I am making a concerted effort to trim the large words and flowery passages from my articles so I sound like less of a jackass. It ain’t easy.
I would say that this article will be different from your normal Magical Hack, but I don’t think it will be. You’re going to hear the same kind of stories that you always do when you come to a site like this one. But my perspective is different than what it once was – since the last time I’ve written, I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, completely reorganized and relocated my life, sold off my physical and digital collections, quit the game for six months, and returned again in the everlasting hunt for a healthy yet time-consuming hobby. Seeing as I’m writing this at 1:22am, you might have guessed that I haven’t been successful at the healthy part.
But I’m winning matches. Can’t complain.
The prompting event for my return to MTGO was finding out about block Pickles. It’s affordable, it’s good, and it’s Mono-Blue. Sign me up. Ninety tickets later, I end up with the following list…
- 2 Willbender
- 4 Brine Elemental
- 4 Riftwing Cloudskate
- 3 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
- 4 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
- 2 Venser, Shaper Savant
It’s Ravitz’s decklist from the PTQ in New York where he got second place. The only difference is that the Take Possessions have since become completely awful (at least in the MTGO metagame), so I put in Shaper Parasites for the mirror. Incidentally, they’re good against every other deck I’ve played against. I’m happy with them.
This article will have some strategy and some metagame analysis, but the majority of what you’re going to get is a large and detailed tournament report. I’ve been playing queues on top of queues with this and I love giving play-by-plays, so thanks to MTGO’s ability to record games, you’re going to get all the gory details. If you just want to skip straight to the strategy, search for “obscure name drop.”
The first queue I played, I didn’t actually record every last play, but I’m going to share it with you anyway because it’s pretty funny… in retrospect.
I’m playing against some guy with U/G. Game 1 I end in a spectacular fashion. I bounced his Vesuvan Shapeshifter earlier in the game and he has yet to replay it. He taps low for some threat that I Delay, leaving himself with three Islands and one Forest. So what do I do? Tap out to unmorph Brine Elemental and swing with the team. Yeah, he had the land. Yeah, he locked me. Yeah, I’m an idiot.
In game 2, he gets a very fast start. I counter a few threats, but I get down to three life and he has a Riftsweeper in play. I have a Venser that I plan on using during his combat step, so when he plays a Stonewood Invocation, that just means I’ll have to chump instead. I play the Venser, bounce one of his lands, and then f2 through the blockers step.
Oh, MTGO. How I’ve missed you.
From here on out, I recorded every play from every match. I’ve cut out the names of my opponents.
Queue 1, Match 1 against Mono-Red
Game 1 he suspends a Greater Gargadon on turn 1 and a Rift Bolt on turn 2, along with a Magus of the Scroll. He plays a Keldon Marauders. All I can do is morph a couple of Brines and lay Riftwing to keep him below five lands – he’s missed with Magus a few times and revealed both Tarox Bladewing and Word of Seizing. He ends up hitting his fifth land drop, steals a morphed Brine, and feeds it to his Gargadon. I’m still behind but I’m stabilizing slowly. The following turn I Delay his Tarox and then empty my chargelands to unmorph my other Brine Elemental. His Gargadon comes down and trades with both of my creatures. He plays a Mountain, suspends another Rift Bolt, and passes, with his Tarox coming down in two turns.
TEFERI, WHAT WHAT!
Of course he still has Keldon Megaliths and Magus of the Scroll to deal with, but I’m at nine life and should be able to handle them. He brings down Gathan Raiders and hellbents himself (discarding Fiery Temper, which Tef stops handily) and I play a fresh Shapeshifter to block it, morphing another Shapeshifter during the combat step to hellbent myself and trade. Then I untap and draw the perfect card – Willbender. Morph it, send the Magus ability back at his face, and when he tries to Megalith me, unmorph Shapeshifter to kill his dude and give me Willbender protection for the rest of the game – two more turns, that is, before he scoops.
