Standard Starting Points for Eldritch Moon

Now that the entire spoiler is out, I’ve been able to create a bunch of decks and blacktest against some neat decks, some weird decks and some decks that apparently forgot Eldritch Moon was a set. Before getting into them, I wanted to share a few thoughts.

The Rundown

While it’s clear Wizards has been upping the power level on creatures for years, they seem to admit that the original incarnation of the Eldrazi was a little over the line. Annihilator was one hell of a mechanic and while Ulamog and Kozilek’s cast triggers are arguably better this time around, they are cards that can still be beat and worked around, which I guess coincides with the story. This is in contrast to Rise where you seemed to feel a hopelessness associated with it.

Well good news for those that hated the Annihilator Titans, [card]Emrakul, the Promised End[/card] is weaker than its Rise counterpart. In the games where I have cast or my opponent has cast Emrakul, the win rate for that player is over 50% but not decidedly so. There’s also this weird feeling of “aw gee golly shucks” when you cast Emrakul and see a [card]Planar Outburst[/card] or [card]Reflector Mage[/card] when you take your opponent’s turn, knowing this Emrakul isn’t long for this world once they have the chance to untap, which is an odd feeling.

There are certainly games where you can cast Emrakul for 8 or 9 but that’s one hell of a commitment for an effect that lets you win 60-70% of the time. There may yet be a way that Emrakul is truly broken but it has yet to produce the effect of when a player is chaining [card]Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger[/card]s together.

As for the Emerge Eldrazi, I’m still not sold on their total takeover of Standard, like some are predicting. [card]Distended Mindbender[/card] has been very lackluster thus far. [card]Decimator of the Provinces[/card] is usually game ending, though you’re looking at a later turn effect and not a super aggro deck slot. The card will be played and you will end up losing to it but you will also get a few turns in so if you let your opponent set up, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.

[card]Elder Deep-Fiend[/card] is the one that I still have trouble making up my mind about. If Decimator is on the good end of the spectrum and Mindbender the other, Elder seems to fall in the middle. The easiest comparison of this is to [card]Mistbind Clique[/card] but having played Fairies, it’s not the same. It certainly shines when you can chain it together with [card]Sanctum of Ugin[/card] or in a UG attack shell however if you are forced to play defense or your opponent is removing creatures as fast as you can play them you end up with a dead card in hand or have to cast it on your opponent’s terms.

While the Eldrazi are certainly here, there’s no need to sell the cabin in the woods and look into relocating to The Tangle.

The Decks

Spirits

While we got a few good spirits with Shadows over Innistrad, Eldritch Moon upped the game a little. It may not be [card]Lingering Souls[/card] and [card]Drogskol Captain[/card] however [card]Mausoleum Wanderer[/card], [card]Selfless Spirit[/card] & [card]Spell Queller[/card] can certainly shine on their own.

[deck]
[Lands]
7 Island
9 Plains
4 Port Town
4 Prairie Stream
[/Lands]
[Spells]
3 Always Watching
2 Declaration in Stone
1 Essence Flux
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
3 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
4 Bygone Bishop
2 Elder Deep-Fiend
4 Mausoleum Wanderer
4 Nebelgast Herald
4 Rattlechains
3 Selfless Spirit
4 Spell Queller
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
2 Archangel Avacyn
1 Declaration in Stone
2 Dispel
2 Elder Deep-Fiend
3 Essence Flux
3 Hallowed Moonlight
2 Negate
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

The first thing people may notice is that I’m playing a UW deck and [card]Reflector Mage[/card] isn’t anywhere in the deck, which is true but for good reason: it’s not a spirit. By playing the full four copies of [card]Rattlechains[/card], [card]Mausoleum Wanderer[/card] and [card]Nebelgast Herald[/card] you want to maximize on Spirits as much as possible, plus all your creatures have flying, except Anafenza, though I honestly haven’t drawn her enough to make a guaranteed decision on her worth.

Essentially you’re playing UW fliers and while you have a few cards that can play the late game, you want to avoid it at all costs. [card]Always Watching[/card] and Gideon serve not only to pump your team, helping Wanderer blank your opponent’s [card]Languish[/card] but increase your clock and sometimes, Gideon is great against a certain deck and can win you the game. Same goes for [card]Elder Deep-Fiend[/card]. The calamari is a big body with flash who can slow your opponent enough to get those few extra turns.

The sideboard is standard UW with the exception of two cards. [card]Archangel Avacyn[/card] isn’t a Spirit but she is a flash who synergizes quite well with [card]Selfless Spirit[/card] as an on demand sac creature can blow out the game. The other sideboard card, which also had a copy sneak into the maindeck is [card]Essence Flux[/card]. Most of your Spirits have EtB triggers and whether it’s giving hexproof, pumping the Wanderer or giving your opponent back their [card]Sylvan Advocate[/card] to Quell a [card]Languish[/card], the card does work especially against the spot removal decks.

Wr Humans

I know people who hate this deck and people who love it but regardless of your opinion, Standard needs an aggro deck and this is it.

[deck]
[Lands]
4 Battlefield Forge
18 Plains
[/Lands]
[Spells]
3 Always Watching
4 Gryff’s Boon
3 Ride Down
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
2 Anointer of Champions
4 Dragon Hunter
4 Expedition Envoy
4 Knight of the White Orchid
3 Kytheon, Hero of Akros
4 Thalia’s Lieutenant
3 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
4 Thraben Inspector
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
3 Declaration in Stone
4 Gisela, the Broken Blade
4 Needle Spires
4 Reckless Bushwhacker
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

My goal was to keep the deck as low to the ground as possible and to always be on the offensive. [card]Ride Down[/card] was a late edition on the spoiler but the thing the deck was lacking the most. I prefer it to Declaration because the Clue can occasionally be relevant as you get to late game and it lets you force damage through. It has also come up when your opponent goes for the [card]Dromoka’s Command[/card] to turn the tide and this just blanks it. With only three copies the mana has never been abnormally bad and I have yet to lose a game to being unable to cast it, though I can certainly understand some people’s hesitation.

The other card that shows up from Eldritch, which I have tried to jam into as many white decks as possible is [card]Thalia, Heretic Cathar[/card]. While fine in playtesting, she truly performs best in a pure aggressive strategy. At three mana she blanks your opponent’s defenses for the turn and since many decks need to plan out their mana as effectively as possible, coming down and forcing your opponent to lose a mana due to his land coming into play tapped is enough to get you the win.

Bant Humans

If you like Humans but think the mana is too straightforward and requires no thought, then this is the deck for you.

[deck]
[Lands]
2 Canopy Vista
4 Evolving Wilds
3 Forest
4 Fortified Village
1 Island
5 Plains
1 Prairie Stream
1 Wastes
4 Yavimaya Coast
[/Lands]
[Spells]
4 Collected Company
4 Dromoka’s Command
2 Tamiyo, Field Researcher
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
3 Duskwatch Recruiter
3 Eldrazi Displacer
3 Hamlet Captain
4 Reflector Mage
4 Thalia’s Lieutenant
1 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
3 Thraben Inspector
4 Tireless Tracker
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
1 Archangel Avacyn
2 Declaration in Stone
2 Den Protector
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Profaner of the Dead
3 Negate
1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
1 Tamiyo, Field Researcher
1 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
1 Tragic Arrogance
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

The obvious big addition to the deck is Tamiyo. She is 100% on colour and her abilities fall in line with what you want to do. Her addition requires trimming on the number of creatures which is less ideal for [card]Collected Company[/card] but the card drawing is fantastic. I’ve seen Tamiyo played in a few different builds and while you can target your opponent’s creatures with her “+” ability, it’s not the best shell for her. You want to attack and that’s what she allows. Your creatures are generally bigger and if not, you can just tap down your opponent’s nuisance.

The change I made over the previous versions of the deck is the addition of [card]Hamlet Captain[/card]. The Captain acts as a poor man’s [card]Thalia’s Lieutenant[/card] but reinforces the want of always attacking. I cut them for [card]Lambholt Pacifist[/card] as it guarantees you are always attacking and pushes the deck’s overall plan towards the offensive as I’ve found the greatest weakness for the deck is getting to the late game where it just seems to fall off.

Main deck there is one Thalia, it’s fine and can occasionally disrupt your opponent as a surprise off [card]Collected Company[/card]. Where it truly shines is the mirror which is the reason for the second one in the board. For the mana, I started with Pascal Maynard’s GP Pittsburgh list and tried the occasional tweak but somehow I always seemed to make the mana worse. With Tamiyo the one change I could see is cutting a [card]Plains[/card] for a [card]Prairie Stream[/card] but the blue requirement is so low, generally getting your one [card]Island[/card] from [card]Evolving Wilds[/card] is all you’ll need.

The Red Zone

Of late Standard has been lacking a Red deck. In fact we’ve gone longer than I can remember without an ever present Red deck to keep people honest. Luckily if that’s your bag, Eldritch came through for you.

[deck]
[Lands]
4 Hanweir Battlements
18 Mountain
[/Lands]
[Spells]
3 Collective Defiance
4 Incendiary Flow
3 Retreat to Valakut
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
4 Abbot of Keral Keep
4 Hanweir Garrison
4 Impetuous Devils
4 Lightning Berserker
4 Makindi Sliderunner
4 Reckless Bushwhacker
4 Zurgo Bellstriker
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
4 Act of Treason
3 Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
4 Exquisite Firecraft
4 Village Messenger
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

The deck is pretty straight forward, which happens to be the direction your creatures will be headed. Just to give a fair chance, I went through most of the red creatures just to make sure I didn’t miss anything and this was the combination I liked best.

[card]Lightning Berserker[/card], [card]Zurgo Bellstriker[/card] & [card]Abbot of Keral Keep[/card] were good once and still are now. [card]Reckless Bushwhacker[/card] has shown its worth in the Wr Humans and can easily be held back to combine with your one drops. The big additions however come from Eldritch and it includes a lot of burn. [card]Hanweir Garrison[/card] might not be exactly [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card] but left unchecked it takes over the game like its Goblin friend. Plus this deck runs [card]Hanweir Battlements[/card] because neither cards are Legendary so there’s no drawback and it’s a great mid game draw. Always it gives any guy haste! Similarly, [card]Impetuous Devils[/card] might seem like an odd [card]Ball Lightning[/card] but your opponent’s generally always had to block [card]Ball Lightning[/card] so at least you get to choose.

The last main deck card is one I talked about in my set overview; [card]Collective Defiance[/card]. If you read it, it will sound like I’m repeating myself because I am. There’s never been a situation where the card hasn’t performed well; chipping away at your opponent’s life total is great as is picking off a creature. [card]Searing Blaze[/card] was great and I’m fine paying a little more for [card]Searing Blaze[/card]. And while a little rare, it has come up on more than one occasion where I did indeed pay five mana using all three modes.

GW Tokens

The deck’s still great.

