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All About Tainted Strike


Tainted Strike :: Kiln Fiend :: Fog
Consistency :: Making People Hate You :: … and Tainted Strike

So last month on Twitter, William Bloodworth asked…

This got me thinking… What the!?! Is this possibly a real strategy? I would certainly strangle anyone who killed me with Poison on the third turn!

Let’s look at it simple math style. You play a second turn Kiln Fiend. I am known to love a Kiln Fiend; I played it in my sideboard at US Nationals as insurance against Relic of Progenitus (and a threat in the mirror should be opponent sideboard the opposite direction that I did). Anyway, you play a second turn Kiln Fiend. He is 1/2 to start.

Then on your third turn, you play this:

Tainted Strike

The Kiln Fiend gets big[ger] when you play this Black instant. Kiln Fiend‘s stats jump up to 4/2, and with the Tainted Strike, you are up to 5/2 Infect. Is that worth half the opponent’s “life”? The answer is, more or less.

I think William’s theory is that with a little more Kiln Fiend nudging you can get the full on “kill ya” … I did in the neighborhood of 10 damage with my Kiln Fiends multiple times at US Nationals. If you accomplish the same on the third turn in Standard — while the Kiln Fiend has Infect — then the opponent should be dead on the spot.

My gut reaction is that while this might be cool, I wouldn’t build in this direction.

That is not to say that I don’t at least somewhat respect a Poison kill, just that I don’t think that this is the best way to either kill someone with Poison or break a Kiln Fiend on the third turn. Just as a very simple counter-example, consider Gerry Thompson’s “All-in On Assault Strobe” Red Deck (this is a build that Brian Siu used to mise the New Hampshire State Championships this year… congrats Brian):

3 Panic Spellbomb

4 Assault Strobe
2 Burst Lightning
4 Goblin Guide
2 Kargan Dragonlord
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Mark of Mutiny
4 Plated Geopede
3 Searing Blaze
4 Zektar Shrine Expedition

4 Arid Mesa
10 Mountain
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Smoldering Spires
2 Teetering Peaks

2 Brittle Effigy
3 Arc Trail
2 Kargan Dragonlord
4 Koth of the Hammer
2 Mark of Mutiny
1 Searing Blaze
1 Teetering Peaks

This deck has a similar opening with Kiln Fiend (or for that matter, Plated Geopede).

Turn two Kiln Fiend.

Turn three Assault Strobe; Kiln Fiend goes up to 4/2… Deals 8 damage in combat. Of course Assault Strobe only costs one mana, so you can presumably load up a Burst Lightning and a Lightning Bolt (five damage) to bring Kiln Fiend‘s stats up to the full lethal.

It should be fairly obvious at this point that the Assault Strobe route is better than the Tainted Strike route for purposes of consistency. Tainted Strike might be almost as nice, but — besides being in a second color (which Assault Strobe is not) — you have the issue of splitting damage v. Infect / Poison. The last thing you want to be doing when you are playing an aggressive strategy with no real way to regulate your early game draws is to split your attack orientation. Half 20/20 lands and half Thopter / Sword combo is fine for a Blue deck with a ton of libray manipulation, but a Red Deck subject to its opening seven (with no Jace, the Mind Sculptor on the squad)? Tained Strike is just less desirable here.

This isn’t to say we are going to stop talking about Tainted Strike.

No, I don’t know that Tainted Strike is necessarily the route you want to take to turn three Kiln Fiend kill-ville. But the card itself is actually fairly interesting. For one thing, it costs only one mana, yet has a potentially profound effect on the game. For another, it’s in Black. You might expect Blue to do something clever and potential frustrating or confusing for one mana… But Black?

Think about Tainted Strike in Limited, defensively.

What happens when your opponent’s big burly Green creature is cruising in for the kill? Tainted Strike, of course!

You can point Tainted Strike at your opponent’s Big Bad, save essentially all that damage (just convert it to poison… probably not lethal), and maybe cruise back with a lethal Alpha Strike. Might not be front line material, but it will probably be the kind of thing that is situationally rewarding. Like “It’s a good thing I read that Five With Flores blog post on Tainted Strike… Otherwise I wouldn’t have realized my ‘Giant Growth‘ was capable of saving the draft!” You know, something like that.

Overall, I don’t think Tainted Strike is a Constructed-caliber card. Even as a Limited card it may be niche (and possibly for similar reasons); the idea that you need a card to switch the offensive power of a creature to conform to a sub-theme… Let’s just say it is probably the sign of a designer at odds with himself, and his cards.


Memoricide for the Win! (literally)

The last time Memoricide was legal for the State Championships we called it Cranial Extraction; you may recall a certain b/U Control deck that did well at New York States that year… But enough about me 🙂

This is a short post about Nick Spagnolo’s more modern B/U Elixir deck… And as I intimated in this week’s TCGPlayer column,  I lost to Nick in the second round of the New York State Championship this year.

I probably screwed up all different ways in Game One (for example I could have played my Archive Traps in response to his Trinket Mage instead of giggling like a school girl, prompting Nick to get his main-deck Elixir of Immortality)… But his win over my It! Girl! Pyromancer Ascension was more than legitimate.

Not settling for just grabbing that main deck Elixir of Immortality with So Big Trinks, Nick also had main deck Memoricide.

Despite screwing around and being out-classed by Nick’s main deck one mana artifact in the first few turns, I was able to set up Pyromancer Ascension and defend it from his Into the Roil. This put me in a good card advantage situation, and I was drawing 2-3 cards per turn for the next several. The Elixir of Immortality re-bought Nick’s Memoricide, and he pointed it at Call to Mind. Either Call to Mind or Lightning Bolt was fine. I lost with essentially no ways left to win.

Anyway, I didn’t know it at the time that I filmed this, but Nick would go on to win States himself. This is a video that I will have in Top Decks this Thursday; but as these things go, I have to have them up ahead of time to, you know, embed them in ye olde articles… So here’s a sneak Peek. Enjoy!

Nick’s B/U Elixir deck:

1 Brittle Effigy
1 Elixir of Immortality
2 Everflowing Chalice

1 Consuming Vapors
1 Disfigure
3 Doom Blade
1 Grave Titan
1 Memoricide

3 Frost Titan
2 Into the Roil
2 Jace Beleren
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Mana Leak
1 Negate
4 Preordain
1 Stoic Rebuttal
3 Trinket Mage

4 Creeping Tar Pit
2 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
6 Island
2 Misty Rainforest
3 Swamp
3 Tectonic Edge
1 Verdant Catacombs

1 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Disfigure
1 Doom Blade
2 Memoricide
1 Dispel
3 Flashfreeze
1 Jace Beleren
2 Negate
2 Spell Pierce

Great job, Nick! Hope you guys like this Peek into the near future.


Getting the Most Out of Mystifying Maze

This week on TCGPlayer I presented Seven Traits of The Best Deck. If you haven’t read it, you should. I know I have a tendency to toot my own horn at times, but I quite liked this one:
Seven Traits of The Best Deck

Tim Landale recently got the most out of Mystifying Maze

Per usual (for me lately… apparently I am getting old), I have more and more to say about even the topics that spawn 3,000+ word full-length articles.

Luckily I have a highly trafficked and much-beloved blog with which I can expand and expound (as opposed to my not-yet-highly-trafficked, if even more beloved blog http://FloresRewards.com).

Today I am going to talk a bit [more] about point 3, “They Get the Most Out of Their Mana”.

One thing to remember when working on a mana base is that lands are a double-edged sword. Yes, you ultimately want consistent lands that come into play untapped and produce the colors you need to, you know, help you present that unbeatable opening hand. But in addition, lands can be a very low-cost source of additional value, particularly in one-color decks.

