The Best Block Format That Never Was

Craig “The Professor” Jones laments the passing of the most intricate Block format ever devised: Ravnica Block Constructed. With a frank dissection of his team’s testing techniques in the run-up to Pro Tour Charleston, Prof brings us some of the better – and worse – decks they ran through their gauntlet. Their Charleston performance is also reported with Craig’s customary wit.

In which our hero heads off to sunny Charleston with two loyal wingmen in tow to play the fabled missing Ravnica Block Constructed format. Somewhere on the way they forget an entire color of Magic and manage to overcome otherworldly temptations and early setbacks to play a full whole two days.

Come gather round, I’ve a story to tell you. It’s about a block format that died too soon; in fact, it was smothered shortly after birth. It was to be the savior. The one to pull people out of the dark shadows crawling with Goblins and dread artifacts. The one to salve people’s memories after the terror that was Umezawa’s Jitte. The format to show players that, once again, Block Constructed could be fun.

But alas, it died too soon. Its life cut so short that only a chosen few even knew of its existence.

It’s kind of appropriate in the week of the “lost” Ice Age expansion to talk about what will probably be known as the “lost” Block Constructed format. It feels like a real shame that you guys out there won’t get a PTQ season out of this block. I can understand wanting to shake the formats around now and again, but why couldn’t it have been some other block format getting the axe (Mirrodin springs to mind, and I wouldn’t mind expunging Onslaught block from existence either).

Oh well.

This is my Charleston report. It’s Ravnica Block Constructed and yes, I’m fully aware that the format is totally and utterly dead. This just means I’m going to have to work a bit harder. But not to worry, in order to reward my loyal readership I have hidden clues to the devastating deck I intend to play at this year’s Nationals, a dread concoction known only as Magdalene.

Rather than ramble about my testing processes, or rant about how much flight tickets to Charleston actually cost if you fail to qualify through normal avenues (even in Scotland!), I’ll just get straight to the decks.

Okay, so spot the glaring omission.

Yep, apparently Magic is a game of only four colors as far as we were concerned. If you look closely at the deck lists you won’t find a single Swamp or Black card. In a format that includes Skeletal Vampire, Dark Confidant, Putrefy, etc, etc, we couldn’t even find it in ourselves to field a single Black deck. This was a tactical decision. As the eventual Pro Tour winners found room for Black cards in not one, or two, but all three of their decks, I think we can conclude our tactical decision was ill-conceived.

After showing our eventual decks you might be surprised to know that we actually did test for this format (as incredible as it sounds). What makes it worse was we also had most of the decks in the format at one point, actually tested games with them, and still arrived at those three decks.

Even worse, our backup deck didn’t feature Black cards either:

U/W Birds

4 Azorius First-Wing
4 Mistral Charger
4 Azorius Guildmage
4 Azorius Herald
4 Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
3 Halcyon Glaze
4 Remand
4 Bathe in Light
3 Sky Hussar
4 Pride of the Clouds
4 Hallowed Fountain
9 Islands
9 Plains

4 Faith’s Fetters
4 Spell Snare

Okay, so something clearly went wrong here. Kind of like trying to piece together the causes of crashed airplane, it’s time to sift through the wreckage and try and find out where our testing went wrong. Ravnica block format might be dead and buried, but there are plenty of general lessons that can be learned here in practicing for a format.

They were a number of problems with our testing, some out of our control, which I’ll detail later, but I actually think one of the chief culprits is unique to the Team Constructed format and might actually be this deck:

U/G/R Untargettables

4 Compulsive Research
4 Electrolyze
4 Giant Solifuge
1 Gruul Turf
7 Island
1 Izzet Signet
4 Mountain
4 Remand
4 Repeal
2 Savage Twister
3 Seal of Fire
3 Steam Vents
4 Stomping Ground
2 Demonfire
4 Simic Growth Chamber
3 Simic Signet
2 Simic Sky Swallower
4 Voidslime

This deck came from Stuart Wright, easily the best UK deck builder and probably one of the best deck designers currently on the planet. We slotted it into our gauntlet and it quickly showed itself to be the best performing of our decks.

But we didn’t end up playing it.

