Resurrecting The Bogeyman, Part 1 *1st With Caw-Blade*

Tim Pskowski won the Standard Open in Cincinnati last weekend with an old baddie made new, Caw-Blade! See how this archetype has been updated for New Standard and still winning the race.

Hi, I’m Tim, and I love being the bad guy. Last month, Wizards banned Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor to much rejoicing. Now that is just not cool. Sure the deck was completely unfair and much better than anything else, but I loved those cards! Clearly I couldn’t take this lying down. Jace and Stoneforge deserve better than to be relegated to Vintage, Legacy, Overextended, Modern, Extended and cubes. What better way to get revenge for them than to keep the deck alive?

Today I’m going to cover the maindeck I played and events up until the Top 8. In part 2, tune in for Top 8, sideboarding, and what changes I’d make to the deck!

Full disclosure: Breaking this into two parts is not strictly due to length. I mostly need another day to try and justify Stave Off.


If you asked me which Constructed decks I’ve played the most games with, I’d have to respond:

1. Faeries
2. Jund
3. U/W Mystic
4. Counterbalance

I’m not sure what is fifth; probably something really innovative like B/W Tokens from a couple years ago. I’m not the type of player who sets out to brew. I’ll leave that to the Lewis Laskin and Ali Aintrazi of the world.


At SCG Indy in the X-2 bracket in round 7 of Legacy.

Me: “So you’re just playing a worse version of my deck?”

Lewis: (With a big smile) “Yep!”

Who needs Ancestral Vision and Vendilion Clique when you have Gitaxian Probe? You get to draw a card and see their hand! I love the brewers, but my first and true love is making fun of the brews.

So why did I play this deck? Well I think it was put best on my Facebook wall by the great novelist and PTQ finalist extraordinaire Stephen King:

“It looks like you showed up with your deck from a month ago, somebody told you Jace and Stoneforge got banned, so you just went through your binder and replaced them with rares that have the word ‘Blade’ in their name so it could still be Caw-Blade.”

The Deck

The changes to the maindeck from what I was playing online were:

-1 Into the Roil
-1 Sword of Feast and Famine
-1 Gideon Jura
+2 Oblivion Ring
+1 Elspeth Tirel

The mana

I think that you have to play 27 lands, as the deck has real trouble when it can’t cast its spells. You can’t rely on Stoneforge Mystic to win games off two mana or Jace to dig you into more lands. 27 lands doesn’t flood you that often because 11 of them are virtual spells. When you draw nine lands but four of them do something, you’re usually not in bad shape. I’ve won games where I cast four spells, but my lands put in lots of work. You do have some games where you draw five colorless lands vs. a monocolor deck, but that will happen from time to time. You can still win in that spot; it is just harder.

The creatures

Squadron Hawk – The belle of the ball, the cute design, and the card sadly not in M12. I love a Hawk. They help you recover from mulligans, run over control, run over the mirror, and pick up a Sword like a champ. There wouldn’t be Caw without birds, and I’m not talking about Emeria Angel.

Blade Splicer – This guy is great. Four power on turn three is a pretty fast clock. Removal is not very good vs. Splicer. Most aggro decks in the format can’t get past a 3/3 first striker. Blade Splicer is a card I always want to see, as it puts them under pressure when you’re the aggro player and blocks like a champ when you’re not. It is also a great card when you’re ready to start beating down. I like this a lot more than some other options like Mirran Crusader.

Hero of Bladehold – I’d never played with this card before last week. Kenny ‘You’re Playing What In Legacy?’ Mayer has an unhealthy love for this card, but I’m starting to see why. It more or less demands a removal spell. It also plays really well with your Hawks and Splicers, adding a ton to their ability to deal damage. It can be a little slow, and it is bad vs. Dismember and Go for the Throat, but most decks now have limited spot removal. I usually slow roll this guy as long as possible so they are forced to Dismember a Golem token or Day of Judgment three Squadron Hawks.

