Flores Friday – The Mockvitational Bandwagon

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Lorwyn Standard is, at present, a mystery. Are the tribes strong enough to impact on the format? How bad is the loss of the Ravnica dual lands? With tomorrow’s Mockvitational in his sights, Mike Flores attempts to crack a few of these mysteries and brings us a B/U Control deck that’s packed with fresh meat! Cryptic Command, Guile… will they cut it in the upcoming metagame?

I was going to write about the first annual Top8Magic.com Mockvitational (an invite-only tournament that will be going on tomorrow in New York that promises to attract numerous Pro Tour Champions including Osyp Lebedowicz and Zvi Mowshowitz as well as faraway journeyers such as Innovator Patrick Chapin of Michigan and Beckett Magic: The Gathering columnist Mark “On Discipline” Young)… But it looks like, as the Friday guy, I have been beaten to the punch, and badly, by both Grand Prix: Columbus winner Steve Sadin and the aforementioned mmyoung.

Check out either of their articles yesterday for basic information on this exciting event.

Oh well, better late than never.

One of the formats is going to be Lorwyn booster draft. As such, in order to get anywhere near a spot in the finals, I will have to concentrate on the relevant Constructed formats, post-Lorwyn Standard and Bring Your Own Block.

My original plan for Bring Your Own Block, which I decided on several weeks ago when the Top8Magic.com Mockvitational was little more than a glimmer in BDM’s eye, was to go Mercadian Masques / Alliances / Urza’s Destiny. It was difficult deciding between Ice Age and Mercadian Masques for my strategy (both have both Counterspell and Brainstorm) but I eventually went with Mercadian Masques for two related reasons: 1) Dust Bowl, and 2) Ice Age and Alliances share a Block; I don’t know if mmyoung discussed this sufficiently, but you can’t choose multiple sets from the same [original] Block for this event. In addition, Masques went a long way in the free counters department, supplementing the Alliances Force of Will with Thwart and Misdirection. Tap out for Masticore, Thwart? Bam! Who beats that?

A lot of my strategy revolved around Thawing Glaciers. Brainstorm plus Thawing GlaciersDust Bowl plus Thawing GlaciersThawing Glaciers was going to be my primary source of card advantage, with Urza’s Destiny cleaning up on the defense (Powder Keg, Masticore, and Treachery).

Speaking of Treachery, Jon Becker discovered that Thawing Glaciers is banned in Ice Age Block. How productive! It has been over a decade since anyone played Ice Age Block (that was the format of my first PTQ win, incidentally)… what is the point of banning Thawing Glaciers?

My next idea was to go Goblins, squeezing in… what do you mean, “they banned Aether Vial in Block”…?! Man… I remember playing that format and I remember Aether Vial being in my deck and everyone else’s. This whole process was starting to stink of The Greatest Deck That Never Was.

All I have left in terms of ideas are mid-range Green decks. One of them is Survival of the Fittest, but I don’t know how that can possibly stack up against a combo deck like the one mmyoung posted; also there is a big problem with Survival of the Fittest decks in that you don’t want to play Mercadian Masques as your first set just so you can pick up Squee, Goblin Nabob. Obviously the potential synergies with, say, Spellshapers is there… But you don’t get much with Dawnstrider that you weren’t already getting with Exodus’s Spike Weaver.

My other Green deck is based on Trinity Green. I think it might be better against the combo decks, despite being less powerful than the Survival (conceptually).

Golgari Trinity
Ravnica: City of Guilds / Nemesis / Urza’s Destiny

4 Masticore
4 Tangle Wire

4 Putrefy

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Blastoderm
4 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Farseek
4 Plow Under
4 Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
4 Yavimaya Elder

14 Forest
4 Golgari Rot Farm
4 Overgrown Tomb
1 Swamp

I tried Dark Confidant but it was very clunky, hard to cast on second turn (remember this deck wants a lot of Forests for Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary) and a bit dodgy with Plow Under and so on. Sometimes you can run a deck like Antonino De Rosa’s B/R Gargadon / Epochrasite deck with Dark Confidant even though Gargadon is so expensive because the rest of your cards are pretty cheap… Almost all the cards in this deck are threes and fours… You just don’t want to be picking those up every turn… Maybe I just didn’t try hard enough.

The trick to this three set combination was Ravnica: City of Guilds; that set gave easy access to two different one-mana acceleration creatures… Which isn’t really that essential in this kind of a deck, believe it or not. There isn’t a lot of Fires of Yavimaya in this deck. However I thought Putrefy would be a good addition. Also the light Black splash gives this Trinity inheritor a good amount of sideboard potential that the very successful original never had. For instance, I can actually kill a Jushi Apprentice, Goblin Warchief, whatever with a Last Gasp.

I am not sure about Yavimaya Elder. That card was never really played in the late Trinity decks… but it was right back in come the G/R versions that Aaron Forsythe and eventually Zvi Mowshowitz templated. I’ve tended to finish very well in tournaments that I’ve played this card. At some level, you just don’t argue with Ancestral Landcestral Recall. Mise.

SWOT Analysis:

When this deck hits its draw, it has a very solid tempo. I think I remember reading an interview some years back where Kai Budde said that Tangle Wire was his favorite card. I’ve got that one covered! The most powerful play this deck can accomplish is third turn Plow Under (multiple routes). This deck also has a very solid clock thanks to Blastoderm and Masticore on four. Loxodon Hierarch would be great though, wouldn’t it?

