U/W Reaver Control In Standard

2011 US National Champion Ali Aintrazi has been extensively testing his U/W Reaver Control deck online. Read to find out if you should use this deck to control the field at the SCG Invitational & Standard Open in Baltimore this weekend.

This past week I’ve been testing the U/W Reaver deck I talked about in my Trinket Mage article. Most of my testing lately has been on Magic Online. Magic Online is just very convenient for testing purposes, but sometimes the online metagame is much different than the paper Magic metagame. The Magic Online metagame happened to have mostly creature decks, so I tuned my deck even more to beat them. I won most games with ease, and the games I did lose were mostly to an incorrect sequence of plays. I’ll get to the latter later. Here’s what the deck looks like right now.

Again the deck is tuned to beat aggro strategies of all sorts. When I was playing I never faced control or Frites, so I took the Trinket Mages out since they weren’t doing much. Trinketing up an Elixir was neat but ultimately not what I wanted to be doing against a 2/1, a 3/2 flyer, and hordes of tokens. So when I took the Trinket Mage package out I also lost Grafdigger’s Cage. This allowed me to fill the deck with flashback draw spells like Think Twice and Forbidden Alchemy. The deck only splashes black for Forbidden Alchemy; otherwise it has no use.

I’ve combined the U/W Lifegain deck with the U/W Venser deck from my last article. Stonehorn Dignitary has been a Time Warp on legs with the huge upside of locking out your opponents if you get a Venser, the Sojourner to stick. Vapor Snag isn’t usually the best answer to blinking a Stonehorn since you can usually just recast it that turn. They need a Vapor Snag and countermagic up, and you should be able to play around Mana Leak pretty easily. Humans has to waste an Oblivion Ring on Venser since a Fiend Hunter doesn’t usually stop the little Rhino for long.

I’ve also cut all the Mana Leaks from the main deck. I felt like that wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. Mana Leak is good in a straight control deck like U/B and best in a tempo deck like Delver, and I was neither. This strategy is midrange tap out, and Mana Leak doesn’t really shine in these types of decks. Instead I opted to play the full set of Ratchet Bomb maindeck, and I haven’t looked back. Ratchet Bomb can answer everything. It allows you to tap out and cast your threats while still being able to control the board. You just have to play with it correctly. Against Humans it just does so much:

  1. Kills the early swarm of one-drops.
  2. If you have a Day of Judgment you can tick the Bomb up to two for Honor of the Pure effects.
  3. You can set the Bomb to three if you can deal with what’s on the board to blow up future Oblivion Rings, Mirran Crusaders, or their Hero of Bladehold after you Day of Judgment the board.

Against Delver decks it can easily kill a flipped Delver, but if I can I try to set the Bomb to two so I can kill the Invisible Stalker / Runechanter’s Pike or Geist of Saint Traft. The worst feeling is blowing up Ratchet Bomb and then having them drop Geist of Saint Traft.

Against the U/W Drogskol Captain decks you’ll be tempted to keep the bomb at zero, but if you can you should tick it up to three so you can stop the Captain followed by Phantasmal Image shenanigans. If you have two Ratchet Bombs I would definitely tick one up and hold the second in my hand in hopes they over extend so you can Wrath their board.

Ratchet Bomb is hard to play with correctly, and I’ve had my fair share of blunders with it. It’s hard for me to fully explain how to correctly play with the card because it all depends on scenarios. The best thing you can do is to just play games with it and learn. Ratchet Bomb should always be a threat to your opponents.

Moving on to Drogskol Reaver! I’ll be honest, I just want it to have a home in Standard. Before you cut him for Consecrated Sphinx or the like just give him a chance. He can give you instant card draw when he comes into play if you have Pristine Talismans lying around or a Batterskull, and his biggest draw is that he rewards you for attacking. Most control decks, when they try to stabilize with a Consecrated Sphinx, find themselves in an awkward position and can’t attack with her. Drogskol Reaver doesn’t have that problem; he’ll put huge pressure on your aggro opponents by drawing you cards and gaining you life. Gaining life in this format is huge against everything but U/B Control. While untapping with Consecrated Sphinx is one of the best feelings ever, untapping with Drogskol Reaver ends the game. He will almost always result in a twelve-point life swing and draw you two cards. If you have a Batterskull lying around… LOL! Go ahead; take that Sharpie and write DROGSKOLOLOLOLOL on it. PLEASE! <3

