The 2004 Championship Deck Challenge – The Unspeakable?

On Friday, Mike Flores kicked off our Deck Challenge with his Mono-Blue control deck, but today is Osyp’s turn. Like michaelj, Osyp has made a control deck heavy on the Blue cards and light on the White, but unlike Flores, Joe Black’s deck includes… The Unspeakable? This is an Osyp article, so he must be kidding, right? There’s only one way to find out folks, as we continue to bring you the best new decks from some of the best deckbuilders on the planet – only at StarCityGames.com.

The Black Perspective: Hunting Wolverines at States

“I haven’t cried this much since Prom night.”-Ken Krouner after getting blocked on AIM by Tim Aten

I love playing in States every year because it’s very laid back, sort of like a Constructed prerelease. Each year some of the worst players you’ll ever meet come out of the woodwork to try out their wacky creation in the hope they’ll become State Champion. You won’t believe how bad some of the decks you’ll be playing against are, you’ll feel like every round you’re paired against a Canadian. Although there is also the other end of the spectrum, those players that really take States seriously and show up with a Tier 1 deck ready to take you down to Chinatown. So for those of you out there who would like to show up prepared and have a good shot at winning product this year, this series is for you.

As [author name="Mike Flores"]Mike Flores[/author] mentioned a week ago, there will be a series of articles going up in the following weeks from various writers here at StarCityGames.com about the current Type 2 format. More specifically, we are each given a challenge to come up with the most competitive deck we can for a specific archetype that is assigned my Mr. Knutson. This week’s assignment is the U/W. We must come up with a U/W deck we feel can be competitive at States, and at the end of the week Flores will choose which two decks were the best and the worst of the lot. The writer who came up with the best deck will receive a bonus, the writer who came up with the worst deck will be fired and forced to write for Brainburst.

So with that in mind, let the games begin.

Now when you’re given a broad and general archetype like U/W, it can encompass a lot. There are many Blue and White cards that are Constructed playable, and many decks you can consider building. The three main types of decks you think of when starting to build a deck for any given format are Control, Combo and Beatdown. Now for this Type 2 format, I generally dismiss any Beatdown deck right away because of everyone’s favorite deck, Affinity. Affinity is the biggest mistake Wizards of the Coast has made since giving Nate Heiss a weekly article series. Whenever you consider building a Beatdown deck, you must consider two things:

1) “Why am I playing a random beatdown deck when I could be playing Affinity?”

2) “Does this deck beat Affinity?”

I usually can’t find an acceptable answer to either one of the questions, so I move on. Now, I know that Champions has given us some cool creatures like Samurai of the Pale Curtain and other goofy spirits and foxes and such. I mean, they even gave White Weenie a 2/2 for one mana. The only problem with that is, that as long there’s another Beatdown deck that has 2/2’s for zero and 4/4’s for three, I can’t be too impressed by a dog, no matter how legendary it is.

Now let’s examine Combo shall we. Hmmm. . . we have Intruder Alarm and uhh. . . no that won’t work. What about Mind’s Desire and . . . no that won’t work either will it? Oh well, forget about Combo.

Now that leaves us with Control. Now we’re talking – a deck that can handle Affinity (as well as any deck can handle Affinity), and actually has done well in this format in the past. Champions has given this deck some excellent cards to work with, so let’s examine what we have.


This is certainly one of the best counters Wizards has given us in a long time. At three mana, it’s fills a desperate a hole in the deck’s mana curve. It’s a hard counter, so in the late game it won’t be as useless as Condescend (which I hate by the way), and it actually is an effective counter against Eternal Witness.

Peer Through the Depths

I like this card for several reasons. Although it’s not nearly as powerful as Impulse was, it does serve a specific role in the deck. Most U/W Control decks in the past ran Thirst for Knowledge. Now although this card did provide a small amount of card advantage in the late game, provided you had one of your very few artifacts in hand, the main reason it was played was for card selection. At three mana, it was perfect to dig through your deck and find that Wrath of God you so desperately needed.

For this reason, I feel Peer Through the Depths would be a suitable replacement. It serves the same basic role as Thirst for Knowledge does, but I think it’s actually an improvement. Being able to dig five cards as opposed to only three can often be very important when you need that Wrath. It also allows you to find that counter you need in the control matchups without having to pitch away lands that are also very important. I’ve never been a big fan of Thirst for Knowledge because, although it did serve an important role in the deck, often it would force me to make a difficult decision upon discarding, as I more often did not have an artifact to pitch.

Imi Statue

This card isn’t as game breaking on its own against Affinity as people think it is, but in combination with Relic Barrier, I think it can be very devastating. This card alone will force Affinity players to board in artifact removal against you, making their draws slightly more awkward. With you having at least six hard counters after board, it wouldn’t be easy getting the Statue off the board.

Well without further ado, here’s a list I’ve put together and tested against Tooth & Nail and Affinity.

Blue with a little bit o’ White a.k.a. The Unspeakable?

