Feature Article – A Prelude to Grand Prix: San Francisco

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John Pelcak has spent the last six weeks in China. Surrounded by some of the most breathtaking scenery and architecture imaginable, he’s been busy brainstorming Time Spiral Block Constructed decks for Grand Prix: San Francisco. Today, he brings us five decklists to dissect and discuss. Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something splashing Blue. If you’re after a new direction for the GP, maybe the Cak has the answer…


That’s right, for all of you folks that weren’t aware (most likely everyone reading this), I spent the past six weeks or so in China (excuse me, the “People’s Republic of China”). The first week or so I spent traveling around Shanghai and Beijing. I got to see the Great Wall of China (G-Walls) and the ever so famous Tiananmen Square (Kyle Sahnchez). On the Great Wall I was stopped by at least 40 people wanting to take pictures of me, probably for my dashing youthful looks.

Creatures with Plainswalk beware!

Throughout my trip abroad, I was left with a substantial amount of downtime, basically being bored on a train somewhere. Knowing that the next tournament I was going to attend would be Grand Prix: San Francisco (I was going to miss Nationals because I was in China), I spent much of my free time creating random Time Spiral Block Constructed decks. Most of the decks you will find in this article have not been tested much, but I believe they all have potential and warrant testing.

Here’s something I came up with on my way from Shanghai to Beijing (it got tweaked a bit after I got back):

I had a deck like this made for Yokohama last year, but the manabase was terrible. I think Coalition Relic solves this problem, although it still needs to be tested. One thing I like about this deck is that it can come from so many different angles. It can come out of the gates with a turn 3 Lightning Angel, have a face up Akroma turn 4, destroy every land in play and still have artifact mana, or play the Blink game with the Cloudskates and Venser. My favorite card in the deck has to be Numot. Not just because of his name (the Devastator!), but because you can cast him turn 4, and if he ever hits, your opponent is in a heap of trouble.

The sideboard is pretty self-explanatory. Magus is amazing against the current aggro decks in the field, and if you can follow him up with a timely Bust you will be a winner in no time. Riftwatchers are there just to provide you enough time to cast your real threats against aggro, and they also combo with Momentary Blink nicely. The other cards in the sideboard are geared to attack your opponent’s mana in the control matchups. Ancient Grudge is there to eliminate any artifact mana your opponent may obtain to fully maximize your Bust. I originally had the Riders maindeck, but Mr. Benjamin Lundquist convinced me there were too many aggro decks in the field to run them main. The Detritivores are difficult for Teachings to deal with if they can’t find Pull, and you can usually suspend them for 3 or 4 early with the help of the artifact mana. I wanted to find room for Aeon Chronicler somewhere, but I think the Detritivores are just better.

My next stop in my Asian extravaganza was Hangzhou, a city south of Shanghai. There I actually spent most of my time teaching English to 13-year-old kids. Don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself…

The Cak's ventriloquist act went down badly on America's Got Talent

Awwww, isn’t he adorable?

The little kid is cute too.

Here’s another deck idea…

This originally was a Kyle Goodman build, but after falling numerous times to Mystic Enforcer he abandoned it. I feel it deserves another look. The deck is built around Smallpox, as it has so much synergy with practically every card in the deck. It removes three time counters from Nihilith and powers out quick Tombstalkers. Epochrasite is also nice to sacrifice to Smallpox. Plague Sliver was Korlash, but I figured you usually won’t have that many Swamps in play because of the Smallpox. And if you ever play against Slivers… MAISE.

Against Teachings, the goal is to take away their card drawing with Psychotic Episode and then their important spells with Extirpate. The other cards are fairly self-explanatory. I really think this could be a contender.

Later in my journey, I made my way to Hong Kong to visit a friend I met while playing in Yokohama this season. Some of you may know him as Kairan on Magic Online.

That’s right, THE Kairan! Behold…

The scariest boy band alive

He’s on the left, and did I mention he’s also the newest Hong Kong National Champion? I stayed at the home of the guy to the right of me. Thanks again for your hospitality, Sam!