Sun Titan – The four people I knew playing this deck were Ben Friedman, Alex Bertoncini, and Kenny ‘Cabal Pit’ Mayer. Of the four, I think I was the only person playing Titan, and I would again. This deck doesn’t have card draw, so it relies on virtual card advantage from its spell-lands, creatures, planeswalkers, and Equipment. Sun Titan is just raw card advantage. The fact that he can get such varied targets in this deck puts him over the top. He is also one of the few ways to come back in the mirror when you’re behind. You can’t really maindeck two as drawing him early or when you’re under a lot of pressure is an issue. I could see boarding a second, but that doesn’t sound very good.

The planeswalkers

Elspeth Tirel – I figure I should talk about Elspeth first. I was playing three Gideon on MTGO but felt that with M12 I wanted Elspeth over the third Gideon. Here are the upsides:

  • She is a little better vs. Mono Red, which was bound to be popular
  • She is much better in U/W mirrors when they have Oblivion Ring
  • My opponents are not going to legend-rule her
  • Drawing one and one is generally (but not always) better than drawing two Gideon
    • Jarvis Yu told me to play one. In case you’re wondering, yes that is a minus sign.

Gideon Jura – Not much to say. He is the man; the only downside of the card is he does nothing the turn you play him on an empty board. However if you’re casting Gideon into an empty board, you’re probably doing okay.

The removal

Dismember – You have to play some number of this card. It is a way to kill Deceiver Exarch and Lotus Cobra as well as is one of the most powerful removal spells ever printed. I like playing two, as there are few matchups in which you actively want to draw a second Dismember and some in which you don’t want to draw the first. Pretty sure three Wall of Omens bit it to this card, which is awkward but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Oblivion Ring – This card is actually a huge pick-up for the deck from M12. This card is just so flexible. I’d consider a third maindeck, but it is a bit slow and bad versus Twin and Mono Red.

The spells

Preordain – Play four, next!

Spell Pierce – This is not so clear-cut. I really like running three, as it is good vs. most decks but not something you want to draw a ton of, especially if the game goes long.

Mana Leak – Play four; I didn’t like this card when Mystic and Jace were legal, as I thought you had to be proactive in the mirror. It is possible it was good versus other decks, but I couldn’t tell you, as I played zero in Darkblade. Now however, it is good with Valakut picking back up and the format not really slowing down but with fewer games decided by turn four.

Sword of Feast and Famine – Most people played three, but I like two. Many times a Sword in your hand is a blank for most of the game, which is both more likely and much worse if you mulligan. Consider:

Seachrome Coast, Glacial Fortress, Tectonic Edge, Mana Leak, Oblivion Ring, Sword of Feast and Famine

Seems like a decent five carder so I’d keep.

Now consider:

Seachrome Coast, Glacial Fortress, Tectonic Edge, Mana Leak, Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of Feast and Famine

That hand is unkeepable.

Even if you have creatures, drawing a second sword isn’t that great. If you hit them with one a couple times, you’ve probably won; do we really need to double up?

The only reason I’d consider a third at this point is if Valakut picks up steam again, as Sword is one of your best cards in that matchup.

Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday

Friday afternoon I pack my stuff, get the two cards I needed to borrow from my roommate (thanks Min!), and get ready to leave. I live about 45 minutes away from BWI airport and figured I’d beat rush-hour traffic but still give myself two hours. Not. Even. Close. I get to the ticket counter about five minutes before the flight is scheduled to take off. On the board, I see two big red ‘DELAYED’ flags and am starting to hope. There are the two flights after mine. I get put on standby for a flight four hours later and decide I deserve some beers. I find the airport DuClaw, which is a local brewpub chain. I like their beer, and their food is pretty good when I’ve been to their other locations, but I was in for a nasty surprise. I sit down and order a beer saying I’ll need a minute to decide on food. Thirty minutes later, I flag someone down and order a burger medium rare. Vegetarians look away.


Seriously, there is about to be dead cow.


It probably was a cute one.


With spots and stuff.


medium rare?

This is not medium rare. This is not medium. This might be medium well. I’d call it pretty damn charred. Clearly I still crush it, as there is bacon and blue cheese involved, and dig into the fries. For the sick rub-ins, these are clearly way undercooked.

After this and reading some Storm of Swords, I head through security and to the saddest excuse for an Irish Pub I’ve ever seen. However they serve beer, so I wait out the time until my flight inside. Eventually my flight boards, and I sleep entirely through a flight for the first time in my life. All 67 minutes of it.