Back at the end of the 1990s, at the World Championships, seemingly all the successful decks were one color. Why? They let us play Wasteland. And the next year, they let us play Rishadan Port! All these lands are good examples of:

  1. How one-color decks could be successful by playing such “colorless” lands (you could add a tool to manascrew your opponent without overly disrupting your own mana base), and
  2. Why one-color decks did so much better than multicolor decks (the multicolored decks were getting their splashes, off-colors, and even first big plays pre-empted and screwed by the damn Wastelands and Rishadan Ports!)

I am a big believer in maximizing the consistency of the mana base in terms of performing what I want, when I want… With “when I want” defined as “immediately.” To with, when Kamigawa Block was legal, like all my decks that were two or more colors played four copies of Tendo Ice Bridge. If you needed a color — any color — and you needed it now, there was no better land than Tendo Ice Bridge (especially since so many of my teams were built with four copies of Meloku the Clouded Mirror).

Here are some then-and-now examples of how some of the best decks (though in these cases, the second best decks, both times) made subtle changes to existing mana bases to gain value:

Kuroda-style Red, Josh Ravitz

1 Swamp
15 Mountain
4 Tendo Ice Bridge
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Pulse of the Forge
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Magma Jet
3 Beacon of Destruction
4 Wayfarer’s Bauble
4 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Shrapnel Blast
4 Arc-Slogger
4 Molten Rain
1 Sowing Salt

3 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
3 Cranial Extraction
4 Culling Scales
4 Fireball
1 Sowing Salt

… There’s that Tendo Ice Bridge again!

Tendo Ice Bridge was an addition over the straight Red version we played at Regionals (where my sideboard was:

4 Culling Scales
3 Fireball
1 Hidetsugu’s Second Rite
2 Sowing Salt
4 Unforge
1 Stalking Stones

That sideboard of course had elements of one of the best sideboards of all time, but was not the true work of poetry that Josh used to eventually battle to the Top 8 of US Nationals.

I am just going to pause for a second to think about how great Josh’s sideboard was. It was clearly one of the best sidebaords I ever built, but more than that, was probably one of the best sideboards of all time.

I mean we were able to fit both a full transformation and a solid repositioning in those fifteen cards!

For purposes of this blog post, the etra value came from just running Tendo Ice Bridge. In a de facto one color deck, Tendo Ice Bridge was free. It came into play untapped, it tapped for Red if you needed it to… But along with the one Swamp (and eight artifact searchers), Tendo Ice Bridge allowed Kuroda-style Red to flatten Tooth and Nail with Cranial Extraction.

Any guesses on what we would name?

Eldrazi Ramp, Tim Landale

2 Cultivate
4 Eldrazi Temple
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
2 Everflowing Chalice
4 Explore
1 Eye of Ugin
11 Forest
4 Growth Spasm
4 Joraga Treespeaker
4 Khalni Garden
1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
2 Mystifying Maze
4 Overgrown Battlement
4 Primeval Titan
4 Summoning Trap
4 Tectonic Edge
1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
3 Wurmcoil Engine
2 All Is Dust
1 Eye of Ugin
2 Nature’s Claim
3 Obstinate Baloth
2 Pelakka Wurm
4 Terastodon
1 Wurmcoil Engine

For those of you who want me to use more recent deck lists, here is one from just last weekend.

The one thing I was really impressed with talking to Tim at the $5K was his use of two Mystifying Mazes. Some mono-Green players didn’t use it at all!

Tim talked about how it was good quite often and they added a second copy because it was so low cost (there is that “one color deck” bonus again)… He recounted that even with his Eye of Ugin stripped, he was able to win a race with a single Primeval Titan purely because he played two copies of the mighty Eye.

Tim’s mana in general was extremely impressive, though. One thing that struck me was his play of Growth Spasm, cutting darling Cultivate (he said he might cut them all if he had it over again). Growth Spasm gets you to a faster Primeval Titan than Cultivate, and he focused getting the most out of his mana on getting the most powerful card, most quickly.

Like I said, impressive.

You’ve probably already seen this, but here is a video that I (with BDM) did with Tim a couple of days ago. If you haven’t already seen it, it was at least nominally done for Top Decks, but I have to have all these ducks lined up ahead of time in order to submit them to the mother ship. Enjoy!


Joraga Treespeaker / Don’t Try This At Home


Joraga Treespeaker :: Scars of Mirrodin :: Not Testing
Really, Not Testing :: Not Testing at All With, You Know, Scars of Mirrodin :: … and Joraga Treespeaker

I came up with a pretty spectacular strategy for Scars of Mirrodin Standard.

And by “I” I mean Brian David-Marshall came up with it. Well, he came up with a card idea and I ran with it. “The Champ” Andre Coimbra started brainstorming with us, but elements all conspired to my deciding to abandon it for this weekend’s TCGPlayer 5K in New York.

First of all, none of the lists I came up with had the right number of “4” … Lots of “2” … Which means garbage. With no metagame to test and no very good frame of reference with, you know, no metagame so far… I… Did I mention “garbage” yet?

Second of all, Andre pointed out to me that the reason Naya Lightsaber was the best was that all the cards were awesome and even though they worked well together, none of them were over-reliant on any others. He pointed out that even if I (and by “I” I mean BDM) were right about the new format, we were highly reliant on a card that was at this point completely unproven.

So I decided to counter-brew.

And by counter-brew I don’t mean Counterspell but rather turning back the clock. I basically cribbed two or three different Zvi Mowshowitz lists and came up with this:

Zvi Zvi Wannabe (dot dec)

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Joraga Treespeaker (there he is!)
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Primeval Titan
2 Rampaging Baloths
4 Summoning Trap

4 Baneslayer Angel
3 Iona, Shield of Emeria

1 Arid Mesa
5 Forest
3 Misty Rainforest
3 Plains
4 Stirring Wildwood
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Tectonic Edge
3 Verdant Catacombs

4 Nature’s Claim
4 Obstinate Baloth
3 Celestial Purge
4 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

The “unique element” of this deck is obviously Joraga Treespeaker.

Joraga Treespeaker

The shell is a 16-accelerator mold in the vein of Zvi’s Amsterdam deck.

There are lots of different cards you can use for the last four accelerators… In Amsterdam the Team Mythic-2 crew played Nest Invader. However that version played Windbrisk Heights, so the extra weenie was worth it to help set off the powerful Hideaway land. In Standard Joraga Treespeaker just helps hook up the fastest ramp deck in the room. You probably know from Conrad Kolos’s US Nationals tournament reports that Joraga Treespeaker was his way of breaking serve in the mirror… The accelerators in this deck are twice as fast as those in a mono-Green Eldrazi Ramp deck, so you can go off slightly faster, even if the deck in total is less powerful than the Eldrazi Ramp end game.

Tom Martell asked me why I would rather play a Baneslayer Angel than Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre… In addition to being slightly faster than a more common Ramp deck, I think this deck has a better chance against RDW. As you can see, half my sideboard is devoted to the devotees of Goblin Guide.

I was inspired by how good I found Joshua Utter-Leyton’s no-Fauna Shaman deck, the best of the pre-Scars of Mirrodin Standard decks. The notion of playing full-on Bant without Knight of the Reliquary was frightening. So it was U/G or G/W.

G/W tested a lot better.

I don’t want to Jinx myself but I tested tonight and won five straight matchups. All my opponent’s decks were jazzed with Bloodbraid Elf or full-on Howling Mine + Temple Bell + Font of Mythos combo kills… I even beat the Red Deck 2-0! Just, you know, didn’t die 🙂

So this is basically terrible testing; and probably all the testing I am going to do for this tournament. I am super busy writing this week (I don’t even know how I pulled back the time to write this blog post to be honest), and as you know, except in rare events when I am hanging out / preparing with my IRL friends, the days off all-Sunday playtesting-while-babysitting for the Apprentice Program largely evaporated with the coming of Clark. So 99% of my playtesting these days comes on Magic Online… And as awful as the testing for this one was, I feel like the entire Alara Block + M10 has to be more powerful than just Scars of Mirrodin.

