I am currently in California testing with the team for the upcoming and potentially last Worlds event. This tournament has a wide range of formats to prepare for, including Standard, Innistrad Draft, and Modern. Even though this is a huge workload, I still can’t stop thinking about one of my favorite formats in Magic. Every day starts with me looking through decklists from the Block Dailies. This week, I am going to talk about why single-set Block is a great format to play as well as a good introduction to Constructed on Magic Online.
I was no FffreaK in the early days of playing Magic Online. I was still in high school and could barely muster up enough money to build a Standard deck. Draft was something that I heard about in the cafeteria, and even though it was a click away, it was still way too advanced for me. I invested in a crappy deck because it was in my budget. It was terrible but only cost me twenty tickets.
I learned fast that even though the deck was cheap, the entry fees were not. I quickly ran out of my initial investment and had to dump back in. Any competitive deck was out of my range, so there was really nothing I could do.
I was always floating around with just one deck and a handful of tickets. Enough to keep playing, but not enough to buy another deck unless I sold the first one. That was until I saw single-set Block.
Single-set block is really just Block Constructed, but with the first set of a block. Magic Online is the only place that this format is supported, and only a small handful of people play it when it comes around.
The secret to this format is that the cards are generally very cheap because they are currently being drafted. Drafters want to do just that. They sell their cards to fuel their habit, causing the prices of these cards to go down for the period when the set is drafted alone.
Standard is also the format that drives prices. A card might be insane in Block but will still be cheap if it isn’t played in Standard. This makes it a great format when just starting Magic Online since the initial investment is so low to play Constructed.
The formula is very easy if you can win some matches. Build a deck and grind it for a while. Keep investing in other cards in the format until you have 4x of the set. Rinse and repeat once the next expansion comes out and again for the third. Once the fall comes around, and the old block rotates out, you have over half of all the cards legal in Standard and for a very low cost.
There are also small bonuses once you move to Standard. Because the format is so small, you get to learn very small interactions that most players have no idea about. This means that you might find a good sideboard card or a good play more easily than those who have not played the format. I know this to be true when Pro Tour San Juan rolled around for me. I played Block all year long and just got a bonus for doing it. I knew a ton about the format for free.
Enough about why it’s a great format to get started in. Let’s get to the meat of Innistrad Block.
Right now there is a ton of different decks floating around. Most of these will soon disappear, since they are just not good enough. We are in the early stages of the format right now, so people are just playing around with the format. One deck that is for sure to stay around for a while is G/W Tokens.
- 2 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
- 4 Fiend Hunter
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Doomed Traveler
- 4 Geist-Honored Monk
- 4 Mayor of Avabruck
There will always be a deck to play when a great planeswalker is in the format. Garruk Relentless is especially powerful in this format because there are very few ways to deal with him outside of combat damage. Not only does this deck put a ton of pressure on an opponent early, but it also has the tools to protect its key walker.
The biggest problem with this deck is the manabase. Gavony Township is well worth playing, but this deck suffers without any dual lands. The deck mulligans frequently because of this.
This deck has been posting some good results even though I don’t really know how this deck can beat G/W Tokens. This deck does have both the planeswalkers in the format, which give the deck multiple ways to attack their opponent.
Witchbane Orb is an interesting card in this format. One of the popular decks is Burning Vengeance; a control deck cannot handle it without this card. This card also stops any Brimstone Volleys from dealing lethal damage. Being able to only worry about creatures after this resolves is great against red matchups. This also stops Liliana of the Veil from pulling off anything but discard.
I don’t know how much I like this deck, but I do respect the players piloting it. I am not sure if it’s because of the deck or the players, so I won’t pass judgment on this deck for a couple more weeks. We will just have to see if it passes the test of time.
Now this is a control deck I can get behind. The manabase is very rough, and the deck does look like it is all over the place. The reason that this works is because single-set Block does not work the way Standard does.
The first thing is that this format is very forgiving. Games take longer to set up, so stumbling is less punished. Besides the aggressive red and G/W decks, everything else is just durdling around with either planeswalkers or Burning Vengeance. Vengeance does have an edge game one, but Geist of Saint Traft is a great threat against them.
Fireball effects are always amazing in this format. Killing planeswalkers is always difficult out of a control deck, since there isn’t a spell like Oblivion Ring in every set. Being able to kill a creature, planeswalker, or even a player with just a big damage spell is an important element. Devil’s Play is this block’s Fireball and is for sure a card I will almost always want to be playing.
This deck is just a mess of very amazing spells. They don’t really work together all that well, but the individual power makes up for that. Daybreak Ranger is a very strong card against the G/W Token deck, which for sure is part of why this deck is even popular. This deck also has access to Devil’s Play as well as Kessig Wolf Run, which act as additional Fireballs later in the game.
This deck does get overwhelmed by dedicated control decks, so I don’t think it will be around for much longer. I do think it will always show up when G/W is winning the events.
Burning Vengeance is a very interesting deck. It is high-variance. It has bad matchups and good ones, but most of this depends on how prepared the opponent is. Problem with that is there aren’t enough decks in the format to justify not being prepared, which hurts this deck. It was a very popular choice right when the format went live on MTGO but is slowly dwindling to nothing.
This is a very fun deck to play though. Games take forever, but you get to always be doing something for the entire game. This deck will die down soon but could always come back when people forget it is in the format. Just be aware of how many Witchbane Orbs people are playing. It will be back to burning people out when that number hits zero.
- 4 Bloodcrazed Neonate
- 4 Stromkirk Noble
- 4 Ashmouth Hound
- 2 Instigator Gang
- 4 Kruin Outlaw
- 4 Reckless Waif
The last deck on my list is Mono Red. It isn’t all that exciting but gets the job done. Quick creatures backed up Devil’s Play and Brimstone Volley is a formula for wins. There really isn’t a great way to hate this deck out besides Tree of Redemption, so this deck can always do some damage. The only problem is it isn’t powerful enough to always win, even if an opponent doesn’t have dedicated hate for the matchup.
As you can tell, this format is very wide open right now. It is only two weeks old, and there is a ton of innovation to be done. This will be the format I put most of my time into once Worlds is over, since I always enjoy some single-set Block. I encourage anyone new to MTGO or who wants to get into Constructed with limited resources to give this format a shot. You will not be disappointed!