Wishing For Knowledge

With more time now to reflect on his experience from Grand Prix Lille, Carsten presents not just his report from that tournament but what he’s learned and how that informs his choices as he moves forward and rebuilds the deck.

As you all know if you’ve checked out my article two weeks ago, I played an untested list at GP Lille that was based on the theory that merging the two best Dig Through Time decks – Grixis Pyromancer and OmniTell – could actually work to create a deck that would have the strengths of both but few of their weaknesses.

Now, I scrubbed out with the deck but I think that had much more to do with me not having any experience with the list outside of a couple of quick games on Friday evening. Add a number of interested questions as to what I think about the deck now and what I’d change and – tada! – we’re where today’s article is going to take us. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Picking Up Where We Left Off

So last time you saw the list, it was a purely theoretical construct and looked like this:

This list has one huge problem, and while I didn’t have the time necessary to actually figure out the deck well enough to do it justice at the GP, at least Friday night’s last-minute testing allowed me to fix that one – the manabase. After playing only a couple of games against BURG Delver, it became abundantly clear that the deck was very powerful but prone to lose if it got hit by Wasteland too early. Being hit on turn three or four was fine – you’ll still have Show and Tell mana operational afterwards and should have either already cantripped enough or have enough cantrips left to easily draw out of any mana issues assuming you haven’t been missing land drops. In short, I was missing OmniTell’s Wasteland resistance granted by having basic Islands in play early.

That doesn’t doom the deck, however, it just means our manabase needs to be constructed – and used – especially carefully. Playing three colors with a high basic land count is actually quite doable, however there are some preconditions. First you need a deck that only uses its splash color rarely, being essentially a mono-color deck with two splashes instead of a true multicolor deck. Second, you need to be fine if you end up stranded without the ability to cast certain cards in Wasteland matchups after you’ve already cast one or two of them. Lastly, you need to be fine giving up your ability to cast your splash cards for a couple of turns in Wasteland matchups when you feel you’re vulnerable to mana denial.

If a deck fulfills these conditions – and this one does – you can simply work with a high basic land and fetchland count while relying on a small number of duals to facilitate your splashes on the turn you need to use them.

You see, the problem with the manabase against Wasteland isn’t that it has too many colors of dual lands, it’s that I was running too many duals – so I constantly drew them in my opening hand and simply had to present Wasteland targets in order to not miss land drops. That sucked, especially given that the deck seemed to win almost any game in which it didn’t get mana screwed. So I added a land to the deck and retooled the mana base to this:

4 Island
2 Crystal Vein
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Flooded Strand
2 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island

Between nine fetches and four basic Islands, it should be reasonably easy to make sure your first two land drops survive Wastelands when necessary, and things worked much better after I made the switch. To make room for the additional land, I needed to find room for more cuts and the cantrip suite was already at the minimum I’d consider playable in an Omni-Tell deck – you need to consistently hit new ones or just actual business after Showing and Telling, after all. That left me with three cards to consider taking out: the fourth copies of Young Pyromancer (it is the backup plan, after all), Cabal Therapy (I’ve seen a lot of lists run only seven protection spells, between Pyromancer and Burning Wish; moving a copy to the board might make sense) and the fourth Burning Wish (you don’t use it for utility all that much). After some consideration, I decided to shave the Pyromancer in order to not mess too much with the consistency of the post-Omniscience gameplay, though after the fact how I sideboarded during the event makes me question that – more on that later. What I realized after the event is that I probably should simply have cut the stupid Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. You really don’t want to bring the flying tentacle monster to class anyway, and putting the combo-kill together post Omniscience is consistent anyway. Given the Petals of InsightGrapeshot kill*, it would probably be fine to just rely on Wishes to end the game in the future.

*By the way, the reason to run this over, say, Enter the Infinite plus Spiraling Embers is that it can clear the board at the same time as it’s being used for the kill – which is only important in fringe cases like Worship, Platinum Angel and similar stuff after a Wish or two have already been used, but it’s still a tiny advantage. Petals of Insight also has the advantage of being a reasonable draw spell to Wish for in a pinch.

The other thing I realized on Friday already was that, while I didn’t really know how to SB yet, I definitely wanted to actually board in at least two Pyroclasms against most of the Delver decks and I wanted at least a singleton out to Chalice of the Void for 1 disabling the whole cantrip engine even under Omniscience, meaning I needed room in the board.

