I just got back from a very busy and fun trip to Japan, as you all could have read about in the coverage of Worlds and other articles that followed it. Again I had an unsuccessful Pro Tour tournament; I finished 8-10, a win short of top 128, but I do feel that the deck that I and a number of other Dutch played in the Standard portion of the event will be a major contender in this Type Two format.
At first I didn’t like any deck we had in our gauntlet at all. The four decks we had at that point were Boros, Mono-U, B/G Beatdown and the Greater Gifts deck Frank Karsten piloted to the finals at Worlds. About a week later Jelger Wiegersma suggested that Diego Ostrovich had broken the format by putting Dark Confidant in the sideboard of his Mono-U control deck. A week after this we were all in Japan, and the majority of us were busy with the Blue control deck, this time with Bobs in the maindeck. We ended up with this list:
This deck is a little different from the usual Blue control decks. With eight card-drawing two-drops, you can very often start to draw cards earlier and counter more spells than most other Blue decks. To make room for all this, you have less permanent removal than usual. The inclusion of Dark Confidant also gave Umezawa’s Jitte a place in the deck; if you’re running a normal Blue control deck it is usually a must-counter because it kills your Azami and Jushi Apprentice (Jitte takes care of this problem by killing Jitte), and with the life loss of Bob, why not include some copies yourself? It also serves as an additional win condition and creature removal spell – very often your opponent will not see this coming and won’t leave blockers behind to kill your Jushi Apprentice. You can’t include too many Jitte though, as it’s not good enough against other control decks simply because of the small amount of creatures you have.
Running the full four each of Dark Confidant and Jushi Apprentice also greatly increases the power of Disrupting Shoal – it gets closer and closer to an actual Force of Will now. You need to tap out on turn 2 almost every game as well, and the Shoal comes in there to counter the removal spell for your guy or the dreaded Hypnotic Specter. As for the Specter, the card advantage dudes help you get back that card disadvantage and dig for a Boomerang or Meloku in time to deal with the Specter.
You might argue that the Confidant is too risky against a fast beatdown deck like Boros to include them in the maindeck, and it might be true. Keiga had to be removed automatically when Bobs were included, and the average casting cost of the deck was brought down to 1.4. You don’t always need to use it to draw cards though; it often trades for a burn spell or one of their one-drops, which is never too bad. If you can get Jitte active, the risk is virtually eliminated since you will be able to gain four points of life a turn. You do sideboard the Bobs out against Red/White – they’re just not good enough in the matchup and if you expect a metagame filled with that archetype, it might be better not to include them in the maindeck. Most of the other matchups are all about card advantage though, as the games usually take a very long time to complete, even against the aggressive Black/Green decks. And, if Bob really starts to get on your nerves, you can always Quicksand him.
While it’s true that Rend Flesh does not take care of Keiga, Hypnotic Specter is actually a much worse problem and the arcane spell does deal with that one. We (I’m not sure about the rest of us, but I’d say that they’re on the same level as I am on this point) just stone missed this and Banished some Keiga instead.
The plan against control decks is straightforward: add some disruption and removal for their threats and take out the early-game spells. This sideboard might seem a bit short on cards against control decks, but your usual sideboard cards – 4 Dark Confidant – are already in the maindeck.
The plan against Boros consists of some more removal, the third and fourth Jitte, and three Dimir Infiltrators. When I tested against Boros, I first tried out a sideboard plan with 3 Execute, 2 Last Gasp, 2 Dark Banishing and 2 Ribbons of Night. It soon turned out that almost every game in which the Blue deck managed to get Jitte active was won by the Blue deck. If you want to up the Jitte-count to four though, you need to board in some extra creatures, especially when you board out the Confidants. I grabbed a notepad and listed the options:
Too slow, only blocks about 12 creatures, not the important ones (the flyers). It is hard to kill though.
Hand of Cruelty
Too hard to cast, and every burn spell kills it.
Kira, the Great Glass-Spinner
Doesn’t get killed by burn spells, but Leonin Skyhunter does kill it, and Jitte is hard to equip onto it.
A bit slow, but a good blocker and hard to kill. Not a bad choice.
Maybe a bit hard to cast sometimes, but it’s very versatile as it blocks, carries Jitte (and doesn’t get killed in combat while doing so) and searches for Jitte. The games post-sideboard usually took a long time because you spend the first few turns trading your cards for theirs and not taking a lot of damage since you have a lot of removal available, and this is where the card’s versatility comes in handy.
This matchup is all about card advantage, so you have to try to avoid getting hit by Hypnotic Specter (or sometimes Dimir Cutpurse) too often. Disrupting Shoal is the most important card in the matchup; early on you both try to play card advantage guys and you’re forced to tap out quite often because of this. Shoal both protects your guys from removals and you from Specters.
