Thirst for Knowledge – Worldwake!

Grand Prix: Oakland!

Wednesday, February 3rd – It never ceases to amaze me just how many people spend the weeks leading up to the release of a new set complaining about how bad it is, especially with small sets. I mean, what is it about small sets that makes Magic players so narrow-minded? After this weekend’s prerelease, I’m quite convinced that the set is far from underdeveloped, and a long way from being bad in Constructed.

It never ceases to amaze me just how many people spend the weeks leading up to the release of a new set complaining about how bad it is, especially with small sets. I mean, what is it about small sets that makes Magic players so narrow-minded? Everywhere I see players complaining about how Worldwake is “underdeveloped,” a “terrible set for Constructed,” or even “lacking a single good blue card.” After this weekend’s prerelease, I’m quite convinced that the set is far from underdeveloped and a long way from being bad in Constructed. As far as the comments about the strength of Blue in the set — did we really need the prerelease to prove how false some of those statements are?

I won’t explain to you all why Treasure Hunt is good, because by now you have either read the arguments by both Chapin and LSV or you just don’t care. The fact is, Treasure Hunt is insanely efficient, and a small piece of the puzzle that is helping to build towards a better state for Blue in Standard. Mysteries of the Deep, the other card-drawing blue spell from Worldwake, will nicely take the place of Mind Spring in any deck that is playing at least four fetchlands, and I truly believe that Calcite Snapper has a place in this format somehow. A mini Wall of Denial that can go on the offensive? Yes please.

Of course, that isn’t even the half of it. Blue might not have gotten a Mana Leak or even a Remand, but it got something intrinsically better: Jace, the Mind Sculptor. PV went on record as saying it was a card that could totally revolutionize Standard, and it seems as though nearly everyone is on board with that notion in one way or another. If you don’t think that Jace is absolutely stupid, then you haven’t actually played with him in a deck yet. The best planeswalker in the game? Yeah, probably. Ajani Vengeant is probably the only card that comes close to besting him, but to tell you the truth I’d rather just play the two cards side-by-side rather than debate about which is the better card.

For example:

This list is a pretty standard conversion of the UWR into a post-Worldwake prototype. I think this is definitely the kind of deck I’ll be playing in the coming months, but certainly not something identical.

Allow me to explain. You see, this deck’s strengths versus Jund have primarily lied in its shrouded defenses, which may or may not be all that efficient anymore. Basilisk Collar is truly a powerful weapon, and when Ben Bleiweiss compared it to Umezawa’s Jitte I think he was on the right track. I definitely expect Jund decks to be packing this card in their sideboards to combat Wall of Denial, Sphinx of Jwar Isle, and Calcite Snapper — in fact, any deck that has a game plan of “turn guys sideways” probably wants a few of them in their sideboard. That being said, Wall of Denial and Sphinx of Jwar Isle might become a little less effective starting very soon. If such is the case, then a switch to a fourth Celestial Colonnade and the maindeck inclusion of Baneslayer Angel would be in order. I don’t like that idea at all, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

The biggest issue I have with this deck, however, is the Vampires match-up. Frankly, it’s pretty bad. The underlying reason for this, in my opinion, is Mind Sludge. And yeah, I understand that that seems a little obvious, but the problem is that in order to counter that spell we need to be playing either Negate, Cancel, or Double Negative. Essence Scatter doesn’t get the job done, and neither does Flashfreeze. So what’re we left with? Well, personally I think we need to just sideboard into more Double Negatives and pray, since Negate is quite awful against anything in the Vampire deck that isn’t Mind Sludge (since Duress is probably going to resolve regardless of our counter suite). Will that be enough? Doubtful. A move towards Day of Judgment over Earthquake might also be necessary, as I don’t really expect much Boros in the metagame come next week (mostly because it falls behind a lot of the advances that other decks are experiencing, and Kor Firewalker is very, very good against that deck) and Earthquake is usually terrible against Vampires. Day of Judgment might suck alongside Wall of Denial and Sphinx of Jwar Isle, but maybe we don’t actually have a choice. Once more testing is done and the set actually releases, we can look at the meta and make that decision.

As far as the rest of the sideboard goes, it’s worth noting that Permafrost Trap is awesome. Against Jund, if they play a Bloodbraid Elf on turn 4 and hit Sprouting Thrinax/Putrid Leech, you can shut them down and for two whole turns for only a single Blue. In fact, look at it this way: you have three untapped lands (assuming you’re on the draw), and they drop their fourth and cast a Bloodbraid Elf. Now, suppose they already had a Putrid Leech or a Thrinax from turns before, and now they cascade into a Blightning with their Bloodbraid. At this point, a Permafrost Trap coupled with a Flashfreeze could shut down that fresh new Bloodbraid Elf, his old Thrinax, and stop the Blightning. I mean, that is actually huge, and I fully endorse Permafrost Trap. It’s that good. It’s even strong at four mana! From shutting down Broodmate Dragons (yes, both halves for only one Blue!) to drastically slowing down Eldrazi Green decks, this card is the real deal.

A long story short, anyone who was dissing on Blue should be feeling pretty sheepish at this point. What’s that? Not convinced? Hmm…

Not being able to play Halimar Depths kind of sucks, but this deck wants as few tapped lands as possible, and I personally feel that with only four fetches that Depths loses a little value anyway. The manlands are both much better on their own, though, especially Creeping Tar Pit. Grixis does unfortunately get stuck with two x/2 manlands, but both are really, really good and shouldn’t be excluded just because of that. I actually think Lavaclaw Reaches is among the best of the five, but most don’t agree with me on that. For example, in the Jund deck, which is better: Reaches or Raging Ravine? I want to say that Reaches is a lot better, mostly because not only is it far better on defense (remember, Ravine is atrocious on defense), but also because it is a superior mana sink in the later turns when you’re out of options. Which is better in Jund is still undecided for me (I think both will make appearances, though), but at least in this deck I know that Reaches is superb. Its ability to kill large attackers makes it a perfect fit for the Grixis deck, and post-Cruel it’s a fine way to spend a ton of mana if you need to “get there.”

