Feature Article – More Five-Color Control in Block Constructed

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Tuesday, August 26th – Five-Color Control for Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Block Constructed has taken many forms over the course of the season. Gerry Thompson, winner of Grand Prix: Denver, believes that the strategy is the best for anyone serious about taking home a Blue Envelope this coming weekend. He presents the latest version of his Grand Prix winning deck, with detailed sideboarding plans and matchup strategies!

So, you want to win a PTQ? I would try this:

Kitchen Finks: I have been back and forth between Fulminator Mage and the Finks in this slot. While I firmly believe that Fulminator is superior against Kithkin, Doran, RDW, and the mirror match, it is simply because of the Faerie matchup that I can’t cut these guys. The early pressure is so insane against them. Even if they have a Bitterblossom, they either get very low on life quickly or use up all the resources they gained to fight them. No matter which way it plays out, you gain a huge advantage.

While you might think that Finks are “obviously” superior against the beatdown decks, you should first look at the average mana curve in this format’s aggressive decks, while also taking into consideration the fact that almost none of them have any reach. While Doran can burn you out with Profane Command, it won’t often be offset by Finks gaining you a couple life. They don’t deal in inches. Their creatures hit hard, and so do their burn spells. Fulminator-ing one of their lands could save you the same amount of damage, or even mana screw them into oblivion.

You wouldn’t try to fight Lava Axes with Healing Salves, and you shouldn’t assume that Finks are going to beat Demigods or Flame Javelins. Finks will effectively chump block a Doran three times, and while that will buy you a lot of time to draw into your real cards, at least Fulminator will keep you on card parity while basically playing the same role. Finks just rarely trades with anything, and that’s why I would rather have Fulminators the majority of the time. Faeries is still a big part of the environment, so I don’t think that switch is correct quite yet.

Mulldrifter: I’m not sure if you’ve ever cast a Mulldrifter, but it’s nice.

Archon of Justice: I am not usually a fan of random animals in my control deck. However, this one plays an important role against RDW and Doran. While the matchups against both of those decks are quite good, once you start cutting these or Runed Halos, they become much worse. They stay for the time being.

Against Kithkin, you can fully expect them to get Unmade or Crib Swapped. Against Faeries, they will get Sowered or chumped while not even killing anything on the way out. You should definitely side them out in these matchups.

Shriekmaw: While this guy’s stock was once high, the masses have since learned how to build their decks around Terror. It doesn’t really help that two of the biggest decks have token generators and manlands for threats. There just aren’t very many good targets. While he does clean up the little stuff (and for that he needs to stay), Maw just doesn’t get rid of any of the real threats. However, you do need something to get rid of Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender, and his synergies with Makeshift Mannequin are the reason he gets the nod instead of something like Nameless Inversion or Crib Swap, which would otherwise be very good against RDW.

Cloudthresher: With fewer Faeries out there, I feel safe cutting one of these from the main deck. It just feels so miserable whenever you draw more than one against anything that isn’t the Fae. Considering how hard it is to win the first game against Faeries, I could see potentially cutting all of them out of the main deck, but then that removes basically any chance you had of winning game 1. Cloudthresher is probably more effective in any random matchup than any of the sideboard cards you could replace them with in the main anyway.

Oona, Queen of the Fae/Primal Command: These are a new addition, brought on by the fact that the mirror is now a large part of the metagame. Your plan in the first game is go for decking, as both decks have plenty of removal, and getting through for lethal damage is quite difficult.

While this requires a bit more clock management than simply trying to get in there for 20, it should be very easy with practice. No matter what happens in the first game, it will almost certainly go late, so you should be able to win the match 1-0. If you look like you’re in trouble game 1, don’t hesitate to save time and move onto the next game.

Firespout: Playing less than four of these is probably wrong, although I suppose I could see playing with three and three Burials. You thrive in the late game, but for that to happen, you need to keep your early game intact.

Cryptic Command: Much like Mulldrifter, I will never play less than four, nor will I ever side them out.

Broken Ambitions: I am of the opinion that this card has increased in value since GP: Kobe. With the introduction of RDW and Doran to the metagame, there are a bunch of good three-mana spells that you can easily counter. Both of those decks have expensive spells that they have to play to win the game, and they don’t have Mutavault or cheaper spells they can use to play around it. Instead, they have no choice but to walk their big spell into it.

However, Kithkin is still around. If you’re on the draw against the Red deck, sometimes they can get the jump on you and force you to tap out every turn dealing with their threats, while your counter spells rot in your hand. They also have Vexing Shusher. If it weren’t for those reasons, I would be playing the full amount main deck. Antonino even swears by the card, saying that playing less than four is simply wrong.

Runed Halo: Chapin’s baby, and probably the single reason I did so well in Denver. This card is the best removal spell you could ask for against Doran and RDW, while also being solid against Kithkin’s surprise threats like Oversoul of Dusk. Two or three is the right number, as there are still other decks out there where Halo isn’t as effective, like Faeries and Elementals.