The reason: We, and Stuart Wright, thought it was too greedy and took too many good cards. At the same time Pete had been handed a mono-red deck from John Ormerod, and the almost-but-not-quite retired Palace Crew. It featured some odd choices, such as Bloodscale Prowler and Cackling Flames, but posted some good results. It was consistent, didn’t take many cards, and Pete took to it straight away.

Unfortunately, and rather predictably, our two most popular decks turned out to be mutually incompatible. The Red deck was without Solifuge for a while but Seal of Fire turned out to be important in the Untargettables deck for dealing with early bears and Bob Confidants. The big mistake was keeping the Untargettables deck in the gauntlet even though we didn’t think one of could play it because of card clashes.

As our “best” deck, Untargettables tended to get thrown at new challengers first. This was especially harsh on the Black decks. Black decks normally like murdering critters, and Ravnica Block has some fairly efficient tools in the form of Last Gasp, Putrefy, and Mortify. All of which are completely dead against SSS and his skittering little brother. Inevitably the Black decks would fight for a while, and then die to accumulating too many dead draw steps. Our fledgling Orzhov deck ran into two bad matchups and was never seen again.

It’s a usual British problem (actually, to be more accurate, it’s my usual problem). Rather than being satisfied with solid dependable decks, we get the “fear” and go off in search of something flashy to truly “break” the format. Necro Pebbles was a long time ago.

As a result we wasted a lot of time on flashy, but ultimately flaky, decks like Dredge (Sorry Tom — it is a lot of fun though, check out Tom Harle’s article here for the lowdown on this), Eye of the Storm / Sins of the Past, Cloudstone Curio, Glimpse, and Sky Hussar.

Meanwhile Stuart Wright had shifted the colors around and arrived at a BUR burn deck that turned out to be very good. Unfortunately we didn’t really test it. Based on his other two decks we thought Stuart was spreading the control cards too thin and would be in real trouble if we guessed wrong on the format.

I’d played a little bit online (pre-Dissension) and noticed the abundance of GBW and how good Rolling Spoil seemed to be. We did have a version of that deck built up with Bottled Cloister and it seemed a bit “meh.” It wasn’t bad, just not very exciting (and, of course, it couldn’t fight the Untargettables deck.)

Pete effectively locked himself into the Red deck unless something better came along. Initially I wasn’t sold on the deck, but it was straightforward, direct and got the job done a lot more than you’d think after seeing the list. I thought the other deck should be some form of infinite cantrip guy GWU (Court Hussar, Coiling Oracle, Civic Wayfinder) deck that left an infinite cantrip spell deck (Remand, Repeal, Electrolyze). Unfortunately the decks wouldn’t quite lock together, and the biggest problem was deciding what to do with the Black cards.

This was where the unforeseen circumstances kicked in. Pete was in the process of moving house (which meant I was also, as I’m the scary lodger who hides in the basement). This was supposed to be done and dusted and then we’d get Chris up for a couple of weekends to test. Unfortunately this didn’t happen (something to do with solicitors, mafia, and a conspiracy to bring down the Western World, apparently), and after two weeks of living out of boxes we managed to move the weekend before the tournament. Chris was usefully employed as chief furniture assembler, and testing kind of didn’t happen. Or rather, not as much as we needed.

Crucially, we never played matches post-sideboarded. I’ll repeat that again because it’s rather important. We never played matches post-sideboarded. Get your pads out and get ready to take notes. This is a big no-no. Someone – it might have been Ben Rubin or Warren Marsh – once said that building a sideboard was one of the more neglected aspects of the game. Sideboards always get left to the last minute, which is rather foolish as you potentially get to play twice as many games post-sideboard than pre-sideboard.

So off we went to Charleston with one deck, a reasonable knowledge of what the format would be about, but unfortunately only vague ideas of what Chris and I were going to play.

I didn’t know what to expect from Charleston. My knowledge of US history and geography is fairly non-existent. Somewhere down South and on the East coast was the best I could manage.

Like home, there is no place.

What I didn’t expect was a flight into Dagobah. Looking out of the airplane window all I saw was lush greenery, meandering river deltas and really long wooden jetties leading out from folk’s back yards and across mudflats to some dinky little boat. Somewhere in my head I could the sound of a banjo playing a la Deliverance.

All a bit unfair as it turned out, as most of the locals and service staff I bumped into were incredibly friendly. Plus our hotel had a happy hour between half-five and seven, with free beer.