Lands aside, the Grixis deck just gets a huge boost from Jace and Smother. Jace does literally everything you could want him to do, and Smother is yet another Terminate effect that doesn’t discriminate like Deathmark does. It won’t drop a Bloodbraid or a Nocturnus, but the maindeck Deathmarks that it is replacing didn’t either (okay, so they kill Bloodbraid — but killing an Elf after it has domed you for three isn’t that amazing). Treasure Hunt might not be assisted by Halimar Depths in Grixis, but at least it is still awesome with Jace’s Brainstorm ability. That’s more than good enough, friends.

Oh, right. Abyssal Persecutor. I think that this is the deck for him. He’s virtually impossible to burn off the table (and for four of your mana and two of their spells, that’s probably fine if they do kill him that way), a huge defender, and an even better attacker. He speeds up the clock of this deck considerably, and you have a multitude of ways to get rid of him (Terminate and Jaces) in case he’s done his job. I realize that he’s a little risky, but let’s keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with spending a removal spell on your own guy if that guy got them to -4 all on his own. In most cases, your opponent will kill him for you… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Plus, most of the time, he’ll have done quite a bit for you before that point — after all, his ability makes him less of a “kill me now” than Baneslayer Angel. This “illusion” is perhaps the card’s greatest strength, and the reason I can justify it in this deck.

Alright, alright. You all don’t play Blue cards, and I get that. Here’s something for the rest of you:

Ugh, Vampires. The best deck against the control decks, and the bane of my existence. And, in true Wizards of the Coast style, they made a good deck a lot better. Urge to Feed is absolutely dumb, and Kalastria Highborn is a large step forward from Hexmage in terms of a solid two-drop. Hexmage still has its uses as a Jace-killer after sideboard, but Highborn lets you punish players for killing your creatures… you know, more than Bloodghast already did. And speaking of Bloodghast, Highborn combos pretty well with that card, doesn’t it?

The sideboard is up in the air, but I really think Nemesis Trap is a solid card against the White decks, and especially Baneslayer Angel. Beyond that, what is there to say about Vampires?

Wait, what White decks? Here’s a shot at a White Weenie deck, post-Worldwake:

With enough protection creatures to give Jund a massive headache, and efficient enough beaters to push through even the toughest control deck’s defenses, I think this strategy is actually very viable. The Red decks won’t be able to beat Soul Warden, Brave the Elements, Baneslayer Angel, and Kor Firewalker, and Vampires probably has a tough time beating Devout Lightcaster, White Knight, Celestial Purge, and Path to Exile. Maybe it’s a long shot, but this approach is something I’d certainly look into for San Diego.

My other thoughts on Standard with Worldwake are pretty random. I think a UW deck with Calcite Snapper, Wall of Denial, and Perimeter Captain could be pretty sick, and adding White to the Eldrazi token deck for Ranger of Eos would also be very beneficial, as tutoring up Joraga Warcallers is just so, so spicy. I’ll test those strategies and report back, but for now I’ll leave you with my Sealed deck from this weekend’s prerelease:

1 Pilgrim’s Eye
1 Oran-Rief Survivalist
1 Walking Atlas
1 Sphinx of Jwar Isle
1 Snapping Creeper
1 Avenger of Zendikar
1 Surrakar Banisher
1 Vastwood Gorger
1 Oran-Rief Recluse
1 Calcite Snapper
1 Vastwood Zendikon
1 Baloth Cage Trap
1 Trusty Machete
1 Explore
2 Treasure Hunt
1 Spell Contortion
1 Blazing Torch
1 Whiplash Trap
1 Groundswell
1 Vapor Snare
1 Burst Lightning
1 Kazandu Refuge
1 Khalni Garden
1 Halimar Depths
7 Island
7 Forest
1 Mountain

When I built this deck, I was quite sure it was going to be a poor prerelease. I’m quite used to playing UG in Zendikar Sealed (not by choice, obviously) and just getting wrecked. I mean, I had two bombs in Sphinx and Avenger (arguably three, as Vapor Snare is intense), but otherwise my deck felt pretty lackluster.

Well, I ended up splitting the Top 4 (we were tired and didn’t want to keep going). Avenger of Zendikar is nuts, and he was even better alongside my Khalni Garden (a great, great card) and Snapping Creeper. Sphinx of Jwar Isle was responsible for literally all of my wins (surprise), and this “pile” only lost two games in seven rounds. Not too bad, especially since I thought it was crap. I think the format with Worldwake not only drastically alters what is good and what is not, but is also in no way “underdeveloped” or “not fun.” I had a blast with the new set, and it’s such a refreshing change of pace after ZEN-ZEN-ZEN drafting. I can’t wait to draft with Worldwake!

In my prize pool, I had to be given four packs of M10 to make up for the store over-booking the event, and in the second pack I found a Baneslayer Angel. That in and of itself is pretty sweet, but the foil Jace I cracked in my Worldwake packs was even sweeter. Yeah, I’m a sack.

That’s all for now, folks! Next week I’ll talk about some more Worldwake-inspired decks, and hopefully some impressions on drafting ZEN-ZEN-WWK.

Until next time…

Chris Jobin
Team RIW
Shinjutsei on MTGO