Mixed kNuts: Silicon Valley

So basically, the fieldbreaks down to two clear tier 1 decks, four challengers to the title, and sundry decks that you really want to see your opponent playing. If your rogue deck can’t deal with all the builds of U/G and MBC, then you may as well put it away, because it will end up being a very long day for you at the local qualifier. So what does the field have to offer?

I’m a techie at heart, but sometimes the Internet causes problems. I had these big plans last week to bust out all my tech just before Worlds came about and see what happens. Tragedy struck, however, when I realized that all the Worlds decks would be posted on Friday morning, and anything I had to say would be muted by the bounty of goodies offered up from your favorite pros. So I held off a week, and work blew up, and I delayed, and Ferrett kicked me in the head for not having written the article I promised him two weeks ago and…

Well, here it is. Read, learn, and enjoy. If not that, write your own damned OBC articles responding to this, because it’s a little quiet out there right now.

I have a love/hate relationship with Block Constructed season. Like any constructed format, I like the deckbuilding, the shifting sands of the metagame, and how the format always rewards the clever, frugal deckbuilders. What I don’t like, however, is that this year the best decks seem to be pre-built (oh yeah, and the fact that I lose during Block Constructed season. To kids with bad decks no less. A lot. But I digress…) At least that was what I thought until I saw what happened last week at Worlds and at my local PTQ. Now I think of the format as a bit less predefined, but it’s certainly quite stable and despite of the fact that there is still another month of qualifying, I don’t see anything new coming on the horizon. That said, let’s take a look at what’s gone down over the first few weeks of OBC season and examine what might be out there, still left to be discovered.

The defining two decks of Odyssey Block are U/G (in its various forms) and Mono-Black (typically the control version.) The secondary decks that round out the format are W/G, U/B Zombie InfestationUpheaval, White Weenie, and U/B Braids. Decks currently sucking hind teat that you still might see at a tourney are Mono-Black creatures (Defiler.dec and the like), R/G, U/W/G Mirari’s Wake, and Solitary Confinement. So basically, it breaks down to two clear tier 1 decks, four challengers to the title, and sundry decks that you really want to see your opponent playing because your random”I Win” factor increases due to their poor deck choice. If your rogue deck can’t deal with all the builds of U/G and MBC, then you may as well put it away, because it will end up being a very long day for you at the local Qualifier.

Mono-Black control is an absolute house. Unlike the Corrupter deck from Type 2, MBC only has one true win condition (Haunting Echoes doesn’t quite count,) comprised of four cards. Here’s the Colony Black deck that was piloted to a 5-1 record by Brian Kibler at Worlds:

4 Cabal Coffers

22 Swamp

26 land

1 Faceless Butcher

3 Nantuko Shade

4 creatures

4 Chainer’s Edict

4 Diabolic Tutor

1 Haunting Echoes

4 Innocent Blood

2 Mind Sludge

2 Mirari

4 Mutilate

4 Rancid Earth

1 Skeletal Scrying

4 Tainted Pact

30 other spells

4 Braids, Cabal Minion

3 Faceless Butcher

1 Haunting Echoes

4 Mesmeric Fiend

1 Morbid Hunger

1 Nantuko Shade

1 Skeletal Scrying

15 sideboard cards

This deck typically wants to clear the board of all creature threats while laying a land every turn, and then crushing its opponent with a huge Nantuko Shade when the time is right. It packs twelve maindeck creature kill cards (sixteen with the flashback from Chainer’s Edict) and sports two Mirari in the main to fork the necessary Tutors, Innocent Bloods, etc. I watched this deck roll through nine straight U/G decks this past weekend on the way to qualifying Lawrence”The Creature” (which is probably an accurate description of the twelve-year-old harelip he was sporting) Creech this past weekend. Creech’s justification for playing the deck was”Kibler has won me money in the past, so I figured he could do it again,” which is exactly what happened as Creech split some prizes with Jason Jennings for the top slot and finds himself with an invite to head down to Houston.

