Flow Of Ideas – Four Decks To Fight Caw-Blade

The big question for this weekend’s StarCityGames.com Invitational is, “How do I beat Caw-Blade?” Gavin Verhey helps you answer this question by presenting you with four decks that can (spoiler: one of them is Caw-Blade).

The StarCityGames.com Invitational is this weekend. The PTQ season is starting up. Standard decks are being built and dismantled. But one question is
on everyone’s mind: “How am I going to beat Caw-Blade?

It seems like people have tried everything to dethrone those belligerent birds, but if anything, things have gotten worse with the addition of
Batterskull. In fact, so much so that SCGLive co-host Jacob Van Lunen half-jokingly remarked that the deck should be renamed “Caw-Batter”
or “Batter-Blade” after the terrorizing equipment.

The fact of the matter is, Batterskull is absurdly good. The one category of decks players felt had a legitimate chance against Caw-Blade was beatdown,
namely red ones, and Batterskull is a tutorable Baneslayer Angel that can’t be killed. The red decks certainly aren’t dead—there are
ways they can adapt with some well-timed Manic Vandals—but it takes measures no red mage really wants to resort to.  

Batterskull has also made some games of the mirror absurdly dumb, as people bash their Batterskulls against each other with no life total swing
occurring. From that point, it’s often just a topdeck war to see what larger-than-Batterskull threat a player can establish first.

And of course, on top of Batterskull is the whole Caw-Blade engine, circling around you like a hawk circles around its prey. (How apt!) With huge
Standard events on the horizon, you have three major choices:

  1. Play Caw-Blade

  2. Play a deck that beats Caw-Blade

  3. Live in denial

Option 3 is out of the question. (Though many people will choose it anyway.) To win a PTQ, you’ll likely have to defeat Caw-Blade at least four times.
I would expect to face it at least twice in the Top 8 and at least two more times in the Swiss rounds. (And that’s being optimistic!)

In the Invitational, it’s even worse. The players qualified for the Invitational are all good players, and they know that Caw-Blade is a major
threat. In fact, many of those players probably qualified with Caw-Blade in the first place! All of the best players will likely be playing it unless
they manage to accomplish choice number two. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me afterward that they played against Caw-Blade in every single round of the event.

So then there’s option number one, which is clearly a reasonable choice. After that, there’s still option number two to consider. But can
anything beat Caw-Blade?


Before I get into the decklists though, I want to do a quick Caw-Blade analysis. 

What you need to know if you’ve fallen out of the Standard scene for the whole, oh say, past three weeks (the SCG Open Series makes the metagame really move fast these days) is what the newer Caw-Blade lists look like. Gone are the days of Gideon Jura. Tumble Magnet has also vanished.
The Condemn/Oust maindeck slots? Who needs those with Batterskull around!

The Caw-Blade deck has morphed into less of an aggro-control deck and more of an aggro-control deck. That is
to say, it’s had a slight change in game plan to a more aggressive bent; some Emeria Angels are now the norm, and you usually search up
Batterskull on turn 2 instead of Sword of Feast and Famine. Mirran Crusader is quickly catching on.

Why is all this important? Well, for example, if you were looking at a beatdown deck that couldn’t beat a Gideon before, that’s no longer
as much of a concern. However, if you were just planning to power through their Sword of Feast and Famine, now they can just find Batterskull instead.
You have to reevaluate your entire strategy.

Also worth noting is the uprise in Darkblade decks. Many people feel that Darkblade is the right place to be with your Stoneforge Mystics right now. In
the mirror, you can force them to discard their Mystic/Hawk/equipment, giving you a distinct edge. Though Tectonic Edge is still a problem, with the
game more about Batterskull, having the mana advantage isn’t quite as huge as it used to be. If you can strip their Batterskull and lay
one of your own, then you’re in good shape.   

With that said, let’s begin! To start off with, if you’re looking for a deck that beats Caw-Blade, might I recommend… Caw-Blade?

Some of you might say this is a cop-out. Nice “original deck.” Well, yes, it kind of is… but look at some of the cards!