Free Beer!


The Irish, Rob McKeon, Cormac Smythe, and Darragh Long, were also stopping at the same hotel and are perfectly acceptable drinking buddies. They were also undecided on their decks. Rob was also going with Red deck, but the other decks were undecided. Their Rolling Spoil deck was better than ours (they remembered Congregation at Dawn and had managed to squeeze in Simic Sky Swallower), but still had that “Rock” feel about it.

We tested some more over the next couple of days. Team format, especially team format in a format as diverse as Ravnica, is a nightmare. The puzzle is just too large.

We also drank beer, watched the football and laughed at the truly cringeworthy attempts at US commentary. Sorry guys, but your football commentators should be staked to the eighteen-yard box and their heads used for free kick practice by Roberto Carlos. No wonder no one over in the States likes watching the sport.

On Thursday, England managed to narrowly overcome the footballing… erm… giants of Trinidad and Tobago (And to think we actually believed them when they promised they’d get better). We were going to do some testing that day, but not until after the match and Pete was also scheduled for a guild raid on World of Warcraftcrack…

Right, here is where I give the most important advice for Team Pro Tours.

If you have a team member who plays World of Warcraftcrack don’t, under absolutely any circumstances, and I mean under absolutely any circumstances, allow them to play the day before the tournament.

Greetings, Professor Falken...

Hide their laptop, toss their wireless card into the pool, hack into the US defense computers and launch a tactical nuclear strike at Blizzard’s servers, anything; just don’t let them log on. Rather unsurprisingly, Pete didn’t get off the computer until just before it was time to register.

During this time I’d narrowed down to the Blue/White fliers deck after discovering how good Grand Arsebiter was in it, while Chris had used the 99% of Ravnica cards we’d left him with to build the GWUr infinite cantrip guy deck. Pete’s absence wasn’t an issue as he was already good with the Red deck and really needed to de-stress after the nightmare weeks of trying to move house.

We’d finally managed to bumped into Stuart Wright team and found his team-mates had rebelled. Tom was running his dredge deck while Dave (a.k.a. the Great White Hype) Grant had a Blue/Green graft deck. I was also starting to get the fear. I’d seen Stuart’s Black/Red/Blue burn deck in action (from the wrong end of an utter pummeling), and it looked very good (although Chris’s deck beat it). I also got a complete battering from the GWH’s graft deck. The big problem with the fliers deck was it never comfortably won its good matchups (i.e. it still dropped the odd game or three out of ten), while it couldn’t ever win a game against its bad matchups. We decided it was like the graft deck except the graft deck just had better cards. A swift reworking of Chris’s manabase to free up the Breeding Pools and we knocked together the list above.

It’s a standard Green-Blue graft deck. The GWH described it as “like madness” before 10, 000 Wild Mongrels leapt out and tore him to pieces in disgust. It’s not madness, but the principle is similar. You make aggressively costed threats and use the Remands and Voidslimes to keep your opponent from catching up. The good draws usually involve a BoP ramping to Vinelasher Kudzu (with counter), followed by Cytoplast Root-Kin to give you two 4/4s on turn 3. Moldervine Cloak on Trygon Predator doubles as an equally frightening Plan B. Cytoshape is just sexy and has more uses than I can list, ranging from Terminate to Giant Growth.

The Cytoplast Manipulators are in the sideboard for the mirror (although Simic Guildmage might have been better). Stomphowlers are obviously to stomp on Glares and the like, which leaves the less obvious choices. Mark of Eviction is to slow down aggressive decks and is a good example of how “in theory” doesn’t always translate to “in practice.” Although the point removal had felt pretty weak against the Untargettables deck, that wouldn’t stop the Black decks from playing it and this deck wouldn’t always have the mana available to protect things with Super Frog. As I expected the matchup to go long and incur heavy casualties my plan, was to board in the Compulsive Research to reload and Simic Sky Swallower to give the deck a durable late game finisher. (Yes, the only place we could actually fit Compulsive Research was in a sideboard, now excuse me while I go and weep).

We still didn’t have any Swamps in our decks. We knew this didn’t feel right, but none of our decks were really robbing cards from each other and they still felt fairly strong. Just because cards are there it doesn’t mean they have to be used. A proper synergistic deck should be better than a random collection of good cards. In theory anyway.

