New Phyrexian Updates To Caw-Blade

Thursday, April 28 – New Phyrexia will have a huge impact on Caw-Blade, both detrimental and beneficial. Brad Nelson discusses the cards that will both plague and boost the reigning deck of Standard.

Last week, New Phyrexia was spoiled in its entirety, and now everyone is trying to come up with new strategies to break open a wide variety of formats.
Participants in the last Pro Tour only had a few weeks with the latest cards to figure out the best strategies—now they have almost two months. Pro
Tour Qualifier and StarCityGames.com Open players also have a month to find out what they should play once the format shifts.

The biggest question on people’s minds is: Will Caw-Blade maintain the throne? Will seven out of eight slots of every Top 8 be reserved for this deck
in the future?

In this article, I’ll discuss both new cards and cards that have to be reevaluated because of New Phyrexia.

Deceiver Exarch

This card has the most potential in the new set to shake things up a bit. It’s part of a combo that we’re all too familiar with: Splinter Twin and any
creature that untaps another creature upon entering the battlefield will create an infinite number of creatures to swing in for an infinite amount of

The combo can kill on turn 4(!) and takes up very few deck slots.

In any format, I like to keep track of when most of the important spells are being cast and when crucial events happen. In Standard, it’s always around
turn 4.

Primeval Titan, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Bloodbraid Elf, Sovereigns of Lost Alara, Cryptic Command, Mistbind Clique, Garruk Wildspeaker, equipping a
Sword to a Stoneforge Mystic and swinging. Wizards of the Coast loves having turn 4 be the important turn in Magic—as it has been for the last couple
years. I don’t fully understand why, but I have a fair guess. If cards were faster than they are now, formats could get out of control. Aggro decks
kill by turn 4 but only at the loss of consistency and resilience, which is the sacrifice a player must make to try to get under the rest of the decks.

Planeswalkers have to land early enough to not only deal with early creature rushes but also to punish people trying to control the game. This is why
dedicated control decks don’t exist anymore—planeswalkers are really good at disrupting their plan. If a planeswalker enters the battlefield, the
control deck will slowly lose to it all by itself.

There are exceptions to the rule—manlands, for instance, help fight planeswalkers—but in general this is the basic reasoning. Manlands will be rotating
soon, and this rule will probably apply even more then.

Magic is currently all about being proactive. Even when being reactive, a player must know exactly when to turn the match on its heel. Caw-Blade is the
aggressor in its matchup against Naya Shaman. This is a very strange time in Magic. This effect is even more pronounced with Valakut in the format.
Valakut puts a big time crunch of most decks, as you have to either kill them before they untap for turn 5 or control them from the beginning of the
game. You must play either a super-aggressive deck or a controlling blue deck to do this.

Deceiver Exarch helps break the rule of the current format. It allows a turn-four combo kill to exist, which has not been the case for a while in
Standard. Best of all, Exarch is safe from Lightning Bolt. Thus, Valakut has to find other answers to beat this strategy and thus will become weaker or
just lose to the combo.

Nature’s Claim is one such answer but dilutes the Valakut deck, weakening its combo. The Splinter Twin deck, on the other hand, requires few dedicated
slots to the combo and can use a good selection of spells to help disrupt Valakut.

Valakut’s current hold on the format should be lifted, and new decks should become viable by either wielding the Splinter Twin combo or by preying on

Caw-Blade will also have to evolve. Caw-Blade’s removal package is not prepared to deal with this combo either, and it can no longer tap out as it used
to. Deceiver Exarch also blocks a Stoneforge all day long.

I think that Deceiver Exarch will create room for a few more aggressive decks, making the format more diverse than it has been for months. Caw-Blade
will either have to use black to be able to kill the new threat or play…


The “free mana” cycle of cards are really interesting. They probably won’t be after we get to play with them, but for now, it’s interesting to sit back
and think about them.

Dismember is a kind of removal spell that U/W Caw-Blade has never had access to. One-mana removal spells in U/W are all situational or sorcery speed.
None of them can deal with Deceiver Exarch and Splinter Twin.

Not only does Caw-Blade not have an answer to the combo, but its general strategy isn’t very strong against it either. Caw-Blade is good at using all
of its mana every turn and only holding up mana when it has to, which it will have to against any U/R opponent with three lands untapped. This
will cause games to go longer than usual, and Caw-Blade does not want to be in this position.

Dismember acts as a powerful answer here. It can also answer Stoneforge Mystic and almost any early creature in Standard for one mana.

However, there are drawbacks. Four life is a lot when facing down an aggressive deck. Condemn and Oust work well together in dealing with the early
creatures most aggressive decks have, so there isn’t a real need to pay four life to deal with most creatures in Standard.

This creates an interesting dilemma because Caw-Blade now has the tools to deal with almost every threat, but the drawbacks are huge if the wrong
spells are brought to the fight.