After my 10 pm nap, I land in Dayton, Ohio, and am picked up by the most-excellent Eric Klug aka @klug_alters aka second runner up, Korean Nationals 2010. He takes me to his parent’s place, and we go to sleep pretty quickly.


Eric wanted to get there before doors open to set up his booth and peddle his wares. So we leave at 6:30 and get on the highway. We miss the Panera exit almost right away. As someone who loves Panera, this is upsetting but not too bad, as I’m not too hungry. We get to the site, and he is the first of the three people doing alters to arrive, snagging the middle table. Now, I don’t alter Magic cards as a living so I’m not really clear on the hierarchy of tables, but I think this is like getting top bunk. Eric was pleased at least. While he is setting up and I’m durdling, Riki Hayashi lets Eric know that the hotel double booked all of the rooms. I assume this was just a simple math error made under the impression that it was a much larger hotel. Well played LivINN.

At eight, the doors open, and people flood in and wait in a long line to sign up. I wait until about 8:15, and I walk right up, collect my sleeves, and sign up. Not sure why people like waiting in lines, as I run this plan at more or less every event I go to. If you’re there early, sign up after the first rush; if you’re not there early, sign up at that last minute. It is not complicated.

Around 8:30, I’m starting to get hungry, and I realize that I ate that disaster of a burger, my last food, about 16 hours ago. The site is surrounded by hotels, and there are a few restaurants but no breakfast places close by. I remember the fact that we were intending to stay in one of those hotels and walk next door. I pop into the LivINN and see their free breakfast buffet and figure mise well. Normally I might feel bad about eating a bowl of cereal from a hotel I’m not staying at, but a) the hotel overbooked us, and b) the buffet was awful. I wanted a waffle, but the line was really long, so I finished my Frosted Flakes and headed back to the site. I make plans to have a waffle tomorrow (foreshadowing).

Okay, back to Magic cards. I remember most of the games of most of the rounds but not everything. I’ll try and be accurate in these, but I’m sure I’ve blended some games in my head and forgot some cards, and one round is just a blank. Apologies to my opponents for anything I got wrong and no disrespect intended on any of my comments.

Round One – Keegan Tuttle-Wheeler, Mono-Red Goblins

Game one he has a slow draw, but I only have two colored sources so I’m slow to flood the board with dudes. On turn six I attack him to single digits, play Elspeth, activate Nexus, and gain 8. This puts me back to twenty with him dead next turn with no outs in the format. He comes close when he topdecks a Goblin Chieftain to attack me for 15 with an Ember Hauler left over, but that doesn’t do it.

I board in the full fifteen. Game two he mulligans to five and plays a turn one Goblin Bushwhacker. I’m pretty sure my opponent has just made his own misstep, so I decline to cast my own. Turn two he attacks for one and casts Goblin Grenade. Again I feel like he has the missteps covered for the turn and decline to respond. He plays some other stuff, but I end up winning on 14 with two Mental Missteps unspent.


Round Two – Ben Bastin, U/W/g Control

Game one he plays some walls and some planeswalkers. I play some Blade Splicers and Hawks. This really is how most games vs. control go, and they are not that close.

Game two wasn’t close but had one of the coolest plays of the event. Game two I have an Elspeth in play for a few turns and make guys before pumping her twice, so she is on six. My opponent is pretty low, and I cast Hero of Bladehold leaving him super-dead next turn. On his turn, he casts Sun Titan getting back Wall of Omens. In games one and two, he had green mana, but I wasn’t really sure what for. Well I now see when he Beast Withins my Hero. Hero goes down, and he passes back. I ultimate Elspeth killing his Wall and Titan then activate Celestial Colonnade and attack for exactly lethal thanks to his Beast token. My opponent was dead whatever he did, but the result was pretty sweet.


Round Three – Russell Wren, U/B Control

Game one I play some guys and start attacking. At some point I tap out, and he is happy to slam a Wurmcoil Engine. I show him what it really means to be happy to slam a card when I cast Oblivion Ring. He goes on to cast Karn Liberated, killing my Gideon Jura. I attack Karn with a 4/4 and 3/3 when it is on three, just on the tiny chance he has a Dismember that he didn’t want to use on my Golem token. He does and dies a couple turns later. Double-attacking Karn slowed my clock by a turn, but I think it was fine because his using Karn on his next turn plus drawing a relevant spell was the only way he could win.

