Author’s Note: The article contains cards from Innistrad which have not yet been updated on our card tagger and for the time being will show up as dead links. If you wish to see what the cards look like they can be found on the main Wizards site here.
I’m not sure about you but I had a good time this past weekend. The Grand Prix was in town which was nice as I could sleep in my own bed at night. As well, I happen to know the city very well so I could conveniently park for free while avoid exorbitant costs. 20 dollars for onsite parking? No Thank You.
Friday was a marathon Catan match which while unrelated to Magic, was awesome. Saturday was the GP which I scrubbed out of/dropped from, and although everyone complains they lost for X or Y reason when they scrubbed out, in my case, it was all on me.
To satisfy the “complaint” story that everyone always seems to have, here is mine. I was playing against my opponent who was playing Black/Red and I chose to play out an unprotected [Card]Inferno Titan[/Card] as I did not have a seventh land to hold up for [Card]Stave Off[/Card] rather than continuing to generate tokens from my [Card]Throne of Empires[/Card] to block his [Card]Gorehorn Minotaurs[/Card] because I was convinced that my opponent could give his creature Trample and attack over my soldier token for the win.
For those playing along at home, how many cards in M12 can give creatures Trample?
Time’s up, the correct answer is 1 and its [Card]Overrun[/Card] which cannot be cast with [Card]Swamp[/Card]s and [Card]Mountain[/Card]s, thus I pulled the KYT Jedi Mind Trick. So I’m proud to say I actually scrubbed out of the GP due to myself and myself alone.
Following the GP was the Legacy event, details are at the bottom which was a blast and then it was supper time with the crew, also equally enjoyable. Now after nine rounds on Saturday Alex was at 8-0-1 and watching him play he was pretty much locked in to be taking this down.
Come Sunday, Alex in the top 8 was of no surprise and I was sure that he was taking it all down. I was only slightly wrong as the only thing that stopped him was Rich Hoaen having the nuts deck and getting a Bloodthirsted [Card]Bloodlord of Vaasgoth[/Card] into play both games. Congratulations to Rich for defending home turf and congratulations to Alex, you’ll take it down next time.
Following the GP there was a marathon on of American Pie movies, I only watched the first two which are the good ones and then on Monday morning at Midnight, Wizards was nice enough to release the entire spoiler for Innistrad, which means it’s time for my Brew Master’s Cap. Also on Tuesday morning they banned [Card]Mental Misstep[/Card] from Legacy which should make things interesting. Today however is focused on Standard and Innistrad so that is for another day.
Thoughts on Innistrad
The set’s bad.
To go more in depth, if you listened to the Eh Team Podcast this week, Conley was on and he compared Innistrad to Kamigawa where there was a lot of flavour but the cards were underpowered. I will agree that the set does have a lot of flavour and when they first started spoiling it, I was excited because the whole horror thing looked cool, just like I was a fan of the Kamigawa’s Far East influence.
I don’t know about you but for me that excitement has subsided. While there are cool cards in the set, a lot of them feel very niche and while they will make for good cards in EDH decks or combos in other formats there are not a lot of cards that provide the same wow factor in Standard. I think it is made worse by the fact that they just had a story driven block in Scars that most grew tired of.
Another problem I sense is the Block Mechanisms that are being used. While it is nice to have Mechanisms that are developed within a block, if they are self-contained then it feels like two parts that have no correlation. Case in point, whereas Metalcraft is only in Scars and has no connection to Innistrad, the same can be said of some of the tribal subthemes from Innistrad. It is made worse when compared to abilities like Landfall and Kicker which are more universal. Right off the bat, there there are a lot of cards that can be dismissed as they will not be seeing competitive play.
The one positive that I can find in all of this is; I believe the limited format will be much more skill intensive. Whereas in M12 limited or Scars limited there was a specific game plan you could take or there were specific cards that were bombs, a la Titan, I don’t think Innistrad has that. Yes there are cards that will obviously be better but you won’t be able to build a deck around a couple of cards and then add in fluff and expect to be successful. Games will also be slower and grindier than in previous limited formats which will allow the skilled players to prevail.
Deck Brewing For Standard With Innistrad
With all of that out of the way, there will still be potential for the Innistrad cards to have an impact. I already have ideas brewing and today I will start with a deck right in my wheel house: White Weenie.
Regardless of the circumstances, there is always potential for a White Weenie deck to succeed, especially early in the Metagame, when decks are usually slower and unsure of the competition so they naturally take a control aspect. This is where aggro decks such as White Weenie are able to shine.