I think the deck must be pretty self-explanatory, but I will talk about one other card you may not have anticipated: Rampaging Baloths.

I feel like this guy is a monster, and I chose to play it over Sun Titan. Sun Titan is okay, but nothing spectacular in this deck, unless you are looping Tectonic Edges. That just isn’t consistent enough in my estimation.

That’s it!

If anyone has any comments on the mana base in particular, you know where the comments go.

Firestarter: What should I cut, if anything, for Bojuka Bog?


Primeval Titan Changes Everything


Primeval Titan :: Tournament Performance :: Joraga Treespeaker
Zvi Mowshowitz :: Conrad Kolos :: … and Primeval Titan

Primeval Titan

So the third deck I played around with coming back from US Nationals was a variation on Mono-Green Eldrazi Ramp as played by Conrad Kolos.

This is the deck list I played with:

Modified Conrad Green

4 Everflowing Chalice

4 All is Dust
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
2 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

1 Ancient Stirrings
4 Cultivate
4 Explore
4 Joraga Treespeaker
1 Obstinate Baloth
4 Primeval Titan
4 Summoning Trap
1 Terastodon

4 Eldrazi Temple
2 Eye of Ugin
13 Forest
2 Khalni Garden
1 Mystifying Maze
3 Tectonic Edge

4 Relic of Progenitus
2 Autumn’s Veil
1 Back to Nature
2 Fog
1 Nature’s Claim
3 Obstinate Baloth
2 Pelakka Wurm

The main difference between the deck that I played and the one that Conrad used to make the US National Team is the presence of Joraga Treespeaker in the main. If you don’t know the story, I was lamenting the randomness of Ramp mirrors. It seemed that if one player got two accelerators and the other only one, then the one with two would always win. It had very little to do with play skill.

Zvi chuckled.

“Why don’t they just play Birds of Paradise?” he asked.

I was pretty confused. I wasn’t really questioning the master of mana acceleration when I asked why they would want to play Birds of Paradise.

“If the limiting factor is acceleration, why not add a kind of acceleration that not only can they not interact with (the Valakut decks are going to take out their Lightning Bolts, which don’t do anything), but that can allow you to break serve? I mean you will be able to play Cultivate on the second turn!”

For that matter, why not play Joraga Treespeaker?

I ended up having dinner with Conrad the night before Nationals and told him about breaking serve with Joraga Treespeaker. He went crazy and added it to his sideboard as a “Sol Ring”. I didn’t take credit for the one drop tech for very long, and quickly owned up that I had gotten the idea from Zvi. Anyway, Joraga Treespeaker ended up being an All-Star for Conrad and he mentioned to me after the tournament he would consider playing it main deck, over the weaker cards.

I quickly evaluated that I wanted all four copies of All Is Dust, and Conrad told me he wanted another Fog given how half the decks in the metagame only attack. So that’s how I came to the above deck list.

Conrad explained how even though the Mono-Green deck is weaker than the Valakut Ramp decks in terms of being Primeval Titan decks, it is a stronger Summoning Trap deck. Watching him play over the course of the National Championships, I could see how strategically he played the deck. He used the Primeval Titan as a toolbox rather than just a mallet. Defensive Primeval Titan; grinding Primeval Titan; Mjolnir-to-the-skull Primeval Titan, too, make no mistake… But more than the superficial superstar.

So how did I do?

Unfortunately, the Mono-Green Ramp deck did not perform as well as the other decks I liked this run.

I played it in eight MTGO queues (the last four being just tonight), and went 1-7.


  • Valakut Ramp, Lost; -8 Points
  • Naya Fauna Shaman, Won; +9 Points
  • Terrible Red Deck, Lost; -9 Points
  • Jund, Lost; -6 Points
  • Mono-Green Ramp (mirror), Lost; -7 Points
  • Soul Sisters, Lost; -8 Points
  • Soul Sisters, Lost; -7 Points
  • U/G Eldrazi Monument, Lost; -6 Points

The matches had varying degrees of eventful-ness.

The Mono-Green mirror was basically an abombination. I had a Joraga Treespeaker in my opener in the first, but my only Green source was Khalni Garden, so I ended up way off curve. He was on the play anyway and drew multiple awesome threats; I had a Primeval Titan but was way behind to his better acceleration draw-into-Primeval Titan and opted for a Hail Mary Summoning Trap to try to mug the Titan and get back in the game.

Like clockwork I got Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre.

Of course he just drew his Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre and got full value along with the Legendary deuce.

He also just drew Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, which went very well with all the lands his Primeval Titan had gotten him 🙂

In the second game I ramped to third turn Summoning Trap… and whiffed. Just that kind of match.

I felt like Soul Sisters should be a good matchup. The first match I lost to a mis-click, but the deck just never came out for me. I was always just a little bit shy in both matches. Other than the mis-click I felt like I was managing my resources correctly but the dominoes just didn’t line up. For instance over the three games of the first match I never saw even one All Is Dust; in the second I drew all four All Is Dust in Game One and two in Game Two (sadly a mulligan to five)… but stalled just under its cost both times around (Soul Sisters seems pretty soft to All Is Dust).

I guess that is just the problem with Ramp decks in general. Your cards are so expensive that you can lose very thin margin games on just getting to an Incredible amount of mana when you need low Amazing, or maybe Monstrous.

The Fogs were good. They bought time against the U/G deck’s Eldrazi Monument and Overrun, but again, I was just shy of what I needed cards and mana-wise.

Of course it could just be me.

Before finishing this blog post I decided to play a round with Joshua Utter-Leyton’s Mythic Conscription deck (my MTGO file for that deck is “Utter Beatings”). In the first game I played Noble Hierarch; Lotus Cobra + Noble Hierarch; third turn kill. He got the first Linvala, Keeper of Silence in Game Two, and by the time I played mine he had already disrupted me enough with his Cunning Sparkmage that I couldn’t Recover. With one or two more mana I would have flat-out won, but he had two Fauna Shamans running, after all; in the third, I played a Noble Hierarch into a Knight of the Reliquary; into third turn Linvala; into Elspeth, Knight-Errant.

You know, average draw.

Or… Nope, not just me.

This isn’t an indictment of Primeval Titan; that card is a game changer that allowed the Green decks to build in a less profligate fashion. But I don’t really know what to say… It hasn’t been performing on the same level as Eldrazi Conscription.


Super Secret Felidar Sovereign


Felidar Sovereign :: Soul Sisters ::Super Secret Felidar Sovereign Mirror Match Tech
Teenage Heartthrobs :: Losing at Magic: The Gathering :: … and Felidar Sovereign

Yesterday we chatted a bit about my post-Nationals enthusiasm RE: Utter-Leyton’s Mythic Conscription deck. However I was very excited and showed interest in three different decks that came out of that tournament. I felt Mythic Conscription was the strongest (especially after playing all of them), but it wasn’t the first I tried.

Teen Heartthrob Gavin Verhey (and my co-conspirator at new project http://FloresRewards.com) sent me his Soul Sisters deck list. As you probably know, Gavin finished Top 32 at US Nationals with Soul Sisters elevating his life total turn after turn… Better yet, he had some sideboard tech for the inevitable, impending, “shiny new deck” mirror matches: Felidar Sovereign.

