Reflecting Ruel – Turbo Fog For States

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Friday, December 4th – States is tomorrow, and people are searching for the One True Deck to propel them to State Champion status! Olivier Ruel takes Joel Calafell’s Worlds 6-0 Turbo Fog deck for a spin around the MTGO block, and suggests sideboarding plans and maindeck improvements…

After Joel Calafell posted a 6-0 record in Worlds Standard with Turbo Fog, I thought his result was nonsense. I mean, Joel is very good, and his deck looks super cool. I wouldn’t question that. But what I can say, from my recent experience with Howling Mine decks (Turbo Fog in Grand Prix: Barcelona and Grand Prix: Seattle, and Time Sieve at French Nationals) is that those decks simply lose to Maelstrom Pulse decks. And the most played deck in the Standard portion of Worlds was Jund, by far, as 35% of the field decided to run the archetype.

The first thing I did was to check on Joel’s pairings at Worlds. It appears that, over 6 rounds, he didn’t play a single Jund opponent. It seems he probably had a deck which was favorite against two-thirds of the field, which would lose to Jund and Jund alone.

Still, last week I wanted to play some Standard online, and I decided to build Joel’s deck out of curiosity. The deck is not as cool and funky as Time Sieve used to be, but it turned to be not only good, but excellent.

Before we discuss the matchups and possible modifications for the deck, let’s examine the current build and explain how it works:

The deck’s goal is to get both players to draw a lot of cards as fast as possible. This way, they draw guys while you draw Fogs, meaning their extra draws don’t have so much of an impact (and Blightning is not so good anymore). Also, it helps you kill them. Indeed, you have three ways to win:

A: You mill them with Jace’s ultimate ability.
B: You mill them with Archive Trap.
C: You don’t do a thing except for making sure you’re not decked before they are. You do this by controlling how many Howling Mine / Font of Mythos / Jace Belerens you’re playing. In this case, if necessary, you may have to Time Warp your opponent occasionally, but you need to be able to play one Fog for each turn you pass.

The Sunspring Expeditions may look like a joke, but they are actually very useful, as you need to gain life against aggro decks. Why not play four, if it’s a one-mana card that’s invaluable against the faster decks? Because you have to deal with two distinct threats against them: their guys, and their direct damage. You won’t be able to stop everything, so you know a first wave will get through anyway. Day of Judgment and the Fogs will then be to make sure a second wave doesn’t deal you a single point of damage. In the meantime, Kabira Crossroads, Flashfreeze, and Sunspring Expedition will need to get you out of Lightning Bolt / Burst Lightning / Blightning reach.

Why would you need Archive Trap when you can, in theory, mill your opponents pretty easily with nothing more that Jace, and by playing the right number of cards? The main reason why you have Time Walk in your deck is so you will be able to draw a lot of cards in just a couple of turns to take a decisive control on the game. However, the more card advantage you make doing this, the further you get from decking them. Therefore, milling thirteen cards, even if it’s only once, should be enough. Why are there two copies, when casting one should win the game every time? It’s due to the Jund matchup.

Facing the RGB deck, you will often have trouble holding on for more than ten turns. Their beatdown may not be dangerous, but they still have Maelstrom Pulse, haste guys for Jace, and Blighting, Lightning Bolt, and often Siege-Gang Commander, for direct damage. Therefore, games are really close, and it often comes down to whether you are able to cast the “Mill 13 instant” or not.

One of the strongest factors of the deck is that it’s really hard to play against. Should you burn them? Should you burn Jace? Who are you going to attack? What do you play around? Safe Passage or Angelsong? Do you have to play your best guys when they play Day of Judgment? Not only is the deck good, but you also always have an edge on your opponent when you know a matchup and they don’t.

Even after testing the deck a lot, I still have no idea why Joel ran that Path to Exile. It is useful once in a while, and it can push your opponent to search for a land, allowing you to Trap them for free, but it’s still pretty bad compared to the other 59 cards in the deck.

Here is the version I’m currently running. As you will notice, I haven’t changed the deck much, as Joel did a terrific job. I’ve adjusted for the States metagame rather than improved the deck, which could hardly be done by Joel…

I faced Boros Bushwhacker several times on Magic Online, and their best chance to win is their sideboarded Manabarbs. As you are tapped out most of the time, the enchantment is quite an easy one to resolve. However, if you have even one mana-producing artifact when they play it, you still have a very good chance to win. It also accelerates your mana once in a while, and it will fix it more often than it will keep you from drawing the right lands.

In order to fill the gap left by the exit of Path to Exile, I wanted a cheap spell, hopefully one that would buy me time. I considered a third Sunspring Expedition for a while, but there was another option: Ponder. The card may not be amazing, but it is still a card you’re always glad to draw, and I like it a lot more as a filler card than a Path or an inactive Expedition. The White enchantment is good, but it is still the only card, with Archive Trap, which actually takes more than a single turn to have an immediate impact on the game. And I would not play three copies of a card I don’t want to draw more than one of anyway.

