Do you want to know a secret?
Sure you do, and here’s mine: I think that Mirrodin is the best Magic set since Tempest. (Honestly, I’d say since Antiquities – but other writers have already said that, and I’d like to sound a little original.)
Take a look at those cards! This is power on a level that Onslaught block can’t comprehend. No ridiculously undercosted creatures, just amazing cards with kick-ass interactions.
As soon as I saw the first few leaked texts and images, I knew I wanted to write something. I had to get involved. Mirrodin amazes me. Now that I can finally know for sure what it is that I am looking at, I am more eager than ever to tear into the shrink-wrap of a few unopened packs and devour the new set.
But still – the prerelease isn’t until Saturday. I could do a set review. But I’m not a big fan of set reviews.
So I went ahead and built a few decks. Yeah, I’m looking way ahead all the way to Mirrodin-legal Standard… If Miss Cleo can do it, so can I.
But before I can build a rogue deck to beat a metagame, I have to predict what I think that metagame will be. Astral Slide decks, Goblin decks, and R/G LD are all amazing once Odyssey rotates out. Patriarch’s Bidding-based decks (Beast, Legends, Goblins, or Zombies) lose almost nothing to the rotation.
So I’ve established a metagame based on Onslaught Block, plus R/G LD – which has all the tools necessary to beat the quick Goblin decks, and comes equipped with Shatter, Demolish, Naturalize, and Creeping Mold to smash up those artifact based decks. WW will be good again. Equipment is made to help the weenie players.
Really, there is a wide-open metagame. Wake cannot dominate because it doesn’t exist, but Goblin Bidding won’t rule the day, either. So most of the Tier One decks from 8th Edition Standard will still be intact, but there is definitely room for creativity.
That means I get to have a heyday. I built two decks and began testing – after a little under three weeks, here are the lists I’ve ended up with, and a little bit of information about each.
Before I get to the decks, I want to explain how I made them. First, I wanted to appeal both to The Ferrett and to the audience; that means I had to be topical. By using Mirrodin before any one else, it gives me a head start when it comes to aesthetic appeal. Each of these decks is fully-functional, and both have been extensively playtested.
To build the blue deck I started with the idea that free creatures + Day of the Dragons = good. Seeing ineffective Ornithopters turn into 5/5 monstrosities as early as turn 4 is very impressive. For the rest of the deck I decided to base card-for-card selections on interactions and overall power in the deck.
For the black deck, I wanted to use Grim Reminder – but I realized very early that without any concrete knowledge of the metagame, a Grim Reminder deck is extremely difficult to build. So I incorporated the Grim Reminder possibility, but allowed the deck to grow around it.
Here is where I started with the blue deck:
Day of the Dragons:
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Temple of the False God
4 Chrome Mox
2 Extraplanar Lens
4 Silver Myr
3 Decree of Silence
4 Mana Leak
3 Icy Manipulator
3 Isochron Scepter
3 Day of the Dragons
I really don’t think I should have to say this but: Flash Counter stops opposing counterspells, Naturalize, Shatter, Dark Banishing, Terror, Unsummon, Boomerang, Chastise, Wing Shards… Yes, it’s weird – but trust me, it works. It started in the sideboard, but was actually one of the first cards to move to the main.
Any way, as excited as I am about Mirrodin looking at this deck asked me one thing:”How fast do you want to get into topdeck mode?”
The truth is, with this deck my hand is empty on turn 4. I needed some card drawing, especially if I wanted to compete with the big decks like R/W Control and Goblins. Goblins especially can overtax my resources.
Early results with this deck indicated that it had the ability to win against the decks I wasn’t really concerned about. Mono-black decks lose to this build, and I could post better than average results against X-Bidding (Goblin, Beast, or Zombie).
