What a week! Before we start, let’s get the congratulations out of the way. Well done Luis Scott-Vargas, champion of Pro Tour: Berlin! Now let’s get to business…
In preparing for any tournament, there comes a point at which you have decided on your deck choice, and spend your remaining days (or hours, or minutes, depending on how far ahead you plan such things) getting to know the matchups better and honing your sideboard.
I have reached that point; I am definitely playing U/W Merfolk at States. The point has been raised that States is typically a heavily aggro metagame, but the flavors of aggro are very relevant. I would actually be pleased to be paired against Red, Vengeant Weenie, or Backlash, and while my matchup against vanilla WW leaves something to be desired, I am competing to win. Who is going to be there preying on all those aggro decks? Five-Color Control, that’s who, and I will happily prey on them if I make it through to the Top 8.
With all that said, I’m going to cut to the chase and get straight into the games that led me to my final build. After that, it’s a quick sideboarding guide and a hearty Good Luck! For reference, I’m starting with the list I posted last week.
- 4 Burrenton Forge-Tender
- 4 Cloudgoat Ranger
- 4 Goldmeadow Stalwart
- 4 Knight of Meadowgrain
- 4 Wizened Cenn
- 4 Figure of Destiny
Game 1: WW has two Spectral Processions this game, which I am hard-pressed to race. It comes down to me using Cryptic Command twice to buy time, pushing through only Wake Thrasher via Sygg with the mana I have left. Fortunately, he does enough damage by himself that I win the race by a turn.
Game 3: This goes unbelievably well. We kill each others’ Meadowgrains, but I have two more. I also resolve a Sower, and two Windbrisk Heights activations.
Game 4: It comes down to my Sower, Knight of Meadowgrain, Sygg, and Silvergill Adept facing down his Cloudgoat Ranger plus tokens, all with Ajani counters. I will almost certainly win in two turns if I untap. His two outs are another Ajani or Rustic Clachan to pump the Cloudgoat Ranger, give it flying, and sail over for lethal. He draws the Clachan, so I lose. Close one.
Game 5: I get stuck on two lands for too long, and Banneret doesn’t help. I can still only play one small spell per turn, while WW plays Stalwart, Figure, Procession, Figure, Cloudgoat.
Game 7: Everything is in WW’s favor until the turn where I attack, Heights out a Sower on Wizened Cenn, take the resulting attack, and then untap with Cryptic Command in hand and a lethal Wake Thrasher on the table.
Game 8: I mull to six and keep a four-lander. I then draw many more lands.
Game 9: This is another one of those curve-out-into Cloudgoat draws. Yup, still can’t beat it!
Game 10: I mull to five and it’s a one-lander. I don’t draw a second land until it’s much too late.
So 3-7 in favor of WW. Yeah, that’s about what I expected. Real bad!
It is at this point that I have a revelation: I might want to drop some Conclaves. With the addition of Windbrisk Heights, I have a brand-new drain on my mana. Rarely do I have the mana to pay for manland activations because Windbrisk activations are so much better, and in fact, I usually win when I successfully activate it. Given that, I think it might be time to try scaling back on the comes-in-tapped lands, which have been a relevant hindrance to my development in the past few sets. I’ll try going to 2 Island, 2 Conclave and see where that gets me.
I want to do another set against WW. Sure, the result of the previous set was about what I expected – a real drubbing for Merfolk – but a couple of those games were very close. It’s clear I can’t beat them when they curve right up into Cloudgoat, but when things don’t go that way, I have a real chance to pull the game out. I want to play these next ten games with an eye towards figuring out how to steal the games that are close.
Game 11: I am doing a good job trading with his threats, but everything falls apart when he topdecks Spectral Procession and I am in the single digits because my only colored sources are Adarkar Wastes and Mystic Gate. As long as I’m pushing my mana base, I’d like to see what happens if I cut Adarkar Wastes for two Plains and two Islands. That will lower my total Blue count from 16 to 14, and the same with my White count. Unless it creates a squeeze on me for the right colored mana, this would give me a pain-free manabase.
