Levelling Up – Yokohama, Part 1

Before Pro Tour: Yokohama, Tiago did the fashionable thing and hooked up with the Dutchies for some serious playtesting. Today’s Levelling Up brings us the results from those intensive playtest sessions. Deck archetypes and lists are discussed and debunked in equal measure, with the positive and negative points of each build laid bare for all to see. If you’re looking for the low-down on Time Spiral Block Constructed, look no further!

My next two articles are centred on Pro Tour: Yokohama, and the Time Spiral Block Constructed format before the release of Future Sight, a format which will still be played at the Grand Prix in Strasbourg. Today I’ll go through my playtesting phases before the Pro Tour, and I’ll conclude next week with a detailed look at my chosen deck and how it performed at the big event.

In the space of four weeks I attended Grands Prix in three different continents – I played in Amsterdam, Kyoto, and Massachusetts. This left me a little tired, and I lacked the time to sit down and practice Block Constructed. While I was flying around the globe, I had the incorrect idea that Blue decks based on Teferi would dominate the format. I know that Blue/Black Teferi took the top spots in Yokohama, but the format proved to be quite interesting. When I was thinking about dominance, I was thinking that every deck would be Blue-based, like Blue/Black Teferi, Blue/White Teferi, Blue/Red Teferi, or Mono-Blue Teferi. Eventually I realized that the card isn’t as powerful in Block Constructed as it is in Standard because there’s less countermagic. It’s hard to play a pure draw-go strategy in Block, and there are more anti-Teferi cards being played, like Sudden Death.

This is not something new. Back in the Odyssey Block days, Call of the Herd was being played in Extended, and it was a stable in Red/Green aggro decks, U/G Opposition, or Blue/Green/Red Madness decks in Standard. It was a natural assumption to think that Odyssey Block Constructed would see Call of the Herd as an auto-inclusion in Green decks. This assumption was wrong, as the card never found a place. Despite the cardpool available being a lot smaller than Standard and Extended, the metagame was so different that Call of the Herd wasn’t even good.

When I found some free time to log in to Magic Online and play some games, I found the format to be wide open, unexplored, and not dominated by any specific deck. I planned to test the format by myself in Portugal, and on Magic Online with my friends, before meeting with the Dutchies in the Netherlands the week before the Pro Tour, to compare ideas and tune final decklists.

Red/Black splashing Blue

My first deck was given to me by Rogier Maaten, and it’s a deck he built himself. He said Stupor and Void seemed really powerful, and simply put them together with some other Black and Red cards. The deck seemed passable against aggro decks, but I was unsure about the matchup against control. From my experience, I also know that Black control decks need some way to draw additional cards. Against beatdown you are trading your cards one-for-one, your removal for their creatures. It’s sometimes two-for-one with Damnation and Void, but if you plan to win, you’ll need to refill your hand at some point otherwise you’ll be out-drawn by aggro. They have more threats than you have answers, thanks to running fewer lands. Against control you have many dead cards, and you need to draw more cards to keep up. In the past, some examples of card drawing spells in Mono Black Control decks were Phyrexian Arena in Standard or Skeletal Scrying in Odyssey Block Constructed.

I’d just returned from Grand Prix: Kyoto, where I had played Angelfire in Standard updated with the Planar Chaos suspend spells – Detritivore and Aeon Chronicler. Since Rogier’s deck was playing with four Prismatic Lens and four Terramorphic Expanse, I added an Island, replaced some Molten Slagheaps with Dreadship Reefs, and cut some Bogardan Hellkites and Twisted Abominations… to add three Aeon Chroniclers. Later I played a premier event with the deck, and ended with a 5-2 score, my losses being to Rogier himself in the mirror (though he was only Red/Black), and to White Weenie. I had beaten some White Weenie deck on the way, but even with all the anti-creature spells it’s not guaranteed that you’ll come on top. In the end, Rogier won the tournament. The Aeon Chroniclers proved to be a fine addition to the deck, and we later upgraded to four copies.

During Grand Prix: Massachusetts, this was the only deck I had on my account, and I was openly playing it in the hotel lobby where anyone could see us. I ended playing this deck at the Pro Tour, something few would believe at Grand Prix: Massachusetts. Here’s the decklist I had for this deck, the day before the Pro Tour, after testing with the Dutchies.

