The Enduring Ideal Primer

The forums clamored for it… and Richard obliged! A comprehensive primer article on the entertaining Enduring Ideal deck in Standard. Cards dissected, sideboards analysed, plays and strategies shared for all… can this unsung archetype be a force in the Standard metagame? Can it make waves in the murky waters of Team Standard? Read on to find out…

DISCLAIMER: This will be a departure from my usual kind of “latest PTQ technology” article, because, well…this isn’t the latest PTQ technology. In fact, I am not playing Enduring Ideal anymore, nor do I think it warrants a seat at the Team Constructed PTQs right now. Nor have I even tested with it since I played it at PT: Honolulu. So why the hell am I writing about it, then?

‘Cause I said I would if the forums asked me to… and by golly, they did.

So, having said I don’t think the deck is a good choice right now, what reasons might you have to continue reading? I can think of a few.

  • You’re not actually interested in the deck itself, but are interested in reading about the design process that led me to arrive at the list I played at Honolulu and at GP: Madison.
  • You think that maybe, although the deck’s not strong now, it might have the potential for future success with some modifications and/or further testing.
  • You just want to play something different. One thing’s for sure – damn near nobody’s playing Ideal right now.
  • You’re the kind of reader who’s not in the market for a cutting-edge PTQ deck. Maybe you want one for FNM, or a local tournament of some sort. Or maybe some uppity Zoo player keeps saying he wants to battle you for money.

In any case, let’s get to it.

The Fundamentals
The first well-known Enduring Ideal list was the one Akira Asahara used to nab a Top Eight slot at Worlds.

The premise of the deck is extremely straightforward: cast Enduring Ideal, then use your Epic copies to search out a combination of enchantments that your opponent cannot deal with.

If you’re up against a Stomping Ground deck, you Ideal for Ivory Mask to turn off all their burn spells, and then a Form of the Dragon to turn off all their attackers. If they can’t shoot you, and they can’t attack you, they’re doomed to death by five-point Form hits.

Against a Godless Shrine aggro deck, you have no burn to fear (so you don’t need Ivory Mask before Form), but you do have to watch out for Ancient Laws and Mortifies (so you do need Privileged Position before Form). So first you fetch Privileged Position, and then Form of the Dragon. I moved the Privileged Positions to the main after the PT, in order to make this play possible in game 1. If you suspect multiple enchantment removal spells, and are worried about setting your life total to five with Form, you can first search out a couple of Faith’s Fetters and maybe a Confiscate to ensure the opponent will not be able to swing for five in one turn, then go for Privileged Position and Form as normal.

Against non-aggressive decks (where you’re not on a clock), you will typically start by going for Zur’s Weirding in order to assess the answers in your opponent’s hand. If you see that Izzetron is holding Blaze, for example, you know that you should not fetch out that Form of the Dragon just yet. Go get Ivory Mask first. Weirding also serves the important purpose of shutting off your opponent’s ability to dig for answers; if he flips up anything that could disrupt your ability to kill him (or casts Tidings to search for something), all it takes is an investment of two life points to handle the problem. Many opponents will remove the Weirding in order to avoid being locked down by it; when this happens, you will at the very least get to see his hand before he gets to start digging for more answers, so you can figure out how likely he is to draw what he needs from that point on and play accordingly. If Weirding shows you that he has no in-hand answers for your Form, his draw step will be on permanent lockdown as soon as you get out Form of the Dragon. (Paying two life every turn usually becomes trivial when your life total just goes back up to five at the end of each turn anyway.)

Blue decks unlucky enough to have Meloku the Clouded Mirror out when Ideal resolves will find themselves on the receiving end of a particularly nasty Confiscate. Once you’ve resolved an Epic spell, you tend to have no need for your lands anymore (what’re you going to tap them for, playing spells?), so there’s almost never any downside to picking them all up in exchange for a fleet of illusions. Your army will definitely outnumber however many tokens the opponent managed to squeak out before you hit him with the Confiscate. (Even if he had all his mana untapped, without the benefit of a free enchantment every upkeep, he cannot expect to win the game if he picks up all his lands as well.)

In situations where killing with Form of the Dragon is impractical or impossible (such as when the opponent has a Dragon in the graveyard and Goryo’s Vengeance in hand—not the best situation to be in when your win condition requires that you go to five life and not cast spells any more), the sideboarded Genju of the Realm comes into play, providing a vanilla beatstick (and by “vanilla beatstick,” I naturally mean “8/12 trampling monstrosity”) to finish with.

Enduring Ideal at Pro Tour: Honolulu
My initial playtest gauntlet for PT: Honolulu included Asahara’s original Ideal list, Eminent Domain, Boros Deck Wins (remember, Guildpact had not yet been released at this point), GhaziGlare, U/R Tron, Greater Good Gifts, Critical Mass, Hypnotic Specter Aggro-Control, and U/B Jushi Control.

JP Smee and I were bashing a few of the decks together, and I was quite surprised by Asahara’s deck. It handily obliterated GhaziGlare and Boros, and somehow remained competitive against Critical Mass and even the land-hating Eminent Domain. (To be fair, we had experimentally modified Asahara’s list to play Remands instead of Telling Times, which were positively sick against C. Mass and Domain.)

Before these playtest games, I had written Ideal off as too vulnerable to hate, but… well, no one was really hating on it at the time. Of the decks in our gauntlet, we could only expect a turn 3 or turn 4 Extraction from U/B Jushi and Critical Mass, and the only comparable anti-Ideal card in the format, Tempest of Light, was nowhere to be seen in any of the lists. In fact, from my discussions with other Qualified players, and from what I’d been reading on the internet, it seemed Ideal was on no one’s radar at all.

Around this time, Guildpact became fully spoilt. With all the juice the Gruul guild would be bringing to the aggro archetypes, I predicted that Kird Apes would be crawling out of the woodwork at this PT. I decided the Magnivore decks that had become popular on Magic Online at this time were unlikely to survive in such an environment, so the fact that I had only a 50% matchup against them (with sideboarded Sacred Ground) did not deter my choice. In fact, I relished the chance to munch on a Gruul-heavy field with my multiple Faith’s Fetters and Wrath of Gods.

Really what settled me on the deck, though, was the breakthrough solution I had to the problem of countermagic:

Just cut a couple spells to play three Boseijus in the main.

Can't see the blood for the trees

Yeah, I only need 22 lands to run my combo…but if I don’t factor the three Boseijus into my mana base, and just run them in addition to my regular 22 (bringing me up to 25 total lands), it’s just like I’m devoting three maindeck slots to a spell that says “Destroy target Blue mage” and which doesn’t cost any mana. I boarded out the Boseijus against every non-Blue deck and still did not suffer from land-light draws post-board. Whenever I drew the maindeck copies against aggro, they tended not to do almost nothing…but my aggro matchups were so good, those pseudo-mulligans didn’t stop me from steamrolling them anyway.

So I had strong matchups against Boros/Gruul/Zoo-type decks, Blue control decks, and GhaziGlare. I was around 50-50 against Magnivore and Greater Good Gifts, and was a significant underdog against a number of aggro-control decks that had suddenly cropped up on MTGO. Again, I thought Magnivore and the aggro-control decks would be a lot less popular at the PT, where Guildpact would be legal, since they all put on a big frown whenever a first-turn Kird Ape was summoned against them.

If you noticed that I have not mentioned any B/W decks so far, you’re either especially observant, or you already know what happened to me at the PT. I had no B/W decks on my radar at all, and got pretty much eaten alive when they turned out to be one of the most popular archetypes at the tournament.

All that work for nothing.

Well, not quite nothing. After all, I did get a tuned-up list out of it.

The List
Here’s what I registered at the Pro Tour.

You can see Asahara’s framework poking out here and there, but a lot has been changed between his version and mine.

First up is the mana base.

Asahara didn’t have access to the Izzet mana producers yet, so I was able to reconfigure the lands into a more desirable mix. The important features of this setup are the eight basic Plains and the Izzet Signets, compared to Akira’s three Plains and Boros Signets.

The eight basics make me a lot more resilient to Blood Moon. Akira’s seven basic Islands don’t really help out against Blood Moon, since access to Blue mana doesn’t really help you win, nor does it help you remove the Blood Moon when you aren’t playing any Repeals. Having two basic sources of White out, on the other hand, allows you to just cast Wrath, Faith’s Fetters, and Enduring Ideal as normal and win anyway. I beat Blood Moon quite a bit in testing, just by locating two Plains and using my “hosed” lands to pay for the Epic spell’s colorless requirement.

The Izzet Signets are superior to the Boros Signets precisely because of situations like this:

“It’s my third turn. I’ll play my third land and Boros Signet. Now I’ll tap my Island and my Boros Signet for Telling Time…oh wait.”

This situation (ending a turn with only a Signet and one untapped land and wanting to cast Telling Time, Peer through Depths, or Mana Leak) came up enough in testing that I decided my Signets just had to produce Blue. Fellwar Stone is still fine, since you can just tap it alongside a regular old Steam Vents to cast your Blue-mana spell. (Fellwar Stone, by the way, while an unreliable source of color fixing, serves the silly-but-surprisingly-relevant role of helping you hardcast Genju of the Realm, as does the much more mana-consistent Tendo Ice Bridge. However, once Dissension comes out, I’d probably cut the Stones for Azorious Signets, which provide both a Blue source for Telling Time/Mana Leak/Peer through Depths and a Blood Moon-proof source of White mana.)

It’s important to note that the Boseijus are not being counted as part of the mana base. You can board them all out without screwing up your ability to hit your drops on time.

Next we come to a more interesting section: the card-searching suite.

Akira Asahara played four Sleight of Hand, four Telling Time, and one Compulsive Research. I kept the Telling Times, replaced the Sleights with Peer through Depths, and cut the Research altogether. The Research was an easy cut once I realized something kind of important about this deck:

It does not want to draw cards.

It wants to look at cards, and to maybe put one of them into its hand, but it does not want to draw random cards off the top of its library at all. Why’s that, you ask? Well, much unlike the card Tooth and Nail, which actually gets better when you “accidentally” draw the cards you wanted to tutor for, Enduring Ideal actually kicks you in the junk when you inadvertently draw enchantments you needed to pull out of your deck. Once they’re in your hand, you’ve got to hardcast them before you play your Epic spell; otherwise, they’re stuck there for good. If you accidentally draw your Ivory Mask against Gruul after having cast Ideal, for example, you’re pretty much screwed. (This particular situation has never happened to me in well over 300 games with the deck, but it’s certainly possible.)

So you’ll excuse me if “draw three cards” does not sound like the most appetizing play for this deck. That’s three extra chances to screw myself that I’d just as soon do without, so the Research was cut posthaste.

So my three ideal (heh, “Ideal”) candidates for search spells were Telling Time, Sleight of Hand, and Peer through Depths. All three let me look at the cards I was about to put into my hand before “drawing” them, so it became very difficult to strand enchantments in my hand when using them to search. In the case of Telling Time and Sleight, I could actively fight against accidental enchantment draws by putting needed enchantments on the bottom of my library, thus saving them from slipping in on my draw step.

I only wanted eight search slots, so it came down to deciding between Peer, Telling Time, and Sleight. I soon discovered that the most important thing to compare between the three of them was their “digging power.” If I cast Sleight of Hand, for example, and neither of the cards I see are Enduring Ideal, I have at least removed them from the top of my library, putting me closer to topdecking an Ideal. One is now on the bottom of my library, and the other is in my hand. Wherever my next Ideal is, I am now two draw steps closer to finding it, because my deck never shuffles (except for casting Ideal itself, of course). Thus, Sleight has a digging power of two. Telling Time, while letting me see three cards instead of two (which is nice in the event that Ideal happens to be the third card down, plus it increases my chances of seeing an enchantment that I do not want to draw, and thus being able to hide it on the bottom of my deck), also has a digging power of only two. Even though I get to look at an extra card, I still only put one into my hand and one on the bottom.

Can you dig it?

Peer through Depths, on the other hand…has a digging power of five! If I cast Peer and do not find Ideal, I get to put a whopping five non-Ideal cards from the top of my library on the bottom. That’s pretty strong. What’s even better is that I have all sorts of juicy tangential targets to search up with Peer when I either don’t hit an Ideal with it or already have one in hand. Wrath of God and Seething Song in game 1 are rarely unwelcome additions to my hand, as are countermagic spells post-board. Plus, if I’m still looking for an Ideal, Peering into another Peer or a Telling Time lets me continue digging at a much faster rate than my draw step would have provided on its own.

I’ll get to the enchantment suite in a second, but let me first touch on the few remaining spells in the maindeck.

4 Wrath of God
2 Seething Song

I remembered seeing Seething Song in the original Ideal lists from last year’s Mirrodin-Kamigawa Standard season, but had forgotten about the card until Cedric Phillips mentioned he was running four of them in his build of Ideal, which he was planning on taking to the Honolulu Last-Chance Qualifier.

Ced played the full four copies, but I had been getting by just fine without the prospect of a “nuts draw” (Seething Song into Ideal provides a two-turn increase in combo speed). Really, I just wanted a mana source I could tutor up with Peer through Depths; I ended up running only two copies. Seething Song, by the way, is sweet for several reasons.

  • As I said, it’s a mana source that can be fetched with Peer through Depths. That’s very handy.
  • If you draw it alongside a Signet, an Ideal, and four lands, you can bust out an Ideal on turn 4. I did this twice at GP: Madison, and man was it fun. (And man did I ever win those games.)
  • When people see that you have only four or five mana sources available, they tend to assume you can’t play Ideal next turn. This can lead them to do things like playing a Tidings instead of a Wildfire, or tapping out for a Meloku because they don’t think they’ll need their countermagic this turn. These lead to free wins all the time against unsuspecting opponents.

If I were to play the deck in another tournament, I’d try as hard as I could to make room for a third Seething Song. You really do always want to see one in your hand, and if it weren’t for the fact that drawing a second one is a complete blank (in a list where I’m already maindecking blanks in several matchups – Boseiju rarely does anything against aggro, and you pretty much always have way more Wraths and Faith’s Fetters than you can use against Magnivore), I’d probably just go for broke and play all four Songs. Overall, I’d say a count of three is a good way to increase the deck’s brokenness level without upping its fizzle-out propensity too much. I’m still not sure what I’d cut to make room, but I’d definitely try to make it happen somehow.

Finally, we come to the enchantment package.

You may notice that I am running a very stripped-down version of the suite that Asahara played at Worlds. This is something I have always been known for doing with combo decks; once I get familiar with the deck, I start shaving off cards I find myself rarely happy to draw, to see if I can get away with not having access to them after I go off. Ultimately, I Feldmanized Asahara’s list as follows:

-2 Confiscate (down to 1)
-1 Form of the Dragon (down to 2)
-1 Faith’s Fetters (down to 3)

I completely understand why Asahara played three Forms; as your win condition, you need to make sure you don’t accidentally draw all your copies. (‘Cause if you do, guess what? You lost!) This is practically impossible if you play three, but I found that even with only two, it only happened once in a blue moon that I would draw both and lose because of it; certainly not often enough to lose any sleep over it. Another benefit of Form is that against a lot of opponents back at Worlds (like Ghazi-Glare), you could just flop it onto the table if you didn’t have an Ideal, and a lot of the time the Form would just win the game by itself. However, this is hardly a play I consider safe in the current environment, so I would be most comfortable overall with only two copies.

Confiscate is a card I pretty much never needed to Ideal for a second copy of. It was important to have access to one copy so I could steal my opponent’s Meloku (once I’ve played Form, Faith’s Fetters doesn’t stop him from just making five tokens and swinging once for the win. Confiscate, however, lets me make tokens of my own to block), but I couldn’t come up with many situations where a Faith’s Fetters wouldn’t do just fine instead of a second Confiscate. Since I’d decided I didn’t need access to more than one copy, ever, I reasoned that the odds of my accidentally drawing my one copy coinciding with a game in which I specifically needed it (again, really only against Meloku, when I was winning with Form, and when the opponent had a full ten mana available) were so low that, again, it wasn’t worth worrying about.

Finally, I cut a Faith’s Fetters. While awesome against aggro and Greater Good, four copies was excessive against Magnivore and control decks when I was already packing four Wraths. I might have shaved another, except that I felt it was important to have a combined total of four Fetters and Confiscates, since these were my post-Epic “removal spells,” and I quite often needed the ability to search up two of them before winning the game. With fewer than four copies total in my deck, I couldn’t really count on not accidentally drawing two copies, leaving me with only one copy to tutor up after I cast Ideal.

You may notice that I moved the Genju of the Realm to the maindeck. This was done specifically because of the Greater Good matchup, where I was literally dead in the water to “Goryo’s Vengeance in hand, Dragon in graveyard” if Form was my only win condition, unless somehow they only had access to one Black source and I managed to Confiscate it. (Naturally, when I played against Kenji Tsumura and his Greater Gifts deck at the Pro Tour, I accidentally drew my one Genju both games. Like a champ.)

I’ll get into the sideboard in a bit, but first, let me take a break from deck composition and discuss a few…

Important Plays
Putting enchantments into play via Enduring Ideal is immensely superior to hardcasting them. When you cast an Aura, for example, you have to put it on the stack, target something, and then give your opponent the opportunity to respond with whatever he likes. With Enduring Ideal, however, you just put the massive spell on the stack, grin, and say “Resolves?” And the second it does resolve, the enchantment is in play. Like, right now. No targeting involved, no responses allowed. Why is this important?

  • You can Confiscate a Kodama of the North Tree. (The spell Enduring Ideal doesn’t target.)
  • You can Dream Leash an untapped permanent. (You aren’t “playing” it, you’re just putting it into play.)
  • You can Faith’s Fetters a Divining Top, and the opponent will have no chance to save it. (If he says “Ideal resolves,” he gets no further opportunities to make plays before the enchantment is already in play.) This also applies to Confiscating things like Ghost Council and Jitte, where the opponent would obviously respond by RFGing the G.C. or gaining life with his Jitte counters had he known he was about to lose it.
  • If you’re digging for an Ideal and have enough mana to cast both the Peer through Depths and the Telling Time in your hand on your opponent’s end step, cast the Peer first. Not only does this let you see more cards overall (If you Telling Time first, you’ll have to put one of the three cards you saw back, and then look at it again as one of your five for Peer), but if you pull up another Peer instead of an Ideal, you can cast that one on the same end step, using the mana you would have spent on Telling Time instead.
  • Remand fully counters an Ideal copy. Keep that in mind when figuring out which enchantments you need to pull up—can you afford to go for Form right away if, for example, if the opponent might go “Play Meloku, Remand your Ideal copy?”
  • Many Remand players do not know that this works, however; so don’t live in fear of it. I’ve often chuckled as people Remanded the Ideal I cast off Boseiju just to draw a card “while they still could.”

Whenever I was resolving an Epic copy of Enduring Ideal, I would always do the same thing, just to make sure I couldn’t be rules-lawyered out of a good play if my opponent was able to convince a judge that he hadn’t intended to let Ideal resolve yet. Every upkeep, I’d point to my library and say “Ideal?” I figured this meant my intent more than clear, while avoiding using the word “resolves?” (which might have clued my opponent in to the fact that he should maybe have a response or two before the copy went through). This led to a number of blowouts at the GP, and in fact the only player I’ve encountered at a tournament who always responded correctly (when he needed to) to an Enduring Ideal copy was Kenji Tsumura at the Pro Tour.

Against Ghost Dad, or indeed any deck playing Shining Shoal (as other decks have recently realized what a humongous beating that card is even when you aren’t playing Tallowisp), it’s important that you don’t die to your own Form of the Dragon fire. On the turn after you fetch out Form, make sure to stack the five points of upkeep damage (to the dome, to your Dragon, whatever) and then stack the Ideal copy. This leaves the opponent with no opportunity to blow you out. If he responds to the Ideal copy by Shining Shoaling the Form damage at your face, just go get Faith’s Fetters when Ideal resolves, and play it on whatever you please. You’ll go up to 9 life, the Form damage will resolve, you’ll drop 5 life points, give or take Thief of Hope triggers, and then you’ll go right back up to 5 at the end of your turn. If, on the other hand, the opponent decides to play around this and lets the Ideal copy resolve before attempting to Shoal the Form damage…just go get Ivory Mask. Problem solved.

On to the sideboard.

For reference, here’s the board I played at the PT:

4 Lightning Helix
4 Mana Leak
3 Hinder
1 Blood Moon
1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
1 Privileged Position
1 Dream Leash

Lightning Helix was not so much for the aggro matchups as for the aggro-control matchups. Those Dark Confidant and Ninja of the Deep Hours decks were so prevalent online, I figured some of them had to show up at the PT. (They didn’t… or at least, if they did, I didn’t see any of them.) Killing guys like Dark Confidant, Jushi Apprentice, Ninja of the Deep Hours, and Dimir Cutpurse before their controllers could untap and defend against my Wraths and Faith’s Fetters with countermagic was extremely important, as it was the out-of-control card drawing that really buried me in those matchups. The Lightning Helices also helped boost the Zoo/Gruul/Boros matchups from “strong” to “extremely really big time favorable a lot.” [Heh. “Helices.” — Craig]

The Blood Moon was an Ideal target against the Urzatron decks and, strangely enough, Zoo. Since Zoo was expected to board in Naturalize, I knew I’d have to defend against that before bringing out my Ivory Mask/Form of the Dragon combo, and Blood Moon was vastly superior defense than Privileged Position. Not only did it guard against the possibility of multiple Naturalizes, it also stopped the Zoo player from emptying his hand of creatures (while holding a Naturalize or two) now that his fear of Wrath of God had been erased by my Epic spell.

The fourth Boseiju was a bit of paranoia; many of the Magnivore and U/B Control players I’d encountered on MTGO were bringing in Boseijus against me in order to Wasteland mine, so I wanted to compensate with as many redundant copies as I could possibly play. Sideboarded Shady Trees have fallen out of vogue as of late, however, so I wouldn’t recommend a fourth copy except in permission-heavy or aggro-control-heavy environments. (Really, you can never have too many Shady Trees against aggro-control.)

The Privileged Position was moved to the main for GP: Madison (over the third Boseiju, since I expected far less permission at the GP than I had at the PT) because of the rampant B/W decks with their Mortifies and Ancient Laws.

The Dream Leash basically acted as Confiscate #2, which made it almost impossible to “accidentally draw” all my copies against the Meloku decks post-board. I chose Dream Leash over Confiscate because I could also use it to steal lands against land destruction decks like Magnivore and Eminent Domain; in fact, the Confiscate in the main was Dream Leash for a long time, until I decided that the utility of a hardcast Confiscate when I accidentally drew it was high enough that it was worth changing back to the more versatile, if more expensive, enchantment.

Finally, we come to the last seven cards in the sideboard, also known as “The Cranial Extraction section.”

4 Mana Leak
3 Hinder

When I showed my sideboard to Mike Flores at the Pro Tour, this horrible grimace washed over his face, as though he’d been stabbed by a rusty Jitte.

He gestured to the seven offensive slots in question and said, “The Japanese would have boarded into a whole new deck with those slots.”

All things considered, I’d say he was pretty much dead-on. Partially because the deck loses a lot of its power when you can’t tap out for things like Wrath and Faith’s Fetters on turn 4 for fear of losing to Cranial, but mainly because you still scoop to Cranial if you don’t have the answer in-hand right away. At GP: Madison, for example, an opponent Cranialed me when I had three mana open to counter, but no counter in hand. After the Extraction removed my Ideals, I cast Peer through Depths on his end step, searching up… Hinder. Nice.

A real sideboard card, something more along the lines of The Clouded Mirror, The Tide Star, or possibly Bandit Warlord, would let me play my regular game, shrug indifferently when Cranially Extracted for one of my win conditions because I tapped out for Wrath, and calmly say, “done?”

But if using a transformational sideboard to beat Cranial Extraction doesn’t quite get your motor running yet, I’ve got four words for you.

Seething Song Into Keiga.”

That do it for ya?

Exciting plays aside, I think that a transformational sideboard would be an appropriate direction to take this deck. You don’t really need the Lightning Helices now that all the aggro-control decks have left the building, the Privileged Position is already in the maindeck now, the Dream Leash isn’t as important now that almost no one is playing Meloku anymore… that leaves you with a sideboard of:

1 Blood Moon
1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All [the third copy, not the fourth—this was moved here from the maindeck to make room for Privileged Position]
13 Whatever You Want

Hell, with thirteen slots, you could probably do a decent Firemane Control impersonation post-board. Bring in a second Zur’s Weirding, four Angels or so, possibly a couple of Meloku to resist double Extraction…

Or maybe just go for broke and pack your board with enormous monsters that those B/W aggro decks hate so much to see. “Play Ryusei. Mortify him? Okay, clear your board. Play Keiga. Topdeck another? Fine. Play Meloku.”

With this strategy, you could also board in one Debtors’ Knell (the rumors are true: you can cast this using only White mana) so that if your Ideals aren’t Extracted – I’d probably only board out two of them when transforming – you can still put them to very good use by using them to search out a Debtors’ Knell, followed by the remaining Faith’s Fetters, Confiscate(s), and possibly Privileged Position(s) in your deck. (For additional cuteness, reanimate Meloku, bounce all your lands, then move to the discard step and pitch that Godo you topdecked so you can get him into play via Debtors’ Knell, despite being unable to hardcast him due to Epic.)

You’ll have to bear with me here, because as I mentioned from the outset, I have not actually sat down to do any good, solid playtesting with this deck since the PT.

I did, however, log some three hundred test games in preparation for Honolulu, which I think qualifies me to speculate as to how sideboarding ought to go. I’ll use this as a sample sideboard:

4 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
3 Keiga, the Tide Star
3 Ryusei, the Falling Star
1 Debtors’ Knell
1 Seething Song
1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
1 Blood Moon
1 Peace of Mind

Game 1 is simple. Wrath, Faith’s Fetters, search up Ideal, play it, get Ivory Mask, get Form of the Dragon, win.

+1 Peace of Mind
+1 Seething Song
-2 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

If you end up running extra cards in the board you’d like to bring in for this matchup instead of the other Boseiju, go right ahead.

This was a matchup I never tested for the PT, because Heezy Street was not on the map prior to Honolulu. They’ve got Blood Moon, which is hit-or-miss against you (if you’ve got the White basics anyway, it’ll mainly be a waste of a turn 3 play for them, and if not, it’ll probably blow you out), and possibly worse, you can’t Blood Moon them. This means that post-Ideal, you have to worry about Naturalize. The conundrum is this: you want to lock them with Ivory Mask and Form, but what if they have a Naturalize for either? Naturalize on Form probably means you’re at five life and staring down lethal damage, and Naturalize on Ivory Mask probably means you’re about to get burned out in a big way. I don’t know how much of a concern this is in practice, but if it is a big one, the best solution I’ve come up with is to board in a Peace of Mind. First you Ideal for Ivory Mask, as normal. Then you untap and Ideal for Peace of Mind. If, on your end step, the opponent blows up the Ivory Mask, you can gain several life via Peace to stay alive through his burn spells and attackers, which additional Ivory Masks or Privileged Position would not help you with. Then once you get Form, you can use the Peace to stave off losing to five points of simultaneous burn to the dome. Just a thought.

Oh, and don’t think you should also include that in the board because it’s “tech against Owl.” You can’t beat Owl. Don’t even try to without using some transformative sideboard of epic proportions, because it’s still literally the most lopsided matchup I’ve ever seen.

The pre-board matchup is exactly the same as Gruul, except you have to worry about Kami of Ancient Law. If your math tells you you’ve got time, get a Privileged Position out before going for the Form, or chain up some Faith’s Fetters first to give yourself a buffer to work with.

+1 Blood Moon
+1 Peace of Mind
+1 Seething Song
-2 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
-1 Privileged Position

Post-board, you Ideal for Blood Moon immediately unless the opponent has either basics out or is representing some kind of lethal damage. Blood Moon’s purpose is to shut off the opponent’s access to Kami of Ancient Law, Naturalize, and any further non-burn spells he might like to commit to the board to try and race you. From this position, you can either go for Form plus Ivory Mask, or just Faith’s Fetters a couple of his guys and kill him with Genju. I have found the latter to be safer in many cases; it’s up to you to judge whether or not the 8/12 can race whatever smattering of Chars and Flames of the Blood Hand the opponent might be holding. (Bearing in mind you’ll have Peace of Mind/Ivory Mask backup within a turn.)

B/W Aggro (all flavors)
Here, the game 1 lock is Privileged Position and Form of the Dragon. Trade Wrath for Confidant every time you get the chance; the more cards the opponent draws, the more chances he has to mise two Kami of Ancient Laws and beat your lock. If you get Priv and Form to stick, though, the only way you can realistically lose is by being careless about Shining Shoal. (See the Important Plays section, above, on how to avoid losing to this.)

+4 Meloku
+3 Keiga
+3 Ryusei
+1 Seething Song
+1 Debtors’ Knell
+1 Peace of Mind
-2 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
-4 Peer through Depths
-2 Enduring Ideal
-1 Genju of the Realm
-2 Form of the Dragon
-1 Zur’s Weirding
-1 Ivory Mask

Basically, the plan is to smash some faces apart with humongous monsters. B/W hates Dragons and Meloku like nothing else, and the Clouded Mirror himself can quite often just win the game on his own. You won’t plan on casting Ideal post-board unless it doesn’t get Extracted, but you’ve also taken out all your “hate to draw it” Ideal targets. If you do cast Ideal, you’ll probably just use it to get, like, Privileged Position, Debtors’ Knell, and then a series of Faith’s Fetters and Confiscates. If you’re on too much of a clock for that to work out, you can start with the Fetters and Confiscates, then follow up with Peace of Mind, perhaps, and then go for the Priv/Knell finish once you’ve stabilized the table. Against Husk in particular, you can run the gamble that they won’t be sideboarding Extraction and just not transform… but that could fail to work out for you in a big way if you’re wrong. If you’re up a game already, I’d try transforming, and see if he ever tries to Extract you. If he doesn’t, or if he sideboards differently for game 3 (possibly taking out the Extractions), then I’d transform back.

Game 1: Can’t win!

(who cares?)

Game 2: Go get lunch or something.

A fairly simple matchup. Find Boseiju, find Ideal, and cast one using the other. You usually want to start with Zur’s Weirding here, to see what answers your opponent might have to your Ideal targets, and also to lock down his draw step so he can’t Compulse or Tidings his way into too many threats or answers for you to deal with. Seething Song can sneak in Ideals against unprepared opponents as well, but I would not expect this trick to work as well in game 2. I’d board like this:

-1 Faith’s Fetters
-2 Wrath of God
+1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
+1 Seething Song
+1 Blood Moon

Although you might want to leave in the Wraths and the Fetters for the Songs if your opponent has already seen the Songs (they might trade for the odd Mana Leak if you’re lucky, but otherwise they aren’t nearly as good once the opponent knows to play around them), or if he has a propensity for tapping out for early Melokus and Keigas and hoping they beat you. (And they can, if that much removal has been boarded out.) Blood Moon is kind of a “mise” target here – if Ideal resolves, and Tron doesn’t have a Signet out, you generally just win on the spot.

Not a good matchup. You pretty much have to mise some kind of Seething Song-related victory, and even then it’s tough because once you go off, they have all kinds of removal to deal with your enchantments. Post-Ideal, bounced enchantments are as good as dead, since you can never replay them. Also, Zur’s Weirding is a risky play to lead with, because if the opponent is holding at least one Magnivore and one bounce spell, you basically cannot win. A somewhat safer play is to just go for Privileged Position first, and see what the opponent does. If he casts a draw spell, then clearly he is looking for answers. I’d probably get Zur’s Weirding next, unless you think he can play a lethal combination of Magnivores immediately. If he goes for a Magnivore, you’ll probably have to get Form or Faith’s Fetters, or else risk dying to a second one. (Confiscating his tapped Lhurgoyf will not likely help you in this situation.)

+1 Seething Song
+1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
+1 Peace of Mind
-2 Wrath of God
-1 Genju of the Realm

You want to keep in your Fetters and Confiscates because plenty of Magnivore players will board in (or just keep in) Genju of the Spires, Meloku, and Keiga, just for lack of anything else to take out. Flectomancer doesn’t do much against you, nor does any of their spot removal, so they tend to just bring in extra threats and try to mise wins. You don’t need too much removal for these, but it’s important to have some; Death By Red Genju is a fate that has befallen many a Blue player, and it can happen to you if you are caught without a Fetters on the critical turn.

Final Thoughts
I’d say, overall, the most important part about playing the deck is learning what to Ideal for. I outlined most of the important plays to make note of in the “Important Plays” section, and that should help. Just don’t assume that you’re going to win in an immediate blowout after you resolve Ideal – stop and take some time to consider your opponent’s plays before selecting your enchantments. Just because you should end up winning the game once you’ve resolved an Ideal, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to it.

Well, this is definitely the longest article I’ve ever written on a deck I’m no longer playing. Let it never be said that I am not a man of my word!

I do think the deck is interesting, and certainly quite off-the-radar, if not the best choice for the current Standard environment. In any case, I certainly hope all this information has been useful. Let me know what you thought of it in the forums.

Until next time, may all your Ideals resolve on turn 4 via Seething Song!

Richard Feldman
Team Check Minus
[email protected]