Jacob’s Ladder – Revelations

Friday, November 19th – Michael Jacob breaks ground in Scars of Mirrodin Block Constructed, earning back many squandered tix. He also discovers the powers of Tumble Magnet and explores its role in Standard control decks.

After a disappointing (and completely deserved) 2-3 drop in Toronto, I was determined to get more practice in for Nashville. Magic Online had finally started release events instead of the much maligned Prerelease events,* so it was time to get to it. I had a few hundred tickets stored up from smashing with R/U/G, and surely after a few failures, I’d consistently make enough prize to go infinite.

Geth? Ya, no outs. (Looking at the only Arrest on Darksteel Juggernaut that got through six damage and saved myself twelve life.)

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Doing good; might win this one. Opponent casts Contagion Engine. Opponent plays targeted ability targeting DarkestMage. Darn, should’ve gotten Rust Tick back with Razor Hippogriff instead of this do-nothing Origin Spellbomb!

Yeah, of course, another Tumble Magnet to tap down my blocker and kill me for exactsies. Why not? f7u12!

, shouldn’t have tried to race him; I had a Myr Battlesphere in hand…

Every single loss, always my fault. This was testing for me, so I look forward to making mistakes. When there are a hundred lines of play, I make ninety-nine mistakes on the road to finding the right one, and it was getting costly. Soon out of capital, I delved into my playsets of Zendikar block/M11, selling all my Nissas for 9, Primeval Titans 33, Eldrazi Monuments 16, Frost Titan 15 (Inferno is where it’s at now), Avenger of Zendikar 16. I got a few hundred more tickets and looked forward to seeing all these expensive lessons paying off.

They didn’t. I was stunned that every event, every game, I just keep hind-sighting the win that I threw away. Here are some of the pitfalls you shouldn’t fall into:

I hate Myr. I don’t want anything to do with them. I’ve played so many fifteen-land 4-5 Myr metalcraft decks, and I have to mulligan to oblivion because I get one landers on the play, or they just die to the innumerable ping effects available. I’m a seventeen-land man now, maybe eighteen, with one or two

Myr at most.

Stay away from infect aggro in Sealed. Seriously. You could probably start off by removing all cards with infect from your pool, sans Tangle Angler, right from the get go.

Ration that removal. Most decks have twenty do-nothings and four cards that are actually capable of winning a game. Shattering a Myr to lose to Rusted Relic or Trigon of Corruption isn’t a world you want to live in.

Darksteel Axe < Sylvok Lifestaff. There have been plenty of games I would’ve won if my Axes had been Staves, but nearly none the other way. I often bench the Axe, as I don’t like playing more than two equipment, and they’re usually Sylvok Lifestaff and Heavy Arbalest.

Always draw. Not close. Every single deck has 4-8 Terminates, and being a card up in attrition and being able to keep one or two-land hands is a huge advantage.

Wall of Tanglecord is awesome. I found it to be way better than Necropede and just a little better than Perilous Myr defensively.

Be lucky. Over half the pools I open aren’t capable of Top 8ing a Sealed PE, much less Day 2 of a Grand Prix. The best cards are Carnifex Demon, Sunblast Angel, Volition Reins, Hoard-Smelter Dragon, Contagion Engine, and Myr Battlesphere. One for each color. Talk to Martin Juza, and he’ll tell you how he opened three of them and breezed through Bochum.

I Top 8ed only a single event, and it was with a pretty awesome pool:

1 Blight Mamba
1 Contagious Nim
1 Corpse Cur
1 Cystbearer
1 Ichorclaw Myr
1 Painsmith
1 Palladium Myr
1 Perilous Myr
2 Plague Stinger
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Sylvok Replica
1 Tel-Jilad Fallen

1 Contagion Clasp
1 Grasp of Darkness
1 Infiltration Lens
1 Slice in Twain
1 Tel-Jilad Defiance
2 Trigon of Infestation
1 Trigon of Corruption
2 Untamed Might

8 Swamp
9 Forest

I won games with the Trigons + Contagion Clasp, Steel Hellkite, or Tel Jilad Fallen + Untamed Might. I know I said stay away from infect and meant it, but this really wasn’t an infect deck. This was a control deck with multiple card advantage permanents that just happen to be infectious.

