As far as playing Magic is concerned, there are few things more disappointing than coming in ninth. After a day’s play you wait for the matches to finish with your fingers crossed, hoping that your tiebreakers will pull you though, only to find you missed by one place. Just one. Guess where I came last weekend…
To be honest, I didn’t deserve to make the top eight and ninth place was flattering. I started the day badly losing to MBC and Goblins before winning my last three matches 2-0 and hoping to scrape my way in. Even if I had, I don’t think I would have beaten the eventual winner.
Why should you read this when you could go off and read about a winner’s deck? Well, I’m not going to complain. I’m not going to offer excuses. I’m going to explain what’s wrong with the deck, what worked and what didn’t.
I put a lot of effort into testing for Champs this year and chose to play B/W Control. I found it capable of dealing with Goblins and random creature decks, and still able to compete against control decks. Here’s the deck I played:
This is obviously based on Brian Kibler B/W Control deck. After some testing, I dropped the three Temple of the False Gods for basic land. I never wanted to see them before turn 5 and I never wanted to see them in my opening hand. Not knowing what the field would be, I wanted to cut down the number of mulligans I’d have to take.
I also started with three Renewed Faith and three Ambition’s Costs, but after testing I dropped one of each for two Gladiators. The Gladiators helped me throw away dead cards and dig through my deck for answers later in the game.
The only other changes I made were dropping one Akroma’s Vengeance for an Oblivion Stone and swapping a fourth Terror for a third Smother. In the run-up to Champs, we tested against Zombies and Affinity and I found Smother much better against Zombies – which I expected to see – but no worse against the rest of the field. Oblivion Stone came in because I could blow it up in my opponent’s turn, rather then Wrath or Vengeance only to see a Second Sunrise or a hasted creature ruin my day. I also added Wing Shards to the sideboard to give me some creature removal that would work against Artifacts and Black creatures, expecting more Zombies and Affinity decks after Brian and Kai’s more recent articles.
On the day I started badly, losing to Shane Silk-Reeves playing MBC. I dropped my Oblivion Stone on turn 3 and cast Persecute on turn 4, nabbing all of Shane’s hand bar one Extraplanar Lens. He drew and played Mind Sludge and emptied my hand the turn after. With both of us topdecking, Shane drew more business spells and finished me off.
The real problem was that all of Shane’s spells were pretty powerful and even after emptying his hand I couldn’t finish him off or solidify my position against spells off the top of his deck. U/W Control can do that. I drew a lot of land and really wanted more ways to dig deeper.
Match two was against Goblins played by Gareth Brown. Gareth beat me 2-0 and Gareth’s brother assures me that he and I won’t hear the end of this for a long time. In game one he got the traditionally fast Goblin start. In game two I mulliganed into a hand with Renewed Faith, Undead Gladiator, land and a Circle of Protection: Red. I took the hand but didn’t see any removal and he overloaded my COP to take the game. In retrospect I could have gone down to five – but the allure of the COP, the land I needed, and some digging spells was too much.
I was one place from bottom.
Match three was against another 0-2 player playing with a hundred and seven unsleeved cards, more than half of which were land. I won; Wrath of God followed by Exalted Angels tends to beat badly built decks. It was Lewis’ first tournament, so I went through his deck with him afterwards and pointed out a few cards he might like to find more of, and those that really shouldn’t have been in his deck. Hopefully, he’ll be coming to monthly Standard tourneys from November and I’m looking forward to watching him get better over the next year.
I finished the day against Goblins. Caspar had a well-built Goblin Bidding deck. He was missing a few cards here and there but it was fairly solid. In game one he nearly killed me after a Patriarch’s Bidding, but I bought a couple of Gladiators back as blockers to survive long enough to Wrath, brought a Dragon back to life and killed him. In game two I saw a second-turn Circle of Protection: Red, killed his men, made guys of my own and emptied his graveyard with a Withered Wretch. He never really had a chance.
As I said, I didn’t deserve to make top eight. Was I the only B/W player to have such a bad time of it? If you look at Star City’s Statistics database for States this year, you’ll see how well B/W Control did – and not many B/W Control decks did well.