We were either geniuses or clinically insane. I was picturing the coverage staff scratching their heads in puzzlement when they got to our lists.

Day 1

The format is dead and we didn’t finish too well so the game reports will be briefer. Editor’s orders, sorry.

Correction: I lied. [Curse you, Dr. Jones! — the other Craig.]

Round 1: Kirk Dalton, BWG Control

This was Nathan Zamora team from Texas, and the first of 7 US teams we’d get to play today. This was one of those irritating situations unique to Team Constructed where any other seating combination would have given us favorable matchups. Pete’s mono-Red deck had to fight against a Searing Meditation / Firemane Angel control deck, while Chris had all his land blown up and then his face kicked in by a Simic Sky Swallower. My sideboard strategy of Researches and Swallowers worked a charm against Kirk Dalton’s BWG control deck. Unfortunately I got bitterly screwed in game 3 and made a succession of very sorry looking 1/1 Kudzu’s before being dispatched. Not that it mattered, as we got swept. Not an auspicious start.

Team: 0-3, 0-1.
Me: 1-2, 0-1.

Round 2: Steve Bruce, GWU Glare

Another team from Texas, if I remember correctly. There was some momentary confusion as they got their seat A and Cs mixed up. The matchup looked good for me as I got a Cloak on a flier and bashed him to zero in double-time. I tried to do the same in game 2, only for him to stabilize with Glare. Game 3 I failed to find land number three and fell over as 1/1 Kudzu’s aren’t very scary.

Pete lost again, while Chris restored some meaningless pride with our first game win.

Team: 1-2, 0-2.
Me: 1-2, 0-2.

Round 3: Ben Danner, BWR beats

Our tour of Southern US team continued with a collection of Florideans. Ben Danner had possibly the worst manascrews I’ve ever seen. Even Bob couldn’t dig him up a third land in game 1, while Mark of Eviction managed to masquerade as a good sideboard choice in game 2. Pete lost so it came down to a frustrating game where Dream Leashes and Rolling Spoil always just kept Chris one land off from being able to Savage Twister Simic Sky Swallower.

Team: 1-2, 0-3.
Me: 2-0, 1-2.

So we’d crashed to 0-3. No lives left, and based upon how our decks were performing I couldn’t see any chance of us making day 2.

Round 4: Smith?, BWG Control.

After the first game I couldn’t even see us surviving the next round. I managed to knock my opponent down to 6 but then he’d made Skeletal Vampire and I realized I’d lost the game right there. One of the worst things that can happen when you change decks the night before a Pro Tour is to get to around halfway through day 1 and realize the deck you’ve picked is completely wrong. Unlike the Fliers deck, which at least had a late game strategy of Pride / Sky Hussar, the Graft deck had nothing. One Skeletal Vampire and I might as well pack up the cards.

The Red deck had picked up its fourth straight loss, and my deck was rubbish. I just wanted to tick the drop box and use this as an example of what happens when testing goes wrong.

But we weren’t quite dead yet…

Improbably, the Sky Swallower plan came good again as my opponent drew far too many lands. I’d like to say how I heroically fought back in an epic game 3, but instead my opponent mulliganed twice and got horribly flooded for a second time. As a result they got the tournament-ending 0-4, while we clung onto a slender 1-3.

Team: 2-1, 1-3.
Me: 2-1, 2-2.

Round 5: John Freitas, Gruul Beats

Pete won!

But it turned out to be completely irrelevant as we swept our opponents 3-0.

I inflicted the ultimate embarrassment on my opponent of death by Birds of Paradise (although it did happen to be doubly enchanted with Moldervine Cloak!).

Team: 3-0, 2-3.
Me: 2-1, 3-2.

Round 6: Ryan Lumpford, Gruul Beats

Another Gruul deck, yay! I got the perfect start of Moldervine Cloak on a Trygon Predator, but the game quickly turned sour when support failed to arrive. Most people forget UG actually has removal, albeit of a weird sort. Lumpford dropped Taste for Mayhem on a Dryad Sophisticate and then went for Galvanic Arc. The Arc never arrived as the Sophisticate suddenly became a 0/0 with no counters, courtesy of Cytoshape.