[deck]
[Lands]
4 Canopy Vista
8 Forest
4 Fortified Village
4 Plains
4 Prairie Stream
1 Westvale Abbey
[/Lands]
[Spells]
2 Declaration in Stone
4 Dromoka’s Command
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
4 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
4 Oath of Nissa
1 Secure the Wastes
1 Sarkhan Unbroken
2 Tamiyo, Field Researcher
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
4 Archangel Avacyn
2 Decimator of the Provinces
4 Hangarback Walker
4 Sylvan Advocate
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
1 Clip Wings
1 Declaration in Stone
2 Den Protector
1 Evolutionary Leap
2 Hallowed Moonlight
1 Linvala, the Preserver
2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
3 Planar Outburst
1 Secure the Wastes
1 Stasis Snare
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

There’s already been a ton written about GW Tokens and I tried a bunch to change the deck or incorporate more cards from Eldritch but nothing seemed especially great. The two new additions shouldn’t surprise anyone. [card]Decimator of the Provinces[/card] is a house with a board full of tokens and dudes. You will always be casting this for its Emerge cost and while it may seem strange, generally with early pressure you will have no problem sacrificing an Avacyn or a Gideon as it’s straight up lethal.

The second addition is Tamiyo. Having played this deck, it will happen that you run low on cards in hand. Tamiyo remedies this problem and then some. I cut down on the number of [card]Plains[/card] and [card]Westvale Abbey[/card] to accommodate the 4 [card]Prairie Stream[/card]s which provides 8 blue sources when counting [card]Oath of Nissa[/card]. One of the common mistakes I see people make with this deck is not being aggressive enough and just trying to sit back. If this is the strategy you take, you will end up in trouble more often than not. Adding Decimator and Tamiyo supports the aggressive strategy and more often than not can save you from yourself.

GW Ramp

As odd as this deck looks, it’s got a bunch to offer in a toolbox strategy, also it’s got Brisela, which was my main intention when building it.

[deck]
[Lands]
4 Canopy Vista
7 Forest
4 Fortified Village
2 Plains
4 Sanctum of Ugin
4 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
1 Swamp
[/Lands]
[Spells]
3 Explosive Vegetation
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Grapple with the Past
3 Hedron Archive
3 Nissa’s Pilgrimage
1 Nissa’s Renewal
4 Oath of Nissa
3 Planar Outburst
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
1 Bruna, the Fading Light
3 Deathcap Cultivator
1 Dragonlord Dromoka
1 Emrakul, the Promised End
2 Gisela, the Broken Blade
2 Thalia’s Lancers
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
1 Dragonlord Dromoka
2 Gaea’s Revenge
2 Hallowed Moonlight
2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
1 Linvala, the Preserver
3 Repel the Abominable
4 Sylvan Advocate
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

If you like playing the value game, this deck is for you.

The main goal is to ramp out with your green spells like most other ramp decks, where your plan changes is your late game cards. You want to go bigger and over the top, which is what Ulamog, Emrakul & Brisela do. The deck plays two copies of [card]Thalia’s Lancers[/card] as a tutor for any creature in your deck but also because the body is quite good for blocking. Unlike red ramp decks where your removal is damage based, in this deck you are playing wraths in [card]Planar Outburst[/card] which is good at dealing with creatures big and small.

I originally tried more copies of Emrakul in the deck as you do have different card types so the cost reduction is relevant. Generally Emrakul on its own was fine if properly set up and with your ramp spells, the cost reduction does not play a huge factor as you have so many mana sources that the two kind of wash out. The sideboard is currently aimed again at aggro strategies though I’m thinking the Repel might be a little overkill and you’ll want something along the lines of more ways to make Brisela and [card]Tireless Tracker[/card] to plow through cards.

One final note, [card]Ishkanah, Grafwidow[/card] may seem unimpressive at first glance but don’t be easily fooled. You can search for the spider with Lancers, and getting Delirium is not too difficult so casting her and just stalling out the board is a very good answer when looking for your threats. A 3/5 body with Reach is nothing to scoff at and the last ability is the reason the [card]Swamp[/card] is in the deck. The upside is worth playing the [card]Swamp[/card].

Deploy the Gatewatch

Now we get to the fun part of the program.

[deck]
[Lands]
2 Canopy Vista
2 Cinder Glade
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Forest
1 Island
1 Mountain
4 Plains
2 Prairie Stream
2 Smoldering Marsh
2 Sunken Hollow
1 Swamp
[/Lands]
[Spells]
2 Arlinn Kord
1 Chandra, Flamecaller
4 Deploy the Gatewatch
3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
1 Kiora, Master of the Depths
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Nahiri, the Harbinger
2 Narset Transcendent
2 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
1 Oath of Chandra
1 Oath of Gideon
1 Oath of Jace
4 Oath of Liliana
4 Oath of Nissa
1 Ob Nixilis Reignited
1 Sarkhan Unbroken
2 Sorin, Grim Nemesis
2 Tamiyo, Field Researcher
[/Spells]
[Sideboard]
3 Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
3 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
3 Kytheon, Hero of Akros
3 Liliana, Heretical Healer
3 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Essentially the deck has every Planeswalker in Standard and every Oath. Clearly some Walkers are worse than others as are some Oath so you had to futz with the numbers, although you don’t want four of one Walker because hitting something like two Gideons on a Deploy is awkward. I also tried a bunch of different spells and tricks and honestly it diminishes the fun. Now is this deck going to be Tier 1? No, however the weirdest part apart this deck is that it has had a win rate of over 60%. Now that was in the early stages of testing, where decks weren’t ideal but it’s still a record that is impressive over 15 matches.

Demonic Shenanigans

Don’t let the cat fool you.

[deck]
[Lands]
4 Foreboding Ruins
3 Geier Reach Sanitarium
5 Mountain
4 Smoldering Marsh
8 Swamp
[/Lands]
[Spells]
4 Demonic Pact
3 Grasp of Darkness
4 Harmless Offering
4 Languish
3 Magmatic Insight
3 Ob Nixilis Reignited
4 Read the Bones
4 Ruinous Path
4 Tormenting Voice
3 Ultimate Price
[/Spells]
[Sideboard]
4 Duress
1 Grasp of Darkness
2 Incendiary Flow
4 Self-Inflicted Wound
1 Ultimate Price
3 Virulent Plague
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

The goal of the deck is clear; Donate a [card]Demonic Pact[/card] with one choice remaining to your opponent. I’ve played around with various three colour interactions and honestly, this is the one I liked the best. All of your cards either dig for your combo or stall the board out. I’m expecting a large number of aggro decks to start off with, which is why the [card]Duress[/card]es are in the board, although playing them main deck in place of some creature removal is understandable.

This deck also benefits from not having your focus pulled away from your combo. Sure Gideon or Chandra are certainly nice cards but you want to win through the “Combo” and everything else is secondary. If you are looking for other win conditions, this is the wrong deck for you. One last bit of advice, don’t get to the late game, when you can slam Pact on turn 4 you do it, second combo piece or not. It’s risky, and you can lose games occasionally but if you play this deck, you need to take the risk.

If there’s anything hit me up in the comments or on Twitter – @Nodnolb.

Thanks for reading.

Best,
William

More Eldritch Moon First Impressions

And we’re back! (Click here for the prequel!)

Generally week one is the week with all the hype, excitement and realistically the better cards. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like week two only has bad cards but there’s a little something missing and a growing impatience to see the full spoiler. Personally my favorite part of the full spoiler is reading through all the flavor text because let’s face it, regardless of what I brew; I’ll probably just play a deck from the PT.

With that said, let’s dive into more spoilers, and remember the focus is the current meta, crazy brews come later.

Collective Effort

collectiveeffort

While every mode on this card is definitely a White ability, their coalescence is entirely foreign to me. Being at sorcery speed means the potential for any blowouts with this card are off the table which means your opponent can see this coming, however destroying a [card]Stasis Snare[/card], a big creature in the way and pumping your team is something that can always come up. The cost of tapping a creature is real when you want to turn your guys sideways but let’s face it, [card]Thraben Inspector[/card] has been slacking and it’s time for him to put in some work instead of standing on the sidelines.

Verdict: I see this as a sideboard card for the Mono White Aggro deck. Most times this will just be another anthem but being able to keep your options open is always great.

Imprisoned in the Moon

imprisonedinthemoon

This is exactly the card blue decks have been wanting. It deals with pesky creatures and Planeswalker simply and effectively for three mana and can cause a total blowout for your opponents… Wait, what’s that? Sacrifice an enchantment? At two mana?

Yes it’s true, this card would be a pseudo [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] in a format that is desperately lacking except for the fact that the most popular land is [card]Canopy Vista[/card] and it is exactly the same colors as [card]Dromoka’s Command[/card]. See you in Kaladesh.

Summary Dismissal

summarydismissal

Obvious comparison is to [card]Mindbreak Trap[/card] except it can never be played for free. At the end of the day, this will never see play in Eternal formats however in Standard it’s another story. You know that friend who constantly complains about Eldrazi, well this is the card for them. There is no storm mechanic and counter wars are extremely uncommon in Standard. What is common in Standard is needing a permanent solution to some spells and this does that plus can also be used as a stifle if ever the opportunity arises.

Verdict: Four has always been a lot of mana for a counter as it is a blank against aggro decks however I still see these showing up as a way to answer your opponent’s late game very effectively, so that late game Ulamog is less great when the Cast, [card]Sanctum of Ugin[/card] & [card]Kozilek’s Return[/card] trigger are all being taken care of along with Ulamog himself.

Cryptbreaker

cryptbreaker

They made a fixed Pack Rat that also draws cards. I feel this could end poorly.

I’m aware the power level is not the same as Pack Rat however if there will ever be a Zombie deck, this is the enabler. Being able to consistently pump out Zombies is relevant and the fact that you don’t need to tap Cryptbreaker to draw a card, makes all your later zombie plays even better. Remember, [card]Relentless Dead[/card], returns untapped!

Verdict: No deck in the current meta wants this card but the guy you face at FNM or whichever competitive tournament will definitely have four of these in their deck.

Dark Salvation

darksalvation

Black is really coming through in the flavor department in Eldritch Moon. This can make a lot of zombies, or a little bit of zombies. Essentially the Zombie deck will always want this because while it makes more Zombies, which is great, it always kills stuff and that stuff becomes more Zombies! The underlying theme in Eldritch seems to be you can never have too many Zombies.

Verdict: Zombies? YAY! No Zombies? SOON!

Liliana, the Last Hope

lilianathelasthope

This card is certainly Liliana flavor through and through, except the small exception of the timing of her Oath (see below), the issue is where do you want to slot this in. We’ve seen from [card]Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy[/card], her +1 ability will certainly be relevant and having an ever coming flood of zombies to block following a wrath or board wipe is fantastic, see [card]Kiora, the Crashing Wave[/card]. Her minus ability just doesn’t seem to fit in exactly with what you want.

Control decks will want this for the first and last ability as it she slows the game down and proceeds to the late game however control decks do not have very many creatures to bring back and [card]Raise Dead[/card] effects do not see much play outside of being part of another card, ala [card]Sword of Light and Shadow[/card].

Verdict: You can try and make the -2 relevant but ultimately this is a control card that can fit into the BW Deck. Being unable to greatly affect the board is too great a drawback that will keep her on the sidelines.

