“…What’s Peacekeeper Do?” First Place With U/b/w Dreadstill

Thursday, September 16th – I’ve been playing Dreadstill since 2007 — I’ve used it to split a Star City Open tournament, and to

make top 16 at a Legacy Grand Prix
. This weekend, I went 14-1 in games with it.

Before listing my deck, I’d like to take a moment to outline its recent evolution. I’ve been playing Dreadtill since 2007— I’ve used it to split
a Star City Open tournament

, and to
make top 16 at a Legacy Grand Prix

. But the present evolution of my Dreadtill deck began at Grand Prix Columbus.

Dreadtill is primarily a blue deck; quite often, it’s built to be mono-blue. However, the limitations of blue often force you to put auxiliary colors in your sideboard. Thus, a build of Dreadtill can be classified by what colors it plays in addition to blue. Rodney Hannigan, the creator of the deck, prefers playing U/r, while I’ve tended to play U/r/g.

I played U/r/g Dreadtill at Grand Prix Columbus. In the past, the combination of burn, Red Elemental Blasts, and Krosan Grips were sufficient to handle everything…. But the lesson I learned from the Grand Prix was that creatures have gotten much, much larger. Firespout is perfectly fine if you want to burn out Merfolk or Goblins, but fails if your target is a Knight of the Reliquary or Tarmogoyf. I spent both days of the Grand Prix wishing
that I had Perish; almost all of my match loses were at the hands of large green monsters. When I saw
Saito’s winning sideboard

, I knew that black was the way of the future.

My next chance to take Dreadtill for a spin was at GenCon, for Legacy World Championships. Using Perish in my sideboard meant using black as one of my two colors — and because I wanted Red for Red Elemental Blast and Firespout, now I was playing U/r/b.

Since I had black, suddenly Dark Confidant seemed too tempting not to play. He’s a second-turn play which confers considerable advantage as the game progresses… And should someone use Path to Exile on Bob, my opponent would have one fewer way to handle my Dreadnought. With that in mind, I sleeved up three Dark Confidants and three Standstills for GenCon.

My finish at GenCon was 6-2, just missing the top 8. Going into the last round, I was 6-1, having lost only to Merfolk; and I was then paired down against someone playing Burn. He defeated me in three close games, when I was two points short of finishing him before his second Price of Progress resolved.

Considerations for the Current Build

I took what I learned from GenCon and used it to modify Dreadtill. This process of refining the list didn’t take place in a vacuum; instead, my excellent teammates at R&D helped circulate ideas, sideboard concepts, and game plans for Dreadtill across the Legacy metagame.

In particular, I’d like to thank Brad Granberry for the time and ideas that he’s contributed to make this deck what it is. In addition to being an excellent person to test against, Brad can figure out which of my ideas are any good, and which are just plain bad, well before I can.

Having lost to Merfolk and Burn, I wanted to have a strong plan against both decks. I also didn’t want to sacrifice too much of my game against Zoo or Goblins — matchups that can be difficult for Dreadtill to handle.

My experience at the Grand Prix had made unwilling to remove Perish, and Dark Confidant kept proving himself a worthy addition to the deck. But though red was the best color against Goblins, we might be able to cut it if a better color were found.

And so Brad and I started testing the Dreadtill vs. Merfolk matchup… And did we ever test a lot of ideas! Pre-sideboard, Dreadtill either won with a fast Dreadnought or it lost. Between Aether Vial, its ability to perform under Standstill, its quick clock, and its own counters, Merfolk could not be defeated when Dreadtill acted like a control deck.

This had to be fixed via the sideboard. I tried Engineered Plague, but Merfolk has so many Lords that you can’t lock them out that easily. I tried Grim Lavamancer, who was excellent if he arrived in the first two turns… but Merfolk would often have multiple Lords in play before he showed up. I tried running handfuls of Red Elemental Blasts and Lightning Bolts, but the plan of using one-for-ones against Merfolk is surprisingly bad.

I was just about to test Spinal Villain when I had an idea that would define which color I played: Peacekeeper.

She can’t be Spell Pierced or Curse Caught. She can’t be removed by anything inexpensive that Merfolk decks have. She’s cheaper than Moat, and much more effective than Propaganda. She could arrive any time in the match before we lost — and Merfolk could

win unless they took care of her.

In short, she was exactly what Dreadtill needed.

White replaced red, and this meant that Lightning Bolts and Submerges became Swords to Plowshares. I also decided to use three Spell Pierces, having lost Red Elemental Blast against Counterbalance and Show and Tell decks. I also liked the fact that, against Burn decks, Swords combined with a Dreadtill could net me twelve life.

