Delver deck, and I know I would much rather be on Delvers than mid-range green stuff, especially if I can’t afford dual lands.

What do you think Jon?


Five With Flores Friday: 5.5 Burning Questions at the 11th Hour

Today we will answer five-and-a-half burning questions that burn like, you know (um, never mind):

Free Preview:

  1. Can You Send Me That Blog Post You Took Down?
  2. What Are You Playing At States and can I have the list?
  3. What is The Unofficial Michael J. Flores Soundboard and how do I get one?
  4. Strange, is that a Shock or three in your sideboard? I thought that you were ‘Doubtful that the card Shock is good enough to play as a sideboard card in 2011.”
  5. Also, how many removal spells do we think they’re holding when we cast our Frost Titan?

Let’s go!

Can You Send Me That Blog Post You Took Down?

Well… Probably not.

I already let @famouspj and @grousehaus read it; plus there were approximately DI of you who read it before I took it down.

Like I said before, pending approval from @chicgrit I might do an audio-only version and put that up. But we are watching “Horrible Bosses” tonight and I haven’t gotten around to reading the now-disappeared blog post to her.

Updates when I have them (if I have them) of course.

What Are You Playing At States and can I have the list?

I posted the list to my Star City Games column Flores Friday earlier today, you can read all about it here.

Because the column this week was basically just my deck list, I wouldn’t feel right posting it here at this point; however there are some changes I am probably going to put into place for tomorrow. Per some head-scratching (and lots of people in the forums picked up on this separately even though I had decided to do it myself previously), I am going to move around some of the removal spells.

This is what to do:

  • From the main deck, move all the Arc Trails to the sideboard.
  • From the sideboard, move one Ancient Grudge to the main deck; in addition, move all the Shocks from the sideboard into the main deck. We are not changing around any numbers… Just where the cards are.
  • Additionally, add one more, each of the M10 dual lands; remove one each of the basic lands. Thanks @G3rryT!

Wait a minute, did you just say Brimstone Volley is the second-best card in Standard?

I didn’t say that here, but I did sort of imply that in the column… Like so:

I certainly think Brimstone Volley is a Top 10 card in Standard (probably Top 5), but I would sooner see Dismember at Number Two (but maybe that’s just me).

What is The Unofficial Michael J. Flores Soundboard and how do I get one?

Enterprising superfan @hamiltonianurst put together some funny Flores-isms from my various podcast appearances. If you check out The Unofficial Michael J. Flores Soundboard you will be able to hear me say such-and-such is a bad card, my deck was awesome, other people are buffoons, or that I will play Blue.

Lots of fun.

The Unofficial Michael J. Flores Soundboard

And yes, this made its way around the office last week…

Strange, is that a Shock or three in your sideboard? I thought that you were ‘Doubtful that the card Shock is good enough to play as a sideboard card in 2011.”

Larry Swasey is bringing into the open something that I shared to him — presumably just between the two of us — in a personal Facebook communique. I am typing out this paragraph as I wipe a tear from my right eye, so wounded and betrayed to I feel by Larry bringing our brewing out into the forums like a common G/W deck idea.

Oh well, as above, I actually don’t have any Shocks in my sideboard any more. Ting!

Also, how many removal spells do we think they’re holding when we cast our Frost Titan?

Drew Levin’s question really is something to think about. I am going to be bringing my extra Burning Vengeances and Desperate Ravings to States; but I really like Frost Titan in the Primeval Titan matchups more than I dislike it, you know, elsewhere.

Wish me luck tomorrow,



The Pros and ConMen of Building Your Own Mulldrifter

So sorry for the bait-and-switch recently of mad updates followed by the lull the last couple of days (for anyone reading this, that is — which means you, if you are reading this)… Especially the short-lived / zoink! of the hilarious-but-tragic tale of How I Missed My Flight to the Star City Open (no, no don’t bother — it’s still gone).

One of my all-time favorite songs, originally recommended by Joshua Ravitz, and previously embedded on this here blog(sphere):

[He’s Gone]

Originally I wanted to post How I Missed My Flight to the Star City Open on Friday night, ideally from the airport, in order to create a furor and fever across the Internet… Only to triumphantly appear on camera on Saturday morning, next to my man Joey Pasco.

