Exspec The Unexspected

The first round of OBC tourneys are over – and as expected, Quiet Speculation decks were everywhere. But there were two decks that absolutely smashed Quiet Spec decks…. And don’t you want to know what they are?

“Look, I’m not denying the power of Catalyst Stone,” said Adam Fischer, recent top 3 finisher at Grand Prix: New Jersey.”But….”


Rewind six months.

Now say that again.

People would laugh so hard at you that they would spontaneously form hernias, which would then explode. Team Academy would appear in a haze of transporter ions and beat you senseless with baseball bats. Mike Bregoli would burst into tears, upset that real life just beat MiseTings’ ridiculous articles again -“Local Scrub Touts Catalyst Stone.”

And now we have a guy who hangs around with Mike Turian and such touting Catalyst Stone – the little crap rare that could – in OBC.

It’s good now. Anyone wanna bitch about crap rares now, after Pure Speculation helped Zvi and Catalyst Stone is now going for $3.00 at various places?

Well, anyway, the first major OBC tourneys are over – and to no one’s surprise, the field is not entirely Quiet Speculation. Sure, you have to beat Quiet Spec for your deck to have a chance, but two strong contenders have arrived to beat Quiet Spec upside the head with a large spiked mace.

What are those decks?

Well, first let’s analyze Quiet Speculation to see what the optimal builds are.

It’s Catalyst Stone, For Christ’s Sake

The first thing you need to realize about OBC block is that there are three very different builds of Quiet Speculation; one beats two of them, one beats one of them, and one dies to the other two.

Let me sum that up.

  • The threshold-oriented Quiet Spec version beats the non-Catalyst Stone versions, but loses to the madness build.
  • The madness build beats the threshold-oriented version and the non-Catalyst Stone version.
  • The non-Catalyst Stone version may beat other things, but loses horribly in the mirror match.

First off, let’s analyze the strongest deck in the mirror: The madness version.

The Ferr-Tik Special

As played by Elliot Fertik (with help by The Ferrett) to a win at Grand Prix Trial: Cleveland

4 Catalyst Stone

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Quiet Speculation

4 Roar of the Wurm

4 Careful Study

3 Deep Analysis

2 Wonder

4 Circular Logic

2 Aquamoeba

2 Arrogant Wurm

11 Island

10 Forest
2 Centaur Garden


2 Arrogant Wurm

4 Aether Burst

4 Envelop

2 Moment’s Peace

3 Krosan Reclamation

This may not be the exact build, mainly because my notes are sketchy and the fine people at PES, despite their claims that they would, did not post this on their site yet. Still, it’s darned close.

This build is strong in the mirror match because (as you’ll see) it has access to one thing neither of the other builds do: Counterspells in Match One. You really don’t have to fear the Upheavals, because you have more counterspells than they do, and generally larger creatures to boot, so you can generally force even experienced players to walk into your Logics or Envelops, making them Upheaval when they have to.

Furthermore, if your opponent is relying on flashback of any sort and doesn’t run maindeck Catalyst Stones, you get an automatic win in game 1. Let’s see… We’ll stunt your growth by two turns and allow us to cast two 6/6 creatures on turn 4, or turn 5 if you want Logic backup to protect against removal. Oops.

So what’s wrong with this deck?

  • Unlike many builds, it does not pack Aether Bursts main, and has no real way to protect its creatures against them save for Circular Logic. This can be a problem in a token-based deck, and it really is a metagame call. However, Elliot and I both called the metagame right (I went 4-2-1 and came in 14th out of 88 players), guessing that so many people feared Spellbanes and Sylvan Safekeepers that they would have shied away from maindeck Bursts. We were right. Whether we will be tomorrow, or even next week, is another question.
  • It lacks Cephalid Coliseum. Considering how easily this deck achieves threshold and how much it relies on madness outlets, two Coliseums are critical for the late game. Elliot himself later admitted this was a mistake, though thankfully it didn’t hurt him.
  • It has no enchantment removal anywhere, nor answers to large fliers aside from Wonder. Elliot got lucky, and had his opponent run into a slow draw during his one matchup with the deck that destroys Quiet Speculation. (It was in the semifinals.) I, however, had a luckier opponent who either drew more land or knew when to mulligan. Oops.
  • My GPT version of the deck packed four Call of the Herds. As someone astutely noted later on in the day, 3/3 tokens are just too small for this metagame (although it works wonders against mono-black, giving you more things to sacrifice). Calls are no good in any sort of Quiet Speculation deck – take my word for it.
  • It does not pack four Wonders. We’ll deal with this later.