Game two I stall on four lands then hit a fifth. However I tap for a Blade Splicer that turn, which he counters. On his turn he plays a seventh land and Liliana; I have the Mana Leak, but so does he, and I can’t get it off the table so concede two turns later. Game three he has to Black Sun’s Zenith two or three of my Hawks, which lets me play Blade Splicer. Creatures attack him, etc.


Round Four – Andrew Elenbogan

Actually just have no idea what happened this round apart from the fact that I won 2-1.


Round Five – Edward Baustert, Mono Red

“From table 9 Edward Baustert and Timothy Psokwsiafsaismfki at the Charmander Table.”

He is playing red, and in game one things look bad. Turn one Goblin Guide, turn two Teetering Peaks puts me on 14 before I cast a spell. I stall on two lands, and things look really bad. Except my opponent doesn’t really do anything. I end up playing a Blade Splicer on seven as my first really relevant spell. The token gets Bolted, and I decline to block Goblin Guide, which drops me to five (I forget where the odd damage came from, maybe an Arc Trail or something).

I go on to draw a fourth land and start dropping creatures. At the end of my second to last turn, my opponent casts Lightning Bolt bringing me to two life. He then dies having drawn something like ten lands and five spells.

Game two was just as surprising. He has turn one Guide into Teetering Peaks, putting me on 14 again before casting a Lavamancer.

My hand has Kor Firewalker and Stave Off, but I only have two white sources. I run out the Firewalker on turn two, and when he passes, I feel like I’ve just won the lottery, as I untap with Stave Off up. I however don’t have any follow-up, so we just stare at each other for a few turns. He then casts two Chandra’s Phoenixes, which really put me on a clock. I can’t really get anything going, and he eventually casts a Hero of Oxid Ridge. It dies a horrible death to the Firewalker but lets him get in for a ton of damage, putting me to one life. I have Elspeth in hand but no way to win, so I pack it up.

Game three for the third time he has Guide -> Peaks, but this time I have Celestial Purge. He then played a Lavamancer. I untap and Firewalker. He doesn’t have a Dismember, so he dies to Golem tokens and such.


Round Six – Andrew Benanzer, Kuldotha Rebirth

“From table 3 Andrew Benanzer and Timothy Psokwsiafsasi at the Pikachu table.”

I don’t remember game one well. I think like the previous round we putz around for a while, and the long game favors me so I kill him. Game two he has turn one Kuldotha Rebirth, and I don’t have Mental Misstep in hand. I don’t draw it for his turn two kicked Goblin Bushwhacker and die a few turns later. Game three his draw isn’t that good, and I run him over. He doesn’t board out Contested War Zone, which surprises me, as my deck is quite good at stealing them.


Round Seven – Ben Friedman, Caw-Blade

Now Ben and I don’t go very far back, but we’re friends. We’re both from Maryland and have been playing a while but just never knew each other. Even stranger, he is my best friend’s cousin, but we still had never met.

About two months ago, we went to the first Dream Wizards PTQ with New Phyrexia legal. Round five or six, we were both X-0, and we got paired. We figured out who each other was and had a pretty good match, full of bad plays, which I won. He managed to win out, and we went on to meet in the quarterfinals where I defeated him again (foreshadowing) on my way to the win (also foreshadowing). A few weeks later, he knocked me out of Legacy in SCG Baltimore on his way to getting ninth on breakers; sorry my 3-2-1 didn’t help!

I’d talked to Ben in the morning about the deck, and we know each other’s lists. After this, Ben and I had kept winning and been joking about when we’d play, as we got closer to the magic 8-0 mark where we could draw into Top 8. As the round is announced, Ben tells me to not even walk over to my pairings. I start moving and sure enough.

“From Table 3, Ben Friedman and Tim Pskowasgasi at the Bulbasaur table.”

We sit down, joke a bit, and agree to a 20% split, as we’re both pretty sure the winner will T8. He wins the die roll, which is huge in this matchup, but mulligans and doesn’t have a very good hand. He dies to an assortment of small white guys. I know he doesn’t have Day of Judgment maindeck, so I just race to clog up the board with as many creatures as I can. Without Day, he can’t come back.