I told you earlier I had made some plays in the wrong order, and they ended up costing me the game. Don’t do what I did! I had Stonehorn Dignitary, Day of Judgment, and Venser, the Sojourner in my hand against Delver. He always kept mana up so I figured he had a Mana Leak. I ran out Stonehorn first, which ended up resolving. The next turn I ran out Day of Judgment, thinking he would counter; then I could play Venser and lock him out. Surprisingly my Day resolved, and he tapped out for a Geist and Stalker the next turn. It turned out he never had a Mana Leak, and the Venser was just dead in my hand. What I should have done was run the Day of Judgment first. It didn’t matter if he had Mana Leak or not: this would’ve given me two chances to Wrath his board. If the Day didn’t resolve, I still had the Stonehorn and Venser combo that would effectively Wrath his board. By playing Stonehorn first and following it up with a Day of Judgment, I gave myself fewer outs and ultimately ended up losing that game. So don’t be like me; play your cards in the correct order.

I’m not sold on the sideboard, but it’s what I’ve been using. Over half of the cards come in against a control deck. Against U/B Control I bring in four Chalice of Life, one Witchbane Orb, two Jace, Memory Adept, two White Sun’s Zenith, and one Batterskull. You have plenty to take out like Timely Reinforcements, Day of Judgment, Ratchet Bomb, and Stonehorn Dignitary. Even after you bring in those cards you’ll still have loose cards in the maindeck. Venser doesn’t do much, but he can still threaten an emblem if he resolves, and that’s better than a 1/4. U/B is your worst matchup, so if that deck is popular where you play or you expect it to be popular at the next tournament you play in, then I would leave this deck on the shelf unless you can figure some out some kind of tech.

Again I lack Trinket Mages because I feel like I don’t need them on Magic Online. If I were to play in a big event I would most likely add them back in or incorporate them into a sideboard package since Cage hoses a couple of the decks in paper Magic. It’s very helpful against U/B Zombies and kolds Frites. If you want to play Trinket Mage in the maindeck then I would suggest taking out the flashback spells for Mages, Trinkets, and Zeniths. This is what my list with Trinket Mages would look like.

I would start testing with this list and go from there. It’s almost the same deck, but you lose some draw power for a little Trinket toolbox. It’s also much harder for U/B to kill you with Nephalia Drownyard since you have Elixir of Immortality. Even if they mill the Elixir you can get it back with a Buried Ruins or a Sun Titan. If they manage to mill all three pieces and your Blue Sun’s Zenith…then they’ve got you! :[

The sideboard would be different since the metagame would change, but you can start with something like this.

1 Trinket Mage
1 Volition Reins
4 Celestial Purge
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Day of Judgment
1 Witchbane Orb
1 Batterskull

The 4? can be whatever you want. I suggest more hate against U/B Control, and you could play some of these:

White Sun’s Zenith
Jace, Memory Adept
Mirran Crusader
Geist of Saint Traft
Chalice of Life
Elixir of Immortality

If you want to grind them out you can try doing so by leaving in Day of Judgments for Grave Titan, Bloodline Keeper, or Consecrated Sphinx and bringing in another Elixir, Trinket Mage, and/or Buried Ruin alongside a couple of threats.

Again you have many choices; if you decide to play this deck let me know how it treats you and what changes you made.

I’ll try and get some videos up with this deck if that’s what you guys want. Just let me know in the comments.

Custom Cube Project

Before I head out, I’m sure some of you are aware of the MTG Custom Cube project Justin Parnell and I are working on. It has changed a lot since I first started spoiling the “power” from it. For example the “power” no longer exists. I don’t want to say too much. Hopefully Justin and I can get an article up soon on the project that will shine some more light on the subject.

If you want to get a peek at some of the cards you can here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/MTG-Custom-Cube/174724102626442

Michael Mirrielees did a little promotion video if you want to check that out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaPYoY1QjeY

I’m excited to bring you more information on this soon.

As always, thanks for reading and have fun!

Ali, Who Split the Heavens

Follow me @AliEldrazi on Twitter