Shhh… Don’t tell anyone about Felidar Sovereign

“I think you just want to get into the position where you play Sovereign and hold two Brave the Elements. I don’t think you will be able to race very often… but we never tested it.” -Gavin

This is the deck I tested:

Soul Sisters – Gavin Verhey

4 Ajani’s Pridemate
4 Brave the Elements
3 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Kor Firewalker
2 Oblivion Ring
4 Ranger of Eos
4 Serra Ascendant
4 Soul Warden
4 Soul’s Attendant
4 Survival Cache

4 Kabira Crossroads
15 Plains
4 Tectonic Edge

1 Celestial Purge
3 Felidar Sovereign
2 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
4 Luminarch Ascension
2 Oblivion Ring
3 Path to Exile

I cut one Celestial Purge, the Sun Titan, and the War Priest of Thune from Gavin’s original deck list. My reasons were basically that the deck is already hard against Red Deck and Jund (ergo less necessity for Celestial Purge, even if it is better than Oblivion Ring against Pyromancer Ascension); Sun Titan is whatever… I don’t know when I would play it, really; and War Priest of Thune — while a beating in decks that can actually clock Pyromancer — primarily gains value only against monkeybrains when you are presenting a sad 10+ turn clock.

So how did I run?

I played Soul Sisters in eight tournaments over about two days. These were the results:

  • Jund – Won flip, won match; +10 points
  • Mythic Conscription – Lost flip, lost match; -8 points
  • Mythic Conscription (same guy) – lost flip, won match; +8 points
  • G/R – lost flip, lost match; -10 points
  • Naya Fauna Shaman – lost flip, lost match; -8 points
  • RDW – lost flip, won match; +6 points
  • Four-color Ramp – won match; +6 points
  • Jund -lost flip, lost match; -10 points

Basically I ended up dead even, and down a couple of points. I know that MTGO points are not really indicative of anything (heck, they aren’t even public) but I have a personal goal of attaining and maintaining a 1900+ rating on MTGO. I have read this is the rough equivalent of Pro-level execution, and that seems as fine a goal as any… But of course experimentation with decks rather than a single-minded focus to maximize points is at odds with that goal. Clearly my performance with Gavin’s Soul Sisters is nowhere near my post-Nationals performance with Mythic Conscription (or, for that matter, my performance levels with Mono-White Eldrazi, Esper, or Pyromancer Ascension… the decks I liked coming into Nationals).

So what happened?

My opening match with Soul Sisters was a classic case of Exhaustion and profitable trading. My Jund opponent was able to deal with most everything, but I always netted something along the way. Game Two I lost to three Jund Charms (basically a Wrath of God for your guys but not his Putrid Leeches)… but the match in three more or less went according to book.

I split matches with Mythic Conscription (same guy). My only notes for this one are “same guy” in the second row; ha. I remember the second match just trying to Overwhelm him with the grind. Everything I did was more value (generally life) and he had to respect my little Ajani’s Pridemate. Calls could be close but I remained outside of Sovereigns of Lost Alara range… at least most of the time.

The first time around I remember being completely out-classed. Soul Sisters is best of breed when everything is going according to the Cliff’s Notes… Serra Ascendant is Baneslayer Angel; Ajani’s Pridemate is Tarmogoyf; so on, so forth. But when you are one square peg out of a round hole  you can be completely dominated by the Mythic Rares in a Conscription deck. All of his cards represent so much mana, so much incremental cardboard, it can he hard for the little White men to compete.

The G/R deck I wasn’t pleased to lose to; not at all. I was basically manascrewed both games, and he got two if not three Cunning Sparkmages; it’s not like I was planning to roll over to a Nest Invader.

The Naya Fauna Shaman matchup was extremely frustrating. I was again dominated by Cunning Sparkmages in the first game but had Linvala in the subsequent ones. Linvala is a house against a deck that relies heavily on Knight of the Reliquary, Noble Hierarch, &c… Or at least it is supposed to be. In the third game he just had some Knights and drew a ton of dual lands to make them big. The problem was that even though he was locked out of Cunning Sparkmage, he had Basilisk Collar and Knight of the Reliquary was so big he could keep pace with my lifegain. Late in the game he got the Stoneforge Mystic and applied a second Basilisk Collar to a second Knight of the Reliquary and eventually bowled over the so-called “race” we were in, eventually going completely over the top. I don’t know what I could really have done better… My deck was executing, I got my sideboard card, and he still beat me, and with his third-string plan.

The RDW match was probably my favorite of the set. He revealed a Kor Firewalker with Goblin Guide on the second turn and packed on the spot. Moral victory!

No clue how I beat the four-color Ramp deck. His crushed me Game One and also had everything… which is unsurprising four a four-color deck that can cast every super expensive (as in secondary market value) spell. But what can I say? Sometimes Ajani’s Pridemate is just bigger than Primeval Titan. Too bad.

Unfortunately we finished the set with a loss to Jund. This was another case of just being out-classed on power level and card versatility.

Post Script

One of the reasons I was interested in this deck at this stage is that I was looking ahead to the TCGPlayer.com $5K tournaments here in New York City come October. Mythic Conscription is obviously going to lose its current flair with the disappearance of Sovereigns of Lost Alara (though it is possible that a Planeswalker-heavy classic Baneslayer Angel build might be just fine); I was just looking for a way to get a jump on the playtest process.

I failed to win all my good matchups, and even if I stole the Ramp match, I don’t think that I was really well positioned in the queues. For example, I was all excited to run out Felidar Sovereign tech, and… No mirror matches.

If there is one thing that I would note it is that I never felt like I had enough land. Gavin’s deck plays only 23 lands, but when I played against Tom Ross’s build at US Nationals, it always seemed like it had an unending amount of land for a deck so deep in one-drops. Just something to think about: Remember, Conrad Kolos’s deck from the all-Jund Pro Tour had about a billion lands, and still mono-one-drops.

Good luck to my peeps in Amsterdamn; bad luck to not my peeps.


Sovereigns of Lost Alara Update


Sovereigns of Lost Alara :: Keeping Track of the Numbers :: Soul Sisters (kinda)
Mono-Green Ramp (even less) :: #FloresRewards :: … And Sovereigns of Lost Alara

You might not know this about me, but I keep fastidious records on my MTGO tournament play statistics.

That is how I know what decks are good!

So after coming back from US Nationals last week, I was very excited to try out some of the breakout decks from that tournament.

Specifically, I looked at three decks:

  1. Mono-G Ramp, a la new TCGPlayer columnist Conrad Kolos
  2. Soul Sisters – in particular because teen heartthrob Gavin Verhey clued me in on the mirror match sideboarding tech
  3. Mythic Conscription because Utter-Leyton’s deck looked so sick I had to take a personal day at the mere prospect of playing it.

Overall, the most impressive deck of the three was Mythic Conscription. I will detail the other two (less exciting) decks [or my experiences with them, anyway] in blog posts later in the week (probably), but for now I wanted to talk about Utter-Leyton’s Conscription deck.

Sovereigns of Lost Alara is a centerpiece of the Mythic Conscription deck.

Mythic Conscription

2 Eldrazi Conscription

4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Mana Leak

4 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Sovereigns of Lost Alara

4 Birds of Paradise
2 Explore
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Noble Hierarch

3 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

4 Celestial Colonnade
5 Forest
2 Island
1 Marsh Flats
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Plains
1 Sejiri Steppe
3 Stirring Wildwood
3 Verdant Catacombs

2 Jace’s Ingenuity
2 Spell Pierce
2 Obstinate Baloth
4 Celestial Purge
4 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Bojuka Bog

Some Notes:

I wrote a lot of my ideas about this deck in last week’s edition of Top Decks. Those didn’t really change based on my playing the deck. In fact my respect for the version just increased.

Overall I was enchanted my the success of such a no-frills deck. I had been mesmerized by all these Fauna Shamans and Squadron Hawk engines and only one copy of Eldrazi Conscription, loading up on Primeval Titans, and so on. But Utter-Leyton’s deck bucked recent trends, uncompromising in its refusal to, you know, compromise. Great deck, and worthy of the very deserving champion.

The card a lot of people have pointed out in this deck is Explore.