For no reason whatsoever:

Just putting it out there.

No, Evan didn’t *ahem* bite when I asked if SCG would reimburse my $50 change fee for, you know, missing the original flight that they had booked for me.

It is actually possible that I will release some audio-only version of the events, as Joey could not contain himself [so great was the hilarity] when I read it out loud, and even attempted to immortalize the above by photo-stalking YT from our hotel room as I read the tearful tale into… the iPad mic which I had my hand over.

Listening to @fivewithflores record an audio version of his n... on Twitpic
Pics or it didn’t happen. Happened.

The objections from @chicgrit (previously @craftyK) and @famousPJ got me to pull it down; the story — as written — seemed too negative (keep in mind these are nicer people than I am)… But it is possible that with different vocal inflection everything would fall into place like Dominoes. Written and spoken words can be quite different. The anger and violence that you might imagine reading my telling you to…

“Shut up.”

Can be quite different from Elaine from Seinfeld’s trademark ejaculation, even as she shoves a larger man in the chest.

We’ll see.

None of that has anything to do with today’s actual topic, though; which is the politic delta between Think Twice in Standard versus Caleb Durward’s re-adoption of vanilla Counsel of the Soratami, Divination.

U/B Control, by Caleb Durward

2 Grave Titan
8 Island
9 Swamp
1 Spellskite
1 Karn Liberated
3 Dismember
2 Victim of Night
1 Tribute to Hunger
4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Doom Blade
2 Divination
4 Drowned Catacomb
1 Dissipate
2 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Go for the Throat
3 Black Sun’s Zenith
1 Solemn Simulacrum
3 Nihil Spellbomb
4 Darkslick Shores
1 Twisted Image
1 Skinrender
2 Mana Leak

SB: 2 Sorin’s Thirst
SB: 3 Azure Mage
SB: 2 Spellskite
SB: 2 Surgical Extraction
SB: 2 Flashfreeze
SB: 1 Dissipate
SB: 1 Black Sun’s Zenith
SB: 1 Negate
SB: 1 Volition Reins

Divination is a comically-low penny on Amazon.

Anywho, the default in the format is Think Twice; and for the most part, Think Twice + Forbidden Alchemy. You will sometimes even see three copies of Think Twice / four copies of Forbidden Alchemy; this can happen. Caleb Durward, with his brilliant B/U anti-creatures control deck opted to develop his board (or stunt his opponent’s board) with his first couple of mana, rather than “merely” sculpting his hand. He played neither.

Caleb is quick to make the point that you get an actual two cards for three mana with Divination, rather than two cards for five mana with Think Twice. And of course you can “build your own Mulldrifter” with Snapcaster Mage + Divination, which is great (though this Mulldrifter requires a preexisting Divination, is only 2/1, and doesn’t fly). His arguments are strong and probably fit for his deck style; perhaps most compellingly, Caleb only spent two slots on Divinations where most B/U or Solar Flare-style decks gobble up 6-8 slots on hand-sculpting Flashback card draw.

Obviously there are potential arguments for either card.

Just a couple of points to make from the Devil’s Advocate side (BTW I qualified for US Nationals the last time I played with Divination [Cougar Town], but this Saturday I intend to play with the full eight Think Twice and Forbidden Alchemy):

  1. There is no loss of mana when you are playing against another control deck. That is, you can do nothing with two mana in a Divination deck (you have no play), or you can play the front half of a Think Twice; there isn’t much difference. At the point you pay the back half of the Think Twice or you tap out for Divination on your third turn (which you probably wouldn’t do in a world of Liliana of the Veil), you haven’t actually been forced to back up the three-versus-five difference on the two spells.
  2. This is a not-irrelevant point, and one of the things that has always made Think Twice so compelling for me, personally: It is a legitimate Xerox cantrip. Think Twice is a one- or two- (in this case two mana) mana cantrip that can help you hit your land drops. Whatever other virtues Divination has as a self-contained spell, it lacks this one. There are lots of reasonable two-land hands you can keep with removal spells and a Think Twice, etc. Divination doesn’t always get you there.