Collective Defiance

collectivedefiance

Remember that rant about the black version of this spell? Well Wizards heard and delivered this right on time. It’s illogical to think every deck will want every option all the time however you always want your modal spells to have at least one relevant ability at any time. An aggro deck can always make use of three damage to the dome, with the ability to clear a blocker or rid themselves of lands in a flood also relevant. A midrange/control deck needs creature removal and the ability to occasionally have more options later in the game.

Mirrorwing Dragon

mirrorwingdragon

This card is great. Five mana for a 4/5 with flying is fantastic, and this ability is off the charts. Currently there is a UR flyers deck running around and this card can fit right into it. It dodges [card]Languish[/card] and interacts incredibly well with all the Dragons of Tarkir “Care About Dragons” cards that still exist and you might as well use them before you lose them!

TL:DR – Your opponent tries and kills it, all his creatures die. You try and pump it, shenanigans ensue.

Noose Constrictor

nooseconstrictor

I had to talk about one green card.

Actual, the true reason I wanted to mention this card has nothing to do with playability and somehow everything to do. I started playing Magic around the time of Mirage, my friends had cards and I played with their cards and Mirage was the most recent set. It’s possible other sets were out but we were 7 and had no money. The first pack I bought was an Urza’s Sage Tournament Pack. I got a [card]Tolarian Academy[/card], [card]Phyrexian Colossus[/card] and [card]Phyrexian Processor[/card]. My friends loved me!

I actually only started playing competitive Magic during Invasion/Odyssey Standard. Still being relatively a kid, I was on a budget, luckily at the time there was a Tier 1 budget deck called UG Madness. In my mind at the time, [card]Wild Mongrel[/card] was the best two drop ever printed. Now unfortunately I don’t think we will see Wizards print [card]Arrogant Wurm[/card], [card]Circular Logic[/card] & Road of the Wurm anytime soon but a kid can hope.

Thanks for indulging me, now back to other cards!

Heron’s Grace Champion

heronsgracechampion

Straight talk, this is a card that boggles my mind. It has nothing to do with power level or effect neither, it’s honestly because this card skims the line between playable and garbage more than any in this set. Is four mana too much? Is a one time anthem better than the more permanent anthems that exist? Is Sigarda going to replace Avacyn as protector of Innistrad? That last question actually has nothing to do with anything really, just a thought.

Verdict: I see this as a one of in the Bant Humans sideboard. The effect is decent, and it helps to pull you way ahead in a race but four mana precludes it from being found off [card]Collected Company[/card] and while it’s great when you want to go wide, you don’t always want to go wide.

Spell Queller

spellqueller

Remember the last time, Wizards printed a 2/3 that cost 1UW, that worked out well for everyone right? Well it worked our sort of well for the people that didn’t play spells. Luckily, Wizards fixed that problem for you. This card is great, there are a lot of spells that cost 4 or less. In fact, currently most of Standard is built on spells that cost 4 or less. Need more convincing? You can find this off of [card]Collected Company[/card]. Also it exiles any spell. This is the exact card that the first time I saw, I thought to myself, “I can never again cast [card]Languish[/card] because I know, my opponent will CoCo with my [card]Languish[/card] on the stack, find this and blow me out.

Verdict: I can see an argument for playing less than 4 of these. I can also see and argument for playing 4 of these. I will never accept any argument that involves playing none of these.

Last Notes

Deploy the Gatewatch: Who doesn’t love Planeswalker Super Friend decks? A lot of people actually and needing 15+ Planeswalkers to push your average find over 1.5 is a little too much. I know you can draw comparisons to [card]Collected Company[/card] because they have similar effects but don’t.

Providence: There exist a bunch of these white life gain cards. The bright side is this one isn’t mythic and it can gain you life right off the bat instead of being a totally dead card until the late game. Sidebar, why 26? Is double 13 lucky? Is 26 somehow relevant to trapping Emrakul? This card poses so many more questions than it answers.

Selfless Spirit: On paper this seems to slot right into the Bant Company deck, strong ability with a solid body on a creature. Unfortunately, we’ve learnt in Standard that indestructibility is much better when it comes at Instant speed, see [card]Archangel Avacyn[/card] and the predominant sweeper in the formation doesn’t care about [card]Indestructibility[/card], see [card]Languish[/card].

Fortune’s Favor: Always take the boat or don’t. This is like a [card]Fact or Fiction[/card] but for players that have the soul read on their opponent or David Williams.

Oath of Liliana: The flavor win here in that when Liliana shows up, a zombie is around to defend her does not escape me. Unfortunately the edict effect is not great at sorcery speed while also costing three mana and what’s even more awkward, this is the only Oath that has the same converted mana cost as its Planeswalker which is unfortunate.

Incendiary Flow: Card is whatever but its flavor text game is ON POINT!

Nahiri’s Wrath: Alright, someone needs a time out, this is just going way too far.

Permeating Mass: This is a public service announcement, BDM would appreciate if you can send him a picture of a game state where the mass has gotten way out of control. Thank you.

Grim Flayer: I had to mention the site’s preview card no?

If there’s anything hit me up in the comments or on Twitter @Nodnolb.

Thanks for reading.

Best,
William

First Look at Eldritch Moon

We’re officially into spoiler season for Eldritch Moon which is pretty similar to all other spoiler seasons. Magic players tend to fall into a few different camps when it comes to spoilers. Personally I love seeing new Magic cards, figuring out how they fit into the puzzle, reading the flavour text to get more in depth with the story and generally enjoying seeing new cards for the game I love. Other people will tell you they don’t care about spoiler season. If you know people like this, get rid of them, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

59729777

As for the actual cards, there are two ways to evaluate them, how do they fit into the current metagame and how do they fit or create new decks. The former is an easy task to do with a smaller new set as the metagame is already established and there are cards leaving. For larger set it makes no real sense to do it because a large portion of the cards are leaving. As for creating new decks, it’s best to wait until you have an entire spoiler before creating decks with only a portion of the cards.

Today I’m just going to focus on how a card fits into the current metagame, I’ll brew some stuff up later. To briefly recap the current metagame mainstream metagame decks are Wr Humans, Bant Humans, GW Tokens, WB Control, Ramp, GBx Control. There are a few other decks but there are essentially the Top 5 plus Ramp.

Decimator of Provinces

decimatoroftheprovinces

The easy comparison is to [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card]. It’s a big guy that overruns your team. The issue is that it’s a mini overrun and the trigger is on cast, not on EtB so there are no reanimation shenanigans. It also starts off as two more expensive than Craterhoof and there aren’t that many expensive creatures lying around to sacrifice to this so the cost will always be steep. Last, whereas Craterhoof was a game ender with even a decent board, this doesn’t have the same guarantee.

Verdict: You’d think it would be a sweet sideboard card to break the GW mirror but in reality, it should be left on the sidelines.

Emrakul, the Promised End

emrakulthepromisedend

Up to this point there has been no true delirium deck. [card]Traverse the Ulvenwald[/card] has seen the most play of delirium cards, with a few glimpses of [card]To the Slaughter[/card] and [card]Mindwrack Demon[/card] running around here and there. While the dream of casting it for 6 is completely palpitating, no deck should be running on that, so after removing the first line of text what’s left? A 13/13 with flying, trample and some protection but does it end the game quick enough? Casting this on 8 or 9 mana is reasonable though may be a tad slow. It also has the “Mindslaver” ability tacked onto it, which can do potentially do enough damage that it wins you the game however [card]Mindslaver[/card] was backbreaking because your opponent didn’t have the chance to recoup, giving your opponent a “second wind” is potentially detrimental.

Verdict: Is this really better than chaining Ulamogs? The damage this can do is certainly real but giving the option of chaining Ulamogs or Emrakuls, I’m taking Ulamog, which unlike Emrakul, is better in its newest iteration.

Bruna, the Fading Light

brunathefadinglight

Unfortunately for Bruna, she was always the worst of the three Angel sisters (Gisela & Sigarda being the other two). Two more toughness than Archangel is a small upgrade and bringing back an Angel or Human is nice though a little odd since in the storyline the angels had begun slaughtering the humans so bringing a human back just to kill again seems a little distasteful.

Verdict: Let’s be honest, there’s only one reason to ever play Bruna and she’s found below.

Gisela, the Broken Blade

giselathebrokenblade

Hello! The comparison is easy, Gisela is a slightly smaller [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] which even a smaller [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] is still awesome. First Strike and Lifelink means she is blocking anything, killing it and gaining life so against any aggro deck, this is a must have. Also have flying allows her to block everything.

Verdict: If you’re playing White, there’s a very good chance you want Gisela in your deck. She’s a fantastic sideboard card against aggro decks, though potentially a liability in the maindeck, if you intend on seeing a lot of control mirrors. In Bant Humans, she soars above the fray to get in those last points of damage. And while it may be tempting to call your deck Sister Act and play Bruna, don’t.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar

thaliahereticcathar

The art on this card is actually amazing, huge props to Magali Villeneuve for this. Oh and it just so happens that the card is awesome too. Most of the Standard mana bases are made up of non-basic lands, so slowing down your opponent is huge and there are few creatures with first strike currently running around to profitably trade with her. Last, in this format, if you’re playing an aggro deck, there are two cards that haunted your dreams, [card]Archangel Avacyn[/card] and [card]Collected Company[/card]. Well your opponent’s creatures if any will still be indestructible and [card]Reflector Mage[/card] still bounces creatures but everything else is just useless and with their lands coming into play tapped, those cards aren’t being cast on curve most games.

Verdict: An easy three of in Humans, Bant and Wr, because guess what, not only is she Human but you can find her off [card]Collected Company[/card]!

Coax from the Blind Eternities

coaxfromtheblindeternities

You know how Blue was to be avoided in Shadows Limited, well Eldritch isn’t doing itself much favours. Docent is a bad Young Pyromance & Identity Thief is lacking a lot of good EtB triggers but I wanted to spot Coax. Currently the Eldrazi decks exist in two flavours, Ramp which is traditionally GR and the WB decks. Now neither of those are blue, nor do I expect that to change. I’m aware there’s a Blue Eldrazi deck but it plays those Eldrazis maindeck.

You know what deck does have Blue & Eldrazis? Bant Eldrazi in Modern which happens to have Eldrazi cards in the sideboard. Traditionally the Wishes have been played in combo centric or toolbox decks, which would be missing an exact card to go off or pull itself greatly ahead. Currently there’s no Eldrazi combo decks however there are enough Eldrazi utility cards that this will be the real deal.

Verdict: I can easily see a Modern environment where Coax is played as a two of in Bant Eldrazi. Remember, All is Dust is an Eldrazi card!

Unsubstantiate

unsubstantiate

The most frequent way I’ve heard of describing this card is, “It’s a worst Venser”. That description isn’t inaccurate but it’s also not giving due process. Historically, bouncing a creature on a spell has not been a main-deckable card. Sure [card]Reflector Mage[/card] sees play but that bounce effect is substantially better, also that card is a Human. Bouncing a spell on the other hand, that’s far less common to see, although there is a card that has the exact same line of text currently in Standard that sees no play, [card]Brutal Expulsion[/card]. Now this costs two less mana and is only one color, already an improvement. Now this is definitely not a control card but what about an aggro card. It’s possible to be in a scenario where you need to figure out if you should play around Avacyn or [card]Collected Company[/card], well this happens to deal with both.