A common problem for this type of deck, that has always existed is mass removal or sweepers which are capable of wiping your board and putting you at a great disadvantage. With the printing of Innistrad that problem is [Card]Nevermore[/Card].
While they were spoiling Innistrad, this was one of the cards I was happiest to see. Now it is basically [Card]Meddling Mage[/Card], or as Mark Rosewater alluded to [Card]Look at Me, I’m the DCI[/Card], except that it is an Enchantment making it generally harder to remove and its Mono White which means that there is no need for a second color.
In the past White Weenie has been small creatures that come down early and hit often and Innistrad was nice enough to bring along a few for the ride: [Card]Champion of the Parish[/Card], [Card]Doomed Traveler[/Card], [Card]Elite Inquisitor[/Card], [Card]Fiend Hunter[/Card]. There are also a few nice utility creatures which would fit well in the deck such as [Card]Angelic Overseer[/Card] as a finisher, [Card]Geist-Honored Monk[/Card] in a similar role, [Card]Mentor of the Meek[/Card] for card draw and [Card]Mikaeus, the Lunarch[/Card] seems alright in an [Card]Ajani Goldmane[/Card] role. There are a few that focus on other cards dying which although they may look viable, do not fit into the White Weenie mould.
The next step is looking through the remaining sets for cards that also fit the same formula. [Card]Elite Vanguard[/Card] satisfies the early pressure requirement, [Card]Angelic Destiny[/Card] supports the finisher strategy and reusable finisher at that and last is [Card]Honor of the Pure[/Card] which benefits all White creatures and is an auto include. From Scars Block there is [Card]Mirran Crusader[/Card], which would be a powerhouse and while [Card]Porcelain Legionnaire[/Card] might be suggested, the card is neither 2 power of less or a Human which leads to a lack of synergy.
Here would be an early make of the deck:
[Deck Title=William Blondon – White Weenie]
2 Angelic Overseer
4 Champion of the Parish
2 Doomed Traveler
4 Elite Inquisitor
4 Elite Vanguard
2 Fiend Hunter
1 Hero of Bladehold
3 Mentor of the Meek
1 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
3 Mirran Crusader
2 Angelic Destiny
4 Honor of the Pure
2 Spare From Evil
2 Tezzerets Gambit
3 Celestial Purge
3 Leonin Relic-Warder
3 Purify The Grave
1 Spare From Evil
3 Stony Silence
The deck clocks in with 26 creatures which is about the ideal number for any aggro deck looking to put the pressure on early and often. The land count is pretty straightforward at twenty as you do not want to get mana flooded early on and thanks to the low curve the constraints are not too severe, though with further testing cutting that number down to 19 if not 18 may be a possibility though it will also require the removal of certain higher casting costs spells like the Overseer.
The spell package could probably be better. The [Card]Tezzeret’s Gambit[/Card] is for the later game card draw though cutting one for an additional [Card]Spare No Evil[/Card] could be a possibility as long as there are more aggro decks than control decks. [Card]Honor of the Pure[/Card] and [Card]Angelic Destiny[/Card] are “Pumpers” and the singleton [Card]Nevermore[/Card] in the main is just in case.
The sideboard is obviously a crapshoot as the meta has no known quantity. There will be a control deck which is the reason for [Card]Nevermore[/Card], whether it is White, Blue or Black I am not sure but the card protects against both [Card]Black Sun’s Zenith[/Card] and [Card]Day of Judgment[/Card] so it is a safe bet. The [Card]Leonin Relic-Warder[/Card] is against [Card]Tempered Steel[/Card] and [Card]Birthing Pod[/Card] as they will be two decks coming over from this past Metagame. Due to the increased Artifacts from Scars, I’ve included [Card]Stony Silence[/Card] against Puresteel and Equipment in general. Finally [Card]Purify the Grave[/Card] is in case of Flashback or Reanimation which may seem right now, though could probably be removed for something better.
Brewing Take Two
Originally I was only intending on one deck but as I saw more cards and got more ideas and wanted to get them out there as quickly as possible, and I’m bringing you a second deck. This one if inspired by two cards, first Tiago Chan’s Invitational Card [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card], yes I’m buying into the hype. And second [Card]Desperate Ravings[/Card], which was revealed when all of the cards were and lead me to believe that a Blue/Red control deck is perfect for attacking an unknown Metagame.
