The Main Phase – Declaring Block, Part III: Brace for Impact

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Monday, July 21st – Usually when an author does a set review or two they go card by card through an entire color, or maybe through the whole set, but I wanted to take a different approach. Rather than try and evaluate cards in the abstract I wanted to separate some of the wheat from the chaff evaluate in context and see what cards have value to current existing archetypes…

Remember a year or so ago during Time Spiral Block Constructed season? Particularly, remember Pro Tour: Yokohama and the metagame at the time? I know I do. It was pretty healthy, with a ton of different types of decks populating every PTQ, from Red-Green Big Mana to Mono-Black Control to Wild Pair Slivers and everything in between. But, if I recall correctly, the Pro Tour that was eventually taken down by Guillaume Wafo-Tapa was dominated by three decks: A White Weenie strategy, a midrange Red strategy, and a few types of mostly Blue Control strategies that splashed a few other colors for a myriad of different cards.

Then Future Sight came out.

All of the sudden, a format that already had nearly 600 cards in it was turned upside down by adding just a scant 180. The format was never the same again.

Sound familiar?

(Yeah, I know you all ‘saw what I did there’ in the middle of my explanation, but play along anyway.)

Right now, the most popular strategies are, once again, a White Weenie strategy (Kithkin), a midrange Red strategy (Elementals; I know it’s a bit of a stretch), and a good selection of differing Blue Control variants (Faeries, Commandments, Quick n’ Toast, Solar Flare, etc.). The main difference right now is that there is a decided bend towards the tribal theme.

But a new set is on the horizon. Will it have a similar effect to the one produced by Future Sight?

While the amount of cards that were available to players at that time in the season (587 pre-Future Sight) is a decent amount less than the number available to the current Lorwyn Block Constructed mage (752 pre-Eventide), the number of cards entering the card pool is the same (180). So what changes might we expect in the coming weeks?

Usually when an author does a set review or two they go card by card through an entire color, or maybe through the whole set, but I wanted to take a different approach. Rather than try and evaluate cards in the abstract I wanted to separate some of the wheat from the chaff evaluate in context and see what cards have value to current existing archetypes. Most pertinent right now is the Block format, so I decided to focus on those cards I could see getting played in this PTQ season.

Let’s start out with what most people consider to be the best deck in the format, the Blue-Black control deck.


Er… I mean Faeries.

Faeries is clearly the most dominant deck in the format and it has been shown that it is likely to be pretty close to optimal, but that doesn’t mean a few tweaks here or there are impossible. So what can we expect to change about the monster of the format? Here are a few I find interesting.

Dream Fracture
Probably unnecessary, as the counterspells already in this deck are in place to fill very specific roles. It won’t even replace the Faerie Trickery in the sideboards of some builds, as that is used to make sure that graveyard shenanigans don’t get out of hand.

Glen Elendra Archmage
This is another cute but, in the end, unlikely candidate for the Fae deck. Sower of Temptation currently houses the four-drop sorcery speed 2/2 spot, so I just don’t see any way for the Archmage to crack into the deck.

Talara’s Bane
A possible sideboard inclusion to fight Kithkin and G/W Little Kid… if you wanted to bring in discard effects against aggressive curve-style aggro strategies. A really bad top-deck late game, but a decent way to get back some Bitterblossom life. Too bad it doesn’t get rid of Wilt-Leaf Liege.

Beckon Apparition
A pretty solid way to deal with end-of-turn Mannequins on Cloudthreshers that could ruin your day. Might see some play.

Inside Out
I actually anticipate that this card will make its way into the majority of Faerie sideboards by the end of the season. One of the biggest nightmare for the Faerie player is that they tap out for Bitterblossom turn 2 on the draw and their opponent gets out Doran on the next turn. Doran versus Bitterblossom is a race that you do not want to be involved in and much of the answers that the Faerie deck packs (Nameless Inversion, Shriekmaw, etc.) don’t touch The Siege Tower. The Eyeblight’s Endings in Melissa DeTora’s list are unwieldy and kind of bad, but they are the only real way Faeries has of dealing with Doran. Inside Out, on the other hand, is a compact little two-mana answer that also cantrips. The Endings could probably see themselves getting replaced by a few of these very soon.