This particular PE had me end up x-1, making the cut to Top 8 draft. I drafted a pretty sick U/R double Furnace Celebration deck featuring multiple Golden Urns and Barrage Ogre. I felt like I should’ve won the whole thing but got sacked out by Eric Froehlich’s terrible G/B “infect” deck. His only way to win involved the combo of (Palladium Myr into) Molder Beast, Untamed Might, and Tainted Strike. I now hear this is a real draft strategy, but I refuse to believe it.
(Not bitter at all)

Blowing through those meager winnings took only three events, and I was again back to square one.

I was MODO broke, and the reality was setting in. Down to six tickets, I frantically went to my collection to find more mythics to sell to feed my addiction. CardBuyingBot could find nothing it wanted, and I stared at the screen, noting it was 3 am, and I had another six hours before bed.

I played a Standard 8-man and got stomped by turn 4 Primeval Titans. Tilting, I decided Tombstone Pizza** and Arizona Iced Tea was in order to calm down. DarkestMage needed help, and I refused to spend a single cent of “real” money to continue my self-destructive behavior. Pizza was done, burnt and crispy like I love it, and I sat listening to Mega Man 2 (Wily Stage 1) and Mega Man 4 (Cossack Stage 2) to calm down and think.

The last time I was in this situation was almost a year ago, and I got back on track playing Zendikar Block Constructed. The love of my life, Oracle of Mul Daya, bailed me out back then. Maybe there’s another undiscovered gem in Scars of Mirrodin that I could exploit to get me back on my feet. Plus, it’s far easier to break the format while I had some free time and the competition was soft.

I began doing research on my home away from home,
What’s Happening

. Luckily, SOM Block Constructed Dailies had started firing, so I had some decklists to peruse. It seemed to be dominated by Venser and Elspeth-based control decks, which saddened me. I’d already sold all that I opened, so repurchasing those decks seemed out of the question. Peering through the depths, I finally found a list I could make with what little funds I had. Shedding a single tear, I made one of my four Force of Wills tradable, and got 68 for it. Pawning the family heirloom got me just enough to jam a Sealed (0-2 drop) and get the Mox Opals/Tempered Steels I needed to get the party started.

21 Plains
4 Glint Hawk
4 Memnite
4 Chimeric Mass
4 Contagion Clasp
4 Darksteel Axe
4 Glint Hawk Idol
2 Mox Opal
4 Origin Spellbomb
3 Revoke Existence
2 Strata Scythe
4 Tempered Steel

4 Abuna Acolyte
4 Arrest
4 Glimmerpoint Stag
1 Indomitable Archangel
1 Revoke Existence
1 Sword of Body and Mind

My all-in paid off, as I breezed through the event, smashing the planeswalker-filled decks I assumed would dominate me. I was definitely a little lucky, as the maindeck was clearly unfocused. Excited to see so much room for improvement, I changed the deck after observing the following:

Contagion Clasp was a stone blank and was boarded out every game. No one has any x/1s to kill, and Chimeric Mass was never pumped. I decided to try Perilous Myr instead.

Strata Scythe seemed pretty sweet, but six mana is a lot. It may have been good in the games because everyone was white, so +6/+6 was quite a bonus. I’d give it another shot.

Mox Opal was awesome, especially with Glint Hawk. I needed another.

Origin Spellbomb was overperforming. No one could handle 3/1 or 3/3 Merchant of Secrets.

Revoke Existence was unimpressive, as I was hitting Contagion Clasp and Tumble Magnet, so they couldn’t Glimmerpoint Stag rebuy. It was only one event, so I should give it another shot.

Chimeric Mass was awesome. He was either Ornithopter, allowing for insanely fast Mox Opal/Glint Hawk starts, Frogmite when Tempered Steel was out (also triggering Glint Hawk Idol, allowing you to hit for four the turn you played Tempered Steel), or Myr Enforcer when you were flooded.