Game 2 his turn 2 War Marshall faces my turn 2 Desert. Gotta love the Timeshifts. He pays the echo and sticks on three lands as I pick off his 1/1s. He plays a morph and I match it with one of my own on turn 4, as well as a suspended Ancestral Visions. He unmorphs his Raiders with a Fiery Temper, but sends it at my face, so my morph lives. Unfortunately he drops a Keldon Marauders as well, and I’m on the clock. Next turn I morph a Willbender and pray for him to cast a burn spell, but instead he just attacks. I trade my Shapeshifter for his Raiders and he plays another Marauders. Ugh. I morph my second Shapeshifter with the plan of chumping Marauders just to keep me at a reasonable life. When my next turn rolls around, I’m at 3 life and facing down a Magus. I still have my Willbender and I morph a third Shapeshifter to try and give myself protection for the rest of the game. At this point we’re stalemated, as he knows that he can’t win with Magus, he’s only on four lands, and any burn he plays will go straight back to his head. He plays out a couple of dudes and I Delay them both. I draw into another Willbender just for some extra insurance, and then the turn before all of his guys come back from suspension, I draw Teferi. Yus.
He gets down to five life or so before drawing his fifth land. He plays a Tarox, I kill it with my Shapeshifter, and then he scoops.
Queue 1, Match 2 against the mirror
Game 1 I keep a two-lander on the draw with Riftwing, Delay, Ancestral Visions, a few morphs, and a chargeland. I Delay a morph on turn 3, and it turns out to be a Brine that comes down three turns later when I’m still stuck on three lands. He then taps five, fires in a Shapeshifter, and locks me. Awk.
Game 2 I get two Visions early, as well as a chargeland and a Serrated Arrows, one of my favorite cards in the mirror. My Teferi stops an Ancestral from going off, but he uses Shifter to kill it. We both draw a lot of cards off further Ancestrals, and I get another Arrows down. Eventually we each get a Shapeshifter and he gets a Willbender, making any targeted abilities major headaches. A headache is not enough to stop my two Arrows from completely wiping his board over the course of three turns, though, and then after his guys die, I blow my chargelands to unmorph a Brine and lock him.
Game 3 I mull to five and get wrecked. I get stuck on two lands, he Willbenders away my Visions, Cancels my Riftwing, and keeps playing 2/2s that bounce my stuff. I lose spectacularly in about two minutes.
Queue 2, Match 1 against the mirror
Game 1 I morph a turn 3 Willbender and it gets Delayed – oddly enough, that always seems to happen. Probably because Willbender is the only disposable morph in the matchup. Anyway, I bash with random morphs and dorks, we trade Teferis, and then we both get start drawing Deserts. When we both get the full set, combat basically stops. He’s at 9, I’m at 18, and neither of us have any threats or cards to speak of – except for his Urza’s Factory. Whoops. Then he sticks a Teferi. Whoops. He keeps cranking the Factory, I draw multiple useless Cancels, and I can’t ever win.
Game 2 I start off with multiple chargelands and Ancestrals. I stall on four lands but get a Teferi down to strand his Ancestral, and he kills it with a Vesuvan. He then gets his own Teferi down and forces it through with a Logic Knot (?!?), only to have it die to MY Shapeshifter. He kept one of my Ancestrals in permanent suspense, but the other one resolves on the following turn. He plays out two morphs, I play out one (a Shaper Parasite), and then he attacks. I block one that turns out to be a Shaper Parasite of his own, and he sends the trigger towards mine. I respond by unmorphing and trying to kill his other morph, only to have the trigger get Willbent right back. So of course I choose to give my own guy -2/+2, his trigger and mine cancel out, and the final result is he wasted his turn to deal me one damage. Gotta love it. Then I resolve an Arrows so he can’t ever win combat, a Venser so I can reuse my Arrows, and a morphed Brine so I can lock him down and bash him to death.
Game 3 he drops two morphs early on and refuses to attack either one into my morphed Parasite. My guess is that they’re both combo pieces, but I don’t want to give him the chance to copy my Parasite so I wait until he taps out. We both do nothing and I stockpile a lot of charge counters. Eventually I fire out a Teferi, which gets Delayed. When he taps out during his endstep to charge up his own lands, I use Parasite to kill his first morph – Shapeshifter. Unfortunately, I was right about the other morph, and he untaps and unmorphs a Brine, keeping me down to one land. Fortunately my chargeland has 5 counters on it, so when he plays a morph on the following turn, I Cancel it. Oops, Logic Knot. I get locked and lose.