Hallowed Burial: Initially I had Austere in this slot, but after playing with the deck, I have determined that this is wrong. While Austere is nice because it gives you an out to Bitterblossom game one, the one extra mana really matters.

Consider an opening hand with Cryptic Command, Austere/Burial, and five good lands. Now, against something like Kithkin or Doran on the play, that hand is very good if the sweeper is Burial. On the draw, it’s kind of sketchy, but I would still keep it. If it’s an Austere Command, I think you have to mulligan, regardless of who is playing first.

Makeshift Mannequin: While Mannequin is a very powerful card, I am fine with there only being two in the deck. You really want to play cards that are great whenever you draw them, and with only eight great targets for Mannequin and four Finks, there are times where you can draw it and have an empty graveyard. The times it is a mulligan are far more painful than the times where you wish you had one but didn’t.

Oona’s Grace: The good news is I have never lost to an aggressive deck when I have drawn this card post board. The bad news is that it doesn’t cycle through your dead Firespouts in the control matchups. However, that almost never matters.

Grace is leagues ahead of Mind Spring in terms of utility and overall quality. I try to build this deck that does everything it can to survive the early game, but then I still need ways to make sure you don’t get flooded late game. The Grace is the perfect answer. I know I was telling everyone to add a second copy, but I think that may have been a bit hasty. Drawing multiples early can really hinder your development, whereas drawing one is almost always good. If I didn’t want to add the mana intensive answers to the mirror match that I did, then I would certainly play a second.

I think one is a staple of these types of decks and I would definitely play one in Faeries, along with a second in the board for the mirror.

The lands: The maximum amount of Vivid Creeks and Reflecting Pool is obvious. I think that 11 Vivids is probably right with 26 lands, or 12 Vivids with 27. You really need the fixing early and coming into play tapped doesn’t really start hurting you until past turn 3, unless you really need that Firespout.

Four Mystic Gates is probably correct given the amount of double White the deck has. Past that, it’s just trying to balance the correct number of total filter lands. I believe that eight is the maximum I would play with 26 lands and I could possibly play nine with 27, but I would rather have the consistency of the Vivid.

I wanted to run the one Cascade Bluffs for another way to cast Firespout. Initially, Chapin had a Sunken Ruins, but honestly, getting Red early is much more important than having Black early. Not being able to cast Firespout is going to lose you more games than not being able to cast Shriekmaw or Mannequin. Thankfully, Chapin listened to reason and so should you. If, for any reason, you had a Sunken Ruins in your deck, why wasn’t it ever a Flooded Grove, Mystic Gate, or Cascade Bluffs.

With 27 lands, three basics is probably right as I only want 12 Vivids, eight filters, and four Pools. That leaves you with three slots, which should obviously be Islands to turn on your filter lands.

Wispmare: These are your best ways to fight Faeries, as without Bitterblossom, they don’t really have a deck. Feel free to board in one or two of these in the mirror depending on how you’re trying to kill them.

Plumeveil: I am never disappointed by this card as its one of the best removal spells in the block. Not only is it most likely going to mug something, but it will likely stick around to do it again, even after a Firespout. It’s one of the few things that can deal with RDW’s giant monsters and holds the fort against Faeries, buying you a ton of time to start casting your big spells.

So why am I only playing two? Well, there are only enough slots for what basically amounts to spot removal. Runed Halo is amazing against RDW and Doran, moreso than Plumeveil is. If Kithkin knew you had a ton of Plumeveils and zero Shriekmaws, Forge Tender would basically turn into an enchantment, for which you didn’t have any removal. You just need to run a mix because Shriekmaw is too important against Kithkin, as without Forge Tender protecting them, Firespout is a blowout.

Primal Command: This is my mirror plan that also doubles as life gain against mono red and can potentially remove a stocked Kelpie deck’s graveyard. The card just has so many applications that I think it’s a better choice than something like Fulminator Mage and/or Puppeteer Clique.

The Five-Color Control mirror: All I ask is that you formulate a plan here. How do you plan on killing them? How do they plan on killing you and how do you plan on stopping them? Yes, some cards like Puppeteer Clique are just good in the mirror match, but do they fit in with your plan? What if they are trying to deck you and therefore cut their Cloud threshers (which they should probably do anyways)? Would you still play the Clique then? You should really try to use some next level thinking when approaching complicated control mirrors, which I don’t see enough people doing.

Thankfully, this one isn’t that complicated. If you played the exact 60 card mirror from my GP: Denver deck, you would have a hard time killing the other person as there is just too much removal and not a good win condition. We didn’t have a plan for the mirror. In fact, we all took an oath to not sideboard anything for the mirror so neither of us would have an advantage against any other. In the end, we didn’t end up playing against each other, but I know that Chapin and I each played a mirror. Oona’s Grace should have been enough to beat my opponent but I messed it up.

Now that everyone has the same information, you need to get an advantage. One of the options I explored was Profane Command, possibly with Fulminator Mages. In the end, I decided that Fulminator just isn’t good enough against Faeries. Not only is it worse than Finks, but it makes your Cloudthreshers basically uncastable.

