Duel With Ruel – Mythic Bant versus Turboland: The Turboland Perspective

Grand Prix GP Columbus July 30-August 1, 2010
Monday, July 12th – M11 is here, but it will take a few weeks for the new cards to make an impact on the current Standard metagame. Antoine Ruel continues his Duel With Ruel series today with a look at Mythic Bant versus Turboland, two decks that promise much with the changes in the coming weeks…

On the second day of Pro Tour: Puerto Rico, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa came up with the idea of a Blue/Green ramp deck, and played it in a big side event on the Sunday. Later on, the deck was transformed by Luis Scott-Vargas at the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Seattle, morphing the deck from control to combo. Last weekend, at the Czech and Slovak Nationals, it seems that Turboland became a real deck in the metagame, with three copies appearing in the two combined Top 8s.

The only way to know more about the deck will be to have it meet a serious contender… the best Standard deck, a.k.a. Bant Conscription.

Manu and I decided that he would play the Bant version that made Top 8 at the Japanese Nationals, which is a hybrid between Next Level Bant and Mythic Conscription, which forgoes the explodability of Lotus Cobra for synergy and answers to the opponent’s threats.

As for me, I’ll be piloting a decklist from the Top 8 of Czech Nationals:

The mechanics of the deck are simple: gather a maximum amount of mana, draw cards, then play Avenger of Zendikar. On the following turn, put a few lands into play, and attack with the tokens for the win.

The deck can be considered as Combo for two reasons:

– its only goal is to cast an Avenger of Zendikar, which will end most of the games, especially when combined with Time Warp against control decks.
– It has no control cards and no “Plan B.” All the synergy, every single card of the deck, aims for the one-card combo: Avenger of Zendikar.

The deck is really fun to play, and it has absurd draws such as turn 2 Lotus Cobra, turn 3 Rampant Growth, Fetchland, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Oracle of Mul Daya. Wafo’s touch in the deck can be seen easily, as every single spell is a pleasure to cast. The deck has 28 lands, so it supports mulligans very well. It is very consistent compared to the Bant deck, which will not reach the higher curve if their Lotus Cobra and one-drop accelerators are killed, as it is very hard for your opponent to interact with your mana development.

The last deck I played that looked similar was Tooth and Nail. The deck’s workings are just different to every Standard deck in the last four years -which is really enjoyable- and shows that Magic is still a open and unpredictable game.

It should not be too hard to master Turboland; everything is about planning your mana development and working the math in order to optimize your turns.

(A quick note: I realize that M11 is now with us, and new decks should include the new cards. However, this column has always been about pairing established deck against established deck. And, of course, it is written in advance. As soon as we have more of a handle on the M11 metagame, we’ll start including the new cards for sure.)

Maindeck Games (12 wins, 12 losses, 50% games won)

On the play: 7 wins, 5 losses
On the draw: 5 wins, 7 losses

As you can see from the results, the matchup is even. It is really simple: the one with the nut draw should win. I think that if Manu had a Lotus Cobra version, the score would have been about the same, as he would have lost more games to the lack of stability in his deck, and won more because of absurd draws.

The key to the broken draw is to have control of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The Brainstorm ability creates an engine in the Turboland deck with Oracle of Mul Daya (put two lands on top of the library), or just some quality card-advantage with the Fetchlands and Rampant Growth to shuffle the cards you do not need back into the deck. As usual, the one playing Jace, the Mind Sculptor first will use it before the opponent casts one of his own, which leads to a great advantage in tempo.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor is insane in Turboland. I only activated the +2 ability a few times to over-secure my win when Manu had no cards in hand. I used the bounce ability to gain some tempo:

– Always when there was only one creature on Manu’s board (if he spends his next turn killing the planeswalker by casting one of his own or activating a manland, he probably will not be able to get back in the game.
– Whenever only one creature on the Bant was definitely too dangerous.

The rest of the time, I would just Brainstorm and enjoy all the synergic things I would do on the next turn(s).

Turboland has zero instants, and no All is Dust in the main deck. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is the only card in the deck that interacts with the opponent’s game plan. That is not much, so make sure to use is efficiently.

The “Jace, the Mind Sculptor control battle” should be in your favor, as you have many ways to dig in the deck, and you run four while your opponent only has three, but he has the ability to kill yours while your only answer to his is to cast one yourself. The good news is that you do not need to get rid of the planeswalker as much as your opponent does. I often decided not to lose time and tempo trying to get rid of it — I’d lose if he had a second in hand. Instead, I’d choose to develop my board.

What does Jace do against you?

The +2 ability: You keep on fetching, drawing, and you always have at least four cards in hand. Your opponent does not have your draw under control, especially because leaving lands on top might actually help you.

0: With no Negate in his deck, this is okay for him. I would rather have my opponent get a one-card advantage per turn and set up a big Mind Spring in the process than bother about this. It is also his way to search for his winning cards.

-1: Manu could bounce:
– A Lotus Cobra, which I would play back on the next turn for free
– An Oracle of Mul Daya, which it is a bit annoying, but once it has done its job, you are still good
– An Avenger of Zendikar so you cannot pump your tokens and play Time Warp on the following turn: just play it then a fetch land on the same turn, and it should be fine.

(This is the only ability that really matters, but it is easy to just play around it.)

-12: Won’t ever happen. The game will be long finished at this point, whatever happens.

The final thing about Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which is also true about Halimar Depths: when your next turn will be Oracle of Mul Daya, put a land second card from the top. Remember that everything you will do on your turn will be decided on the turn before. There is almost no thinking for the current turn, as everything was planned; analyze what will be the best thing to do on the next turn and set it up.