There’s something about B/W Control that isn’t cutting the mustard right now. It has powerful removal spells, powerful discard spells and invincible creatures but it’s missing two, important spells that MBC does have: Diabolic Tutor and Consume Spirit. Drawing the Tutor later in the game gives you an answer to whatever problem you have, and you’ll probably have the mana to use it. Consume Spirit gives you more time against Goblins – and, more importantly, is never a dead card.
B/W Control has a lot of cards that are dead cards in one match or another. What use is Persecute against Goblins if you draw it later in the game? What use is Terror against Zombies? Ambition’s Cost is too dangerous against Goblins. I could go on and on. In games two and three this gives you easy options when looking for cards to take out – but should it really be that easy?
Another problem B/W Control has is the cost of some of the spells. You don’t really kick into gear until turn four but after that you have a problem: You can’t cast two or three spells a turn for some time. In the old days, you could cast Duress or Cabal Therapy to make sure a Wrath, Persecute, or Vengeance resolved. Coercion just doesn’t cut it.
So why did I play B/W Control?
B/W Control’s cards are very powerful in the right situations. I’ve played games against Goblins where there were never in the game. I’ve beaten Affinity, leaving them with no permanents in play. U/W Control? They were dead before they had a chance. The deck has a feeling that it can come back from anything – and given the right draws, it can. I like a deck that gives me that feeling and nothing else did.
Affinity had some great games and great draws, but when you were losing you had no real way to come back into the game. Goblins were bound to be everywhere but sometimes it just runs out of steam. Goblin Bidding is better but really messes with your mana base and if you don’t see a Patriarch’s Bidding you have the same problem. Most of the combo decks I built up and tried weren’t consistent enough. MBC died to Karma – even with Oblivion Stone – and U/W Control, at least our version, couldn’t handle MBC well.
B/W Control has game against all of the above decks, beats badly-built decks and has reset buttons for every situation. It’s a Jack-of-all-trades but that has a downside: It really is master of none.
If I were going to play the day again I wouldn’t play B/W Control, I’d play Goblin Bidding. I leant my Goblin Bidding deck (the basis for the deck can be found here and the only changes I made are listed here) out to another Bath-based player, Phil Williams, and he made top eight and was knocked out in the semifinals by the eventual winner (playing U/W Control).
However, if I were going to play B/W Control again, I’d make some changes. Ambition’s Cost needs to go – it’s just not good enough. I’ve given it a chance in this deck and my MBC build, and I’m not happy with the results. Oblivion Stone can’t be caught by Persecute and is too good to miss out, even if it does need eight mana to blow up the world. Eternal Dragon and Exalted Angel were amazing all day and Undead Gladiator helped no end – I’d like to see more.
With three Eternal Dragons, three Undead Gladiators, and five other cycling cards along side three Phyrexian Arenas, we shouldn’t have any problems drawing the cards we need. Smother is useful against most creature decks and Dark Banishing is only useless against Zombies, decreasing our dead cards against the Affinity decks.
Our mass removal package has gone up with four Wraths, two Stones, and two Vengeance in the main deck. We need to be able to kill our own Arena’s now but we can still cycle away a Vengeance if we don’t want to and Oblivion Stone means we don’t have to play around Second Sunrise so much, as well as letting us blow up the world on our opponent’s turn.
We will have a harder time against control decks with this build, simply because they’re playing eight or more counters and we only have three main deck Persecute. A full set of Cabal Interrogators and a fourth Persecute in the board will help no end. If you think you’re going to see lots of control, drop a Dark Banishing or two for maindecked Interrogators!
I’m happier with this deck. Renewed Faith and Ambition’s Cost never really thrilled me during the day, and certainly didn’t help me win any games. Dark Banishing would have helped out a lot more than Terror did and I’m glad to see the back of Coercion. Even with these changes I wouldn’t play it again. I’d probably choose MBC if I wanted to play something of this style, as they can play Mind Sludge and Consume Spirit.
All in all, I had a disappointing weekend but there’s always another tournament. I hope you all had a great time last weekend and congratulations to all of you, wherever you came.