Verdict: I think this is better than [card]Negate[/card] in Bant Humans. As the aggressor you want an answer to anything they may have, and often all you need is an extra turn and you win and being able to answer Avacyn and CoCo is powerful. I understand the argument that they can recast their spell the next turn but playing an aggro deck, you’ve generally lost anyways when they get that extra turn. Also bouncing an early roadblock like [card]Sylvan Advocate[/card] to get through extra damage can be exactly what you need.

Collective Brutality

collectivebrutality

I was debating whether this should go in last notes or here but I chose here because the it’s more ranty than one line. Why is this rare? Escalate seems cute and Blessed Alliance is a totally reasonable Magic card but this? The biggest issue with this card I have is that not only do I not want any of these abilities at a casting cost of two mana, I don’t want either the first or third ability at all. Which basically makes this a two mana disfigure at sorcery speed and [card]Disfigure[/card] as it was originally printed would be fine but not great, this is just worse.

I understand the argument for power creep and they don’t want to print spells that are broken but you’d have a hard time convincing me to play this card as 1B Choose one, two or three. Now telling me that I need to discard a card to get the other abilities, even basic lands are worth more than those abilities. Look I understand I may have gone a tad overboard and been a tad harsh but seriously this card is just awful.

Verdict: I think you get the point.

Tree of Perdition

treeofperdition

[card]Tree of Redemption[/card] was a Limited all-star and saw play in Constructed sideboards so let’s check in to see how the tree matches up now that Emrakul is in town? Perdition targets the opponent instead of yourself which means it’s still an excellent blocker like its brother but it doesn’t have the advantage of gaining you a buttload of life when necessary. As a card straight up it doesn’t have the utility of [card]Tree of Redemption[/card] and definitely won’t be seeing Standard play for practical reasons.

Why do I say practical reasons, because for impractical reasons and shenanigans, this is your card. In Standard it matches up with [card]Triskaidekaphobia[/card], where you can swap out your opponent’s life total to 13 at the end of their turn and then win on your upkeep with the enchantment in play. Again, not exactly straight forward but if you want shenanigans, why not! Now for those of you who are big dreamers of shenanigans, I’ll stop you there: this doesn’t do what you want it to do with [card]Twisted Image[/card].

Verdict: If you like shenanigans, then this is the sideboard card for you in WB Control. Otherwise cross your fingers you don’t open this as a mythic in your box. For further shenanigans see Harmless Offering and [card]Demonic Pact[/card].

Galvanic Bombardment

galvanicbombardment

Kindle & [card]Flame Burst[/card] this is not as being able to dome players is a big benefit, however picking off creatures can be valuable and [card]Fiery Impulse[/card] is currently played. The argument you need to focus on is what’s easier to achieve, Spell Mastery or multiple copies of Galvanic Bombardment. Having multiple copies of each card will always favour Galvanic Bombardment as it will be equal on the first card and then always be superior on following cards. Of course while that’s fine in a vacuum, a Magic deck is not played in a vacuum and hopefully you will be drawing other spells at which point you’d rather have [card]Fiery Impulse[/card], otherwise in doesn’t really matter which card you have, you aren’t winning that game.

Verdict: While it may be tempting to swap your Impulses for Bombardments, resist the Bombardment of your Impulse to switch.

Eldritch Evolution

eldritchevolution

I could not have come up with a better set of nombos. So this card is the talk of the town, with the easiest comparisons being [card]Birthing Pod[/card] and [card]Natural Order[/card]. Personally, this is far closer to [card]Natural Order[/card] as [card]Birthing Pod[/card] was repeatable and just plain awesome. Now it doesn’t have the green restriction of [card]Natural Order[/card] but it has a casting cost restriction so you can’t sacrifice a mana dork for your top end card.

Here’s the problem with this, [card]Natural Order[/card] has always been used to find either a combo card like [card]Regal Force[/card] or a game ending creature like [card]Progenitus[/card]. Not only do those creatures not exist in the current Standard but do you really want to sacrifice [card]World Breaker[/card] to find, oh right the Eldrazi titans all cost at least 3 more. I know people have fond memories of [card]Birthing Pod[/card], I played the card as well, but Pod decks still functioned as solid value decks with pod, if those decks existed, they would already be played and don’t need this card.

Verdict: Currently there is no spot for this in the current metagame and it won’t be a major player in Standard. I may yet eat my words but to me, this is the most overhyped card of the set, and while many people will try and “break it”, R&D learned their lesson from [card]Birthing Pod[/card] and won’t repeat that mistake.

Emrakul’s Evangel

emrakulsevangel

There’s not really a comparison for this. Essentially you would need to be trading in a bunch of creatures that are worse than 3/2 to get a bunch of 3/2. It’s very impractical however it’s actually insanely powerful for one specific deck: GW Tokens. Not only are all the tokens being made worse than 3/2 but you can EoT [card]Secure the Wastes[/card] for whatever number and then instantly cash in all your 1/1 warriors into 3/2 Eldrazis. It’s a specific situation but given the power I think it’s worth it.

Verdict: Can be played as a one or two of in GW Tokens. I’m aware it’s a human that can be found off of CoCo but that’s not good.

Gisa and Geralf

gisaandgeralf

Remember the intro video to Eldritch Moon? Emrakul appeared and then Liliana showed up and raised a ton of Zombies and everyone went crazy because [card]Relentless Dead[/card] was going to be the key Zombie enabler. Well so far, this is the only relevant Zombie card in the set and it’s not even a Zombie.

Honestly I would have hoped the second line of text wouldn’t have included the zombie creature type and instead just made the creature a zombie when it entered the battlefield. The card would have then needed a line stating that whenever a zombie you control dies, exile it but I honestly don’t think that would have been too hard to make. As it stands, the card is cute but rather lackluster. At least there’s always EDH.

Verdict: There’s no deck that currently would run this as zombies aren’t a thing and historically, this isn’t the type of card that zombie decks want as an enabler.

Tamiyo, Field Researcher

This card could get an article of its own. Also there are so many things about this card that don’t make sense; I’m not sure where to start. For starters, I don’t understand why Tamiyo is Bant colors, also Tamiyo doesn’t normally work with people so the first ability seems like a lore failure. As well, outside of Warrior’s lesson, those abilities are entirely blue. There are no white abilities on that card. Now if you want to make the argument that having Tamiyo as mono-blue was too powerful, I’m not sure making her colors that [card]Canopy Vista[/card] produce helps your case. Also…

As for practical uses, drawing cards in creature decks is quite good as there is a propensity to run out of gas eventually. More importantly in aggro decks, tapping down your opponent’s blockers to plow through is insane. At the end of the card, the card is great however it seems like it’s all over the place. One last story point, it has not yet happened but did Tamiyo fall to Emrakul’s corruption or did she hang out with Jace enough that she got the [card]Omniscience[/card] ultimate?

Verdict: The card goes into Bant Humans yesterday and while a little greedy can go into GW tokens if you want to cast it off of [card]Oath of Nissa[/card], or contort your mana a little.

Ulrich of the Krallenhorde

ulrichofthekrallenhordeulrichuncontestedalpha

Here it is folks, the Werewolf Legend everyone wanted. Well not everyone but at least people who wanted a werewolf EDH deck. The obvious comparison is of the other gold colored werewolf from original Innistrad block and it seems like [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] is ahead. Ulrich may be bigger however he’s lacking the value enablers of Huntmaster. Now if you are playing a RG aggro deck this is a shoe in, the downside is that unlike Huntmaster, this doesn’t protect you as well on defense. On top of that, life gain and damage are relevant, as are chump blockers.

Now the bigger issue with this card is the flipside. Ulrich cannot fight werewolves. I understand he’s the uncontested Alpha and other werewolves don’t pick fights with him but you’d think he would at least go after other werewolves on occasion just to make sure everyone knows what’s up. So unlike Huntmaster, there’s no opportunity to flip your copy first to eat your opponent’s, also being Legendary mean you only get one. Also he’s lacking the cool combo of Huntmaster with [card]Birthing Pod[/card] where you would sac a three drop, get this, flip and eat your opponent’s creature, you know the good old days.

Verdict: The only true RG deck running around is Ramp and that doesn’t want Ulrich. Sam Black was playing a Jund deck in Pittsburgh if memory serves and going Kalitas into Ulrich would definitely be sweet. Otherwise there isn’t really a spot for Ulrich in any of the mainstream decks.

Last Notes

Eternal Scourge: This card just plain reads shenanigans. Yes [card]Food Chain[/card] decks would prefer Misthollow because it pitches to [card]Force of Will[/card] but just take the time to appreciate this as a Magic card that exists.

[card]Peace of Mind[/card]: The card may be unplayable but I’m all for reprints that have old border versions.

Whispers of Emrakul: It’s like a [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card] for people that greatly miss the point on what makes [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card] great.

Lupine Prototype: I love that this card exists. Is it good, nope but it’s still awesome to have a werewolf in a power suit. If you see the artist, ask them about it, I’m sure it will be a great story.

Soul Separator: I know I will lose to a 1/1 Emrakul at some point, it’s just bound to happen.

Stitcher’s Graft: I played a lot of [card]Unstable Mutation[/card] back in the day and this greatly reminds me of that. Also 3 damage on a disposable creature is total fine in an all in aggro deck, [card]Thraben Inspector[/card] has never been so good.

Geier Reach Sanitarium: Has potential in Modern Lantern and if your opponent has no cards in hand it’s a mill one.

If there’s anything hit me up in the comments or on Twitter @Nodnolb.

Thanks for reading.

Best,
William

Quickly Journeying through Nyx

In the past I’ve brewed decks, modified existing decks, and written articles evaluating individual cards from a new set. Frankly the results were not what I wanted, and every person with half a brain can try to convince you they know best. In order to change things up I figured I would combine them all into one article in order to avoid wasting everyone’s time. Also it saves me from droning on about stuff I don’t truly have an interest in.

The EDH Generals
[Card]Athreos, God of Passage[/Card] – The easiest comparison is to [Card]Xathrid Necromancer[/Card], and the Necromancer is better. Both can be played in BW Humans, and while Athreos doesn’t die to Last Breath, being able to make Zombie tokens that can kill your opponent following a Wrath is far superior. Fine as a one-of if you are already playing four Necromancer.

[Card]Iroas, God of Victory[/Card] – While I can enjoy functional reprints of a card as much as the next person, [Card]Gruul War Chant[/Card] is still Standard legal. [Card]Frontline Medic[/Card] is also still around and affects the board on the same turn as Iroas. Frankly there are better cards to lead you to victory.

[Card]Keranos, God of Storms[/Card] – This actually seems like a pretty sweet sideboard card in UWr Control. Wait those decks aren’t around anymore? Oh, well. At least he’s got a big [Card]Lightning Bolt[/Card]!

[Card]Kruphix, God of EDH Generals[/Card] – Imagine all the cool stuff you can do with this guy and [Card]Prophet of Kruphix[/Card]. While you’re imagining, I’ll have fun playing realistic Magic.