The Sideboard
I cut a pair of Pithing Needles for Wall of Denials number 3 and 4. Indeed, the card almost wins the Mono Red matchup on its own. Yes, maybe four cards for a Tier 2 deck seems a bit much, but you don’t want to bring too many cards in against most decks anyway, as you still need a solid Fog plus Card Draw basis. Mono Red is an exception, as it’s the only matchup against which you can bring out Howling Mine and Font of Mythos… but we’ll get back to that. Pithing Needle is very useful against two decks: Eldrazi Green and the Unearth deck. The first shouldn’t be a problem anyway, and you already have Baneslayer Angel for them if you feel like you need something. As for the graveyard deck, I haven’t seen in quite a while. It was almost not represented in Rome, and it seems it has disappeared from Magic Online lately.

The final card I’ve changed is a Hindering Light for a Negate. In the current Standard, Hindering Light can counter pretty much the same spells, except for Oblivion Ring, Earthquake, any spell from Turbo Fog, and Planeswalkers. You don’t care so much about the latter, as even Ajani is usually too slow to destroy all your lands. It’s true that Negate would be a lot better in the mirror, but as the deck is not so popular at the moment, it’s not such a big deal. Earthquake is a bigger problem, but you have such a heavy sideboard against Mono Red, and you should do well against Five-Color Control so it’s not such a big problem. The most annoying one is Oblivion Ring, but only your best matchups run it. Still, the best bet is probably to use a mixture of both.

Let’s now focus on the deck’s different matchups.

Jund: (Online tournament matches results: 16-12)

There are actually several ways to sideboard in this matchup. When you board in Baneslayer, you usually cut Archive Trap, as it replaces it at a win condition. Usually I’ll go with something like:

In: 2 Hindering Light, 1 Negate, 2 Baneslayer Angel
Out: 2 Font of Mythos, 1 Jace Beleren, 1 Archive Trap, 1 Day of Judgment

You may need the 3 Day of Judgment when they play Siege-Gang Commander. You don’t want to keep all the Fonts of Mythos, as it’s too much of a good target for Maelstrom Pulse, and you can cut one Jace as it’s also pretty easy to kill. Whenever they see Baneslayer Angel, make sure you board them all out for the next game, as the card is only good when they cut their removal. If it gets killed by Pulse, at least your Card Draw artifacts won’t.

My score in this matchup is positive, but that’s more because people are confused when they play against the deck than because the matchup really is favorable. It should probably be closer to 50-50. The key may be to wait to have mana open for countermagic when you play a Howling Mine. However, don’t stall until you can do that. They have more card advantage than you do, so play your Mine and cross your fingers whenever you can.

Boros Bushwhacker: (6-3)

A very positive matchup, for which the number one threat is clearly the sideboard Manabarbs. However, no matter how good the matchup is, the 6-3 score seems about right, as Boros Bushwhacker is the fastest aggro deck in the format, and it punishes your below average draws below immediately.

In: 1 Negate, 1 Sunspring Expedition, 3 Baneslayer Angel
Out: 2 Archive Trap, 1 Time Warp, 1 Ponder, 1 Font of Mythos

Your deck doesn’t change much after board; you should simply be able to save time and win with the Angel.

Mono Red: (3-3)

I was 0-2 in this matchup until I added Wall of Denial numbers 3 and 4 to the sideboard.

In: 4 Wall of Denial, 4 Baneslayer Angel, 2 Hindering Light, 1 Negate, 1 Sunspring Expedition
Out: 2 Archive Trap, 4 Howling Mine, 4 Font of Mythos, 1 Day of Judgment, 1 Ponder

Even sideboarding the Relic could be useful to remove the Unearth guys, but the Wall should be able to take care of them. Your deck becomes so good against them that you don’t even need to worry about milling.

Naya: (3-1)

The matchup is much easier than Boros Bushwhacker. Don’t even bother bringing the Angels in, as it could lead you to a loss, as they may keep Path to Exile.

In: 1 Negate
Out: 1 Archive Trap

No need to alter the deck, as the matchup is good enough just the way it is.

Mono White: (2-0), WG: (1-0)

The best matchup for the deck. Their only threats are WW’s Oblivion Ring and WG’s World Queller.

In: 2 Negate (WW), 2 Baneslayer Angel(WG)
Out: 2 Archive Trap

Vampires: (2-0)

Their only two threats cost five mana: Malakir Bloodwitch and Mind Sludge. In this situation, you just have to play around them and, if possible, stay over ten life so Bloodghast doesn’t have haste.

In: 2 Negate, 1 Sunspring Expedition, 1 Tezzeret the Seeker
Out: 4 Flashfreeze

Boarding in Baneslayer Angel is really bad, as they keep Gatekeeper of Malakir and Malakir Bloodwitch. Tezzeret the Seeker is not fantastic, but it’s a much safer alternate win condition than the Angel.

Overall, counting the less common decks I’ve been playing against, I’ve posted a 41-20 record with the deck. Whenever a deck scores over 65%, and in particular when it doesn’t have any real bad matchup sin the format, then it’s a really strong option. This deck is simply the best I’ve played in Standard for a very long time. It’s not too hard to beat when it’s expected, but as long as it’s not, I highly recommend it for States.

Have a great weekend!