Flores Friday – Other People’s White Decks

Friday, April 29 – Mike Flores is having more fun playing Magic now than he has in months–and Jace is nowhere to be seen. He continues to take Mono White in Standard to new heights and has videos to demonstrate its power!

You’ll have to forgive me… I haven’t had this much fun playing Magic in months.

Playing the various white decks brings me, and I assume anyone with a shred of moral spine, great joy. One of the great things about MWC is that it is
legitimately a competitive deck… but unlike one of Standard’s more recognized powerhouses, amazingly the deck has more layers than the average onion.

You can build MWC a couple of different ways, and they all seem to have some amount of play; for example, watching Chris Lachmann play at the New York
City National Qualifiers inspired me to reintroduce Pilgrim’s Eye to my Eldrazi version, as well as change some sleeves.

And this week…

Well this week, I’m not even playing my own MWC decks.

Like anyone who’s anyone, I was enjoying the SCGLive broadcast from Boston this past weekend. Actually it’s only “this past weekend” to you; to me
it’s, um, earlier today. I don’t actually know who won the event yet, and all of that is kind of irrelevant to the topic.

What matters is that I was directed to Michael Eisenhauer’s version of MWC (MWC with a Swamp in the sideboard, splashing black for Memoricide) by@TuringTested on Twitter and looked it a bit over.

This is the deck as reported in the SCGLive coverage:

For spits and giggles, I decided to give this deck a whirl (-ish).

I actually switched a sum total of three cards, which I will explain presently.

So the big switch I made was to cut one basic Plains and move the sideboarded Swamp into the maindeck. This freed up a spot in the sideboard. Moreover,
I’ve heard from various sources about the big flapping disappointment that is Baneslayer Angel. Isn’t that so sad? The spectacular and splashy fat girl
whom Brian Kibler once called “the best large creature of all time,” the defining feature of his Pro Tour-winning deck and the inspiration behind Andre
Coimbra’s… is a disappointment?

Baneslayer Angel has become, at least in some players’ eyes, the surfing second son “finding himself” on international walkabout, or studying poems on
the back of millionaire daddy’s Protestant / immigrant work ethic.

Even I, once the staunchest booster of Baneslayers, have moved her to sideboards, cut copies, and probably remember more recent games where she was too
slow to beat RDW than the table-snapping moments where she thudded, monolithically, onto the center of the battlefield, silently proclaiming, “Go
ahead. I dare you.”

So I decided to try Felidar Sovereign.

Why Felidar Sovereign?

Well, he is a little more expensive than Baneslayer Angel and, to a different degree, does a bit less than the big girl (no good at fighting Squadron
Hawks… actually lets the opposing creature hit him). However in a deck specifically with Emeria, the Sky Ruin, I figured that Felidar Sovereign would
represent an additional and legitimate route to victory. In theory, you can get a whole mess of life but still not win (say, maybe your opponent
controls Jace, the Mind Sculptor), but it’s pretty tough to contain Emeria, the Sky Ruin in any kind of a permanent sense (especially against four
copies of Sun Titan), and when you have enough life, Felidar Sovereign is the win.

That’s the theory, anyway.

In reality, I played this deck in six tournaments and activated Emeria—if memory serves—a sum total of one time (luckily, I gunned a Sun Titan). I won
the game with Felidar Sovereign zero times, and in fact played Felidar Sovereign the same number of times.

So… Impressions.

Aside on Playtesting and Videos and Stuff Like That:

Some of you remember that about two or three years ago, I first made doing MTGO replays cool.

No, I wasn’t the first person on the Magic Internet to do it, but like I said, I was more-or-less the first well-known Magic writer to do it on a large
scale, with this article.

I had already been doing these kinds of videos, albeit on a smaller scale (and even started with Apprentice replays, if you can believe that!) for my
blog. The purpose of the videos in Expect the Unexpected Tomorrow (and this hasn’t really changed from my perspective over the past couple of years)
was always illustrative.

When I first started doing it, it was automatically the coolest. My perspective when writing Top Decks is usually to explain the different kinds of
decks in the metagame, and talk about how they work… Which tips a hat to the illustrative perspective of those kinds of videos. Back then, I took a
minute to explain how a deck works, and game play was mostly to just show how a deck played. You show wins—even blowout wins—because that’s the best
way to illustrate how a deck works.

I mean how interesting is it to show how a deck DOESN’T work?

When you brew—and I think we can all agree that I am still a decent brewer—the correct place to play, fool around, and discover the limits and
opportunities of your deck is the Tournament Practice Room. That’s what you do for a brew because the purpose of brewing, by extension the purpose of
illustration of how a brew works is to figure out how it works, figure out its Fundamental Turn (and its Fundamental Turn in relation to the
format’s Fundamental Turn), and so on in a context where you can get done at least some of what you want to get done.

When I figure out what videos I want to record, and show, and so on, for a brew, my perspective is one of storytelling. When you read the
forums, sure, some people don’t like the format I choose, but most readers like it much more than what most video producers make… because storytelling is more interesting than journalism. When you tell a story, what you leave out is half as interesting as what you leave
in… It’s all about sculpting and controlling the conversation, in order to make a particular point. In this case—at least this is the way I like to
look at it—the worst sin isn’t to be wrong, it’s to be boring.

Now a completely different perspective is to just record a bunch of tournament matches. I’ve done that before, and I am actually doing it in this
week’s adventures.

Some readers find this to be in some ways more “valid” than other perspectives, but the fact of the matter is that it is simply a different perspective
(and usually less interesting); this is like saying that reading boring old actuarial textbooks is better than listening to a rock opera.