Queue 3, Match 1 against the mirror
Game 1 he starts with a Tolaria West, leading me to assume that he’s playing Teachings, but he starts playing basic Islands and morphs. I have two early Deserts so he can never really attack with his morph, and when he tries to force through an early Teferi, I kill it with my Shapeshifter. I morph a Willbender and we stare each other down for a little bit – he suspends an Ancestral and Delays my Teferi, so all I can do is morph a Shapeshifter and wait. When his Ancestral resolves, I Willbend it to me, he unmorphs his Shifter to bend it back, and I unmorph my Shifter to bend it again. I morph a Brine, my Teferi comes off the stack, and I bust open both morphs to swing for ten and get the win.
Game 2 I keep a six-lander on the draw with two Deserts, two chargelands, two Islands, and a Cancel. I draw into a Delay for his turn 3 Willbender, and then we both just sit and power up our lands. He plays a morph and wins a minor counter war over it, only to have me resolve an Arrows and use it to kill his morphed Shapeshifter before resolving another. He keeps playing random 2/2s and an Arrows of his own. Eventually he gets me down to 8 with no cards in hand, a bunch of lands, an Arrows with two counters and an unmorphed Willbender, while I have a 4/3 Brine and a Teferi. Unfortunately, he’s drawn 3 Deserts and another Arrows, so I can’t attack at all. I save my Brine from being Arrowed with a Venser, and my Teferi with a Shapeshifter copying Venser, leaving me with a few dudes (Tef, Brine, and a morphed Parasite) and nothing else. Obviously he topdecks a Shapeshifter the turn after I unmorph Brine.
I will mention at this point a detail I specifically omitted – he’s been playing ungodly slow for the entire match. His clock is down to 6:15 while mine is at 18:30. So what do I do? Get ready for the long game.
I still have a few lands, so in response to his Shifter’s flip trigger in his upkeep, I use Parasite to give his guy +2/-2. Either he’ll be an idiot and flip the guy down, losing him, or he won’t flip his guy and I’ll get a turn to untap. He chooses the latter and attacks me down to 1, but I get a chance to untap my 11 lands. I play a Teferi and get ready to ride. He can’t attack into my guys and I can’t attack into his, but time is on my side.
Turns go by and he’s got one more morph but he’s down to 4:15. He plays out ANOTHER dude when he’s at 3:15, leaving him with the win, as he has three attackers and I only have two blockers. Yet he doesn’t attack – just charges up his four chargelands (costing him even MORE time) and keeps unmorphing his Shapeshifter. I draw another Parasite and tried to buy myself another untap with my last six mana – so he unmorphs a different Brine Elemental and just passes the turn.
Now, I’m tapped out. I’m on 1 life. I have no cards, two 2/3s, and a 3/4. He has a morph and 2 5/4s. He also has two minutes on his clock. What would you do if you were him here? What I would do is attack with all three guys, kill two blockers, and win on the following turn. What he did was attack with just the morph (a Willbender) and traded it with one Shaper Parasite thanks to the last counter on his Serrated Arrows. He goes down to 1:29. Now I have two blockers – a 3/4 and a 2/3 – and he has two 5/4s. He transmutes Tolaria West for Urza’s Factory and passes the turn. During my endstep he makes a 2/2 and he’s down to 48 seconds. Now I’m tapped out, he has three guys, and I have two blockers. I’m at 1 life.
Unmorph Shapeshifter, pass the turn. 14 seconds.
He doesn’t make it all the way through his attack step before I have the match.
Queue 3, Match 2 against the mirror
He seemed like a nice enough fellow, but he also seemed to be relatively new to the tournament scene. You’ll see what I mean.
In game 1 my turn 3 Willbender was Delayed as usual, and my turn 4 Willbender is Cancelled. How odd. He then resolves a Venser and a Teferi and all I can do is play a face up Brine Elemental, as I only have two Blue sources, making my own Teferi unplayable. I draw my third Island the next turn and kill his Teferi with my own. When I attack, he trades another Teferi for it (along with a Desert ping). I’m pretty sure I came out ahead in that transaction. He then throws a Willbender directly into my Deserts, plays another morph, Cancels my play for the turn, and Brines me. I was already down to 15 thanks to a hit from Venser plus Teferi, so he hits me down to 8. I draw another land and play a morphed Brine, and he hits me down to 1. I untap, Brine him, and hope that I get a chance to untap so I can crank factory and block both his guys. He has one card in hand and six mana up. His play? During your end step, Snapback Venser and play him, hit you for two. GG.
In game 2, he plays a turn 3 Prodigal Sorcerer.
