What Went Wrong In Baltimore

Twice in short order, DeCandio and his team walked away just one round short of glory. Get the lowdown on the deck he played and which deck he thinks could stomp everyone in the coming weeks!

Well here we are. Another Team Constructed Open and another finals exit.

To say that having failed twice in the past few months to close in a Team
Constructed event when you make it all the way to the finals is
heartbreaking is an understatement. While a finals appearance is something
I’ll ever be upset about in any Magic tournament I play in, having come so
close to wielding a trophy alongside some of my best friends only to leave
the feature match table feeling like you’ve let them down is gut wrenching.
Both in Philadelphia and here in Baltimore I’ve failed to win my matches in
the finals, and at least in Philadelphia, I could say I did the best I
could have.

What I mean by this is my deck this past weekend was a train wreck.

What the hell happened here?

I thought there would be more people jumping on the U/W Control train this
week than being the ones trying to beat it. This deck is positioned to tap
out a lot in the early game for hard to answer threats like Planeswalkers
and leverage maindeck copies of Negate and History of Benalia to beat up on
all the U/W Control decks that did so well at SCG Atlanta the week prior.

One key feature for fighting the good fight in this format is knowing the
answers that are getting played. Seal Away proved that all U/W Control
needed was a playable removal spell to dethrone the hold on the format that
U/B Control had prior to Dominaria and it got that card. The only
issue is it’s exceedingly easy to play around.

What happened week two that made U/W variants a horrific choice for the
metagame? Knight of Malice, Heart of Kiran, History of Benalia, and heck
even Walking Ballista is a card that Seal Away can’t touch if they don’t
let you. In fact, that was one of my key reasons for playing Walking
Ballista in the U/W Midrange deck I sleeved up!

Despite knowing most of these flaws that U/W Control had, I decided to
become even more vulnerable to the overlying weakness of the deck and play
what was probably one of the worst decks I’ve ever played in a constructed
tournament. Yes, Cedric, I understand that at the beginning of this year I
thought it would be a great idea to play Wistful Selkie, but this was

We’ve all been seduced by Wistful Selkie before, Brennan!”

Despite all of that, THE Tannon Grace and Ross Merriam are very powerful
magicians, and they managed to carry my 1-5 record on Day Two into the Top
8 of the event! I picked up some crucial wins against some not so stellar
draws from my Quarterfinal and Semifinal opponents but ultimately fell in
the finals. Operation #GetTannonATrophy will have to wait until the next
Team Constructed Open since there aren’t any Legacy Opens between now and

What now?

Well it’s certainly not time to abandon Teferi, Hero of Dominaria as he’s a
hero, after all. It just means that I need to put more time into the deck
because, in all honesty, it was just the fact that I didn’t pick a side
between a control deck, a tap out deck, or a flash deck. I took a little of
column a, a little of column b, and a lot of column f, q, and z, which were
not good ideas. But alas, all is not lost! With every defeat, lessons are
learned, and I think I was only a few decision points away from finding the
right shell for the U/W Flash deck that has been picking up steam.

While these aren’t new cards entering the fray, I believe they’ve finally
gotten the support they need to make it into Standard! I can’t tell you how
many times I wish I could crew my Heart of Kiran for only three mana at
instant speedm and Nimble Obstructionist is a card I feel foolish for
missing when building my deck. It does everything from attacking and
ignoring the fact that being behind on History of Benalia triggers isn’t
fun, it counters a Cast Out or Seal Away at a crucial moment and draws a
card, it’s a way to stop random abilities you’d normally have to spend a
Disallow on and not have the split card 3/1 flier attached to. All in all,
the only reason I could see this not becoming a mainstay in the format in
the U/W Flash shell is if every deck is playing Walking Ballista.

As for Censor, it really hasn’t ever been this good before. When you want
to put someone off their curve by having two mana up only to either have an
actual factual two mana counterspell or just a cantrip to dig towards
action to keep the pressure going, I can’t think of a better card!