Another source of card advantage for them is Umezawa’s Jitte; it kills all of your creatures so you should try to either keep Jitte or their creatures off the board. Finally, Ink-Eyes and Ninja of the Deep Hours can be trouble because they’re hard to counter and hard to get rid of when they hit play, the best you can do is take care of them with something such as Meloku or Jitte (or Bob for Deep Hours).
In the first game, Threads isn’t particularly good against them, but in games two and three they sometimes have cards like Nezumi Graverobber/Shortfang or Dark Confidant. If you see a lot of good targets for Threads, you can put them back in and take out something like Hinder. One Pithing Needle is added mainly for Ink-Eyes (and sometimes Graverobber/Shortfang), but you really don’t want to draw two so the other one is kept out. If they’re running Deep Hours though, you could add the second Needle as well.
What you want to do is get out a Jushi or Bob as early as possible and protect it; if they can’t deal with it, it will help you a great deal as you won’t miss land drops anymore and you’ll be able to counter most of their threats. You should always play this matchup safely; especially if you think they play Greater Good and are able to lock you up with Yosei. Be cautious when you’re thinking about letting Gifts Ungiven resolve. It’s true that they usually don’t have a lot of threats to go for but sometimes they have Nightmare Void, which can be a problem if you don’t have Hinder to deal with it.
In the early game, there is usually a point when you have to decide whether or not to counter Kodama’s Reach (or Tribe Elder), and it really depends on your hand. Mana Leak should almost always be burnt on it, but if you have to use Remand, Disrupting Shoal or Hinder, it’s a little more complex. If you can follow it up with threats (Meloku, Dark Confidant, Jushi Apprentice), or you already have one in play, they might not have the mana to deal with them quickly enough, but if you’re just going to play draw-go again after countering the Reach it might be better to just let it resolve. Generally, if you have a threat out (and especially Confidant or Jushi), you should counter more aggressively since you’re drawing lots of cards or winning the game in a few turns.
After sideboarding it’s pretty much the same on your side, except that you have some more disruption and the Threads are taken out (they’re pretty much dead cards). Two Jitte are kept in to act as a random win condition they won’t expect or to protect you from Ink-Eyes. Needle usually names Greater Good or Sensei’s Divining Top, and Extraction is very situational. Wrath of God (or Kagemaro, depending on their version) is a good target, but early on you might want to go for Gifts Ungiven. Most of the time you should just use it as what Frank Karsten calls it: four-mana Therapy.
They will probably bring in Defense Grid, which can be a real pain if they follow it up with a threat before you reach counter-mana again, so if you can you should keep it off the board.
The Blue mirrors:
This matchup is all about card advantage and land drops, something both Dark Confidant and Jushi Apprentice help a great deal with. Don’t play around everything – if they have mana open for a counterspell for your threat but you’re not sure that he has it, don’t be afraid to try it. On the flip side, don’t give your opponent too many opportunities to resolve big spells.
As you can see, not a lot changes here. Jitte is kept in again as the random win condition they won’t expect which you can sneak in easily as it’s only two mana. Don’t play your Boomerangs too quickly; most opposing decks will have Keiga and Boomerang allows you to let Keiga slip in for a turn or two. Marcio Carvalho even had Ink-Eyes in his deck, increasing the value of this spell even more, so don’t waste it on turn 2 on a land as the games will take a long time anyway.
Boros decks (White Weenie with a burn splash):
The first game heavily favors them – they will have two creatures in play by the time you have counter-mana up. Your game plan is to draw Threads of Disloyalty, preferably two, or get Jitte active.
The matchup changes a great deal with these changes; you now have a solid game plan with 4 Umezawa’s Jitte and 3 Infiltrators to tutor for them, and five removal spells to help you stay alive. You get to take out some of the bad counterspells and the Confidants which are just too risky to run. If you survive their early game at a healthy life total, your mid/late-game plan is more consistent than theirs: you both have Jitte, but you have more ways to get it (Infiltrator), and more ways to take care of any opposing copies (Boomerang, counterspells, and removals for their guys).
As for the matchup against the Japanese Selesnya deck, I didn’t test it yet since the next time I’ll play Standard, another set will have been added, but it seems like another matchup which revolves around your Jushi and Confidant.
I really liked the deck, and I don’t think I would make any significant changes if I were to play the format again. The Dark Banishing should be Rend Flesh, maybe an extra Boomerang, the only card I would cut would be Shadow of Doubt from the side. I thought it would be better, but I’d rather have something like two Rewind so you have some more cards against control decks that don’t have Gifts Ungiven. Maybe even a couple of Boseiju for the mirror and to knock out any Boseijus an Enduring Ideal deck may have.
Last, I’d like to thank our editor Ted Knutson for taking the StarCity writers out for a night of karaoke and also picking up Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura – he’s great fun even though we don’t fully understand him. [Pete deserves plenty of thanks for this one as well. – Knut] It’s also quite strange to see the English of the Japanese players improve by the drink… I guess when they’re sober they’re afraid to screw up their sentences. Here’s an assemblage of pictures from the weekend which display a great memory to conclude this article.