Game 12: He mulls to five and keeps Ajani, Goldmeadow Stalwart, and three lands. His topdecks do not save him.
Game 13: This is a huge disaster for him. I trade a Sygg for a Goldmeadow Stalwart, counter his next two threats with Sage’s Dousing and Cryptic Command, and Sower the one after that. The only thing that could make a game of this is Cloudgoat, but he doesn’t have one.
Game 14: I mull to four. He has turn 2 Meadowgrain, turn 3 Spectral Procession, turn 4 Ajani and pump the tokens. Of note, this game my only second White source for my own Meadowgrain was Windbrisk Heights, and I had an Island in my hand.
Game 15: It seems turn 3 Spectral Procession into turn 4 Ajani is pretty unbeatable for me as well. If my Sower can’t even deter the tokens from attacking, I don’t have much of a chance. Procession is a really tough card to deal with using only Blue and White cards… the only thing that comes to mind is Wrath.
Game 16: Yes, this confirms it! He again has turn 3 Procession, turn 4 Ajani. I really can’t beat it! I have Knight of Meadowgrain active, Sower on a token… it doesn’t matter. I just can’t win from this position.
Game 17: Okay, it’s getting old. Again he has turn 3 Spectral Procession, turn 4 Ajani. Again I cannot possibly win. Of note, I did lack early Blue mana this game because I had several Windbrisk Heights, Plains, and Mutavault. Had Plains been Adarkar Wastes, my mana would have been fine this game. Of course, it didn’t matter – I played my Knight of Meadowgrain and scooped â€˜em up two turns later anyway.
Game 18: This works out well for me. He starts with Knight of Meadowgrain, then another on turn 3. I kill one of them with Oblivion Ring, then he has no turn 4 play. It’s just my Silvergill Adept against his Knight of Meadowgrain. The lack of a turn 4 play clearly signals that he is holding Cloudgoat Ranger, so I leave Cryptic mana open instead of playing anything. He declines to play anything turn five, instead content to race with Meadowgrain. However, I keep making land drops, and play my own Meadowgrain with Cryptic mana open. Next turn he baits Cryptic with Unmake on my Meadowgrain, but when he untaps and tries the Goat, I have Sage’s Dousing at the ready. On the following turn, I explode onto the board with another Meadowgrain, Reejerey, and two Silvergill Adepts. His second Cloudgoat Ranger resolves, but then I untap and drop the elbow: Sower on your Meadowgrain and Oblivion Ring on your Cloudgoat Ranger. I have eight nicely-sized creatures on the table to his three Kithkin Soldier tokens. He untaps and plays Ajani and I just laugh.
Game 19: I mull a one-lander into a five-lander into a one-lander with only Mutavault. I don’t play any spells this game.
Game 20: Wow. Somehow this game I manage to survive three Cloudgoat Rangers, an Ajani, and an early game! The key is that I simply drew an irresponsibly high quantity of removal. Two early trades followed by two Oblivion Rings, followed by two Sowers, and then three Knights of Meadowgrain on my side to make things even less fair. Of note, this game Plains keeps me from casting Cryptic Command.
So 4-6 for this second set, and 7-13 overall.
I did learn something valuable from this second set: if WW does not have much pressure on me, and if I have several lands in hand, it is definitely in my interest to play draw-go until they blink and let me counter something. In this situation I’m basically letting my life total bleed a bit for the sake of making land drops. If they blink right away and run something into Sage’s Dousing, then I get to eliminate one of their threats (absolutely critical in this matchup) and draw a card, which is great. If they don’t blink, I’m happy to sacrifice a few life to make land drops.
Cutting Adarkar Wastes was a mistake. It caused me color troubles in relevant ways way more often than I found the damage making any kind of real difference, even when I had four. Good to know! I’m happy to go back up to four copies.