4 Reach Through Mists

4 Peer Through the Depths

3 Mana Leak

3 Hinder

4 Sift Through Sands

4 Wrath of God

3 Wayfarer’s Bauble

3 Relic Barrier

2 Imi Statue

2 Gifts Ungiven

1 Merchant Scroll

2 The Unspeakable

3 Stalking Stones

4 Coastal Tower

10 Islands

8 Plains


3 Keiga, The Tide Star

2 Rewind

2 Imi Statue

1 Relic Barrier

3 Annul

3 Reweave

1 Island

Now this list probably looks a lot different than a U/W deck you might have been used to in the past. U/W was already struggling to try and keep up with the power level of the decks that came out of Mirrodin, so the loss of staples like Decree of Justice and Exalted Angel made me have to completely rethink how to approach this deck. The first thing I noticed was the complete absence of playable White cards for a control deck from Champions. As you can see, almost all of the cards in the deck are Blue, and the only White card is Wrath of God. The hardest thing about a U/W control deck is finding a solid win condition. I thought about the Dragons at first, but they weren’t very impressive to me. I finally settled on trying the new Unspeakable card because I already knew I wanted to play the Reach, Peer, and Seek instants, so it seemed only logical to include him. You can hard cast him, but you would obviously prefer to be able to get him into play off the trio. It’s not that easy to do straight up, but if you can Gifts Ungiven for the set and a Merchant Scroll, it gets easier.

Versus Affinity:

Game one against Affinity is a tough one. No deck can claim to have an amazing game one against Affinity and still remain competitive versus the rest of the field. You no longer have Akroma’s Vengeance, and your win condition is somewhat slower. The Imi Statue can easily lock the game up, but I feel playing more main would weaken you against the rest of the field. Although, if you are convinced that there will be more than 50% Affinity at the tournament, adding a third Imi Statue main should be a consideration. As it stands, I don’t think it’s needed. The fact that Affinity can easily get the nut draw regardless of what you do makes it a difficult matchup across the board. You perform better against the non-Aether Vial lists, while the lists similar to my GP: Orlando deck can be a problem.

Game 2, Sideboarding . . .

+2 Imi Statue

+3 Annul

+1 Relic Barrier

+3 Keiga, The Tide Star

-4 Sift Through Sands

-2 Gifts Ungiven

-1 Merchant Scroll

-2 The Unspeakable

Obviously you don’t want to be drawing a clunky spell like the Unspeakable versus Affinity, so that and part of the combo hit the bench for games 2 and 3. Your main plain versus Affinity is to lock up the board with Relic Barrier and Imi Statue. You also have Annul to give you some time to set up the lock. Keiga’s ability isn’t very relevant in this matchup, it’s only in there because it hits harder and kills faster than Stalking Stones.

I’d say you have a 50-55% matchup against Affinity, but it gets slightly worse if they play Vial.

Versus Tooth and Nail:

This matchup was so much easier before the existence of Boseiju, Who Shelters All. This card gave me a headache when I was trying to figure out how to beat it with a Blue deck. If they resolve a Tooth and Nail, you’ll probably lose, and the fact that they have Eternal Witness makes it even worse. Hinder is solid against a Witness, but it doesn’t do much if Boseiju is in play. Time Stop was a consideration, but it doesn’t really help you win, it only slows them down a bit before they eventually win. I needed something more proactive, and I found it in the name of Reweave.

Game one, if they don’t have Boseiju main, you’re in fine shape. It’s not easy for them to get a Tooth and Nail to resolve, and if you can get an Unspeakable into play by turn 7-8, you’ll probably win. The main problem is that they play the best card in the format, Eternal Witness, and it makes beating them in the long game very difficult. They have plenty of game ending threats against you, and you don’t have enough answers. You’re real hope comes in games 2 and 3.

After sideboard . . .

+2 Keiga, the Tide Star

+3 Reweave

+2 Rewind

+2 Annul

-3 Relic Barrier

-2 Imi Statue

-4 Wrath of God

After board you have more counters against them and you have Reweave. Reweave is a very powerful effect, but it costs six to hard cast. Luckily, Reweave is one of the few spells that has a splice cost lower than its casting cost. At four mana, you can easily splice Reweave onto one of your twelve Arcane spells. On turn 5, you can start splicing the Reweaves and attacking their mana base. It’s an excellent answer to Boseiju, as well as the Urzatron. It can also take care of a Darksteel Colossus, but if they get him into play, you’re probably already in trouble.

This matchup is tough because despite your improvements after board, game one is still very difficult. Again, improvements could be made to the main deck, although it’s a tough call because it means you probably have to cut the Imi Statues, weakening you against Affinity. The real question here would have to be which deck shows up in higher numbers, Tooth and Nail or Affinity. My gut has to believe that Affinity will make much more of a showing, because I don’t think Tooth and Nail has a good matchup against Affinity, so playing it seems like a poor choice in my opinion.

The cards in the sideboard like Island and Keiga are mainly in there against decks like Big Red and R/G. In generally I like boarding into another land against the LD decks, and in a random field like States, having more threats after sideboard is always a good thing.

I think you have a good matchup against the other decks in the format like RG, Mono-Black and Big Red simply because you have permission and card drawing, as well as the best anti-creature spell ever printed. All in all, the deck is a lot of fun to play, and should do well against the random decks you’ll see at States. As for the Tier 1 decks in the format, much more testing has to be done to determine if this deck is a contender or not.

So good luck everyone, and happy testing.

Next time on, The Black Perspective . . .

A new week, a new deck

Magic players and their pets

A new look for Magic all-star Raphael Levy

What has Randy Buehler so upset?

And maybe some more Ask Joe Black. . .

All this and more!

Osyp “Joe Black” Lebedowicz