This is the deck I am probably going to use to defend my New York State Championship title:
I am also considering some number of Porphyry Nodes (which seem absolutely insane in this deck due to Epochrasite); Akroma, Angel of Fury; and some other cards that I will discuss later in this article for purpose of accomplishing particular jobs, viz. Stonecloaker versus Haakon combo.
I made several similarly themed decks before arriving at this one. I really like the Haakon engine with Nameless Inversion, and I think Shriekmaw is probably the best creature in Standard right now, but if Red is going to be popular, those kinds of decks are just much worse than White control with Purity (which is my favorite card in Lorwyn). I made B/U/W Solar-Snow, Shriekmaw-Blink, and more. before arriving at U/G/W Cloudthresher Blink. I really liked the Green Blink, though after testing a while I realized I was never accomplishing anything with Cloudthresher… What I really liked was mana acceleration. I went to a Prismatic Lens model after cutting the Green. Embarrassingly enough it probably took me a week of Apprentice test draws before I realized that Calciderm plus Momentary Blink is not a combo.
Calciderm was pretty awesome, but given his status as basically a white tee shirt tucked into shorts with a belt (Pat Sullivan) or without a belt (Tom Guevin), I decided to focus on his bad qualities, such as the fact that he was probably just going to be out-classed by Tarmogoyf, or at least somebody else’s Calciderm plus Llanowar Reborn. Goodbye Calciderm! Welcome Rune Snag! You are here to keep the bastard on the other side of the table honest.
Last year I organized all kinds of mock tournaments, played sixteen decks against each other, and tested with Asher, PJ, Julian, Billy, everyone, all the time. This year I didn’t even realize that Champs was basically upon us until Paul alerted me to it last week. It’s strange… Come Champs last year I literally felt like I knew the format better than anyone else on the planet… This year I am missing all kinds of obvious things. I know I don’t have Riftwing Cloudskate, I am at peace with having no Riftwing Cloudskates, but I had been testing for three or four hours tonight before I realized that I never considered that card… and it’s a pretty basic one. Little things like that need to be sanded off.
I told a few of my friends about this deck and no one liked it (although Asher became excited at the prospect of Adarkar Valkyrie doing what she does… good apprentice, that one). Chapin said my deck had no chance against Mystical Teachings. I asked what exactly I was supposed to be losing to, and his answer was Cryptic Command (not a bad answer for the matchup). However, my pre-game analysis was that Teachings should be a very winnable matchup, highly in U/W’s favor. Why? Teachings has in some ways stronger individual cards, but the structure of U/W is basically all cards that draw three cards, essentially all of which need to be answered. You aren’t really going to lose to Mulldrifter beats, but Mulldrifter gets the door open and all kinds of undesirables can end up with their feet up on Ms. Mystical’s furniture. So many cards…
I tested some quick five game sets tonight. I have no idea what the metagame is going to be like this year so I just chose a Teachings deck, a Tarmogoyf deck, and a Red Deck to get a feel for the matchups.
Matchup #1 Mystical Teachings
I chose Patrick’s more recent version with the Haakon engine as the playtest deck. This matters a lot, for reasons you will soon see. As I said, I had this one in U/W’s favor, predicting 3-2 or 4-1. By the way, these Blue-on-Blue games are in the interminable 40 minutes or so per game range.
U/W runs turn 2 Coldsteel Heart, turn 3 Mind Stone, hits on Scrying Sheets on turn 3.
Teachings plays land #4 on four, runs Careful Consideration for two copies of Haakon. The other major options were to wait on Mystical Teachings or leave up Cryptic Command mana, but pre-Careful Consideration there was no fifth land in sight.
U/W plays two copies of Epochrasite on turn 5 over Purity, leaving up five mana for Scrying Sheets and Rune Snag; Rune Snag gets Teachings. I thought about this play for quite a long time. Purity is pretty awesome, but I didn’t want to get into Shriekmaw fights with no cover mana. The Rune Snag play challenges the U/W player with many questions (I had two Snags, and as I said, had enough mana to play both if need be). Ultimately I didn’t want to lose to Slaughter Pact.
