Flores Friday – Probable Weapon Of Choice

Mike Flores has his probable decklist for battling States tomorrow, a U/R Control deck with light splashes for flashback. In it, he has some old favorites like Frost Titan as well as new favorite, Brimstone Volley.

Nothing too fancy this week; just my decklist for tomorrow’s New York State Championship.

Here it is:

Things that are up in the air:

Mana base – I actually haven’t had any time to test this mother, so the mana might be off. I showed my list to Gerry Thompson (more on that, below); and he said something like “I don’t see why you can’t have a bunch of Copperline Gorges and Darkslick Shores or something,” which made sense to me. Then he offered to trade me some for a Force of Will. <3

Shock count / and where – I was super impressed with Caleb’s B/U Snapcaster Mage deck, and I like bouncing around the burn at low costs (go figure). Shock is actually probably better against RDW than Arc Trail (more functionality / action against Stromkirk Noble on the draw) and substantially better against control. For instance, you get this play: they go Liliana and make you discard; you discard Shock, play Snapcaster Mage to rebuy Shock, Shock Lilly, then bring for two on your turn. My Arc Trail build is from my imaginary testing when there were multiple Hawkward decks in Top 8, and who knows if that is going to stand up.

Jace, Memory Adept – I don’t know if I am going to be able to get any, so this might be either Desperate Ravings (probably good against Liliana of the Veil) or just Azure Mage. I haven’t tested most of the concepts in this deck, but Jace seemed good versus Solar Flare based on Jon Medina’s performance last weekend. Jace is a dominator against Solar Flare—being faster than their sixes—especially if those guys continue to refuse to play Mana Leak.

On my unfortunate lack of testing:

I didn’t figure out Brimstone Volley was the best thing to do until approximately last Flores Friday (writing that article). Up until that point, I was working on Mono-Blue beatdown decks, until I re-read the soon-to-be-seminal Five Design Traits to Avoid and realized there was no reason to be Mono-Blue, especially given Todd Anderson performance with Moorland Haunt.

So at that point I started selecting white creatures to go with my previous blue strategy. I think I was on blinders based on wanting to play with Strata Scythe and Invisible Stalker and was having problems shifting away from mono-Islands despite the fact that I had long since decided against playing Strata Scythe.

Moreover I became disenchanted with the concept of Mono-Blue when Jon Finkel left a comment on my blog* saying that while Twisted Image can be a fine card, it is an unreliable Xerox cantrip because you can’t really play it on turn one, and you can’t always play it on turn two. More and more reasons not to play Mono-Blue.

Sadin left me a message telling me I was on the right track RE: Brimstone Volley, and then I shipped to Nashville.

I missed my flight to Nashville, but managed to mise a later one, and met up with Edgar Flores and Brian Kibler, who tested the Solar Flare v. Werewolves RUG matchup for some time in the hotel lobby. It is one thing to be a semi-pro railbird, and it is another thing to be a fan of the game, and here I had the chance to watch two of the most recognizable players in the world battling it out with their impending weapons of choice.

Brian went 8-2, narrowly missing Top 8 in Nashville (his second loss was to none other than eventual champion Brian Sondag and Wolf Run Ramp), but had no luck against Edgar. Not “little” luck, but no luck at all. In the time I watched them play, Edgar won every single game, from blowouts to comebacks to not-memorable-at-all value victories. Poor Kibs, not a win.

However there was one game where I saw a line and was pretty sure it would be right.

Now Brian had perhaps one Snapcaster Mage in his RUG deck, and two Brimstone Volleys, so they rarely came up together and didn’t come up consistently independently much more often. Edgar had Liliana of the Veil but did not have sufficient loyalty to answer Brian’s Thrun, the Last Troll. He forced both players to discard.

Seeing the line, I suggested Brian discard his Mana Leak. He initially listened to me, thought better of it, and then discarded Brimstone Volley.

On his turn, he sent Thrun at Liliana… and went on to lose the game after roughly DI turns of being on the wrong end of Solar Flare Trish-card advantage.