[Card]Pharika, God of Affliction[/Card] – While I may seem pessimistic about all the gods up to this point, Pharika changes things. Reanimator benefits greatly from her, as do other BG strategies, in the same way that UW benefited from [Card]Moorland Haunt[/Card]. Yes, flying might be better than deathtouch in some instances, but how often will your opponents want to block 1/1 tokens?

UW Control
While I’ve tried playing black-based decks in Standard recently, I keep coming back to UW. There is nothing better in Standard than being able to cast [Card]Supreme Verdict[/Card], [Card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/Card], and [Card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/Card].

With that in mind, I figured UW was the best place to start examining which cards from Journey into Nyx make the cut. For reference this is the current list I am running:

[Deck title=UW Control]
[Lands]
4 Hallowed Fountain
6 Island
2 Mutavault
4 Plains
4 Temple of Deceit
4 Temple of Enlightenment
3 Temple of Silence
[/Lands][Creatures]
1 Aetherling
[/Creatures][Planeswalkers]
3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
[/Planeswalkers][Spells]
3 Azorius Charm
4 Detention Sphere
4 Dissolve
1 Fated Retribution
2 Last Breath
1 Negate
4 Sphinx’s Revelation
4 Supreme Verdict
2 Syncopate
[/Spells][Sideboard]
3 Archangel of Thune
2 Blind Obedience
2 Dark Betrayal
1 Dispel
1 Gainsay
1 Pithing Needle
2 Revoke Existence
3 Thoughtseize
[/Sideboard][/Deck]

I realize that not everyone is running the exact list I am, but I’m using this as a basis to help people out. There are five cards in Journey into Nyx that stand out as having potential: Banishing Light, Deicide, Nyx-Fleece Ram, Reprisal and Hypnotic Siren.

Let’s start with the obvious one, [Card]Deicide[/Card]. This is a straight swap with [Card]Revoke Existence[/Card]. There are no artifacts running around that have me worried, and I have yet to exile an artifact in this Standard format, so upgrading to instant speed is a huge benefit, as a control deck prefers playing its spells on its opponent’s endstep if possible. The fact that it permanently gets rid of Thassa or Erebos is just gravy.

Now for the rest. [Card]Banishing Light[/Card] is inferior to [Card]Detention Sphere[/Card] in every way, except that it doesn’t die to [Card]Renounce the Guilds[/Card], and having four copies of Sphere is more than enough. [Card]Reprisal[/Card] has been floating around a bit as a card due to it’s multifunctionality against most decks; however, at that point in the game [Card]Supreme Verdict[/Card] can accomplish the same goal, and I generally try and stay away from narrow answer cards when playing control. On a side note, when comparing this to [Card]Vanquish the Foul[/Card], apparently scrying is worth four extra mana and sorcery speed.

[Card]Nyx-Fleece Ram[/Card] is obviously a very situational card depending on your metagame, but I can see a sideboard sporting up to three copies of this card as, combined with [Card]Archangel of Thune[/Card], you are essentially shutting down aggro.

The last card I want to talk about for UW is [Card]Hypnotic Siren[/Card]. The casting cost is certainly very high to bestow, but having a silver bullet than can occasionally steal your opponent’s best creature is quite good. Now, while being blue doesn’t allow it to touch [Card]Mistcutter Hydra[/Card], you can take a [Card]Blood Baron of Viskopa[/Card], and I believe it merits strong testing.

The Other Mythics
While the gods are the key mythics in the set, there are in fact five others that are currently running around.

[Card]Godsend[/Card] – I still have no idea what to make of this card. I want to say it is not playable without [Card]Stoneforge Mystic[/Card], but I cannot see R&D in good conscience making a marquee equipment bad. Because of Mystic, I believe it will see play in Eternal formats, but the only white decks running around are aggro decks that far prefer [Card]Spear of Heliod[/Card] to a much slower card. I’m willing to be wrong on this but I don’t believe it is currently playable in Standard.

[Card]Sage of Hours[/Card] – Infinite Turns. Any card that is printed nowadays and is capable of providing infinite turns is a bad card. Before anyone protests, I understand that with a few combo pieces it can provide infinite turns, and I understand that based on all the games of Magic that will be played, this sequence of infinite turns with happen, that’s just basic statistics. This is still not a playable card.

[Card]Worst Fears[/Card] – I love a good [Card]Mindslaver[/Card] lock as much as the next person. Unfortunately this gets exiled, so abusing it is not feasible. The effect on the other player’s hand is incredibly powerful and game breaking, and Mono-Black can always use some news tools against control. I would expect this to occasionally see play out of the sideboard.

[Card]Prophetic Flamespeaker[/Card] – The only downside to this guy is that [Card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/Card] currently exists. Sure, exiling two cards is better than just one card, and it does cost one fewer to cast, but the downside is that it is a creature, making it vulnerable to removal. If given the choice, Chandra is most likely better, though against creature decks, the Flamespeaker may have a slight edge.

[Card]Ajani, Mentor of Heroes[/Card] – The best part about this guy is that he can find Planeswalkers. This guy fits in nicely into Bant Control decks with the likes of Elspeth, Jace, and Kiora, as he will most likely always find you another planeswalker. The downside is that his first ability is surpassed by [Card]Ajani, Caller of the Pride[/Card] in creature strategies, and his last ability is nonsensical at best.

Mono-Black
The title in this case is a bit deceptive, as I will go over Mono-Black first but also look at any tools the other variants may have gotten. For reference, here is the GP Phoenix winning decklist pre-Journey:

[Deck Title=Mono Black]
[Lands]
4 Mutavault
17 Swamp
4 Temple of Silence
[/Lands][Creatures]
4 Desecration Demon
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Pack Rat
[/Creatures][Spells]
3 Bile Blight
2 Devour Flesh
1 Doom Blade
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Thoughtseize
4 Underworld Connections
1 Whip of Erebos
[/Spells][Sideboard]
3 Dark Betrayal
1 Devour Flesh
4 Duress
2 Erebos, God of the Dead
3 Lifebane Zombie
2 Pharika’s Cure
[/Sideboard][/Deck]

Unlike with Born of the Gods, there isn’t a deck-changing card of the likes of [Card]Bile Blight[/Card], though there are a few interesting support cards in the form of [Card]Brain Maggot[/Card], [Card]Master of the Feast[/Card], [Card]Silence the Believers[/Card], and [Card]Worst Fears[/Card].

The original incarnation of Mono-Black control that everyone has such fond memories of was way back when Odyssey Block was legal, and one of the key cards was [Card]Mesmeric Fiend[/Card]. This time around, players have access to [Card]Thoughtseize[/Card], which can lead into a turn-two [Card]Pack Rat[/Card]. Interestingly, I think with BB as a casting cost, Brain Maggot would get more attention thanks to devotion being relevant, but for now it is easily outclassed by [Card]Thoughtseize[/Card].

[Card]Master of the Feast[/Card] provides one fewer devotion than [Card]Nightveil Specter[/Card] but represents a significant increase in utility. Yes, the downside is undesirable, but it only occurs on your turn, meaning if your opponents have any sorcery-speed removal, they will not benefit from the card drawing. At 5/5 with evasion, the Master represents a significant clock against your opponents, and in practice, three more damage is far more relevant than a random card. If I were playing Mono-Black I would be playing Master over Nightveil every time.

[Card]Silence the Believers[/Card] is a game-changing removal spell—it just depends on the games. In the mirror, games end up going longer, which means mana being available isn’t a problem, and even getting two creatures can be back-breaking against your opponents. Silence has an added bonus of being useful against the heroics decks, but for practical purposes, I’d be cutting one [Card]Dark Betrayal[/Card] for one copy of Silence.

I already discussed [Card]Worst Fears[/Card] in the mythic section, but just to follow up, this is more backbreaking against control than a single [Card]Duress[/Card] can be. Heading into the late game, you can rip their hand apart with discard spells to clear the way for this, at which point you’ll win.

As for the splash versions the only cards of note are [Card]Deicide[/Card] to replace [Card]Revoke Existence[/Card] in white and that [Card]Temple of Malady[/Card] may now give rise to a green-splash version with [Card]Abrupt Decay[/Card].

Paraphernalia
For the people who are unsatisfied with the fact that [Card]Yoked Ox[/Card] wasn’t powerful enough as a creature, R&D brought us a Heroic Ox in [Card]Lagonna-Band Trailblazer[/Card].

While looking over the new set of bestow creatures, I can’t help but thank the Gods that R&D didn’t create a creature that gives hexproof. I also have to thank them for not reprinting [Card]Serum Visions[/Card], thereby allowing me to collect on a bet.

While I understand that constellation is thematically relevant because enchantments come from the sky gods, I’m confused as to why it had to be keyworded. Though Wizards did break convention by saving the worse card for last with [Card]Skybind[/Card].

[Card]Battlefield Thaumaturge[/Card] may come out as the underrated card for Limited and Constructed from this set. I blame Wizards’ deceptive tactics of putting hexproof on the card to make us think it’s terrible, though in all seriousness, how is hexproof relevant to this card?

Mana Deprived once again got another spoiler in the form of [Card]Kiora’s Dismissal[/Card], which will see limited play and was spoiled by none other than Chris Lansdell, who after talking with KYT, led KYT to the conclusion that Chris is the most important writer for Mana Deprived.
Instead of reprinting [Card]Damnation[/Card], R&D thought it better to print [Card]Extinguish All Hope[/Card] for no other reason than to feature anorexic gods on cards. Personally I think they are trying to make Heliod self-conscious.

Thematically, [Card]King Macar, the Gold-Cursed[/Card], is a nice tribute to King Midas. It might lead to some games of Limited snowballing out of control, but that will teach your opponents for playing creatures.

I’m a little disappointed that at the end of the block there weren’t more nods to titans printed. I’m also a little confused how one can bear the heavens. Isn’t it just empty space? Seems like someone got tricked.

For those wishing [Card]Archetype of Aggression[/Card] gave haste instead of trample, we get [Card]Cyclops of Eternal Fury[/Card]. Because haste on turn six is game changing!

My favorite card from this set, [Card]Fleetfeather Cockatrice[/Card]. It’s random, completely out of the blue, and frankly doesn’t seem to make much sense. I love it!

Mono-Black Aggro
Just as with Born of the Gods, Journey into Nyx has nothing to offer Mono-Blue Devotion, but the same cannot be said about Mono-Black Aggro. This is the list I would be looking to run when the new Standard season comes around:

[Deck Title=Mono Black Aggro]
[Lands]
4 Mutavault
18 Swamps
[/Lands][Creatures]
4 Gnarled Scarhide
4 Herald of Torment
4 Master of the Feast
3 Mogis’s Marauder
4 Pain Seer
4 Rackdos Cackler
3 Thrill-Kill Assassin
4 Tormented Hero
[/Creatures][Spells]
4 Bile Blight
2 Hero’s Downfall
4 Thoughtseize
[/Spells][Sideboard]
4 Brain Maggot
4 Dark Betrayal
4 Doom Blade
1 Duress
2 Hero’s Downfall
[/Sideboard][/Deck]

The deck is all-in aggro with an early game to run your opponent low on life and a late game that goes bigger over the top. In most instances the drawback on Master of the Feast will be irrelevant as you will be killing your opponent on the next swing.