Game two he is on the play and plays turn two Squadron Hawk, which is the best opening in the mirror by a long shot. I get run over in short order. Game three I’m on the play and win pretty easily. None of the games were that interesting, but I’ll take the win, and we were both in good shape to T8.


Round Eight – David Shiels, W/u Tempered Steel

“From Table 1, David Shiels and Tim Pskowaesi at the Jigglypuff table.”

All event, I was hoping to dodge Tempered Steel. I knew the matchup was very bad but also didn’t expect many people to play it. In the last round of Swiss that I need to win, my luck ran out.

I have to face my worst matchup piloted by one of the best players in the room. Game one both of us have pretty slow draws. He pecks away at me some, and I don’t have anything to go on the offense with. Eventually I draw a second Tectonic Edge. At this point, he has Seachrome Coast, Seachrome Coast, Inkmoth Nexus, Inkmoth Nexus as his lands. I decide to take out both his colored sources. I realize a few turns later that this is just an awful play. He not only plays another U/W dual on his next turn, but his deck has very few colored spells.

If I had a Hero of Bladehold and had to protect it from Dispatch, that play would have been right; otherwise it was just wrong. A few turns later, I still have nothing, and I’m poisoned out by those Inkmoth Nexuses; lesson learned.

Game two he has a Glint Hawk Idol and an Inkmoth Nexus, but I manage to counter his Shrine of Loyal Legions. Again however I don’t muster an offense before he starts to pull ahead. He resolves a Steel Overseer and starts pumping. I think I actually could have won this game if I drew a Day late, as he played out three creatures, and I took out the Glint Hawk, but I didn’t draw it and died.

I wasn’t too upset about this loss because the matchup is really bad; his draws did nothing, and I still lost. The punt helped, but I’m not sure I win game one if I play correctly.

One reason nothing happened this match is both games he drew a number of Spellskites exactly equal to the number of removal spells I drew. I think Spellskite isn’t good vs. my deck. That said, Shiels is much better than I am, and they do protect Glint Hawk Idol and Shrine of Loyal Legions, which can both beat a Day of Judgment. However his drawing the same number of Spellskites as I drew removal spells effectively just mulliganed both of us, slowing down the games.

I was also surprised that he sided in his Contested War Zones. While the card is good in some matchups, it matches up versus Squadron Hawk about as well as Luminarch Ascension. I don’t think he needs the War Zones to beat me, so I’d leave them in the side to avoid awkward hands.


Before round nine, I talk to Ben and find out that he won, so we both need one more. I’m really hoping for us to both Top 8 so I don’t have to ship much on my split (yep, still foreshadowing).

Round 9 – Joshua Lewis, U/W Control

After facing my worst matchup, luck smiles on me again, and I face my best. My opponent tried his best; he keeps a Jace Beleren in play for about five turns but has to keep using the +2. This just let me hit my land drops and keep attacking Jace with two Hawks. Eventually I play a third Hawk, and he casts Day and finally uses the -1 on Jace. I then start playing out my real creatures, and the game is soon over. I think the fact that it might be correct for U/W to side out Jace in this matchup speaks volumes as to how bad the matchup is for them. Game two I think we see a Venser hit the table, which is about as bad vs. me as Jace but costs five. Luminarch Ascension may or may not have been cast as well. If anyone wants to play U/W control after this event, please cut that card.


By a stroke of luck, Ben faced U/W Control in his feature match and also easily won, keeping my dream of not shipping on the split alive. When standings go up, it is clear there is a clean cut to the Top 8 so everyone draws, and I durdle around for an hour.

Fast forward.

“We have a Top 8! In fifth place Tim Pskowski!”


They actually said my name right!

And clearly I’m facing Ben again for some more Hawk on Hawk action. Too bad the word Hawkward has already been taken because if not, it would be a pretty good way to describe our relationship.

I’m going to leave it here for now. Tune in for part 2 for the Top 8, people sleeping under tables, why I ran Stave Off, and changes to the deck. Might even share the story of the worst beat that has ever been served to someone within two minutes of winning a SCG Open.

Thanks for reading everyone, and feedback would be super! If you have specific questions about the deck, those would be best saved for part 2, as I’ll hopefully answer some of them.