Flow Of Ideas – How To Play Every Turn Of Caw-Blade

Monday, April 18 – Gavin Verhey isn’t here to talk about the optimal build or card choices in Caw-Blade, just how to play it! Mulligan choices, play decisions, and more are covered in this Caw-Blade strategy guide.

In my mind, there is only one deck to play right now: Caw-Blade.

Sure, my head has bubbled over with brews that have seeped into deck selection. I’ve tried to beat the Caw-Blade players with something else, but it
often feels like trying to hold back a tidal wave with your bare hands. Caw-Blade attacks you on all fronts, submerging you in tempo before drowning
you in card advantage. It’s efficient, powerful, and disruptive.

There are certainly other decks you can play. Red seems fairly well positioned right now, and RUG is certainly legitimate. However, despite other
contenders to the throne, Caw-Blade feels very much like Faeries at the peak of its power.

Perhaps New Phyrexia will change all of this, but for the next few weeks, I expect Caw-Blade to reign supreme. Whether you’re bringing the ‘Blade to a
WPN Regionals qualifier or trying to take down the StarCityGames.com Open Series title with it in Boston this weekend, there are some aspects of the
deck people just misunderstand or inappropriately apply. I’d like to provide my take on the deck.

For reference, here’s the list I played in Dallas to a Top 32 finish:

Now, you can tweak this list a little if you want for what you’re expecting. Each Caw-Blade list has about 3-7 variable slots depending on who you ask.
However, the particulars of your list aren’t as crucial for this article; I just wanted to get this out there as a list to refer to and also for all of
the readers who have been asking for my list. I also see no need to go through a card-by-card description, as I think most people understand the basic
premise of how this deck works by now. I’d much rather spend that time going through how to optimally play each card, as I’ll do later.

I’ve played the deck a lot and spent hours watching players and/or masters like Gerry Thompson, AJ Sacher, and Edgar Flores play under the SCGLive
camera. Watching them taught me a ton about the deck, and I began to incorporate their game plans into my strategy.

You can go back and watch the archives yourself if you’d like to learn from them yourself. For those who don’t have the time to parse through an
amalgamated 100+ hours of footage to understand the deck, I have you covered.

Let’s start with basic sequences of the deck and then move from there onto how to deal with individual matchups.

The very first thing I want to make clear is that, above all else, there are no hard and fast rules. Some player out there will find a
game where doing what I said was incorrect, and there are plenty of corner-case situations with this deck where I could see you making the most absurd
choices and have them be correct. Use this article as a guide — but don’t let it override your common sense.

If the path on your safari map takes you directly through a den of hungry jackals; don’t just wander blindly through it. The key is knowing when to
deviate. Don’t deviate unless there is a good reason for it, but when your intuition begins to tingle, know when to trust it.

With that down, let’s begin.  

Let’s start with what’s going on before the first land is even played: the mulligan. Now, in each matchup you’re looking for different things. But, in
the dark, there are a few rules to follow. I see a lot of games lost before the first spell is even cast simply because one novice Caw-Blade player
doesn’t know how to mulligan with this deck.

In Paris, Ben Stark said he would never keep any hand that didn’t have at least a single Stoneforge Mystic, Squadron Hawk, or Preordain. Now, I don’t entirely agree entirely with this blanket statement—just mostly. I would extend this to also include Mana Leak on the play if the hand is pretty
good and with most five-card hands. Otherwise, mulligan! This deck mulligans well, and you should use that to your advantage. Simply
having lands and spells is not good enough.

You cannot keep a hand of Spell Pierce, Jace, Gideon, Tumble Magnet, three lands. Yes, you can cast your spells, but you aren’t actually doing
anything. What if your opponent plays a turn 2 Lotus Cobra or Stoneforge Mystic? Tumble Magnet is not a good defensive card. It’s a tempo card, and
it’s a beatdown card, but it’s certainly not an avenue to control the game.

For every hand you open, you want it to contain three lands or two lands and Preordain and either Hawk or Mystic. The rest of the hand after
that is just an indicator of how you’re going to sculpt the game in your favor. Here are five sample hands I just took with the deck, whether or not I
would keep them, and why. Answer each on your own, decide if you would keep it on the play or the draw, figure out your line of play for the first few
turns, then read what I have to say and compare your thoughts to mine.