And here’s an idea he gave me to play at the upcoming GP…

It’s not very rogue, just a basic Green/White Aggro list with the addition of Psionic Blast and Delay in the board. However, they are both strong additions. Adding Blue to the deck doesn’t hurt the manabase at all, but I’m still concerned about being able to run Serra Avenger. Psionic Blast gives the deck an actual win condition after Damnation wipes your board, a problem I encountered numerous times throughout testing the basic Green/White list a while ago.

Blue also gives the deck access to Vesuvan Shapeshifter out of the sideboard, a huge boost against the ever-so-popular Mono-Blue Pickles deck. I considered playing it maindeck just for its raw power, but couldn’t bring myself to make any cuts. Maybe the Stonewoods could go. Thrill of the Hunt works wonders against the mirror, and especially against Red decks. The deck doesn’t lose any of its consistency by adding Blue, so it’s something to think about.

My last stop brought me to the city of Shenzhen, just outside of Hong Kong. There I had the chance to stay with the one, the only, Jake Hart; former roommate of everyone’s favorite Chinese/Russian/American… Eugene Levin. We played a bunch of Block Constructed tournaments on Magic Online with a White Weenie list Jake was working on, and we actually had a decent amount of success. Here’s what he was running…

Everything in the deck is fairly basic, with the exception of the Gathan Raiders. While we were playing I felt that the Raiders were a huge addition to the deck. The deck was lacking a solid three-drop, something the Raiders provides. They also give you more outs to a Teferi’s Moat. The deck can also empty its hand fairly quickly, forcing your opponent to deal with the Raiders immediately. The Teachings matchup, unfortunately, isn’t that great. I kept trying to find better sideboard cards against it, but White is a bit short in that department. I even went as far as trying Enduring Renewal, but that was mediocre at best. It’s hard to win if they resolve Tendrils, which is the reason for the big Rebuffs. Mono-Blue morph decks are basically a bye, and that deck is very popular these days.

I like this deck a lot more now that Future Sight is around. There are very few Red decks running around these days, and they don’t even run Sulfur Elemental or Blood Knight anymore, which were the main reasons not to play White Weenie in the first place. It’s also far more consistent than any other aggro deck out there. The Green-based decks do have access to more powerful cards, but they have to run cards that slow you down, like Llanowar Reborn and Terramorphic Expanse. It’s pretty frustrating to have to mulligan an awesome hand because you don’t have the colors you need.

Anyway, just a thought…

And finally, here’s something I came up with on the plane back home…

There’s another version based around Gauntlet of Power, enabling you to “go off” with cards like Sprout Swarm, Wurmcalling, Verdeloth, etc. but I think this one is more consistent and less god-awful. This deck definitely seems like it has potential, but there are some obvious holes. First of all, I don’t like the fact that it’s nearly impossible to deal with a creature enchanted by Griffin Guide. It also has no way of stopping the Pickles lock, but you should be okay as long as you draw a Scryb Ranger.

A couple things I like about the deck are its ability to draw numerous cards through Magus and Harmonize. Magus seems like an awkward card here, but both Harmonize and Scryb Ranger can keep your hand stocked to abuse him. Sprout Swarm also seems awkward, but it’s really the only late game spell you have to rely on. I’m not sure if it should be main or not, but it seems worthwhile. If Teachings decks can’t find a way to end the game, Sprout Swarm actually becomes a real threat they have to deal with. It’s also difficult for them to leave in counterspells after boarding. The life gain from Tendrils becomes pretty irrelevant when facing a board of six tokens.

The sideboard is very rough at this point. Quagnoth seems very solid against Teachings, as they have to Damnation it away. Seal of Primordium along with Acid-Moss can really set back the Teachings deck, as Urborg and Coalition Relic are both keys to their success.

Ah well, that does it for now. I hope I’ve inspired at least some of you to be creative in your deck designs for the GP. There are other decks out there. Go find them!

See you in San Fr… I mean San Jose!


The artist formally known as the Cak