Hello! My name is Dylan Kiedrowski. And I’ll skip the part where I say, “For those of you who don’t know me…” because I know none of you
do. I am a 19-year-old student, who resides in the Pittsburgh area and loves Magic (arguably too much); I’m here today to discuss my Nationals
Qualifier in Columbus.
It all started a few weeks ago. My friends and I were testing for the big day, running lists, taking notes, the whole nine yards.
I hate playing against Caw-Blade. The deck is extremely diverse, consisting of a variety of threats and answers that are well chosen and a bit
overpowered, especially together. I had previously decided against playing the deck, after playing it at both a StarCityGames.com Open and a local PTQ.
The deck would inevitably end up going to time, especially in the mirror. I was looking for something that could get the job done a few minutes faster.
Looking at the results from Standard tournaments prior to the qualifier, it was clear that Caw-Blade was the deck to beat.
Eventually I came up with a B/R concoction that looked very similar to Patrick Sullivan red deck, with a few changes that would allow me to compete
with the hate in Caw-Blade’s sideboard—Kor Firewalker namely. The list did well against Caw-Blade but “well” wasn’t good enough.
Friday, the night before the tournament, I stopped at my friend Mike Lanigan house to grab a second copy of the deck. Once there, we briefly
discussed card selection, matchups, consistency, and the overall power level of the deck.
Once we finished sharing thoughts on the burn deck, I asked him what he was taking. He looked at me, smiled, and just gave me a simple shrug and a
laugh. Confused, I told him to just give me the list. So he threw me a deck box, which I quickly opened and began to riffle through. It looked like a
pile. I saw Stoneforge Mystic, Squadron Hawk, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Explore… and WHAT?! Primeval Titan! I laughed and noted that it looked like an
obscure mess of same-colored cards. He proceeded to try and convince me that Primeval Titan grabbing Tectonic Edge was solid. I wasn’t convinced.
Ten minutes later, we were on our way down to a local shop to get some last-minute testing in.
After a few matches against Caw-Blade with the B/R list, I quickly became disgruntled, as I noticed that the entire match was decided by the dice roll.
Let me tell you something about dice rolls. I CANNOT WIN THEM. EVER. I wasn’t about to leave my most important matchup to chance.
I was lost; after weeks of testing, it was now the night before (approximately 9 pm at this point), and I didn’t have the slightest clue as to what to
play. So I did the unthinkable. I asked Mike for his list. Maybe it was fate or maybe it was luck. But for some random reason, even though I felt the
deck was a pile, I decided to give it a chance. A few minutes later, after excessive texting, I had the list all sleeved up and ready to go. My friends
asked me what I’d put together, as I goldfished it for several moments, waiting for my Caw-Blade opponent to finish up his match. “You’ll
see,” I said, laughing.
Moments later, I sat down across from Josh Milliken, prepared to take down the beast. We played a game. Then another. And another. We repeated this
process until we were content with the outcome. I was speechless. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had proceeded to destroy Caw-Blade, over and over
again, only losing three life over the entire string of games.
“All right Mike. I’m convinced.”
We tested until about 1 am that night, tuning the board as I learned the matchups. At the end of the night, I finally slouched down and fell asleep,
content with the list I was piloting the following day. What a relief!
The next morning, I woke up early, got dressed, and headed out. Without further ado, here’s the list I ran, created by Thomas Albin and handed to me by
Please keep in mind that although it may look like a pile, it plays like a champ. The initial main board remained unchanged; however, I did alter the
contents of the board a bit the night before. Originally, the board had four Kor Firewalkers for fast matchups such as Boros and Red Deck Wins, and
potentially against Valakut and RUG. During testing, I had a bit of trouble with the WW casting cost of the Firewalker, so I decided to go with a safer
route. Two Obstinate Baloths and two Condemns.
Round 1: Hawkward
So after all the excitement of discovery, I finally sat down for round one. I decided to keep my opening hand, whereas my opponent decided to mull down
to six. He won the roll, of course, and opened with Plains. At this point, I put him on either Caw-Blade or Boros. I played Celestial Colonnade and
passed the turn.
He then played a second Plains and cast Glint Hawk Idol. Hawkward. WORST MATCHUP EVER. Not only had I not even thought to test against this Tier 2
strategy, but I was relatively sure it was his best matchup. I sadly untapped and cast Lotus Cobra, expecting him to untap and do what his deck does
best… explode. He played Seachrome Coast, tapped all three lands to cast Tempered Steel, and passed. And that was it. That was the turn he had to
do something absurd. Fortunately, he didn’t.