The two notable changes I have compared to other decks I’ve seen, aside for the lower land count, is [Card]Master of the Feast[/Card] in the main. He hits harder than [Card]Lifebane Zombie[/Card], and nothing is coming down in time to block this efficiently, whereas the Zombie can lose some value. The second key difference is [Card]Bile Blight[/Card] over [Card]Hero’s Downfall[/Card]. This deck is all about mana efficiency, and I would rather be spending two mana to remove my opponent’s threats than an additional mana that could instead be another threat.

Best of the Rest
Don’t buy into [Card]Aegis of the Gods[/Card]. Foils might be worth something down the road but there is no high demand for this card.

All of the dictates are playable in one form or another, so getting a playset isn’t the worst idea.

While R&D tried hard to make Minotaurs a thing, they eventually fell a little short as they lack reach. Tribal aside, [Card]Gnarled Scarhide[/Card] will be the in-demand uncommon of the set, adding another one-drop to black aggro.

[Card]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/Card] was the card needed as a Storm hoser in Modern. Of course, with the deck continuing to dwindle, it might just be too late. In Legacy on the other hand, I believe this is maindeckable. This is the rare I’m looking to pick up on prerelease weekend.

Everyone is very high on [Card]Eidolon of Blossoms[/Card] right now, but that high will be short lived. Honestly, Legacy enchantress doesn’t really need this card, and while it does have Blossoms in the name, [Card]Wall of Blossoms[/Card] will always hold the top spot. At four mana the Eidolon just prices itself out of play.

When someone read to me the description of [Card]Kruphix’s Insight[/Card], I thought for sure it was uncommon and potentially a borderline rare if the set was bad. At uncommon the card is ridiculous and will be showing a whole lot through Theros Block drafts.

And, last but not least: [Card]Mana Confluence[/Card]. If you want to play Standard for the next two years, you will need a playset of these at some point. The price may be high right now, but the card will be a staple for years.

Thanks for reading,
William

Keeping Your Cool

I have an attitude problem.

If you’ve ever played Magic against me or seen one of my games it’s clear as day.

While you may think it happens every now and again because no one likes to lose, it happens to me far too often. The odd part about all of this is that I can recognize the behavior in others and will go out of my way to talk to them about it, yet I am unable to control it. My mood will even shift in games. If I lose game one, I will be down on myself and miserable, whereas if I win, I will be overconfident and primed.

Why do I bring this up?

In part because it’s cathartic but more so because it’s something most people experience when trying to work their way up.

I was at FNM playing Standard and managed a 1-2 record after three rounds. The rounds I lost were non-interactive games. Both I should have lost sooner, but my opponent felt like stringing me along I guess. To be honest, he was so focused on [Card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/Card] that he seemed to forget I was at six life and he had nine damage on board. We’ve all been there.

After dropping I went to talk with some of the store employees that I know, and we were talking about the upcoming PTQ. One of them joked that I had no chance as I no longer look the part of the typical Magic player. It was clear on my face that I was still unnerved, and my buddy Justin pointed out, “You tilt to easy and get upset over losses.”

I’ve never been a fan of being called out over anything. I try to work at being better at everything, and most times it feels more like taking pot shots than actually trying to help. So I quickly deflected what he said and continued chatting about banalities before leaving, but walking back home it stuck with me.

Most people recognize their own faults and limitations; we don’t like admitting them but they are obvious if you stop and think for a moment. Now, it’s one thing to say, “I’m going to change,” and then not do it. For numerous years I spent every day saying, “Tomorrow, I will start going to the gym,” and would then end up not going. It’s another to put one foot in front of the other and do it.

Back to the present, the next day I was attending a PTQ. It was Limited, and I would face people who were worse Magic players than I—the perfect testing ground to try to keep my cool. There was only one problem; I had no idea how to proactively do this. It’s hard to keep your emotions in check when you’ve never actually been in a situation before and are unaware exactly how you will react to it. This led me to message Justin again and talk about something until I subtlety snuck in, “How do I not tilt?”

Justin gave me a bunch of different advice that most people would be able to dispense but one in particular stuck with me, “You always have a bad-beat story.”

And there it was—for all the years of playing poker and Magic, I hated hearing other people’s bad-beat stories because they were told by a biased observer and, frankly, I didn’t care. You lost; get over it. Yet I constantly did the very thing I hated. Even at that FNM I remember telling such a story. The fact is, it wasn’t a bad beat; I lost plain and simple.

The next day, I went into the PTQ with one goal: I wasn’t going to tell any stories about my games. If people asked I would tell them that either I won or I lost, and if they wanted details I would tell them the match score but that was it. Before I continue, since this is a Magic the Gathering article, I will list the two deck choices I had in my sealed pool. (The cards in the sideboard are the on-color cards I decided not to play, but that are playable-ish.)

[Deck Title=BR Sealed]
[Lands]
9 Mountain
8 Swamp
[/Lands][Creatures]
1 Ashiok’s Adept
1 Black Oak of Odunos
1 Borderland Minotaur
1 Deathbellow Raider
1 Everflame Eidolon
1 Fate Unraveler
1 Nyxborn Rollicker
1 Pharagax Giant
2 Returned Centaur
1 Servant of Tyramet
1 Shrike Harpy
1 Spiteful Returned
1 Thunder Brute
1 Warchanter of Mogis
[Creatures][Spells]
2 Bolt of Keranos
1 Fearsome Temper
1 Hammer of Purphoros
1 Lash of the Whip
1 Rage of Purphoros
1 Weight of the Underworld
1 Whip of Erebos
[/Spells][Sideboard]
1 Asphodel Wanderer
1 Fated Returned
1 Magma Jet
1 Marshmist Titan
1 Pharika’s Cure
1 Priest of Iroas
1 Scouring Sands
[/Sideboard][/Deck]

There are a few things about this deck. I’m not a fan of playing Jet and Cure because there are many games where they are outclassed, and I would prefer sideboarding them in the few times they are relevant. The second thing is that, while this looks like a fine deck, I don’t want to be playing these colors together in this format. I don’t feel like they provide the best chance of winning. Last and most important is the deck I decided to play is far better.

[Deck Title=Ottawa PTQ Sealed Deck]
[Lands]
10 Forest
7 Island
[/Lands][Creatures]
1 Flitterstep Eidolon
1 Leafcrown Dryad
1 Nemesis of Mortals
1 Nimbus Naiad
2 Nylea’s Disciple
1 Nylea’s Emissary
1 Pheres-Band Centaurs
1 Pheres-Band Tromper
1 Setessan Oathsworn
1 Thassa’s Emissary
1 Voyaging Satyr
1 Vulpine Goliath
[/Creatures][Spells]
1 Aspect of Hydra
1 Feral Invocation
1 Griptide
1 Nylea’s Presence
1 Raised by Wolves
1 Retraction Helix
1 Savage Surge
1 Sea God’s Revenge
1 Sudden Storm
1 Voyage’s End
[/Spells][Sideboard]
1 Breaching Hippocamp
1 Chorus of Tides
1 Divination
1 Fade Into Antiquity
1 Gainsay
1 Karametra’s Favor
1 Lost in the Labyrinth
1 Ordeal of Nylea
1 Scourge of Skola Vale
1 Setessan Oathsworn
1 Setessan Starbreaker
1 Stratus Walk
1 Swan Song
1 Triton Fortune Hunter
1 Vaporkin
[/Sideboard][/Deck]

I found when building a deck in this format you want an identity. If you can achieve that, you’re set. The goal for this deck was green devotion with every single blue trick in the book, and I’m not joking—there is one of each blue trick! It’s the reason for leaving as many blue creatures as I did in the sideboard.

My deck was very light on heroic; instead I wanted bestow creatures that were functional on their own, and with as many tricks as I had, removal such as Fade and Starbreaker were suboptimal cards in my deck. Someone asked me why no [Card]Divination[/Card], and while the card is fine, I want to be tapping out on turns three and later to play threats, not a card that will hopefully draw me threats.

The last two cards I want to talk about are [Card]Scourge of Skola Vale[/Card] and [Card]Vaporkin[/Card]. I don’t like Scourge. A 2/2 for three doesn’t fit in my deck where I wanted to go bigger and more efficient than my opponent. I want to be the tempo deck and never want to risk the drawback of having my Scourge bounced. I think the decision comes down to whether I want Scourge or the one [Card]Setessan Oathsworn[/Card] I played, and the potential drawback on Oathsworn is less severe.

As for Vaporkin, it is a good creature but my ability to pump it is not fantastic. That said, I did bring it in against more aggressive decks as it serves as a very effective early blocker.

After building my deck, a couple things were going through my head. I was happy with my list and truly believed it was capable of getting me to the top eight. As such, I would ultimately be disappointed with myself if I did not make the final rounds. Remember how I said this tournament was about working on my mental game? Well, I never said I would make it easy on myself.

I ended up going 6-1 in the Swiss portion of the event, which was indeed good enough to make top eight. My one loss was something that happens. I promised myself I wouldn’t tell any Magic stories, and this one was particularly tough not to talk about as a number of players were watching my match, but I just looked at them, shrugged, and said, “It happens sometimes.” It was made worse as I had Andy “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL” Peters sitting next to me giving me pity eyes, but my resolve held.

After the match I talked with someone who was curious about my line of play as I was scrying potentially useful cards to the bottom. My reasoning was that, rather than finding potential stopgap cards, I wanted cards that could turn the tide. Without them, I would have been dead regardless of whether my opponent had any relevant spell in his hand. I stand by that as solid reasoning, as my opponent had five cards in hand the entire game. Generally, I assume my opponent isn’t holding five lands in his hand when he’s missing land drops on turn three.

It’s a weird feeling knowing you’ve done something different and it’s beneficial. After each match, I had the same composure. I didn’t feel happy about having fun; instead I had more of a mission-accomplished feeling for each round but knew I had to win the next one. I talked with people, I sat down and relaxed, and I watched some other matches to figure out what could be done in each situation.

After winning my last round and knowing I was in the top eight, I talked with my buddy Mexi about how I had missed some combat math, and he told me a different line of play I could have taken earlier that would have left my opponent with fewer outs. We then joked about how clearly math wasn’t my strong suit and that adding was hard. (While it’s not particularly funny to outside observers, the one area people can take shots at me at that always makes me laugh is about math. I have a bachelor’s in mathematics yet I occasionally make arithmetic mistakes.)

I had made it out of Swiss and into the draft with three of my friends who also happen to be better Magic players than I, so I wanted to go over my options since I knew they weren’t going to be giving me any good cards at later picks. I was slightly advantaged as we were almost all on one side of the table and I was passing to them. For this reason I wanted to force a W/X aggressive deck, as I didn’t want to be fighting over midrange cards with the people passing to me. That’s why I first picked [Card]Ghostblade Eidolon[/Card] over [Card]Hunter’s Prowess[/Card]. My draft deck can be found below.