MBC has some minor issues in that all of its important removal spells are sorceries that can be countered by Envelop. This also means that the deck gets crushed by hasted creatures – but R/G has such a bad matchup against U/G that nobody is playing it. In the mirror match, if you have a Shade in the graveyard that gets removed with a Haunting Echoes, your day is basically done. Last but not least, MBC is subject to some of the same bad draws against U/G that everyone else is, but they have tools to draw out of it (Tainted Pact and Diabolical Tutors).

However, in spite of the mild downside to the deck, it has huge upside potential. It’s a five-tool deck, with power, a great arm, good footwork, and it gets on base a high percentage of the time, kind of like I did back when I was dating in college.

Going back to OBC, however… MBC does have a lot of power, and a variety of tools to exploit against its various matchups, and it has one large additional bonus: The Mono-Black player isn’t going to have any games where they are sitting there with a handful of Green cards and nothing but Islands on the table (except the occasional Cabal Coffers screw), so chalk up mana consistency in their favor. If an MBC deck makes it to the late game (which they do with surprising regularity), then they have a very high probability of winning… Unless they happen to get Upheavaled out, but I’ll get to that later.

Moving on, the second major archetype of OBC is the U/G deck. U/G has three major builds that form a triangle of Madness, Threshold, and Quiet Roar. The Quiet Roar deck has largely fallen out of favor in recent weeks, but Kai Budde piloted one at Worlds, so the deck can’t be assumed to be that bad (even though he was playing people out of Top 16 contention for the course of the day). The Madness and Threshold variants, however, could be seen in full force on Day 3 of Worlds, where three U/G Madness, Dave”The Hump” Humphries U/G Threshold deck, and even a Quiet Roar deck finished the day undefeated (along with two Mono-Blacks, a W/G Madness deck, and Team Punisher’s White Weenie deck). Ignoring the fact that some of these competitors were playing lower level competition, the data seems to indicate that in spite of most players in the environment knowing what the two best decks were going to be before the tournament, they couldn’t find ways to stop five U/G decks from going undefeated.

If you need further evidence of U/G’s power, take a gander at this page. Ignoring the decks there with a small n, you can see that the only decks to finish with a greater than 50% win ratio were UZI (I’ll chat about that deck in a bit), U/G Madness and U/G Threshold. If you toss out draws (and small n decks again), you get six decks that ran better than 50% against the field – four of which were U/G and two of which were U/B.

Hmm… I think I see a pattern here, but not quite what I was expecting. Instead of the two top decks being U/G and Mono-Black, it looks like the two top decks are U/G and U/B. So from PT Osaka to Worlds the balance of power shifted to include U/B and leave MBC lagging a little behind. My next question may be obvious, but it has to be asked… What changed?

Looking back at Osaka, it’s possible that very little actually changed. There were 2 U/B decks in the Top 8 there as well; it’s just that they didn’t get as much publicity. One deck was Nicolas Olivieri’s U/B Braids + beatdown deck (two of these decks made Day 2 at Osaka), and the other is Osyp Lebedowicz old-style U/B Psychatog deck (eleven Tog decks made Day 2 at Osaka). The U/B Braids deck piloted by John Larkin to a 4-1-1 record at Worlds is a relatively direct descendant of Olivieri’s deck, while the UZI decks piloted mostly by the Japanese seem to be pretty original. They take all of Mono-Black’s creature kill, combine that with a bunch of counterspells, Standstills for card drawing, and the combination pieces to make a deck that beats up on the field. In an environment dominated by massive creature kill from MBC and extremely fast and potent beats from U/G, the UZI deck answers by handling U/G with the same creature kill as MBC, while employing everyone’s least favorite reset button in Upheaval to clear the way for the instant-speed beatings delivered by massive amounts of Zombies. Having no creatures means Mono-Black has twelve dead cards against them, so the only cards they need to worry about dealing with in that matchup are Shades, Mind Sludge, and Haunting Echoes.