So… All mad respect to Caleb for producing another out-of-the-box implementation of available cards (and of course a happy high five for Top 8 on Saturday).

Further thoughts on Think Twice and Divination? Comment below (if you dare).



Xerox’ing Snapcaster Mage

Snap-keep Snapcaster Mage?

I actually just bought my Snapcaster Mages from Amazon, partly due to the prices being better than any of the usual sites I have bought from in the past, partly because it looks like the prices elsewhere are going up elsewhere.

Anyway, I was surprised at how few comments there were RE: the two Snapcaster Mage / Twisted Image deck I posted last week.

From 10/22/2011:

2 Batterskull
2 Spellskite
4 Sword of Feast and Famine

3 Dismember

2 Consecrated Sphinx
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Mana Leak
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Twisted Image

23 Island

My thinking around this kind of deck was that Mono-Blue Illusions was pretty good at last season, and it lost only Spell Pierce. Spell Pierce is kind of fungible. Okay, it also lost Renegade Doppelganger, but adding in Snapcaster Mage (snap-keep him) makes for a +EV swap.

Mono-Blue Illusions was already good enough for Top 16 at the TCGPlayer $75,000 Championship (and a Star City Game Open Series event at the same time)… To me it stood to reason that with everyone else losing cards like Squadron Hawk, Lighting Bolt, and Goblin Guide, we could just slide right in with same-sies (but snap-keeping the upgrade).

I think the people who have had erratic results with Illusions may be suffering from the “no Phantasmal Dragon” syndrome; that is, their deck lists have no Phantasmal Dragons. Phantasmal Dragon seems pretty great to me. I mean, sure, it dies to Dismember… But if it is dying to Dismember there isn’t even any Phantasmal drawback going on.

I wanted to try a non-Illusions route myself, but I can honestly see playing at Phantasmal Dragon even if I don’t have Lord of the Unreal in my deck (let alone the various Bears and so on). I think a 5/5 flyer is just pretty good (though it might be bad against the current crop of Green three- and four-drop Transform permanents); that said, as you can see I didn’t play any kind of Illusions in the above deck.

At this point, if people are going to insist on playing Werewolves, I think I am actually going to play Ponder. We can go very Comer-Xerox and cut a lot of lands if we don’t stray from basic Island, for instance…

3 Sword of War and Peace

3 Dismember

4 Delver of Secrets
2 Dissipate
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Ponder
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Mana Leak
4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Stitched Drake
4 Twisted Image

21 Island

Instead of going Phantasmal-linear I decided to pick all good evasions guys; in theory good Swordsmen. Snapcaster Mage doesn’t fly or sneak on by, but he provides the deck a mite of card advantage.

I am thinking about switching to Sword of War and Peace for a couple of reasons… 1) Todd Anderson played a deck about the same route this past weekend, and I can see being murdered by 1/1 White flyers on defense; and 2) this kind of a deck doesn’t really want to play for very long. Sword of Feast and Famine might be disheartening, but Sword of War and Peace actually kills the opponent much faster. Especially considering the Red Deck finals of the last Star City Open, I think a healthy respect for the Red is in order.

To that end… Stitched Drake. This card seems so good. I can see trading my Delver of Secrets for a Stromkirk Noble just so I have fodder to play Stitched Drake. Seems like a great topdeck after an attrition fight. It is like a Dragon where you can leave up Mana Leak mana.

What’s not to love?


I have been making an effort to draw every day, and I am going to be posting my sketches and (hopefully someday) some finished stuff here on my blog. Guess what? It’s my blog and I can do whatever I want!

Even when I thought I was going to become a famous comic book artist, I never really played with colors. This one-two is one of my first attempts, ever.

The subject is an old lady doing yoga… You know, to mix it up from babes in evening dresses and / or essentially half-naked male superheroes with giant fish-packages.




Napster and Namor

Marshall Sutcliffe (@Marshall_LR of Limited Resources and one of the nicest people you will ever meet in the Magic podcasting community) has been asking me about… Believe it or not… Napster!

