Typically, it’s easy for me to predict what a new set is going to do to a metagame, but NPH is really shaking things up. I’m torn between
creating something new(-ish) to fight what I perceive to be the new threats and just sticking with what’s been working, albeit with a few
Gavin Verhey wrote about Birthing Pod rather extensively here. Honestly, I have no
idea what I expect to come from Birthing Pod, although I’m sure one day I’m going to look at a decklist and be impressed. Right now, it
seems like everyone wants to use their Pods to get some incremental value or assemble some five-card combo. Can’t we just Trinket Mage for
Voltaic Key and kill them somehow?
When someone eventually Top 8s a tournament with a solid Birthing Pod deck, I’m sure I’ll be able to change ten cards and make it a
monster. However, the sheer notion of building the entire deck from scratch hurts my head. It seems easier for me to just wait a couple weeks and see
what pops up rather than waste hours searching the endless combinations of cards for a viable deck.
One of the cards that seem overlooked in this archetype is Chancellor of the Tangle. Turn one Lotus Cobra or Fauna Shaman shouldn’t be
overlooked, especially if U/W remains one of the main contenders in the format.
Another option for these midrange green decks is to play the full amount of Birds of Paradise/Llanowar Elves and load up on Swords. Feast and Famine,
Body and Mind, and War and Peace are all very potent right now, especially if you’re able to start hitting on turn three, ignoring Mana Leak.
The Fauna Shaman decks of old had a tough Valakut matchup, and I wasn’t sure why they weren’t just skimping on Lotus Cobra and playing more
one-drop accelerators instead. Having a Body and Mind active on turn three is probably game against them, especially if you have a way to kill their
last-ditch Primeval Titan.
Of these, Elves with Birthing Pod and Myr Superion (or not) seems to be the best. That could just be because I feel like it’s more consistent
though. Elves was always one of the decks I had the most trouble with when playing U/W Caw-Blade, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
Remember, not many people are playing Day of Judgment anymore, and for good reason.
Infect has gotten better but still needs a good draw and isn’t great against an opponent who can interact with some crappy creatures. With
Spellskites and Exarchs running around everywhere, the outlook for infect isn’t very good.
The Strobe Red deck isn’t much better either. I personally wouldn’t play any of these decks due to their high-variance nature, but if
you’re the type of person who wants to ruin a few peoples’ day, go for it. Your games will be over quickly, probably more often than not
with your opponent cursing your “insane” draws. With a little luck, you could win the tournament as well.
I’ve seen all sorts of lists. U/R/B, U/R with and without Pyromancer, U/W/R Caw-Blade/Twin hybrids, U/W/R Control, etc. The possibilities seem
endless. From my limited testing, it seems like U/R without Pyromancer Ascension might be the best. You’ll almost never win with the Ascensions, and
getting them active can be a pain. Overall, they don’t add much to your deck and only serve to dilute it.
U/R/B was fine, but the list I had probably could have benefited from some blue Shrines (Shrine of Piercing Vision) to search out the combo. Playing
discard spell into discard spell into threat is only good if you have the threat portion of the equation. Jace will win you the game plenty of times
after a few discard spells, but when you’re sitting on air, your deck feels abysmal. I’m not sure if the Shrines would help alleviate that
problem entirely, but they would probably help.
These former big dogs of the format are getting worse with each set that’s released. Cards like Despise and Deceiver Exarch help open the format
up a bit and as a result, push the ramp decks out of the metagame. I’m not even sure how they would go about fighting those cards. Lightning Bolt
is a poor answer to a lethal Horned Turtle, although Beast Within will probably see some play. Killing Swords, Jaces, and Splinter Twins are all
something that the ramp decks are fairly weak too, but will it be enough?
If you’re still attached to your Lotus Cobras, might I recommend _Batutinha_’s version from MTGO? The Brazilian master has won a PTQ, a PE, and
finished in the Top 8 of another.
Precursor Golem isn’t nearly as threatening against a Caw-Blade opponent as a Consecrated Sphinx or Thrun, the Last Troll. Even the U/W lists are
packing Ousts, Flashfreezes, Journey to Nowhere, and probably siding in a singleton Divine Offering to kill Golem and Magnets. Thrun beats up on every
single one of those cards, and as long as you have a way to kill a pro-green Sword, he’s going to crush them.
Consecrated Sphinx is a non-Flashfreezable threat that demands an immediate answer. Even if they do manage to untap and Journey it, the damage might
already be done. Think about how far ahead you feel when you play a Jace and get to Brainstorm. Even if they kill your Jace with their own, they’re
down a turn, a Jace, and you’re up a card.