There was a slight sideboard adjustment. Mark of Eviction and Galvanic Arc wasn’t a combo I particularly wanted to give my opponent.

Game 3 was pants-sweatingly tense. There was one point where it got very tricky. I think I had a Cytoshape to Terminate a Sophisticate, but I only had one Graft creature out, and although I wasn’t sure on the timings I was frightened of a well-timed burn spell putting the proverbial spanner in. I Remanded a Moldervine Cloak and knew I was in big trouble when Lumpford didn’t recast it before attacking on the next turn. All of a sudden my life total of 9 looked very vulnerable. The first Char gave me the window to safely remove the Sophisticate. I swung in with all my men but could only drop him to three life. At the end of turn he Charred us both down to one.

I looked over to Pete, hoping for some kind of salvation, but unfortunately the Red deck had failed again.

This game, and our tournament hopes, looked to be coming to an end. There were about a million cards in Lumpford’s deck that could finish me off.

Not the Sparkmage Apprentice, I thought. Anything but the Sparkmage Apprentice.

But, as before, we weren’t quite dead yet…

Lumpford had a burn spell, but it was another Char! We got to play a fourth game with our tournament survival on the line. This time the graft deck finally kicked in, as a Vinelasher Kudzu with Moldervine Cloak was far too much of a threat for Lumpford to handle.

Team: 2-1, 3-3.
Me: 2-1-1, 4-2.

Somehow we were still alive. Somehow we had managed to crawl into being one bubble match away from day 2. Considering our record after round 3, and the fact the Red deck was looking very much like dead weight, to get this far felt like a real achievement.

At this point all the British teams had the same record, although we’d unfortunately managed to lose the Irish a couple of rounds ago.

Round 7: John Cuvelier, Firemane Control / Aggro.

The Red deck went down again, but it didn’t matter.

The fact I wasn’t sure what Cuvelier was playing says a lot about the strength of his draws. I didn’t see much of anything, but game 2 was much closer when I think he boarded in a bunch of cheap fliers. I had to sweat out him not top-decking a burn spell, but PT Fate is much nicer to me than her GP bitch sister, and with Chris winning all of a sudden we’d made it.

Team: 2-1, 4-3.
Me: 2-0, 5-2.

I couldn’t really believe it.

While we’d lost the Irish after round 4, all of the British teams were in action for a place in day 2. Only Martin Dingler team, the Cult of Grozoth, were able to join us in the second day, making up for both Martin’s and Simon O’Keefe’s disappointments at PT Prague.

I’ve never failed to make money on the Pro Tour after making day 2 and, with the exception of Prague, have always threatened Top 8. This wasn’t about to happen this time. For one Charleston was the largest Pro Tour ever. To be honest, even though it was a team format, it was also Constructed and therefore didn’t require any extra time for drafting, I was surprised they didn’t run the same number of rounds as a normal Constructed PT and cut to Top 8.

We also had the added liability of the Red deck. In testing it had performed well, but it had got battered on day 1. Pete had gone 1-6 and said he wouldn’t have even won that match had he not talked his opponent into making a mistake. If we were going to make progress it would be through mine and Chris’s decks, and we prayed Pete could somehow scrape a win when either of us failed.

On the good news front my deck didn’t seem as bad as I first thought. It seemed to be the most powerful of the aggro decks. Swamps were a problem, but I liked my sideboard plan for that match. Also, Chris’s deck actually looked really good. Other than two losses to land destruction decks, most of his matches had looked fairly comfortable.

About this time I realized they’d managed to trick me into playing counterspells on the Pro Tour. Sneaky.

Day 2

Round 8: Sam Gomersall, Orzhov aggro

This was kind of ironic. I, the Constructed player, beat Sam, the Limited player, during the Draft portion of last year’s Worlds, so obviously he slaps me silly when we meet again during a Constructed Pro Tour. We went off Orzhov because it didn’t seem strong against control. However, it murders beatdown decks quite ruthlessly, and guess what I’m playing…

Team: 1-2, 4-4.
Me: 0-2, 5-3.

Round 9: Drew Boggenes, Gruul

Oh dear, someone else who paid too much attention to Flores article the Thursday before the Pro Tour. Our testing found Gruul to be rubbish because it got color-screwed all the time, and I can’t understand why he talked about it in so much detail right before the tournament (You wouldn’t have been trying to pull a Zvi on the field would you now, Mike?).

