Feature Article – Conflux Limited Tips, and Blightning Deck Wins

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Friday, February 13th – Marijn Lybaert, one of Belgium’s top pro players, brings us his thoughts on Blue/White and Esper in Alara-Conflux draft. He also touches on a few cards that he believes are under-appreciated in the forty-card format, before bringing us his personal Standard configuration of Blightning Deck Wins…

Although on the surface it would appear that Conflux further enables players to draft and play even more colors, I think the opposite is true. Creatures such as the Outlanders (2/2s for two allied colors), Parasitic Strix , Sedraxis Alchemist and Esper Cormorants actually push players back into the direction of solid two-color decks. One thing I’ve always noticed (and hated) about Shards Draft is that mana fixers such as the Panoramas and Trilands are very important, but sometimes they can also lead you to decks that are short on playables because you’ve had to “waste” early picks on lands that don’t count towards your playable total. Being able to draft two colors fixes that ‘problem,’ and lets you focus on what really counts: a good curve and enough tricks to seal the deal once those three- or five-color decks manage to catch up with your fast creatures.

My first Conflux draft was won by Christophe Gregoir and his UW beatdown deck featuring such goodies as double Court Homunculus, triple Esperzoa, Faerie Mechanist, and double Sanctum Gargoyle. His deck was actually quite poor after two packs, but Conflux fixed everything by giving him more than ten playables. Let’s take a look at some of the cards from Conflux for this archetype.

Aven Trailblazer: Not at his best in a straight UW deck, but most of the time you’ll end up splashing Black or Green anyway, and this will be a 2/3 flyer for three most of the time.

Celestial Purge: There is only one Shard that doesn’t have Red or Black cards, so this card is maindeck material for sure.

Court Homunculus: This guy should be a 2/2 for one mana most of the time. He also combines very well with Esperzoa. I’d say you need at least 10 to 12 artifacts to make this guy playable.

Gleam of Resistance: In a two-color deck, the basic landcycling isn’t very handy, and for five mana the effect looks a bit too weak. A 23rd card, I’d say.

Lapse of Certainty: In a tempo-orientated deck, this card is probably playable, but for that you really need a good curve and enough early drops. You really don’t want to draw this card when you are behind on the board.

Path to Exile: Obviously really good.

Scepter of Dominance: I had this card in one of my Sealed decks, and I must say it didn’t disappoint me. Not only does it tap down the biggest guy when needed, but a lot of decks only have one or two sources of one color, and you can often screw someone by tapping his only land of that particular color.

Esperzoa: A 4/3 flyer for three that combos very well with Sanctum Gargoyle, Faerie Mechanist, and some powerful rares. Even taking back your Kaleidostone every turn should get the job done. A great card, so pick it high even if you still need to pick up those Mechanists or Kaleidostones.

Faerie Mechanist: Card advantage and evasion… your UW deck should have enough artifacts to make this guy hit most of the time.

Frontline Sage: Wow! Another Looter… until you start playing with this card. This card was too slow in Sealed, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get better in Draft. In the early game, you never want to play this card because you won’t have the mana to activate it, and in the late game it’s a 0/1 that dies to every pinger and only does something the turn after you‘ve played it.

Esper Cormorants: Probably your best available four-drop.

Vedalkan Outlander: The 2/2 protection creatures will shake up the format more than you’d think. First of all, it makes cards like Woolly Thoctar and Rakeclaw Gargantuan a lot worse. The UB Zombie Outlander is really good, as Esper usually has big problems handling big Green creatures, and this guy really fixes that problem.

Bone Saw: If you really need a cheap artifact for Esperzoa or Court Homunculus you can play this card, but otherwise I don’t think this card is good enough. +1/+0 rarely makes the difference.

Manaforce Mace: Too expensive in a two-color deck, and not what you want when you are drafting five colors. In a three-color deck with a lot of evasion creatures this card is probably at his best, but other than that I don’t think it should make it to your maindeck.

If we now look at the Shards, I think the one that gained the most from Conflux is definitely Esper. One of the main problems I had with Esper in triple-Shards draft was that it had a hard time handling big, fat creatures, and that most of the early drops were just too weak. Conflux fixes this problem and gives Esper some great creatures at two and three mana. Let’s take a look.

Darklit Gargoyle: In the first four or five turns, this guy will probably just be a 1/2 flyer, but after that he should hit for three every turn. Also, it doesn’t die to Blister Beetle! And let’s be honest: who doesn’t hate hit when his 1/1 or 2/1 dies to that stupid Coleoptera.

Brackwater Elemental: I’m not sure what to think about this card. At first I thought it would be a great blocker, especially when combined with Sedraxis Alchemist, but then I played with it and it disappointed me. I’ll have to play with it some more before drawing conclusions.

Cumber Stone: A great card. Play with it, and you’ll like it. This is a card that’s good when you are behind (as it saves you a lot of life), and when you are winning it makes sure it’s even harder for your opponent to come back in the game.

Faerie Mechanist: Great in the UW archetype, but probably even better in your typical Esper deck.