I think it’s finally time to whip out the maindeck Divine Offerings. I fooled around with the idea for a while when Tumble Magnet was a thing,
and Batterskull wars make me feel it’s finally right. Nobody is going to play around Offering in the first game, and if you hit their single
Batterskull with it, the game is yours.

Seems a little too situational for you? Well, first off, it has plenty of other applications too. Second of all, which deck do you expect to face more
than any other? If you knew you were going to play against one deck in 40% or more of your rounds, and especially the rounds that matter,
wouldn’t you maindeck cards for that matchup? It certainly makes sense to.

There are a lot more two-ofs than I would normally try to fit in a decklist since I despise two-ofs. It just so happens two is the right number here.

The first Dismember is good in every matchup, but you don’t want to draw two a lot of the time, since paying eight life is an awful lot.
I’ve been really happy with the off-color Dismembers otherwise though.

Gideon is back! The five-mana planeswalker is solid at defeating Mirran Crusaders and Emeria Angel in the mirror, as well as making sure the beatdown
decks don’t just walk all over you. With Caw-Blade becoming more and more about fighting the mirror, it puts well-crafted beatdown decks in a
good spot.

Some cards had to go to make room for more reactive cards (Divine Offering), so Spell Pierce and Mana Leak got trimmed. With less higher-end spells in
the Caw-Blade mirror to counter (the lack of Gideon, for example), the countermagic isn’t quite as good in the first place.

The second Batterskull is because you can’t afford to not have one in the mirror. With players moving toward discard, you want a second one to
help fight discard and to help break board stalls.

Emeria Angel is another card that’s good in the mirror but effective against other decks as well. However, you don’t want to see too many
staring back in your opening hand. It’s too bad you can’t run more fetchlands, but the 27 lands in this deck ensure you hit your drops for
the Angel over and over.

Oh yes, 27 lands. First of all, you want to play lands every turn to max out on your options. That’s always good in a deck that can use all of
its mana in so many ways. In fact, I’d encourage you to fit in a 28th if you can find room!

Second of all, with 27 lands, you can play four Tectonic Edges plus four Inkmoth Nexuses, which is absurd in the mirror. Inkmoth Nexus’s stock
has risen significantly with the popularity of Batterskull. While you’re busy fighting the endless Batterskull war, Nexus can take to the skies
and kill your opponent through their wellspring of life gain. In many games, it’s actually correct to search up a Sword of War and Peace over
Batterskull if you have a Nexus down. A Sword on an Inkmoth Nexus races a Batterskull favorably.  

Note that this version of Caw-Blade isn’t optimal against the range of decks in the field… But since when was the field (and especially the
Top 8) not full of Caw-Blade? When you can expect to play against a ton of Caw-Blade (especially in the case of the Invitational), there’s no
reason to not be aptly prepared for it.

But if Cawing isn’t your thing, there are some other good options. In fact, there’s one off-the-radar deck that seems well poised for this

A lot of people have dismissed Elves in the past, but this seems like a perfect time to get in touch with nature.

Caw-Blade players are running between zero and two Day of Judgments, usually erring on the lower side. Condemns and Ousts have taken a backseat to
other options. In the black versions, you have some Go for the Throats and Dismembers, but a few removal spells isn’t enough to keep this deck

This deck is insanely explosive. I was against Copperhorn Scout initially, but after playing with him, he’s proved his worth. He lets you stay
aggressive and still cast your spells—normally a problem for a deck full of mana guys and lords.

I tried Green Sun’s Zenith, which a lot of lists have, but it didn’t really impress me. First of all, it’s a non-creature, which is a
big issue when you’re running four Lead the Stampede. Yes, finding Ezuri is very important, but with four Zeniths and four Lead, you have too
many slow draws. I would much rather have Lead because it can pull you out from a Day of Judgment where Zenith is just a single creature.

The other big addition (and a reason to keep the curve down) is Acidic Slime. Batterskull caused big problems for this deck, but Slime helps fight that
strategy. Additionally, a quick Slime can just mana-screw your opponent and keep them from casting a crucial spell. You can often beat Splinter Twin
decks even when they have the combo just by keeping them off of their third or fourth land for a single turn.

