Defining Jitteland

These are the decklists that are going to define Philly, and they’re the best versions I know of. Sure one or two cards are experimental but this will be what 80% of your Philly opponents will be playing.

Here I am again with some more blatantlyobvioustoanyonewhostestedthisformatatall comments. Much like Zvi and other writers who have already been giving intros into the block, I will just deliver a basic break down of the three biggest decks. There was a rather presumptuous fellow who posted in the often neglected forums earlier this week, assaulting me over not crediting to its “inventors”. To avoid any of that happening again, these decks are mine and have evolved from very inferior versions through many hours of playing Magic Online. And I play a lot of MTGO. I made a boast in Nagoya that there were maybe only two people that I knew who had drafted more in preparation for it. Though I may not be qualified for Philly, I’ve definitely done a lot of research for it. Everyone has these decks anyway, it’s the little variations that make them distinct – I’m claiming no credit, and to disparage my friends all of these ideas I’ve seen openly played on MTGO.

Champions Block is very simple in essence. Zvi, in his earlier article, summed it up very well and I thoroughly advise you read it. Whenever you try to build a new deck one of two things will happen: you will end up playing lots of creatures or you will build a control deck. If you play men, then you have to play Jitte and if you play control you always infuriatingly find that you have to play Green. There are no merits good enough for any control deck in this format to not consider playing Green – Elder, Reach and Kodama of the North Tree are too good to refuse. A short list of CCB’s most undercosted cards will show why this always happens – Jitte, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Meloku, Northside, Kokusho, Cranial Extraction, Seshiro the Annointed, Kodama’s Reach. Either you play Jitte or you have to play cards that cost five or six. To do so you’ll be needing a lot of mana and as Honor-Worn Shaku is the only non-Green accelerator, expect to play Forests. Another thing that quickly arises is the power of Cranial Extraction. All of the slower decks need to thin out their win conditions to be able to survive a couple of Extractions.

An update to the list of WW I posted in my last article has been the addition of Faithful Squire main. I don’t know if it’s all that yet because it hasn’t been tested enough yet, but it’s turned out to be solid so far. I still stand by the lack of Shining Shoal. I started the format playing four for a very long time. I think that they are inefficient and inferior to Blessed Breath. In short, they do not do enough, well enough.

White Weenie

4 Isamaru, Hound of Konda

4 Lantern Kami

4 Kami of Ancient Law

4 Eight and a Half Tails

4 Samurai of the Pale Curtain

4 Tallowisp

2 Faithful Squire

2 Cage of Hands

2 Indomitable Will

2 Blessed Breath

4 Umezawa’s Jitte

1 Eiganjo Castle

23 Plains

I think that White Weenie may well be the best deck in the format. It is certainly the most consistent. It always does one of two things. No, not win or lose, but draw Jitte or not. You can certainly win without the equipment, but the odds increase dramatically when you do draw them.

Meddleome Melokus!

Public enemy #1 for this deck is Hideous Laughter, and it is because of this card that the deck runs the over-hyped Tallowisp and Indomitable Will. The Cage come in handy vs. Gifts for their Kokusho and Ink-Eyes and against Snakes, but to a lesser effect there. The whole Wisp engine is rather redundant in the mirror, where both players have access to 8.5 and Blessed Breaths. Hokori, Dust Drinker is a powerful card with a great picture, but it is certainly a sideboard slot. I find that it is too unpredictable versus Snakes (Sachi is truly devastating), and it is again weak in the mirror, a match I place a lot of importance upon – especially in such a restricted format as the debut Block Tour. My friend Jon Hopkins recently commented on how he has never beaten me in a mirror match. I like to think that the reason for this is that I test the mirror more than any other match. In most formats there are only a few decks, and one of them is normally the “best” deck. Therefore, logically, there will be more of that deck than any other making the mirror your most important matchup. The surprising thing that soon becomes apparent after a few games is how good Lantern Kami is. Because of its very justified popularity, Sakura-Tribe Elder greatly reduces Isamaru’s power, increasing that of the flying Kami. Flying is very important in this block where the flightless Snakes, huge (and expensive) Kokusho’s and meddlesome Meloku’s are all influential.

One thing has eluded me through my testing – I still do not know what the block’s main matchups actually are. Whether 50-50 or 60-40 because the decks all differ from each other and are generally in flux now, all of the results change. That makes it a lot like the origins of Odyssey Block, where no one could ever accurately describe the U/G Madness vs. Mono-Black Control match. It was close, but that’s about all people would ever say, or if they favored one side more heavily, there could always be ample people in the other camp to negate any common consensus. I think the Rock, Paper and Scissors of this format are all pretty much even, with slight deck variations giving advantages in some matches and not others.

I like to divide all of the decks into two categories, often easily distinguished by the presence of Jitte, signifying a heavy creature reliance, or of Tribe Elder, normally in the other camp – that of the control decks. Decisions like Hokori up against Wisp and Extraction over Hero’s Demise are made with metagame forecasts in mind. If you think there will be more control decks (most of the Gifts variety), then play your Hokoris and Extractions. If you think men will dominate, as would be my bet, then play your removal. It is the decision to focus against either camp that will make the deck good, and it will only be the Pro Tour that will confirm those last minute decisions.