[Deck Title=Draft Deck]
[Lands]
7 Island
9 Plains
[/Lands][Creatures]
1 Cavalry Pegasus
1 Coastline Chimera
1 Deepwater Hypnotist
1 Ephara, God of the Polis
1 Evangel of Heliod
1 Ghostblade Eidolon
1 Hopeful Eidolon
1 Leonin Snarecaster
1 Loyal Pegasus
1 Nyxborn Shieldmate
1 Phalanx Leader
1 Prescient Chimera
1 Thassa, God of the Sea
4 Traveling Philosopher
1 Triton Shorethief
[/Creatures][Spells]
1 Chosen by Heliod
1 Crypsis
1 Dissolve
1 Lost in a Labyrinth
1 Ray of Dissolution
1 Retraction Helix
[/Spells][Sideboard]
1 Benthic Giant
1 Flamecast Wheel
1 Griffin Dreamfinder
1 Swan Song
[/Sideboard][/Deck]

While drafting the deck I was happy. I knew I was missing a few key cards along the way, but the card quality was lacking throughout the packs. (I took Ray of Dissolution pack 2, pick 2 as it was the best card, by far, in a pack that still had a rare and three uncommons.) I slightly changed my tune after laying out and building my deck, but I had an aggressive curve that would be able to win me some games, and my late game cards were high-impact and powerful so I wasn’t going to complain.

Unfortunately I lost in the quarterfinals to my buddy Evan Berry. Obviously I always want to win, but Evan is a good guy and, frankly, I wanted him to win it after he came so close in his last top eight. Our match also had Andrew Noworaj providing commentary, and Andrew can always make me laugh, so while it was the top eight of a PTQ and there was something on the line, the match felt like a casual game of no importance, which is my favorite way to play Magic.

Truthfully I don’t know if I actually listened to Justin’s advice or it just happened to be a good day, but this PTQ felt like a change. Each round I played Magic to what I thought was the best of my ability and didn’t worry about what was beyond my control. I wanted to win each round but I didn’t need to win each round.

You should always play Magic to win every round regardless of your opponent. There are times I get too caught up in how I should always beat a certain opponent because I’m better than they are or how unlucky I got because my opponent drew card X and I couldn’t draw card Y, but none of that matters.

The truth is I’m not alone. There are many people who do the same; they get angry or allow their emotions to get in the way. There are times that I let things that are out of my control affect me, and I need to realize that I need to take a step back, get in the right frame of mind, and then continue forward. Dwelling on things doesn’t help and can only hurt. I think I took a step forward at that PTQ and certainly figured out something that I can build on, but I’m not there yet. Ottawa was a good start, and I plan on applying that on my next Magic stops.

Thanks for reading,
William

Grand Prix Montreal Report (32nd)

For years I’ve been telling myself I’m a Constructed player, that Limited was just a crap shoot and I’d never be lucky enough to open the “nuts” pool. The truth is, I’m a Magic the Gathering player, and it so happens that the Magic events that best correlate with my schedule are Constructed events.

With the changes to the PTQ seasons, if I want to play, then I have to play Limited 50% of the time, and while this was originally met with a certain amount of skepticism, I realized it didn’t help me in any way if I was hoping to win.

In the past two months, I’ve had a decent level of success playing Constructed but there were no PTQ top eights achieved, which in turn means, no wins, the only indicator that matters. Going even further, the same frustrations would continue to creep up at each tournament I played. So for once I welcomed Limited season as a change of pace and to avoid reaching my breaking point with Standard.

To start off the Limited PTQ season, Wizards was nice enough to schedule a Limited GP in my hometown, allowing me to try my hand at a format I had yet to play. To save on the unnecessary lead up stories, this is the sealed deck I played, with the sideboard representing the rest of my pool:

[Deck Title=Sealed Pool GP Montreal]
[Lands]
7 Island
9 Plains
1 Temple of Triumph
[/Lands][Creatures]
1 Akroan Skyguard
1 Archetype of Courage
1 Benthic Giant
1 Chorus of the Tides
1 Crackling Triton
1 Ephara, God of the Polis
1 Ephara’s Warden
1 Floodtide Serpent
1 God-Favored General
1 Hopeful Eidolon
1 Loyal Pegasus
1 Nyxborn Triton
1 Observant Alseid
1 Phalanx Leader
1 Vanguard of Brimaz
2 Wavecrash Triton
[/Creatures][Spells]
1 Divination
1 Excoriate
1 Fate Fortold
1 Glimpse the Sun God
1 Mortal’s Ardor
1 Ray of Dissolution
[/Spells][Sideboard]
1 Ephara’s Radiance
1 Last Breath
1 Plea for Guidance
1 Scholar of Athreos
2 Crypsis
1 Omenspeaker
1 Oracle’s Insight
1 Stymied Hopes
1 Ashiok’s Adept
1 Baleful Eidolon
1 Claim of Erebos
2 Eye Gouge
2 Felhide Brawler
1 Felhide Minotaur
2 Fleshmad Steed
1 Grisly Transformation
1 Keepsake Gorgon
1 Lash of the Whip
1 March of the Returned
1 Mogi’s Marauder
1 Odunos River Trawler
1 Read the Bones
1 Returned Centaur
1 Spiteful Returned
1 Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
1 Demolish
1 Epiphany Storm
1 Fall of the Hammer
1 Ill-Tempered Cyclops
1 Impetuous Sunchaser
1 Lightning Strike
1 Lightning Volley
2 Portent of Betrayal
2 Scouring Sands
1 Thunder Brute
1 Wild Celebrants
1 Artisan’s Sorrow
1 Boon Satyr
1 Charging Badger
2 Culling Mark
1 Mortal’s Resolve
1 Nylea’s Emissary
1 Satyr Piper
2 Swordwise Centaur
1 Time to Feed
1 Chronicler of Heroes
1 Destructive Revelry
1 Phenax, God of Deception
1 Prophet of Kruphix
1 Spellhide Chimera
1 Traveler’s Amulet
1 Unknown Shores
[/Sideboard][/Deck]

While sometimes decisions on deck directions may take time, this one was rather quick. For one, this is the sealed pool I registered, so I had a good idea of what I wanted to build; and two, I was never going to play [Card]Phenax, God of Deception[/Card]. To steal from Matt Sperling’s article:

regina-george

It was fitting that, with most of my Magic success coming from playing Jund, [Card]Ephara, God of the Polis[/Card], was going to be the card that I bet the house on. I had a friend who used to play Magic and would always build decks with as many cards that cantripped as possible. His reasoning was, “It says draw a card so it must be good.” While he was wrong about most cards, he would have been right about Ephara.

Now firmly locked in UW, the question was whether there was a splash color that could be useful. Obviously [Card]Prophet of Kruphix[/Card] was attractive, but the only other appealing green card was [Card]Nylea’s Emissary[/Card], and with the number of double-white casting costs, playing [Card]Traveler’s Amulet[/Card] and [Card]Unknown Shores[/Card] for those cards was not justified.

I never considered black as nothing appealed to me, and looking at it might make me want to try Phenax, which would have been a huge mistake. Last was red, and with a [Card]Temple of Triumph[/Card] in my pool, the splash didn’t seem as backbreaking. Similar to green, there were only two cards of interest. [Card]Lightning Strike[/Card] seemed fine but not essential, and [Card]Portent of Betrayal[/Card] could certainly turn certain tides, but in a format of battlefields full of dorks, a [Card]Threaten[/Card] effect is not as impactful.

In the end I settled on what I thought was an unattractive but practical UW deck. The only problem I had with the deck, was whether I would be able to win games without a clear, game-ending threat. Turns out I may have been a little confused on how well my deck could function.

Before I get to my rounds, I want to talk about the mistakes I made in deck building. On Thursday, we were discussing the number of creatures at one or two casting cost to justify [Card]Loyal Pegasus[/Card]. Whatever your personal number is, my deck did not have enough.

Elsewhere, [Card]Ephara’s Warden[/Card] is too slow and impractical in this format and was most often a liability as opposed to an asset. And as for [Card]God-Favored General[/Card], the card is utter garbage, to the point that it should never even be a consideration. And no, you shouldn’t consider playing Warden and General to have a “combo”.

This is the list of cards that are options to replace those three:
[Card]Last Breath[/Card]
[Card]Scholar of Athreos[/Card]
[Card]Crypsis[/Card]
[Card]Omenspeaker[/Card]
[Card]Oracle’s Insight[/Card]
[Card]Stymied Hopes[/Card]

The other options I would have had were limited at best. Ultimately, I would have swapped the [Card]Omenspeaker[/Card] and [Card]Oracle’s Insight[/Card] for the Warden and General, leaving in the [Card]Loyal Pegasus[/Card] as a necessary evil.

[Card]Stymied Hopes[/Card] can sometimes be backbreaking, but my deck didn’t really have time for tricks, needing to squeeze in every little bit of damage possible. For this reason, I left out [Card]Last Breath[/Card] as well. Giving my opponent four life was a luxury I could ill afford. Scholar was never a consideration as I liked my mana base the way it was and had no interest in changing it.

Now we move to the [Card]Crypsis[/Card] debate. I can certainly understand its merit and have seen it perform before, but my deck doesn’t have time for many tricks, and throughout the entire portion of day one, I never even considered boarding it in. If you can block and kill a creature, it’s good but blocking for the sake of blocking is rather unappealing to me.

Going into the GP, I thought I had enough point to lock up two byes but unfortunately I was wrong and only had the one bye.

Round 2 – Jason Vairamuthu

While it would be easy to say I lost this round to rares and [Card]Orekos Sun Guide[/Card], the truth is I lost because I didn’t know the identity of my deck yet. I’m not saying I would have won if I did, but I certainly would have played differently.

After the round, like all Magic players are wont to do, I went in search of some friends to complain to. Lucky for me, I ran into my buddy Michael Lambert, who interrupted the start of my rant with a pork bun, which got me to shut up and enjoy the food.

1-1 (1-2)

Round 3 – Patrick Arthur

I never really saw most of his deck except for [Card]Returned Phalanx[/Card] and [Card]Servant of Tyramet[/Card] in both games as I was able to slowly amass an army that chip away at his life total over a few turns before eventually getting him to zero, without having seen any cards of importance. Even more importantly, this was the first round three I have ever won at a GP, and I’ve been to a lot of GPs.

2-1 (3-2)

Round 4 – Jacob Lepine

This was the round that I really figured out how my deck was suppose to operate. First, I could play [Card]Ephara, God of the Polis[/Card], with no board and then turn after turn drop dork after dork to draw cards and eventually beat my opponent through sheer card advantage.

The other thing I found out was which card was the MVP of my deck: [Card]Glimpse the Sun God[/Card]. While taping down your opponent’s team is decent, being able to simultaneously trigger heroic on all of my dudes had a huge impact. And combining [Card]Wavecrash Triton[/Card] with Glimpse makes for some truly backbreaking plays.

One thing of note that happened this round is that, because I was unclear as to the exact way [Card]Floodtide Serpent[/Card] worked, I inadvertently declared it as an attacker and returned an enchantment only after having declared all my attackers, when in fact it must be done simultaneously.

Immediately my opponent called a judge and, as a judge myself, I realized my mistake and that it would be a game rules violation warning, which I was fine with. When the judge arrived, I explained the situation and understood what the warning was and that I had no prior warnings to expedite the situation.