This deck has some strong matchups against the field. As I noted, it simply rolls G/R decks without a hope – 6/6 flying tokens are too much for it. In addition, it has great matchups against Dougherty Black and G/W – you’d think that G/W would beat this, but the Circular Logics and the Wonders allow you to fly past their biggies for the win…. And in addition, most G/W builds don’t pack Catalyst Stones, ensuring that you do have larger creatures a lot faster than they do.

The other style of the deck is a threshold-based build, which relies on Mental Notes and Careful Studies to build the graveyard, then attacks with Wurms and Mongeese, resetting with Upheavals if need be.

A rough sketch of the deck – and remember, I didn’t play it – looks like this:

Adam Fischer Makes You Heave.dec

4 Mental Note

4 Careful Study

4 Werebear

4 Catalyst Stone

4 Quiet Speculation

2 Nimble Mongoose

4 Roar of the Wurm

4 Wild Mongrel

3 Upheaval

3 Wonder

2 Deep Analysis

2 Cephalid Coliseum

10 Island

10 Forest


4 Envelop

4 Aether Burst

2 Krosan Reclamation

3 Moment’s Peace

1 Upheaval

1 Wonder

This deck has some nice advantages – namely, a large reset if everything goes awry, and less reliance on token creatures, making opposing Aether Bursts less painful. Furthermore, even though Nimble Mongoose is tiny, its untargetability still helps at times.

Now would I play this? Hell no (although to be fair, Adam piloted a very similar deck to the finals at the Origins PTQ). It has no counterspells, and I dislike that lack of control. Still, this is a solid deck that wins against a wide variety of things – and resolving an Upheaval generally means game.

Now, there’s also the final build I ran at the PTQ, based on some experience in extensive playtesting (I playtested for seventeen hours in the two days before the PTQ, and that’s not counting the GP Trial itself) and some words from a friend.

Basically, I handed my deck to Mike Turian, who designed the Upheaval deck above, the day before the tourney and he said one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard:

“You want my advice?”

No, Mike. No, I don’t want your advice. Sure, your Constructed rating is about 2900, where my Constructed rating is used in first-grade math classes to teach simple fractions… But I think I’m better than you.

Give me your advice, O Grand Turian, and prove me for the whore that I am!

“You need four Wonders,” he said sagely. This was true, though I hadn’t thought about it until now; frequently, the mirror match came down to who drew the first Wonder… And even against G/W, it depended on who drew what first: Their Glory, or your Wonder? For consistency’s sake, you need to run four.

“Oh, and should we tell him about our secret tech?” he asked Paul Sottosanti.

I held my breath and spread my legs wide.

Paul nodded.”Well,” he said,”You really need to have (MIKE TURIAN’S SUPER-SECRET TECH CARD) in your deck.”

“My God!” I said, clapping my hand to my forehead as if I could have had a V-8 all this time.”You’re right! That breaks so many matches wide open! (MIKE TURIAN’S SUPER-SECRET TECH) is not just a house – it’s a mansion!”

He smiled cryptically, told me to seek out Dagobah, and faded away.

So taking his advice, here’s the last deck that I ran at the Origins PTQ:

Fever Dreams.dec

4 Catalyst Stone
4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Careful Study

4 Circular Logic

4 Quiet Speculation

2 Aquamoeba

4 Roar of the Wurm

4 Wonder

2 Arrogant Wurm

1 Deep Analysis


2 Cephalid Coliseum

10 Forest

10 Island


1 Krosan Reclamation

4 Aether Burst

4 Envelop

3 Ray of Revelation

2 Arrogant Wurm

What would I have changed?

First of all, I would have changed the Arrogant Wurms in the sideboard to Spellbanes. The metagame had flip-flopped by the time the PTQ arrived, and Aether Bursts were everywhere – not thinking properly, I had thought that the Arrogant Wurms were better against them, since they wouldn’t vanish into the Aether when targeted.

So why not protect the 6/6 tokens instead?

I had an excuse for this fuzzy thinking, Macduff… But read on.

I would also lose a Wurm (or, more likely, a Rootwalla) to force in another Analysis. You run far too few land in this deck as it is; the Careful Studies help, but quite often you find yourself flailing for land early on. Although you’ll quite frequently side them out – as the life loss hurts against a lot of decks – they’ll get you out of more trouble than they get you into. Not running two was a mistake, though I probably wouldn’t run three and I’d never run four.

Why not more Reclamations? I didn’t like them, though the continued nagging of Adam Fischer and Elliot Fertik convinced me to keep them in, in much the same way a nail is”convinced” by a hammer to delve deep into oak.