With that said, you definitely want all four Nature’s Claims after sideboarding for the Twin matchup. You absolutely have to play answers for
their combo. I normally hate playing reactive cards in these decks, but you don’t really have a good choice against a one-hit kill. You could
play Torpor Orb, since it can’t be discarded, but it can still be bounced.

Speaking of Splinter Twin

Mike Flores’s U/R Twin deck has been the subject of a lot of discussion recently. Why all of the talk? Because this may actually be the
weapon the Caw-Blade haters are looking for!  

Mike’s take on the Splinter Twin deck has fallen into hands of magicians worldwide. The conclusion they seem to have come to? The deck boasts a
60%, if not better, win-rate against the current iterations of Caw-Blade. Mike even claims that it’s “unwinnable” for Caw-Blade if
you get to be on the play.

Now, I think Caw-Blade can adapt to beat it in time. Dismember in particular seems like a nice spell to have here. However, a lot of Caw-Blade players
just aren’t prepared to fight against a strategy like this.  

And before you say the sideboard is random—it’s not. I’m not saying it’s optimal, and I don’t agree with all of the
choices—Basilisk Collar particularly doesn’t seem to warrant a spot—but there are careful layers of construction within if you look
at the cards Mike wants for each matchup.

I’ve only managed to get in a handful of games so far, which is why I put Mike’s original list above instead of a version with some tweaks
of my own. However, the results so far certainly favor U/R. Could this be the direction to move in for Standard?

In any case, it’s the deck I’m going to be keeping my eye on at the StarCityGames.com Invitational this weekend.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have a new take on a popular deck from last year:

So, how exactly does an all-creature white weenie deck have an advantage against a U/W deck?

A lot hinges on Day of Judgment and Gideon Jura. If people were still running those cards in numbers, it would be more of a problem. However, Soul
Sisters exploits a small hole in the temporary state of the metagame where those numbers are at a low.

But beyond that, Day of Judgment is the main problem for this deck. Gideon is actually not too bad—you can usually kill him in one swing! Day of
Judgment against the U/W versions is a big problem though, and you need to play accordingly. (Shrine of Loyal Legions helps a lot after sideboarding.)

However, against Darkblade decks, you’re even more favored. All of their spot removal is no big deal, especially with three maindeck Brave the
Elements. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well this deck deals with Caw-Blade.

And of course, there’s the combo.

In case you’ve never seen this one before, it goes something like this. First, you have a Soul’s Attendant/Suture Priest on the
battlefield. Then you play a Leonin Relic-Warder. Then you play a Phyrexian Metamorph, copying the Warden. Metamorph exiles itself… and triggers
its leaves-the battlefield trigger in the process. It reenters the battlefield a billion times, and shazam—a billion life!

Now, this combo isn’t the end all, be all. Be very aware that you can still be Jace fatesealed out. But hey, having infinite life never hurt,

I’ve also been testing out a version without the combo. I’m not sure how crucial the combo is yet—but either way, the deck is for

And in case you didn’t see it… the Splinter Twin matchup is inherently very good. Infinite creatures aren’t so exciting against
Soul’s Attendant or Suture Priest. Play around Pyroclasm by holding back a Brave the Elements, and you’re in great shape. 

And there you have it. Four decks that beat Caw-Blade—or at least have a reasonable chance at doing so. With that said, these aren’t the
only decks to look at in this category. Birthing Pod, R/B Vampires, and Mono Red Control with Urabrask the Hidden are all decks to keep in mind right

I’m excited to see what comes out of the Invitational this weekend. Will something other than traditional Caw-Blade take it down? I’ll be
there with Adrian Sullivan, finding out for you on SCGLive. It should be an awesome tournament, so stay tuned to the coverage!

In the meantime, if you have any comments on this article, please post in the forums, send me a tweet, or send me at e-mail at
[email protected]. You can also catch me on Magic Online Tuesday night for the first Tuesday Night Overextended event. Otherwise, I’ll be back next week!

Gavin Verhey
Rabon on Magic Online, @GavinVerhey on Twitter

Author’s Note

Due to the decklist-heavy nature of this article, there is no audio this week. Thanks for all of your feedback on the audio so far, and I should be
back with audio next week. Thanks!