I was all set, sleeved, and psyched to PTQ this brew on Saturday…
- 2 Birds of Paradise
- 3 Dark Confidant
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 3 Doran, the Siege Tower
- 4 Rhox War Monk
- 4 Tidehollow Sculler
- 3 Noble Hierarch
Then my buddy got court-side tickets to the Spurs game, and the PTQ lost its luster.
I mean, what is a PTQ? I’ve never run well enough to win one, which leaves a bitter taste in my mouth whenever I see random undeserving yahoos taking down blue envelopes. I’m not trying to say I deserve to win one, but I for sure thought I would have by now. I mean, Cedric Phillips made Top 8 at a mother-effin Pro Tour! And a Japanese one, too! I don’t see how they deny access to the astute master Chapin, then let CPhili mosey his way to the highest platform of prestigious play.
After having the luxury to sleep in on Saturday, I decided to concentrate my efforts to the Standard horizon. The Pro Tour is over and done, and (surprise surprise) LSV and Nassif were the two remaining mages left fighting on the Battlefield amongst the ancient temple ruins of Kyoto, attempting to Exile one another.
Speaking of which, I think Battlefield, Exile, Cast, and all those other lame Magic renames are just ridiculous. We already have to deal with them pushing that Planeswalker poop on the Magic homepage, but now they are actually changing the way we interpret the cards that have worked for so many years?
Yeah, they are, and there’s nothing you, I, or we can do about it. So I might as well keep my irritated thoughts to myself. But that’s just not how I roll, so…
There are several markets to keep in mind when gauging this type of “flavor” change. I call it a flavor change because the actual flavor of the cards is in jeopardy.
Myself, I think of Magic as an intellectual sport like Chess, placed in a much more vivid and mythical setting. I can respect the fact that people play the game for all that witchcraft spellcasting mumbo jumbo, but if I were someone looking to play this game, coming from Parcheesi to Pokemon to Poker, I think the game loses a bit of respect when we start calling our hand Magic Pouch, which is the inevitable next step when renaming all the zones of play that don’t have some stupid name like Graveyard, Exile/The Void*, Battlefield (wow, seriously!?), and Library.
We’ve already gotten the occasional cautionary glance when carrying a conversation about Magic in public and the word Graveyard comes up. Not to mention when we’re describing a detailed play, when outsiders think we’re talking a different language**.
Of course, if our game was centered around Batman, I wouldn’t feel too bad calling things “The Morgue” (Graveyard), “Arkham Insane Asylum” (AIA/RFG), or “Gotham” (Battlefield). I wouldn’t have trouble casting Boomerang from my Utility Belt. Maybe it’s just the obscurity that lies in Magic’s mythical nature that I have a problem with. It’s that same obscurity I find myself defending time and again, but I swear I’m out if I ever have to make my opponent reveal his Magic Pouch when I Thoughtseize him.
I’m of the opinion that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Were “RFG” and “In Play” so bad in the first place? Sure, they don’t match some of the other zone names, but it’s not something that was getting players confused. And I’m just not a fan of Unearthing Hellspark Elemental from the Graveyard to the Battlefield, then Exiling it.
The acronym “RFG” is also really pissed on the matter. With The Void and Exile, around he’s going to fade into Magic oblivion like Ante and Paris.
I can, however, appreciate the name change from a rules perspective, since it does clean things up aesthetically… but again, if it wasn’t broke, why fix it? Is that just my lazy nature peeking through?
Another issue I have is that whenever they sat down and were trying to determine the problems in Magic, instead of focusing on the glaring issues like MTGO, States (which Wizards should bring back, as it’s clear the support is there), and that annoying webpage that looks like a promo for some Planeswalker movie, they focused on altering parts of the game that are much lower on the general concern level.
The core set face lift was pretty brilliant, though. I never thought I’d see the day where people would be excited about a core set prerelease. Very nice curve ball.
So anyway, there was a Pro Tour this weekend, and Gabriel Nassif took home another trophy on the back of Five-Color Control. The metagame breakdown was a pretty big surprise for me, and actually positions that Tezzeret deck I’ve been pitching to rise is value. Not only are Five-Color Control decks running slightly more rampant than previously, but Boat Brew made a huge jump as the clear Number 1 Favorite among Pros for the Standard metagame. I’ve made some changes to the deck, adding the American spirit it needed.