One card that hasn’t gotten its time in the limelight because of how good
Seal Away is at answering some of the cards that demand they be exiled,
like Scrapheap Scrounger and Hazoret the Fervent, is Gideon’s Reproach.
That’s right – it’s not just a marginal Limited card anymore (not when
Heart of Kiran is running amuck). In all seriousness, there are enough
times when a player with Heart of Kiran looked over at my two mana and knew
they could get in with their 4/4 vigilant flier that I wish i could have
punished them. It’s true that getting caught with a Gideon’s Reproach in
hand while being attacked by Hazoret, The Scarab God, or Lyra Dawnbringer
is going to feel miserable, but I think the times when you feel like a
genius and kill their Heart of Kiran is going to happen way more frequently
if this past weekend is any indication. I do believe that a split is
warranted, but it’s worth noting that Gideon’s Reproach might be the better
card right now.

A card I’d highly recommend swapping out your copies of Forsake the Worldly
for is Fragmentize. It feels bad to tag a History of Benalia with a Forsake
the Worldly, but not nearly as bad when you’re only paying a third of the
cost. While Forsake the Worldly is a more versatile card and being able to
hit God-Pharaoh’s Gift once it’s on the battlefield is nice and all, it’s
not nearly the same effect on the game as to when you’re just up two mana
and can continue to interact with your opponent without falling too far

Shalai, Voice of Plenty is a card that I wasn’t alone in realizing its
application in decks that can’t take advantage of the green activation but
really value hexproof. Settle the Wreckage is a card I thought I’d run into
a lot more than I did in Baltimore, and I still think that it’s a wonderful
addition to the U/W Flash arsenal to fight that card and other people
trying to point burn spells at your face or planeswalkers.

Even though my deck choice was less than optimal in Baltimore, one thing
I’m sure of is that Standard is awesome. Despite what it might seem like
from Baltimore, we still have a wide-open format on our hands. It was
likely correct for everyone to jump on the W/B Aggro train for reasons
mentioned before and the fact that Karn, Scion of Urza is a messed up Magic
card, but I think we have still only scratched the surface of what’s
possible and can compete for tier one strategies.

Now this deck…

Needless to say, I was deader than dead here. Facing down nine power on the
third turn with no answer to the battlefield and no third land drop in
sight, if this isn’t a “Best of the SCGTour” moment then I don’t know what

On the more serious side of things, I love this deck! Not only is it
playing one of my favorite cards ever (Llanowar Elves in case anyone was
wondering), but it has the brute force to go toe to toe with W/B Aggro as
well as present an absurdly fast clock that sometimes being on the draw
with a Negate in hand as your only interaction isn’t quite up to the task
of handling.

The big winner from the release of Dominaria for this deck is
Ghalta, Primal Hunger. In the previous format I experimented here and there
with the legendary dinosaur in G/R Monsters but was never quite satisfied
with how it played out. Being two colors hurt a lot and sometimes it came
down too late to matter.

Not here.

With this deck being mostly mono-colored with just a few black sources for
the Scrapheap Scrounger recursion element, Ghalta, Primal Hunger has never
looked fiercer. The fact that there are three copies of Blossoming Defense
just to let your opponent know that you really meant it when you cast a
12/12 for only two mana is just icing on the already delicious cake.

My only issues from the above version of Mono-Green is the singleton copy
of Thrashing Brontodon in the maindeck (it strikes me as a huge reason to
play green cards in this format to begin with) alongside the lack of an
answer to an opposing Lyra Dawnbringer in game 1. While Mono-Green might
not be flush with answers to the powerful Angel, it seems the sideboard has
copies of Plummet, Prey Upon, and Crushing Canopy to help fight the good

fight, and none of those seem like particularly appealing inclusions to the
starting 60 to where it might be okay to resign yourself to having to power
though the Angel.

While this might seem like a silly green aggressive deck – because it kinda
is – it has a lot going for it, and tweaking the numbers here and there and
maybe throwing in a Karn, Scion of Urza or two could bring this deck closer
to the monster it has the potential to be. It’s not going to be until the
SCG Invitaional at SCGCON that we get to see Standard on camera again, but
for all those who have PPTQs or just want an awesomely powerful deck to jam
at a local tournament, I’d recommend giving Ghalta, Primal Hunger and
friends a go.

I’m going to have a little break before gunning for the top slot on at the
SCG Tour Season One leaderboard in Minneapolis, with my finish this past
weekend giving me a real shot! Here’s to diving back into Modern and seeing
if we can break any of our new Dominaria toys (cough* Mox Amber
cough*) or if Five-Color Humans continues to just the best deck Modern has
to offer.