Many people do not know the Exploration trick. Oracle of Mul Daya works the same way as the Urza’s Saga enchantment: you can choose to play the additional land before the regular one, so if the 2/2 creature happens to die, you will still be able to put a second land into play afterwards (one that will actually be considered the “normal” land for the turn).

Whenever Oracle of Mul Daya is running, with 28 lands and many ways to put them on top of your library, it should do beautiful things. It should provide very efficient mana acceleration, and increase the card quality of your upcoming draws.

Once you’ve gathered enough mana, you can either recover from most situations by casting expensive spells and Time Warp on the same turn, or just take a definitive edge on the game by casting a big Mind Spring.

I think that I should have won more games, as there are only two spells that I was afraid of, and he had respectively 2 and 3 copies of them (and only three Jace, the Mind Sculptor). These are:

Elspeth, Knight-Errant

Especially combined with Vengevine, the White Planeswalker is a lot of trouble. It is easy to Chump block with tokens to stay high on life, but as soon as the creatures fly, there is no way to stop them anymore. The +3/+3 helped him a lot, as the Bant creatures are a bit weak and take ages to kill you, which is not great against Combo. Dealing damage thanks to Elspeth, Knight-Errant can actually turn Celestial Colonnade into a threat early enough for you to lose, especially if you need to lose a land by activating a Tectonic Edge.

Sovereigns of Lost Alara

I would have destroyed a classic Next Level Bant main deck, but the elemental, just lie Elspeth’s +3/+3 flying ability, allows a Noble Hierarch to kill you while your creatures cannot chump it.
You can easily survive one attack, sometimes even playing Avenger of Zendikar then a land (it is always better to have seven 1/2 creatures rather than eight 0/1s), then trade the 5/5 and the tokens for the enchanted creature. But then, you will still have to manage to survive the second +11/+11 trample attack. Assuming you are lucky, and have an Avenger of Zendikar, and have killed the first enchanted creature, what do you do? Play a second one, then die to an enchanted Celestial Colonnade? Bounce the Sovereigns of Lost Alara with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, so he just has to replay it and attack with another creature?

Let’s be realistic: the only way for you to beat the card would be to win the game the turn after it was cast. Time Warp will probably be needed in this process, but in the early game there is not much to expect from it, as you will not be able to get a good profit out of the extra turn. If you have a chance to beat it in the late game, that’s your only one.

Manu drew these two cards a lot, but on the other hand, he’s got so many cycling cards that it might actually be normal. You cannot survive the combination of the two. I still expect this exact matchup to be around 60% in Turboland’s favor.

Sideboard plan:

+ 2 All is Dust
+2 Negate
-3 Rampant Growth (Lotus Cobra has high chance of survival)
-1 Avenger of Zendikar

In a Jace, the Mind Sculptor matchup, I do not want too many cards that might be blanks. Manu’s sideboard should be a bit better than mine, as counters are good against expensive spells. I expect us each to win as many games as before, but maybe things are a little more in his favor.

Maybe Roil Elemental would have been correct, but spending 6 mana to steal Birds of Paradise and eventually have my guy killed does not make sense to me. Maybe you can play it then a fetch land in order to steal a creature with +10/+10 during your opponent’s turn, but I am not destroying my deck for such a sweet dream.

Sideboarded Games (17 wins, 9 losses, 65.3% games won)

On the play: 10 wins, 3 losses
On the draw: 7 wins, 6 losses

This score can be explained by the mulligans:

Myself: Three mulligans to five cards
Manu: Two mulligans to five cards, two to four cards, and four to fewer than four cards.

Manu got three free wins while I got eight, apparently he had either no land or 2 Eldrazi Conscriptions in every single opening hand. Manu summed up the postboard games with this: “the player starting with five cards or less has less chance to win than the player starting with seven.” What a master.

With only four cards added, the game process remained the same for me. That’s what’s good about the combo decks… you only have one game plan, and you stick to it.

I used Negate when I had extra mana or a decisive spell to cast, but slowing yourself down to keep the mana up cannot be good. You skip your turn 3 in order to be able to counter a Jace, the Mind Sculptor or an Elspeth, Knight-Errant on Bant’s following turn… and he casts a Vengevine, which might actually do something as you just Time Walked yourself.

All is Dust was insane the first time I cast it, as Manu did not know I was running it. Then it was harder to kill three creatures, two Planeswalkers, an Oblivion Ring and a Journey to Nowhere for seven mana. Still, the card provides you what you need: a control spell that allows you to reverse any situation. The card itself is a bit expensive, but it fits pretty well in the deck, and against the slow tempo deck that is Bant in general.

Manu sideboarded in 2 Deprive and 2 Negate, which had less impact than I would have thought:

Deprive is UU, so you see it coming. Negate does not counter creatures. Anyway, there are so many cards to counter in the deck, and so few that really matter if they are denied, that the countermagic is far from lethal. If your opponent has 1U untapped, just play the creature instead of the spell, or anything irrelevant that might seem important in your gameplan, and your opponent will just counter it.

To conclude, the matchup should be a little in Turboland’s favor. Even if it is not by a lot, it is still better than I expected. It is by far the coolest deck to play that I have seen in a while, and I am glad it actually seems strong.

From what I have seen in a recent Paris PTQ, the Japanese Nationals, and my own experience in queues on Magic Online, Mono Red seems to be the best Standard deck at the moment, which will inevitably lead to a rise of the decks that beat it (or can cast Kor Firewalker turn 2 after sideboard). maybe UW, or even Allies, will regain popularity.

Until next time…

Antoine Ruel