(He was chatting me up later in the match, and said that they were good against Slivers, gave a slight edge in the mirror, and were pretty strong against Mono-Red because they always ate a burn spell… … … Yeah, I don’t know either.)
Either way, my turn 4 Serrated Arrows wreck that plan and also kill a morphed Brine. Unfortunately he plays two more Tims (!) and Delays my Venser, keeping me from bouncing my spent Arrows. I’m at 18 and have an Ancestral in suspense, but his wizards sure are threatening. I keep piling up counters on chargelands while he plays out an Arrows, embarrassingly keeping me from playing any creatures. When my Ancestral resolves it gets me an Arrows of my own, along with a Parasite and another Ancestral, spelling certain doom for his powerful magicians. He spends his Arrows trying to kill my morphed Parasite, which trades with the remaining Prodigal. He plays a Teferi and I kill it with a Shapeshifter.
Then I draw a Brine and lock him down for a turn, blowing my chargelands.
Then I draw a Shapeshifter and lock him down forever.
WHATEVER MAN, YOU SO LUCKY.
I suspend Ancestral and Delay his turn 3 Willbe- I mean, Brine Elemental. Eep. I morph a Shaper Parasite, and when Brine comes down, he attacks right into it and the two trade. In the meantime, my first Arrows were Delayed but the Ancestral resolved. I play out a Teferi when he has one card in hand and an impending Riftwing, and it sticks. I untap with a hand of Arrows, Arrows, Teferi, Parasite, Shapeshifter, Desert. And I draw a Brine. What do you think happened?
PS: He drew a Tim the next turn and played it. I killed it with Arrows, flashed in two morphs, locked him, and killed him. Obv.
Queue 3, Match 3 against Mono-Red
In game 1, I keep a slower hand on the play after mulling to 6 – a chargeland, a Desert, an Ancestral, and a Delay as the highlights. I draw some lands but he has an early Gargadon, a War Marshal, a Magus of the Scroll, and a Pendelhaven to frustrate my Desert. He stops on three lands, though, and three 1/1s is not going to be enough to stop me. He bolts me with a Brute Force and I draw another desert, ready to stem the bleeding. I Delay his second Brute Force and go down to 9 in the process. Then my suspended cards start firing – I untap to an Ancestral and a Riftwing, and that Ancestral gives me a Teferi and a Cancel. Bounce your Magus, trade with your goblin token using the Riftwing and a Desert, and fire in a Teferi in response to the Gargadon suspend trigger. I counter the Fiery Temper aimed at my head, resolve another Ancestral, and start running out morphs. They turn into huge monsters and he loses the ability to untap. It doesn’t take long.
I open with a Desert in game 2 and he opens with Magus into Pendelhaven beatdown – annoying but not crippling. He plays out a War Marshal and suspends a Gargadon while I morph a Willbender. He plays out another Magus and attacks, prompting me to ship his Pendelhaven activation over to his second Magus when he attacks, blocking and killing the first one and Deserting a token. Seems like a pretty good turn – all he can muster is a Blood Knight. Next turn Teferi comes in during the attack step, but after Blood Knight’s first strike damage, he hits with Magus, even with four cards in hand. But that cost him his entire turn, as he’s still stuck on three lands. I have another Teferi during the end step just for fun, too. I untap, Cancel a burn spell, and morph in Brine Elemental during the end step. Untap, Brine you, swing for 8. He doesn’t even bother playing out the rest of the game.
Queue 4, Match 1 against Poison Slivers
I’ve never played against this deck before, and in game 1 he came out very aggressively – only every attack he made, I blew him out. He opened with Virulent Sliver and my Willbender met the field of battle face-up. He plays a Two-Headed Sliver to try and sneak by, but I Snapback it and block the Virulent. Next turn I do nothing and he plays a Firewake Sliver. He replays the Two-Headed and swings with both, so I play Venser and bounce the FirewakeÂ— instead, he sacrifices it to pump the Two-Headed, bringing me down to 18. Next turn I play a Teferi during the attack and take out ANOTHER Firewake. He’s down to 11 and then down to 6 the next turn – all he has is Two-Headed and Homing Sliver and one card in hand. Then he draws and plays Frenetic Sliver and Dormant SliverÂ— I attack with Snapback at the ready, but he wins all three Frenetic flips and draws three. Now all of a sudden, I can’t win. How did that happen? He keeps drawing cards, I keep drawing nothing, and I concede.