I untapped, played Misty Rainforest, and cast Gideon Jura. The next two turns consisted of my playing Primeval Titan followed by Stoneforge Mystic,
grabbing Sword of Feast and Famine, and equipping Primeval Titan with the Sword. Good game.
Game two was almost as one-sided as the first game; only this time I was on the losing end of that battle. He played turn 1 Memnite, turn 2 Steel
Overseer, followed by Vector Asp and Glint Hawk Idol on turn 3. I had a lonely Squadron Hawk. Good game.
Game three was one of the most interesting games I’ve ever played. Unfortunately, it was much too long for me to remember it in detail. On the play, I
was advantaged as far as explosiveness goes, but he kept his seven without much thought at all. The game went something like turn 2 Lotus Cobra, his
turn 2 Steel Overseer with a Memnite and Ornithopter in play. Over the next 4-6 turns, he cast Tempered Steel, followed by dozens of guys, correctly
analyzing that I failed to play sweepers in my sideboard.
Clearly overrun, I cast a Baneslayer Angel, out of lack of better options. This Baneslayer was soon met by another. Then another. And soon after, a
Wurmcoil Engine. Pretty good right? Wrong. At this point, most of his creatures were well above 7/7. Luckily, 15/15 first strike, lifelink, and flying
all work together to buy a little time. I drew lands for the next five turns while he slowly added to his board. I calculated it would take two turns
before he could swing and lose very little, putting me on a two-turn clock. I slowly drew a card, tapped five lands, cast Gideon Jura, and activated
his +2 ability; then on the following turn, I attacked with three Baneslayer Angels, two Lotus Cobras, three Squadron Hawks, and three Celestial
Colonnades for lethal damage. (I had a whole lot of land in play in addition to playing a Misty Rainforest on the last turn). Great game.
Round 2: Valakut
After an epic round one, I was relieved when my round two opponent went into the tank with his seven cards. After much debate and frustration, he
decided to keep. I also kept, looking at a hand with two Jace, the Mind Sculptors, Lotus Cobra, Stoneforge Mystic, and three land. I lost the roll
(again), and my opponent opened with turn 1 Forest. I played a land and passed the turn. He played a second Forest and cast Overgrown Battlement. I put
him on either Valakut or Mono-Green Eldrazi, casting Lotus Cobra to keep up with his mana-ramping shenanigans.
Failing to play a third land, he tapped his two Forests and cast yet another Overgrown Battlement. No land. Lots of mana. I viewed this as an opening,
casting Jace, the Mind Sculptor and bouncing an Overgrown Battlement. The next couple of turns consisted of his not drawing land and my continuously
using Jace to bounce his Battlements (using the second Jace in my hand after the first kamikaze-ed himself) and my using Sword of Feast and Famine to
gain tempo advantage. Good game.
One comment pertaining to game one: I did see a Lightning Bolt on the last turn when he finally drew a Mountain. I boarded accordingly. Some people say
boarding out Squadron Hawk is ideal against Valakut. After seeing the Lighting Bolt, however, I’d hate any situation where I play turn 2 Stoneforge
Mystic, fetching Sword of Feast and Famine, only to get that Stoneforge Mystic Lightning Bolted, leaving me creatureless. I sided out the Oracles also
because of the Bolts.
Game two was a bit more exciting; my opponent opened once again with an Overgrown Battlement. I had a turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic, fetching up Sword of
Feast and Famine. My opponent cast Harrow, then tapped the rest of his land to play Tumble Magnet. New game plan. I untapped, cast Lotus Cobra, land,
Squadron Hawk. He untapped with five mana available and cast Cultivate. The next three turns included my playing out a second Lotus Cobra, another
Stoneforge Mystic, and a flock of Squadron Hawk(s), keeping two mana up each turn. I Mana Leaked his first Primeval Titan on the following turn, then
Flashfreezed attempt number two. I attacked my opponent down to six with my army of small creatures, played Misty Rainforest with two Lotus Cobras and
seven land already in play, floated twelve mana, and cast Mortarpod, sacrificing and re-equipping five separate times to end the game.