Hand #1

Celestial Colonnade, Inkmoth Nexus, Plains, Island, Day of Judgment, Day of Judgment, Gideon Jura

We start off with a hand that’s an easy ship for me. You have two manlands, but they aren’t going to do a lot in the early turns. You have double Day
and Gideon, which will be nice if you’re playing against a specific kind of deck and you draw some other action to complement it, but too many things
can go wrong here. If you don’t draw perfectly, you’re going to lose to most decks. Mulligan.

The six we see on our mulligan:

Glacial Fortress, Inkmoth Nexus, Preordain, Mana Leak, Jace Beleren, Tumble Magnet

Not bad. A far cry from perfect, but it’ll do. You have Leak for turn 2, then Magnet and Jace depending on what deck they’re playing, plus Preordain to
help guarantee your third land drop and/or additional action.

While I might normally lead on Preordain here if given the option to help find a Hawk of Mystic, my line of play is going to be Glacial Fortress tapped
on the first turn, followed by Inkmoth and pass on the next turn, holding up Mana Leak. If I still don’t have a third land by my third turn, I’ll
Preordain then to try and hit my land drop. If I have a third land, I might hold it for an additional turn and deploy Jace depending on the board

Hand #2

Seachrome Coast, Glacial Fortress, Inkmoth Nexus, Plains, Island, Squadron Hawk, Squadron Hawk

Now, if you’ve been following what I’ve been saying, you might elect to keep this hand. After all, you have a turn 2 Hawk. However, this is actually a
trick question and a perfect example of knowing when to deviate. Ask yourself this: what does this hand do? The answer: nothing. I’d easily mulligan
this hand. These seven cards not only have no plan, but you’re already essentially on six because of the second Hawk in your hand. Let’s take a look at
a fresh six:

Seachrome Coast, SeachromeCoast, Stoneforge Mystic, Mana Leak, Day of Judgment, Gideon Jura

I’m definitely keeping this one. Once again, it’s not ideal—it could use a third land—but a turn 2 Mystic is still pretty excellent, plus you have a
Mana Leak. You’re either going to draw into lands or spells, and since most of your spells can be cast while light on lands, this means you’ll still be
able to operate, and if you “flood out” on lands, you have some top-end action. Keep for sure, leading with Mystic on turn 2.

Hand #3

Glacial Fortress, Island, Preordain, Mana Leak, Tumble Magnet, Gideon Jura, Day of Judgment

I think a lot of weak players would keep this hand for the wrong reasons and a lot of better players would incorrectly mulligan this hand. To the weak
players, it has a way to find more lands, Mana Leak, and top end spells. To the better players, it looks like a trap of casting Preordain and having to
search for lands but needing Hawk/Mystic. I’d keep, and I would play it differently on the play and on the draw.

On the play, I would lead off with Island and not cast Preordain. You have Mana Leak for turn 2 and don’t know if you need to dig for lands or
creatures yet. On turn 2, I’d hold up Mana Leak, then on turn 3, I would cast Preordain and dig for what I’m looking for, either lands or creatures.

On the draw, however, the game changes drastically. Mana Leak on turn 2 on the draw is too slow. Unless I draw a creature on turn 1, I’d lead off with
Preordain and ship anything in favor of searching for a Hawk/Mystic. If I see a creature and a land, I’d keep both. If I see a creature and a spell,
I’d ship the spell and keep the creature. How the game develops from there depends on the Preordain.

Hand #4

Glacial Fortress, Plains, Plains, Tectonic Edge, Squadron Hawk, Stoneforge Mystic, Mana Leak

This one is a super easy keep for me. Turn 2 Mystic with access to Hawk and Mana Leak? Yes please! I’m going to lead on turn 2 Mystic, pass on turn 3
to represent Mana Leak (but ultimately let anything resolve in favor of ninjaing in Sword), equip, either leave up Mana Leak or play Squadron Hawk
depending on what they have, then attack and go from there.