Decklist and Discussion

Here’s the deck:

Now, a few words on card selection.

Getting the mana right is often difficult. You want to reach two blue mana on your second turn for Counterbalance…. but you also want enough Mishra’s Factories and Wastelands to function well under Standstill. This build needs to have a basic Plains in the sideboard to sustain Peacekeeper, and that meant having a full set of Flooded Strands in the main deck. And with so many cards you want to cast on the second turn, having to use Top on that second turn’s upkeep to find a land is

an ideal plan.

I probably don’t need to remind you that Jace, the Mind Sculptor is absurdly good. Even in a deck whose objective is to pull together a bunch of inexpensive spells. Jace can single-handedly finish a game, burying the opponent in a combination of card advantage for you and poor draws for him.

But Jace can also pull you out of horrible situations that Dreadtill could not have handled prior to his printing. Both in GenCon and in this tournament, I won a game after an opponent dropped Moat by using Jace’s Ultimate. He’s an answer to an opponent resolving Tombstalker, or Showing you an Emrakul. He solves the problem of winning the game after resolving Peacekeeper, and he removes your own Dark Confidant before he kills you. And he lets you make sure your spells will resolve under an opposing Counterbalance — which, by the way, he is great at resolving underneath.

…Also, he lets you Brainstorm every turn.

Running Jace means not running more than two Dazes, since those cards don’t synergize very well. Running Spell Snare as the other control spell was a metagame call; Vindicate, Spell Pierce, Swords to Plowshares, and Thoughtseize are all also very reasonable options.

Dark Confidant is in the deck because I’ve been extremely impressed by him. Unless your opponent is playing with a large pile of burn spells, keeping Bob alive for a few turns will generally result in victory for the Dreadtill player. And since Dreadtill is designed with low mana costs in mind, Bob’s very merciful on the Dreadtill player.

There are also quite a few ways to mitigate his damage. Dreadtill has Top, and Trinket Mage to find Top. And remember, Dreadnought is quite capable of jumping onto the battlefield, and then heading straight into the graveyard, taking an unlucky Dark Confidant with him.

Speaking of Phyrexian Dreadnought, I believe that four is the correct number right now. As a general rule, if you are running four Dreadnoughts, you probably also want to run one or two Trickbinds. Dreadnought is the only way that Dreadtill will defeat Merfolk before sideboarding. It is also the most likely way to handle Goblins. And even against decks that in theory should be strong against a 12/12, he’ll still hand you a considerable number of games.

Tournament Report Matches

Doctor Richard Rubin was kind enough to let me ride with him to a Legacy tournament outside Pittsburgh, at a store called Superior Sports Cards. The store, and tournament, were run by Drew. Drew provided an excellent place to play, terrific prize support, and a very fun day. I look forward to attending his next Vintage or Legacy event.

Round 1: Doctor Richard Rubin with Goblins – Win

Game 1: Richard opens with a first-turn Goblin Lackey, who soon brings friends.

Game 2: I open with a Top. Richard Seizes my Thoughts, breaking up my Dreadnought-Stifle combo. I then Stifle Richard’s second land, and Waste his Badlands. His Lackey enters the battlefield, only to become a farmer.

I cast Dark Confidant, but Richard matches it with a Goblin Matron. Digging for a way to assemble my Dreadnought, I play another Confidant, then Spell Snare the Warren Weirding that Richard found with his Matron. After a few more turns of carefully flipping cards with Dark Confidant, Dreadnought finally hits the battlefield and stays.

Game 3: Richard again leads with Thoughtseize, this time taking the Swords to Plowshares from my hand. I Daze his Goblin Warchief, then Stifle the Ringleader that Goblin Matron finds. My pair of Mishra’s Factories end up trading with his board, and Swords to Plowshares exiles his Piledriver. This buys me enough time to assemble a Dreadnought and protect him long enough to win the game.

Round 2: Kyle with Tempo Thresh — Win

Game 1: Kyle opens with Tropic Island and Ponders. I Brainstorm, then play Top on my next turn. Kyle’s Tarmogoyf gets Force of Willed, and I drop a Standstill. Kyle Wastes my Mishra’s Factory, but my Top is still letting me make more land drops than he is. When Kyle cracks Standstill to play Tarmogoyf, I Force the Goyf again, and again play a Standstill. Kyle cracks this, too, and a Dreadnought soon arrives.

Game 2: Kyle fetches a Tropic Island, which he uses to Ponder. I lead with a Tundra, then Brainstorm on his end step. Kyle Red Elemental Blasts my first Standstill, then Forces my second Standstill, but he can’t stop Dark Confidant from resolving. Kyle gets buried under the card advantage and dies to attacking wizards.

