Peebles Primers – Justice and Reveillark

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Tuesday, September 16th – Today’s Peebles Primers tackles two subjects. The first sees Ben rail against a common Magic malady: the misplaced sense of entitlement, or “justice.” The second sees Ben state the respective cases for both combo Reveillark and its non-combo variant. [Editor’s Note: Ben Bleiweiss will be running later in the week!]

This article comes in two pieces, both stemming from a single match I played on Magic Online. The first article piece is something that I’ve been mulling over in my head for quite some time, relating to a word I learned in the Ohio Valley and have since come to loathe: justice. It talks about the mentality of many Magic players. The second piece is more strategic in content, so if you’re just here for some decklists, bear with me.

The Match

Sometime last week, I was playing a Standard 2x PE. I was (obviously) playing Blue/White Reveillark, and after some bad luck in the swiss, my breakers held up and I found myself in the Top 8. I quickly dispatched my quarterfinals opponent (RDW) thanks to my Forge-Tenders and Runed Halos, and wound up in the pseudo-mirror for the Semifinals.

My opponent was playing the three-color Gargadon Combo version, though he had some personalizations of his own, such as maindeck Teferi. He powered it into play on turn 4 in the first game, but I simply threw Reveillarks and Body Doubles at him until he ran out of ways to stop Body Double from coming into play, and then immediately died.

For game 2, I brought in my own Teferis and took out most of the dead White cards, giving me an even better shot at taking down the post-board games. Starting on the fifth turn, we had a fairly epic fight over Teferis; I tapped out to get mine into play and he Legend Rule’d it away. I had Body Double to make a second Teferi, but he stole it with Sower of Temptation. I won the fight by bouncing his Sower with Riftwing Cloudskate and then using Momentary Blink to avoid the re-steal. At this point, though, I didn’t have much gas left in the tank, with just a Reveillark and a Mulldrifter. I attacked him to the point where I could kill him with a surprise Mirror Entity on my next turn when he played a Body Double. Thinking that we were still fighting a Teferi war, I let it resolve after I played my Mirror Entity. When he copied Reveillark instead of Teferi, I came to the crushing realization that he’d assembled his combo and that I could do nothing about it.

As my opponent went about bouncing my side, I realized that I had failed to simply cast Careful Consideration instead of Mirror Entity in an attempt to draw Pact of Negation to stop his Body Double. After I conceded, I checked the top four cards to see if Pact was waiting for me; it was.

At this point I realized something else. I could just have played my Mirror Entity and started activating it. I had a Reveillark, the Entity, a Mulldrifter, and Teferi. However, that Teferi was really a Body Double, so I had my combo assembled and could have drawn my deck to guarantee finding a Pact and finding a Cloudskate to bounce his side on my turn. Of course, this means I could have just gone off on my own turn, discarded in my end step, and bounced his side during his upkeep, winning the match. In other words, I deserved to win that game.

Or did I?


I think the first time I heard someone mention “justice,” in this sense, was in an Extended PTQ. One of my friends was playing a Dredge player who was blatantly bad at Magic; he made suboptimal decisions at multiple points, failed to plan ahead, and in general just stumbled through his matches. This wouldn’t be too noteworthy except for the fact that he “stumbled through” the nine rounds of swiss straight into the Top 8. Every time he won a match, I heard mutters of “no justice” from the spectators.

There might be something to be said for the disappointment you feel when a good player falls at the hands of a worse player, but since I first heard someone talk about it, “justice” has become horribly warped. It no longer just means that the guy who deserved to win actually lost, it has come to be the reason you deserve to win. In other words, it’s no longer a tool for sympathy, it is a sense of entitlement.

In my Top 8 match, I had all of the pieces of the puzzle in my hands, but I failed to put them together. I actually could have won that game in three different ways, but somehow I managed to find the fourth option that led to a loss instead of a win. I can think of tons of Magic players I know who would simply say that my opponent got lucky, that I deserved the win, and that bad beats happen all the time, but that’s almost certainly thinking about things the wrong way. If anyone “deserves” the win, it’s the guy sitting across the (virtual) table who managed to play his deck well enough to eke out a win when I could have woken up and killed him at any moment.

This sense of entitlement to victory is something that I see in many mid- to high-level Magic players, including myself. All I could think about during the third game was how my opponent lucksacked me out of a win, when I should have been thinking about just how poorly I must be playing to let such a sure thing slide through my fingers. I could have killed him with my combo. I could have stopped him with my draw spell. I could have stopped him with my combo. Instead, I lost the game.

I don’t know why we feel like those are games that we should have won when we clearly shouldn’t have won them. I do know, however, that this mental trap is something that holds tons of players back from their PTQ victory, Grand Prix Day 2, or any other achievement that they’re striving towards. By dismissing it as a game that we “essentially won,” we manage to sweep it under the rug and fail to learn from it. The lesson that I learned that night was that I had managed to focus on exactly the wrong part of the game even though I had it within me to play the game that mattered. After all, I won the first game by powering through my opponent’s Teferi; I should have seen that he was going to have to do the same thing to win the second. Instead of thinking that we were fighting over who controlled Teferi, I should have realized that we were fighting over who got to combo-kill the other and that Teferi just gave me an extra level of security.