Cold-Eyed Selkie
There has been some talk about this guy being the new technology for the Faerie mirror match, but with all of the Peppersmokes and Nameless Inversions going around I don’t see a three-mana sorcery speed 1/1 that doesn’t get any tribal bonuses from your team making the cut in Fae.

Now this might just be the new Faerie mirror match technology. Not only does it draw you a card (card advantage, as you know, is extremely important in the Faerie mirror, even more so than usual), but it also shuts down a Mistbind Clique activation while the Champion trigger is on the stack or can shut off a Scion for a turn to be able to improve combat math. It also makes a nice little answer to Archon of Justice, Horde of Notions, any problem creature that happens to have a -1/-1 counter on it, or one that would persist itself back into play. Keep an eye on this one.

As I said in the outset, I don’t believe that Faeries will be as shaken up by the newest rotation. It’s tough to make any changes to a deck that is so dominant. Inside Out and Snakeform are my current favorites to take their place in the sideboard.

Next up, let’s move on to the White Weenie section of this article with everyone’s favorite pint-sized psychics, Kithkin.

Kithkin is another well-established deck, but it isn’t quite as copy-paste as Faeries tends to be. Oddities like Militia’s Pride, main deck Oblivion Rings or Crib Swaps, varying numbers of Harriers and Forge-Tenders, I could go on. Aggressive decks are historically a lot easier to futz with, as it is a lot easier to evaluate a given need in such a deck. There is definitely some room for innovation here.

Light from Within
I so badly want to play this card in Kithkin because of the blowout possibilities but I just don’t know if I can afford to do so. Stalwart into Cenn into Knight and Harrier on turn 3 into this thing on turn 4 is a dream, but then again Mirrorweave on turn 4 after Spectral Procession is even better. Speaking of which, Procession and Militia’s Pride don’t really care for Light from Within either. Probably will end up not getting there.

Beckon Apparition
I mentioned this card earlier with Faeries and it deserves mention again. Kithkin has a decent amount of trouble with Shriekmaws and Mulldrifters coming back from the dead via Reveillark or Mannequin, let alone a Cloudthresher (post-Spectral Procession of course) or a Sower of Temptation. Being able to remove the target of a Mannequin (or a Reveillark) before it does too much damage is a great advantage. Getting a Suntail Hawk out of the deal is equally awesome. This card will definitely make it into Kithkin sideboards and might sneak into the main deck under the right metagame conditions.

Divinity of Pride
If Cloudgoat Ranger were not in existence, this would likely be my choice for the five-drop slot. 4/4 flier that avoids Shriekmaw and can become an 8/8 if you dealt some damage with a Knight of Meadowgrain earlier in the game (or swings by itself a few times)? Sign me up! Unfortunately for the Divinity, Cloudgoat does exist and Sower of Temptation is already a beating without having this juicy of a target (not to mention opposing Mirrorweave), so I’m going to stick with my Giant Warriors for the time being.

Stillmoon Cavalier
I could see this as a possible card for the mirror match and against Faeries, but having only one toughness and its clear weakness to the color Red (Firespout, Tarfire, Lash Out, etc) make it a bit of a liability to try and make it main deck material.

This card was one I highlighted a long time ago as having a slot in Kithkin to replace Crib Swap. Whether it’s a clear-cut choice is up to you. Personally, I would rather have this than Crib Swap any day, as giving an opponent a 1/1 with all the tribal bonuses they may be packing isn’t something I want to see happen all too often.

Figure of Destiny
How can you not run 4 of this guy in Kithkin? It seems like the easiest call I can make in this article is to slot a playset of this guy into every Kith deck from here on out. Not quite as good as Stalwart turn 1, as a Cenn won’t make it a 3/3 until later, but definitely worthy of inclusion. Don’t even get me started on how confusing this card is with Mirrorweave (Riki, I need your help on this one).

Leering Emblem
I think that this is the only possible good use for Tendrils-on-a-Stick in the Block format, but it requires a decent mana investment to be able to use properly. It’s no Jitte, but definitely worth experimenting with.

Again, not a ton of modernization here, but there is one significant change in the likely ubiquitous addition of Figure of Destiny and what I see as a very likely addition in Beckon Apparition and Unmake to the sideboard.

Moving on, let’s take a look at what goodies the control crowd gets when the new set gets involved. I’m lumping all of the control decks together to save space, which means this section is much bigger. Here are a few examples from this season.