Alright, so you’ve got U/G, MBC, and UZI in the bag – what else is there? Well Team Punisher’s deck from Worlds is probably my favorite OBC deck of the lot. For the last few weeks, I’ve been preaching the glory (pun intended) of White Weenie to my playtesting group, stating that creatures are what wins matches in OBC, and WW has the best anti-creature creatures around in Beloved Chaplain and Commander Eesha. Unfortunately, I was still on a bit of a bird bent at the time, and hadn’t come around to using Tireless Tribes, Patrol Hounds, and Glory, though I was definitely running Divine Sacraments instead of Aeries in the main. Here’s my pre-Worlds deck:

Beat My Pecker (always have to have a good name 🙂

7 Island

12 Plains

4 Skycloud Expanse

4 Battle Screech

4 Divine Sacrament

3 Envelop

3 Deep Analysis

2 Keep Watch

3 Spurnmage Advocate

4 Suntail Hawk

4 Benevolent Bodyguard

2 Mystic Familiar

4 Beloved Chaplain

2 Commander Eesha

2 Lt. Kirtar


1 Envelop

3 Aether Burst

2 Skywing Aven

2 Divert

3 Morningtide

2 Frantic Purification

2 Soulcatcher’s Aerie

Basically what it was doing was drawing cards, laying kids, and not dying to U/G. To me, that seemed okay… But somewhere along the way I lost faith and decided to choose the problem as opposed to the solution and play U/G instead. This was a mistake, but I’ll live through it and hopefully learn for next time.

Now the Walamies deck (he’s part of Team Punisher) goes a step further on the”Birds are weak” theme and just removes most of them. His was built like this:

Team Punisher’s White Weenies (they were mostly Finns after all)

6 Island

13 Plains

4 Skycloud Expanse

23 land

20 creatures

4 Beloved Chaplain

3 Glory

3 Patrol Hound

4 Spurnmage Advocate

2 Suntail Hawk

4 Tireless Tribe

17 other spells

4 Battle Screech

2 Deep Analysis

4 Divine Sacrament

2 Envelop

1 Prismatic Strands

4 Quiet Speculation

15 sideboard cards

1 Commander Eesha

2 Deep Analysis

2 Envelop

1 Frantic Purification

2 Kirtar’s Desire

2 Prismatic Strands

1 Ray of Distortion

2 Sphere of Truth

2 Stern Judge

Hello, synergy; thy name is Blue-White Weenie. This build is clearly superior to what I was working on, as it allows you to have better creatures, an”I Win” condition (Glory), and loads of beats while continuing to capitalize on the”I won’t lose to U/G” theme with maindeck Tireless Tribes, Beloved Chappies, and Prismatic Strands. Served fresh and piping hot, this version looks exactly like what I was trying to do with the deck.

Unfortunately, as already noted, I got cold feet and decided to play a U/G deck. The trials and tribulations of said deck will be covered in my tournament report.

At this point, I’ve covered what I believe are the top decks in OBC. They are (in descending order) UZI, U/G Madness, U/G Threshold, U/B Braids, and Mono-Black Control, with White Weenie thrown in somewhere along the way. If you aren’t playing one of these decks (and I assume that most of you are), then you need to be playing something that can at least beat U/G and MBC. If it doesn’t do that, then you shouldn’t be playing it; the rule can’t be made any simpler than that.

Now that you know what the top decks are (and this isn’t just my opinion here; like any good geek, I’ve provided you the numbers to back these things up), perhaps it’s time to break out the technology and figure out how to beat them. Due to time constraints, I’m only going to list the top three decks to beat (MBC, U/G, and UZI) and then list cards that help you shut them down. Once you know what deck you are playing, you can then pick the cards that you think will help your matchups, toss em in your sideboard, and add salt to taste.