9 Swamp
4 Molten Slagheap
2 Dreadship Reef
2 Mountain
1 Island
2 Urza’s Factory
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Terramorphic Expanse

4 Aeon Chronicler
2 Plague Sliver
2 Bogardan Hellkite

4 Prismatic Lens
4 Phyrexian Totem
4 Damnation
4 Void
4 Sudden Death
4 Stupor
2 Tendrils of Corruption

Possible sideboard cards:
Sulfur Elemental
Plague Sliver
Tendrils of Corruption
Haunting Hymn
Psychotic Episode
Strangling Soot
Dead / Gone


  • A good matchup against Blue decks.
  • It has all the tools to fight against White Weenie. If you have a really big sample of statistics, you’ll think the matchup favors the Black/Red deck, but the matchup is very tricky and draw dependant and it can go either way. Sometimes it was nine out of ten games to the Black/Red deck, while other times was the other way around. Nevertheless, I’d rather be on the Black/Red side for the matchup.
  • It’s very resilient to mulligans. During the Pro Tour, and in playtesting, I mulliganed a lot less than usual, thanks to the deck consistency (many four ofs) and the good manabase (26 lands plus eight artifacts to produce mana)


  • A bad matchup against Green decks. It can’t deal with a Stormbind other than racing it, and their Mwonvuli Acid-Moss is really good against this deck, specially in multiples.
  • A worse matchup against Wild Pair decks. Not only can’t it beat a Wild Pair on the table, but all the creatures also have come into play effects that will impact the board position before you kill them.
  • Time issues, on the Pro Tour where everyone plays very carefully, and at Grands Prix where the time for the round is 50 minutes.

Blue/Black Control

The Portuguese on Magic Online had a U/B deck with Shadowmage Infiltrator and Teferi. It was performing well, and it looked sweet. One way or another, I eventually landed a copy in my mailbox. I played some eight-man queues and premier events with it, making some changes as I started to learn more about the format. This was the deck I played the most on Magic Online, and while I never made Top 8 in a premier event with it, I think I managed to stay even on the eight-man queues (even though I was winning almost only Planar Chaos packs).

If I hadn’t playtested at Frank’s place, where we settle for the deck that were performing the best in our small gauntlet, I would’ve probably played this deck at the Pro Tour. It was the one with which I had the most practice, and the one I enjoyed playing the most. It was also pretty decent against White Weenie, one of the obvious decks of the format, so it seemed a safe choice. In the Netherlands I found that Jelger Wiegersma was very likely running Blue/Black control, and that their version was actually very close to the one I had received directly from the Portuguese.

This is the decklist I had the day before Pro Tour: Yokohama.

11 Island
3 Swamp
4 Dreadship Reef
4 Terramorphic Expanse
3 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Urza’s Factory

4 Shadowmage Infiltrator
3 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
2 Aeon Chronicler
1 Draining Whelk
1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter

4 Prismatic Lens
2 Think Twice
2 Snapback
4 Cancel
2 Sudden Death
3 Mystical Teachings
1 Tendrils of Corruption
4 Damnation
1 Haunting Hymn

Possible sideboard cards:
Pull from Reality
Riptide Pilferer
Plague Sliver
Sudden Death
Tendrils of Corruption
Strangling Soot
Haunting Hymn


  • A very balanced deck against any field.
  • It has consistent draws, and little chance of being mana-screwed, thanks to 26 lands plus four Prismatic Lens. It also has cheap cantrips and card drawing effects.
  • It has a decent matchup against White Weenie. It’s probably the same as Black/Red… it’s close, but I’d rather be on this side of the table.


White Weenie

During my stay in Portugal I was never a fan of White Weenie, mostly because I thought many of the creatures were really bad. They didn’t hit hard enough, so they were just extra cards lost to Damnation (see Icatian Javelineers). Before leaving for the Netherlands, White Weenie started winning more and more online, especially in the hands of Willy Edel. Here’s what was happening…

In the beginning, many decks thought they beat White Weenie because they were facing untuned versions. Their results indicated a 70% favorable matchup. With such good numbers, players considered the White Weenie matchup done and dusted, and wouldn’t devote more attention to it. Meanwhile, the White Weenie decks were becoming tuned, and all of a sudden the matchup was 50% at best, or favorable to White Weenie.

Talking to Willy Edel himself, I started to entertain the idea of playing White Weenie. He had replaced the cheap creatures by hard-to-kill creatures, making it more like Big White. While he didn’t gave me a decklist, by watching his replays and talking to him I built a deck based on his principles the day before going to the Netherlands. I played the deck a lot while I was there. Basically, I was playing the role of a dummy because everyone wanted to test against White Weenie. I found the deck to be good, but I didn’t like it because I don’t make good decisions when playing beatdown decks like White Weenie. It’s much more complicated to play than Boros in Extended.

I find Control decks very easy to play. Against beatdown you just have to stay alive until your better cards win the game for you. Against control, if you playtest the relevant matchups, you’ll know your gameplan. But playing beatdown is very different. Beatdown versus beatdown has a lot more interactivity than Control versus Control. There are more combat phases, more removal spells, and more creature trades. When I play beatdown decks like White Weenie, I can’t play all-in. I never know when to attack with everything into bad trades just to get damage through, or when to over-commit to the table, or when to hold my gas back. It’s an art that you rarely acquire through playtesting. You need experience and intuition.