Faerie Conclave, on the other hand, was still fine at two copies. I still always had something to do with my mana, and my land development was sped up by not having blue to worry about. That said, I do want to try Reflecting Pool instead of the two basic Islands here; I have definitely wanted those basics to tap for Blue mana early in the game and White mana later.
- 4 Knight of Meadowgrain
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 3 Oversoul of Dusk
- 4 Painter's Servant
- 4 Figure of Destiny
- 4 Stillmoon Cavalier
Game 1: Merfolk mulls a five-lander with Sygg and Sower into a one-lander into Wanderwine Hub, Faerie Conclave, Mystic Gate, Knight of Meadowgrain, Oblivion Ring. WW mulls a one-lander into Windbrisk Heights, Rugged Prairie, Knight of Meadowgrain, Stillmoon Cavalier, Oversoul of Dusk.
Game 2: WW mulls a one-lander into 2x Plains, Rugged Prairie, Knight of Meadowgrain, Painter’s Servant, Spectral Procession. Merfolk keeps 2x Faerie Conclave, Mystic Gate, Knight of Meadowgrain, Sygg, 2x Oblivion Ring.
Spectral Procession gets me this game. I never draw a Sower in time, and while our ground guys are duking it out, the birds are in the air taking me apart.
Game 3: Merfolk mulls a one-lander into a one-lander into Windbrisk Heights, Silvergill Adept, Wake Thrasher, Sage’s Dousing, Cryptic Commander. WW keeps Plains, Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], Painter’s Servant, Knight of Meadowgrain, Kitchen Finks, 2x Chaotic Backlash.
With five cards and one land, Merfolk is quickly overwhelmed by small men.
Game 4: WW mulls a two-Prairie hand into a one-lander into Plains, Rugged Prairie, Unmake, Oversoul of Dusk, Chaotic Backlash. Merfolk keeps Faerie Conclave, Mystic Gate, Adarkar Wastes, Silvergill Adept, Sage’s Dousing, Wake Thrasher, Sygg.
I have an awesome turn 5. I have out Stonybrook Banneret, Silvergill Adept, Merrow Reejerey, and four lands. I play Windbrisk Heights, putting another Reejerey under it. Then I play Sygg and use Reej to untap the Heights. I then attack, activate Heights, and put the Reejerey in, sending ten into the red zone even though my opponent spent his previous turn Unmaking my Wake Thrasher. Beautiful!
Oh, and I won this game.
Game 5: Merfolk keeps Windbrisk Heights, Faerie Conclave, Adarkar Wastes, Knight of Meadowgrain, Reejerey, O-Ring, Cryptic. WW keeps Windbrisk Heights, Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], 2x Plains, Figure, Painter’s Servant, Spectral Procession.
I resolve an early Sower on his Knight of Meadowgrain, and add one of my own. He plays three Spectral Processions, but they can’t exactly keep up with that kind of an advantage. I do have to counter a Painter’s Servant this game out of respect for Chaotic Backlash, which he did draw the turn before he died. A for effort!
Game 6: WW keeps 2x Plains, Rugged Prairie, Knight of Meadowgrain, Painter’s Servant, Chaotic Backlash, Oversoul of Dusk. Merfolk keeps Faerie Conclave, Windbrisk Heights, 2x Adarkar Wastes, Mutavault, Silvergill Adept, Reejerey. I am okay with keeping this five-card hand because – thanks to Mutavault – I have enough creatures to activate Heights on turn 4, and between that and the Adept’s cantrip, I think I will have enough plays to fuel me into the stage of the game where that Faerie Conclave is ready to start attacking.
Game 7: Merfolk keeps Adarkar Wastes, Mystic Gate, Silvergill Adept, Sygg, Banneret, Sage’s Dousing, Cryptic. WW mulls a double-Prairie hand into 2x Windbrisk Heights, Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], Figure of Destiny, Kitchen Finks, Unmake.
Again I have to play around Chaotic Backlash, as I end up with five Blue and White permanents and at ten life. However, it’s still easy – I had easily taken control of the board at that point, so if he ever played anything in his mainphase, I’d counter it and tap his blockers with Cryptic Command…and as long as I kept Cryptic Command mana open, he never got a chance to play Chaotic Backlash. Eventually he tried it, naturally, and I countered it.