I lost the Epochrasites to Damnation and followed up with Purity with mana back… eventually, after a litany of back-and-forth, Purity bought it to an unkicked Shriekmaw. Luckily I hit every Sheets activation in a row. By turn 7 this is the game state:
Hand – Cryptic Command, Tolaria West, Coalition Relic
Board – Six lands, two Prismatic Lens
Hand – Purity, Coldsteel Heart, Boreal Shelf
Board – Six lands (including Scrying Sheets), Coldsteel Heart, Mind Stone, and a 1/1 Epochrasite
I ran Purity.
What else could happen but a topdecked Damnation?
The game quickly degenerates to Mulldrifter versus Shriekmaw versus Blink versus Cryptic Command… a “winning” exchange that is not ultimately great for Teachings. Shriekmaw ends up chumping an Epochrasite soon after.
Sheets delivers Adarkar Valkyrie, and I follow up with Epochrasite and an Aeon Chronicler for three. Bang bang.
Teachings actually mises the Triskelavus right before a lethal wave of Epochrasites is about to come over, which is annoying, but the U/W side is just flush with cards, especially hitting Scrying Sheets seven times, that one Triskelavus just isn’t enough.
CrypticInversion’s first play is turn 3 Coalition Relic.
U/W has the same sick opening as last game, complete with third turn Scrying Sheets online with two pieces of mana acceleration.
I go for turn 5 Adarkar Valkyrie and eat a Cryptic Dismiss with U1 open.
I kind of refuse to do anything while CrypticInversion sets up. Mouth of Ronom manages Teferi… but Teachings got a lot of Cryptic Commands this game; I actually think this is a flaw in the deck… There are only three Mystical Teachings. It would have given the deck something productive to do in cold wars when the Careful Considerations run out.
Teferi is actually not unbeatable here, but he’s really annoying because of the Momentary Blink element of the deck. In this game in particular, Teferi was defending and enabling (at instant speed) the Haakon / Nameless Inversion combination; this build of U/W has limited tools to deal with creatures… I tried to be a trooper, sculpting to the point where I could overcome the board via mana and cards in hand… But I eventually conceded to a Grim Harvest.
This one was really one-sided. Teachings drew mana and three Cryptic Commands naturally; U/W drew mana… and more mana. No Sheets until the game had become unwinnable.
Both decks stumbled a little bit, but U/W is the beatdown in this matchup and takes it better. Here come some Epochrasites! Damnation slows the Epochrasites off, but Teachings is hard pressed to produce the correct colors for its UUU spells. Rune Snag saves two Epochrasites from the Mage of Zhalfir… They are thankful for the chance!
This one was a sick back-and-forth where U/W somehow beat three Cryptic Commands, Teferi (having drawn numerous Suspend creatures), and the Haakon engine.
It took multiple copies of Mouth of Ronom. Scrying Sheets went a very long way.
Additionally, U/W drew two Rune Snags and both Vensers. The first Snag took out a simple Prismatic Lens (on turn 2). It’s like I once told Sadin: you have to make these trades. You might not see it, but that trade matters 10 turns later. Rune Snag gets worse as the game goes on, but to mitigate that, by putting more copies in the graveyard, you make the next ones a little better. Basically CrypticInversion is not able to utilize its lands and spells efficiently. U/W ends up conceding the open floor to get two Aeon Chroniclers (U/W’s only hope of drawing enough cards and having big enough guys to pull out of the Haakon engine).
Eventually it was the Teferi- and Haakon-slaying that created the gap. Aeons warped in huge and hit hard.
Key cards in this matchup:
U/W – Scrying Sheets, Mouth of Ronom, Aeon Chronicler<
CrypticInversion.dec – Haakon engine, Teferi
Both decks have card drawing. Attrition wars are interesting because Teachings can’t really win a “fair” attrition war, but then again it can bury U/W in card advantage solely on the back of the Haakon machine gun. Both Haakon and Teferi at the same time make for a hard game for U/W (but U/W did get it despite this dynamo duo in Game 5). What are the answers?