Round 3: Boros
Round three was pretty unexciting. My opponent and I both kept our opening hands, his first play being an Evolving Wilds. I played a land and passed
the turn. He cast Stoneforge Mystic on his following turn, fetching Sword of Feast and Famine. I cast Lotus Cobra then Squadron Hawk during the next
two turns while he played and equipped his Stoneforge Mystic. The game ended relatively quickly after this; he cast Koth of the Hammer, but I followed
it up with Gideon Jura, Primeval Titan, and Stoneforge Mystic. Burn is pretty cold against Gideon and/or Primeval Titan. Good game.
Sideboard: (On the draw) -2 Oracle of Mul Daya, -1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, -4 Primeval Titan, -2 Explore, + 1 Wurmcoil Engine, +3 Baneslayer Angel, +2
Condemn, +1 Sylvok Lifestaff, +2 Obstinate Baloth
Boarding is pretty self-explanatory, but leaving in Primeval Titan(s) would be a mistake. Although he won me the first game, I was very wary of Mark of
Mutiny fetching up two Teetering Peaks and most likely ending the game.
Game three played out pretty similar to game one, the only difference being he had two Cunning Sparkmage. I had Stoneforge Mystic + Mortarpod.
Mortarpod always wins that battle. The final turns of the game were Koth vs. Gideon once again, Gideon finally coming out on top. Good game.
Round 4: Caw-Blade
Game one went a little something like this. My opponent mulliganed to five. He then got stuck on two lands, both Plains. My turns went Lotus Cobra,
Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Gideon Jura, Primeval Titan. On to game two. Bad game.
Sideboard: None. We’re pre-boarded for Caw-Blade. Love it!
Game two was fairer than game one as far as mulligans go; he kept his seven, and I mulled down to six. Unfortunately for him, my deck was designed to
beat up on Caw-Blade, and he was outmatched from the start. His first few turns consisted of turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic followed by Squadron Hawk and
equipping his creature with Sword. I cast turn 2 Explore into turn 3 Oracle of Mul Daya. If you have any experience with Oracle of Mul Daya in a ramp
strategy, you’re well aware that Caw-Blade cannot keep up with him whatsoever. I exploded on the next turn, casting Lotus Cobra, fetch, Primeval Titan,
land off the top, Gideon Jura. The next turn, I cast Stoneforge Mystic, equipped Primeval Titan with Sword of Feast and Famine, fetched up a Celestial
Colonnade and my third Tectonic Edge, and then destroyed three lands, putting him back down to two. Good game.
Round 5: Caw-Blade
Round five was a very important match for me. Here is why: I WON THE ROLL! Thrilled, I started off with a Celestial Colonnade. My opponent mirrored my
play, as I sat down against my second Caw-Blade match of the day. I cast Lotus Cobra into Squadron Hawks on the following turn, while he cast his own
flock of birds. The single greatest thing about Beef-Blade lies within the planeswalkers. Not only do I play the same number as Caw-Blade, but I can
get them out much, much faster. I used that technology during this round, resolving both Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Gideon Jura before my opponent
knew what was going on. His plays included planeswalkers to counteract my own via legend rule and a board of fliers to combat my aggressiveness. The
game was pretty close until I landed a Primeval Titan, fetching up two Tectonic Edges and wrecking his mana base. Good game.
Sideboard: A fake fifteen-card board-in where I added my entire board to my deck, then proceeded to take out the same fifteen. Truthfully I was just
bored while he was contemplating sideboard options.
Game two went very similarly. We both played out some Squadron Hawks, and I ramped past his U/W mana base. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything
to immediately curve into, stalling out for a good long while. After drawing into a Stoneforge Mystic and fetching up a Sword, I started to gain a
small advantage that was then capitalized on when I played Primeval Titan, equipping him up with Sword and going to town with a gigantic 8/8 trampling
menace. Good game.
Round 6: Naya Vengevine
Round six, I sat down on top of the world, ready for anything. After losing the die roll (sigh) and keeping my opening seven, my opponent opened with a
Raging Ravine. I played a land and cast Preordain, not exactly sure as to what I was looking for just yet. Seeing Jace and Gideon on top, I decided to
keep them both. He proceeded to play a Stirring Wildwood and pass the turn. Naya. I untapped and cast Explore, calmly passing the turn back to the Naya
pilot. He played yet another Raging Ravine and cast Fauna Shaman. Without a second source of blue, I was disgruntled I couldn’t bounce the Fauna Shaman
with Jace. Instead, I cast Stoneforge Mystic and Squadron Hawk, fetching Sword of Feast and Famine and passed the turn.