I could foresee having a problem with all-removal decks. I had ten creature enhancers, so maybe Culling Dais would be a solution. Plus, it’s pretty awesome against Skinrender (it has to kill itself).

Sideboard was garbage. Needed a total overhaul.

I was so stoked to finally win a game of Magic that I even sold my packs 6 for 23 to get the capital I needed for another Mox Opal and entry fees for more Block events. My luck continued, and I won event after event. The deck went through several iterations and plans, and there was a lot to learn from each.

Perilous Myr was as dicey as it looked. It definitely traded with all the 3/3s people were playing, but I needed something more from that slot. Metalcraft wasn’t an issue for Mox Opal, so I tried Auriok Edgewright in the next event and was similarly disappointed. Oxidda Scrapmelter, Skinrender, and Glimmerpoint Stag all block him down with value. I even played him turn 1 on the draw, and my opponent went Plated Sea Strider into Grand Architect. Awkward.

Culling Dais was another failed experiment. Against Shatter.dec, they’d just Shatter my Dais first if it was actually relevant, or just wait until I tapped out and get it then. Even at its best, when I drew it with a board full of Arrested creatures, it still took too long to get anything. It was also terrible against Glimmerpoint Stag.

Revoke Existence did nothing but kill Tumble Magnet, and that was after he got value by tapping my guy. I needed a better answer to the troublesome tapper.

This reminded me of the article I wrote about

last time, where I wrote about not having the most aggressive threats but ones your opponents couldn’t interact with. This led me to two cards: Auriok Sunchaser and Etched Champion.

Auriok Sunchaser flew over all the problems its predecessors had on the ground and was even a non-artifact to get around Revoke and Shatter. It was also mostly immune to Contagion Clasp, as ten mana is a lot to pay.

Etched Champion was immune to everything but Contagion Clasp, which Tempered Steel more than solved. I often won games with turn 1 and 2 Darksteel Axe into Etched Champion. They’d be stuck with removal that couldn’t stop the six a turn, unless they had the bane of my existence, Tumble Magnet.

Tumble Magnet was quickly showing itself to be a real problem. It wrecked Darksteel Axe, Glint Hawk Idol, Chimeric Mass, and Etched Champion, as I couldn’t afford to pay mana for them to just use a charge counter. Double Magnet into a planeswalker was almost always game over, especially if backed up by a Sunblast Angel or Contagion Clasp.

With two more metalcraft cards in the deck, I couldn’t justify maindecking Revoke Existence, so I needed an artifact answer. I’d nearly given up hope and added Rust Tick when I searched “artifact” in the Deck Editor for it to reveal… Tumble Magnet. Wait, that taps

too!? It had just never come up in Sealed before, so I was not even aware it had that text. That is the

answer to Tumble Magnet. It even stopped the random turn 4 Hellkites and Wurmcoil Engines people played against me from time to time.

If you want to get some cheap packs, I suggest SOM Block Constructed with this:

2 Tumble Magnet
4 Origin Spellbomb
2 Etched Champion
4 Tempered Steel
4 Glint Hawk
4 Darksteel Axe
20 Plains
4 Memnite
4 Auriok Sunchaser
3 Mox Opal
4 Chimeric Mass
1 Indomitable Archangel
4 Glint Hawk Idol

2 Etched Champion
1 Tumble Magnet
4 Arrest
4 Myrsmith
4 Revoke Existence

DarkestMage was back on track to recovery with an extra fifty packs to his name, and I was no longer on life tilt. Nashville is now here, so I no longer have a black hole to dump my winnings into. Drafts are way more fun and far cheaper than Sealed Decks, so I can’t wait to start working on Draft for Worlds.

On a neat side note, I was talking about how successful this deck was with Brian DeMars at RIW Hobbies, and I mentioned that the deck ran 27 artifacts for metalcraft, and he was surprised to hear the number. Brian said he remembered Stephen Menendian had written a Vintage write up on Scars of Mirrodin and did a bunch of math I’m not qualified to explain when it came to metalcraft. He came up with the same number needed to effectively use the Mox, 27. It was kind of weird for theory and my personal results to match up like that. Utilize this information for people who want to work Mox Opal in to other formats and are unsatisfied with their results.