These things are just different and serve different needs.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I’ve brewed multiple PTQ, Regionals, and Pro Tour Top 8 deck designs entirely in the Tournament Practice Room.

Thea Steele once asked me how I test on Magic Online. I guess that falls into two big buckets. One of them is brewing; typically when I brew, I just
play in the Tournament Practice room while I tinker with my mana, figure out what cards aren’t good… Stuff like that. The other is when I test for me
(rather than testing for the deck). This will come up most when I am testing for a specific tournament, or when I am going to play a deck that I didn’t
build myself, and I just want to become very adept at it (this is exclusive, obviously, of when I just set up playtest time with my friends to do
specific matchup series).

I record the results of my tournament queues in a spreadsheet, and always have. I can tell you how many matches I won with a particular deck, and how
many ratings points I gained or lost running it. As I said, very useful for figuring out what to play in a PTQ, as ratings point delta via diligent
attention to detail can help you decide which deck has the highest EV.

For example, my point delta with Extended Mythic was -12, whereas my point delta with Cruel Control with Pestermite subtheme was +61; I played some
twenty matches with JVL’s B/W Allies deck to the tune of -67, whereas the MWC deck discussed in this article… well that would be spoiling things.

Ultimately, because all the vids that I did around the Eisenhauer-inspired deck are somebody else’s and not mine and all that… This week, everything
comes from the queues.

End aside.


Vids various from articles various in times past have actually come from a variety of sources; but like I said three or so sentences ago, all of this
week’s videos (well, all but one… spoilers!) came from Magic Online head-to-head queues. I actually prefer these to 8-man tournaments because of
time; even if I am going to relentlessly pound out tournaments, I can do so at a rapid-fire clip rather than waiting for the next round… and time
works the other way too! In case I only have time for one match, I am not committed to the next three hours simply by mising a couple of topdecks.

But I think you will find, given the verisimilitude-inspiration of this sequence… that the vids are a little less interesting than they usually are
(but hey, I bet some people will like them more).

I decided to play six tournaments and draw some conclusions after those rounds. These are they:

Weird Pre-Conclusion Postscript (kind of) / Note:

I obviously didn’t mention this in the video, but I’ve been thinking about it since then, and my assessment of the Stage conflict in the mirror might
have been somewhat off. I still think Eldrazi version has a huge advantage in a Stage Three scenario, and Emeria version wants to use artifact
destruction to command a superior position during the earlier “jockey for equipment advantage with Squadron Hawks and Mortarpods” Stage Two… But I
didn’t really think about Sun Titan as a recurring source of Stage suppression.

So here is that note: Eldrazi version really has to keep a Sun Titan down, or it can lock out the Eldrazi Temples with recurring Tectonic Edge,
preventing Eldrazi MWC from ever getting to the point where it has its superior Stage Three. Just a note. Enjoy more videos now!

End note.

I was really hoping to open up 6-0, which in my imaginings is kind of like going 6-0 in a real tournament, so I could imagine double-drawing myself
into Top 8 or whatever. However by now you know that didn’t happen.

Still, 5-1 is pretty cool, and probably more than 25% of the time, a good player will translate that record into a Top 8.

My impressions following these matches are the following:

1.       Sun Titan was great! As you could see in a couple of matchups, a topdecked Sun Titan was the deciding factor between winning and not. Did this
cause me to think about adding Sun Titan to “my” style of Mono-White Control? I think I could see playing one or two somewhere (side… split… like I
said, “somewhere”), but Sun Titan is still less mighty than the top end of my version, so I’m understandably undecided.

2.       The black splash was pretty effortless. It felt a mite awkward opening with Swamp, but the combination of four Pilgrim’s Eyes and four Marsh
Flats (and the one Swamp itself) gives you plenty of opportunity to get the black you need, on curve. I sided in Memoricide against the Eldrazi, used
it on-plan in the game where I went first… but would probably have to play quite a bit more in order to buy into this strategy. I mean, you can’t
really play Memoricide before turn 4, and a green ramp deck like Eldrazi Green or Valakut is just going to play Primeval Titan on turn 4 on the play
with probably more regularity than your turn 4 black disruption. I mean, I won the game I went first and then got blown out in game three; considering
that you will typically lose game one, I think that you need something more or different in order to consistently take the match, as the other guy will
typically be playing first in game three.

3.       I am not convinced whatsoever that the Emeria endgame is better than the Eldrazi lands endgame. I get the Eldrazi theme going in about half of
my games with the other version of MWC (and in the other games I win, I win with equipment or poison)… whereas in six matches I activated Emeria like
one time. Maybe n is too small? Maybe. But I’m just not convinced it’s better than the other path.

4.       Those really were the six matches—verisimilitude style—I played with the splash-black deck. Sorry my tournament opponents were not all, you
know, Caw-Blade and RUG ;)

In the theme of “other people’s” white decks, what happens when (I guess, yet again) someone else is summoning Squadron Hawks against YT (rather than
the focus being on YT playing a white deck simply designed by someone else)?

How about when they’re packing your own weapon of choice?

Similar to being inspired by the Eisenhauer build of MWC, I decided to run with a Pyromancer Ascension build from #SCGBOS that was packing Jace, the
Mind Sculptor over Foresee at the four.

Why would this automatically be bad?

Why am I so gung-ho to run Jace Beleren and even Spreading Seas in my Pyromancer Ascension decks… but never consider the best card in Standard?

Time to answer that question:


Jace, the Mind Sculptor — better than all.