I just don’t know how high on the power curve Trinity Green is. I also don’t know how fast or powerful anything in Bring Your Own Block is going to be… It is very difficult to gauge Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, therefore. I can say that this deck can’t really win outside the Red Zone, and that its routes to card advantage are fairly limited.

Manascrewing opponents is even better, generally, than making them discard cards in terms of disruption, provided you have a clock. I can’t imagine anyone is going to have a full on great Bring Your Own Block deck, so tempo, decent attackers, and the ability to manascrew the other guy seems pretty decent.

A lot of the decks I was working on at various stages had access to cards like Engineered Plague and Slay; can I really expect a player like Osyp to miss obvious routes to favorable interaction like those?

A potential problem with this deck outside a SWOT analysis is that I am just rusty with Tangle Wire. Do you play it on the second turn? I mean, you can’t even follow up with Blastoderm as you’re getting all of your goods and services tapped as well (I’m certain I’ve lost games to people who have run second turn Tangle Wire).

On the other side, this deck really reminds me of Charleston Batman, a deck that warms my heart to think about.

The other key format is Standard with Lorwyn. This is probably the format you are more interested in given that it will be the format for Champs in a month or so, etc. etc.

I have been pretty good at States Standard design and deck selection decisions the past three years and I don’t see any reason to change that this year.

Initial Extremes:

Luckily for me three of my potential opponents – Patrick Chapin, Steve Sadin, and Mark Young – have posted decks. I’m just going to test against one of those for a little while. Here is my initial B/U playtest deck:

The strange alternate look this deck takes is obviously to swap the more common Mystical Teachings and Careful Consideration for Think Twice and the underplayed Whispers of the Muse. Why? Teeg, of course! It’s bad enough to have a stack of Cryptic Commands and Damnations you can’t play… I figured that with these card-drawing spells, I would have more options against the little guy, plus would be able to cheat on some lands. The rest of the deck is pretty baseline to start, with Shriekmaw shouldering a lot of the defensive efforts.

Here is how the first ten game set against mmyoung’s “Kithkin Cousins” went:

Game 1
B/U plays, is manascrewed. B/U almost comes back… no cigar.


Game 2
G/W leads on first turn Goldmeadow Stalwart, second turn Bear, third turn Glorious Anthem. B/U battles back with some one-for-ones. On four mana, G/W runs out double 5/6 Tarmogoyfs (thanks Anthem!). Shriekmaw comes down, then Guile; G/W is out and B/U untaps with four counters in hand.


Game 3
B/U mulls but is able to trade repeatedly until hitting a string of three Guiles. G/W makes a game of it with Oblivion Ring and Bound in Silence… But three Guiles is quite a few; Cryptic Command gets some of the boys back online despite Vindicate enchantments; B/U races.


Game 4
Turn 1 Treetop Village, turn 2 Teeg. B/U is dead. G/W plays no more cards.

B/U actually had everything including Slaughter Pact but couldn’t play cards… B/U’s only Black source was River of Tears and couldn’t pay the upkeep. The result? Losing with insane gas in grip.


Game 5
Same as Game 4.

B/U stabilizes on five with Guile this time, but G/W just plays out three incremental guys, allowing for a successful multi-turn alpha strike plan.

B/U refuses to lose!

That said, the Treetop gets it in extra turns.


Game 6
G/W stalls early, stuck on Green; G/W wins nevertheless, thanks to multiple Treetop Villages attacking for six repeatedly.


Game 7
G/W wins in unremarkable fashion.


Game 8
G/W mulls twice, obviously settling on a substandard hand. Guile looks particularly good jacking an Oblivion Ring.


Game 9
The game stalls. B/U ends it with three Guiles in play.


Game 10
The game stalls. Guile comes down with a Pact in hand.


As a litmus test, the matchup with mmyoung’s deck actually taught me a ton about the vulnerabilities of my initial strategy.

Even with eight cheap card-drawing spells, 25 lands was light. This deck really wants to hit U on the first turn, U1 on the second turn, probably UU1 on the third turn, and BB2 on the fourth turn… Not to mention UUU3 on the sixth!

Cancel was pretty crappy (not surprising). One alteration I thought about making to the deck was just to play Faerie Trickery with Secluded Glen… Though not playing a three mana counter at all might be right.

I probably put too much faith in Shriekmaw. While Shriekmaw is awesome, versatile, and more than good enough to handle most creature situations (killing Tarmogoyfs, killing Teeg)… I didn’t anticipate the vulnerability this deck clearly has to Treetop Village at present.

Brief B/U SWOT

Card drawing, permission, versatility. Overall permission answers can handle just about anything, whereas removal and so on generally requires the right audience.

Slow clock; conscious use of substandard cards. Possibly not enough land. Cancel.

May exploit some market inefficiencies by not playing the expected best manipulation cards. This deck should theoretically have been very good anti-creature deck.

Gaddock Teeg, Treetop Village, potentially more controlling decks or an unseen combo deck; Black creatures potentially, in particular Shadowmage Infiltrator.

While it’s coming down to the wire, I have been brainstorming about different looks a B/U that will solve the Village problem… Just a thought:

This deck focuses very heavily on the Nameless Inversion / Haakon combo, and extremely heavily on digging and discarding on turn 3 if possible. Card drawing and creature kill has always been my favorite for States Standard; the big question mark here is Guile… Best card in the previous deck, completely absent in the no permission / total elimination build. As such, the offense in this deck is a little lacking, despite the tremendous initiative generated by Shadowmage Infiltrator. Still works in progress, obviously…

Wish me luck tomorrow (I feel like I’ll need it)!