U/W – The Week in Review
“I don’t like UW control, I had to build a UW control deck. If it were up to me, I would just play Affinity at States because it’s the best deck in the world. However, the powers that be realize that you people refuse to play the best deck, opting for some goofy creation that can’t beat it, so they left it up to us to give you some options.“
First up, my Mono-Blue deck.
Yes, I cheated. As I said in my article, I believe U/W to be dismal. There are several reasons, but the most important is that the finishers are terrible. Without a true way to win, it doesn’t matter how many cards you draw with Gifts Ungiven, Peer Through Depths, Thirst for Knowledge, or other trash. You’re just going to deck. People who think that they will consistently succeed on the back of Pristine Angel are kidding themselves. Playable 4/4 creatures in this format cost between zero and three mana, not six. The fact that the permission has gotten better and the sweep is all still there – and played in it’s own defense! – makes a U/W deck based on winning with slow finishers structurally unplayable. With the loss of Onslaught Block, U/W loses its key weapon against Affinity, Akroma’s Vengeance, and its best card drawing engine, Eternal Dragon. With those cards went most of the incentive to play White, and I’m sure you know that as a big cheater, I had to break the rules of the week and cut White entirely in order to put together a viable deck for the first task. I honestly don’t see why so many players in the forums – some 15% – seem to be going in the direction of U/W control (if you count Cogs and other specific variations, which I do). Now despite the fact that I think my own Mono-Blue deck is pretty good, I don’t think this is a very good direction to go, and the testing is going to bear that out.
I went through most of the matchup information for the Mono-Blue in my own article, but I wanted to revisit the topic of the G/R matchup. A forum respondent pointed out that I talked about playing Echoing Truth incorrectly, so I wanted to go back and see if the matchup changed with my not trying to save my man lands with that fantastic instant.
It came out 8-2 in favor of the Blue!
This was surprising given the results of the first matchup with the same deck, but not that surprising overall. Mono-Blue should perform well against slow G/R… it just has more card advantage and the G/R doesn’t really have a lot of early game pressure or late game burn. The other thing is that I had taken to playing a lot of Blue control over the past two weeks, and I knew to just tap for Keiga, the Tide Star whenever I drew it. Counters are god awful at stopping threats in this format, and completely unplayable through the late game against some decks. Winning is all about countering whatever you can with the early game Mana Leaks and Condescends, playing Keiga, and going for four hits to the dome before the opponent can topdeck his Rude Awakening. That said, if the G/R wants to beat Mono-Blue it really shouldn’t be very difficult. There are many sideboard cards available that do the job well.
I also got in a little Game 2-3 Tooth and Nail testing against Mail us at https://sales.starcitygames.com/contactus/contactform.php?emailid=2 himself. We didn’t play a lot of games – maybe four – but the matchup seemed really favorable. I won three and only lost the one I double mulliganed. Counter density plus my sideboarded CENSOREDCENSORED put Ted away game after game.
“I can’t win.”
“That’s the idea.”
Figure this one out for yourselves. 🙂
Mail us at https://sales.starcitygames.com/contactus/contactform.php?emailid=2 will update you from his side, probably at the beginning of next week.
Matchup Recap (based on admittedly small n 10 game trials):
Vial Affinity – 70%
Ironworks – 70%
G/R – 80%
Tooth and Nail < 25%
Tooth and Nail ~75% sideboarded
Osyp’s Unspeakable Deck
We really shouldn’t speak much about this deck, being unspeakable and all, but Osyp’s build was seriously poor. I tested it against Kamiel’s Affinity deck from Worlds and the Affinity came out on top, 8-2. The Affinity beat the U/W so many ways. Of course there were several quick kills based on beatdown followed by Disciple of the Vault. One thing that was really apparent was that Osyp’s deck had serious structural flaws. The main one is that it had no plan whatsoever against Aether Vial. Resolved Aether Vial is basically a kill. Even with a grip full of counters, Osyp’s deck can’t stop the opponent from assembling a lethal Ravager + Disciple combination powered out at the end of turn.