Given the metagame shift, I would also change the Arrogant Wurms in the sideboard to ELLIOT FERTIK’S SUPER-SECRET TECH CARD to combat the next deck I’ll mention.

(Wait; that means that I would be changing the Wurms twice. Oh, how the Wurms turn!)

So now we’ve discussed Quiet Speculation decks to death. What two decks absolutely smash the Quiet Spec decks?

Muthaf**kas Act Like They Forgot About Rui

Rui”18 Montanhas” Oliverclothesoff* mentioned, briefly, an OBC”Bird” theme deck that seemed to do well in testing. I ignored it, at much my own risk.

As it turned out, the deck really kicks ass, turning into the White Sligh.

There are three versions of this deck: W/G, W/u, and monowhite. Is it any surprise that the W/U version is the best?

9 Plains

7 Island

4 Skycloud Expanse

4 Suntail Hawk

4 Mystic Penitent

2 Lieutenant Kirtar

2 Commander Eesha

2 Treetop Sentinel

4 Mystic Familiar

4 Soulcatcher’s Aerie

4 Battle Screech

4 Deep Analysis

4 Aether Burst

3 Keep Watch
3 Morningtide

This is an incredibly fast deck that can absolutely punish decks that don’t pack enchantment removal.

Now, me, I pretty much said,”What enchantments are good in this block, anyway? Solitary Confinement? I’ll Krosan Reclaim their yard away!

Well, as it turns out, Soulcatcher’s Aerie is far too dangerous.

The speed of this deck isn’t the dangerous part; you can drop somebody to twelve life by turn 4 with a decent hand. But hell, I’ve gotten used to that; OBC is quicker than you’d ever believe, and Quiet Spec decks usually take quite the beating while they set up into position.

But by the time you get to twelve, you’ll have probably have killed off a couple of their birds along the way, turning their Suntail Hawk into a 5/5 flier. Oops.

Eventually, you draw into Commander Eesha (a.k.a.”The Unblockable Machine Of Death”) or Treetop Sentinel (“Hello! I’ll be serving up your reliance on mono-colored tokens today; how would you like to eat that?”), who will be, oh, 8/12 thanks to your Aeries now, and fly through for a rather speedy kill.

Morningtides wreck Quiet Speculation decks, either punishing those who walk into it (“Second-turn Speculation? Sure!”) or forcing them to play around it, which enables you to put on your speed blitz. Furthermore, your Morningtides can remove their Wonder, thus removing their only defense against you, thus allowing you to peck them to death.

Like any speed deck, you deplete your hand quickly… But Keep Watch takes care of that neatly. Fourth-turn”Battle Screech, flash it back,” followed by”fifth-turn attack with five creatures, draw five cards” is pretty much an unlosable proposition.

This deck hurts. It’s efficient, it doesn’t really pack anything over four mana (and the majority of its cards are three and under), and it’s ungodly quick. It is one of the major two that smashes Quiet Speculation, and it also does very well against mono-black.

Say, did I mention mono-black?

Black Is Back, All In, We’re Gonna Win, Check It Out – Oh No, Here We Go Again

Mono-black Osaka-style was dead. We didn’t count on it morphing.

I played two mono-black decks in serious tournaments, and lost to them both (though I shouldn’t have lost to one of them – see below). Several cards now make the difference between winning and losing with mono-black:

1) The lack of Rancid Earth. I didn’t really see it in a lot of black decks – and considering the speed of OBC, it’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world. Quiet Spec decks can work just fine off of two mana and a Stone, thank you, and the Battle Screech decks can, too. Maybe it’s in there, but hey, I missed it.

2) The reliance on token creatures. I saw a lot of Faceless Butchers and (God help us) Slithery Stalkers, which are quite excellent token hate. Your Roars are now useless; you can now Stalk one 6/6 token, then Innocent Blood the other. Outcreaturing them is difficult; game over.

3) The reliance on the graveyard and madness. As mentioned, a lot of Quiet Spec decks use madness to power their creatures; without madness, you kind of suck, and mono-black can kill your Mongrels and ‘Moebas with alacrity. Furthermore, the Logics are almost useless if you can’t discard, meaning you tend to hurt from Haunting Echoes, which tend to make your Logics useless, putting you into more unlosable positions.

Furthermore, the sideboard has a lot of fun options: Balthor, the Defiled came out to play, as did Gravegouger. Black can be turned into a Quiet Spec pretty hate machine.

So the madness Quiet Spec deck just rolls over and dies. What does beat this?

I have to say that the Upheaval/Threshold deck would probably do well, and it seems like the few PTQ results I’ve seen bolstered this out. I haven’t tested this matchup, but mono-blue is slow off the blocks, particularly if you thin their hands out early by forcing Bloods; a well-timed Upheaval can turn the game around.