My opponent made a dire mistake this turn, using Fauna Shaman to fetch up a Vengevine and simply passing the turn. With the Fauna Shaman already
tapped, I was able to untap, cast Gideon Jura, and use his -2 ability to rid the board of the tutor-happy creature. In my opponent’s defense, he
wasn’t aware I was playing Gideon; however, if he had simply passed, then used it at the end of turn, he would have gotten an additional use for
an additional Vengevine and possibly enough aggro to combat my Gideon. With the present board state however, I just equipped up Gideon with Sword and
killed my opponent in two turns. And yes, I unfortunately had to let him discard a Vengevine to Sword. In retrospect, I thought the clock was worth the
risk. Good game.
Game two, my opponent cast turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic, fetching Bonehoard(?) followed by a turn 3 Cunning Sparkmage. My first three turns consisted of
Squadron Hawk into Stoneforge Mystic and fetching a Mortarpod to end the Mage’s life. My opponent cast Vengevine, turning the aggressive clock up
a few notches, attacking with a Squadron Hawk and a Vengevine. I fell to fourteen life. I untapped and cast a Squadron Hawk, passing the turn with two
mana up. He attacked again, and I responded by putting Mortarpod into play. I blocked the Vengevine, then shot the Bird out of the sky. The following
turns went accordingly, while I used my Squadron Hawks to keep the Vengevine at bay, all the while gaining subtle advantages in land and hand size. The
game came to a quick and painful ending when I drew Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Brainstormed into two Baneslayer Angels. Good game.
Round 7: Spark-Blade
Round seven. This was it. If I won here, I could ID into the Top 8, qualifying for Nationals. (The entire Top 8 qualified for Nationals.) Off to a good
start, I won the die roll, aware I was up against Sparkblade. This matchup is a bit trickier than regular U/W Caw-Blade, with Lightning Bolts and
Cunning Sparkmages as good answers to my early arsenal.
Game one we both kept our opening seven, and I opened up with a Preordain. My opponent played Celestial Colonnade and passed the turn. I had an option
to either cast Lotus Cobra or Explore, eventually settling on Lotus Cobra, figuring that if it did go unanswered, I set myself up to win a quick game
one. My opponent played Seachrome Coast, then cast Journey to Nowhere. Good game.
Regularly this wouldn’t result in a loss, especially to Caw-Blade, but unfortunately it was followed up by two Emeria Angels with a few
fetchlands. Unable to reach a mana advantage, I picked up my cards.
Game two wasn’t really a game. My opponent mulliganed to five on the draw. Not much to say there. To top it all off, I cast turn 4 Primeval Titan
fetching Tectonic Edges and proceeded to Armageddon him on the following turn. Bad game.
Game three was a much more intense game. On the draw, I kept three land, Stoneforge Mystic, Stoneforge Mystic, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Explore. He
kept his opening seven, after a moment of thoughtfully debating, which I later found out was due to lack of red mana with Cunning Sparkmage and
Lightning Bolt in hand; he then played Celestial Colonnade. I drew, played a land, and passed the turn. He simply played a land and passed back. I
assumed countermagic at this point and threw away a Stoneforge Mystic to a Mana Leak. On his following turn, he ripped Arid Mesa and cast Cunning
Sparkmage. I untapped, cast Explore into Stoneforge Mystic and fetched up my famous Mortarpod. Once I had dealt with the Cunning Sparkmage, the game
slowed down, with neither of us doing much of anything. He eventually Lightning Bolted a Lotus Cobra, then resolved a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I used
the opening to resolve Primeval Titan, and the Armageddon was too much for the Sparkblade player. Good game.
Round 8: Draw
Round 9: Draw
End Record: (7-0-2)
ON MY WAY TO NATIONALS!
Throughout the course of the tournament, I was pretty happy with all of the card choices, numbers, and sideboard plans. The only card that seemed a
little underwhelming was Oracle of Mul Daya. Yes, it is amazing against Caw-Blade; however it felt like overkill. You definitely don’t need it
against them, and it comes out in most matchups. In retrospect, I think I would probably add another Stoneforge Mystic and an additional equipment to
fetch up with him. Possibly Sword of Body and Mind. Also, I wish I had another land to search up with Primeval Titan against aggro decks such as Khalni
Garden or Mystifying Maze. Two Celestial Colonnades seemed pretty poor. The only problem there is that I side the Primeval Titans out against aggro, so
that card becomes irrelevant after board.