There was more needed, as control decks were able to wreck my day, especially when they had more or better counterspells. After three or four minor tweaks, I ended up with the following:
4 Seat of the Synod
2 Temple of the False God
4 Chrome Mox
2 Extraplanar Lens
4 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Silver Myr
4 Flash Counter
3 Icy Manipulator
2 Isochron Scepter
2 Day of the Dragons
Before I get to playtesting results, check out this scenario, you are going second:
- Turn 1, Island, Mox (imprinting Boomerang), cast Silver Myr. (4 Cards left in hand)
- Turn 2: Island, cast Silver Myr, cast Extraplanar Lens (imprinting Island) (1 card in hand)
- Turn 3: Island, cast Thoughtcast, cast Ornithopter (1 card in hand)
- Turn 4: Cast Ornithopter, then tap two islands for four mana, the two Silver Myrs for two mana, and a Mox for a mana: Cast Day of the Dragons. BAM!!!
- Turn 5: Attack for twenty flying damage.
Is that the perfect hand? Well, yes. But there are other situations that can arise and the deck stays consistently powerful.
If you want to talk card interactions, Isochron Scepter + Boomerang is broken. I wanted to put in four Scepters, but I have no room in this build. Isochron Scepter + Flash Counter means you probably won’t have to deal with Instants again.
The new Mox blows my mind. What kind of crack were they smoking? Solemn Simulacrum is underappreciated. Mana acceleration in blue? What more do I want?
A combo deck without Tutors is always dangerous; in fact, some would call it worthless. With two Day of the Dragons in the deck and almost no chance of winning without them, why would anyone play this deck?
The answer is, they might not. I didn’t build the deck to inspire a mad rush to buy these cards at the Mirrodin prerelease. I built it because I love the set, and I love making blue do things that it hasn’t done since any one started playing in tournaments.
On to the numbers: In my hypothetical new metagame, the deck is okay.
To be positive: None of the games I played ever ended without me finding a use for Flash Counter. That is actually a bigger boast than saying I can win 65% against a field that hasn’t even been determined yet.
Against R/W Control:
2 out of 6 Matches
7 out of 15 games.
I want to focus on the game winning percentages, because half of the matches went to three games. 47% against one of the best decks in the new Standard is strong, given that my sideboard was not really designed to beat up on any version of Lightning Rift and/or Astral Slide control. But it ended up working fine.
Key cards in this matchup:
It’s all about speed. How fast can you combo, and how likely are you to protect the enchantment or the creatures? Flash Counter is an answer to most of the enchantment removal (namely, Wipe Clean) that you’ll face, but you still have to deal with Wrath of God effects. Once the new Day has dawned, all you need is one turn – and the trick is buying yourself that turn. To this end, Decree of Silence is MVP. Isochron Scepter + Boomerang = multiple Decree of Silence, so don’t be afraid to slap one down as early as possible. Silver Knight gets real annoying, real fast. He kills all of the creatures pre-Day, and it isn’t until turn 4 (Icy Manipulator) that you’ll have a real answer game 1. People said that Icy would not make an impact in the way that it used to… But in all honesty, it has worked fantastic for me.
3 out of 6 matches
6 out of 15 games
Again, it is important to look at game percentages, as at first glance, I can claim a 50% chance against Goblins, which is misleading.
Foremost: I never won a game 1. The Goblin deck just goes too fast. Keep in mind that this is against mono-red or mono-red splashing Smother. I can’t deal with the onslaught, even though I tried to build the deck to handle it.
Post-sideboarding though, Remove Soul usually catches Goblin Warchief or Goblin Piledriver or Siege-Gang Commander, or just about everything else – nearly their entire deck is creatures! This is the match-up where Remove Soul really shines. I board in Stifles to stop Gempalm Incinerator from killing all my pre-Day creatures, and Evacuation allows me to reset the board. It is still important to combo as soon as possible – but now you are looking at turn 6 or 7 rather than turn 4 or 5. If you have Boomerang on the Isochron, focus mainly on denying the land. I found out early on that by keeping them at three or four lands, you really slow them down after you cast Evacuation. (As long as you counter Warchief…)
Against U/W Control
4 out of 6 Matches
10 out of 17 games.
U/W Control does not like to see Flash Counter and Stifle. Infinite Boomerangs tend to slow an already-slow deck down to a grinding halt. Non-Onslaught Block U/W Control has been very slow to garner a following, and so I didn’t put too much effort (sorry) into building the UW deck. The sub-par version I used (since I couldn’t find a good version) may not reflect the actual matchup, because combo decks usually do not like to see excessive counterspells. Wing Shards is hugely damaging in this match-up – even more so than in R/W Control, because so often the Wing Shards will be enormous with Storm.
