Duel With Ruel – Mythic versus Blue/White Tap Out: The Blue/White Perspective

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Friday, April 30th – While the Standard format receives its first high-level shakeup at tomorrow’s StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Atlanta, understanding Standard can only spring from a clear perception on current matchups. Today, Antoine Ruel tests the deck of the moment – UW Tap Out – against Manu Bucher and the ever popular Bant deck.

Mythic is a deck that I underestimated a lot, apparently. Two friends with the exact same 75 cards meet in the final of a 1600-player Grand Prix, which was already quite an achievement, but it also beat Jund out of 50 games last time out. Quite impressive.

This week I will pilot the other “best deck in the format,” Blue White Tap Out Control, against Manu’s Bant.

Even though it probably loses to some other (bad?) decks such as Naya, if Mythic wins here, I will acknowledge the fact that I totally missed it while testing for my tournaments, and that it is a very good deck to play in the current metagame.

It was hard to pick a Blue White decklist, as these are all a little different, making the matchup better or worse according to the version, in the end, I decided to play the version that Nassif and myself played in Brussels.

Manu will play the same list as the one who beat Jund last week: Zoltan Szoke and Tamas Nagy ‘s Mythic decklist from GP: Brussels.

I expect to win the matchup, but I also expected Jund to win last week. Let’s give it a try.

Maindeck Games ( 14 wins, 10 losses, 58.3% games won)

On the play: 10 wins, 2 losses
On the draw: 4 wins, 8 losses

Manuel mulliganed once down to two cards and scooped; beside this game, none of us had to start with five cards or less, which actually makes the result accurate. We actually fought with good draws on both sides for the majority of the games, with none of us being in a rush or similar.

Winning the die roll here will be important. Once more, the matchup is all about the tempo, and the best way to have the tempo is simply to play first. Whenever I started, I could cast my Mind Spring and Martial Coup, abuse my expensive spells, and always be ahead. On the opposite, whenever he played first, I did not have much time to cast my Mind Spring as I needed to provide solutions for each of the cards that he cast, and then I’d eventually die to man-lands.

I thought that Baneslayer Angel would be the nuts, as Manu’s decklist did not contain any way to handle it, but it was not such a GG as I predicted. I had to cast Day of Judgment with it on the table many times, as most of his spells would kill me too quickly even when I was gaining five life a turn. It was best in the late game when I had the game under control, which is to say when I was already winning, or whenever he had a slow draw. Do not misunderstand me, the card is awesome in the matchup, as it even races with his Celestial Colonnade or small guys, but I naively thought that it would be a game-breaker. He just had some more powerful cards in his deck.

I actually cast Baneslayer Angel on turn 4 a few times, and still had to chump block with it on the following turn. Bant is really violent when it has the right settings; I played the Angel on turn 4 whenever he had Rafiq of the Many and Knight of the Reliquary on the board, and I was feeling safe on 20 life, but he cast Finest Hour, gave Protection From White to his legendary creature, and dealt me 24 damage! Even though I played the deck last week, I was surprised to hear Manu telling me “I think you are dead” many times when I thought I was ahead in the game. I probably even lost some games that I could have won because I felt like nothing could happen to me. I tapped out to draw something like seven cards with Mind Spring when he had a Noble Hierarch and a Finest Hour on the table, and I was on 17 life, and he just untapped, drew, played Rafiq of the Many, and attacked with his 0/1 for a total of 18 damage. It is, of course, a good draw for him, but I could have kept a White land untapped and hoped to draw a Path to Exile to make it safer.

One of the problems I encountered was that I had to spend my powerful Day of Judgment on weak creatures and mana accelerators, otherwise he would just attack with them thanks to the Exalted ability, or he’d attack with man-lands. Finest Hour was trouble as well, because once it was on the table, I had to kill every creature that would show up, and his man-lands, which represents a lot of cards. So the goal in those games was to Wrath of god Manu’s board, then Path to Exile his next threat, and then cast a Mind Spring to get a determinant edge on the game.

I remember that at some point I considered Bloodbraid Elf then Baneslayer Angel as the best two cards in the format. The more I play with or against Knight of the Reliquary, the better is seems. Whatever deck you play, you have to kill it before it is active. Just like any other deck, I lost almost every game in which Manu untapped with it. Manu could protect his creatures and fetch up Celestial Colonnade, which was really annoying as, once they were exalted, they would kill mine in combat (I’m not even talking about the 11 damage combo with Finest Hour alone).

