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Cawvenge

Thursday, March 3 – Brad Nelson, Player of the Year, writes about a deck that trumps the new U/W Mystic deck in Extended that’s been winning online. Vengevine, go!

Mirrodin Besieged has seriously impacted Extended. Every Tier One deck is running at least one card from the set — and a number of the top decks in the
format revolve around cards from MBS. The metagame has shifted dramatically since the release of Mirrodin Besieged, allowing one of my favorite decks
to make a comeback…

Brian Kibler was ranting and raving about his new pet deck Cawvenge in the days leading up to GP Atlanta. He gave me the decklist early on in testing,
and I gave it a few days of my life, but in the end, I didn’t want to play a deck that had unwinnable matchups against some of the best and most
popular decks in the field. Kibler ultimately suffered loss after loss to his bad matchups.

Cawvenge just can’t beat G/R Valakut — and that deck was the second most popular deck in the field right behind Faeries. I know this is Magic, and it’s
usually possible to beat a bad matchup sometimes, but it didn’t feel that way when it came to this matchup. Even Valakut’s bad draws would crush the
deck. Cawvenge just couldn’t get enough guys on the ground to beat them fast enough, even with a really good draw. Nice Squadron Hawks, bro!

But things have changed since GP Atlanta. And these changes make it possible for Cawvenge to become a major player in the world of post-Mirrodin
Besieged Extended. No, I don’t have so much love for Squadron Hawks that I have to play them everywhere. I just like exploiting holes in a metagame,
and there is a very big one right now…

The reason Hawk is so great right now is that so many decks are trying to Stoneforge Mystic in Sword of Feast and Famine. Michael Hetrick (who made
fourth place with a similar version) is responsible for the
biggest deck in the format.


This list is old, so I don’t suggest playing this exact 75 in your next tournament, but this deck is amazing. It probably didn’t take Hetrick too long
build this, since it seems very basic, but the power level is absurd.

Soooo, back to why Squadron Hawk is so good against this. Squadron Hawk is good in this matchup because it takes three turns and 6-7 mana to swing with
a sword, but it only takes two mana to block it.

The other great thing about playing with Vengevines is that you can put opposing swords to work for you (discard a Vengevine? Don’t mind if I do! Mill
ten? Sure!). Vengevine play is at an all-time low right now, which means that decks are skimping on cards to deal with them. Talk of Hallowed Burials
and such is long gone, which makes this a great time for you to dust off your mythic.

Cawvenge has so many good draws against the U/W Stoneforge Mystic deck that it’s probably Cawvenge’s best matchup.

I guess it’s time for the decklist.


(The five extra sideboard slots are metagame calls.)

Kibler has already mentioned this, but I want to reiterate the fact that the best part about this deck is that it gets to run four Tectonic Edges.
Tectonic Edge is so good in Extended right now. There’s an abundance of manlands, non-basic lands, and generally mana-intensive strategies. Being able
to kill multiple lands in the early turns is enough for you to lock up wins against many of the most popular strategies.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant is also near the top of my list of very powerful/underrated cards in Extended. This card deals damage very fast and also blocks
guys with swords. Two things that are important: I do want to live the dream of sending Mirran Crusader to the skies on turn 3, but it’s something I
haven’t researched much yet. I don’t think this deck needs that card but maybe in the future.

Things that I changed from Kibler’s pre-Mirrodin Besieged version of the deck:

By now, we all know that Stoneforge Mystic got enough of an upgrade (thanks to Sword of Feast and Famine) to go in almost every deck that can support
it. This deck loves cards that keep the gas flowing, and the Mystic does just that. Stoneforge Mystic is a great card against Valakut, Faeries, Elves,
Mono Red… Well, you get the picture.

I was able to cut the Baneslayer Angel from the deck since the deck now has access to Behemoth Sledge. I’ve been waffling back and forth on the idea of
having both, but I don’t think that the deck needs to waste a maindeck slot on a five-mana creature, no matter how good it might be.