Round 3: James with Merfolk — Win

Game 1: I mulligan this game, and lead with a fetchland. James has a second turn Lord of Atlantis, and Dazes my Trinket Mage. He has a Standstill for the next turn, and proceeds to assault me with his Lord of Atlantis…. Until I pop Standstill for Dreadnought, which resolves with help from my double-Forces of Will. Lord of Atlantis valiantly attacks, but James lacks the Diminish and loses to the Dreadnought.

Game 2: We both mulligan this time. James has a second-turn Vial, and then a third-turn Vial. I have a Dark Confidant, but James is building up a sizable force. Suddenly, Peacekeeper shows up. James proceeds to read her unhappily. Later, Jace Exiles James’s deck.

Found 4: Harry, with Dreadtill – ID, then play it out for fun, Win

Game 1: Harry plays a Standstill when he has Mishra’s Factory and I have top. At five life, I drop a Counterbalance, and force a Dreadnought onto the table. Harry can’t break through Counterbalance before the 12/12 wins it for me.

Game 2: Harry Spell Pierces my Top, and I Daze his Dark Confidant. My Counterbalance then resolves, making sure his Phyrexian Dreadnought fails to do so. I soon build my own Dreadnought and counter his Smother.

Round 5: ID

Quarterfinals: Kris Brakku, fellow CMU student, with Thopter Foundry — Win

Game 1: Kris opens with Top, into which I play a second turn Standstill. Kris eventually pops Standstill to make my Assembly-Worker go farming, and I Force my Dark Confidant onto the Battlefield.

Kris Enlightened Tutors for Counterbalance. Then my own Counterbalance punches through his, followed by my Standstill. Facing Confidant beats, Kris plays Moat, letting me draw three cards but also shutting down my non-Mythic win conditions.

I drop a Trinket Mage, finding Engineered Explosives. On Kris’s end step, I pop that Explosives for two, removing both of our Counterbalances and my Confidant. I replay another Confidant, and we both play draw-go for a while… except I’m going through two cards per turn. When I’d taken enough life loss from Bob, I feed him to a Dreadnought.

I find and resolve another Counterbalance in the intervening time. I then leverage that card advantage into pushing through Jace, who wins me the game.

Game 2: Kris again leads with Top, and I have an Island. My Island lets me Brainstorm, letting me resolve Top on my second turn. I Spell Snare his Counterbalance, untap, and play Standstill. Again, I draw three cards when Kris has to Swords my Factory.

Bob arrives next, followed by Trinket Mage. Kris plays Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and he then Forces my Pithing Needle. Next turn I proceed to play a Jace, who clears the solder protecting Elspeth, who dies to my wizard army. I play Standstill, and ride that to victory.

Top Four: Mike with Blue Tempo — Win

Game 1: I lead with an Island, and a second-turn Counterbalance. Mike Dazes. I Daze. Mike Forces. I Daze again. The Counterbalance is now the only card on the battlefield.

Dark Confidant soon shows up on Mike’s team, but my Counterbalance blind-flips to counter his Tarmogoyf. I resolve a Standstill, with a Factory on the board.

Mike breaks Standstill with a Lorescale Coatl, who is countered by Counterbalance with some help from Brainstorm. I find Top and my own Confidant, then Force Mike’s Tarmogoyf.

At this point, I have three Mishra’s Factories to hold off Mike’s creatures. I believe a Dreadnought finishes this game before Mike’s Snakes can grow enough to break past my wall of Factories.

Game 2: As in the first game, my Factories are key here. My Top gets hit by a Daze, and my Dreadnought walks into Mike’s Counterbalance. But I

able to chain together Standstills, giving me enough cards to let my pair of Factories go the distance.

Finals: Harry with Dreadtill (again) — Win

Game 1: I open by fetching an Island, and have a Counterbalance on my second turn. I then reveal a Dark Confidant to counter the Standstill harry plays. Soon, my board has a Dark Confidant and a Trinket Mage

a Top to Harry’s lands.

Game 2: Harry mulligans. I Wasteland Harry’s Underground Sea, and Harry Forces my Confidant. His Counterbalance resolves, and proceeds to counter my Trinket Mage by blindly flipping over a Vindicate. My next Trinket Mage resolves, however. Then Harry plays Standstill when I have an unopposed Trinket Mage, and my Mage gets it for me

Final Record of Played Games: 14-1. I won a Bazaar of Baghdad.

The deck performed exactly as I hoped it would during the day, and I’m not sure if I would change anything at the moment. Huge props to R&D, and especially Brad Granberry. Props to Drew for running a great event at Superior Sportscards. And to Doctor Richard Rubin for giving me a ride.