I didn’t really know what to make of it. Yes, there were times when I had a Lotus Cobra followed by a third turn Explore and things went absolutely bananas… But when I was reaching for sideboard slots, this was also always the first card I considered cutting (and to be honest, I won an awful lot of matches with one Explore in my deck!) Sorry, ffej 🙁

Match rundown:

  • Soul Sisters – Won flip, lost match; -9 points
  • R/G Valakut – Won flip, won match; +10 points
  • White Weene (regular, not Soul Sisters) – Won flip, won match +7 points
  • B/G Ramp – Lost flip, won match; +9 points
  • B/G Ramp (same deck) – Lost flip, won match; +8 points
  • Mono-Green Valakut Ramp – Won match; +6 points
  • Mythic Conscription – Won match; +7 points

Overall, 6-1; +38 points

I try to keep track of whether or not I win the flip but I only remember about 2/3 of the time; I don’t know if it is useful to keep track of this if you don’t remember 100% of the time. As you can see over the first seven matches I played with Utter-Leyton’s Mythic Conscription deck I only remembered to record this 5/7 times.

Regardless, the performance was pretty wicked — 6-1 — and the points more than made up for my performance with Soul Sisters, Mono-Green Ramp, et and cetera.

At this point Utter-Leyton’s Mythic Conscription is my best win percentage of any deck over the 166 lines of my spreadsheet for the current Standard format! Huzzah!

A few months ago I wrote about the so-called Danger of Eldazi Conscription. Some paps on Twitter pointed out that the approach I suggested in this blog post might not be optimal for fighting Mythic Conscription decks. For example, given all the Lotus Cobra mana-making gas in a Mythic Conscription deck, it is possible that the opponent might just play an Eldrazi Conscription that he draws.

It has been said that sans Eldrazi Conscription, a Mythic Conscription deck is just a clunky Mythic deck with Sovereigns of Lost Alara instead of more efficient threats like Baneslayer Angel (or Rampaging Baloths).

But when you do get the Conscription combo… it is, as they said back in the 1990s, some good.

I don’t remember how I lost the Soul Sisters matchup… As a Soul Sisters player in different points in the post-Nationals testing process, I did a fair amount of losing to decks with Forest / Noble Hierarch.

Most of the other matchups I won with a combination of card quality, tactically devastating Mana Leaks, Planeswalkers, Sovereigns of Lost Alara, and math.

To wit:

  • Card quality – Have youseen the awesome sauce of cards in this deck? The moron threat is Jace, the Mind Sculptor. A lot of games your opponent is playing clunky style and you are doing three or four different insane things. For example you play out a turn one Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch, a second turn Lotus Cobra, and like 100 things on turn three thanks to Explore and two copies of Misty Rainforest or Verdant Catacombs.
  • Tactically devastati Mana Leaks – I am the kind of magician who runs out a Mana Leak basically whenever I have two mana, but some Mana Leaks are made differently from others. For example you Crash with a small animal after powering out Sovereigns of Lost Alara, but seem otherwise tapped out. Your opponent goes for his Big Play (â„¢) in response and you pop off your Knight of the Reliquary with the best two drop ever printed in play. Oh no, you hear the opponent mouth. That’s right, buddy; you’ve been swindled. Mana Leak.
  • Planeswalkers – I initially found it weird that so many of the threats in this deck are Planeswalkers (I originally considered Jace a non-strategic card that wes mostly good at suppressing opposing copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor), but they were okay. Soldier production on the part of Elspeth, Knight-Errant is a little odd against Soul Sisters, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. That said, it was pretty fun to make my Soul Sisters opponent pick up Ajani’s Pridemate on six consecutive turns, especially as it was always bigger than a 3/3 🙂
  • Sovereigns of Lost Alara – Playing this version of this deck I often felt like Diamond Dallas Page in the late 1990s… Biding my time, looking for my spot, trying to stick my Diamond Cutter. In this deck, your Diamond Cutter is actually connecting with Eldrazi Conscription twice. Like sometimes one big hit will not be enough because you don’t get the Annihilator benefit and they will attack you to death on the bounce back. Or you might think you have an open but you can smell the Path to Exile a mile away. That is when you have to be clever.
  • Math – I found Mythic Conscription to be surprisingly cerebral to play. Yes, there are games when it is reminiscent of Critical Mass. Namely you play the “U/W Control” game of Jace, the Mind Sculptor + Counterspells even better than U/W does because you can get your mainline plan online a turn faster with Birds of Paradise, Lotus Cobra, or Noble Hierarch; that’s kind of fun. But the really rewarding games are the multi-turn offenses, I think. Turbo out Elspeth, Knight-Errant, go to the air for about 4-5 points, set up Sovereigns of Lost Alara + Exalted + Elspeth evasion for a lethal strike the next turn. You know, math.


Mythic Conscription exemplifies the decks of the Tier One metagame. Basically this is all really good cards laced together by some mana acceleration (and some of those cards are themselves really good cards) and Mana Leaks. Therefore who’s the beatdown equations occur a little bit differently than they do in traditional Magic. Whether you are the beatdown or the control is less a matter of what deck you are playing against than the circumstances surrounding the cards you draw. So if you draw Birds of Paradise, Knight of the Reliquary, Lotus Cobra, and Sovereigns of Lost Alara… All things held equal you are probably going to try to cram Sovereigns of Lost Alara down the opponent’s throat, possibly defending with the Knight. If you draw Birds of Paradise, Jace the Mind Sculptor, and Mana Leak, you are probably going to play a “U/W Control” type game… and it doesn’t matter than you were paired against what should nominally be the “control” deck in both cases.

I played against a mess of decks with Primeval Titans. My approach there was largely borrowed from Zvi Mowshowitz. Basically he has a six and I have a six. I can disrupt his ability to accelerate to six… It is a lot harder for him to do the same. If his six hits, I might be annoyed. If my six hits, he gets crushed for 11+ damage in a single turn. If that damage is coming from a Birds of Paradise, it might be tantamount to dying on the spot. Good matchup, as far as I can tell.

The one thing I never got was when to play Jace’s Ingenuity.

As you can see from the tournament statistics, I played against ramp decks a couple of times; I often found myself siding Jace’s Ingenuity in against those, especially when I was going to drop a copy or two of my Planeswalkers. I often felt I’d rather have a 3/2/2 split of Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Jace’s Ingenuity; and Elspeth, Knight-Errant against decks that couldn’t deuce my Planeswalkers with their own copies, but no idea if that plan would be co-signed by the man who took all the names with this deck.

I held back on writing this blog post (my Mythic Conscription matches all took place around 8/26) because of my article on TCGPlayer today. I wrote about how Pyromancer Ascension was the best deck — and gave a lot of really good reasons that I certainly believed in at the time — and didn’t want to conflict with that article before it came out. I still think my Pyromancer Ascension choice was fine (and would probably play my same 75 again), but the solid results from even seven matches with Utter-Leyton’s Mythic Conscription certainly impressed me.


PS – In the unlikely case that you haven’t seen or heard about Flores Rewards, check out this video. I think you will like it 🙂

You can also check out the new Flores Rewards blog at — you guessed it — http://FloresRewards.com!

Just in Time: Obstinate Baloth


Obstinate Baloth ∙ Loxodon Hierarch ∙ Ravenous Baloth
Wilt-Leaf Liege ∙ Dodecapod ∙ … and Obstinate Baloth

So here’s a fun one from M11:

Obstinate Baloth

While it’s not a clear upgrade to any of the staple big bad fours in Green, Obstinate Baloth has the bonus superpower of showing up just as onetime Staple — and for that matter “best card in Standard” — Loxodon Hierarch evaporates from the Extended format. So despite the loss of Ravnica Block, the tradition of an efficient 4/4 Green creature for four mana, that somehow (either coming down or leaving town) can gain four life lives on in Standard and Extended.