Game 8: WW keeps Windbrisk Heights, Plains, Painter’s Servant, Knight of Meadowgrain, 2x Unmake, Oversoul. Merfolk mulls a six-lander and keeps Windbrisk Heights, Mystic Gate, Silvergill Adept, Wake Thrasher, 2x Reejerey.
WW gets two early Knights of Meadowgrain that get in for enough damage that racing becomes extremely difficult. I take WW down from 34 to 8, but have to play out seven creatures to do it. As I have drawn no counters this game, I am vulnerable to Chaotic Backlash, which comes the turn before I am able to swing for the guaranteed kill.
Game 9: Merfolk keeps Faerie Conclave, Windbrisk Heights, Wanderwine Hub, Sygg, Reejerey, 2x Cryptic. WW keeps Windbrisk Heights, Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], 3x Figure, Spectral Procession, Unmake.
We fight it out, and I end up with the life totals 15-9 in my favor, and me with three creatures out and two Cryptics in hand. He kills one of my guys, but I tap his men for two turns and seal the deal with Faerie Conclave on the final turn.
Game 10: WW keeps 2x Plains, Rugged Prairie, Figure, 2x Kitchen Finks, Chaotic Backlash. Merfolk keeps Wanderwine Hub, Mystic Gate, Adarkar Wastes, Silvergill Adept, Oblivion Ring, Wake Thrasher, Sower of Temptation.
After baiting Unmake on a potentially enormous Wake Thrasher, I resolve Sower on 4/4 Figure of Destiny. I have to take my time killing the opponent because I have four White and Blue permanents out and am at 9 life. For a few turns all I can do is get in with Sower and keep Figure and Knight of Meadowgrain on defense holding off two Kitchen Finks. The whole time I am holding Cryptic Command mana open to stop something disastrous like Oversoul, Spectral Procession, or Stillmoon Cavalier. Fortunately, what he draws instead is the second Chaotic Backlash; when I finally have lethal incoming if I Cryptic on end step, all I have to do is let the first Backlash resolve and counter the second one to untap, pump Figure to 8/8, and swing for the win with no Cryptic tap-downs needed at all.
Overall, 6-4 in favor of Merfolk!
I have to tell you, when I first saw the White Weenie decks splashing in the Chaotic Backlash/Painter’s Servant combo, I sincerely expected it to be, well, clunky and bad in practice. Having now tested against it, I have to admit, in full honesty, I had dramatically underestimated just how clunky and bad it actually was.
Seriously, I’m sure maindecking the Backlash is great in the mirror, and I know WW has trouble with Five Color Control – but is this really the best approach to solving that? Speaking from the perspective of a deck that does nothing but crank out Blue and White permanents, I am floored by how much more scared I am to face a version of this deck without Chaotic Backlash clogging up its draws. WW’s manabase can certainly handle four copies of a five-drop like Cloudgoat, but seven? Four of which are situational? In a 25-land midrange beatdown deck with no acceleration? Really?
Given the choice between ditching WW and playing something else, playing straight WW and just taking my chances against Five-Color Control, or contorting WW into a midrange beatdown deck that kicks itself in the junk roughly every other game with awful draws, I am really not sure what could convince me that option C was best. It’s a very cool idea – and I’m sure it was amazing before anyone knew what was coming – but it’s so inconsistent in practice, I couldn’t see myself showing up to a real tournament with a deck that demands such fortunate draws to even be as good (overall) as a traditional, consistent WW list. Wouldn’t it be way better to just add the splash-red manabase in regular WW and board the Backlashes? Blech.
Post-Board Vengeant Weenie
For the third flavor of WW (is it fair to call this deck WW? It’s half Red Deck, after all), I’m going to test out my boarding plan and see if I can develop a better one. The current plan:
As usual, I am following the maximum (non-Crib Swap) removal prescription against weenie decks. In a rare occurrence, I actually do not see David Russ’s 10th-place list from the 5K making any helpful post-board changes to this matchup, so here we go!