That in turn led to me cutting the second Boseiju. At that point the whole “just find Boseiju against Miracles and have Emrakul in hand” plan becomes quite illusionary, though, so I cut the second Emrakul from the sideboard as well, adding the third Pyroclasm and a Shattering Spree. The Shattering Spree should definitely have been a Meltdown with the new manabase (if they Wasteland the Volcanic I used to Wish for Spree, I can’t get through Chalice anymore anyway as I’m down to only a single red source). There’s one Wish-target that I also considered but dismissed as overly defensive and which would have carried me to Day Two, but, well, them’s the breaks.

Here’s what I ran in the end:

A Look At The GP

So what happened? It’s all a bit blurry at this point, but here is what I remember in Q’n’D report form (also keep in mind that it’s been a while, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a couple of details I’ve messed up):

I had won our local GP Trial so I get to just hang out for the first two rounds, so I started out 2-0 and the first round I actually played was round three:

Round Three – versus traditional OmniTell

My unusual list has a huge edge here as the discard allows me to still set up the combo post-board while he has to take it out (mostly) and I still get to shave the Show and Tells from my deck because I can still access them with Burning Wish.

Game One: I Probe him on turn one and see three Dig Through Times in his hand. I have the Therapy.

Game Two: Boseiju, Who Shelters All casting Dig Through Time in the mirror is a beast.

Game Three: Therapies allow me to set up the full combo-kill while he struggles to kill me with Pyromancer.


Round Four – versus Abzan Maverick

Game One: Probe plus Therapies dismantle a hand of Gaddok Teeg, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and lands. I finally win with the combo while having a Pyromancer in play.

Game Two: I Therapy away a Stoneforge Mystic’ed up Sword of Fire and Ice and combo out with six life left.

Cabal Therapy was nice here to deal with the annoying hate bears before casting Show and Tell and without needing Force of Will. I’m also pretty sure I blew my opponent out with Pyroclasm or Massacre in one of these games, but I’m not completely sure about that.


Round Five – versus Grixis Pyromancer

This should be a good matchup, I think. We’re both close to the same deck, only where they have more creature-based threats and Lightning Bolt, I have an infinite mana combo.

Game One: I push through the combo rather early.

Game Two: I face an overload of disruption and, having boarded out the Pyromancers in fear of Lightning Bolt to just play combo-control, said disruption proves highly effective while I don’t seem to face even a single Lightning Bolt.

Game Three: I get the Pyromancers back in and I think I remember winning during extra turns by going off with Pyromancer in play. He’s been too busy trying to find his own Pyromancers to fight mine while also building up enough disruption to also stop the Burning Wished-for combo.


Round Six – versus Four-Color Loam

This is actually entirely unsurprising, as my opponent is Niklas Kronberger, who actually developed the Four-Color Loam deck that took two Top Eight slots at this GP.

This seems like a very good matchup in game one – Niklas actually thinks OmniTell is his worst matchup by far – but it felt pretty bad from my side post-board. I think this is one spot where the Cunning Wish build is decently ahead because it can actually stop things like Oblivion Ring or Reclamation Sage from mattering when you Show and Tell.

Game One: He really doesn’t put up too much resistance and I think I have a strong hand with Force of Will and a turn three or four combo.

Game Two: Thoughtseize and Chalice harass me and he never has a Plains to let me Wish for Massacre until Teeg is already down.

Game Three: I keep a fast hand, hoping to race and sacrifice my Crystal Vein on turn two to cast Show and Tell into Omniscience with Dig Through Time in hand. He has Reclamation Sage and I never recover.


Round Seven – versus BURG (Sultai?) Delver

Once again, I don’t remember the details this round but I do remember losing the postboard games, which I now suspect was because I boarded as a combo deck would. I’ll provide a more detailed explanation after the next round as they tie in together. I remember I boarded in two Pyroclasms because of my Friday experience – you want some ways to kill Deathrite Shaman and Delver of Secrets to buy more time in order to get set up – and I had them in hand but my opponent just had Tarmogoyfs for threats in both postboard games.


Round Eight – versus Jeskai Delver

This was an awesome match, as both me and my opponent agreed afterwards.

Game One: It takes me a while to figure out he’s Jeskai Delver, not Miracles, but then Burning Wish for Massacre happens.

Game Two: I get locked out by multiple Meddling Mages.

This is the point where I finally figure out what is, I now think, the correct way to sideboard against Delver strategies: turn into a control deck. They’ve just configured themselves to crush a combo opponent, after all. So I board out an Omniscience or two, the Emrakul and all the Show and Tells for more countermagic and the Pyroclasms.

Game Three: This was an awesome back-and-forth game that came down to a point where we both knew my opponent had to topdeck a Lightning Bolt to kill me as otherwise I’d assemble Omniscience (I had cast the Wish already). He Fetched endstep to thin – which usually is bad but here it was absolutely the correct line as he would only get this one draw step anyway – and slammed it as you should…

He didn’t get there. Phew.