Hand #5

Celestial Colonnade, Tectonic Edge, Preordain, Squadron Hawk, Squadron Hawk, Mana Leak, Gideon Jura

This hand is a little tricky. It has an element of a previous hand I mulliganed—two Hawks—and doesn’t look spectacular. However, I would keep. If you
keep in mind Preordain isn’t a spell you want to cast on turn 1 unless you’re digging for creatures, this hand actually has a lot of what you want.

I would lead on Colonnade, then play Hawk on turn 2 or leave up Mana Leak, depending on what they have done so far. On turn 3, I would cast Preordain
to help find lands and either Hawk or Leak from there.

Those are just a handful of the hard decisions you have to make when mulliganing with this deck. Make a wrong one, and you can instantly lose the game
right there.

In each mulligan situation, I brought up how I’d play the hand and asked you to do the same. Why? I wanted you to get your mind thinking about
sequencing because it’s extremely important with this deck. When you look down at your opening hand, you need to figure out what order you want
to cast your spells in. Then, with every draw step and every action from your opponent, you need to reevaluate that order.

With so much to think about, how can you keep it all straight? I have a solution.

I’ve compiled an extensive list of every card in the maindeck, when you want to use it, and before/after which cards. It also talks about which cards
you want in which matchups. Ready? Here we go!

Celestial Colonnade

We’ll start with the manland staple. There are three main times you’ll be activating this card: because you have nothing else to use the mana for,
because you’re on the offensive, or because you need to block.

In the first case and the third case, it’s likely the late game, and you’re low on options. These situations should be pretty clear and are likely the
times you’re already activating Colonnade anyway.

The second situation is less obvious. Caw-Blade is a deck that quickly transitions from defensive to aggressive, and you have to understand your
position at all times. If you’re going to connect with a Sword this turn, you usually want to get in the free four points of damage. But when else is
it correct to forego casting spells on your turn in favor of dealing four?

Look down at the game state. How many turns is it going to take to kill them? How does Colonnade speed up your clock? How does another spell you could
play speed up your clock? Which turn does each line of play leave them dead on? Is activating Colonnade too risky? Are they potentially holding up mana
for a counterspell? These are some of the main questions you can use to determine if it’s right to go aggressive and serve in for four.

Finally, if your opponent plays a planeswalker and leaves it in Colonnade range, be wary of Condemn and double check for Tectonic Edges, but it’s
usually right to not expend any extra resources from your hand and just kill it straight up with Colonnade. 

Inkmoth Nexus

Inkmoth Nexus is a trickier manland than Colonnade because it operates on a different clock than all of your other cards. Honestly, I think 28 or 29
lands with four Nexuses may be the way of the future, similar to the Extended version of this deck that runs four Mutavault, but that’s another issue
entirely. What’s important is understanding when it’s right to get in for one poison.

Hitting multiple times with a single Nexus for one damage is seldom relevant. If you have nothing else to do and no concerns about leaving mana up,
then ‘mise, but really it’s just the first hit that matters. Three Sworded Nexus hits is nine poison counters, so you just need to work one point in
earlier in the game to shave off your kill turn by one. 

With that said, it’s rarely right to skip playing something to deal one damage early on unless you’re confident that poison is going to be your route
to victory. It’s important you don’t lean on it too hard, though, as Tectonic Edge, Condemn, or Lightning Bolt can easily strip away three turns of
hard work and make all of the damage you did irrelevant.

The main purpose of Nexus is twofold.

First of all, it blocks. It can buy you a turn when you need to establish tempo, especially against a Sworded creature.

Most importantly, however, is that it carries a Sword. It’s just an extra creature who can easily pick up a Sword, make your opponent discard cards,
and occasionally poison them out after an attrition war. Often, one Sword hit is enough to swing the game in your favor, and Nexus does that job

If you have the option to go aggressive with Hawks and Sword or Nexus and Sword, I’ll usually favor Hawks even though it takes longer just because of
the potential to get blown out be removal on your Nexus. However, if closing the game out in short order is important, don’t be afraid to push your
eggs into the poisonous basket.

Tectonic Edge

Tectonic Edge is a card that’s easy to use most of the time but hard to master doing so perfectly. The basic strategy is that you should Tectonic Edge
them whenever you’re winning. If you’ve cemented an advantage, then killing their lands will only press your advantage. I’d say about 80% to 85% of the
time, that’s the proper way to use Tectonic Edge. However, there are times you should hold your Edges or even use them when you’re behind. When are
those? Read on!