Gifts is definitely the most complex of the three decks. I’ve seen many games won on MTGO on time, which might not be too good for Philly, where a draw will be as good as a loss. This deck offers a little of everything whilst packing a powerful late game engine that is often difficult to recover from. The deck generates lots of mana through its Green spells and then tries to win with big efficient monsters. If it survives long enough then the Gifts engine kicks in. For some of you this might seem like a return to high school, but for those people out there who haven’t played much block and will be eagerly looking forward to the PT with mental side bets, I’ll explain how the engine works.

Hana Kami won't stay buried for long.

Using Gifts Ungiven you search for a Hana Kami, a Soulless Revival, a Stir the Grave and something else. Your opponent has to give you two cards, so there is no way of denying you the engine, there are three parts and if he denies you two of them then the third will allow you to get started. If left with the Stir, it can be cast to get the Kami back and that can then be sacced to get the Revival to splice to get to Kami… You get the picture. The “something else” is either an arcane spell like Extraction, Wear Away or removal, or a creature to win the game with. Having already decided to run Gifts, the deck plays a lot of one-ofs so that it can tutor them up when they meet a specific need. And without further ado:


1 Myojin of the Night’s Reach

1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of the Oni

2 Kokusho, the Evening Standard

2 Kodama of the North Tree

1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror

1 Hana Kami

4 Sakura Tribe Elder

4 Kodama’s Reach

2 Cranial Extraction

3 Gifts Ungiven

4 Hideous Laughter

2 Sickening Shoal

1 Swallowing Plague

1 Horobi’s Whisper

2 Wear Away

1 Soulless Revival

1 Stir the Grave

3 Sensei’s Divining Top

1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers

1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse

1 Island

4 Tendo Ice Bridge

9 Forest

8 Swamp

I told you it would be tricky. I’ll quickly run through the more quirky cards to explain the whys. The Myojin is the daddy in the mirror, Ink-Eyes is very useful and a top combo if you ever draw your Shizo, the Swallowing Plague is a way of killing opposing Kokushos whilst being on five or less life, it’s also a huge late game winner. The single Whisper, two Extraction and 2 Wear Away are there to sure up various matches and to provide that fourth Gifts target. I personally think that this is the best list I’ve seen yet – the only spare card here is the second Kodama and to be perfectly honest, I’m a huge fan of the guy. The feeling of synergy you get when you play this deck is amazing with hands full of arcane and splice or ridiculous turns spent frantically Topping. Most games it feels like you’re on the back foot, but through careful manipulation of the resources available to you, you often finish games in the most dominating positions – I just finished a game with Kokusho, Ink-Eyes, Kodama, Myojin, an opponent’s Meloku and a flipped Nezumi Shortfang all in play!

The other powerful mechanic that I have yet to really mention is Snakes. You don’t have to go down either the Green-based control or the Jitte route, Snakes is a mixture of both. Seshiro kicks arse, Sachi lets you go infinite, Summons come again and again, Godo brings a stolen Jitte, and all with the strength of Black.


2 Godo, Bandit Warlord

1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of the Oni

1 Kodama of the North Tree

2 Kokusho, the Evening Star

1 Myojin of the Night’s Reach

2 Seshiro the Anointed

1 Sosuke, Son of Seshiro

4 Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro

4 Orachi Sustainer

4 Sakura Tribe Elder

3 Kodama’s Reach

3 Time of Need

4 Sosuke’s Summons

4 Umezawa’s Jitte

1 Tatsumasa Dragon’s Fang

4 Tendo Ice Bridge

1 Shinka, Bloodstained Keep

1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers

1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse

1 Mountain

4 Swamp

11 Forest

Cards like Ink-Eyes and Black Myojin really flourish in this deck. The Snake family gets better and better the more snakes you draw. This deck has the best Jitte engine in the format thanks to Godo and Time of Need with Wear Aways in the sideboard. It is very unusual for you to lose the Jitte war, meaning you have a good matchup against White Weenie. Kokusho provides some much needed flying defence, as well as savage beats and an answer to your opponent’s copies. The Summons does something special all by itself no matter what the situation, whether in combination with any of the Seshiro family or Jitte and all the cards that find both, it has a huge attrition value – whether it’s providing those chump blocks, 3/3 beaters or more critters for Jitte. This is a very powerful deck.

There you have it – what I’d like to think are very good versions of each archetype. I haven’t held anything back that wasn’t in the sideboard, this is what all my hundreds of games of testing have become. Agreed, there are other decks, but I look at them as gems waiting to be unearthed at opportune moments, and I truly hope that one will emerge at Philly to rival these three, much like Tooth and Nail in Kobe. If I was going to Philly I would play one of these decks.

Good luck and enjoy the forums,

Quentin Martin

[email protected]