This is also the reason why I don’t have Sejiri Steppe in the deck anymore. The only creature I want to give protection is an equipped monster, and
they usually have protection against whatever I’m dealing with anyway. No Baneslayer Angel = no Sejiri Steppe.

Gaddock Teeg was a card that I never really cared for, but now it’s even worse than it used to be. There aren’t many 4CC+ cards I want to stop my
opponents from casting, and the decks that have them can easily deal with the 2/2. He also screws with the very amazing planeswalker this deck loves so
much.

Kitchen Finks is at an all-time low for a deck like this. Mono Red is losing ground to Elves because Elves is not only more powerful but cheaper to
build. Elves is the new cheap deck on Magic Online, and the masses have figured it out. I’m not saying anything bad about Elves. Online, people flock
towards the decks that are cheap and very good. Remember Affinity?

Finks is also a green guy — and there are a ton of protection swords out there. Can’t attack/can’t block is not an ability I want my aggressive
creatures to have (I’ll make exceptions for Vengevine and Knight of the Reliquary, but that’s about it).

I’d like to mention that I’ve never just put blank spots in a decklist that I wrote about, but it really makes sense for this deck. There are three
decks that this deck can (easily) be more prepared for: Valakut, Mono Red, and Elves.

I will talk more about what to fill them with when we get to the matchups. Where you play should dictate what you should put in those slots.

Matchups

Faeries

The way this matchup plays out depends, primarily, on what type of a draw the Faeries player has. Cawvenge is a very versatile deck that can change its
strategy very early in the game in reaction to what an opponent is doing. I think Cawvenge actually has more play than Faeries. This is why it’s
important to know what your opponent is trying to do.

Faeries cannot deal with everything this deck does. Because Faeries doesn’t run any real card advantage anymore, the games will be very tempo
orientated. Your opponents will need to draw Mistbind Clique to even have a chance, as it’s very unlikely that they’ll have Bitterblossom and be able
to deal with most of your early plays.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, there is no single way to play against Faeries. You just need to playtest enough to fully understand what
to do in different situations. There are games where you don’t want to even play a turn 1 Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch. My first article for StarCityGames.com was all about
how to think when you’re playing against Faeries — if you haven’t already read it and you’re looking to beat the U/B menace, you should definitely give
it a read.

Sideboarding

-1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

-2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

+1 Sword of Body and Mind

+1 War Priest of Thune

+1 Cloudthresher

The equipment is usually very good in this matchup — but can also be slow at times. Don’t rely on your equipment as a permanent strategy against them.

War Priest of Thune is a great way to deal with an early Bitterblossom and is definitely worth fetching up with Fauna Shaman (your Vengevine engine can
wait until after you deal with Bitterblossom).

Cloudthresher is there just in case something goes wrong. It also works very well with Sword of Feast and Famine. Three lands, a Noble Hierarch, and a
Fauna Shaman can fetch and cast a Cloudthresher during combat if you connect with your Sword.

U/W Sword

This is the new deck that made it possible for a Cawvenge resurgence. Literally everything this deck does gets trumped by Cawvenge.

I’ve played nine matches against this deck so far, and only one of them went to game three. I know that U/W Sword will change over time, and maybe it
will get better in this matchup, but for now it’s a cakewalk.

U/W doesn’t have many spells that interact with this deck. Game one, they only have three Paths to Exile and two Days of Judgment to deal with
creatures. Their Sword plan is easily trumped by Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Qasali Pridemage, and Squadron Hawks. The only way they have to deal with
Elspeth, Knight-Errant is to attack it with Colonnades and Vendilion Cliques, and Squadron Hawks and Tectonic Edges make this very hard to do.

Oh, and by the way, we also have Vengevines, which have been known to give U/W decks a tough time…

Sideboarding

-1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

-1 Behemoth Sledge

+1 Sun Titan

+1 Sword of Body and Mind

Path to Exile is a very important card in this matchup even though we’re technically the aggressive deck. They have Baneslayer Angels and Sowers of
Temptation in the sideboard that can cause us some big problems if we don’t deal with them.

One of the five metagame slots can be used on a Dauntless Escort in the sideboard if you want even more good targets for a Fauna Shaman. I don’t think
Dauntless Escort is needed, but it can cause U/W even more grief.