If you don’t have a decided advantage—say, just a Hawk or two—and your opponent has manlands in their deck somewhere, sitting on Edge can be right.
Your advantage isn’t so much so that it’s worth throwing your Edges away on random lands.

Another situation ties nicely into this one, and it’s if killing their lands doesn’t do anything. If they already have eight lands on the battlefield,
kicking one away doesn’t change anything. It’s better to just hold your Edges to nail manlands/Valakuts as they come up.

If your opponent has two manlands in play, it can be right to sit on Edges as well. If you kill one, then they can just fire in with the other.
However, if you keep Edge up at all times, you essentially Time Walk them if they ever choose to attack with a manland. Prematurely Edging allows them
to attack freely. This can be crucial for protecting planeswalkers.

Additionally, even if you’re losing, it can be right to activate your Edges. If your opponent badly needs mana or certain colors of mana (like, say, RR
in RUG for Inferno Titan), it can be right to just take another hit and cut them off of mana. Look at your hand, then look at what they have. If you
can afford to take a hit and still establish your plan, often it’s right to Edge them. I’ve taken Sword hits in exchange for cutting them down to two
mana with double Tectonic Edge before, for example. If you cut them off on that turn, then you can start chaining Hawks or something similar to deal
with the Sworded Mystic.

Finally, it’s important to list the hidden rules of Tectonic Edge in case they aren’t clear.

First of all, the ability only checks at activation and not at resolution. If your opponent has four lands, two of which are nonbasic, and you have two
Tectonic Edges, you can Tectonic Edge one land, and then, in response to the ability, activate your other Edge on the other land and bring them down to
just two lands. This can be completely crippling, so always keep it in mind.

Second, since it checks only at activation, you can’t stop your manland from dying by sacrificing a fetchland or Tectonic Edging yourself. Once it’s
activated, it’s activated.

Third, and say it with me this time, Tectonic Edge checks on activation. If your opponent plays their fourth land then Tectonic Edges your Tectonic
Edge, you can’t use that Edge on them in response since they only have three lands.

All three of those situations are ones I see messed up constantly. Keep all of the possibilities in your head, and know if what your opponent’s doing
is or isn’t legal.


Preordain is probably the card I see misplayed the most. I played against Caw-Blade nine times at the GP, and my record in the mirror was 8-1. I feel
like a lot of those wins can be attributed to poor Preordaining from my opponents.

There are only two situations in which you should be casting Preordain on turn 1. You’re digging for a second land (eep!), a Mystic/Hawk, or a Mana
Leak on the play. There are some other matchup specific scenarios—searching for a Firewalker against Red, for example—but for the most part, Preordain
should not be cast on turn 1.

The optimal time to cast it is usually turn 3. Why? Turn 3 is usually the turn you have an extra mana lying around. You can play a Mystic on turn 2 and
pass turn 3 planning to spend two mana to put down an equipment, play a Hawk on turn 2, and then another Hawk on turn 3 with one up, hold up Mana Leak
on turn 3, and so on. If you have Spell Pierce on these turns, there will still likely be an opportunity on turn 4 or 5 for you to Preordain.

Preordain is better to cast when you actually know what you want, as opposed to having no clue. It can take a few turns to see how the game develops to
know what you want, and Preordain is often far better on turn 5 than turn 1.

Finally, order your spells right. Don’t cast Preordain right before shuffling. While not casting Squadron Hawk immediately after keeping both on top
seems obvious, less obvious is that every shuffle puts all of the cards you put on the bottom back into the mix. Even if that’s just one or two cards,
it can make a difference and is worth keeping in mind.

Spell Pierce

A lot of players seem eager to Spell Pierce anything, but I think that’s playing it wrong a lot of the time. What’s important is knowing if you should
be using it offensively or defensively.

You can either use Spell Pierce to gun down your opponent’s spells or to protect yours. You have to know when to do each. The basic idea is that you
want to use it to push through your planeswalkers while countering theirs, as well as serving as a Dark Ritual against Mana Leak. If you have a
planeswalker to protect, then just build up mana until you have five or six and have the opening to play Jace/Gideon with Pierce backup.