Game 2. I drop a land, he drops a Virulent. I drop a Desert, he drops another Virulent with one mana up. I tap out for a Shaper Parasite, he Deads it during his end step and drops a Firewake, giving me six poison counters. WHAT? Time to go on tilt and play another queue.
Queue 5, Match 1 against G/W/B Goyf/Rack
I’ve never played against this deck before either. We both mull to six and he leads with an Urborg… and then a Horizon Canopy. Guh? I don’t know what to make of it, so I just suspend a Riftwing. He plays a Tarmogoyf and misses his land drop, and on my turn I keep Delay mana up and miss my land drop. Then he untaps and casts Smallpox.
Wait a minute…
I have 6 cards to his 5, 2 lands to his 2, 0 creatures to his 1, and 26 lands left in my deck. I consider the Delay, but instead just let it resolve. He sacrifices his first Urborg and plays out another. On the next turn I draw an Island and suspend an Ancestral. He plays a Chromatic Star and misses his land drop… again. RIFTWING BEATS. I also draw another Ancestral and then another Riftwing in the process, making my suspension zone a playground of forbidden delights that his discard can’t come close to. He Stupors me and gets a Shapeshifter and a Delay, but in the meantime my Riftwing is cutting him up. He sacrifices his Chromatic Star a turn later when he’s down to 13, and taps his two Horizon Canopies to cast a Tarmogoyf and The Rack. I take 1 damage from the Rack, my Ancestral resolves, and I Venser his Goyf and bash his face. He replays Goyf and ships. My second Riftwing hits from suspend-land, along with my other Ancestral. I bounce his Goyf, and I bash him. He just scoops in disgust.
In game 2 he plays a turn 2 1/2 Tarmogoyf thanks to Terramorphic Expanse. I morph a Shapeshifter and he Psychotic Episodes me, nabbing a Cancel and revealing a Brine on top of my deck, which goes quite well with the two in my hand. I’ve also morphed a Shapeshifter in the meantime and I morph one of the Brines on my turn. Creatures galore! He is no longer able to attack into my growing generic army, and while he’s stuck on 3 lands with a Goyf and a Rack, I cast a face-up Brine after drawing another Shapeshifter. He plays another Tarmogoyf, but it doesn’t matter. Unmorph Shifter, bash with team, morph other Shifter. Untap, repeat. He concedes.
Queue 5, Match 2 against U/G Goyf
He starts off game 1 with Llanowar Reborn and I start to worry. I suspend an Ancestral and it gets Riftswept very quickly off of Reborn and an Island. I’ve never played this matchup, but every description I’ve read of it tells me that I can’t ever win, especially not when he starts off with a 3/3 that denies me card draw. I Delay his Shapeshifter and morph one of my own. His Venser bounces a land and trades with my morph. Then his Shapeshifter comes back from being Delayed, copies his Riftsweeper, and both of them charge straight into a fresh Venser of my own, which trades with his Shifter. His next three draws are Delay, Call of the Herd, and Delay, so I can’t possibly win.
In between games he tells me that he’s 6-1 today against Mono-Blue, with his only loss being 4 mulls in 3 games. Awesome.
In game 2 we both mull to six and do nothing but play lands for the first few turns. He casts Call of the Herd and I Delay it only for him to Delay my Teferi right back. On turn 7 I morph a Brine Elemental and force it through with a Cancel, dropping an empty chargeland to finish the turn. His Call comes back from suspension, he casts Riftsweeper to get rid of my Delayed Teferi, and then he taps out for Riftwing… bouncing my CHARGELAND.
I untap, drop it again, and unmorph Brine. He does nothing. I untap and drop the Shapeshifter that was in my opener and lock him. After a couple turns, he concedes.
In game 3 he mulls to 5 on the play. He plays a Looter Il-Kor and I suspend a Riftwing. He plays a 2/3 Tarmogoyf and I morph a Shapeshifter. He casts a Riftwing two turns later and I Cancel it before bringing down my own on the next turn, bouncing his Tarmogoyf. I Cancel that too, untap, and drop a face-up Brine Elemental. He scoops a turn later.
Queue 5, Match 3 against Mono-Green
I’ve seen this deck in tournament practice, but I didn’t take it seriously. This is the finals, so I don’t know if this guy got lucky or if this deck is for real. I assumed an aggressive role in this match and it worked well.
