Double Or Nothing: The Early Bird Catches The Worm

We’ve got a few months to look at OBC – and the sooner we start the better. Let’s look at the top 64 decks from Osaka and see what Judgment adds to them.

With the PTQs for Nice over and done with, we’re free to look at what’s coming up next. Some of us may be lucky enough to make a Team PTQ for PT Boston; for the rest of us, there are a few months to wait before the PT Houston qualifiers. The format for Houston qualifiers is OBC, and Judgement will be legal.

Will Judgement change OBC? Will current decks need to upgrade to beat new technology, or will new decks appear to try to break some of the newer cards?

Perhaps no Judgement cards will be used… But I think that’s very unlikely, don’t you?

For some reason I really like the feel of OBC. I didn’t like Invasion Block at all (I even wrote an article about it) but I really liked Masques Block, and OBC has some of the Masques feel to it. I’m not exactly sure what it is – perhaps the type of decks that you can build, perhaps it’s some of the spells or the speed of the block – but I like it and so I’d like to do well. Doing well involves a lot of effort.

We’ve got a few months to look at OBC – and the sooner we start the better. Over the coming months, my articles will be split between OBC and Standard as I practice for and attend the English Nationals, and start working towards the Houston qualifiers later this year.

First, some OBC background with a breakdown of the decks that the top 64 players played in Osaka:

24 Control Black

22 U/G Madness/Threshold

10 Psychatog

4 Mono Green

2 U/B Beats

1 U/B/R Tog

1 Buried Alive

I’ve lumped the Madness and Threshold decks together for several reasons… Firstly, the differences between them are often minimal and the overlap is very large. Secondly, when playing against them (depending on what you’re playing) you often use the same strategies to win, or they use the same strategies to beat you.

Judgement is bound to change these decks – even if it’s just by its very existence. So how do we know what is going to change? How can we tell if new decks are any good, bad or just Da Bomb? Only time will really tell… But, lucky us, we have time. So lets get moving.

For the purposes of this article, my test gauntlet will consist of the following decks, each has been chosen because it was either the highest placed in Osaka of its archetypes, or it was unusual. In each case, I’ve given the URL to where it can be found rather than duplicating all the decklists.

Mono Black Control, played by Rob Dougherty, 3rd place.


U/G Threshold, played by Sylvain Laurio to 5th place.


U/G Madness, played by Ken Ho to win PT Osaka.


Mono Green, played by Raffaele Lo Moro to 22nd place.


UB Tog, played by Osyp Lebedowitz to 7th place.


UBr Tog, played by Ben Rubin to 21st place.


The Threshold and Madness versions are different enough that they both have different problems to overcome. The Threshold deck gains threshold much faster than Ken Ho’s Madness deck, making their smaller creatures much more of a problem. Meanwhile Ken Ho’s deck has more counters and better card drawing in the form of Standstill – something that could spell anyone’s doom.

In each case, I’d like to look at what Judgement brings to the decks.

Mono Black Control

Judgement is the Green and White set, and it enforces this by giving us overcosted and underpowered Black cards. We can expect the power levels of Black cards to be much lower than they were in Torment, but there are still some cards to look at.

Cabal Therapy is my first pick. It might be useful in trying to get Upheaval out of someone’s hand – but we already have Mesmeric Fiend and Mind Sludge. Do we really need it? Probably not.

Grave Consequences is another card that might see play, as it gives Mono Black lots of ammunition against the Threshold decks. On the other hand, they may just choose to lose a little life, and keep their Roar of the Wurms in their graveyard and then beat you to death with them.

Finally, Rat’s Feast sticks out as another way for us to attack our opponent’s graveyard.

All in all that’s pretty thin pickings, and I really don’t think there’s much to write home about – it looks like Black Control will stay pretty similar, or use more cards from Torment and Odyssey, to combat the new goodies.

Mono Green

Mono Green is a good deck in OBC, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I’ve been playtesting mono Green decks from Osaka against the better mono Black decks, and I keep winning unless they have very good hands. It comes down to speed and Overrun. A few squirrels and one Overrun wins the day very convincingly. Okay, you have to topdeck a lot – but it happens more than you’d think.

