Just when I thought my love for Magic had been infected right out and needed to wait until the next draft format to recover, it happened.
Antonino De Rosa won a PTQ.
That’s how it all started. Right around spoiler time, he qualified for Nagoya and asked me if I would help him brew for the Pro Tour. Since Block
Constructed is one of the most enjoyable formats to brew, being a wide-open format where anything goes, I gladly agreed. Hopefully Constructed would
mean fewer poison counters.
Paul Rietzl once said that when the YMG masterminds brewed for a format, the first thing they did was look at the cards that gave big mana advantages.
Aether Vial and Cabal Coffers are examples of this. In this format, there wasn’t anything like thatâ€”at first glance anyway.
After I viewed the spoiler, the card that jumped out at me was Puresteel Paladin. This guy was a tank full of pure octane. The best part was that he
was all about renewable energy, helping the environment. His metalcraft ability was greatly underrated. Oftentimes, being able to play a sword on turn
3 and equip it for free is game. Another cute trick was equipping Mortarpod for free to start machine-gunning them down. Once I wanted to build a deck
around him, I naturally had to find all the living weapons and see which of them were good.
The first build of the deck was U/W.
4 Trinket Mage
4 Flayer Husk
4 Puresteel Paladin
4 Sword of Feast or Famine
4 M. Night Shyamalan (Memnite)
4 Glint Hawk
1 Darksteel Axe
1 Sylvok Lifestaff
2 Leonin Relic Warder
4 Seachrome Coast
The deck had some really, really explosive draws. Antonino was still working in Manila, so I was in Curacao and forced to play vs. myself, something
all true brew masters must do when the brewing fever runs rampant. The deck was beating U/B artifact-less control easily. Its draws were good enough
that it was clearly competitive and worth more time and effort.
I sent Chapin and Antonino Facebook messages with the decklist and told Paul Rietzl about it over AIM. Ant was interested in playing me when he got
back to Curacao, but Chapin had Legacy to worry about, and Paul had a real job and a girlfriend.
Antonino suggested Sword of War and Peace over the Sword of Feast and Famine. In the imaginary games, Sword of FF was underwhelming. Sure it was really
fun to untap your lands with a Paladin in play and cast a bunch of Equipment to keep drawing cards, but why not just kill them instead? The switch was
made, and I never looked back.
Chapin had written an article on Block and mentioned that Hero of Bladehold was a must-answer for the Mono Red decks, and oftentimes it was hard for
them to do so. The blue in the deck made the mana a little awkward, so the switch was made, and Hero went in. He also suggested Inkmoth Nexus since
it’s just a free roll in a monocolor deck.
Paul thought it was ludicrous that we played 25 mana sources, so one of those was cut.
The new list looked like this.
Now we were getting somewhere. The deck was beating Tempered Steel and red control decks on MODO (Magic Online). Ant got to Curacao, and anything he
threw against it was losing. It posted an absurd win percentage on MODO of 80% or more. We decided to stop playing it in the queues because it was that
good, and it seemed like no one else knew about it. There weren’t any Paladin decks on magic-league or the MODO Dailies.
Next were sideboard strategies. Originally the sideboard had Shrine of Loyal Legions, Remember the Fallen, Mirran Crusader, Leonin Relic-Warder, Hero
of Bladehold #4, and Revoke Existence. The Shrines and Remember the Fallen were for control decks. The idea was that you could just attrition them out
with those cards. The Shrines presented a big problem by creating threats on their end step. Mirran Crusaders were for Birthing Pod and infect decks.
Relic-Warders and Revoke Existences were for Tempered Steel and artifact-based control decks.
The Mirran Crusaders did their job admirably and held their spot. It was really hard for the black-based decks to deal with him, and it turned out that
he was a good man against the U/B control decks because he hit so hard.
The Hero of Bladehold was an obvious choice, and it was so good that he finally made the cut to the maindeck. The initial fear was that 24 mana sources
were not enough for four four-drops, but he was just so good that the games he won outweighed the games where he clogged your hand.
The Shrines and Remember the Fallen were good, but it was hard to quantify the edge they gave you because the games always seemed so close. These spots
were still up in the air.
Leonin Relic-Warder was less than impressive for me. Maindeck he was fine because he gave you artifact removal on a body and was never a dead card,
since he could always attack for two. Also in a pinch he could remove your own living weapon, so when they killed him, you got another Germ.
However after sideboarding, it became clear that you only wanted him against Tempered Steel. Against the control decks and Birthing Pod, he would
remove something and just get killed a turn or two later. Oftentimes he would trick you into overcommitting in order to remove that annoying artifact,
only to have them wrath you with Black Sun’s Zenith or Slagstorm. Eventually he stopped getting brought in except in the Tempered Steel matchup. I
imagine the reason he was still in the sideboard at the Pro Tour was because Tempered Steel was such a big part of the metagame.