When building a Blue/Red control deck, the first thing to look at is Counter Magic and Burn Spells as these will be the two main components to the deck, which will allow for prolonging the game until you can land your finishers. As an example, it is similar to [Card]Pyromancer’s Ascension[/Card] except instead of winning with the Enchantment, you win with an [Card]Inferno Titan[/Card].
The good Counter Magic currently available are [Card]Cancel[/Card], [Card]Dissipate[/Card] (A Mirage Reprint), [Card]Flashfreeze[/Card], [Card]Mana Leak[/Card], [Card]Mental Misstep[/Card], [Card]Negate[/Card] and [Card]Stoic Rebuttal[/Card]. The good Burn Spells currently available are [Card]Arc Trail[/Card], [Card]Burn the Impure[/Card], [Card]Combust[/Card], [Card]Incinerate[/Card], [Card]Galvanic Blast[/Card] and [Card]Shock[/Card].
In conjunction with [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card] each of these cards can effectively be used twice, so the number of each spells needed can be slightly diminished. [Card]Grim Lavamancer[/Card] also provides for extra burn damage and is being constantly feed in a deck like this so the burn can be further reduced.
Before any of that happens, it’s best to figure out the number of each type of card that will be found in the deck. My current thought would be 23 lands, 12 Creatures and 25 Spells to build the first shell.
I’ll base myself on those numbers. The 23 lands will be 16 Basic Lands, 4 [Card]Sulfur Falls[/Card] & 3 [Card]Ghost Quarter[/Card]s. The basic land composition can be decided later on depending on the demands of the deck.
As for the 12 creatures, the deck starts with 4 [Card]Grim Lavamancer[/Card] and 4 [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card] as these will be two of the central cards in the deck. The Lavamancer allows for stemming the tide of any aggro strategies while the Mage allows for reusing the cards in your graveyard to 2 for 1 an opponent. Since both of these creatures are small, we need big game finishers in the form of two copies of [Card]Frost Titan[/Card] and [Card]Inferno Titan[/Card]. Without knowing what exactly to expect, I would leave the [Card]Spellskite[/Card]s in the sideboard for now.
Finally we arrive at the spells. Being a blue deck, we will need card draw with will be featured as 4 [Card]Ponder[/Card] and 3 [Card]Desperate Ravings[/Card]. The advantage of the Ravings is it can be played at Instant speed, allowing for Counter Magic mana to be held up and then cast at the end of your opponent’s turn. Yes the random discard is a risk but later on you can pile up land in your hand which will not hurt if it is discarded. Personally I think it is better than [Card]Think Twice[/Card] though for those who don’t, changing from one to the other, would be just as good.
Focusing on this past iteration of Standard, Mono Red decks played [Card]Shrine of Burning Rage[/Card], which was a nuisance card as if it was not dealt with, it presented inevitability that the Red deck would win. Don’t get me wrong, the Shrine does not fit in this deck but there happens to be a curse, which presents inevitability in the form of slow burn, [Card]Curse of the Pierced Heart[/Card]. While one damage may not seem much, control decks are generally favoured the longer a match goes and with this deck you are looking to hold off your opponent for as long as possible, which makes this card ideal, for its purposes and I believe having three in your deck is the right call.
This now leaves 15 spots remaining in the deck. Based on the counter burn, we had gone through before, we can eliminate Sideboard cards and then repeat spells like [Card]Shock[/Card] and [Card]Cancel[/Card] which are inferior to [Card]Galvanic Blast[/Card] and [Card]Stoic Rebuttal[/Card]. For Counters, a combination of 1 Dissipate, 4 Mana Leak, 1 Negate and 2 Stoic Rebuttal would provide enough early and late game stop gaps. As for Burn, 2 Arc Trail, 3 Galvanic Blast and 2 Incinerate would be the best bets.
With all of that figured out, this is what Blue/Red Control would look like:
[Deck Title=William Blondon – Desperate Mage]
3 Ghost Quarter
4 Sulfur Falls
2 Frost Titan
4 Grim Lavamancer
2 Inferno Titan
4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Arc Trail
3 Curse of the Pierced Heart
3 Desperate Ravings
3 Galvanic Blast
4 Mana Leak
2 Stoic Rebuttal
2 Arc Trail
2 Graveyard Shovel
2 Volition Reins
Most of this, I’ve already gone over so I’ll make it quick. [Card]Arc Trail[/Card] is for additional burn, [Card]Dissipate[/Card] and [Card]Flashfreeze[/Card] are for additional counters, with Dissipate playing a role against any reanimation or Flashback decks. [Card]Disperse[/Card] is the only Instant speed bounce currently available, [Card]Graveyard Shovel[/Card] serves a similar purpose in removing their graveyard, while simultaneously gaining life occasionally. [Card]Spellskite[/Card] serves as a nice wall, while also protecting your Lavamancer and Titans and coupled with the shovel can allow for Metalcraft. Last is [Card]Volition Reins[/Card] to steal every large pesky card your opponent might play but you think would be better off on your side of the board.