Not much changes from game ones. The deck still tries to attack with Swords and we continue to have 15+ cards that stop this.

Valakut

This matchup is terrible. There really isn’t much you can do about it either. They combo off around turn 4, and this deck cannot disrupt it or race it.
The only real chance to win this matchup is to get lucky.

Sideboarding

Last year, I was testing for GP Oakland with a midrange Zoo deck. It was running Woolly Thoctar and Negate in the maindeck. Now, this deck was a very
big metagame call, and I wish I had played it. I did the Terrible Midnight Audible and finished poorly.

The reason I bring this up is that Cedric Phillips taught me one of the most important lessons in deckbuilding during tourney preparation on MTGO. The
deck had close to a zero-percent chance to beat Dredge game one. The matchup was so bad since the deck wasn’t as fast as a normal Zoo deck, and the
Negates and such that I added to help the deck against the field were not good against Dredge. I decided to talk to Cedric about how to sideboard for
the matchup.

He gave me a very surprising piece of advice.

He told me to not sideboard for the matchup.

Not sideboard for my worst matchup? Are you mad?

But after he explained everything, it made a ton of sense.

He told me that adding 4-8 cards to the sideboard for an almost unwinnable matchup is just bad. You have to draw these cards in both sideboarded games
to even have a chance — and the cards don’t even say “I win the game when I cast this.” This means that it won’t add much of a win percentage to the
matchup, and therefore it would be better for me to spend those slots on cards that help closer matchups.

Sometimes, a deck has an unwinnable matchup, and it just isn’t worth it to try to do something about it.

That being said, there are cards to try to help the fight if that’s something that you really want to do. They’d need to be tested because I haven’t
done so.

Mirran Crusader

This guy could make the maindeck if you want a card for Valakut. He’s the only guy that can get the job done fast enough and can do it double time
backed up with Elspeth, Knight-Errant.

Leonin Arbiter/Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender

Leonin Arbiter can really slow this deck down, but it needs backup since they have removal for him. This isn’t the greatest strategy, but you could
definitely do worse

Lapse of Memory

I know I’m digging deep, but this is a possibility. Tectonic Edge can help slow the endgame spell down by a turn or two, and this card can buy the last
turn needed to put them in the ground.

I know this doesn’t really sound that good, but understand that this is the one and only terrible matchup this deck has.

Elf Aggro

This is a matchup that’s more popular online than it is off. I wouldn’t worry about adding sideboard cards for this matchup if you’re going to an
offline tournament.

At first, I thought this matchup was all about Linvala, Keeper of Silence. It seemed correct since every creature the deck runs has an activated
ability, except for Joraga Warcaller. Just dropping the Angel on turn 3 seemed like it would be enough for me to win.

While this play is certainly powerful, additional things need to happen for you to win.

This matchup is all about board presence. The problem is they are faster at building up their board than you are. They can get an army of 4/4s as soon
as turn 3 — and it isn’t just because of one card. Multiple cards in the deck have the ability to overpower a deck like Cawvenge.

Gaining board presence is a bit tricky. It takes well-timed removal spells backed up by a steady stream of dudes. This was very hard to pull off before
Sword of Feast and Famine was around.

The reason Sword of Feast and Famine is so strong in this matchup is not because it forces them to discard, but because it allows you to generate a
tremendous amount of mana every turn. It becomes much easier to get all of your chips in the middle and start battling. At the same time, you’re also
putting some pressure on them to be able to alpha strike when the time is right.

Sideboarding

-2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

-3 Qasali Pridemage

-2-4 Vengevine

+2 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

+3 Oust

+1 Path to Exile

If you’re battling online, I’d use up most of the extra sideboard slots on cards that help this matchup. Filling up on Oust and Linvala is a good place
to start, but another card that might be very good is Day of Judgment.

Playing Wrath effects in the sideboards of aggressive decks is not a new thing — but at the same time, it’s very powerful because people never really
see it coming. It even works to your advantage if they think you have it, and you don’t.