4 out of 6 Matches
9 out of 16 games.
The Goblin-Bidding deck I tested against played three Patriarch’s Biddings, four Shocks, and only one Gempalm Incinerator. With fewer creatures to worry about and Decree of Silence to stop Bidding, this matchup swung in my favor. The games were still very close, and misplays on either side can lead to entirely different results than expected. Specific cards: Icy Manipulator stops Piledriver madness. Isochron Scepter + Boomerang can bounce Goblin Warchief after a big Bidding – but remember that Goblin Sharpshooter can Fireball you in response, so be careful.
Against the rest of the field: Between average, and sub-average with this specific build. Given enough time, and with enough iterations of the sideboard, I can beat nearly every deck I could imagine. Therein lies a problem I’ve foreseen with Mirrodin Standard: There are going to be a lot of decks. Gone are the days of Psychatog or U/G’s dominance. The metagames have changed forever with the way R&D is balancing things right now. Onslaught tradition of”sometimes you just lose” is going to continue. I’ve yet to determine if that is a good thing or not.
For my next trick – to paraphrase the Ferrett, every format wants a Mono-Black deck. Well, this isn’t mono-black control. It’s more combo. And I love combo. So why shouldn’t you love combo?
This deck didn’t really change. The hardest thing for a Grim Reminder deck to do is predict what cards are going to be played, and then to have those cards in the maindeck. To this end, I built the deck so that it can win without ever using a Grim Reminder – although with so many artifacts being staples, its hard to imagine not finding a single good use of the 2B instant.
4 Grim Reminder
2 Promise of Power
4 Consume Spirit
4 Dark Banishing
1 Astral Slide
1 Creeping Mold
3 Bottle Gnomes
3 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Reiver Demon
1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
3 Extraplanar Lens
4 Chrome Mox
4 Barren Moor
Okay, so it isn’t really combo… Not yet. Grim Reminder is staring at you and begging you to break it. One of the neatest interactions is with Mindslaver. You could theoretically kill your opponent by using Grim Reminder on all the spells your opponent plays while you have control of their turn. That is why Mindslaver is in the sideboard. You need to know what spells your opponent will be playing. Four Mindslaver or so + Eleven of the most commonly played cards in the format are what compose my sideboard. The maindeck one-of’s – Akroma, Clickslither, Astral Slide, and Creeping Mold – are all maindeck cards that I predict in the new Type 2 metagame. Keep in mind, too, that people will be playing with Solemn Simulacrum (even if no one is really giving it its due”props” yet) and Bottle Gnomes. Chrome Mox will be a staple, and Extraplanar Lens will be in most decks. Even if you don’t have exactly the right cards to do the six life per fancy kill, you will probably have enough to do some damage, and the Reiver Demon or Consume Spirit will pick up the slack.
Against R/W Control
4 out of 6 matches
10 out of 14 games.
As I type that in here, I am very nervous about releasing that statistic. It doesn’t seem right to me, but it is the result I got. But uh, even Akroma dies to Reiver Demon… So if they drop any sort of huge creature, I am usually able to follow with the Demon, and beat down until Consume Spirit is enough to finish it. Although the eight creature destruction spells can sometimes be superfluous, they find all of their targets against Silver Knight and Eternal Dragon. Promise of Power refills your hand or it gives you another huge creature – or, uh, both.
When R/W Control busts out Decree of Annihilation, it can be time to cry. It all depends on how good you topdeck at that point.
3 out of 6 matches
7 out of 15 games. I never missed getting a Grim Reminder against Clickslither, and the six extra damage was enough to win most games. If you can get to the fifth or sixth turn, Reiver Demon is a monster against a creature deck. Terror, and Dark Banishing deal with particularly violent threats, and Consume Spirit can get your life back while doubling as either removal or finisher. Bottle Gnomes is a MVP against Goblins or any kind of burn.