The other primary use for Spell Pierce is forcing a Mystic or Hawk through a Mana Leak. The situation doesn’t come up that often, but in the event
you’re on the draw and they miss their turn 2 play, then it’s probably right to sit on your Mystic/Hawk until turn 3. On turn 3, you play yours, they
Leak it, and you Pierce them right back.

Don’t throw your Pierces away. They’re very good and can really be used to protect your important cards in most matchups.

Stoneforge Mystic

Mystic is a pretty straightforward card. With that said, there are still better ways to play it than others and a sequencing order for it.

Mystic is your best turn 2 play. There are occasionally situations where turn 2 Hawk is better, but that’s usually because you’re trying to bait out a
Mana Leak. Unless you have a good reason, it’s right to play Mystic on turn 2.

Turn 3 with Mystic is probably where I see the most mistakes made, though. A lot of players will play turn 2 Mystic, turn 3 Hawk, planning to turn 4
Vial in Sword and equip. That can be right, but it usually isn’t. The only time it can be correct is if the flying really matters, and even
then, it’s not always right. It’s right to pass (or just Preordain) on turn 3 most of the time, then put Sword into play in the end step.

Why is that route better?

First off, it prevents any shenanigans with your Stoneforge Mystic from occurring. You don’t want your Mystic to just get Ousted, or Bolted, or Go for
the Throated, or any number of things that set your Sword back by a turn.

Second of all, it lets you represent Mana Leak on their turn. While you almost always end up slamming the Sword down anyway, just having the mana up
forces them to reconsider their play. For example, they can’t play a Jace into your open mana safely where they could otherwise.

Third, it lets you represent Mana Leak on your turn. If their plan is to muddle with your state of affairs on your turn, then you have Mana Leak to
prevent the turn from becoming a tempo black hole.

Finally, it barely changes your play. On the fourth turn, you can still set down a Squadron Hawk. If you manage to connect with a Sworded Mystic, you
can even deploy multiple Hawks. Little changes, and it affords you so much more flexibility.

Squadron Hawk

A lot of what I wanted to say about Squadron Hawk sequencing I said above, in the Stoneforge Mystic section. Basically, Hawk is second fiddle to

There are still a few notes left to make on the 1/1 flier.

First of all, and this may be obvious to some, but get the maximum value out of the Hawk’s effect. Always put excess Hawks back when Jace brainstorms,
and know that each Hawk still triggers a shuffle effect even if it doesn’t have a Hawk to find. If you have an active Jace and the extra points of
damage don’t matter, often you want to just play one Hawk a turn, giving you the ability to shuffle on your brainstorms.

Second, know when to move in on Hawks and when to hold them. Sometimes, it’s right to just Voltron up an Air Elemental and put four points of flying
power onto the board to start clocking your opponent. Other times, you know you’re going to have to Wrath the board away in a turn or two and are just
throwing your Hawks into a death trap. Sometimes, you’re going to Wrath next turn but just want to play out your Hawks as blockers and/or to create the
illusion you don’t have a board sweeper.

A lot of the time, you just want to use your Hawks as mini-Holy Days, martyrs for the cause of buying you time. Don’t be afraid to spend turns just
playing Hawks and slowly advancing your master plan. As long as you’re using a planeswalker or other method to get ahead, it doesn’t really matter what
your board presence looks like—you’ll win eventually.  

This all harkens back to knowing if you’re the beatdown or control. Once again, look at the board, look at your hand, figure out who has the clock
advantage, see what disruption you have, and go from there.

Mana Leak

Like Spell Pierce, Mana Leak is a card you can use either offensively or defensively, though it’s harder to protect your own spells with it since it
requires two mana instead of just one. Still, I’ve waited until turn 4 to play a Mystic or turn 6 to play a Jace before. Being disciplined with your
countermagic is important.

Still, with all that said, Mana Leak is often a reactionary spell. The key to using it properly in this deck is knowing which turns to be reactionary.
It’s hard to just leave up two mana forever, especially because it becomes worse late game, and, in the mirror, a single Sword hit threatens to strip
you of any countermagic you’ve been carrying. 