Dismember will be very powerful if Standard stays the way it is but will lose value if aggressive decks start to roam.

There is a new Equipment to help fight fast decks in New Phyrexia however.


Batterskull is the only card in the new set that I think is an auto-include in Caw-Blade. You must deal with turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic now, since a turn
3 4/4 lifelink, vigilance creature is really good.

Most aggressive decks have opportunities to deal with this on the play, but it seems much tougher on the draw. Aggro decks want to play a guy on turns
1 and 2 but won’t be able to do that and deal with a Stoneforge Mystic, usually. If they waste a turn killing of the 1/2, Caw-Blade will have an
easier time dealing with the early turns and surviving to the later turns, where they dominate against creature decks. Slowing down the aggro deck this
way will also make it easier to slam down the Batterskull on turn 5. All of this is bad news for fast decks.

On the play, I think Batterskull is much more manageable, as you can handle it on turn 3 and not lose tempo. Boros typically plays guys on the first
two turns and removes a creature on the third. Vampires has that kicker guy, you know who I’m talking about [Gatekeeper of Malakir]. Red Deck Wins,
likewise, wants to play a Searing Blaze on the third turn. All of these scenarios makes Batterskull less impressive.

Batterskull makes Dismember even more important in Caw-Blade for the mirror match. A 4/4 on turn 3 in the mirror is an impressive play. Dismember just
answers Mystic and helps take the game to the planeswalker-war stage when on the draw. Jace, the Mind Sculptor alone is much easier to answer than
Jace, Mystic, Batterskull.

Batterskull helps Caw-Blade put a fast clock on a Deceiver Exarch/Splinter Twin deck. Sword of Feast and Famine doesn’t seem very impressive, but a 4/4
backed up by countermagic does.

Hex Parasite

People think Hex Parasite will put a dent in Jace’s reign over Standard; they see it taking out the walker as soon as they tap out for it. I don’t see
it happening that way.

Hex Parasite has to be in play before Jace, which makes it vulnerable to Mortarpod and Day of Judgment. It also functions as an answer to the card only
if they cast it. Jace can win the game on its own, but Caw-Blade doesn’t rely on it to win.

I do like how Hex Parasite improves the viability of Tempered Steel decks, which can help put a dent into Caw-Blade. However, no one should rely on Hex
Parasite to solve the Jace problem.

Sword of War and Peace

The Sword seems like a great tool against Caw-Blade. Boros is often at a disadvantage against the Blade, but I feel the Sword may swing around the

Think about the following: Boros is always the aggressor, and Caw-Blade will typically spend most of its energy trying to stop its horde of monsters.
The other Equipment Boros run don’t give protection from Squadron Hawk, so Hawks—as well as Mystic—slow down Boros a lot. It’s not even that bad for
Caw-Blade to get hit by a Sword of Body and Mind.

Sword of War and Peace, on the other hand, will most likely let Boros get through for 6/7 damage. Caw-Blade can’t afford to take that kind of damage,
and often the Sword will get in twice. This card presents a huge problem for Caw-Blade.

Phyrexian Crusader has a unique power in Standard because of its protection abilities, and now any Stoneforge Mystic deck can have access to them. This
card alone makes me want to pack 2—3 Divine Offerings in the Caw-Blade sideboard. As Caw-Blade, you can’t let the Equipment live.

Beast Within

Beast Within is the last card I think will impact Caw-Blade. It threatens everything they try to do. Caw-Blade also can’t use the 3/3 very well. Sure,
they can equip the Beast token to a Sword, but it’s likely we used the spell to destroy a Sword in the first place.

This card has a lot of applications, but we have tons of time to discover them all, so I’ll leave it to others to elaborate.

This is the next evolution of Caw-Blade—at least it’s where I’d start:

I think the deck still wants Mortarpod, even if another Equipment in the deck can play well against aggro. Mortarpod isn’t bad in the mirror, since it
fills a role that Sword of Feast and Famine does not.

Day of Judgment seems really good right now, so I would still play with at least three of them in the 75.

Like I said earlier, Dismember seems like a great removal spell to have around until we figure out how aggressive the format is going to get. This
seems like a great spell to have in the mirror match and against certain creatures that are effective against Caw-Blade.

Celestial Purge is important to have now. Pyromancer Ascension decks will become popular, since they have two different combos in them, and everyone
loves a good combo when a set is new. It hits both sides of the combo and also is a good removal spell against red and black decks.

The rest of the list is straightforward.

This is a great opportunity to get out there and start playtesting before New Phyrexia rotates in. Standard is very popular right now and is also the
format of choice if you want to qualify for a Pro Tour or StarCityGames.com Invitational. You have a couple weeks to prepare, so start with this list.
Get grinding!

Brad Nelson