Game 1: We run each other out of gas fairly quickly. I kill an Ajani with Faerie Conclave, then play a couple of Sowers which stick at first but are each killed by topdecked burn spells a turn later. Then I topdeck a Wake Thrasher with seven lands out. The opponent has nothing but lands, and draws another. I untap and swing for the kill.
Game 2: He has two early Figures that get out of control quickly. I have to use three different Cryptic Commands bouncing them and tapping down attackers before I cycle my way to answers.
Game 3: I pull off a go-nuts draw here. I have turn 3 Banneret plus Adept, then turn 4 Reejerey, Adept, Reejerey. The opponent has no removal for any of this, even after his next draw step, and I am holding three Cryptic Commands.
Game 4: There comes a point where my opponent swings with a lone attacker, I chump with a blocker I previously stole with Sower, then I counter the last card in his hand with Cryptic Command and bounce the Sower. He doesn’t recover.
Game 5: I finally stick three creatures on the board, and swing in to activate two Windbrisk Heights. Each land was hiding a Sower of Temptation, and my opponent only had two creatures. He died on the following attack.
Game 7: Again I activate two Heights. One is for Oblivion Ring, and the other Sower of Temptation. On the following turn Banneret lets me crank out Reejerey and two Wake Thrashers, and the deal is sealed.
Game 8: His early aggression gets me into single digits. He ends up with a one-turn window to topdeck a burn spell or else he is dead on the board next turn, but he draws it.
Game 9: My three Silvergill Adepts do him in this game. I answer his threats and leave him with almost exclusively burn, which does not fare well against my cantrip soldiers. Eventually I end up with two Merfolk and Sygg on the table, and even a topdecked Figure with six lands out cannot race them.
Game 10: I stick a Sower and then activate Windbrisk Heights to power out a Reejerey. Not close.
8-2? Sign me up!
This is actually not a big surprise to me. The one card that is almost entirely responsible for Merfolk’s deplorable matchup against WW is Spectral Procession, and it is notably absent from the Vengeant list. Second-scariest is Cloudgoat Ranger. Without those cards, Vengeant versus Merfolk is just like Red versus Merfolk minus the scariest Red cards: Ashenmoor Gouger, Boggart Ram-Gang, and Demigod of Revenge. (In fairness, Knight of Meadowgrain is not such an enormous beating here because they have several First Strikers as well.) It’s basically like playing against the weakest parts of both decks.
Condemn was very strong across the set, and I expect to be happy to board it in against WW. Obviously a one-mana removal spell sounds amazing in a matchup where I am trying to kill my opponent’s men as quickly as possible, but there was always the lingering doubt about the effect on a race of giving my opponent 2-4 bonus life points. They were definitely worth it every time here, and I definitely had enough opportunities to leave a White open to cast it.
I did not miss the Sage’s Dousings, and I was happy with every single Sower I drew – duplicates included, certainly – so this seems like a fine board plan to go with for the usual WW matchups, different though they are from the Vengeant matchup. (The things that make the matchups different have little to do with the effectiveness of Condemn or Sower.) If I can fit some more anti-WW measures, though, I may change this up a bit.
It’s tough to pick a Lark list to test against, as Peebles and others have put out variations and two different flavors made Top 16 at the 5K. Testing against the 5K lists makes sense as a starting point, but the two Lark lists that made it there are so far off the beaten path, I really cannot honestly expect them to be representative of what I think will be at States. Yes, some people will copy and play them, but of the Lark players in the room, I would expect them to be in the minority. Instead, I’ll go with Peebles’s more traditional U/W list from two weeks back:
Since Peebles did not post a sideboard, I’ll look at the boards of the 5K lists. The card that looks most enticing is Story Circle; that card was a real beating against me from Five-Color Control, whereas Runed Halo does not strike me as an especially effective countermeasure to a Merfolk deck. I’ll have Lark making that swap, with me taking out 3 Oblivion Ring for 3 Remove Soul.