This match was a textbook example of why not to play Gruul, as Boggenes predictably got screwed for forests both games. My perfect draws of turn 2 Kudzu with a counter and then turn 3 Root-Kin seemed a little wasted.

Last laugh was on me though, as Chris picked up a loss. And, no, the Red deck didn’t pull us out.

Team: 1-2, 4-5.
Me: 2-0, 6-3
(Pete: 1-8, ouch!)

Round 10: Jaime Dalama, Gruul

Round 10 was a historic moment, as it marked the one and only time Pete was relevant.

I was paired against Gruul, a deck I can’t lose to. So obviously I lost. Usually this means the team also loses, so I was rather surprised to hear the Red deck had actually won.

Team: 2-1, 5-5.
Me: 1-2, 6-4.

Round 11: Jim Davis, UGR Control

Shock horror, another win for Pete. Sadly irrelevant, as I play some of my best Magic after going 1-0 down against Jim Davis Simic Sky Swallower. I say “best,” but in reality I mean not walking into his Electrolyze and getting utterly wrecked. My notes just say Cloaked Kudzu, but I vaguely remember feeling pleased that I managed to skirt around a number of potential pitfalls. Of course, it might have all been in my head.

Unfortunately it was the last game I’d win for the rest of the tournament.

Team: 3-0, 6-5.
Me: 2-1, 7-4.

At this point our carefully cultivated teasing of Pete’s relevancy finally bears fruit, as he explodes. The Red deck soaks up his rage and then goes on a mad killing spree for the rest of the tournament. Unfortunately, both mine and Chris’s decks decide to pack up completely, and Pete is cursed to remain forever irrelevant, but at least he can now make fun of both of us for letting the team down.

Round 12: Paul Rietzl, Rakdos

I don’t beat decks with Swamps in, even if they flip over Hit / Run with Dark Confidant.

At one point I get excited when I can Cytoshape a Trygon Predator into a 3/1 to do exactly enough damage to finish him off. A little too excited that I forget Cytoshape can’t choose legendary creatures, which is what Lyzolda is. My excitement is contagious, and Rietzl is almost about to pick up his cards until his teammate points out my mistake. In this case I’m actually glad for the intervention, as I’d rather lose than win by cheating (even if in this case my “cheating” is pure bone-headed stupidity).

Suitably embarrassed, I get thrashed the next game when a turn 2 Karoo loses me enough tempo that Rietzl is able to kill literally everything I make the turn it appears.

Team: 1-2, 6-6.
Me: 0-2, 7-5.

Round 13: Andrea Nediani, Rogue Chord Deck


Pulled in like a stoned fish.

Damn, must have been getting tired. I get a control heavy hand and when the game is reasonably stalled I’m faced with a Chord of Calling for three in my end of turn. I’m trying to think of what he might get that could wreck me, especially as I have no idea what he’s playing. I Voidslime it to be on the safe side.

He untaps and plays Ursapine, which takes me apart in short order.

Ouch. Can you say sucker?

I knew there was a reason why I don’t play counterspells.

I still don’t know what his deck does. It looks like Green/Blue, but there are some Mountains in there. I find out in the next game when a Flame Fusillade (works quite nicely with his Utopia Sprawl) destroys me.

Team: 1-2, 6-7.

Me: 0-2, 7-6.

Come on team, we can finish with an even record at least.

Round 14: Thomas Haland, GWU Glare

Oh well, no we can’t. Chris and I both fail.

Ten minutes into the round and the very bad food from the Pro Players lounge decides it wants out. Either that or I’ve caught the same thing that has caused Martin Dingler to spend most of the day throwing up (and have Gabe Wells accuse him vehemently of cheating when the poor guy was obviously completely out of it and didn’t realize he was a Swamp short of activating Skeletal Vampire) and would later send Simon O’Keefe to hospital.

The last round saw the classic death by birdie, this time courtesy of Cytoshape, but then my mana crapped out again for the third game. I did manage to pull off an audacious bluff when I attacked a Frogling and Trygon Predator into a Simic Sky Swallower with nothing but brassy attitude and a prayer Haland remembered what Cytoshape did. It would have been nicer if I’d then followed it with a land and then won with the Root-Kins in hand, but alas my tournament fizzled out.