The cards you want to counter most in the mirror are Stoneforge Mystic, planeswalkers, and Squadron Hawk. Against RUG, you want to counter basically
anything but a late-game Explore or an irrelevant Lightning Bolt. Against Valakut, I’ll throw it at any acceleration I can early game and obviously
Titans/Summoning Trap later on.

Since so many cards are good to hit with Mana Leak, the fundamental axis of the card becomes establishing board presence first. This is precisely why a
turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic is so strong. If you can sit on a Mana Leak while sending in pressure every turn, you’ll quickly deplete all of their options,
while if you just sit on it with nothing on the board, your opponent can easily craft a game state where they can run right past it.  

In the mirror, I generally like to save my Mana Leaks for the crucial cards mentioned above. Against anything else, I’ll use them whenever I can early
to stunt their plan and give me more time to set up my board position. If I still find myself with a Mana leak in my hand going into the long game
against non-mirror decks, I’ll save it for whatever over-the-top threat they have.

Tumble Magnet

Tumble Magnet serves two main purposes. One, it can be used offensively to force Sworded creatures through. Two, it can buy you time to establish a
winning position or race.

What Tumble Magnet does not do is give you infinite time. If you have a Magnet and are using it defensively, you have to be very judicious about
how you expend your counters. Do you really need to tap that creature? If the answer is yes, and you’re using it defensively, you need to switch
gears—and fast!

If you lead on a Mystic, Tumble Magnet is one of the most punishing cards you can cast. If you’re playing the mirror, Magnet allows you to tempo the
other player out by stealing time away from their Swords so you can establish your own. It’s a card to be fought over in the mirror because it’s good
on both ends of the Sword war, and you should try to sneak it onto the battlefield whenever you have the opportunity.

In other matchups, it should be pretty clear when Magnet is the right card to play—there will be an Overgrown Battlement or Primeval Titan to tap.
Just, once again, use it as a tempo card. Don’t run it out there and sit back on it: you have to be proactive at the same time.

Sword of Feast and Famine

There isn’t a lot to say about the intricate play of Sword. Getting clocked with one is one of the worst things that can happen to you in Standard—and,
of course, the goal of this deck.

The only real trick to note with Sword is when to hardcast it versus when to hold it. You never want it to be countered if you can avoid it, but there
are a ton of situations where just slamming it on a Hawk for five mana out of nowhere can swing the game in your favor. There are also games where you
might just have an opening on turn 3, and you can slide it in under counterspells, planning to play a Hawk next turn. It’s also a fine turn 3 play if
you have a Nexus down. Otherwise, generally you want to play carefully with Sword.

Finally, you can float mana with its trigger on the stack. This is very relevant for getting essentially “free” Tectonic Edges.

Jace Beleren

This isn’t a stock maindeck card for most builds, so I’m not going to linger on him for too long. However, little Jace can be a tricky card to play.

If Little Jace is ever not threatened by creatures, you should -1 him immediately and let his wind of card advantage push your sailboat to victory. If
that isn’t the case, usually you want to start by +2ing him, and then next turn, try and set up a defense for him so you can protect him. Little Jace
preempts big Jace nicely, so if you think your opponent is trying to drop a Mind Sculptor onto the battlefield, then it can be worth doing what it
takes to keep him around.

If that’s not going to be possible, don’t be afraid to just expend him quickly as a draw two. If your opponent wastes a turn sending a Sworded Mystic
at him, that’s actually great for you because you don’t have to discard, and it provides you with an opening.

More than anything else, I find Jace Beleren makes for a nice distraction. My opponent has to spend resources dealing with him. In the meantime, our
Caw-Blade deck can set up a plan for the next few turns such as deploying Hawks or getting a Sword active.

As far as sequencing goes, you want to cast Jace whenever it’s not going to run into a Spell Pierce/Mana Leak. If you have no other board presence,
it’s not optimal, but it will hopefully dig you a little deeper to set up the action you need.

Day of Judgment

The sequencing on Day of Judgment is mostly obvious. My one tip is not to be afraid to cast a Day seemingly early some times, but don’t be afraid to
get maximum value out of a Day at other times.