Additionally, there is this card Atog. At least with Relic Barrier, Osyp’s deck can fight the board on the opponent’s turn, but against Atog? Lethal damage will almost always result with no outs whatsoever in the deck other than good old blocking. The Affinity deck won off of Osyp’s Wrath of God, using its modular counters with Aether Vial or Blinkmoth Nexus to recoup a lost board as soon as the next attack. Speaking of Blinkmoth Nexus, it is another card that is very bad, as it doesn’t die to Wrath of God, untaps under Imi Statue, and tends to acquire many modular counters or some sort of decorative hat. The thing that really surprised me was Osyp’s deck’s ability to assemble Relic Barrier + Imi Statue as soon as the third turn and still lose. Uncanny.
On the bright side, there is this card The Unspeakable itself. After going down 0-8, Osyp’s deck finally assembled triple Relic Barrier and was able to set up The Unspeakable at the end of the Affinity deck’s turn six. Not surprisingly, active The Unspeakable ruled the board. Then, in game nine, triple Relic Barrier once again showed up. Once again, it was turn 6, and two thirds of the cantrip combination force was in hand. The problem? Reaching occurred. Peering followed, mising the last component. But when it came time to Sift… both copies of The Unspeakable were already in hand. Combo executed. Statistical anomaly. Nothing to look for. Game lost.
I think that Relic Barrier was really good. I would have played four. Imi Statue did nothing. I got it in combination with Relic Barrier very early and still managed to get destroyed. Why? Because, as this deck’s creator says, Affinity is the best deck in the world. Love it or lose to it. Get your combo, get your other combo, lose anyway. As some of the forum respondents said, the deck would probably be better off just running March of the Machines main.
Well, most competitive decks are either good against Affinity or good against Tooth and Nail, so I switched gears.
0-10 v. Tooth and Nail.
I actually switched from the “modified Ormerod” deck that I was testing last week to a version based more on the one that won the Online Worlds Qualifier. I just added Kiki-Jiki, that nasty legendary land, and Sakura Tribe-Elder, and took out the Mephidross Vampire combination. This deck was god awful. I noticed when testing the Ormerod deck that John originally had four Talismans and only two Vine Trellises. Initially it seemed weird, but the more I played, the more I realized that the Urzatron version actually needs Talismans to make its first Green. The version from the Worlds Qualifier lacked that aspect. There would be games where it raw dogged the Urzatron and started discarding immediately after, waiting like two more turns before playing its first spell. How terrible. If it were any other opponent besides U/W, the deck would have lost. Luckily, U/W is so unplayable that the opponent can literally miss so many land drops that The Unspeakable comes down with the opponent on only three lands and still lose. I mean most draws weren’t that bad, and most of the time, mana acceleration into legendary land spelled certain doom. Particularly fun was Kiki-Jiki + Sundering Titan. Because the Tooth and Nail deck doesn’t have any of those, you know, Forests, the negative impact was minimal while the U/W deck would lose as many as six lands in the first turn. If only Tooth and Nail could defeat Affinity, this fun fatty deck might be savage.
Ted and I also tested Osyp’s deck against Tooth and Nail sideboarded… Reweave is just too slow. The matchup is bad in the first game, and I don’t know that Reweave makes it any better. Osyp’s deck — being the proper two colors and all — has all these Plains clogging up its hand in the early game, and you often have to spend your cantrips looking for the good lands that make blue. That means that the cantrips aren’t there for Reweave later on. Moreover, Reweave doesn’t come with any guarantees. The one time I got it off, I nicked a Tower… only to have Ted turn over another Tower and destroy me. The matchup remained dismal in the sideboard.
Vial Affinity 10%
Tooth and Nail 0%
Jim’s Board Control Deck
I wanted to switch gears 180 degrees to Jim’s deck because with its main-deck March of the Machines, I figured that it would have the best chance against Affinity. This time around, I decided to give Jim a serious test against both of the Affinity builds in my gauntlet as well as Tooth and Nail.
