As most of you know, the current PTQ season is Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Block Constructed, which is great for me: Block Constructed is my favourite format. Unfortunately, there isn’t a Block Constructed Pro Tour this year, but there was a Grand Prix right on my doorstep. I have done a decent amount of playtesting and deckbuilding in Block, but now there aren’t any events in which I can play. Hopefully I can share with you what I have learnt about the stronger decks and important matchups.
This format is still pretty new. There have been a few events, but there is still plenty of room for new decks. While the top two decks at the moment – Faeries and Kithkin – all look pretty similar, the popular Five-Color Control deck archetype has a much wider range.
Today, I’m going to go over each of the three main deck types, and offer some general advice on how to play the various strategies to your advantage.
Faeries is probably the most powerful deck in Standard, so it is not a great shock that this deck is quite popular in Block Constructed. It is interesting to note that at Grand Prix: Birmingham this deck almost doubled its field percentage from Day 1 to Day 2. This can be attributed somewhat to the better players wanting to play this style of deck, but it is still quite a swing… and it showcases this deck’s raw power.
If you are used to playing the deck in Standard then you will find it is similar, but there are some important differences. First, without Ancestral Vision you can’t just expect to overpower control decks in the late game with a rush of free cards. They will be casting and recasting Mulldrifters, so you might need to play a little more aggressively than normal. The other difference is the slightly worse manabase, with both fewer sources of Blue and Black, and the loss of Faerie Conclave.
Overall, this deck still plays much the same, playing almost nothing in its own turn and then playing faeries in opposing upkeeps or at the end of their turn. You just need to be aware that cards like Cloudthresher are a lot more popular in opposing main decks, so be careful with your Mistbind Cliques. Indeed, it is often best to wait until you can champion a Mutavault, or at least hold fine until that option becomes available should things go belly-up.
While the main deck is reasonably set, there are a lot of different sideboard options available. It mostly depends on what you decks you expect to be popular. Mind Shatter, for example, is very powerful against the Five-Color Control decks, but you already have Thoughtseize so it might well be overkill if you don’t expect the style of deck to be popular. I also like Incremental Blight, as it answers all of the many Kithkin cards that generate tokens, and preventing them from using Windbrisk Height can be very powerful.
Overall, Faeries is a powerful but expected deck that most people will at least think they have a reasonable matchup against, making it hard to win enough rounds to win a PTQ. However, if I were to play this deck, this is the list I would run:
People seem to love White Weenie style decks, playing them whenever possible without regard to if they are even slightly viable. This time, however, this deck really is quite powerful. You have a swarm of creature and token producers, backed up by a number of lords that pump your creatures and an Overrun type effect in Mirrorweave. You even get to play some of these spells for WW by simply attacking with three creatures, which is pretty easy to do when you have a spell that creates three 1/1 flyers.
This deck also has a built in resistance to cards like Firespout by playing more lands and a slightly higher curve than you might expect. After they sweep your board, a Cloudgoat Ranger can put a lot of power right back on the table. Although your basic aggro plan is pretty simple as always, you need to figure out how many creatures you need to make to force them to play a sweeper without giving them extra turns to find it, while at the same time keeping back something to play if they do have it.
The most complicated interactions pretty much all involve Mirrorweave. I’m going to go over what happens in the most common situations I saw come up at the GP. This means I’m not going to go into detail of why these things happen… if you really want to know, ask in the forums and I will try and explain in more detail (in explanations that might involve layers).
The most common thing to do with Mirrorweave is simply copy a large creature and use it to boost all creatures in order to alpha strike your opponent. Remember that the spell will be countered if the target is removed, so if possible target one of your opponent’s creatures. Mirrorweave targeting Mutavault is where it gets really interesting, as you copy the base card, resulting in all the other creatures becoming inactive Mutavaults while the original target will remain a 2/2. This can be very useful as a Fog style effect where your opponent attacks you with everything… you can prevent all the damage and swing back for lethal, blocking their active Mutavault first if necessary. In a similar way, if there is active Mutavault it will remain a base 2/2 with the colors and abilities of the copied creature.
Another trick you can pull with Mirrorweave is countering some creatures with “comes into play” or “leaves play” effects. If you change an evoked Reveillark into something else, the evoke trigger will still sacrifice it but its “leaves play” trigger won’t fire, as it is a different creature. You can also do the opposite, making everything a Reveillark in response to a sweeper and returning most of your creatures back to play. In a similar way, changing everything into a freshly-cast Shriekmaw will prevent it from killing anything. There are many other intricate subtleties with Mirrorweave, including Mirror Entity tricks… come share some in the forums.