Marshall makes the reasonable point that Napster is a deck that we talk about a lot (myself, BDM, and so on)… But only really longtime readers know what the hell a Napster is. So… Here is the rundown, only eleven years after the fact. Briefly, we will go over:

  • The Deck
  • The Name
  • The Tournaments
  • The Pedigree
  • The Plan(s)
  • … and Namor

The Deck
… As Jon Finkel played it (to the 2000 US National Championships win):

The Name

At the time, Napster (the “real” Napster) was the industry leader in music sharing; instead of legally downloading music via iTunes or Amazon.com, less scrupulous young people would login to Napster and download the songs they wanted that had been uploaded by different less scrupulous young people. You could pretty much get whatever you wanted without having to pay for it, therefore.

Brian Kibler came up with the deck name.

The deck that would eventually [also] be called Napster could go and get whatever it wanted thanks to playing Vampiric Tutor (we’ll get into more on how that worked in a future section).

The Tournaments
In the Spring of 2000 The Magic Dojo was pretty much a sinking ship. However they were still paying me (and a couple of other people) so we would still show up for work. We would do some work, but the onetime dreams of dotcom IPO millions were a thing of the past.

So while updating our resumes, one of the things we did was play lots and lots of Standard.

The Magic Invitational that year gave us a great set of gauntlet decks; and because I am forbidden from looking things up, I won’t… But I think our gauntlet was a Blue deck played by Zvi Mowshowitz some kind of Rebels deck played by maybe Chris Pikula or Darwin Kastle, and a StOmPy deck played by Patrick Chapin. There were also some combo decks (for example Sabre Bargain).

We played lots and lots of Standard and had quite a few good decks we could play.

At the time, BDM was innovating the tournament scene with the Grudge Match (which he resurrected just this past weekend), and we had weekly Standard at Neutral Ground, therefore. Awesome decks like Replenish were coming out at the same time, and the Grudge Match gave rise to ZevAtog the next year (for those of you who don’t know about ten year old decks these were the CawBlade and so on of the age).

I decided to play what Napster was in a Grudge Match qualifier and won it, beating Ben “Manascrew” Murray in the finals. US Regionals was soon after and I played it there, too.

In Regionals I qualified, losing a total of three games (two of them in the Top 4, and one in the Swiss). Both my losses were based on errors. In the Swiss one I had my opponent completely locked down with Agonizing Memories and no creatures in play; I made him put a land and Lin-Sivvi on top of his deck, and the turn he played her out, I ran Vampiric Tutor to get my Eradicate… Which wasn’t in the deck. I had no way to directly kill Lin-Sivvi with the amount of mana I had in play and he got a Protection from Black creature and killed me with it.

Obviously I won the next one.

Eventual Champion Sayan Bhattacharyya beat me in the Top 4 at a point when we didn’t yet have Stromgald Cabal. Stromgald Cabal (main deck) put our Replenish matchup to about 75% (it was about 45/55 in favor of Replenish at Regionals)… I messed up on an Unmask and Sayan beat me after 100 turns of do-nothing (hiding behind Circle of Protection: Black).

After qualifying at Regionals, I hooked up with Jon Finkel and the OMS brothers for US Naitonals testing, and we did exactly one session of Standard. I brought my Black deck and Jon and Chris Pikula played 3-4 different decks against me. We were a slight dog to Blue but beat every other deck by a margin of 70% or greater; as he does, Jon said it would be pointless to play any other decks and thus elected to prepare exclusively for Limited.

Jon won the Limited portion of Nationals that year, famously beating Mageta, the Lion with a “mere” Wandering Eye.

Pro Tip: If you give Jon Finkel perfect information, he will beat you, even if you have an unlimited number of Wrath of Gods.

The Pedigree
Jon used Napster to win the 2000 US National Championship, including one of the most lopsided finals matches of all time (versus Chris Benafel). Benafel was thought to have the dominant matchup with Mono-Red land destruction, but Jon beat him 3-0, after beating him badly in the Swiss as well.