He chooses to play last to start out the match, which threw me off. Then he plays a turn 2 Magus of the Library. Shrug. I Snapback it and morph a Shapeshifter. He plays out Magus again, and on the following turn he draws a card, plays out another one, and adds a Magus of the Vineyard to his array of powerful wizards. Thanks to the boost, even though I’m stuck on four lands, I fire in a face-up Brine and swing. He draws, draws two extra cards thanks to his Magi, and plays the following – Magus of the Vineyard #2, Groundbreaker, Uktabi Drake, Uktabi Drake. He attacks me down to 10, which brings me to… 10… and passes the turn, completely tapped out. I untap, unmorph my Shifter to copy Brine, remove a card from game to Snapback a Magus of the Vineyard, morph another Shifter, and attack for 10, leaving mana up to Delay whatever he can play. His Uktabi Drakes die, he plays his Scryb Ranger right into Delay, and packs ’em up.
THANKS FOR THE MANA.
He chooses to play last again, for some reason. He opens with Magus of the Vineyard and I morph a Brine Elemental on the next turn, holding back another Brine and 2 Riftwings. He plays a Primal Forcemage and a Pendelhaven and sends in the Magus for angry magician beats. I’m more frightened by the prospect of acceleration than random Uktabi Drakes, so I Riftwing his Magus. He plays an Uktabi Drake and attacks with the team, saving his Primal Forcemage with a Might of Old Krosa. He also replays his Magus. I cast another Riftwing, bouncing Magus again, and beat once more with my morph. He pays echo, attacks for two in the air, and replays Magus again. Untap, unmorph Brine, serve for seven. On his turn he uses the Vineyard mana to Might of Old Krosa his Forcemage main phase and hit me down to 4, leaving him at 8 while I have 7 points of damage on the board. Hrm. My hand is Island, Island, Delay, and Brine. What I do is morph the Brine and attack for 5, bringing him to 3. That way I leave Delay open for any tricks, I can block two of his guys if he tries to attack for lethal, and if he doesn’t send lethal at me then I just untap, Brine him, and force him to chump my entire squad.
He casts a Groundbreaker, which I Delay, and pauses for about 3 minutes while I chew my nails. Forest, Gaea’s Anthem, swing with the Uktabi Drake. I trade it with my Riftwing, untap, Brine him, and force him to chump both dudes. He draws and packs.
Queue 6, Match 1 against the mirror
This match isn’t the exact mirror – he has some odd card choices, such as Zoetic Caverns over Desert, and he also isn’t so good at the MTGO. Works for me.
He starts off with a suspended Ancestral while I draw Shapeshifters and play lands. We both do nothing for the first few turns, but he misses his 4th land drop, so I cancel his Ancestral two turns later. He allows it and then empties his chargeland in order to… drop a morph with 1U up? Que? He plays a Caverns next turn, and I continue developing my mana, suspending an Ancestral as well. He Delays my Riftwing, untaps, and plays a Teferi. I morph a Shapeshifter, and the next turn when he attacks with both of his guys, I block his morph, stack damage, and copy Teferi. I take three, he loses Tef and his Brine Elemental. Seems good. He plays another morph and I morph a second Shifter. He Riftwings it, tapping down to one mana, and I untap and resolve my suspend zone.
The next turn he plays his Riftwing and my Willbender makes it bounce itself. Untap, flip down Shifter, morph another Shifter, bash, pass the turn. He plays out two morphs and I delay one. Untap, attack with my morphs, pass. He plays his Riftwing again and tries to bounce my morph (which he knows to be a Shapeshifter) and I Willbend it to his morph. He unmorphs a Shapeshifter in response and has it copy… itself? It hits the bin, so I unmorph my OTHER Shapeshifter, Willbend the ability back to the Riftwing, untap, and swing for exactly lethal.
For game 2, I keep five Islands, a chargeland, and a Serrated Arrows. He starts off with an Ancestral and then two morphs while I morph a Shapeshifter. On turn 4 his Ancestral comes in and I play Venser. Here’s the chat log for what happens…
5:10 Ridiculous Hat plays Venser, Shaper Savant
5:10 michaelj turns Willbender (Face down creature #1) face up.
5:10 michaelj plays triggered ability from Willbender targeting Ancestral Vision.
5:10 michaelj: ????