Mono-Black Control

Envelop is the first obvious choice here. Shutting down a Mutilate can often be a game win if you have a couple of beefy kids on the board, so anyone with access to Blue should be playing it. It helps that all of their power cards (yep, every one of them) are sorceries, so Envelop is rarely a dead card. Staying with the color Blue, Lost in Thought is a decent way to buy some time against their shades, and Stupefying Touch makes sure that they stay Crypt Creeper-sized. Upheaval against Mono-Black generally means game loss for them as well, so having a conversion sideboard for your U/B Braids deck that makes it into U/B UZI sounds like a better strategy than I originally thought it would be.

Standstill is also problematic for MBC, since they have to break it to kill your kids, and breaking the Standstill gives you three more chances to draw into their death. I also happen to like Divert, particularly against the more teched-out U/B matchup. Divert lets you force your opponent to drop his hand, or blow up their own land, or Chainer’s Edict/Haunting Echoes themselves. It basically sucks in the late game when everybody has mana to burn, but it can be a backbreaker in the first 6-7 turns of a game and will completely change your opponent’s strategy. Last but not least is my favorite piece of tech against mono-Black: Skywing Aven. He was a lot better when I had multiple Aeries on the board so that he came back as a 6/5 Bird every time – but if you are looking for a way around their removal, the Blinking Aven isn’t all that bad.

Moving on to White, you have a few spiffy removal cards that can shut down their four (!) win conditions including Kirtar’s Desire, Second Thoughts, and Chastise. Stern Judge can be a real pain for MBC… If he ever lives long enough to tap. I haven’t seen it happen yet in a match, but you never know.

Green gets a couple of nifty tools as well, but the two biggest ones are Phantom Centaur and Elephant Guide. The Centaur is”The Man” against all the Black creatures – but he still gets removed by Blood, Edict, and Mutilate so he’s not as amazing as one could hope. However, once you drop an Elephant Guide on him (or on an Arrogant Wurm), things start to get interesting. Edict and Blood suddenly just net your opponent a smaller creature, and Mutilate has an extra three swamps that need to be in play before it can take your creatures out. Nantuko Blightcutter used to be a backup plan… But he got laid off a little before WorldCom went in the crapper and doesn’t look likely to be recalled. Moment’s Peace will buy you two extra turns of Shade beatings while you sit there praying you can draw some more cards that help you.


Blue gives you Envelop again, which is quite solid against the Quiet Roar versions of this deck, but against Threshold and Madness it’ll just sit in your hand and shrug at you with a dumb look on its face (though countering Careful Study can be useful). Aether Burst is a bit more consistent, as it makes Elephant Guide a weak play and gets rid of 6/6 Wurm tokens. All it does against Arrogant Wurms, though, is annoy them, and it has the side effect of making their Aether Bursts better. Treetop Sentinel doesn’t completely suck – but if he isn’t pumped up by Soulcatcher’s Aeries, all he’s going to be is defense that can’t stand in front of Wild Mongrels.

Black gets very little against this matchup, but it doesn’t need much help either. MBC cares a lot more about whether there are creatures on the board, not about whether or not they fly, so removing Wonder from the graveyard isn’t a priority. However, Coffin Purge can make sure Roars in the grumper never turn into Wurm tokens, so that strategy has some merit against Quiet Roar decks. Haunting Echoes is a bomb against the Threshold decks, as it makes sure that their kids stay small and stands a good chance of removing a lot of their power cards from the game.

If creatures are more your style, Black provides you with Slithery Stalkers and Faceless Butchers to gobble up the various and sundry critters that can get thrown your way. Just be careful not to cast a Mutilate and watch all of them come back to smack you upside the head.

As has already been discussed, White has a lot of weapons against U/G at its disposal, including Spurnmage Advocate, Glory, Morningtide, Commander Eesha, Beloved Chappies, Prismatic Strands, and Kirtar’s Desire. You also gain access to the various Spheres, but lowering the damage done by each creature by two will only buy you so much time against a good U/G deck. The truth is that if you are playing WW, you should have a good shot at beating them with your maindeck, and their sideboard won’t hurt you that much, either – so stop yer whining and just win, baby.