Here we go!

Archon of Justice
Unfortunately there’s another five-mana four-powered creature on the block with a ‘leaves play’ ability taking up a lot of control slots, but Reveillark isn’t the right choice for every deck. This guy just needs the right deck and he’s golden.

Hallowed Burial
A five-mana Wrath of God that also gets Kitchen Finks out of the way. Seems good. Probably will be the most impactful card from the new set in both Block and Standard and will see play in a ton of decks.

Dream Fracture
Probably a better home for this card is in controllish strategies than in Faeries. To borrow a line from Patrick Chapin, “When a Blue mage draws a card he means it. When someone else draws a card they’re probably drawing a card that isn’t even Blue.”

Soul Snuffers
Control’s newest answer to aggro. Will probably take its rightful place alongside Hallowed Burial as Wraths 5-8 (if you want that many) in many a Block deck. Faeries and Kithkin won’t know what hit ‘em. I mean, they’ll know what hit ‘em, but… you get my point.

Wickerbough Elder
Don’t be fooled by the casting cost in the upper right hand corner or the numbers in the lower right either. This is Indrik Stomphowler by any other name, except that you can pay for that fifth mana whenever you so choose. Good at blowing up Bitterblossoms and Shield of the Oversoul while sticking around for some beats.

Batwing Brume
Might replace Pollen Lullaby in some sideboards. Seeing as Pollen Lullaby isn’t played all that much outside the Kithkin mirror (which can’t abuse the Black effect on this spell), it may not be replacing all that much.

Divinity of Pride
Once again, we found a better home for a previously mentioned card. This card just might be the Dragon the Solar Flare wants alongside Reveillark. After all, it’s a neo-Exalted Angel… that can’t be Shriekmaw’d!

This is an interesting little tempo card. I don’t know if there is a strategy out there right now that can fully abuse it, but it’s worth taking note of just how game altering this spell can be in the right deck.

Cold-Eyed Selkie
Shadowmage Infiltrator for block? Maybe. But wouldn’t you rather spend two extra mana and get a 4/4 that guaranteed draws a card for you every turn?

Overbeing of Myth
…and here is that 4/4. Speak of the devil. Probably not the right choice for most of the control strategies out there right now, but maybe soon. Maybe you can run it in a Green Blue strategy alongside Cold-Eyed Selkie and…

Once again, I will sing the praises of Snakeform. Cantrips, shuts off Scion or Mistbind, not to mention hosing Mirrorweave or an evoked Reveillark. This card is really good.

Wistful Selkie
Hey look everybody, it’s Parvink! You’ll have to excuse my WoW reference there, I just got a little excited. Too bad it doesn’t have Protector… but I digress. It’s a Grey Ogre you’d happily play in your Quick n’ Toast or Solar Flare deck. Give it a try.

There are lots of ways to go with the new toys given to us in Eventide for control strategies, but Hallowed Burial and Soul Snuffers are likely to be the only two with any major impact in existing decks.

Last, I want to see if there’s anything that will add to Elementals. Raphael Levy said that it is the best deck in the format, so let’s see if it can add any new tricks to live up to the billing.

I’m not sure what to think of this guy. Turn to Mist on a 3/1 flier seems okay I guess, but the fact that he has 3 power and therefore not Reveillarkable holds it back a bit. Still combos nicely with Reveillark (or any number of other Elementals) in play however.

Ashling the Extinguisher
A powerful force to be reckoned with, to be sure. I would definitely like to see if this version of Ashling can make her way into one of these Elemental decks where her Lorwyn version failed to do so. Also, a 5/5 Ashling with haste from under a Soulstoke is definitely some spice.

Soul Snuffers
I’m telling you, good card is good. History will show that this will be one of the most important cards from this set.

I didn’t see a whole lot that excited me for Elementals. Even the Hatchling cycle, Elementals all, didn’t impress me too much. But who knows, maybe I will be proven wrong. I often am.

This weekend is (was?) the last round of PTQs without Eventide. Next week, there’s a whole new format out there, waiting to be uncovered, discovered and broken wide open. Maybe some of these cards will help to do that.

…Or maybe instead of being Future Sight 2.0, this will be Saviors all over again.

Good luck at Nats.

Reuben Bresler
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