Getting one trigger out of Sphinx is arguably going to be better than that. Imagine if they have to Preordain for an answer…
Shrine of Burning Rage is the clear winner here. I’m certain that Petr Brozek has a Quest for the Pure Flame deck that he’ll use in
combination with the Shrine to take Nationals by storm. If Questing isn’t your thing, check out this list Truth- used to take first place in a
According to Truth, Act of Aggression or Dismember could take sideboard slots from the otherwise weak Perilous Myr and Molten-Tail Masticore. He said
that Torpor Orb was surprisingly good, which I’m willing to believe, as it’s fine against Caw-Blade but also Deceiver Exarchs. Flame Slash
to kill Spellskite is a very nice addition.
Overall, this might be the deck that gained the most. I’m not too sure about the validity of Squadron Hawks these days, but I’m not sure
what else to do with my Stoneforge Mystics and Jaces. Of the majority of matchups here, not many of them require you to grind them out with Hawks.
Sword of War and Peace also exists and punishes you for playing Hawks. Clearly you can play Into the Roil and sideboard a ton of Divine Offerings, but
do the Hawks even matter?
Against aggro decks, Stoneforge into Batterskull is much better than attempting to assemble Mortarpod plus Sylvok Lifestaff. It’s just a much
cleaner route to victory. Most of the times I’ve faced RDW, it’s been a nail biter where I can’t afford to make a mistake. I imagine
that, going forward, even mediocre players are going to have an easier time dealing with RDW opponents because of Batterskull.
Despise seems like the big winner. Even if Valakut and RUG were going to maintain their loyal followings, I’m pretty sure that Despise makes
Darkblade the favorite again. It seems like you can play without Flashfreezes in your sideboard, unless of course you have some extra space and want to
hedge. Siding in 1-2 against Splinter Twin doesn’t seem like the worst idea anyway.
It doesn’t seem out of the question to cut Mana Leak entirely. There’s certainly enough discard to make up for it. It’s just a matter
of being able to find that threat you need in order to close out the game before they recover from all your disruption. It is pretty nice to have that
counterspell to stop whatever comes off the top of their deck though. Think of Mana Leak like a safety blanket or training wheels.
The removal suite is, once again, up to you. Go for the Throat is kind of bad right now, as there seems to be a few artifact creature decks, but then
again, there is some mono-black running around. The major upside is that they can’t redirect GftT to their Spellskite, so you always get to kill
their Deceiver, but that might be marginal.
Dismember is probably worse than Doom Blade or Go for the Throat, but being one mana is so much better than being two mana in Caw-Blade. There’s
a huge glut of two-mana effects, so having something that costs one could go a long way to making your third and fifth turn very profitable.
As always, the problem with Darkblade may lie with the mana base. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any new dual lands, so we have to make do with
what we had before. 27 lands is a definite, but you might even have to stretch to 28 to ensure that a couple Tectonic Edges don’t KO you.
Having a ton of lands coupled with several discard spells doesn’t bode well for the archetype though. As I said, your discard is going to open a
window for you to sneak through with a win, but that window closes quickly. If you’re flooded with no action, they’re going to recover from your
onslaught of discard.
Maybe the best way to play Darkblade is fast and loose with 26-27 land and to just ignore Tectonic Edge.
Speaking of Spellskite, how does one go about beating Splinter Twin with just U/W? Well, Spellskite goes a long way. For every Spellskite you have in
play, they need to come with an answer, unless they want to let you steal their Splinter Twins. Even just on its own, it’s not the worst thing
ever. 0/4 is pretty large, can deflect removal on your Sword, and can even carry a Sword. Spellskite seems like it’s one of the sleepers in the
It kind of feel like you don’t have to play removal in your U/W decks at all anymore. There’s Spellskite, Hawks, and Into the Roil to
stall, with Batterskull playing cleanup duty. If you’re from the 20th century and want to still play Gideon, that would be another thing to stall
for. But seriously, what deck is Gideon good against? Cut him!
I wish I could predict the metagame somehow, although I suppose the byes I get for the Opens help a lot. Do I prepare for the Caw-Blade mirrors, which
many think are going to be dying out, the old decks like Valakut and RUG, the hyper-aggro brews, or the Splinter Twin combo?
I can only imagine how difficult finding a good deck for this weekend at StarCityGames.com Open: Orlando will be.