Last but not least, for the abominable mirror match, Green offers up Krosan Reclamation and Moment’s Peace. If you really want to reach, you might also say that Seedtime could be playable, provided that you catch your opponent casting an Aether Burst or Circular Logic at exactly the right time. Having played through four rounds of mirrors last Saturday and numerous rounds of testing, I can tell you that most U/G matchups seem to be won by one of three things… Wonder-screw (compounded by Reclamations), a surprise Moment’s Peace, or mana-screw. Sometimes Block giveth, and sometimes it taketh away.

UpheavalZombie Infestation

Alright, let’s make this clear… This is a combo deck. As such, there are two spells that really matter in the deck and the rest is just protection, card drawing, or things that help them crush you (Haunting Echoes, Cabal Therapy). Unfortunately for you, Combo decks are most often shut down by? That’s right class, counterspells (with discard a secondary option). How many playable counterspells exist in the environment? That’s right, three – Circular Logic, Envelop, and Syncopate. Luckily for you, all three of them counter Upheaval and two of them even counter Zombie Infestation. Whether or not you can spare the sideboard space to use them all is another question.

I really think that if you are prepared for the UZI deck, you can beat it… But the question you have to ask yourself, punk, is, did he fire five bullets or six?

Or maybe it was more like,”just how many sideboard slots can you take away from the U/G and MBC matchups to make your deck better against the UZI?”

There aren’t any silver bullets (and Dirty Harry didn’t use ’em, right?) for this matchup, but anybody running Blue can toss in Envelops and Circular Logics to counter the important spells. They might also run Divert for the same reasons as you would against Mono-Black, but with the added benefit of snagging a Deep Analysis from time to time and maybe making them use an Aether Burst against a target of your choosing instead of theirs.

For those running Black, allow me to suggest Mesmeric Fiends, Mind Sludge, and Cabal Therapy, to be followed up by liberal doses of Haunting Echoes. If they can’t keep counters or the combo pieces in their hand and they have to remove them from the game after you cast Echoes on them, it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) you will stand a much better chance of winning.

Those running White can access Disenchant-like spells to get rid of Infestation – but if you do it after the combo goes off, there is little hope of survival.

For the Green mage, I can’t see much that will help you either, as your only hope (outside of crushing them with creatures, which is what Green does best) is probably to get a Spellbane Centaur on the board with a couple of other kids while hoping they don’t draw a Mutilate. Not a particularly sound strategy, if you ask me – but I went 4-3 last weekend, so you may know things that I don’t.

Now you’ll notice one thing special about the lists above, and that is that they don’t include any plans for Red. I don’t have anything against the color Red; in fact I like it a great deal, both in draft and in Type 2. But the fact of the matter is, Red doesn’t belong in Odyssey Block. This is the Block where they produced four playable colors. The kind gents at R&D didn’t even provide you with the ability to splash for Red either, so it gets left by the wayside while all the winning is done by U/G, U/B, and MBC. That said, I’ll show you a deck that I might be playing, if it ever won more than 40% of its matches against U/G and G/W.

How to Eat Fried Wurms

9 Forest

9 Mountain

4 Mossfire Valley

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Patchwork Gnomes

3 Anger

3 Arrogant Wurm

2 Grim Lavamancer

4 Reckless Charge

2 Fiery Temper

4 Firebolt

3 Call of the Herd

3 Roar of the Wurm

2 Violent Eruption


2 Violence Eruption

3 Krosan Reclamation

4 Moment’s Peace

2 Bearscape

4 Something useful

Tragically, after one long and frustrating evening of testing against decks with 6/6 Wurms in them, I gave up on it. It will flat-out crush black decks that rely on sorcery-speed removal though, and it beats on White Weenie like it’s the redheaded stepchild of the block. If you have the juevos to think you won’t face any U/G or W/G decks, give it a spin and tell me how you do.

Since I’m under a time crunch, I’ll have to call it an end for now. I’ll be back soon with a tournament report from the PTQ in High Point, NC I attended last weekend and random other observations about Odyssey Block that I didn’t include here.

Best of luck,

The Holy Kanoot

[email protected]