The deck was having some awkward draws. Sometimes you would draw the Memnites and Vault Skirges and just run out of gas. We thought the deck needed to
play more power and slow down. We added Blade Splicer, a fourth Hero, Elspeth Tirel, and Spellskite. The slower version ended up just being much worse.
It seemed like your late game was just worse than everyone else’s. The bonus of the faster version was that you put a lot of pressure on them. A lot of
decks in the format have a lot of trouble with a turn 1 Glint Hawk. That’s probably why Tempered Steel is so good.
The card that stood out to me was Spellskite. He was an all-star versus any control decks featuring Tumble Magnets. He also protected not only your
Puresteel Paladin, but also your Sword of War and Peace. I only played a handful of heads-up MODO queues with him, but every time I drew him, he was
awesome. The most recent list I gave to Antonino before the Pro Tour was this.
- 4 Memnite
- 4 Glint Hawk
- 4 Hero of Bladehold
- 2 Leonin Relic-Warder
- 4 Puresteel Paladin
- 2 Spellskite
- 2 Vault Skirge
The Leonin Relic-Warders were wildly underperforming out of the sideboard and were only used against Tempered Steel. However Tempered Steel was still a
large part of the metagame, so the guys at the PT still ran them.
Kemba was for Red and control, giving you a big threat that added value to your Equipment. They turned out to be better than the Shrines or Remember
The problem now is that this deck is a part of the format. No one really knew about this deck before the PT, and if they did, they didn’t think
they needed to prepare for it. After putting five out of six pilots in the money and two out of six in the Top 8, the deck will definitely pick up
popularity. Now you need to sideboard against it.
Here is the list I would run post—Pro Tour Nagoya.
- 4 Memnite
- 4 Glint Hawk
- 4 Hero of Bladehold
- 1 Leonin Relic-Warder
- 4 Puresteel Paladin
- 2 Spellskite
- 2 Vault Skirge
Sideboard plans as follows:
Vs. red control
Revoke Existence is for Tumble Magnet and Wurmcoil Engine. If they have Wurmcoil Engine, which I believe most lists do, you can board in a Revoke
Existence for a Mortarpod. This matchup is a real grind, and one of the keys is not setting yourself up to get blown out by Into the Core. You usually
want to wait until they tap out or when you don’t have any other artifacts in play to drop your Sword. You also want to try and slowroll your
Puresteel Paladins to try and gain value from them the turn you play them. Oftentimes the red deck will tap out on turn 4-6 to play some big dude, and
this is the ideal turn to drop your Paladin and some Equipment and start drawing cards. That said, if you have the Puresteel Paladin/Kemba/Equipment
draw, it’s probably correct to just drop the Paladin on two, since between that and Kemba on turn 3, one of them will stick and most likely win you the
Vs. Tempered Steel
Here I think you just want to slow down and grind them out, since your late game is so much better than theirs with the Paladins.
Vs. Tezzeret Control
Kemba could potentially be good in this matchup as another threat, but it’s untested. It’s possible that you could side in two Kembas over two Mirran
Crusaders. You’ll notice that the Leonin Relic-Warder is sided out vs. the Red and Tezzeret decks that play a lot of artifacts, namely Sphere of the
Suns, which is one of the best targets. The reasoning behind this is often you would remove something and force yourself to overcommit into their
wrath. They just weren’t good.
In this matchup and often against Red control as well you want to slowroll your Puresteel Paladin. Playing him turn 2 on the play isn’t always a
good choice if you have something else to do. Oftentimes it is better to play another spell, wait for them to play their Wellspring on turn 2, and
untap and play him on turn 3 with hopefully a Flayer Husk to get value right away. Even if you don’t have the Husk, you’re forcing them to spend
their turn 3 killing him.
Vs. the mirror
This is still untested. The idea is that you want to add more threats in the form of Kemba and more removal to kill their Paladins. It seems like the
matchup revolves around the Paladin here and who can keep it on the board. It is possible that protecting your Paladin with Spellskite is so important
that you want to bring in the third. If that is true, I would probably cut one of the Revoke Existences. Again this matchup is untested. I’ll try to
play the deck some more on Magic Online this week, and hopefully I can post updates to the list and matchup advice in the forums.
If I have missed any matchups that you are wondering about, please post in the forums. Hopefully Sharfman, Cox, or De Rosa can chime in on their
thoughts on the deck as well.
Congratulations to Sharfman on his Pro Tour win. On our brief encounter at US Nats, he seemed like a really nice kid, and I’m sure he is deserving of
this win. Congratulations to Patrick Cox on following up his hot streak at the SCG Invitational with a Top 8 here. Thanks for bashing nuggs with my
brew so I can have an excuse to feel relevant again.
Hopefully the rest of you try out this deck, as it is a lot of fun to play.
Herberheezy on MODO
P.S. I am currently working on an epic article containing all of the funny stories gathered from years playing on the Pro Tour as well as any advice to
upcoming players. It will most likely be a three-part piece, and hopefully the first part will be out in the next week or two.