I asked them to dial it back and had Brian discard the Mana Leak instead. Now instead of attacking Liliana, Thrun went after Edgar and knocked him down to nine. Predictably, on his turn, Edgar killed his own Liliana by killing Thrun and played a giant six. At the end of the imaginary turn, Kibs sent the Brimstone Volley at Edgar; and the next turn, Edgar attacked. Kibs played his solo Snapcaster, blocked the six, and finished Edgar with the Brimstone Volley.

Now imagine you made your deck to do just that, every single game?

Standard today is a mix of fast beatdown decks (i.e. RDW) and midrange power decks with trump sixes (Solar Flare with Sun Titan, Wolf Run Ramp with Primeval Titan). What happens if we just play a superior plan?

By the end of the tournament Brian found me in the booth (I was not hard to find) and admitted I might have been right and that the right strategy was probably to play four Brimstone Volleys. It only took me about 30 seconds to convince Drew Levin of this at the beginning of the day, but no testing meant we were 1-2 red sources shy… But I don’t know that poor Drew would really have done better than his 3-3 with his sit-there B/U deck anyway (j/k Drew) (not really).

I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I had a set of Snapcaster Mages. I augmented those with this purchase from a store you may have heard of, STAR CITY GAMES!

Pics or it didn’t happen.

No, I am not likely to play Kessig Wolf Run in this deck, but I will probably play it at some point, and Brian “the man” Sondag assured me I only need two.

Yes, I did purchase Desperate Ravings and Burning Vengeance because initially I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and those cards all seemed to go together. I mean I was already playing blue and red, and Desperate Ravings has those colors mixed right on the card, and Burning Vengeance seemed to go with all of them at the same time.

I wanted to play 25 lands, but cramming all these cards into my list was making that difficult. I took input from GerryT and Caleb; Caleb in particular thought Burning Vengeance was the pits.

By the next morning I realized he was probably right. I mean you will get more damage out of the average Frost Titan, and if you are up against a Primeval Titan, there isn’t really much comparison between topdecking Burning Vengeance (you’re dead) and Frost Titan (they’re dead). This let me comfortably play 25 lands (though, again, I am not sure which ones… I will probably ask Gerry to fix my mana before tomorrow) and run Dissipates two and three.

I got back to New York on Monday, which I spent with my wife (we saw Contagion, which I very much enjoyed), and ate some nice meals, picked up the kids, and had a fine old time. I had written half my DailyMTG article on the plane but was kind of wiped from the Nashville trip and had to finish it on Tuesday.

Tuesday I was back at the grindstone, came home, and finished my article at DI o’clock.

It is now Wednesday as I am writing this. Grindstone again, then moist brisket supplied by Tony “The Shark” Tsai from Hill Country, and Movie Klub at Jonny’s (mbn / is) [Scarface, if you were wondering]. I came home and… am writing this.

Tomorrow night I have a work dinner (which will probably be some kind of awesome, actually), and Friday night I have pledged to my wife “to eat sushi and watch whatever chick flick movie you pick” to pay her back for not being around all last weekend, Wednesday, Thursday, or Saturday (States). As you can see, I have been testlocked and… well… I got nothing. Testlocked on this one. Still, can’t complain; life is good; but I have had no window to actually test my deck idea. Luckily, I am pretty sure Snapcaster Mage + Brimstone Volley is the best thing you can do in Standard, and that should get me a long way even if some of the details are off.

Card Rundown:

1 Batterskull

I knew I wanted another class of big threat, and I thought Batterskull was long-run more impressive against Solar Flare than Wurmcoil Engine. Also it costs five against Red instead of six; it is not “as good,” but that is because it costs five instead of six.

3 Dissipate

I think I will have a nice advantage against other blue decks with seven counterspells to their 0-3. I mean it is kind of ludicrous. I have more counterspells than some of these decks have high-end threats.