Parasitic Strix: Highway Robber was great, and that guy was four mana and didn’t fly. A Black permanent shouldn’t be a problem, and even without one this guy is still a 2/2 flyer for three. One of my favorite cards in AAC Draft.

Traumatic Visions: A great card in Sealed, but a little bit worse in Draft as your manabase should be better, and five mana for a counter is a lot. I’d still play it.

Grixis Slavedriver: Not a real Esper card, but really good nonetheless. This card makes Corpse Connoisseur even better.

Sedraxis Alchemist: This card is so huge. It creates tempo, and that’s exactly what a good UBw deck usually needs. A turn 2 and/or turn 3 flyer followed up by this guy is a very strong opening. Usually this guy will bounce a creature, attack for a turn or two, and then chump a big guy while your flyers finish the deal.

Wretched Banquet: At his best in a five-color control deck (as it’s the best follow up for a turn 3 Obelisk), but in Esper most of your guys have two power anyway, so this card should find most of the time. It almost reminds me of Innocent Blood, and I played that card from time to time (in control decks with few creatures).

I haven’t played a lot with Red and Green yet, so I’m not sure if those Shards get a lot, but I’d still like to talk about some cards before moving on to the Constructed part of this article.

Paragon of the Amesha / Fleshformer / Dragonsoul Knight: In almost every Sealed you have at least one mana of every color, (be it from a tri-color land, an Obelisk, or a Kaleidostone), and activating these guys once or twice should be enough to win you the game right there. Play these guys if you have two or three ways to activate them.

Pestilent Kathari: Apparently this card is better than I first thought. Once you have the mana, this guy is a must-kill card. Unfortunately, it’s still a 1/1 for three mana that gets killed by every removal spell in the set.

Dark Temper: At the prerelease, one of my friends had this card in his sideboard because he “only had three Black creatures to make it good.” I told him he was crazy, and he sideboarded it in every time. After the tournament, he told me I was definitely right. Instant removal is always nice, even if it only does two damage for three mana.

Filigree Fracture: I maindecked this at one of the prereleases, and it was awesome every time I drew it.

Wild Leotau: Obviously a great card. Don’t hesitate to play this guy on turn 4, even if you’re holding some five-drops. It’s a four-turn clock that’s hard to kill.

Exploding Borders: Passable in an aggressive Jund or Naya, deck but in a normal five-color control deck there are simply better options.

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker: This card is just unfair, and here’s a tip for everyone that opens one in his Sealed deck: please splash it, he’s worth the trouble.

Obelisk of Alara: Play this, no matter what colors you are running. Every ability (except for maybe the Blue one) is worth it.

That’s it for the Limited part of this article. For the rest of this article, I’d like to talk about Blightning Deck Wins in Standard. Pro Tour: Kyoto is about to happen, and I believe that BDW could be a real contender to win the whole thing. Here is my current decklist:

I’m a little surprised that no one on this site has mentioned Goblin Outlander before, and to be honest I hesitated to ‘spoil’ this tech in here. Goblin Outlander, ladies and gentlemen, is the solution to all your problems. First of all, he’s a goblin. He helps with Auntie’s Hovel, and he lets you do two to the dome with Siege-Gang Commander when needed. Second: Protection from White is really, really important. Doran, Kitchen Finks, Rhox War Monk, Cloudgoat Ranger, Path To Exile, Unmake, Spectral Procession, Knight of Meadowgrain… do I need to say more? All these cards cause problems to BDW, and Goblin Outlander is the perfect answer, and for only two mana. Third: he’s the two-drop our Red deck has been waiting for. Before we were playing Goblin Outlander in this deck, we were losing to WB Tokens most of the time. Then we added this guy, and he changed the matchup so much. Other than blocking with two Bitterblossom tokens, they don’t have a way of beating this guy.

Other than that, there is nothing really outlandish about my build. Magma Spray is a must against Kitchen Finks, Glen Elendra Archmage, and Sower of Temptation. Siege-Gang Commander is definitely better than Demigod of Revenge now that everyone is running either Spectral Procession or Bitterblossom.

The only cards I’m not sure about are the Bitterblossoms. It just seems that Bitterblossom is a bit too slow for this deck, as you just want to attack in the early turns and then finish your opponent with burn. On the other hand, it’s so important against Five-Color Control and Faeries that I don’t really want to cut it… yet.

The sideboard isn’t finished yet, but it should look something like this (14 cards at present):

4 Infest

4 Vithian Stinger
3 Spiteful Visions
1 Siege-Gang Commander
1 Bitterblossom
1 Murderous Redcap

Infest seems better than Volcanic Fallout because of Vedalkan Outlander and Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender. The extra Siege-Gang and Redcap are there for the mirror, and against decks like Elves or Merfolk (should people start playing them again). Bitterblossom and Spiteful Visions are mainly for Five-Color Control, and Vithian Stinger comes in against Faeries and the WB token deck.

That’s it for this time. Make sure you try out UW beatdown in AAC (or is it SSC?) Draft, and don’t underestimate my little friend Egbol.