Boat Brew and Five-Color Control are both excellent matchups for this deck, with Faeries, Kithkin, and Tokens also being favorable due to the high amount of mass removal with Cumber Stone neutering their token-centric tactics. Blightning and Mono Red are the real bad matchups, but the sideboard looks to patch that wound with Runed Halo and Feudkiller’s Verdict. Bant and EsperLark are pretty even matchups, since Bant has a very aggressive curve backed by counters and EsperLark can keep up with Tezzy on the card draw front.
The core is a Tezzeret the Seeker engine with a large toolbox to control a variety of situations. Cumber Stone completely shuts down the popular Bitterblossom, Spectral Procession, and all the other mass token generators located in Elf, Goblin, and Kithkin tribes. Rings of Brighthearth doesn’t do anything initially, but given the glacial slow nature of the deck, over the course of the game it will mount a mass of attrition that will be used to overwhelm the opponent. Pithing Needle solves many problems in the current format, like Figure of Destiny, Treetop Village, and all the Planeswalkers, acting as a quality and efficient removal spell. Courier’s Capsule combined with Rings become recurring draw fours. Sculpting Steel is a utility artifact that usually copies Cumber Stone or Rings depending on what you’re playing, but can also turn into a Courier’s Capsule or Pithing Needle in clutch situations. The backbone of the artifact engine is Scepter of Dominance, which also creates a proactive mana denial plan for this deck opposite control decks, while also being a quality removal spell to encourage over-extending opposite creature-filled decks. Obelisk of Alara is the last artifact, and is really just a substitute for the second Nicol Bolas I want to play. The Blue, White, and Red abilities are the best on the Obelisk, and if they don’t have an answer for it (combined with Rings) they’ll lose in short order. Mind Stone usually starts the Artifackiness, and turns into Inspiration when Rings comes out.
There are no creatures in the maindeck, which will usually give the opponent some number of dead cards, like the popular Shriekmaw/Terror, Path to Exile, and opposing Wrath effects. Instead, this deck casts Planeswalkers onto the Battlefield to wage war. Ajani Vengeat fights alongside Tezzeret the Seeker, and is a perfect complement to Scepter of Dominance to enhance the mana-denial plan. The feisty Chandra Nalaar also makes a stunning appearance, being able to deal with creatures of almost any size while providing a realistic kill condition. Jace made an exit, mostly due to the fact that I kept giving their Volcanic Fallouts value by having vulnerable Jace in there, and paying 3 to draw a card and make an opponent discard a card that does nothing against me isn’t what I want out of my Planeswalker. Nicol Bolas, however, is the king of the bunch, and I could honestly see playing another one in here. The games go long, and when he hits the table he always wins me the game because this deck sets him up so well. All of these guys are kill conditions because, when paired with Rings of Brighthearth, there are very few decks poised to combat such a combination of power and versatility.
To complement the Artifacts and Planeswalkers, we have creature sweepers in the form of Wrath of God and Volcanic Fallout. Cryptic Command is another auto-include that I was hesitant about at first, but I started thinking of it as a crucial turn 3 or 4 Time Walk with astounding value in the late game when I’m able to play a Planeswalker with a bunch of mana up. I also found myself, when testing the previous version, bluffing the Cryptic Command a lot and noticing my opponents playing around it, but there were still those times when they’d call, and I’d lose to a Rafiq or some nonsense.
The sideboard is aimed to deal with the problem matchups: Blightning and Mono Red. Runed Halo and Feudkiller’s Verdict provide quality disruption to their wall of flame. Halo’s first target should always be Blightning, since it’s very useful to get rid of Planeswalkers while disrupting the Magic Pouch before the deck gets kicking. Pithing Needle comes in against them also to deal with Hell’s Thunder, Hellspark Elemental, Figure of Destiny, Siege-Gang Commander, Shambling Remains, and Ghitu Encampment. Cumber Stone is there to double down against the token decks for fear of Artifact destruction. I bring the Cliques every time I sideboard, so I know what potential hate from Pithing Needle to Shatterstorm the opponent could be packing, and it goes up in value when they sideboard their removal out. There are also another couple of creature-sweepers, with Volcanic Fallout needed opposite Faeries and Hallowed Burial being a nice Wrath alternative opposite Boat Brew and Reveillark decks.