I really expected these numbers to be more in my favor – but it wasn’t to be, I guess. I’m going to take the 50% win statistic here, and leave the 47% behind. (I know – I’m manipulating the numbers, damn it all!)
Against U/W Control
1 out of 6 matches
7 out of 17 games.
This matchup is so frustrating it makes me scream. I can – and should be – able to win. After boarding in cards like Discombobulate, Akroma’s Vengeance, Mana Leak, or Stifle, Grim Reminder should be enough to win on its own… But I just couldn’t do it.
I’d like to point out this is against a sub-par U/W Control, which makes me very skeptical about mono-black’s chances against real U/W Control. I’m going to move on, but say mostly that Akroma is very hard to deal with when they counter Reiver Demon.
2 out of 6 matches
5 out of 14 games.
This I understand. If I cast Reiver Demon, they follow it with Bidding. If I try and Terror a Warchief, they combo in response. If I try and Terror Sharpshooter after trying to Terror Warchief, they sacrifice something and still combo in response. I have a Bidding of my own in the sideboard, plus a few more Goblins and Mindslaver, if I can combo myself to a Grim Reminder victory, it is very satisfying, and particularly fun.
Note on using Mindslaver: Always use it at the end of turn. I suppose this is self-explanatory, but, I forgot it once and it cost me a match.
Against the rest of the field: good to very good. It all depends if you can predict the metagame correctly. Which I’ve already mentioned will be hard. But if you can, Grim Reminder moves from being on the back burner of a sub-par mono-black deck, to being right on the forefront of a prominent combo machine. This is one reason why I built this deck, but I knew I would have to wait to see it work properly. Until someone can tell me exactly what is going to be at a neo-Standard tournament, I’m going to be barking up a tree with my eyes closed (or something like that).
While these decks will probably not end up being Tier One staples of the new environment, that was never my goal. The Mirrodin cards are fun, creative, and useful. And I wanted to build decks to reflect the very different natures of the Mirrodin cards. The amazing thing is, even after I first designed those decks, I had a thousand ideas left. For example, Turn 1 Forest, Birds of Paradise. Turn 2, Forest, Cathodion. Turn 3, Forest, Attack with Cathodion, Opponent at 17. Deconstruct Cathodion. Tap other forest, with seven mana cast Plated Slagwurm, Clockwork Dragon, Platinum Angel – or take a mana burn and cast Silvos, Rogue Elemental, I don’t care what you do, ‘cuz you just made seven mana on turn 3 in Standard.
I can’t believe the interactions, the speed, and the potential combos that are out there right now. A green/red deck can go like this when playing first: Forest, Bird, go. Mountain, Cathodion, go. Forest, Deconstruct Cathodion. 3GGG in pool. Tap Mountain. 3GGGR. Cast Seething Song. 1RRRRRGG in pool. You didn’t have a turn 2 creature?
Oh…well…Biorhythm sucks for you, doesn’t it?
I just built a Biorhythm deck that can win on turn 3. And I did it in one paragraph. It’s totally possible. Counterspells for two mana? Oh wait. Yeah. Mana Leak. So I have to wait one more turn before I can combo off. Darn.
Could this set be better? Yes. They could have reprinted the Power Nine.
To give my take on the set (the closest to a full review I’ll ever do) Mirrodin represents the best of Magic R&D. The set is well constructed, viable, lively, and exciting. New players and old are going to love the Standard format, and Type 1, Limited, and Extended are all going to be fantastic. The rares I don’t want to open? The Towers. Except in Limited. I won’t mind opening the Artifact-flavored Invokers in Limited.
By the way: Yes, I did build a Biorhythm deck. I wasn’t going to share it; I wanted to do a full article on it, that’s how excited it gets me. But, here is a preview.
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Plated Slagwurm
2 Rorix Bladewing
4 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Chrome Mox
4 Seething Song
2 Creeping Mold
4 Pyrite Spellbomb
4 Wooded Foothills
Hopefully I’ll be able to bring you the Biorhythm deck in all its turn 3 greatness (and believe me, it is consistent as hell, and nearly as hot) next week. Until then, kick back and enjoy the prerelease.
Formerly known as Stormskull,
Now known as that guy who used to be Stormskull