The Blue/White man-land and Sejiri Step turned Elspeth, Knight-Errant and the Martial Coup tokens into blanks, as the main reason to play those would be to provide infinite chump-blockers, as any time they attack is a time when a game is under control. Knight of the Reliquary also attacks through those with Finest Hour, but only once as he needs to tap himself to search for a Sejiri Step to gain Protection from White.

The Mythic decklist played by Manu has no instants; his only tricks are sorcery speed, which makes the games easier. You need to play really securely and in control until you take the advantage, and then don’t release your grip until the end, probably thanks to a heavy Mind Spring.

Thornling is one more troublesome creature in the Bant deck, as the Blue/White deck I was playing only had 4 Path to Exile and 2 Oblivion Ring to get rid of it. Moreover, you often play those removal on other threats, especially as Path to Exile is needed to kill a Rafiq of the Many that just came into play pre-combat (remember, you have no counterspells in the deck) or for a man-land that did not receive a Spreading Seas. Finally, the Green 4/4 is also very good against tokens, and all the creatures you can play.

I tried a few different things with Spreading Seas, such as playing it on Manu’s lone Forest to try to make Knight of the Reliquary useless, or to leave him with no Green left after a Day of Judgment once I killed the mana creatures, but all plans of those eventually failed. Worse, I sometimes provided Manu with the Blue mana that he needed after I killed his mana guys. Even though you will sometimes need to draw cards and so must play Spreading Seas, I would recommend waiting for Celestial Colonnade or maybe for Stirring Wildwood; this way, the card itself will be useful.

In the end, my comfortable win rate seem accurate. Any time on the draw when I did not have Day of Judgment, I was losing, and any decent draw on the play was my win. I wonder if the sideboard will change the results a lot…

I thought that I would sideboard in and out the Baneslayer Angels frequently, so that he does not know if he has to board in his Control Magics, but I quickly forgot about sideboarding out my best card in the matchup.

Sideboarded Games (11 wins, 15 losses, 42.3%games won)

On the play: 5 wins, 8 losses:

-3 Knight of the White Orchid
-2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
+4 Flashfreeze
+1 Mind Control

After one game, I realized that his Negates were too efficient against my key spells, and had to board two more in:

-1 Fieldmist Borderpost (you need active spells)
-1 Martial Coup
+2 Negate

On the draw: 6 wins,7 losses

-2 Jace, Mind Sculptor (he’s okay, but he always died)
-2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
-2 Martial Coup
-1 Fieldmist Borderpost
+2 Negate
+1 Mind Control
+4 Flashfreeze

This time, again, none of us had to start with less than six cards, not even once. It was the first time since I began this column that mulligans did not affect the testing at all. On the other hand, both decks have a really strong manabase, due to the quantity of man-lands and expensive spells in each of them.

Honestly, Manu got lucky in the games I played first, where I heard the sentence “I think you are dead” every single time I tapped out. If I kept a mana for Path to Exile, then he would just have a Negate in addition to his sick setup. I should have won a few more games there, even if the matchup was not so good any more.

Flashfreeze was a bit disappointing, as it was very often out of the game’s tempo, but as okay as it was, it was nothing compared to his Negates.

That counterspell reversed the outcome of the matchup all by itself. When played at the right moment, it would just win the game. Negate was so good that I had to board some in as well, even though they were pretty bad on my side, as they were dramatically needed.

The Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch in his deck helped the counterspells a lot, and as any of the spells I would cast needed to resolve and to have an impact on the game, any glitch in my plan would mean that I lost. Even in the late game, if Manu countered a Mind Spring, then I would eventually run out of gas. His man-lands became harder to kill, my Day of Judgments became harder to resolve etc…

Mind Control was okay, but it did nothing spectacular, as Manu sideboard out his Baneslayer Angel. It was a target for the Qasali Pridemage too, in addition to the Oblivion Ring and mana artifacts. The card was a real pain.

There was no real thinking in the games. It is just a little harder to mix offense and defense, as Negate on his side might counter you late game important spells. I usually attacked a little more with my Celestial Colonnade than I did in the pre-board games, in order to kill him before he could actually topdeck some insanely powerful cards and protect them.

On the whole, the matchup with this version of Blue/White should be a 50% win, but I admit that I thought that Mythic was a bad deck and I did not try to have any plan against it in the sideboard during the Grand Prix. The fourth Spreading Seas, the fourth Baneslayer Angel, and some more cheap removal would have been welcome, and pretty useful either main deck or in the sideboard.

Do not get greedy with your “x” spells; Mythic can one-shot you with a Birds of Paradise when you are very high on life totals.

For the next few weeks, I will test a little Legacy, as I wait for the new Rise of Eldrazi Standard decks to show their faces.