5:10 Ridiculous Hat: Venser hasn’t come into play yet
5:10 michaelj: wow
5:10 Ridiculous Hat plays triggered ability from Venser, Shaper Savant targeting Ancestral Vision.
5:10 michaelj: I quit
5:10 michaelj: I f***ing give up
5:10 Ancestral Vision is returned to michaelj’s hand from the stack.
5:10 michaelj has conceded from the game.
Names have been changed to protect the stupid. And to mess with Flores. Love ya, Mike!
Queue 6, Match 2 against U/W Blink
We mirror each other with turn 1 Island, Ancestral, and I brace myself for another mirror match – only his turn 2 is Plains, Looter Il-Kor. He swings and misses his land drop and I play a Desert and suspend an Ancestral. He morphs a Brine and I Snap it back, laying a Shapeshifter on my next turn with Desert up. His Ancestral resolves, he plays his fourth land and passes the turn with no play. Suspicious! I Cancel the expected Venser on my Ancestral and leave up Island and Desert after swinging. He bounces my Desert with a Riftwing and I bounce his Looter. My second Ancestral resolves and gives me a handful of goodies – I replay the Desert and suspend a Riftwing so I don’t have to discard. I’ve drawn a Teferi and a couple Delays as well, so I Delay the Blink he casts next turn with the hopes of stranding it in suspension. He has another Blink, bouncing my Desert, and replays his Looter. I suspend another Riftwing and he casts another Looter. I untap, suspend Ancestral, and when he taps out to blink his Riftwing during my end step targets my Desert, I fire in the Teferi. He has another Riftwing and his third Blink to bounce my team, but I untap and resolve the suspended Riftwing, Teferi, and Desert once again. I still have a healthy eleven life and his first Blink is now forever in suspense.
He forgets that he can’t Blink during his combat step, because he sends his whole team in. His Riftwing trades with mine and my Desert kills one Looter, leaving him with just a lonely Looter. Shrug. He flashes back Blink main phase to bounce Teferi and then taps out for a morph. On upkeep, I resolve my other Riftwing, bounce his morphed Maelstrom Djinn, and play Teferi once more, this time with Delay mana up. He resolves another Looter but his Djinn gets suspended and now I’m firmly in the driver’s seat. His Looter gets Deserted when he attacks next turn in desperation, and he can only play a land and say go. My third Ancestral resolves and my hand is now stocked. He tries to hardcast a Djinn and I Delay it. On the next turn he Vensers my Teferi, which I allow, and then tries to Blink his Venser when I recast Teferi. Delayed. He concedes when I play a second Desert on my next turn.
What a marathon.
He leads game 2 with Expanse into Looter, while I suspend two Ancestrals. He suspends a Riftwing and then raw dogs a Spell Burst on my Shaper Parasite. He resolves a Calciderm with me at 18 and I respond with an Arrows to kill his Looter. He swings and plays a land. On my upkeep, my Ancestral goes on the stack. He tries to Spell Burst with buyback, but it gets Delayed. I morph a Brine and say go. His Riftwing comes into play, bounces my Brine, and he attacks for 6 after I Arrow his flyer. I kill it on my turn, resolve my second Ancestral, use Venser to bounce the spent Arrows, and pass the turn at 7 life with Delay mana up and a full hand. Chump your Calciderm, Delay your Riftwing, and morph Brine with Cancel ready. He just suspends an Ancestral and passes with one card in hand and five mana. Next turn, draw, land, go – I fire in Teferi on end step and he resolves. YUS. I don’t see any way for him to win, and after his Sunlance fails to kill my Brine when I flip it up in response, he doesn’t either.
Queue 6, Match 3 against WW
Turn 2 Knight of the Holy Nimbus. Crap. I Delay his turn 3 Knight just to give me a chance and then play out a Desert. He casts a Soltari Priest and suspends a Shade of Trokair. I play out another Desert and have the Venser ready for the Griffin Guide, giving me a foothold in the game. When his Knight comes back from suspension next turn, he charges both into my Venser and Deserts. I block one, tap both Deserts to stop the Knight from regenerating, and place Venser directly into my bin for no reason. Yeah, I forgot about flanking. Sweet. At least I Delay his Serra Avenger. Next turn I morph a Shapeshifter and Snapback his Shade, but I’m already too far behind to win.
