A metagame that is dominated by one archetype may seem like a living hell for many of us. The prices of the staples composing it increase, innovations are often stifled and countless playtesting hours to overturn the boogeyman usually just result in the creation of tier 2 decks. A number of articles are being written discussing slight variations and 3-card differences from the stock list as means to gain an edge. We are in that kind of situation right now with Cawblade and I was perhaps surprisingly excited the other week when the decklist started to add one Into the Roil maindeck, which is the kind of refreshing changes you expect to get in that metagame. This article will not be a moaning exercise on why it is a shame that the metagame is dominated in such a way, nor will it be a call to arms to ban Jace The Mind Sculptor, like I have read from many others.
Despite an almost unprecedented period of domination in the metagame, it may surprise you to know that, to me, Cawblade does not seem to me to be such an unfair deck. It does not kill very fast, it comes in different versions, and there are many angles of attack against it. As I do not have an important standard tournament before the new set, I can only pray that in New Phyrexia some new tools are available to upset the Caw rule. Current tier 2 decks are often only a few cards away from attaining tier 1 status (the best example of this may indeed be from Mirrodin Besieged, which made Caw-go transform into Caw-blade; a solid deck into the powerhouse it is today).
Anyway, as the title says, this article is not about Cawblade, and instead of providing another metagame analysis, I am going to write about something more fundamental: deck preference and why, oh why, you should not always play what seems to be the best deck. As far as I remember I always entertained some romantic sympathy for the underdog, the little guy, who, despite the odds and its extreme plight, managed through tenacity and sheer courage to survive the challenge and emerge victorious. Not that it seems to be the most rational or logical choice (except in movies), but it is often the most appealing.
Why join the boogeyman, or the Empire, when you can fight it with new and unexpected weapons, and maybe, find the secret flaw in their Death Star and blow it up. I mean, it is tempting to join forces with the rebels and go rogue in the hope of punishing the school of sharks that tend to, without much deliberation, join the club of the best deck players. Opting for Necropotence during the Necropotence winter was the first time I refused, years, or I should say eons ago, to join the flock and just play the best deck. Call it a trace of my adolescent rebellion and your interpretation would be not too far off. Affinity was the best deck until it got banned in Mirrodin, and it dominated its metagame. A bit later on, Faeries did the same. And who could forget Jund and its usual Bloodbraid Elf-into-Blightning shenanigans.
A lot of excellent and clever people do not hesitate and just join the club and embrace the dark force of conformity, and it is probably the most rational behaviour, but I always felt some reluctance, which explains my sometimes successful, sometimes disastrous choices for tournament decks. When everybody started to jump on the Caw wagon, I started immediately to look at ways to hate the deck, which is, as we all know now, something really hard to do when the deck is played by a competent player. Chapin, in an article a few weeks ago, used the title “I fought the Caw, and the Caw won,” and that happened to quite a few of my old friends, who could not resist, despite their usually strong character, the Caw wave. When the Tezzeret mastermind and, let’s say it, pater familias, leaves the boat and switches to Cawblade, you know the deck is the real thing and you can only shudder at the thought of displacing it.
As I said many times, I did not want to talk about Cawblade, but the metagame is in such a sad state that, perhaps for therapeutic reasons, I needed to get it out there in the open; to share my pain with fellow rogue-lovers and tier 2 people. All is not lost, however, and we may get some breathing room in a few weeks, at an event which has been my favourite time of the year; the time when a new set is out and new possibilities suddenly open up and that there is a chance that the big bully of the format could be, at last, taken down.
There is hope, my brothers. There is HOPE. New Phyrexia is coming up and I know it is a small set and it may not change much, but hopefully in it some destructive weapons may lurk, waiting to be aimed at the Achilles heel of mister Boogeyman. Hurray, I feel like shouting, we may shake the iron rule of the sword wielding flock of hawks. What can happen when the metagame shifts with the release of a new small set is that a few new archetypes emerge, which is great, but what happens most of the time is the upgrade and the tweaking of existing archetypes. If you are already familiar with the old archetypes and have some experience with them, you will easily be able to switch to them if there is a breakout card that pushes them over the top, and you will have the experience required to identify what was lacking in the deck and what new cards can improve them. So the first step to prepare to overthrow Cawblade is to get familiar with the existing tier 1 and 2 decks, and get prepared for thinking fast on your feet when the new set is out.
While I was writing this article, trying to find out which direction I should go and if I should bother providing anything practically relevant alongside hopes and dreams, came the surprising news of the New Phyrexia spoiler, now totally available on the web. More used to the usual trickle of information, when you get to see a few new cards each day, up until the day of the prerelease, I could only rejoice in the news, knowing that now proper scheming and strategic planning was possible and the new resources were now clearly known. Maybe now Naya Vengevine could become a deck again? The new Sword of War and Peace looked so sweet, allowing a protection from the usual condemn and the usual Caw blockers, including the pesky hawk. The Batterskull (5- Artifact – Equipment – Living weapon, Equipped creature gets +4/+4 and has vigilance and lifelink. 3: Return Batterskull to its owner’s hand. Equip 5) seems like a juicy one-of that can be fetched in any deck with the Stoneforge Mystic, giving you a recurring threat and some lifegain. The Blade Slicer (2W – Creature – Human Artificer – When Blade Splicer enters the battlefield, put a 3/3 colorless Golem artifact creature token onto the battlefield. Golem creatures you control have first strike.1/1) could be seen as a one-of in a Fauna Shaman deck, cheaply providing you with two creatures, including one with first strike. That card is useful in any deck where you need creatures to equip, or if you have some sort of overrun effect.
At last, the Moltensteel Dragon (4 – Artifact Creature – Dragon – Flying, : Moltensteel Dragon gets +1/+0 until end of turn.4/4) is another creature that could fit into the toolbox. The ability to cast it for cheaper and to boost it for life can make it a dangerous finisher, especially against the control decks that are not very aggressive.
The question now is…who is with me? WHO IS WITH ME? Who wants to join forces and break this new, emerging metagame? The solution is out there, in the spoiler. All we need is young, creative minds, ready to invest the time and effort, without being tempted to join the dark side, the Cawside. There could be new hope.
Enjoy the pre-release, enjoy the new metagame and, most importantly, enjoy life.
Naya Vengevine by Vincent Thibeault