New NPH additions to Beef-Blade
When the new set was finally spoiled, I immediately began looking for additions to Beef-Blade, searching for a way to strengthen the more aggressive
matchups and give the deck even more resiliency. Cards like Batterskull, Sword of War and Peace, and Beast Within were obvious candidates for an
update. Of course, there were also less obvious additions that could potentially add an absurd advantage to the deck such as Chancellor of the Tangle.
After much debate and deckbuilding, I came up with a list that’s very similar to the original. Initially, I was a huge fan of the Chancellor, being
able to cast Lotus Cobra, Explore, Squadron Hawk, or Stoneforge Mystic on turn 1. With further testing, it turned out that the only consistent way to
play Chancellor is in a deck that plays Fauna Shaman, giving you an efficient way to get rid of the Chancellor after you have used the ability or for
when you draw it later on. This led to the addition of Vengevine, which then led to Birds of Paradise. The list operated well, but it lost consistency
against Caw-Blade due to a loss of planeswalkers, which was the entire point of the deck to begin with. For reference, here is the list:
- 3 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Lotus Cobra
- 4 Stoneforge Mystic
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 4 Squadron Hawk
- 1 Viridian Corrupter
- 4 Chancellor of the Tangle
The list is still in early stages of testing, but I think this will be the base of a G/W aggro deck soon to come with the addition of NPH. It’s
possible that Jace, the Mind Sculptor isn’t worth adding the blue for; then again, it is Jace. As I said before, my problem with this updated
list is a loss of consistency against the one deck it was designed to beat. Back to the drawing board.
Once I realized that changing the list too much did much more damage than good, I decided to stay with the core of the deck, while simply increasing
resiliency in so far as adding additional tutorable Equipment and improving the sideboard to be better combat a new and unknown format. Without further
ado, here is Beef-Blade 2.0:
As you can see, there are very few changes to the original list. I added the fourth Stoneforge Mystic to ensure a consistent ability to find the
Equipment package. The Batterskull alone is game enough against most aggro matches, and alongside the new Sword, these give us two proactive Equipment
and two more reactive Equipment. This not only enables us to be more aggressive in the main, but it allows us to dig ourselves out of more holes.
As far as the board goes, I removed the large creatures theorizing that Batterskull is just straight up better. It’s searchable, it’s
cheaper to play, it isn’t affected by a single creature removal spell, and it turns any and all creatures into threats.
The Celestial Purge is actually very strong and versatile. In the new format, Celestial Purge can deal with Pyromancer Ascension, Koth of the Hammer,
Goblin Guide, Plated Geopede, Splinter Twin, or Hero of Oxid Ridge. I’d say that’s a winner.
The second Batterskull is in the board to lock aggro out of the game completely post-board, allowing us to lose the first Batterskull to a Manic
Vandal, Divine Offering, or Nature’s Claim without completely losing our plan against them.
The Flashfreezes and Mana Leak remain in the board for the decks with more high-end spells such as Valakut and RUG, although there is a chance they
will completely disappear due to their inability to deal with combos in the set. At the very least, they will probably have to be a bit more reactive
with Beast Within, have more countermagic, or have more removal in general.
At this point, the Ousts are purely theory. I chose them over Condemn to be able to have an answer to turn 1 Lotus Cobra/Fauna Shaman via Chancellor of
the Tangle. Those could easily be any cheap removal spell, even something as simple as Into the Roil. Beef-Blade is a very tempo-based deck as it is,
so adding more tempo advantages is never bad.
The last card in the side is Beast Within. I can very easily say this is my favorite card in the new set. It’s extremely diverse and has an
ability to deal with most combos and/or synergetic plans in Standard including Pyromancer Ascension, Bloodchief Ascension, Swords of any type, Titans,
Splinter Twin, and even lands if the situation calls for it.
So there you have it. A tournament report on a new and possibly upcoming deck along with a few NPH updates to the deck. For those of you who have also
qualified for Nationals, congratulations! For those who haven’t, keep trying! It’s all about determination; if you really want it, you WILL
get there. I want to thank everyone who made this possible, including StarCityGames.com and all my friends who supported me in good times and bad.
Thank you so much for reading! I would appreciate any and all feedback; e-mail me at [email protected]