For game 2 he mulls to five and starts off with a Horizon Canopy and an Expanse, suspending Shades on turns 1 and 2. He’s stuck on two lands, though, so I’m not too scared. I morph a Shapeshifter off of two Islands and a Desert, making the Soltari Priest he musters next turn look pretty silly. His first Shade resolves and it charges in for one, and after he casts a Serra Avenger, I Venser the Shade. Untap, Teferi time. His Shade stays stuck in suspension, and even though I can’t block the five damage he sends at me, he’s out of gas. My Shapeshifter turns into a Serra, and when he tries to trade, I snapback my Shifter. He then Sunlances my Venser, which is annoying, and suspends a Shade. With Teferi on the table. Shrug. I attack, morph the Shifter again, and pass the turn with him at 3. He casts a Knight and scoops when I Venser it during his end step.
I’d love for game 3 to be a riveting tale, but I get hardcore completely 100% bashed. Turn 2 Knight, turn 3 Blade of the Sixth Pride (facing my Desert and suspended Riftwing), turn 4 Celestial Crusader, turn 5 Sunlance your morph. I’m at two and have nothing.
There will be actual metagame analysis, strategy, and sideboarding plans after this obscure name drop.
8:00 Ridiculous Hat: hello philip
8:00 p_samms: ll
8:00 Ridiculous Hat: hello philip ll
8:00 p_samms: awkward.
I will start the strategy section by saying that I am not an expert on this deck or this format. I’ve only been playing again for a very short while, so if you see any mistakes, please point them out in the forums. I’d rather be corrected by people who do know what they’re talking about then guide people in the wrong direction.
The big decks are Pickles, Teachings, U/G, and Mono-Red. There’s some other stuff out there that I’ll cover – Poison Slivers, U/W Blink, and WW, for example – but most of what I’ve seen and most of what you’ll face, especially if you’re playing online, will be within those first four decks.
This match is why I added the Shaper Parasites particularly, and they’ve been very good for me. Arrows is also insane and Venser is important for bouncing spells and reusing spent Arrows. Snapback just doesn’t do enough for me and I haven’t found Willbender to be all that great in the mirror – you don’t often get into counter wars because there just aren’t that many counters. Sure, you can redirect an Ancestral, but I’d rather kill their business spells. Also, Riftwing is expensive and doesn’t do a lot. You’re never going to win the game with him and bounce hasn’t been that useful for me in the mirror unless one person gets land-screwed.
This sideboarding plan doesn’t seem that great to me, but I honestly don’t know what else to cut. You need Chronicler to draw cards and you want to be on a somewhat aggressive plan – but Riftwing just isn’t that great unless you get the total nut draw. I’m okay with cutting off the possibility of me getting a total blowout to make the deck more consistent, and Willbender is really good here. Haunting Hymn does say target player…
This plays out like the mirror only they have better creatures and a worse long game. Most builds I’ve seen don’t play Brine Elemental, so you need to make sure that you don’t get suckered in by a Shapeshifter and then lock them as soon as you can. The Visions are Riftsweeper bait, and usually you won’t have enough time to get the most mileage out of them. I’d rather have Riftwings, which are good for dealing with Call tokens.
I’ve also considered cutting the Riftwings for Shaper Parasite and the last Venser, but having the bounce for Gargadon and your spent Arrows is nice. You don’t really have the time to Cancel their stuff, and if you’re making it into the late game, you probably won’t need to. Willbender is good against their entire deck.
It seems strange to take out the Cancels, but their only big threat is Calciderm. While it important to watch out for, if you have a lot of bounce and a lot of guys, the Calciderms won’t break through. This deck doesn’t have a lot of reach, so if you can survive the initial onslaught, you should be able to lock them. If you can’t, well, you’re dead anyway.
As for metagame considerations, I’ve been thinking about trimming the Snapbacks and a Riftwing or two to add some Arrows to the maindeck. The mirror is everywhere, there’s lots of small creature decks, and it’s only useless against Teachings. I’ve thought about reintroducing Fathom Seer to get an edge in the control matchups, but I’m not sure if the hit to your mana development is worth it. If you have any other ideas or feedback, leave me some comments in the forums.
It’s good to be back.
RidiculousHat just about everywhere
Bonus music section!
Battles — Atlas
The Polyphonic Spree — Section 12 (Hold Me Now)
Pinback — AFK (Summer in Abaddon)
Beirut — Carousels
Mastodon — Sleeping Giant
The Icarus Line — Up Against The Wall
Animal Collective — Fireworks