4 Forbidden Alchemy

I am tempted to try some Divination action based on Caleb’s success (I also qualified for US Nationals the one time I played Divination), but I think I want to err on the side of instant speed with all the counterspells. I never played Dralnu in the first Wafo-Tapa era, and I see this as a chance to go Mystical Teachings on the meta; and what would I do with those Drowned Catacombs otherwise?

3 Frost Titan

Again, these seemed like a more reliable source of victory than… other cards.

4 Mana Leak

This is the third-best card in Standard, and for some reason blue decks are playing 0-3.

4 Snapcaster Mage

This is the best card in Standard, and if your blue deck can’t make good use of it, that is probably an issue with some other part of your deck, not the new guy. Valenti was able to steal games from Sondag purely on having this card, and Caleb was able to work beatdown decks where other B/U decks faltered because he is “the best Bloodbraid Elf ever” … Really looking forward to summoning him myself.

4 Think Twice

I’ve been kind of torn around this card since seeing Divination tech / build your own Mulldrifter, but I think Think Twice is better in a Draw-Go / instant burn deck than a black removal / redundancy deck. But… We shall see!

4 Arc Trail

Again, this is an artifact of early Hawkward performance and might switch places with Shock.

4 Brimstone Volley

The stones. The Brimstones.

1 Shock

Might be particularly good to have more of these to deal with Sondag’s Inkmoth Nexus tech.

3 Slagstorm

Catchall. Surprisingly not-awful against cards like Grave Titan or Garruk, Primal Hunter.

For those interested, here are my sideboarding swaps based on having access to Jace, Memory Adept (not a lock), and if we have a 1+3 split on Shocks with four Arc Trails starting:


-1 Dissipate
-3 Forbidden Alchemy
+1 Batterskull
+3 Shock

My sideboard is a good compromise / numbers sideboard that a designer like JVL can appreciate. I cut stuff like Flashfreeze that I just happened to want in order to make room for important cards against control, which I didn’t have enough of.

None of my cards are awful, but you don’t really want a lot of three mana answer cards or do-nothing draw cards, which explains the shaving on Dissipate and Forbidden Alchemy. That said, there are some threats like Koth or Shrine of Burning Rage (or even Chandra’s Phoenix) that you really want to Dissipate in a long game, so I left two.

Batterskull and Shock are kind of obvious. I plan to play attrition early and then tap out for Batterskull to take the game over.

Wolf Run Ramp:

-1 Batterskull
-4 Arc Trail
-1 Shock
+1 Dissipate
+1 Frost Titan
+1 Volition Reins
+3 Ancient Grudge

Shock is actually okay against Inkmoth Nexus, but Ancient Grudge is much better obviously. Arc Trail is kind of terrible, and Batterskull is kind of too small in a field of six 6/6s. On the other hand, having eight counterspells against ten big threats, plus all the Frost Titans, plus a Volition Reins… I like it. I think this will be much more winnable for me than it was for the ‘Flare decks in Nashville.

Solar Flare (“control”):

-4 Arc Trail
-3 Slagstorm
+1 Batterskull
+1 Dissipate
+1 Frost Titan
+3 Jace, Memory Adept
+1 Volition Reins

Especially if I have Jace, I think this is my match to lose; I have more card drawing and more counterspells; I have a more reliable endgame and more big threats. They have more… Black Sun’s Zenith? Even if we go Thing-versus-Hulk and smash each other’s threats and answers, I have Brimstone Volley combo and likely twice their Snapcasters. This is all really working out in my head, as you can see!

Tempered Steel:

-3 Dissipate
-4 Forbidden Alchemy
-1 Think Twice
+1 Batterskull
+4 Ancient Grudge
+3 Shock

Just want to go mono-battlefield here. Biggest X-factors are Tempered Steel itself (though I have more Mana Leaks [virtually] than they have Tempered Steel) and whether I want the fourth Slagstorm or not. I can see Hero of Bladehold being prickly, but it’s not like they draw DI cards.

That’s what I’ve got. Wish me luck on my way to Level 45 Archmage!


* humblebrags