Condemn is godawful for obvious reasons. What about Crib Swap? Voidstone Gargoyle? I would feel a little underdressed playing Crib Swap specifically to beat Haakon, though Voidstone Gargoyle seems pretty playable.
I think Patrick’s deck did well just because of the Haakon engine. If it had been his older deck, that is:
I don’t think it would have been hard to beat. Whatever Tarmogoyf! Haunting Hymn is a good threat but it is also good at being caught by Rune Snag.
Scrying Sheets allows U/W to weather and out-last Cryptic Command due to Teachings’s relatively thin threat level. Mouth of Ronom is one of the best cards, and more lands in general help U/W play out more than one threat. Remember that Teachings has a pretty clunky answer suite of four mana cards and heavy color requirements.
Most interestingly, either deck can blow out the other on tempo and either deck is also capable of winning an attrition fight based on cards drawn. This is one of only a few matchups ever that I can think of where these statements are both true.
How does this matchup inform tuning? Rune Snag was okay; of course, I was spoiled by not having to play against Haunting Hymn. Then again, U/W plays a lot of suspend, and hitting Teferi with Rune Snag is pretty lucky! Calciderm would have been better simply because of the Haakon lock, though old team-mate Stonecloaker would have been pretty awesome versus those cards too.
Speaking of four Calciderm / four Stonecloaker…
Matchup #2: Predator.dec
The finals of the Top8Magic.com Mockvitational was Teachings versus Predator… I haven’t seen so many post-Lorwyn beatdown decks, but Predator style seems pretty good even without Lorwyn cards. For testing purposes I went with Dave Irvine’s main deck from Grand Prix: San Jose, which is basically the deck Josh Ravitz and I made, one card different main.
Predator.dec has a keepable but relatively slow draw with Llanowar Reborn, Vesuva, multiple Calciderms, and Stonecloaker… Basically a do-nothing hand for the first few, followed by relentless offense.
U/W draws multiple pieces of acceleration and goes directly into Mulldrifter plus Momentary Blink on turn 4. I think you should always try to run this combo if you can. Even if Predator.dec has the Dead / Gone. what is the downside? You automatically have a Counsel of the Soratami, and if they have the removal they trade a real and relevant answer for a card that was going to die anyway and half a Blink. Joy.
Calciderm appears. Epochrasite is there to intercept. Second Calciderm immediately after. I do some math and realize I can only lose to Fiery Justice, so I don’t play my Adarkar Valkyrie until I have Blink mana support. I take some hits until I have Valkyrie, Mulldrifter, and Epochrasite warping back in. Stonecloaker is as Stonecloaker does… He eats half a Blink and saves a Calciderm, but Valkyrie plus Mulldrifter proves inviolate and not even a 7/7 Kavu Predator can help the race.
Two Stonecloakers eat two half-Momentary Blinks, which is annoying… but unfortunately for Predator.dec, the first halves set up Mulldrifter combo and save Purity from Fiery Justice (basically a Time Walk). I intended to run out a protected Adarkar Valkyrie but I was too busy drawing more Purities, and they are impossible to race. I just kept playing those so I never got to use Scrying Sheets, though I did tap for Chronicler for four on the last turn.
This matchup seems pretty impossible for U/W to lose. Obviously I lose the next three games.
Kavu versus Epochrasite… versus Riftsweeper! Argh.
Turn 4 bring Serra Avenger… and the world’s most embarrassing 0/1 Tarmogoyf.
Predator.dec just has too many guys. U/W’s next play is a turn 5 Aeon Chronicler into turn 6 Purity; that squad eats a Calciderm, but Stonecloaker rears his ugly stone cloak and saves a Riftsweeper, allowing Predator.dec to just pump more and more fellas onto the board. U/W’s guys are too expensive and can only stop one at a time. The dead ‘derm makes Tarmogoyf 1/2, which is enough to breach when U/W is at one.