It’s hard to put into written words exactly the feeling that I am referring to, but I would wager that everyone reading this article has felt this same feeling. Your deck was better, you were the better player, whatever, but something fell through the cracks and suddenly you’d lost to “some idiot” who “should have been in the 0-x bracket.” Perhaps we should all just get off our collective high horses and realize that a game we could have won but didn’t is the exact opposite of a game we deserved to win. It’s a game we deserved to lose, and until we can stop making the mistakes that cause us to deserve to lose, we can’t truly hope to succeed. If you remember the idea of the Fearless Magical Inventory, then Justice should be an entry in most Inventories out there.


As this Standard season comes to a close, we find ourselves with something on the order of four different Reveillark decks, all championed for different reasons. There’s the Blue/White Combo version that I’ve loved for months, the Blue/White No-Combo version that Owen talked about last week, the Gargadon Combo version that became popular after PT: Hollywood, and the Five-Color version that’s the greediest of all. The problem, then, is which one is actually best?

The world seems to be swinging back to the two-color side of the story, but the jury is still quite out on whether you want to play with the combo or without it. I’ll try to explain what I believe is the best case for the sides in the combo versus non-combo archetype, and of course I’ll try to convince you that the Combo side is the stronger one.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, three of the above four different styles of Reveillark were present in the Top 4 of the PE I managed to punt away. This means that you need to be prepared to play with or against any of the flavors currently available.

No Combo

Reveillark without the combo is a strange deck to look at. The decklist that Owen posted last week is, roughly speaking, thirty mana sources, twenty 2/2s, and ten utility spells. It runs off the same idea that every Reveillark deck ever has: you might not do much in the first turns of the game, but when turns 3, 4, and 5 roll around, you will be firing off bombs for the rest of the game.

By playing without the combo, you make sure that all of your spells actually are bombs. You don’t have to waste time playing Mirror Entity or Bonded Fetch, you just play Sowers, Reveillarks, Mulldrifters, and Vensers, and you keep your opponent off their game long enough to put them down. You draw cards, gain life, bounce permanents, and always swing in the air for two, four, or eight. It doesn’t take much of that to win a game.

The Combo-less version of the deck also manages to dodge a lot of the hate that’s been aimed at Reveillark. These days, it seems as though people have settled on Faerie Macabre, though there’s been an Extirpate or two thrown around. Without the combo pulling things in a certain direction, a Reveillark trigger stopped by Faerie Macabre is just a lost trigger. You’ll also never find yourself trying to copy Mulldrifter with Body Double just to have your Shapeshifter go directly to the graveyard.

The downside to this is that you have to win games honestly. If swinging in the air with 2/2s and 4/3s won’t get the job done in time, then you won’t be winning. It’s a little more complicated than that, since things like Sower of Temptation can give you additional threats, but in general your guys are pretty unimpressive in combat and you need to ride them to victory.


Reveillark with the combo is only barely more impressive on the surface. Body Double, when your graveyard isn’t getting killed while it sits on the stack, is extraordinarily powerful. There are plenty of decks out there that are nearly dead in the water to a Body Double copying a Reveillark, as it’s unkillable in the traditional sense, and every time you try to fight through it, a free 2/2 will come back into play.

Of course, playing with the combo only makes graveyard hate better against you. If you block with Reveillark and they Macabre your targets away, then you’re no worse off than you would be without the combo in your deck. If, however, you put twenty Mirror Entity activations on the stack and then get your trigger killed, you’ll lose your entire side, and likely the game. (Avoiding this is the single biggest appeal, to me, of playing with Greater Gargadon.) Essentially, you’re getting risky with your situation; if they don’t have anything they’ll lose, but if they have graveyard hate or other disruption (Cryptic Command, Boomerang, etc), things can completely fall apart.

There’s also the issue of playing with cards that are relatively unimpressive in their solo duties. I have not played Bonded Fetch in a long time for exactly that reason. Drawing him off the top in the middle turns is extremely unimpressive, while drawing Careful Consideration might easily set you up for a win on the next turn. I still, though, play with three Mirror Entities. The reason that I never stopped playing with them is that I actually feel as though they add to the power of the deck.

Good Mirror Entities exist in three different forms. The most obvious one is the combo form, where you play Mirror Entity, bounce their side, gain a million life, and go on to win on the next turn with an attack for forty-five. There are also games where you just play it, activate it, and kill your opponent who thought that they were sitting pretty at eighteen life. Instead of waiting around for the seventh point of burn to come off the top of your opponent’s deck, you can actually just win the game immediately. The last good Mirror Entity is the one that sits in your graveyard for most of the game and makes your Reveillark untouchable. I have played many matches where a dying Reveillark brought back a Cloudskate and a Mirror Entity, and my opponent died when I untapped and activated it for x=9.

There is, though, a downside to wedging the combo into the deck. By playing with three Body Doubles and three Mirror Entities, you quickly run out of room for the customizations that you’d like to be able to make to address specific issues in the metagame. My solution has been to trim Sower of Temptation, but that’s a loss that’s sorely felt against Green decks and the mirror.

In the end, the decision as I see it comes down to consistency versus power. By playing without the combo, you’re choosing to play a deck that will just try to keep the bad guy off-balance long enough to win with small air men. You have tons of tools to do that, though, so it’s not like you’re needlessly hindering yourself. On the other hand, choosing to play with the combo is giving yourself a more powerful but more dangerous tool. There will be games every now and again where you have to mulligan away an otherwise decent hand because it contained too many Mirror Entities, but if you play your combo intelligently, you won’t lose to the hate any more than you would otherwise.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.

Benjamin Peebles-Mundy
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM