Recently I attended the final Extended PTQ here in Chicago, and it was quite an interesting experience. I ended up playing a B/W Smallpox deck with maindeck Jotun Grunts and Bitterblossoms — a deck I would have gladly played again if given the chance, albeit with much more Zoo hate in the board — and ended up squeaking into the Top 8 despite all logic and reason. This won’t be an Extended report or anything along those lines; the time for caring about Extended has long since passed. If anyone was interested in watching me completely crash and burn in the first round of the Top 8, however, GGSlive was, for whatever reason, present at the PTQ, and chose to capture our Top 8 match for entertainment purposes.
And what entertainment it must have been! If there was a choice of plays to make, rest assured I made the wrong one. I’m positive that if mana burn were still in our Magic lexicon, I would have somehow found a way to accidentally mana burn myself. Everyone has those games where you sit back after it’s finished and think, “What in the world was I thinking?” It’s nice to know that I will forever have that visual record of some of the sloppiest playing I have been responsible for in a long time.
I was pleasantly surprised to sit down at my laptop this morning (technically, I was still wallowing in my own filth, in bed) to see that the entirety of the Rise of Eldrazi spoiler had been posted. Hurrah! As is the case with the final rush of cards, most of them turned out to be Limited filler or overcosted soon-to-be dollar rares, but the satisfaction of knowing the full options for cards at the ready is always a nice feeling.
First a disclaimer: I have no doubt that Jund will, at the very least for the immediate future, continue to reign supreme. There is a habit when a new set comes out — whether it be that people don’t have many of the new cards yet or people don’t know what they want to do with them — that the best decks in the format continue to be played and continue to dominate. Coupled with the fact that Jund is one of the most all around solid decks that’s been around for a while, I see no reason to people to stray from their comfort zone of Leeches and Maelstrom Pulses, at least until some large Standard tournament proves otherwise.
Anyone who has played with a card such as Spreading Seas knows how powerful a small effect can be when paired with no loss of card advantage. Almost no one plays Convincing Mirage which essentially carries a slightly better effect, whereas most blue decks have Spreading Seas in their 75 somewhere. Prophetic Prism, essentially a two-mana Mana Cylix, has that little addendum of “draw a card” that makes a card infinitely more playable. In fact the only reason Prophetic Prism is even remotely useful outside of limited is the “Draw a card” clause. Its text could even be something like:
Target player claps their hands like a wind-up monkey with cymbals.
When ~ comes into play, draw a card.
… and I would still be excited about it. That because I have been looking for an excuse to play the following deck for the longest time.
4 Open the Vaults
4 Time Warp
3 Time Sieve
4 Howling Mine
4 Prophetic Prism
2 Pilgrim’s Eye
3 Everflowing Chalice
4 Lodestone Golem
2 Tezzeret the Seeker
2 Jace Beleren
4 Mistvein Borderpost
4 Fieldmist Borderpost
2 Marsh Flats
3 Ethersworn Canonist
3 Veldaken Outlander
4 Thopter Foundry
Now, it should be noted that this list is, for the most part, untested. The general game plan is sound however, and for the few newcomers to the party, it works as such: play a bunch of artifacts, then take a zillion turns in a row. That may be a little too vague.
With the high volume of cantrips in the deck, not to mention Howling Mine, one tends to cycle through the deck at a breakneck pace. In looking through all those cards, we are searching for the titular card of the deck, Time Sieve, which then lets us sacrifice all those extraneous do-nothing artifacts clogging up our board, whereupon we cast an Open the Vaults, draw several cards once again thanks to those previously useless artifacts, and do it all over again! The deck can usually win leisurely, as once the combo beings it is pretty easy to start chaining turns either via Time Warp or the aforementioned process, and winning usually involves Tezzeret reaching his full potential and attacking with a bunch of gigantic 5/5 previously dormant artifacts. Attacking with a lowly 2/2 Canonist 10 times or milling someone out with Jace is not unheard of, but those are usually seen as alternate routes to victory as opposed to the norm.
There are probably a few questions that you may be asking yourself about some of the cards, and I hope that I can answer them preemptively. Firstly, there’s the curious manabase. There are only 14 true lands in the deck, although with 8 Borderposts that brings us to a whooping 22 mana sources. If you include the Chalices as sort of a quasi-land, we’re up to respectable 23.5 mana sources which seems quite reasonable and, in my opinion, might actually be too many. The deck tends to cycle through a large amount of cards, and hitting too many lands instead of spells that actually do something can translate to one of those awkward “I thought I was going to win” moments. Typically, lists in the past have run around 15-16 lands, but that was also before the introduction of Chalice which I think justifies the drop of one. I’ve also declined to add the full set of fetchlands and am hesitant to add any at all. The deck doesn’t really need the fixing or thinning, and I’m not really a fan of the unnecessary life lose, but two felt like a good compromise. Mana fixing really isn’t a problem with this deck with the Pilgrim’s Eyes, Borderposts, Kalediostones (which can actually be sacrificed for something other than Time Sieve if need be), and now, Prophetic Prism. I rescind my previous joke at the expense of the Prism, as I actually find its filtering ability to be perhaps somewhat helpful, albeit probably unnecessary.
People occasionally asked me why I didn’t run the Jace, The Mind Sculptor over the boring old Jace Beleren in my Hedron Crab deck. The answer to that question is similar to the reasoning behind why I run Beleren in this deck. It is true that Jace, TMS’s ultimate ability is much more game-winning than his former incarnation, but typically, if I’ve gotten to the point where I can use their ultimate abilities, I’ve probably already won regardless. More to the point though, is that new Jace’s +2 ability and even his Brainstorm ability are actually pretty mediocre when paired with a Howling Mine. Fatesealing becomes much less powerful when leaving a dud on top does not guarantee that your opponent won’t be drawing a useless card. Also, Brainstorming tends to be a little underwhelming when the two cards you put back on top of your library are going to be the ones you drew next turn anyway. I also want to absolutely be drawing cards with the Jace that I end up electing to play, and JB’s +2 draw ability can at least protect himself a little better than J, TMS’s. New Jace might turn out to be a better fit with this deck, as I’m not exactly milling my opponents to death all that often, so I might try him instead just to see what he’s like.
There have been Time Sieve decks that have pooped him here and there since the rotation of Lorwyn, and most of them have included some number of Glassdust Hulks in the maindeck. I’m not altogether opposed to The Hulk, but I desperately wanted to try out a Juggernaut instead. Lodestone Golem has been a card that I feel desperately needs a home in our current Standard, and I am hoping that this deck can provide the stage for him to shine. I’ve actually been eager to add Etherium Sculptors to the deck (perhaps only as a three-of) not only because I like the idea of chaining cantripping artifacts, but I think that a turn 3 Golem is extremely annoying for a lot of decks to deal with. Yes, he does turn on a lot of your opponent’s removal. But if my opponent is spending their 3rd or 4th turn casting a two-mana Path to Exile or three-mana Terminate, then I am extremely happy. Further, he does an extremely potent job of slowing down the new kid on the block, Naya Allies, which has little to no removal for him maindeck. He makes getting any value out of Bloodbraid Elf cost SIX mana if they want to cast the spell they cascade into, which, I’m assuming, they would. Even just casting him on turn 4 makes an opponent’s turn 4 Bloodbraid into Blightning a thing of the past.
I like the idea of Pilgrim’s Eye as a sort of 3 mana “cantrip” creature in that it replaces itself, albeit with a specific card rather than a random one. It guarantees land drops, chumps random early guys, and thins your deck all in the process. Heck, take 20 turns in a row and this guy can win the game! I would like to add more, but I think that I would rather have my cyclers only cost 2, but perhaps he’s worth it as a 3-of, or even 4-of.
The one thing this deck definitely misses from the rotation is the lack of a good Cryptic Command replacement. Cryptic Command could do so many things that this deck desperately needs; the Fog option is nice, but I really lament the lack of any sort of counterspell in the deck. A well timed Maelstrom Pulse can take the wind right out of this deck, either by knocking out a Howling Mine or Jace, or worse, Armageddoning us via dispatching our Borderposts. It’s because of this last part that I really would like to add Thopter Foundry to the maindeck. Random Thopter armies can provide a nice alternative win condition, since your entire deck can pretty much become a 1/1 flyer. The life gain helps against random Red decks too, or in blocking annoying Hell’s Thunders.
The sideboard is somewhat of a catchall to handle what I imagine troublesome matchups might entail. Silence and Canonist are two cards that are surprisingly effective against a number of decks and extremely solid to play with one another. Against a control player, a Silence with a Canonist on the board leaves them with only a couple of options: counter the Silence (which seems awkward to say the least) at which point you cast a number of artifacts and Time Sieve; don’t counter the Silence, at which point you can sacrifice Canonist to a Time Sieve and then Open the Vaults with impunity; or kill your Canonist, counter the Silence, then try to counter whatever spell you intended on casting afterward. Olivier Ruel actually played them maindeck back in 2009, and I would not be opposed to that option considering how incredibly annoying Silence can be for such popular decks as Jund, Naya, and Allies. Canonist actually makes one of the most hotly anticipated cards of Rise of the Eldrazi, Vengevine, seem a little awkward when your opponent will never be able to bring it back from the graveyard with the one-spell-a-turn clause in effect.
I cannot wait to start playing and tuning this deck. It may not rise to its previous level of glory, but if there is a chance it could, now is that time. Time Sieve Combo has been given a whole lot of tools to work with, and I highly suggest taking it for a test drive.
Thanks for reading.
Zoochz on MTGO