As for Standard, I like this card in general. I mean it is an efficient 4/4 creature for four mana. Most of you kids out there probably don’t recall that once upon a time Erhnam Djinn (4/5 with a drawback for four mana) was the most fearsome offensive creature in Standard, and for that matter Nettletooth Djinn (4/4 with a serious drawback for four mana) was played in Pro Tour Top 16 Constructed decks. So as for precedent, it is clearly there already, not a lot of convincing has to go on here.

I like it in particular in Standard.

Right now one of the top “anti-” decks is Red Deck Wins and its cousins (Barely Boros, Devastating Red, and what have you); that deck in particular beats up on U/G Turboland to the point of making Turboland non-viable if there is any expectation of Red Deck Wins.

You probably already know that after Pro Tour San Juan BDM wanted to play a deck based around Lotus Cobra, Oracle of Mul Daya, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor but I objected on the grounds that any of the three parts that make that deck roll fold in embarassing fashion to Lightning Bolt. In order for U/G Turboland to be viable in the format, it needs a nigh-transformative plan for Red Deck Wins… I think that a counter-offense that relies somewhat on Obstinate Baloth is a good start. The card will typically require two non-Flame Slash cards to remove, and the 187 on Obstinate Baloth is the equivalent of two Red cards in counting to begin with.

In a word: Mise.

What about the other application?

I don’t know that you would play the card for just the second ability, but you don’t really have to make that decision. Dave Humpherys once won a Grand Prix with main-deck Dodecapod, but that might have been a special case (Probe, Recoil, Gerrard’s Verdict, and Ravenous Rats were all Staple at the time); we know how good Wilt-Leaf Liege was last year, played everywhere from White Weenie to Doran variants to of course Elves. So the second half is also quite good… Especially in a format that is so friendly towards Blightning.

Seems like this cat (and by “cat” I of course mean “Beast”) would play nicely with our old buddy (and by “old” I mean “new”), Vengevine. Not only is Obstinate Baloth potential fuel, but they are such jolly “I hate Blightning” friends; heck, they even share a mana cost.

Uncontroversial rating here.

Snap Judgment Rating: Staple


The World’s Best Eldrazi Monument

Today Matt Sperling said to me that most Eldrazi Monument decks are basically precon decks…

Until they play the Monument.

Then they bash Bash BASH you, of course. Eldrazi Monument being the frightening motherlover that it is.

Now even though a number of different decks can play Eldrazi Monument — Jund, Vampires, and so on — we most closely associate Eldrazi Monument with Green creatures due to the pre-Worldwake Eldrazi Green decks (you know the ones with Nissa Revane), the Block versions popularized by Team Zvi Mowshowitz or Ben Hayes, and of course the present crop in Standard that float between Block upgrades and G/R Overrun builds.

But the best Eldrazi Monument in my experience is commingled with Bloodghast. Bloodghast is such a great partner; you sacrifice the Vampire on upkeep, play a land to re-buy it, and half the time you are swinging in anyway due to the card’s conditional haste.

For three.

What kind of deck can play this uncanny combination of Eldrazi Monument and Black creatures? Is Monument at its best in the Vampires deck?


In our experience that title belongs to DredgeVine.

Modified Dredgevine

2 Eldrazi Monument
3 Mistvein Borderpost

4 Bloodghast
4 Extractor Demon
2 Grim Discovery
4 Sedraxis Alchemist

4 Enclave Cryptologist
4 Hedron Crab
4 Merfolk Looter
3 Renegade Doppleganger

4 Vengevine

4 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Drowned Catacomb
6 Island
3 Misty Rainforest
3 Scalding Tarn
2 Swamp

Modifications include…
-2 Sphinx of Lost Truths / +2 Grim Discovery (never cast Sphinx)
-1 Ponder +1 Mistvein Borderpost (the main thing you are Pondering for is land)

Now I don’t mean to say that Dredgevine is the best deck ever to play Eldrazi Monument (I think the jury isn’t back on that topic yet)… More that Eldrazi Monument itself is more impressive in this deck with its Bloodghasts and Vengevines than in most other decks. The Bloodghasts come at almost no cost, which is even better than sacrificing a Nissa’s Chosen or Awakening Zone token (which comes at a small cost)… especially as they are so often attacking the same turn anyway.

How does this deck work?

There are a couple of different things going on: you can play more than one game plan.

One game plan starts on Renegade Doppleganger. You can play a Hedron Crab on turn three (doubling up the Doppleganger), then play a Misty Rainforest, and Millstone yourself for twelve cards. You probably have a Vengevine in the bin at this point, so playing a Bloodghast or other two mana (or even one mana) creature will get you a hasty re-buy.

The Doppleganger is also good for doubling up on Vengevine or Extractor Demon for tons of damage out of “nowhere”. It is also just a cheap creature that you can use to set up the Vengevine.

Another game plan is to just start on one of your one drops and hope that it doesn’t get removed… Fill your graveyard and / or improve your hand accordingly. I am often surprised at how often I actually go “Jayemdae Tome” rather than “merely” Jalum Tome on Enclave Cryptologist. There are long games where you actually have to fill up your hand to set up a Vengevine re-buy.

The surprising All-star in this deck is Sedraxis Alchemist. He is a serious over-performer and the key reason I play a third Mistvein Borderpost. You really just want a Blue permanent in case your enablers have all gotten themselves killed.

Now you have probably read my friend Steve Sadin’s article on this deck already.

I don’t actually love it as much as Steve and BDM but I respect it enough to think that the interaction between Bloodghast and Eldrazi Monument is tops in [at least my experience of] Eldrazi Monument interactions. I have actually had serious problems performing with this deck in MTGO tournaments relative to other decks I like (for example decks with Eldrazi Temple in them).

But I wanted to write a blog post on it to frame a match that I recently had with KYT.

KYT refers to “some Japanese deck designer” … Those of you who follow these things know Shimizu was one of the top designers to come out of Japan a few years back, responsible for Solar Flare (aka michaeljBane) as well as Scryb & Force.

I lost Game One principally due to chatting with Jake Van Lunen. Jake had just smashed me and was curious about the DredgeVine list. I missed the fact that KYT could kill me if he had a certain Knight-Errant in grip, and I am pretty sure I would not have cracked that land had I not been engaged with the Sliver Kid Champ.

Anyway, enjoy the vid!


“A Master’s Course in Role Assignment & my weekend with Floresdrazi, inc.” by Benjamin Botts

Ben Botts aka @BottsThoughts has graced us with another guest blog post — this time a great experience with the U/W Eldrazi deck (or as he calls it “Floresdrazi”).

Anyone who wants to check out Ben’s previous contributions to Five should check out:

Thanks Ben!

Third time around the block, and I still find this to be both an honor and a sweet, sweet opportunity to put myself out there.

Once again, I took up the mantle as a steward of Flores’ recent suggested deck list for Standard. And I must say I was not disappointed (How could I be?). I was, however, hesitant but only for a short distance between my trade binder full of Super Friends, U/G Polymorph, Gerry-Naya and other such variants a-waiting to find a home in those exclusive 75 sleeves.
Before I dig into an excerpt of the weekends’ events I will provide the deck list (both MD and SB):

4 Everflowing Chalice
4 Spreading Seas

4 Path to Exile
4 All is Dust
2 Day of judgment
2 Mind Spring

3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Gideon Jura

4 Wall of Omen
2 Sea Gate Oracle
2 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth

6 Island
3 Plains
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Celestial Colonnade
3 Sejiri Refuge
4 Eldrazi Temple
2 Eye of Ugin

1 Jace Beleren
2 Eslpeth, Knight-Errant
2 Day of judgment
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Kor Firewalker
2 Oust

Moving along.

Round 1: Josh, playing Boros Allies

Josh is an awesome guy. I can’t help but have a great time regardless of whether it’s a win or loss.

I won the die roll for Game 1:

Let’s just say I stabilized at 9 life, Swung once with an Ulamog that ate his only Plains when it was cast (So as to not find myself on the fetch a basic side of a PTE) – and he rips the 3rd Lightning Bolt. He pocketed 9 to my dome. And thus was the short end of game 1.

Game 2:

-1 Eye of Ugin, -1 All is Dust, +2 Day of Judgment

He took a horrendously slow hand, and I never looked back. I dropped a Wall, Spread his only Mountain, DoJ’ed the board, Dropped a Gideon, Dropped a Jace, Dropped a Ulamog (That Jace then gladly returned said Ulamog to my hand to simply be recast post combat to eat an opposing Elspeth).

Game3: I kept the sideboard intact sans the post-first game changes.

He did a few cute tricks with his Ally triggers before I resolved back-to-back DoJs then cleared his board on turn seven with a game ending All is Dust … the card is just retarded. I showed my hand full of removal, and my Jace was going up to Ultimate status on my next turn. He graciously extended a handshake.

1-0 (2-1)

Round 2: James, playing SpiritDancerWW(?)

Game 1: I won the die roll

I didn’t see much of his deck. Honestly. He misplayed countless times, and it was sort of a rag on the experience. Example – He played a T2 Spirit Dancer. Then T3 plays a Hyena Umbra on said Dancer then plays another Spirit Dancer which he showed he had in hand BEFORE he played the Umbra. I know it may seem inconsequential but that sort of thing misses a free draw. Also – I don’t think this guy was very conversational. After a number of Walls hit the table alongside my couplet of Sea Gate Oracles to clog his Red Zone attempts I ushered Kozilek out to the table w/ his good friend Ulamog. He quickly scooped to go to game 2 … in which he brought 15 cards in … 15.

-1 All is Dust, -1 Eye of Ugin, -1 Everflowing Chalice, -1 Jace TMS, -1 Kozilek
+2 Oust, +1 DoJ, +2 Elspeth

Game 2:

I Ousted a Spirit Dancer that he failed to attack w/ to break my Wall of Omens down, but instead he seemed content to play 3 Hyena Umbra’s on her so he could draw. He did play 3 Lone Missionaries on me which didn’t hurt my feelings – I just played a DoJ that ended up giving me a dirty look from him (I mean … “you killed a puppy” look). I resolved a Butcher, and he extended his hand after I revealed 2 more All is Dust and a Gideon to fog past his combat phase(s).

I inquired as to what he sided in against me, and he just darted back with a, “If you had played fairly you would’ve seen my Sideboard in the game”.

I took my win without losing any sleep.

2-0 (4-1)

Round 3: CJ, playing WW (w/ Stoneforge tutoring)

CJ won the die roll

Game 1:

CJ opened with a first turn Elite Vanguard. I simply played a tapped Celestial Colonnade. His turn 2 procured a Mystic-Stone Forger fetching up a trusty machete. My turn 2 graciously gave me an Island with which gave me the option to play a 0/4 wall, or accelerate into a turn 3 Sea Gate Oracle with PTE mana left up. Knowing CJ’s deck doesn’t have the potential to run me over before turn 5 I opted to play a Chalice for 1. This ended up being the strongest play for me – I curved into a turn 4 Gideon after ripping said Fog Master off the top of my library. As always Senor Giddy Pants received the obligatory sigh of disapproval from yet another aggro player. It seems to me that Gideon’s first impression left a sour taste across the archetypal landscape. After a DoJ cleared his board of some unwanted creatures I simply set-up further classes on why Flores’ deck just gut checks the aggro match-up.

1-0 me

Knowing CJ doesn’t run a crappy sideboard in case he does run into a Control deck I knew I had sleeved up my Oblivion Rings for a reason (aside from them being FNM promo 4’ofs). I didn’t know exactly what he took out, but I knew he sided in 4 Luminarch Ascensions. Albeit I run All is Dust, but sometimes an early Oblivion Ring can be the needed punch to set-up an All is Dust w/ an Eldrazi to follow foot.

-1 All is Dust, -1 Eye of Ugin, -1 Everflowing Chalice, -1 Kozilek
+2 Oblivion Ring, +2 Elspeth

Game 2:

Sure enough. CJ slams a turn 2 Ascension. I figured he was aiming hard to get one down immediately; seeing as that he decided on a 5 card hand mulligan. Fortunately for me he missed the first counter; which allowed me to play a little loose before setting up an AID on turn 5. I dropped a turn 2 Chalice, which led to a turn 3 Chalice on 2. He was able to activate Ascension for 2 Angels which took me down to 6 before I was able to dig into a turn 7 AID; which came after he played his own O Ring on my Gideon. As is the case he struggled to recover, and Gideon swung with a +3/+3 buff from his Girlfriend Elspeth. Only took 2 swings with Senor Gideon before CJ extended his hand after pulling nothing of consequence.

3-0 (6-1)

Round 4: John L (3-0, 6-2), playing Valakut Combo

We decided to ID the round because there was only 1 other 3-0 at the time. Looking back on this decision now made me realize I should’ve just pushed for the win that round. I hadn’t had any time spent on specific match-ups, and this would’ve been a great chance to cover some ground in respect of researching the inner-workings of said deck on deck play. I must admit though, plenty of people over-look Valakut Combo as a viable deck in this format. It may not be Jund and/or Mythic by any stretch. Hell it isn’t anywhere near the price-tag of Super Friends. But when you can simply say (Or Simply walk into Mordor for that fact), “I dealt 12+ damage with a single Harrow”. Well then you damn well deserve a high five worthy of Flores, let alone anyone else.

3-0-1 (6-1)

Round 5: Bryan W (3-0-1), playing U/W tap-out

Bryan is a good friend of mine, and I asked him how he managed a draw, and he told me it was against another Control deck. They spent 50 minutes of attempting to resolve answers on both sides of the table, and when the time ran down they had 5 turns to figure out how to bore each other a little more.

Needless to say I respect Bryan as a very strong player, and he asked me if I would like to draw. Without fear of being bumped out of any of the top 8 slots I gladly accepted the ID. We then spent that time discussing EDH, and watching various other matches underway for Round 5. You know – Jund v Jund; those exciting matches.


Top 8 – Round 6

Adam M (Playing Jund – traditional build w/ Sarkhan the Mad)

I won the freaking die roll … WWMFD? Fist Pump and smile.

Game 1:

This is where the master’s course in role assignment came into effect. I never take Jund lightly. Nobody should. Until this cancer rotates out of Type 2 you should never shrug off the opportunity to play test against any of the builds (old or new).

I lead off with a turn 2 Spreading Seas on his Savage Lands (note: I have played [them] all tournament – this was the only relevant match-up where I felt it necessary to express, emphatically, when I played one).

Which gave me an Eldrazi. I then played a turn 3 Chalice for 1 leaving PTE mana open in-case he decides to play his Turn 3 Thrinax. No such luck. I met a turn 3 Blightning; which oddly enough made me happy. I didn’t want Kozilek in my hand, neither the Eye of Ugin that was sitting lifeless in my grip as well. So I shipped those two cards off, and gladly took a free shuffle courtesy my opponent’s Blightning. On my turn 4 I had a very serious decision to make: Play my Jace and leave myself naked to a BBE (albeit I could leave 1 mana up for my PTE, but I didn’t want to risk running him out there without absolute assurance of his survival). I opted for a Chalice at 2. This came as the best play looking back. I met a second Blightning which asked me kindly as to which 2 cards I would like to lose. I was staring at:

Jace, Mind Spring, DoJ

I chose to toss the DoJ and Jace. This left me with a prayer on ripping a 5th land for turn 5 – which would give me a Mindspring for 6. I mise’d the land drop, and quickly pushed Mindspring for 6.