Here was a typical Finkel opening draw against the Mono-Red deck:

Dark Ritual,
Dark Ritual,
Dark Ritual,
Skittering Horror

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Red had no Lightning Bolt at the time.
  2. Jon’s play on turn two was a Rishadan Port

This leads us reasonably-ish into…

The Plans
Napster did lots of different things well, but the main awesome sauce was its twofold dominance as a Vampiric Tutor deck and a Yawgmoth’s Will deck. Unless the opponent was playing a Morphling deck, you could pretty much just play Vampiric Tutor and win the next turn. The game might not be over, but the opponent would be more-or-less incapable of winning.

For example, you could play Vampiric Tutor for Engineered Plague against Elves. Could they win? Maybe. But not before you killed them with Thrashing Wumpus and Skittering-something.

You could get Stromgald Cabal (tap to counter a White spell), and a Replenish deck would need eight mana before it could do anything productive. Zvi, Sayan, and Don Lim eventually figured out to play Ring of Gix to tap Stromgald Cabal, but up until that point, it was a pretty firm soft lock.

All the decks in the format would fold to some kind of Vampiric Tutor. Frank Hernandez (Jon’s Top 8 opponent at Nationals) complained that his StOmPy deck was up against “nine Perishes” in Game One… As above, Jon had more Perish action in his sideboard.

Yawgmoth’s Will is maybe the most powerful Magic card of all time… and they let us play four. No, I don’t know why more people didn’t play it. In Napster the routes to card advantage should be pretty obvious (smash guys, re-buy creature removal), but when you start doing stuff like using your Dust Bowl so you can re-buy a land, plus popping Vampiric Tutor from the graveyard to get your next Yawgmoth’s Will… The deck was easy to win with at 25% efficiency (again, Vampiric Tutor auto-beat almost every deck)… But there was significant room for mastery.

Subtly, Unmask (a Black pitch spell) was there to help you get rid of cards like Perish when off-matchup.

… And that’s about it.

I could write about Napster, um, forever, but I’ll leave it at that. Basically a deck with potentially fast threats (turn one 5/5), more card advantage than anyone else (Yawgmoth’s Will), and the ability to beat almost any deck with one spell.

I leave you with some sketches I did of the King of Atlantis yesterday:




Coming Soon:
“The Now-Famous Supermodel NipSlip Incident of 1995” (and associated shenanigans)

Complete Innistrad Review (and other housekeeping)

Somewhat Fake-tacular (though, for those who haven’t consumed DI, DI-content-filled) update today.

At the end of last week I did essentially a FULL REVIEW OF INNISTRAD (more or less every card, more or less)… Over at Top 8 Magic with the Pro Tour Historian Brian David-Marshall.

So if you haven’t downloaded the five parts (one for each color, with goofball stuff bundled into Red), hop on over to the first-ish [and still best!] Magic podcast’s home for all of that jazz. Warning: I don’t know if BDM and I actually understand / understood how Tree of Redemption works… But it’s all a riot anyway / five hours or so of good-natured awesome sauce over there:

Local Awesome Sauce

You may have noticed that we went from “not updating for months” to “updating more or less every day” (more or less) over the last week or two [yes, I took the weekend off]. So for those of you who missed what went on last week, here are some helpful helpings:

You Make the Play is (historically, analytics-wise) the most popular kind of update I do on Five With Flores, and this one was pretty hip, too. Expect an article-length, relatively in-depth follow up on that one tomorrow-ish. You can still weigh in on the Facebook Social Plugin (or comments) here.

Speaking of the Facebook Social Plugin, no idea what is going on there so far. It seems like it splits into Parallel Lives and creates two different comments sequences for each post. No idea why the heck it does that, but it is making me turn green, rip my purple pants, jump 40 miles at a time towards New Mexico, etc.

(please bear with us)

Technology 🙁

Last thing… NEW DECK LIST

2 Batterskull
2 Spellskite
4 Sword of Feast and Famine

3 Dismember

2 Consecrated Sphinx
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Mana Leak
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Twisted Image

23 Island

Pretty surprised we didn’t get any Firestarter on the Snapcaster Mage deck I PS’d into the end of last Friday’s update. Here it is again:

Thanks for visiting!