Despite needing UUUWWRRBB to cast everything in this deck, the mana hasn’t been too much trouble at all. With 25 lands and 4 Mind Stone, with Vivid lands aplenty, it’s been pretty smooth. I do wish I could squeeze a 26th or possibly 27th source, but that’s just because I love playing lands and it really isn’t necessary. This deck is pretty mana-intensive, but once it hits three or four you can start clamping down whatever offense they have. This was one of the reasons I didn’t want to stray from Wrath maindeck for the superior Hallowed Burial. When you need that third or fourth turn Wrath, you really need it, and whatever Reveillark or Kitchen Finks advantage they get from Wrath can usually be played around.
I would put a matchup guide in here, but no matter what you’re playing against, this is the greedy control deck. There isn’t a slower deck with such a molasses mindset, which means this deck plays out the same way nearly every game. The Planeswalkers are just too overwhelming for most decks to take care of because there are so many ways to deal with creatures, and the removal overlaps to make a suitable proactive game plan opposite the equally slow decks with permission. One of the more subtle keys in this deck is the addition of Mistveil Plains, which provides the ultimate inevitability, with Scepter of Dominance and Ajani Vengeant providing White permanents. This also enhances the Tezzeret engine if they are packing Artifact removal, recycling Courier’s Capsule to chain through the entire deck until you’re just casting Nicol Bolas every turn until it resolves and can blow up all their permanents.
The proactive mana denial draws will usually start with a Scepter, which will be used to tap two of their lands to resolve an Ajani, which will work together to resolve a Tezzeret. From there Rings of Brighthearth will double the mana denial from Ajani and Scepter, which buys time for Courier’s Capsule to draw into more Scepters and Sculpting Steel. By that time, Ajani will be set to blow up their lands, Tezzeret will be able to make all my pieces on the Battlefield 5/5s, or Chandra will be able to double-Ultimate someone’s face off. If those don’t work, it means an Obelisk or Nicol Bolas is on the way to win the game and they probably still aren’t doing much, or at least not doing much that loyalty-filled Planeswalkers, Scepter of Dominance, and Cryptic Command or Wrath effects can’t deal with.
It doesn’t always play like that, but opposite Five-Color Control and Faeries, that’s the game in a nutshell.
Against the token decks, all you need to do is resolve a Tezzeret and fetch Cumber Stone. That’s it. Wrath and Fallout when needed, but Cumber Stone is always game against them. They don’t have a maindeck answer unless they’re playing Tidehollow Sculler or Oblivion Ring.
Like I said earlier, I’m pretty excited at how this metagame is shaping up. It’s a very good sign for this deck. However, there are several scary things that can be used to combat this deck. Realm Razer, Pithing Needle, Austere Command, and Smash to Smithereens are all very bad potential sideboard options to snake wins away, which is why the Vendilion Clique has been so useful for me post-board. I caught a Five-Color Control guy trying to sneak a Realm Razer in with my Clique. I had the feeling he searched for it again, so I searched out a Capsule to refuel my hand with lands to prepare. We he went to Raze the Realm I used another Clique in response to provide a clock, and my Scepter locked him down. Pretty stupid move on his part, both for going for it when I had Scepter, and expecting it to do anything once I already knew he had it, but I still pegged and played him like a piccolo.
Thanks for reading.
Top 5 Picks
1) With Strangers — Little Joy
2) Natural Disaster — Andrew Bird
3) In The Morning Linda Dies – Paleo
4) Shakiyla (DJ Shadow Remix) — Poor Righteous Teachers
5) Anonanimal — Andrew Bird
* I actually like the idea of renaming RFG to The Void, it just sounds wicked cool. The Void. Yeah, sounds important like someone on their cell phone.
** Magic really is another language.