Another thing to note is that, since this is a control deck, a sideboard based on a possible metagame is not of huge value so while I feel the main deck is solid, the sideboard should be taken with a grain of salt. That is a wrap for my two deck ideas this week, next week I will have two more posted so that you may have an idea of what you want to try for your first FNM post rotation.
Stories From The Grand Prix
Everyone seems to have a section like this so I figured why not me, though both of my stories are from the Legacy tournament I played in Saturday afternoon at the Grand Prix.
The first is from Round 3. I was playing [Card]Hive Mind[/Card], that Peter Sachlas lent me so shout out to him, and I was facing Dredge. Game two I play a turn two [Card]Show and Tell[/Card] which is allowed to resolve letting me put an [Card]Emrakul, The Aeons Torn[/Card] into play. Next turn I attack him down to four, with him sacking all of his permanents.
Next turn he Dredges hitting a [Card]Narcomoeba[/Card] and two [Card]Bridge From Below[/Card], he then plays a [Card]City of Brass[/Card] and nets himself enough tokens off a [Card]Breakthrough[/Card] to sac to the Annihilator trigger when I attack next turn. He then reproduces the same effect the next turn with another Narcomoeba and has some tokens left over to hit me to eleven the turn after.
Again on my turn, I’m facing down another army of Zombies and decide to attack first before [Card]Ponder[/Card]ing. Now with twenty Zombies in play, I find a [Card]Firespout[/Card] which is depressing until I realise I have a [Card]Volcanic Island[/Card] in play and can kill all his Zombies.
On his turn he Dredges [Card]Dakmor Salvage[/Card] and brings back three [Card]Ichorid[/Card]s. He then plays the land triggering his [Card]Bloodghast[/Card] and swings everything sideways. Important note, I am at eleven and thus the Ghast do not have Haste so he can only knock me to two. So [Card]Dread Return[/Card] a [Card]Stinkweed Imp[/Card] to block Emrakul and get a ton of dudes.
Luck sack that I am, I find the second Firespout, kill all his Zombies and put him on life tilt. The moral of the story is, somethings you have to attack with Emrakul five times before your opponent concedes!
Story number 2 is from round 4. Again Hive Mind but this time I am playing against ANT or [Card]Ad Nauseam[/Card]/[Card]Tendrils of Agony[/Card]. I get rolled game one and for some reason sideboard out my Emrakuls for game two. So game two, on turn four I play [Card]Show and Tell[/Card] and put into play a Hive Mind, to my surprise my opponent also puts something into play, for him a [Card]Lotus Petal[/Card]. I play [Card]Pact of the Titan[/Card] assume its good game until my opponent pays for the Pact on upkeep with his Lotus Petal. He ships back the turn and just then I realise I have a Volcanic Island in play and can pay for my Pact. We spend two or three turns attacking each other with Titan tokens until he finally plays [Card]Ad Nauseum[/Card]. Since Hive Mind is in play, I also get a copy! Anyways he reveals till he is at one life and has enough to kill me with his Storm count except for one problem, can anyone guess.
If he plays [Card]Tendrils of Agony[/Card] there are two triggers, first the Storm trigger and second the Hive Mind trigger. As active player the Storm copy goes on the stack first and then my one copy of tendrils goes on the stack next and resolves first, which means that I kill him before he kills me. Although from then on it was hilarious, mostly because of how ridiculous the situation was , I’ll save you all the details to describe how I won. I was able to get a second Hive Mind in play and then proceed to deck him thanks to [Card]Intuition[/Card] and [Card]Brainstorm[/Card] as while I get my original every other players get two copies. Thus I can claim that I won a game of Legacy, between two non-[Card]High Tide[/Card] combo decks, by decking my opponent.
And those are my stories from the GP. I realise that the article was dealing with different subject matter and thus a little all over the place but to those who read all the way through, thank you very much and even though my words, didn’t seem encouraging go to your Prereleases, it will be a unique experience getting to be the first to play with Flip Cards. If you are in Montreal, you can Gunsling against KYT!
Till next week, take care and Have Fun Playing Magic!