What About The Other Decks?

Screw you guys; I’m goin’ home. Do yer own damn research. This isn’t enough?

But How Did You Do, Ferrett?

Well, as mentioned, I went 4-2-1 at the Grand Prix Trial, then spent a lot of time playtesting. I then proceeded to go 0-2 drop at the PTQ.

Am I really Sean McKeown, though – doomed to write about the metagame but never create it? Perhaps; but I had a pretty damn good excuse.

You see, the PTQ was on Saturday. I came down with a minor cold on Friday and got no sleep on Friday – and I mean”no” sleep. I remember, quite clearly, looking at the alarm clock in despair every half an hour all the way throughout the night. I was absolutely exhausted, but the pain in my sinuses and my general uncomfortableness wouldn’t let me sleep.

So I got up at 8:00, went down, playtested constantly throughout the day until it was 5:00, and sat down for the PTQ with lightness in my heart and a big gaping hole in my head.

I could not play for jack, I was so sick… But I was so ill that I didn’t even know it.

Highlight of the day: Playing against an arrogant mono-black player, I walked dazedly into an Echoes after stupidly dumping two Roars into my library (I should have dumped one and cast it that turn, thus forcing him to deal with that or Echoes), and he had me in Game 2 at an unwinnable situation. I was at seven, and he had a creature on the table; without drawing an Aether Burst, I was doomed.

He grins.

“At the end of your turn, Skeletal Scrying for seven?”

“Sure,” said I.

He was at five life when he Scryed.

And I still lost.

That’s right, campers; so out of it was I that I lost to a guy who killed himself in the first round of a tourney.

I’m bad, but I’m not that bad.

Disgruntled, I slunk back to my hotel, and settled in for the Night of Hell. As it turned out, I was so sick and feverish that I was hallucinating – I stayed up until about four in the morning, convinced that I was in Los Angeles and preparing for an Invasion Block PTQ, and I couldn’t find my deck. I watched Saturday Night Live and saw people laughing, but everything the actors said was just pure gibberish.** I would have called my wife, but I couldn’t remember our phone number and I wasn’t sure where I was anyway.

When I woke up the next morning at 8:00 am, the fever must have broken, but I was kind of scared at how out of it I could have been. As my wife said,”You know that’s how Jim Henson died, right?”

So yeah, I went 0-2. I’m not saying it’s a great excuse, but my brains were slowly being boiled like oatmeal – so cut me some slack, okay?

(Hey, maybe I should have written this report for Brainburst! Get it? Get it?

(TheFerrett <--- Funny)

On the plus side, the deck that Elliot and I designed won a GPT, and Adam Fischer – remember him? Catalyst Stone guy? – made the finals of the 120-person PTQ and thanked me for bugging him to have a sideboard plan against the Battle Screech decks. (I know how to sideboard Quiet Speculation against them – but am I telling you? No way.)

According to him, ELLIOT FERTIK’S SUPER-SECRET TECH CARD worked wonders against the Screech decks, decimating them. Heh.

Signing off until the next time I play in a PTQ,

The Ferrett

The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy

[email protected]

Oh, and two things:

1) In my last article on why R/G sucked in OBC, I gave a list of the strangest entries placed into our”Virtual Ask The Judge” system. Here’s this week’s batch:

how can i get sexy bitches (I can’t tell you how to do this, but GEORDIE TAIT’S SUPER-SECRET TECH CARD can)


baremychildrenferret (What? Take their clothes off? How old are they?)


uktaby oranges


2) Blake Moore wrote in to explain one of last week’s entries thusly:

“In your July 02 article (The Little Deck That Couldn’t), you give a bonus track of ‘The weirdest entries to the Ask The Judge’ column… I just thought i would explain how the word”molest” made that list. I read one of blisterguy articles on monoblack control; I wanted to recall it so I could read it again, and I knew in the subtext it said ‘unfairly molests Kaitog.’ So I typed in ‘molest’ and ran with it – but I had typed it into the ‘ask the judge’ blank rather than the correct ‘search articles’ blank….just thought that it was kind of funny…”

As do I, my friend. As do I.

* – For those of you who don’t know, I never am able to spell Rui’s last name correctly. Rather than look it up, for use in my own articles, I have instead vowed to mock him for having such a silly name until he legally changes it to something I can spell, like”Smith” or”Steinmetz.”

** – Okay, it was a season with Chris Katan in it, which means that it may have actually been gibberish, but that still didn’t help much. And by the way, Chris Katan sucks.