The Chump Block – Big White

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Monday, June 28th – I knew what deck I wanted to talk about coming into this week. It had caught my eye, and I was subsequently amused that I ended up playing its pilot in the first round of an online PTQ that I participated in a week or so later. Had I not decided to play Grixis again, we probably would have had a very interesting round 1 mirror match.

I think I’ve carved a little bit of niche for myself writing-wise, which is perfectly fine with me. I’ve never been too terribly fond of writing about decks that tend to flood the deck-of-choice market which means that, if I’m not writing about a deck I’ve built myself, I’m at least discussing something bizarre that I saw somewhere (which has, presumably, done well). I also tend to prefer decks that are a little more on the inexpensive side. There tends to be somewhat of a negative stigma associated with “budget” decks, and to some extent those assumptions of inferiority are true, but I believe that everyone who has the desire to play competitive Magic should be able to without bending over backwards in order to afford cards. I certainly don’t want to pigeonhole myself into only writing about such a narrow range of topics, and I tend to think that people who already read my articles have some idea of what they’re in for, but for those that were unfamiliar, there it is.

I knew what deck I wanted to talk about coming into this week. It had caught my eye, and I was subsequently amused that I ended up playing its pilot in the first round of an online PTQ that I participated in a week or so later. Had I not decided to play Grixis again, we probably would have had a very interesting round one mirror match.

This deck only does a couple of things, but it tends to do them really well: Wrathing the board, and casting giant Eldrazi. If you like doing either of these things, then I encourage you to keep reading. While this deck doesn’t contain any Jaces (a huge plus, from what I’ve gathered from people’s e-mails) it does still have an assortment of other mythic rares. Fortunately, none of them are too highly priced, and I can’t think of many decks that don’t have at least a few mythic rares in the mix.

After building this deck online, I quickly amassed some interesting results. Of the first five 8-man tournaments I played in, I won two, and lost in the first round of the other three. Talk about consistency. To this deck’s credit, at least one of those losses was probably the result of my unfamiliarity with it. The deck isn’t terribly complicated to play, but there are certainly some in-game decisions that take a fair bit of mulling over, and I suppose I just undermulled them.

So, like any deck, this deck has some pros and some cons:

One card that absolutely blew me away in terms of how awesome it could be while playing with it was Survival Cache. Wow. What a house. This is by far one of the best turn 3 plays this deck can make, as even against aggressive decks the Kabira Crossroads and Walls of Omens will mean you’re on equal footing with your opponent. Of course it’s MUCH better on the play, as the extra card is almost certainly assured, but even against decks that pack Bolts and Blightnings, this card will often draw you at least a card. Survival Cache, unfortunately, suffers from the fate of a lot of “awesome” cards; when it’s working how it’s supposed to, it’s great. When it’s not, it’s very mediocre. While gaining 4 life against a deck like Mono Red can be good enough in itself, most times casting this without the card draw tacked on can leave you feeling terribly underwhelmed. I like to refer to it as the “Bizarro Blightning” as they occasionally tend to cancel each other out depending on whose three-mana sorcery gets cast first.

The Pilgrim’s Eyes in the deck are an interesting choice, although I’m not absolutely sold on them. They’re good in that they interact favorably with what the deck wants to do. They build up mana. They sit at a good point on the curve. They’re a mediocre chump blocker in a deck that does a whole lot of Day of Judgmenting. Their artifact status is also a surprising bonus in the deck as they a) don’t get destroyed by All is Dust, and b) can be fetched up via Eye of Ugin. While bypassing your Emrakuls and Kozileks to search up a Pilgrim’s Eye with Eye of Ugin has to be the most disappointing use of that card ever, it’s nice to know the option is there if you, say, NEED a blocker and only have a mere 11 mana open. I never got around to testing it, but I would be tempted to see how an almost superior card like Kor Cartographer would be in its place.

All is Dust was heralded as a huge mega-bomb that really hasn’t seen much play in Standard as of yet, but it’s use in this deck is exactly what everyone thought the modern-day Akroma’s Vengeance could be. Its ability to completely wipe the board clean is awe-inspiring, and it can single-handedly turn the game from “losing” to “not losing.” It’s nice for a couple of reasons. Nowadays, many Bant/Naya decks are running Dauntless Escort as sort of preventative measure again Day of Judgment and the colorless sorcery acts as sort of a trump to their trump. Yeah, I’m still gonna need you to sacrifice your team, thanks. It’s ability to nuke any and all planeswalkers makes it one of the best cards in your deck against U/W Control, especially since most control decks now run few (if any) maindeck counterspells. Finally, there are some awesome corner cases that tend to happen every so often as to be relevant. Doesn’t it seem sort of unfair that All is Dust gets rid of Borderposts? The ability to return a permanent to play that’s stuck under an Oblivion Ring is also pretty awesome. Unfortunately, it’s “everything must die” clause makes running standard catchall answers like Oblivion Ring an impossibility, as you certainly don’t want to give your opponent back the creature that was too offensive to let stay around in the first place.

Dreamstone Hedron seems like a bizarre inclusion in the deck, and to some extent it is. I’ve only ever cracked it for cards a couple of times, and those times were usually as a desperate measure. At most points in the game having 3 extra mana is more important than having 3 extra cards in hand and/or you’ve already cast an Eldrazi that’s going to be attacking your opponent. Being the case, it’s more like a rather rigid Everflowing Chalice than anything else. Having that addition accelerant is nice, but I’d be curious as to if there were anything better that could fit in this spot.

Moving on into the sideboard, how does this deck lose to Mono Red? You’re already running plenty of lifegain maindeck, and then adding in Kor Firewalkers and Celestial Purges afterboard. Seems unfair. The overwhelmingly effective cards that you get to bring into the match makes the lone Rest for the Weary in the sideboard seem a little awkward and unnecessary and I wholeheartedly endorse swapping it out for just about anything.