This deck seems like a reasonable pick for winning a PTQ. It is very powerful, and it can easily overpower any rogue deck where a control deck might not have the right answers. If I was going to play this deck, I would play this list.
- 4 Burrenton Forge-Tender
- 4 Cloudgoat Ranger
- 2 Goldmeadow Harrier
- 4 Goldmeadow Stalwart
- 4 Knight of Meadowgrain
- 2 Mirror Entity
- 4 Wizened Cenn
- 3 Thistledown Liege
In case people are wondering about everyone playing the 1/3 Thistledown Liege over the 4/4 Wilt-Leaf Liege, in practise you don’t attack much with the body. Therefore, having flash is more of a benefit than you might expect. In particular, it is very powerful when the Faeries deck taps all of your lands down in your upkeep.
I personally like this style of deck, and played it myself to a reasonable 25th place at GP: Birmingham. There is rather a lot more variation in this type of deck than in the previous two archetypes, as you can play more counters and no mana ramp (just as Manuel Bucher did in the Top 8 did). Other options include the ones I went for: Fertile Ground and Farhaven Elf along with Reveillark. Here is the deck I played for reference:
- 2 Mistmeadow Witch
- 4 Mulldrifter
- 1 Shriekmaw
- 2 Sower of Temptation
- 2 Reveillark
- 2 Farhaven Elf
- 4 Kitchen Finks
I am reasonably happy with this list, and without doing a lot more testing I wouldn’t change over to a different deck. It has good matchups against Kithkin and the mirror, but it is a lot weaker against Faeries, which was a lot more popular than we expected. Considering that, it might need reworking to be somewhere between this list and the Manuel Bucher list from the Grand Prix Top 8.
The main problem we had was with Reveillark, which is a very powerful card that just doesn’t have many targets that you want in this format. Without the existence of the Mistmeadow Witch, I don’t think it would have been worth it at all, but she is very powerful in certain matchups, and she is murderously quick at overwhelming people. The main problem with Reveillark here is that in finding enough two-power creatures we are forced to run Sower of Temptation. While Sower is a fine card, it doesn’t play well with Cloudthresher. The solution to this is to either find some other creatures you can return with Reveillark, or just cut them altogether and play Cloudthreshers main.
There are a number of other options for this archetype, due to the power of the manabases in this format. You can pretty much play whatever spells you want. This deck, for example, requires UUU, GGGG, WW, BB, and R from its lands, and never has real problems with being able to cast any of its spells.
I think a good starting point for removal is 4 Firespout and 2 Austere Command. While you might be able to live without Oblivion Ring, you do need at least six sweepers against decks like Kithkin. This is because they can often recover from the first pretty easily, and you want to be able to draw a bunch of cards and find another sweeper. These sweepers are, however, a lot less effective against Faeries, due to flash and Bitterblossom.
Working out what is good against some sort of mirror is even more complicated, as merely running powerful spells into countermagic doesn’t work, but instant threads like Makeshift Mannequin and Cloudthresher mean just sitting back doesn’t always work either. Trying to build directly for a mirror where there are lots of different versions like this seems very difficult, so you are probably better focusing on working out how to beat Kithkin and Faeries. After the deck is solid in those matchups, move on to working out what would help within the framework of the deck you already have.
One card that might be a bit tricky to cast but is well worth the effort is Mind Shatter from the sideboard. This card can be a real blow, as there is a lot of tapping out and drawing extra cards in this archetype, thus it is certainly something you need to be aware of.
As for my build… it really needs a whole article on its construction. Luckily one of my teammates for the event is writing exactly that, and hopefully you should see it up some time soon. [Watch this space! — Craig.]
While I personally would play some sort of Five-Color Control deck for the PTQ season, I can’t really fault people from picking a deck that is more to their style, and both of the other decks I mentioned above are very powerful. If you want to play something a bit different, there is plenty of room for building new decks… just make sure you test it against these three deck archetypes, and don’t get too attached to decks that can’t beat at least two of the above a reasonable amount of the time. Hopefully another one of my team mates will go into detail about his RG deck, as I feel it has the potential to be very good and present another viable aggro option. There is also the Five-Color Elemental deck, with which I don’t have much experience, but it did reasonably well at the GP so is likely another viable option.
Hopefully this article has proved useful as a starting point for people looking at Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Block Constructed. If you have any questions, come ask them in the forums.