Game 1: Lark mulls to five in search of a hand with plays before turn 4. While Lark is missing its third land drop, I have turn 2 Sygg, turn 3 Wake Thrasher.
Game 2: I mull to five and have a slow start, missing my fourth land drop and only able to play one spell per turn despite a Banneret. Meanwhile, Lark curves out into Wrath, Tidings, and Kitchen Finks plus Sower of Temptation.
Game 3: I mull to five again. This time, however, after fighting through a large attrition war, I get Lark down to five life with six power on the board. Lark has fully stabilized, with Story Circle, Reveillark, and Mulldrifter all out, but before Reveillark can take care of my life total, I use Cryptic to bounce the Story Circle and tap the blockers on end step, then untap and swing for the win.
Game 5: He has Mistmeadow Witch in conjunction with Kitchen Finks and Sower, while I have no Oblivion Ring. He is basically able to ride Witch all the way to victory, and I am suddenly wishing very strongly that I had not boarded out my O-Rings.
Game 6: I have turn 2 Sygg, turn 3 Wake Thrasher. He has Sower, but no Wrath, and I have a Sower of my own to take back the Thrasher. He plays Tidings to dig for an answer, but I counter it and bounce his Sower so that I can attack back for more than lethal on the following turn after playing out a Reejerey from under my Windbrisk Heights.
Game 7: Lark mulls to five in search of a second land and gets no White mana this game.
Game 8: We have a very close fight, but only because I drew my one Oblivion Ring for his Story Circle. I was absolutely dead in the water to it if it stuck, but without it, I was able to push through a Wrath and a Tidings into Sower and Knight-Captain of Eos on the back of Sage’s Dousing and two Cryptic Commands. I am quickly becoming convinced that my best sideboarding plan here is to simply make no changes to my maindeck.
Game 9: I play out some guys and he Wraths. Then I play Sygg and Wake Thrasher and he doesn’t have a second Wrath. They kill in two turns.
Game 10: I pull out an upset via a surprise explosive turn at the eleventh hour. My Wake Thrasher is stolen by Sower of Temptation, and I take a hit from it on purpose in order to set up my next turn. The opponent plays a Mulldrifter to block, but I untap and lay Reejerey and Adept (tapping Mulldrifter), then activate both my Mutavaults to come in for exactly lethal thanks to the Reej plus the on-table Sygg and Knight of Meadowgrain.
Yeah, those Remove Souls are really not worth it here. My style of Merfolk just taps out too often to rely on them; they draw into so many Sowers and I just cannot afford to leave two mana up all the time when they are ramping to four mana on turn three. I’m leaving the O-Rings in and removing the Remove Souls from the board in favor of some anti-WW measures.
That puts the final list here:
- 4 Knight of Meadowgrain
- 4 Merrow Reejerey
- 4 Silvergill Adept
- 3 Sower of Temptation
- 3 Sygg, River Guide
- 3 Stonybrook Banneret
- 4 Wake Thrasher
Over the past three weeks, I’ve hit the major matchups I want to cover. I’ll be playtesting more across the rest of the week, naturally (it’s only Tuesday as I write this), but for now I am happy with the following board plans.
This boarding plan is aimed at minimizing my losing scenarios. The cards I lose to most often are Sower of Temptation, Bitterblossom, and Mistbind Clique; almost never does Faeries win without sticking one of those permanents. Thus, I am boarding in answers to them and boarding out Reejerey, which I perceive to be the least critical card to my victories against the Fae.
Really, it came down to the fact that I did not feel comfortable boarding out any two-drops in a race, nor was I willing to sacrifice Cryptic Command. After thinking about it, I decided three Sowers was the count I wanted for this matchup, which left three-drops. The most critical seemed to be Wake Thrasher (a game-ender if unanswered, particularly in conjunction with Sygg, Cryptic Command, or a lack of opposing Bitterblossom action) and Oblivion Ring (potentially Sower and Bitterblossom removal), which left Sage’s Dousing and Reejerey as the choices to cut by process of elimination.