U/W mulls into Epochrasite and Blink, never draws another spell. Predator.dec draws two Tarmogoyfs and two Calciderms, more than enough.
U/W mulls again, is color screwed, and stalls.
U/W would win with one more life… but that life ain’t free. A 7/7 Kavu Predator proves too big to block effectively. U/W loses with three Rune Snags in hand, which is always embarrassing.
It seems like U/W “should” win this matchup, but that is the nature of the beatdown… If the opponent stumbles, you kill him. I was pretty surprised to see U/W lose the last three games after the domination of the first two. U/W seems to lose the games where Predator.dec can fearlessly dump guys onto the board, and wins when it can trump individual creatures. I think that this is indicative of needing a solid sideboard against swarming creatures. Porphyry Nodes seems better than Wrath of God (though Wrath is still great of course), just because of Gaddock Teeg. U/W didn’t have time to use Scrying Sheets, let alone Mouth of Ronom in this matchup.
The last matchup I tested was versus Mark Young most recent version of Goblins. MM beat me at the Mockvitational and a lot of attendees indicated they were impressed by his deck… Seems like a good Red Deck to examine, complete with the best threat (Greater Gargadon).
Matchup #3 Goblin Disaster
- 4 Mogg Fanatic
- 3 Siege-Gang Commander
- 4 Nantuko Husk
- 4 Greater Gargadon
- 4 Mogg War Marshal
- 3 Wort, Boggart Auntie
U/W would have won on 20, but all-in on the second Gargadon… You know how it is. U/W is tagged once to 11. Venser = awesome against the first Gargadon. I was pretty surprised at how ineffectual Wort plus Siege-Gang Commander was, honestly. I guess nobody beats Adarkar Valkyrie and Purity with Rune Snag and Blink backup!
U/W just manages the Gobbos and Gargadons. The Goblin clock is just some Fanatics to start, with the serious threats eating Rune Snag. It may be embarrassing, but Mulldrifter is twice the size of a Mogg Fantastic. With Goblins on a pretty limp clock, U/W has the time to run multiple large Aeon Chronicler suspends, and they are more than big enough to fight a Gargadon… Plus there is a little card by the name of Momentary Blink!
Goblins just can’t get through. U/W wins on eight.
Goblins has the “1/1s versus Mulldrifter” problem again… Then there is Adarkar Valkyrie. Goblins doesn’t draw the real threats this game whereas U/W has all the Snags and Vensers to counter anything that isn’t a 1/1. Poor Wort… She was up and down on that board and bin four times. Valkyrie serves.
U/W is on no acceleration. It’s close, but who can beat Molten Disaster for one and a Fanatic ping?
U/W draws multiple pieces of acceleration, goes to Mulldrifter, Aeon Chronicler, Mulldrifter, and multiple Epochrasites to stall, all backed up by Blink… and then to Purity.
Goblins has to go all-in on Gargadon (what else do you do), and U/W just chumps while attacking with Purity, no problem.
The problem for Mark’s deck in this matchup is that with mostly 1/1s for early offense, it’s hard to get in damage that makes Molten Disaster any kind of frightening. Even some Grizzly Bears-sized creatures would be relevant. Usually Gargadon is the king of The Fear, but U/W’s combat creatures are actually better than Goblins for the most part, and Venser and Rune Snag are actually pretty good against Gargadon. Everybody else just fights, chumps, draws cards, comes back from the dead, whatever.
It is hard to break Wort because Mark’s deck never seemed to have the mana to do anything outlandish. Siege-Gang Commander over three turns is just not going to cut it against giant flying creatures, specifically Purity. I think Black removal like Eyeblight’s Ending would be a big help in this matchup, as U/W taps out a lot assuming one giant creature will hold the fort.
Anyway, I hope you all like the deck!
Next week I should have my final version and recommendations.