Primal Command plays a roll not unlike Gaea’s Blessing in Time Spiral Block, while also having applications in other matchups. For that reason, I think it’s the superior Command to play with. While decking them might take longer, I think that its strategically superior. I don’t mind a long, drawn out match, and neither should you.

+ 2 Primal Command, 1 Shriekmaw, 2 Runed Halo, 1 Hallowed Burial
– 4 Firespout, 2 Cloudthresher

Kithkin: To put it simply, you should win this matchup. While I know that Antonino’s losses were to a pair of Kithkin and what basically amounted to a match loss, I’m pretty sure that those losses could have been avoided with a better tuned list. Perhaps I am just blessed, but I have never had a hard time with this matchup unless I am playing terribly.

On the play:
+ 2 Hallowed Burial, 1 Shriekmaw, 2 Plumeveil
– 1 Oona, Queen of the Fae, 2 Cloudthresher, 2 Broken Ambitions

On the draw I would board in an extra Halo for another Ambitions.

Faeries: Easily the worst matchup of the decks that exist. However, I went 4-1 against Faeries at the Grand Prix, with my loss coming from arguably the best Faerie player on the planet. Your goal here is just to hit the late game. Once that happens, your card advantage is going to take over as long as you aren’t under any pressure as they don’t have any real card advantage of their own.

While Runed Halo is decent against Mutavault and Mistbind Clique, you want to side them out. Mutavault shouldn’t be pressuring you too early, especially since you have Finks and Plumeveil. The problem with Halo-ing a Mistbind Clique is that you have to do it preemptively, which hurts your early game. If you draw a Halo late, the damage is almost always already done.

+ 4 Wispmare, 2 Cloudthresher, 2 Plumeveil
– 2 Hallowed Burial, 2 Runed Halo, 2 Shriekmaw, 2 Firespout

The removal of the Colossi leaves you with a more defensive stance which I don’t mind. Faeries players might expect Colossus and bring in Consign to Dream anyways.

RDW: This matchup can be tough, as evident by my round 14 match against Owen Turtenwald. He basically blew me out of the water two games in a row as my draws were just very poor. Their deck isn’t exactly forgiving, so make sure to mulligan accordingly. You are basically looking for anything to stop the early pressure and a Halo to prevent any Demigod shenanigans.

+ 2 Runed Halo, 1 Shriekmaw, 2 Plumeveil, 2 Primal Command
– 2 Cloudthresher, 4 Firespout, 1 Oona’s Grace

Merfolk: Cheon got this unfortunate pairing twice in the last rounds of GP: Denver to end up sitting on the sidelines for day 2. While I don’t think it’s as bad a matchup as those results indicated (random dudes crushing Cheon twice in that specific matchup), it is still one of the decks that is kind of scary. Honestly, the only reason I wouldn’t want to play against Merfolk is because of their similarities to Faeries. However, once you replace Bitterblossom and Mistbind Clique with things like Chameleon Colossus, I believe that the matchup becomes a lot better for you.

If you just keep their board clear and don’t give them a chance to make their counters useful, you should win. However, that usually involves a lot of early action from you, including a Firespout. You just have to know when you need to mulligan and you should be alright.

+ 2 Hallowed Burial, 2 Plumeveil, 1 Shriekmaw

That side boarding guide isn’t very definitive, as most players with have clever things that you need to deal with like Puppeteer Clique and Bitterblossom. Honestly, Puppeteer Clique is basically a Mulldrifter for them once you side out Colossus, so you don’t need to worry about that one. Blossom can be a problem, though, so sideboard according if you see it in game 2.

Raven’s Crime: I’ve tried different approaches to this matchup, and neither the aggro or control route seem to work, depending on their build. I do think your best bet is go aggressive and hope they don’t have answers for stuff like Colossus, but because Colossus is basically useless against everything else, they had to get the axe. You just have to make do with what you’ve got, hope they get mana screwed, or don’t play well.

Thankfully this deck isn’t well represented, as it’s basically a worse version of this deck against the majority of the field. If you are trying to convince yourself that playing the Raven’s Crime deck is correct, you should first ask yourself why you aren’t just playing the list in this article.

+ 2 Runed Halo, 2 Hallowed Burial, 2 Primal Command
– 4 Firespout, 2 Cloudthresher

Elementals: If you get paired against this deck, you better hope they forgot to put Fulminators or Reveillarks in their deck. Again, this is a deck where you are better suited to being aggressive, but we don’t have that luxury as we would rather focus on what matters, instead of fringe matchups that we most likely won’t get paired against.

+ 2 Primal Command, 2 Hallowed Burial, 1 Shriekmaw
– 2 Cloudthresher, 2 Runed Halo, 1 Firespout

Thank you Grand Prix: Kobe for giving people a reason to play anything other than Faeries. With those results, I knew this deck could be a huge player and I was certainly correct in that assessment. It’s down to the wire with only one week of PTQs left to go. If you want to qualify, a competent pilot with this list has the best shot.

Any questions or comments should be directed to the forums.