Those same cards — the Firewalkers and Purge — are ostensibly for the Jund matchup as well. While I agree with the premise behind them, there’s a little bit of a issue that I have with bringing these cards in. The problem with Jund is that most of their cards 2-for-1 the opponent on a pretty regular basis. Bringing in 1-for-1 answers like Celestial Purge, while good against their early beaters (especially Sprouting Thrinax) means that you are losing value over the course of the game. While you have cantrips of your own to combat the inherent disparity, I’m sure that there are better answers to board in. Furthermore, more and more, I’ve been running into Jund decks that sideboard accordingly so that they don’t fall prey to these specific answers. Doom Blade is almost always being brought in to deal with Firewalkers, and I’ve seen not only Malakir Bloodwitch being brought in frequently, but also sometimes even cards like Black Knight. After getting owned by protection from white creatures repeatedly, you start to wonder why you’re playing with Celestial Purge.

Kor Sanctifiers are great in almost any matchup you want to bring them in against. While you already have a favorable matchup against U/W, he also deals with the random artifact- or enchantment-based tends that tend to run around (Open the Vaults, I’m looking at you). Indispensable in any mono-White sideboard. I’m been unimpressed with World Queller to this point as I haven’t ever actually untapped with him in play yet. I’m assuming he’s primarily for assassinating planeswalkers, but he does a pretty poor job of getting rid of Jace, The Mind Sculptor as they will presumably continuous bounce him.

If I were to offer a suggestion in terms of different cards to consider, I think I might try Devout Lightcaster in place of one of the Celestial Purges and perhaps the Rest for the Weary. I realize that making that switch really doesn’t answer the whole “Malakir Bloodwitch” problem, but it does tend to answer other problem cards of Jund while also providing you with a body that can jump in front of a Bloodbraid Elf. The cost isn’t terribly hard to get unless you hit a glut of Eldrazi Temples, and Jund tends to have a hard time removing it aside from Lightning Bolts (which I imagine they would probably board out of their deck).

I also like the idea of Wall of Reverence somewhere in the 75. While it may not seem too impressive, it solves a couple problems. It can block very well for today’s format, stopping most threats while at the same time providing you with a very slight increase in life every turn. Just as important is the ability to cast an Eldrazi without the fear of losing while tapped out. Akin to the Cruel Ultimatum problem that I stated from last week, tapping out for a giant spell can lead to your destruction even if the opponent doesn’t have an answer readily available. Being able to cast a Kozilek, draw 4 cards, then gain 12 life (!) can make winning the game much more of a likelihood.

Admonition Angel seems like a crazy card to board in, as it comes down infinitely sooner than an Eldrazi and can utterly dominate a game where you opponent has little removal for it. Gideon Jura, Martial Coup, Iona, and Transcendent Master also seems like “bigger” spells that could be used to last until the late game as well. Knight of the White Orchid seems like also a card that could be considered, although it would be impossible to couple it with Borderposts due to the All is Dusts. I also think that a single Mountain maindeck could make playing Ajani Vengeant a possibility, as it could be fetched via Expedition Map, Pilgrim’s Eye, or Arid Mesa. Ajani would main surviving until the late game a bit easier, and it’s Helix ability could also increase the relative usefulness of Survival Caches.

So would I recommend the deck to you, gentle reader? I’m hesitant. This sort of deck can be accurately categorized as a “ramp” deck, the perils of which authors before me have illustrated to a much more detailed extent. Essentially, the deck’s components — the ramp, the answers, and the “big” spells — need to be drawn in a semi correct order for this deck to succeeded. If you’re still stuck on 7 mana and you draw another Kozilek, Perverter of Truth, you essentially just wasted a turn which certainly is not going to help your “not dying” agenda. That sort of example is a little extreme as this deck tends to draw lands fairly well (there are a lot of them, after all), but winning can be an uphill battle if your opponent is providing plenty of disruption in either your mana development or cards in hand which, by the way, Jund does very well.

The number one reason to shy away from this deck is the Jund matchup. In fairness to the deck, I’ve actually won about half of my Jund matches, but they all tend to be hard-fought battles. Blightning is annoying on its own, as it’s hard to build up to a huge game-breaker if you’re being constantly forced to discard your spells. They get to Maelstrom Pulse your Everflowing Chalices and Dreamstone Hedrons and, after boarding, they get to board in additional hate in the form of Goblin Ruinblaster and Duress. Jund also has an army of lands that rise up and attack for them when the time is right, making our Day of Judgments and All is Dusts a little weaker. The lack of answers to them outside the lone Tectonic Edge also gives pause to running the deck.

That being said, I think this is a fun deck that people who are tired of the standard fair could cobble together and enjoy. I have altered the list considerably and have been playing my own version online to a little bit of success by adding Green. The new color adds the obvious inclusions of Overgrown Battlement and Oracle of Mul Daya. It also adds some not-so-obvious ones: Knight of the Reliquary is an insane way to search out the needed lands in the deck, and can ramp out an Eldrazi super quick by fetching out both Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple. Garruk Wildspeaker makes having any number of Eldrazi Temples out that much more fruitful. Green also provides a much better sideboard option in terms of Acidic Slime, which is great at dealing with manlands and/or manascrewing your opponent. I haven’t quite worked out all the kinks yet, so I’m hesitant to post a decklist, but if anyone is interested, I’ll happily ship to it you.

Feel free to post your comments in the forum, catch me online, or e-mail me.

Thanks for reading…

Zach Jesse
ZoochZ on MTGO
[email protected]