Judgement gives us some real goodies for this deck in the form of Ernham Djinn and Elephant Guide. The Djinn is a big, cheap body that can fill out our mana curve nicely, whilst the Guide gives us great ammo against mono black, as we’ll have a 3/3 body left after a Mutilate.

On top of these two, we get Genesis, Krosan Reclamation, and Living Wish. The Wish could conceivably help out by bringing us protection from black creatures when we need them, whilst the Reclamation might be useful to bring back a creature we really need. Genesis seems to be another weapon against Mono Black, giving us a body to attack with that they have to kill – and when they do, we can start to bring all our creatures back to beat them up.

Finally, Sylvan Safekeeper is worth a good look, as it may help a little more against Mono Green’s nemesis: U/G Threshold/Madness. With Spellbane Centaur already popular, the Safekeeper gives us a greater chance we’ll see one or the other – helping us to beat all of Blue’s bounce spells.

All in all I think that mono Green has picked up some real gems in Judgement, just as you’d expect, and so I think Mono Green may just pick up where Mono Black left off.

UG Threshold/Madness

Most of the mono Green gems can be used in Blue/Green decks too… And so really, I’m just looking at Blue cards here. But there are still quite a few good ones.

Cunning Wish and Quiet Speculation seem to be the most hyped at the moment, and you can see why. A Wish can get us any Instant we want – be it a Moment’s Peace, Beast Attack, Sylvan Might, Divert, or a Circular Logic. The changes that using Wishes use have only just begun to be analysed, but I’m betting at least one team manages to work out a way to abuse them to the full. Quiet Speculation really helps out the Threshold decks, giving us a way to get Roar of the Wurms quickly, before we play them back and cause havoc.

Grip of Amnesia looks interesting, but seems very situational. Firstly, they have to really want their graveyard. In many decks, this won’t be a problem and so we’re really aiming this at the mirror match. It will (I’m sure) force some players to let the spell be countered, but I really don’t know if I’d prefer this over Syncopate or Logic ever – and I’m not sure why you’d want more than eight counters in this aggro-control deck.

Laquatus’s Disdain is another situational counter that really shouldn’t be in a main deck unless the metagame changes significantly. You can’t counter a Flashback spell first time around, and it doesn’t help against Upheaval or any other non Flashback spell… Why would I play it? I’m not sure – but it’s worth keeping an eye on it, and it draws you a card.

Finally, Wonder. I really wouldn’t want to have to hard-cast Wonder, but I wouldn’t mind dropping it into my graveyard to give all of my 6/6s tokens flying. Again, I’m not sure I’d pay it – but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Like mono Green, I think that U/G decks will get a little better, taking the best that Green has to offer with the added flexibility of Cunning Wish and the extra consistency that Quiet Speculation might bring.

Block Psychatog

Psychatog suffers a little in that Black is so screwed over in this set. It does get some of the Blue cards that UG Threshold/Madness gets, and so might get a little power boost, but I’m not sure how much it’ll help.

So; of the existing Tier 1 decks I, think that UG Threshold/Madness and Mono Green will get better with Judgement. Mono Black has had most of its power cards already, and ‘Tog suffers for the same reasons: Black is weaker.

Is that all?

Of course not.

Looking at Judgement the spoiler seems to scream”GREEN/WHITE DECK” at me, with Anurid Brushhopper and Nantuko Monastery looking very good against the (mainly Sorcery-Speed) removal that most decks use. It looks very much like the Mono Green decks may add White for some of these cards – and they can play Mystic Enforcer too…

I’m not sure I can build a mono White deck yet – and even if I can, I think that mono Black’s Mutilate and Mind Sludge would cause it no end of problems; problems that just playing Green and White overcome completely.

If I was to play an OBC qualifier tomorrow, I’d probably have to play a Mono Green deck. I’m happy that it can beat the other decks enough of the time that it looks good, and it requires less time to familiarize yourself with. Mind you, I’m not. I won’t be playing a ‘proper’ OBC tournament until the PTQs come along. Hopefully, by then, we’ll all have a good idea about OBC, and the newer decks will be all too evident.

Cheers, Jim.

Team PhatBeats,

Team Diaspora,

Level 2 DCI Judge.

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