This is the list I had the day before Pro Tour: Yokohama

23 Plains
1 Flagstones of Trokair

4 Shade of Trokair
4 Knight of the Holy Nimbus
4 Soltari Priest
3 Benalish Cavalry
4 Serra Avenger
4 Calciderm
2 Stonecloaker
2 Duskrider Peregrine

3 Mana Tithe
4 Griffin Guide
2 Temporal Isolation

Possible sideboard cards:
Duskrider Peregrine
Opal Guardian
Pentarch Paladin
Cloudchaser Kestrel
Temporal Isolation
Sacred Mesa


  • It has a very good matchup against Green decks.
  • It can’t be color-screwed
  • It plays with 24 lands because of Calciderms and Sacred Mesa, so it reduces your chances of being mana-screwed, and it has late game use for the mana thanks to Shade of Trokair.
  • The suspend creatures feel like they have haste. They’ll probably hit once before your opponent can kill them.


  • It was possibly the most hated deck at the Pro Tour.
  • Of the endless mirror matches that I observed, I always guessed the winner by turn 3 or 4.

Green/Red Stormbind

There are many ways to build a Red/Green deck in Time Spiral Block, and I believe Paulo Carvalho exploited them all before settling on his G/R fatties with Lotus Bloom. Paulo decided to play G/R a long time before the Pro Tour, and my experience with Green/Red was mostly from talking to him or playing with / against his lists. I never felt comfortable with any. Many times I borrowed cards for G/R decks only to return them a couple of hours later. I don’t think I’ll ever play Green creature decks again in Constructed (decks like Mind’s Desire and Heartbeat don’t count). They need some form of acceleration in order to perform smoothly, so you need plenty of accelerants… but you can’t draw them late game, as they’re dead cards. You need the right draws every turn in order to win.

I still built a straightforward Green/Red dummy deck for testing purposes, that I later transformed into this version thanks to Frank Karsten’s advice.

4 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Fungal Reaches
7 Forest
6 Mountain
2 Island

4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Wall of Roots
3 Prismatic Lens
4 Harmonize
4 Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
4 Aeon Chronicler
3 Stormbind
3 Bogardan Hellkite
3 Akroma, Angel of Fury
3 Disintegrate
2 Radha, Heir to Keld

Possible sideboard cards:
Avalanche Riders
Sulfur Elemental
Dead / Gone
Serrated Arrows
Krosan Grip
Ancient Grudge
Call of the Herd


  • It’s full of powerful cards.
  • It can have amazing draws.
  • It’s good against Black control decks.


  • It’s inconsistent.
  • The mirror seems like the Magnivore mirror.
  • If it doesn’t have a mana accelerator, it seems like a defected deck from the start.


I had a Green/Red Wild Pair deck just splashing White for Whitemane Lion, but it couldn’t beat White Weenie even with a very specific sideboard of 4 Sulfur Elemental and 4 Aven Riftwatcher.

Frank tried a Wild Pair Slivers deck, but dismissed it after a while and I trusted him.

Julien Nuijten and Quentin Martin tried lots of different builds of Red Deck Wins – some straight Mono-Red, others splashing Blue. In the end, the verdict wasn’t favorable. Julien stayed in America the weeks before the Pro Tour, and most of his testing was done with the Cak. It’s no surprise that he acquired the idea that “Blue decks can’t beat a permanent.”

Our main flaw was failing to realize how good the Red Deck Wins actually was. We thought the White Weenie deck would be better than the Red one. Maybe our versions of Red Deck Wins were misbuilt.

Despite loving Lightning Angel, I stayed away from these three colors, since the Blink Riders deck had a shaky manabase. We only build a Blink Riders deck after settling on the decks we would play, to get a feeling of the matchup.

Our small gauntlet consisted of the decks I mentioned previously: White Weenie, Blue/Black Teferi control, Red/Black splash Blue, and Green deck variants. After eliminating Green decks because I felt they were too dependant on the accelerators, and eliminating White Weenie because I didn’t know how to play in some game situations, I was left with Blue/Black Teferi and Black/Red control splash Blue. Both were doing (roughly) equally fine against White Weenie, though the matchup was very draw dependant. Usually, the deck that had the better draw would win. Green decks were a bad matchup, but the Blue deck had a better chance at winning, while the Black/Red deck had little chance against Green/Red and almost none against Wild Pair. But the Red/Black had a better matchup against Blue decks (or Control decks) than the Blue/Black, and that was the key factor for us. We expected more Blue decks than Green ones, so that explains our choice.

A couple of days before we left for Japan, we settled on the Black/Red splash Blue deck that Rogier originally designed. I wasn’t very confident with the White Weenie matchup. I was losing a lot, and most of the losses Frank registered on the database came from my games. It was then that I realized that the results from this matchup could vary a lot if we were only analyzing a small sample of games. I decided to trust my playtesting partners, and even though I was losing a lot to White Weenie I choose to play it because I believed it had good matchups against the two decks I expected the most (Blue/Black and White Weenie). By “good,” I don’t mean “winning all the time,” but “winning more than losing.”

Join me next week where I’ll expand on the card choices made, as well as the round-by-round descriptions… using this information, we’ll try to figure out what went wrong.

Thank you for reading,