Philip Paulson suggested Reveillark to me via email. While it’s a card I initially dismissed as too slow for the Five-Color Control matchup, he and Max McCall sold me on the merits of boarding two copies against Five-Color Control as a souped-up Glen Elendra. You make it to your fifth land very quickly with this deck, and Lark is a massive beater that also returns such luminaries as Wake Thrasher and Sygg when it is killed. It seems like an excellent candidate for a position where the opponent has just tapped for a sweeper and you are looking to demand that he produce a second one.
As a point of interest, I think it is probably worth it to board Crib Swap in for Oblivion Ring against the Cruel Ultimatum version of this deck. If the opponent won’t have Story Circle, I expect instant-speed removal that cannot be reversed with Esper Charm will be slightly better overall than Oblivion Ring – even if that means giving the opponent a chumper and giving Bant Charm two extra targets.
I have yet to find anything worth boarding in that improves one aspect of the matchup out without leaving me vulnerable in some other kind of critical way.
As often happens in Magic, we have the beatdown deck boarding Wrath as a means to gain card advantage and slow the game down. In this matchup, Wrath has the extra importance of being your only reliable answer to Spectral Procession. It’s critical to trade Wrath for Procession if he has it, so if you see this in your opening hand, it will make sense to lead with something valuable like Knight of Meadowgrain even if you’re just going to Wrath it away later. If the opponent smells Wrath, he will not play Spectral Procession into it, and you will be in some real trouble if the first post-Wrath action of the game is the opponent playing a Procession.
If you are feeling tricky – now that I’ve written about this deck playing Wrath – feel free to put Stillmoon Cavalier in this slot and terrify your opponents whenever you have a legitimately poor draw that simply misses a drop accidentally. Stillmoon also functions as a barrier to incoming Spirit tokens as long as you keep a White open, which makes him a somewhat slower answer to that problem card as well. In all honesty, I could see myself boarding either one at States.
It took quite a few games of losing with a Cryptic Command or two in hand to realize that I really should be cutting the sacred cow in this matchup. Cryptic is so good in so many matchups, it’s hard to believe there’s a situation where I wouldn’t want it, but it really is just too slow here. If you can survive the early assault from Red, you take over the late game with card advantage in the form of manlands and cantrips (and Reveillarks, post-board), not by racing. Really the only late-game situations in which it is useful is when you are countering something with it, but all too often you are under too much pressure and must instead use it as a slower, emergency Repulse.
You lose to Red when you have no answer to something big like Demigod or Ashenmoor Gouger (again, Reveillark) or when Red comes out too quickly for you and you are stuck playing one spell per turn while they are burning away one blocker per turn. That’s why Condemn comes in rather than something like Recumbent Bliss or Kitchen Finks – you can cast it alongside a blocker in the same turn.
You can’t afford to bring in the Wraths here because you need to leave in counters for Chaotic Backlash. That’s the bad news. The good news is this deck is so slow and clunky, Spectral Procession is often cast without leading to victory, so the Wraths aren’t as much of a necessity as they are against regular WW.
I’m still trying to kill (or steal) as many of their dudes as possible here. As they have no Demigod or Ashenmoor Gouger, I have no need of Crib Swap, and as they have no Spectral Procession, I have no need of Wrath. I could see arguments for putting in Wrath simply to get card advantage, but honestly, I think the risk would outweigh the reward here.
These are the matchups where the Knight is just underwhelming. The opponent’s men are generally bigger and don’t care about the First Strike. Being able to kill and steal big men like Chameleon Colossus is important, on the other hand, so boarding in a plethora of removal spells for such creatures makes a lot of sense. Reveillark is a big man in his own right, which incites me to bring him in from the bench.
So there you have it: Merfolk for Champs. You’ve got my reasoning; if you have any questions, feel free to fire away in the forums.
Good luck at Champs!