He came out strong on his turn 5 – knowing I may have pulled some serious answers to whatever he played. He gave me a BBE which flipped a Ruinblaster; he opted to over-look the Kicker cost, and swung for 5. Which after 2 Blightnings and that left me at a precious 9 – he then chose to bolt me down to 6. So I was now within Bolt/Blightning range. BBE/Bolt~Blightning range. Or any sorts of threats that would call me dead.

I resolved a much needed DoJ w/ Path mana left after I played a post-DoJ Wall of Omens. He played a Thrinax (which met my Path), and passed the turn. I dropped Gideon and immediately rolled him up to perform guard duty. After Adam played his Sarhkan he opted for his first ability … flipping his 2nd Sarhkan. Bad times.

I quickly dropped Kozilek and a Sea Gate Oracle. Which He then asked if we could get on with game 2.

1-0 me (I am both pumped and nervous … Jund is a rough match-up for me)

-2 Jace TMS, -1 All is Dust, -1 Eye of Ugin
+2 Eslpeth, +2 DoJ

He comes out with a turn 2 Trace of Abundance … Which means I am possibly facing a turn 3 BBE, or possibly a Blightning w/ Duress. Any of those combinations would make for a bad day.

I run out a turn 2 Chalice, and pass. Fortunately he does not play any of those. Instead he drops a Prophetic Prism which then cantrip’s him into a Duress. He gladly drops this on me – with which I was able to safely show him a hand full of this:

2 Wall of Omens, 2 Eslpeth, All is Dust

He takes away 1 Elspeth (which makes me wonder if he has a Pulse for her, or if he is hoping to Strip my hand with a Blightning or two).

My turn 3 finds a freshly drawn Land which allows me to set up the board. I lay down both Walls and draw into 2 Lands (made me glad to see this … because Blightning can eat those if I am sufficient on mana)

His turn 4 gladly showed a missed land drop. He played out a pair of Putrid Leeches, and passed. I took advantage of this good fortunae and knowing his shrouded land + lens would give him the colors required sans any Spreading Seas I may draw into/play I still knew the prospect of having a land Spreaded gives your opponent additional mana math to deal w/ while restocking your hand for a probable Blightning. My turn 4 found a Spreading Seas off the top. I laid it down on his Dragonskull Summit. This drew me a 2nd Spreading Seas which then clasped safely on to his Forest. That Spreading Seas, by sheer fortunate, drew me into a Sea Gate Oracle. He managed to squeeze out a Siege-Gang Commander on his 5th turn. Which I gladly dropped my All is Dust on the following turn. Yes I lost my Spreading Seas, but he lost both his lens and Trace – along with his SGC & company. He was able to rebuild while I spent the time doing the same, and preparing myself for the worst of it. He gave me another Blightning as a present, but I was able to use my miser’s copy of Eye of Ugin in response to fetch up an Eldrazi to toss to said BBE > Blightning; which then gave me back my graveyard. Granted he was able to push me down to 2 life over the next 2-3 turns, but I stabilized with 2 back to back Gideons that both died valiantly and for a cause I was hoping wouldn’t have been in vain. I drew into my 1 copy of Jace TMS I left in, which gave me a DoJ and Elspeth with which I gladly shipped back 2 lands and proceeded to drop both, and then make a token. I was on the open-season end of a ripped Bolt, Blightning, BBE into any other haster. But He never managed to pull an out. And I grabbed the game when I resolved an Ulamog and ate his only Raging Ravine that had been played.

Sejiri Refuge = Godsend. That 1 life may seem miniscule. But when it helps you stay above the 6ft under guidelines for shaking hands and giving the GG to another player then you’ll come to respect that little uncommon with generic artwork.

4-0-2 (8-1)

Top 4: Round 7

John T, playing Mythic (Never saw the entire decklist, but it was a Conscrptn/Finest Hour mix)

Game 1: I do not procure the die roll

John T dropped a 1st turn Birds, and I am already mentally bolstering myself for a turn 2 Lotus cobra into a turn 3 Sovereigns, etc, etc. He does stick his turn 2 Lotus Cobra, which gives him a second Cobra to follow foot. On my turn 2 I opt to not play a single spell (I had 2 untapped lands, one having been my turn 1 Sejiri Refuge putting me up to 21 … w/ 2 PTE’s gripped I was ready to pray and slay). On his 3rd turn that’s when I watched as he laid down a Fetch Land (cracked it netting him 4 free mana), tapped for a 5th in the pool – tapped the birds and the 2 other lands for a grand total of 8 mana. I watched as he Dropped Finest Hour and 2 Noble Hierarchs. I started doing the math in my head.

+3 Exalted triggers for the first Combat on a Lone Lotus Cobra then receiving another set of +3 for the next combat phase. I waited for him to announce combat. I dropped a Path, one for each Lotus. Looking at that play I had just given him 8 mana on turn 4. My turn 3 showed me a Wall of Omens and a Path off the cantrip. I passed the turn. John T smiled. I figured he was pocketing a Negate for this moment. I was wrong – he went greedy, and played a BS Angel, and nothing else. He swung in with an Exalted Noble.

My turn 4 showed DoJ. I threw an obligatory Fist Pump and tapped out for the answer. He had all but spent his hand in the early turns, and never drew into any PW’s or any other severe threats (Which honestly I don’t think he was playing any, and if he were I never saw them, nor did he ever talk about it). I dodged a bullet on that one – because I hate seeing Sovereigns just sit there, and point their puffy cloudy fingers at you as they give way to smashing your face.

Game 2:

-1 Eye of Ugin, -2 All is Dust, -2 Sea Gate Oracle, -1 Chalice
+2 Oust, +2 Oblivion Ring, +2 DoJ

Turn 1: Noble. Me? Land. Turn 2: Lotus Cobra with a cracked fetch dropping a KotR. Me? Turn 2 I played a wall of Omens, which then led me to a turn 3 O Ring on his turn 3 Finest Hour after my Wall had soaked up a good chunk of damage from an Exalted and beastly KotR before allowing me to take 5 off the exalted triggers. Turn 4 gave me an Oust on his Lotus Cobra and a Chalice set for 1, and 1 land left open to bluff a PTE. I proceeded to run a clinic on my opponent. I was able to stabilize with a Jace spending his loyalty counters bouncing a Lotus Cobra and eventually after Gideon showed himself table side I was able to DoJ the table a couple more times while letting Gideon get in there. After I showed an Ulamog and Kozilek in my hands, and with John T at an unfortunate disadvantage due to multiple board wipes he extended his hand and congratulated me on the win.

Top 2: Round 8

Adam Uhler (6-1), playing Mythic (sans Conscription build – more Kibler’s list)

We chose to split 44 packs between the two of us (Because quite frankly it was 1:47 am, and he wanted to go out and hash with his friends. And my girlfriend was ready to go.)

He gave me the win so I ended the night with a 6-0-2 match record overall, and we had it written up as a 2-1 in my favor.

I personally went 5-0-2 match play with 10-1 as my games played record.

All in all I was fortunate to play another one of Flores’ lists. I always enjoy the challenge, and I won’t lie – I almost Blue 42’ed back to my Super Friends. But once I had already publicly spoken via Twitter and FB that I was going to give Mike’s deck a run for its money I couldn’t back down and chance looking like a pansy for not remembering what a tree branch feels like.

This deck is a serious reminder as to, “Who is the Beatdown?”*

And as with his previous King Hulk list you must obey this rule first and foremost.

It is not a suggestion.

Because suggestions end up in bargain bins and yard sales.

As always here’s to hoping you stayed awake for the entire read.

I am always open for criticism and advice. I am learning to write better tournament reports/articles. So any advice on how to approach match-play breakdown and/or any statistical research to better my craft would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks again, Mike Flores, and you his viewers for the time and space allotted.


Benjamin David

For Reference:

Who’s the Beatdown? by Michael Flores
The Danger of Cool Things by Chad Ellis