In game one v. Kamiel’s Affinity deck, Jim’s deck made the mistake of leading with Coastal Tower. Uh oh. Aether Vial again! Turn 2 was “uneventful” with only a second Aether Vial and a Thoughtcast out of Affinity. Jim had Purge in grip, as well as Hinder. Sensei’s Divining Top was great, as it let U/W set up Thirst for Knowledge so that it could throw away the useless counters. Thirst also set up turn 4 March of the Machines. Sensei’s Divining Top was on defense, which is kind of embarrassing if you think about it, because it can beat up Arcbound Worker all day, much like a Blinking Spirit cantrip for one mana. Pristine Angel came down soon after, needing only Wrath of God and double Purge backing it up to win once March came down.
In game two, Jim set up turn 4 March of the Machines. Sure win, right? Well, Affinity already had three Frogmites and two Myr Enforcers in play. So no.
U/W: Ghostly Prison, Pulse of the Fields, March of the Machines
Affinity: All I got’s double Worker, Ravager… and double Disciple. Game Affinity.
First turn Aether Vial. Second turn Cranial Plating. Double Ghostly Prison into March of the Machines is nowhere near good enough.
Ghostly Prison shows once again shows its complete inability to defeat Affinity. In the U/W’s defense, it only drew two Ghostly Prisons and the Affinity deck wasn’t manascrewed. Two Disciples and an Atog on the back of Aether Vial won this particular duel between planeswalkers.
Third turn Ghostly Prison, fourth turn March of the Machines. No problem.
U/W gets a slow land draw, but going first, is able to counter a bunch of Affinity’s stuff and live long enough to set up Wrath of God, March of the Machines, Purge + Hinder, and Pristine Angel in consecutive turns.
U/W gets another slow land draw. This time Affinity, going first, gets Cranial Plating down.
U/W had the advantage of going first again, but sadly played Coastal Tower first turn again. Affinity answered with Aether Vial and you know how that works. Affinity’s draw was trash, including all four Thoughtcasts (starting, embarrassingly, on turn 4), so U/W’s counters were not a complete waste. But Ravager, triple Atog, and Disciple were eventually enough to weather double Purge and March of the Machines.
Affinity is stuck on one land. However, going first, it also draws an Aether Vial. U/W draws nothing and is smashed by a Worker and double Frogmite on turn 3, followed by two Disciples and a Ravager the following turns.
3-7 in favor of Vial Affinity.
Not the greatest numbers for Jim’s first matchup off the bench. But against Paquette Affinity, I figured he’d do better. Paquette Affinity has Shrapnel Blast, which is kind of like a Myr Enforcer that only hits once, but no actual Myr Enforcers and no – whew – Aether Vials. If there is one recurring theme in the U/W testing, it is that Aether Vial is good and permission is bad. I think that the printing of successively better permission after starving us on Override and Assert Authority for a year was a great big trick after R&D decided that they hated permission in Onslaught block. You see now everyone is looking at Condescend and saying “what a great Power Sink” and looking at Hinder and saying “finally a playable hard counter” not remembering that, well, it’s not hard to be better than Power Sink, and Hinder used to cost 1U or UU depending on how you look at it, and with Aether Vial in the format, the bad guys actually want you gripping all the Hinders you can while they have zero-cost Myr Enforcers to bait out their one-mana Thoughtcasts, knowing that the silly Blue mage has no way to stop their zero-mana Disciple of the Vault, zero-mana Arcbound Ravager, zero-mana Atog, zero- mana Moriok Rigger, etc. The reason is that with such a long draught on permission, with Vex making it into PT Top 8 decks, we all sort of forgot that we deserved better, that we deserved the ability to counter a spell for less mana than that spell cost, damn it! Even Vex used to be 1U instead of 2U and helped us trick the opponent into letting us draw three cards. Stupid Blue spells.