I have no problem with people calling judges: I’ve done it myself. What I found odd was, after calling for a judge, my opponent looked at me and told me, “I got you now.” I thought it was kind of weird and so naturally I wanted to crush him, which is precisely what I did.

At the end of the match, I had a friend nearby and my opponent had his, and he seemed proud of himself for having called a judge, saying that I was being a poor sport for being upset with him. After he was done talking to the onlookers he told me that the games were close and that he almost won them. Naturally I looked right at him and told him, “They weren’t close; you actually had no chance of winning,” which he again seemed to take offense to.

The point of all this is I love people who are boastful and colorful in Magic, it adds personality to the game, but if you want to act like that, you can’t take offense when someone returns the favor.

3-1 (5-2)

Round 5 – Axel Boudias

I won both of these games with life totals in the twenties thanks to an [Card]Archetype of Courage[/Card] and a decent amount of [Card]Wavecrash Triton[/Card] shenanigans. Part of the reason is that first strike makes every combat extremely profitable for me; also both games he had a turn one [Card]Hero of Leina Tower[/Card] and other heroic creatures but no cards that could trigger heroic.

4-1 (7-2)

Round 6 – Etienne Ouellet

Both games, I was able to cast [Card]Ephara, God of the Polis[/Card], onto empty boards and from there was able to cast a creature after creature to slowly chip away at his life total.

5-1 (9-2)

Round 7 – Johnathan O’Neill

Game one he was able to get an early [Card]Sedge Scorpion[/Card] to slow down my attacks and, coupled with a [Card]Springleaf Drum[/Card], ramped into [Card]Nessian Asp[/Card] and [Card]Sea God’s Revenge[/Card] to take over the game.

Game two he had an early [Card]Courser of Kruphix[/Card] but nothing else pressure-wise, and I was able to know when he had tricks coming to play around thanks to the Courser.

Game three featured another early [Card]Courser of Kruphix[/Card], this time greatly easing out his draws, and while I was able to get in for damage every now and then, the 13 life he gained was enough to hold off my forces and end the game in a draw with him at 12 life.

5-1-1 (10-3-1)

Round 8 – Jeffrey Anisman

He was piloting a GW heroic deck that played similarly to mine, though game one I was able to slow him down thanks to my blue cards, most notably [Card]Wavecrash Triton[/Card] permanently tapping down a 5/5 [Card]Akroan Skyguard[/Card] that was wrecking face. Game two feature me attacking with my own Skyguard as he stayed stuck on three lands, missing his second color and having no action.

6-1-1 (12-3-1)

Round 9 – Alexandre Fortin

My win-and-in. My natural thought was to avoid repeating my performance from GPs of 2013 by losing round nine and getting knocked out of the tournament, and sure enough game one was leading that way as I lost to one creature and what seemed like infinite removal.

It was shuffling up for game two, however, that truly galvanized my resolve: I wasn’t losing to this guy. I could figure out how a deck with only one creature and a ton of removal had gotten this far, but I knew I wasn’t losing this match. Game two I saw seven- and six-card hands with no lands and a five-card hand that I couldn’t reasonably keep, so I went down to four cards, and upon seeing those four cards I knew we were going to game three.

Sure enough I won on the back of an [Card]Archetype of Courage[/Card] and a [Card]Chorus of the Tides[/Card] bestowed with an [Card]Observant Alseid[/Card] making combat impossible for my opponent, leading him to scoop up his cards confused how he lost to my mull to four.

Game three let me play with [Card]Ephara, God of the Polis[/Card] one last time in the sealed portion. I was able to get her online early, and after only a couple swings with the god, his board was utterly decimated and he offered up his hand in congratulations. I was on to day two.

7-1-1 (14-4-1)

Rather than going out to party with the Mana Deprived crew, I went home because I figured I could get a draft or two in to figure out the format as I’ve never drafted it before. As it turns out, I didn’t do any of that, so the first time I would ever draft this format was Sunday morning, bright and early.

[Deck Title=Draft 1]
[Lands]
9 Mountain
6 Swamp
1 Temple of Malice
[/Lands][Creatures]
1 Akroan Crusader
1 Borderland Minotaur
1 Bronze Sable
2 Cavern Lampad
1 Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
1 Felhide Minotaur
1 Fleshmad Steed
2 Kragma Butcher
1 Minotaur Skullcleaver
2 Mogis’s Marauder
1 Nyxborn Rollicker
1 Reckless Reveler
[/Creatures][Spells]
2 Dragon Mantle
1 Fated COnflagration
1 Lightning Strike
1 Magma Jet
1 Necrobite
1 Rise to the Challenge
1 Scourgemark
1 Thunderous Might
[/Spells][Sideboard]
1 Battlewise Valor
1 Setessan Battle Priest
1 Yoked Ox
1 Lost in a Labyrinth
1 Claim of Erebos
1 Loathsome Catoblepas
1 Marshmist Titan
1 Returned Phalanx
1 Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
1 Pharagax Giant
3 Priest of Iroas
1 Wild Celebrants
1 Satyr Hedonist
1 Warriors’ Lesson
1 Xenagos, the Reveler
[/Sideboard][/Deck]

Round 10 – Dave Shiels

Sure enough, the one person in my draft I did not want to face I got paired against right away. It became apparent in this draft that my deck was no good. There were certain picks I made, believing they were right, which were way off, and my deck had too many disconnected pieces to work.

Game one was over quickly as my aggressive start came to a grinding halt when Dave landed turn-four and -five [Card]Nessian Asp[/Card]s, which spelled game over in a hurry. Game two, on the other hand, saw me mulligan to a six-card two-land hand, and unfortunately I drew the third land far too late to be relevant.

After the match we talked about picks and strategy, and Dave told me, it was far better to take the best card in the pack over trying too hard to pass signals, as the power level of individual cards was able to put you ahead. We also talked about a few other strategy tips and it became increasingly clear that I would be lucky to get out of this draft with a single win.

7-2-1 (14-6-1)

Round 11 – Harry Corvese

Harry had drafted a blue-red deck that was much closer to where my deck should have been as black doesn’t offer the same tempo cards as blue. Both games played out similarly as I was able to get off to an aggressive start, knocking him below five life only to lose steam thanks to cards like [Card]Sudden Storm[/Card] and [Card]Triton Tactics[/Card]

7-3-1 (14-8-1)

Round 12 – Clayton Mirehouse

It was now or never if I wanted to escape with a 1-2 record in my first day-two draft. Clayton’s deck was blue-black tempo with cards like [Card]Dissolve[/Card] and [Card]Retraction Helix[/Card]. However aside from a copy of [Card]Thassa’s Emissary[/Card] that was able to pull out game one, none of the other creatures I saw were able to put up much of a fight against my big ground creatures. And while game one was relatively close, games two and three were greatly in my favor as I was able to amass a large ground force in both games that soon overwhelmed the tricks that my opponent had.

8-3-1 (16-9-1)

[Deck Title=Draft 2]
[Lands]
8 Plains
9 Swamp
[/Lands][Creatures]
1 Ashiok’s Adept
1 Felhide Minotaur
3 Fleshmad Steed
1 Ghostblade Eidolon
1 Grey Merchant of Asphodel
1 Herald of Torment
1 Mogis’s Marauder
2 Nyxborn Eidolon
2 Setessan Battle Priest
1 Spirit of the Labyrinth
2 Tormented Hero
[/Creatures][Spells]
2 Battlewise Valor
2 Gods Willing
1 Ordeal of Erebos
1 Ordeal of Heliod
1 Sip of Hemlock
[/Spells][Sideboard]
1 Excoriate
1 Glare of Heresy
1 God-Favored General
1 Great Hart
1 Traveling Philosopher
1 Annul
1 Coastline Chimera
2 Divination
1 Prescient Chimera
1 Loathsome Catoblepas
1 March of the Returned
1 Warchanter of Mogis
1 Boulderfall
1 Epiphany Storm
1 Satyr Nyx-Smith
1 Agent of Horizons
1 Defend the Hearth
1 Witches’ Eye
[/Sideboard][/Deck]

After my first draft and talking with several people, I knew early on what I wanted to do in this draft. I was fortunate enough to get a pack-one, pick-one [Card]Herald of Torment[/Card], which led to a black-white heroic deck. Based on Shiel’s advice, I realized that the creatures were far less important than the tricks you had access to, which is why I picked both ordeals second and third as opposed to slightly better heroic creatures.

Round 13 – Adam Joyce

The only creature I ever saw from my opponent was a [Card]Cavern Lampad[/Card], which showed up far too late to even make a difference in game one. Game two saw me curve out nicely as all my opponent could muster was a [Card]Dark Betrayal[/Card] and no other spells.

9-3-1 (18-9-1)

Round 14 – Richard Kraupa

I had been passing to Richard in the draft and was fairly confident that he was solidly in green, which paid off with the opening hand I kept. [Card]Ashiok’s Adept[/Card] carried me to victory as I was able to shred my opponent’s hand thanks to the Adept’s heroic ability and [Card]Ordeal of Erebos[/Card].

Game two was supremely in Richard’s favor as [Card]Nylea’s Bow[/Card] and large green fatties in the form of [Card]Nemesis of Mortals[/Card] chipped away at my life total while my creatures couldn’t muster any offense.

Game three had a crucial part where I had an [Card]Ashiok’s Adept[/Card] bestowed with [Card]Herald of Torment[/Card] that was slowly reducing my life total, to the point that I was on the verge of losing since my opponent had a [Card]Nessian Asp[/Card]. The game turned after I cast a [Card]Grey Merchant of Asphodel[/Card] for five, putting him to 11. Richard alpha-striked into my board and was able to get in four damage, while our creatures bounced off of each other. He didn’t have a follow up play and passed the turn which gave me my window of opportunity as I bestowed [Card]Ghostblade Eidolon[/Card] onto my Adept and swung for lethal, getting me the game and the match.

10-3-1 (20-10-1)

Round 15 – Dane Allan

Game one was rather quick as we were racing back and forth, but with my combat tricks I was able to get in greater chunks of damage, eventually finding a [Card]Hopeful Eidolon[/Card] to seal the game.

In game two, [Card]Setessan Battle Priest[/Card] came down early and I was able to get an [Card]Ordeal of Erebos[/Card] to attack my opponent’s hand until we were stuck at a standstill with my 4/6 Battle Priest against his [Card]Thassa’s Emissary[/Card] bestowed with a [Card]Nylea’s Emissary[/Card]. The breaking point came when Dane tried to [Card]Sudden Storm[/Card] my two creatures, where I was able to save my Battle Priest thanks to a [Card]God’s Willing[/Card]. Dane attacked in with the Emissary and I was able to block with my pro-blue Battle Priest and freely swung in, finishing him off with a [Card]Sip of Hemlock[/Card] for the win.

11-3-1 (22-10-1)

Coming into GP Montreal I honestly wasn’t expecting to day two or even have a positive day-one result, as I knew very little about the format and frankly felt overmatched most times I had played Limited as of late. After this performance, however, there is room for more optimism as I played well throughout my sealed rounds, learning how I needed to play and rebounding from my first draft to crush my second draft. Altogether I was very pleased with the 32nd place I was able to achieve, and it gave me a little hope for GP Philadelphia next month.

Thanks for reading,
William