So let’s say you take this deck to your next PTQ, assuming your Elf opponent read this article as well. Even if you decided not to play Day of
Judgment, they’ll think about it. They might even play around a card you don’t have. It’s good if you do have the card, but it also works to your
advantage even if you don’t.

I never really thought about this until I was playing the best Magic of my life in Amsterdam. It was round nine of the PT, and I was playing against
Conley “Tether Ball” Woods. I knew I was going to win this game, but no one else did, since I had all the tools hidden in my hand, and I knew what was
in his hand. Brian Kibler was watching our games from the sideline since he was in our pod. I had tested with Kibler in the weeks leading up to the Pro
Tour, and I knew that he had drafted another aggressive white deck.

I attacked Conley with Conundrum Sphinx and named Triskelion. Triskelion was in my deck, but I didn’t need it to beat Conley that game. I named it just
so he would hear me and know it was in my deck. The reason why I named Triskelion (when I did in fact have it in my deck) is that it’s almost
impossible to play around the card, and the only way I could gain extra value from it would be if Kibler knew that I had it in my deck. This way, he
might try to play around it, and I’d gain value if he did decide to hold anything back. There was a very small chance to gain an edge here, but it was
a simple way to try.

Back to Day of Judgment. It’s very good in aggro-on-aggro, since your opponents aren’t going to hold anything back. The only card that beats Day of
Judgment in their deck is Ezuri, Renegade Leader, but this card beats you straight up without a removal spell or Linvala, Keeper of Silence anyway.

Day of Judgment might be just the trump card that Cawvenge needs against Elves and other aggro decks…

Bant

Reid Duke has been battling with Bant for long enough to have created the staple list of the deck.


I do really like this decklist, and it will be the next thing that I test for GP Kobe. He wrote

a great article

about this deck a couple days ago, but for now it is our enemy.

Cawvenge and Bant look to execute very similar strategies — play a ton of dudes and use Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Swords to kill the opponent with the
help of small amounts of disruption.

Bant has more raw power. All of its cards come down and are big threats right away. Mirran Crusader not only gets past most of the cards in Cawvenge,
but it can also block them. Bant Charm is more removal for the equipment and the most powerful creatures in Cawvenge.

On the plus side, Cawvenge has Fauna Shaman, which gets out of control in a matchup like this if it isn’t dealt with quickly. Four Vengevines show up
very quickly when both decks are just destroying each other’s Swords and legend-ruling planeswalkers.

Squadron Hawks can also buy you enough time to set up something relevant when they’re on very aggressive draws with Crusaders.

Sideboard

-3 Stoneforge Mystic

-1 Sword of Feast and Famine

-1 Behemoth Sledge

-1 Vengevine

+1 Sun Titan

+1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

+3 Oust

+1 Path to Exile

If some of the other sideboard slots are being used for removal spells, I wouldn’t bring in the second Linvala, and I might board out an additional
Vengevine.

Bant has eight cards that deal with swords, and they won’t be boarding out any of them. It will be hard to actually connect with a Sword, so it seems
much better to just take them out of the deck. This leaves the Pridemages stranded as just exalted bears.

Extra removal is very good in this matchup since it will allow you to gain board presence and keep them on the defensive. Most of their spells are good
at maintaining advantage, which can make it pretty difficult for them to get back in the game if they’re backpedaling.

Another Elspeth, Knight-Errant would be a great card to have in the sideboard if you think this matchup will be popular.

Mono Red

This is a deck that isn’t very popular on Magic Online right now, but it always seems to be a popular deck in real life. This makes Burrenton
Forge-Tender a great card to have in the sideboard if you know there will be a couple roaming the field. This deck doesn’t have Kitchen Finks or
Baneslayer Angel anymore, which means it’s a slight dog in this matchup. I don’t think it’s a bad matchup, but a couple of cards can go a long way.

That’s all the time I have for this week. I think I’ll put some more time into this deck, since Kobe is right around the corner, and I really think
this deck has a good chance to be great. This doesn’t mean there aren’t other great decks hiding out there. Hopefully I’ll have something sweet for
next week, too.

Brad Nelson.