Tumble Magnet also forced me to reevaluate its power level in my Block testing. It constantly was a thorn in my side as the aggro deck and was a key player in nearly all of my losses. With a fresh perspective, I thought about Standard and what it would do there and was astounded at how useful it would be. Here is a list of some scenarios where Tumble Magnet comes out ahead on:

Koth of the Hammer. Pretty awesome interaction here. Not only does it cost less than Koth, it neuters him to a very manageable, possibly even ignorable problem.

Kargan Dragonlord. Very doubtful they’ll spend 6-10 mana for you to lose a charge counter.

Abyssal Persecutor. Same deal, it even sticks in play, unlike most removal spells would do to him.

Primeval Titan. Incredibly, this is actually a great answer to Primeval Titan, as good as a Doom Blade in most regards. Actually, this applies to all the Titans, Frost forcing to tap down the Magnet is a fine trade-off.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Wow, this is actually a complete blowout. They can spend two turns to search him out and play him, and get… nowhere. Emrakul is supposed to be the ultimate endgame, but Tumble Magnet puts him in a rather embarrassing position. All Is Dust doesn’t even remove it!

Summoning Trap. It’s frustrating that you have to counter the trap or face down a fatty knocking you into next week, but Tumble Magnet shines once again, coming out way ahead against anything but Avenger and Gaea’s Revenge.

Mark of Mutiny is the premier way aggro decks try to beat Titans, and Tumble Magnet once more shuts this play down.

Kor Firewalker + Sword of Body and Mind (specifically for R/U/G) is a

problem, and Magnet negates it admirably

Quest for the Holy Relic. Wow, this isn’t obvious, but they cannot beat Tumble Magnet at all. Just remember to tap the equipped critter in the beginning of combat step, and not in their first main phase.

Landfall. Your opponent has to commit to wasting landfall triggers before the combat step, meaning your Magnet saves a ton of life. I’d certainly pay three colorless mana for fifteen life.

These are just a few of the very common threats people play in Standard. The Magnet’s power is even more subtle though, when it comes to defending planeswalkers. Tumble Magnet is proactive (meaning it’s a removal spell that you can play even on an empty board), and you can follow it up with say, Jace the Mind Sculptor. Your opponent can’t activate their Creeping Tar Pit or Raging Ravine, attack with Vengevine, level their Dragonlord, play a fetchland with Plated Geopede, or even use Koth to kill him. That’s a ton of synergy, and half those plays are so back-breaking (like stopping manlands from hitting your planeswalkers) that Tumble Magnet
doesn’t even have to use a counter

to have the effect on the game you want. This means that proliferate or Flicker effects aren’t even necessary to get a ton of value.

Control decks have been defaulting to splashing black for Doom Blade, but Tumble Magnet means you can be any color combination you want, maybe even the much-maligned U/W deck. Think, Gideon would

to be able to be Shriekmaw 2.0 and knock out irksome six-drops and Oracle of Mul Daya, and he can do it with four loyalty left that your opponent cannot capitalize by attacking it down because
Tumble Magnet is untapped.

Blue decks are also desperate for this type of effect; it’s the reason why Frost Titan is so popular. It’s actually quite elegant that a turn 3 Magnet can be used on turns 3, 4, 5, and when it’s finally exhausted, a Titan comes down to continue defense duty.

While Tumble Magnet can certainly complement Frost Titan, it can also totally remove the need for him to be in your deck, such as the case is with R/U/G. Now, you can play

Inferno Titans as your finishers, confident that any gigantic monsters your Magnet will take care of until Crispy gets it done.

Do I think Tumble Magnet breaks the format? No, but it will be a role player that every control deck will play, a colorless removal spell that solves the biggest problems over half the decks are presenting. I can’t wait to see what people come up with to incorporate this new tool, and it could even make Venser a force in Japan.

*- Going 4-0 would let you get ahead by $5, and going 3-1 was losing $15.

**- Gerry and I independently arrived at the pizza diet. I only recently started Tombstone because I moved, and the closest grocery store had only this to offer in the way of frozen ambrosia.

No one can fight the tide forever