Team: 1-2, 6-8.
Me: 1-2, 7-7.

After the tournament we headed off to Folly Beach in search of some night life. The name turned out to very apt as going there was pure Folly. The Irish were going on a description they’d been given the night before, but had been given the wrong name. A $50 cab ride to an island just when everybody else is leaving was not the best idea. Frantic phone calls to warn Tom and GWH away failed, and they joined us out in the back end of nowhere. The meal we grabbed at a Crab Shack was fairly nice, but not worth the journey.

The next evening was better as we found a Wild Wings restaurant / bar with a band that ended up not sucking. At one point it looked like the Irish, Tom and GWH were going to head off with the band for more drinks and whatever debauchery musician type people get up to. Even Stuart Wright was using his Harry Potter similarity to good effect. Unfortunately I’d got my flight time wrong, and mistakenly thought I had to be up reasonably early the next morning (or rather the same morning, it was something like 4am at the time). When my taxi finally arrived, the whole band thing had fallen through and so the Irish were happy to share the cab back.

Overall we made day 2, and I suppose we can look at that as a reasonable achievement, especially as we were 0-3 and facing elimination matches every round. But my opponent in round 4 could just as easily have not mulliganed to five and actually drawn some spells to leave us with the 0-4 record and out.

In terms of the field, I think the two major decks we missed were the multi-colored land destruction deck and a Black/White/Red Firemane Angel deck with Moonlit Bargain. The only LD deck we’d looked at was with fast critters and played like Gruul with an even worse manabase. It should have played like a control deck with Twisters, Simic Sky Swallowers, and Wit’s End. I don’t have an exact listing but I wouldn’t mind playing this deck in Ravnica Block Constructed.

Our big problem was not playing the decks we had against enough different decks, to gain a better idea of which decks actually beat other decks. In such a diverse format, it often isn’t possible to do this. Some of the more successful teams simply divided the colors according to their play preferences and left it at that.

The Red deck turned out to be a huge mistake. We were so late in deciding on a third deck we didn’t properly test sideboards. Pete went 9-5 on game 1s but then ran into a lot of problems after boarding. Ribbons of Night, Carven Caryatids, and most especially Rumbling Slum caused real nightmares after boarding. A little more testing after boarding and we might have realized it and not sent him out to get slaughtered.

Pete also felt he’d underestimated his own ability. He hadn’t played on the Pro Tour since the last team event, and while he is a good player, he was a bit worried about his ability to compete against players at the PT level over 14 rounds with something like a control deck. Partly for this reason he’d been drawn to the Red deck, as it was simple and direct and gave fewer opportunities for play error. After playing, Pete realized that a lot of his doubts had been groundless. This might seem odd given his record, especially on day 1. However, while I’ve had a lot of fun bashing his performance, the truth was he was desperately unlucky on day 1. A lot of the games came down to him needing to topdeck a Char or an extra land for a hellbent Demonfire, and it simply didn’t arrive. You can only play to your outs. The Red deck went 4-3 on day 2, which was probably a fairer reflection, although the deck did eventually feel underpowered (which isn’t entirely surprising given that it’s a mono-colored deck in a predominantly multi-colored format), and was painfully exposed post-sideboard.

Likewise, the Graft deck’s 5-2 record on day 1 had been a little flattering. It has the potential for very strong draws but has virtually no late game. Turn 2 Kudzu, turn 3 Root-Kin or Cloak on a Predator are both amazing, but there are a whole range of sub-par draws, and if you do get a sub-par draw the deck has no back-up plan. Anything with Swamps is also a horrendous matchup. Dave Grant went 1-6 with the deck on day 1, and I slumped to a more realistic 2-5 on day 2. The deck is fun when it works, but I would only consider playing it in a very specific metagame.

The one bright spark was Chris’s deck. This turned out to be fairly decent and also worth a look for anyone wanting to challenge MTGO’s 8 man queues.

Unfortunately that’s all that’s left of what could have been one of the best block formats ever. Alas poor Ravnica Block Constructed, we never got to know you. Now your ghost roams through the forgotten corners of Magic Online.

Craig Jones