So anyway, Paquette Affinity beat Jim’s deck 6-4. Jim’s deck is the kind of deck that gives players hope that they can beat Affinity. It’s got March of the Machines and Ghostly Prison, so when it wins, the board looks completely dominated. The problem is that this deck needs a spectacular draw to beat Affinity, whereas Affinity’s boring old draw will beat any non-ridiculous draw most of the time. Jim has Purge, which sets up Wrath of God well, and, unlike most of the U/W decks we’ve looked at, can break up a Cranial Plating hit. The problem is that Jim’s deck just doesn’t do what it does well enough. With main deck Purge and March of the Machines, basically cards that are all out at beating Affinity, the deck should, well, beat Affinity. And it doesn’t.
Sensei’s Diving Top is pretty bad. It’s kind of neat for setting up Thirst for Knowledge, but cuteness aside, it might just be better to play more copies of the cards that actually win matchups. I actually backtracked a lot because I wasn’t comfortable playing with Ghostly Prison. Is it right to tap for the Prison here or hold back for Pulse of the Fields? I’d play out losses both ways… and tend to lose both ways to double Shrapnel Blast or something. What you have to understand going into States is that U/W has to work hard to draw two cards. It has to tap three mana for Thirst for Knowledge and have an artifact. It has to tap four mana for Gifts Ungiven. Affinity taps one measly mana and draws two cards much more consistently. What advantage is there, then, for U/W?
Counters are just bad right now. They were really only good at stopping threats for about two years in all the decade+ history of Magic. Two years out of more than ten! Even my deck, which has sixteen counters, really isn’t that good at stopping threats going long, and has difficulty winning counter wars against other blue decks. Think back to the best counter decks. Trix. High Tide. They used Force of Will to Force Through Their Own Threats, not stop the threats of others. Look back to the Weissman deck. The first control deck. It played all of two Counterspells and four Mana Drains for pure permission. Weissman said that the permission was there to protect his own permanents, his own delicate fortress position, not to stop threats. He had other cards for such sundry tasks.
Now speaking of a fortress position, I think Ghostly Prison is pretty bad. I got it out a lot and it did nothing. This card is no answer to Cranial Plating. Even with March of the Machines out, I’d still get slugged care of a Blinkmoth Nexus and Glimmervoid. Relic Barrier would be better most of the time.
Now for the nightmare:
8-2 Tooth and Nail. This shouldn’t surprise you if you have been paying attention. Counters are bad against a little card called Boseiju, Who Shelters All, and any threat out of the Tooth and Nail deck can immediately win the game. The two games that Jim’s deck won were both on the back of tapping out for Pristine Angel post haste and hitting with it five times. The problem is that Tooth and Nail can easily fight Pristine Angel with Oblivion Stone and Eternal Witness, and Pristine Angel can’t really race Mindslaver or Kiki-Jiki.
Vial Affinity 30%
Paquette Affinity 40%
Tooth and Nail 20%
The sad thing is that among the U/W decks I got to seriously test, Jim’s was the good one. U/W Is Bad. Don’t Play It.
I didn’t get to test Josh’s deck at all. Hopefully we can look into it in an upcoming week. His deck has a strong central theme and a stronger card drawing engine, at least arguably, than any deck except maybe for BDM’s. As for BDM’s deck, I only played one game, and beat it up with my Mono-Blue. Brian told me he thought that control would smash his deck, and he was right. His only ways to win are clunky five-mana 4/4s and Isochron Scepters, and I have sixteen relevant counters, including Annul, and victory conditions that don’t need to resolve the old fashioned way to hit. Speaking of control mirrors, I also had a chance to go up against Osyp’s deck as well. At the end of turn 6, I activated a Stalking Stones, tapping out. The Unspeakable took that opportunity to combo out. Too bad about that Echoing Truth. Maybe on turn 9, chief.
Next week is Red week. Don’t play U/W.