If you can make the transition to offensive post-Day—you have a Sword and Hawks ready to go, for example—then you can Day away a couple of creatures
without concern, since you can take the offensive next turn. However, if that’s not the case, then it’s better to buy as much time as possible. This
deck is good at buying time, and so if you can throw away Tumble Magnet counters and Hawks to gain a turn or two when you have a Day in your hand,
that’s all right. If you can’t go aggressive, it’s all about buying time until you can go aggressive.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

To start with, I recommend checking out the section I wrote on Jace in this Matchup Tactics article. It’s
the section called the “Casting Jace Survival Guide.” That should give you a reasonable idea of when to cast Jace and what to do with him after he
comes down in a control mirror.

Against a beatdown or midrange deck, I don’t want Jace to just be a four-mana Brainstorm. He has to be sometimes, but I try to maneuver the game into a
position where he can dominate. Often, this requires either holding Jace until you have the board under control or immediately +2ing him. Often, it’s
right to scry instead of fateseal, since you’re digging for a way to protect Jace. If he survives, you can then untap, Brainstorm, and see several
fresh cards—hopefully one of which is the answer you need.

Jace’s Unsummon ability can lock your opponent down and buy time, but don’t lean on it too much. A single Brainstorm will show you more cards than
Unsummoning for two turns will. It’s often best to play Jace, Unsummon, then untap and Brainstorm, looking for an answer.

If the game is stalling out, and you have a Jace active, don’t be afraid to go the ultimate route. It’s very tempting to keep Brainstorming after
you’ve exhausted a lot of resources and search for your remaining answers, but against some decks with big finishers, such as Eldrazi Green, RUG, and
Valakut, you can lock them out of the game pretty well by fatesealing them every turn.

As far as sequencing goes, Jace is usually one of the best cards you can lay. Take care to keep him around and protect him. And, once again, don’t
forget to abuse your shuffle effects with Jace’s Brainstorm.

Gideon Jura

Finally, we come to Gideon, the other half of the planeswalker duo. Gideon is absurdly powerful and ends some games as soon as he lands. In some
matchups, you just slam him whenever you can. In others, casting him is a delicate dance.

Against Mono Red, Jumanji, or Naya, you want to cast Gideon as soon as possible. It’s difficult for them to beat the combination of time you buy and
1-2 creatures you can kill.

In the mirror, Gideon sticking is often game winning unless they have their own Gideon/Into the Roil. The creatures in the deck are so small that
punching through Gideon’s loyalty is a difficult task. Without Sword hitting you, you buy plenty of time to set up a Sword of your own. Use your
countermagic to maneuver into a position where Gideon resolves.

Against RUG and Valakut, you have to be careful with Gideon. You often don’t want to tap out, and you don’t want to walk him into Mana Leak against the
former. Sometimes, the best time to cast Gideon is actually after they’ve played a Titan so you can Assassinate to kill the Titan. Sometimes, you just
have to go for it early. Gideon is at its worst in these matchups just because it isn’t the top-end trump you would hope five mana could buy you. With
that said, sometimes you just need a way to close. It’s often not worth casting Gideon unless you have nothing better to be setting up for or direly
need him.

Hopefully you find this primer of use to you. I covered each individual matchup as I went through it, and I hit most of the major turning points of
each one. With this information in hand, you should be well suited to picking up the deck. Of course, those were only the maindeck cards, but your
sideboard cards only augment those core plans slightly. Kor Firewalker you want to play as early as possible; Flashfreeze is just an upgrade to Mana
Leak, for two examples.

The only other thing I want to note that wasn’t touched on as much above is that Lotus Cobra and other forms of consistent creature mana acceleration
are a major problem. You have to kill Cobra at all costs, which is why players sideboard cards like Oust and/or Journey to Nowhere. Pushing Cobra off
the battlefield is the number one priority at early points in the game.

Hopefully all of this helps you to play your Caw-Blade decks better than ever before. If you have any feedback, please either post it in the forums,
tweet me @GavinVerhey, or e-mail me at Gavintriesagain at gmail dot com. I’d love to hear your thoughts and answer any questions you have about playing

Also, I’d like to know if you liked the turn-by-turn analysis of playing each card. It’s a new style of analyzing a deck, and if you guys like it, I’ll
keep it in mind for the future.

Talk to you guys next week!

Gavin Verhey
Rabon on Magic Online