It turns out that before he shuffled, he had the Bolt on top – sometimes you get punished for making the right play.


Round Nine – versus Reanimator

This was one of the most absurd topdeck-fests I’ve ever played.

Game One: He Careful Studies away a Griselbrand on turn one. I have a Force of Will for defense but when I Gitaxian Probe him, I see Reanimate with Force of Will back up coming next turn. Darn. A cantrip doesn’t find another Force and he makes the big bad Demon of Doom. I draw the nuts – Crystal Vein – and go for the elusive turn-two Show and Tell. He draws seven – and misses! I have the Burning Wish.

Game Two: He Entombs on turn one, I have to blind Therapy and chose Exhume, missing but seeing he has a hand full of blanks. He topdecks Exhume.

Game Three: I have Flusterstorm and a hand full of cantrips. A Gitaxian Probe reveals that he’s holding multiple Entombs, a Vendilion Clique and a Brainstorm. In short, he has nothing right now unless he Brainstorms into the good stuff and my hand full of cantrips should be able to turn something up after that. Clique is a threat, though, since my Flusterstorm isn’t safe if used to defend against his reanimation spells. So I decide to Flusterstorm his endstep Brainstorm; he naturally topdecks the Exhume again.


And thus endeth my Grand Prix Lille on Day One despite my two byes and strong start.

The big thing to note here is that my opponent went for Iona, Shield of Emeria in both postboard games and I had the Burning Wish in hand both times against mostly dead hands. If I had actually included a copy of Innocent Blood in my sideboard as I originally wanted to – I literally contemplated it on Friday evening when making last-minute adjustments to the list, mostly as a solution to Tarmogoyf, though – I could have easily killed Iona in both games and won handily.

Moving Forward

So, going effectively 4-3 on the day isn’t a particularly promising result for the deck. But given that I lost what is – according to my opponent, who should know – an excellent matchup once and my other two losses were easily avoidable given either minor adjustments to the deck or just more experience with what the heck I should be doing, I’d say this is more my fault than the deck’s. Overall, the deck in fact felt quite powerful – not as broken as I had hoped, but very strong nonetheless – and nicely flexible compared to regular OmniTell, especially because of its ability to board out most of the combo pieces and play a focused control game without actually invalidating the potential of combo-killing the opponent.

Here is what I’d want to change moving forward:

  • Get the fourth Young Pyromancer back into the maindeck, mainly to make the transformation into a control deck even more reliable.
  • Add the Innocent Blood to the sideboard. It just works well with the control plan already and gives the deck an actual out to stuff like Iona or Tarmogoyf.
  • Give up on the whole Boseiju plan. With the way I’m building the deck, trying to have Boseiju, Show and Tell, Omniscience and Emrakul all together to get around Counterbalance shenanigans just doesn’t seem like a functional plan given the space issues involved.
  • Find an additional way to fight Show and Tell-able hate, preferably one that works against Chalice of the Void being in play.

To implement these changes, I’d cut the last big clunker you don’t really need – Emrakul – from the maindeck as the Petals combo was always sufficient to end things. While I fell out of the zero-mana cantrip chain to find my actual kill once during the event, I think without the Emrakul the fizzle rate should still remain acceptably low. If someone has actual numbers that prove that you need the fifth way to actually win after dropping Omniscience, I’m ready to listen, though.

That Innocent Blood will get the Boseiju’s spot in the board for now, and once I have actual experience with the Miracles matchup I’ll consider if a similarly extreme plan is even necessary there. You are able to transform into something extremely close to Grixis Pyromancer Control’s post- board configuration already, after all, and that deck’s matchup against Miracles seems decent if not overwhelming.

That gives us this current list:

As for the additional anti-hate, I’m still looking for something suitable to do the job, which is why I’m not even worrying about the slots yet. Maybe, though, the solution to that issue lies in the one thing that I think actually needs a ton of work: making decent sideboard plans.

The thing is, I’ve built the deck in such a way that it can fluently switch roles between being a Pyromancer deck and an OmniTell deck and it is able to focus on either plan post-board. Given that I don’t have much experience with either deck, though, I’m not even sure which deck I want to move towards in which matchup – as my awkward struggling in the post-board games during the GP proved – let alone actually set up a card-for-card perfect sideboarding plan in order to switch to ideal configurations. If you’re interested in further developing the archetype, that’s where the real work needs to be done.

So do you feel up to it? I believe it’s worth the effort; the deck felt strong, much more flexible than OmniTell, and the Cabal Therapies proved themselves as a disruption tool I could actually feel good with in the deck. Add in the fact that the deck throws a monkey wrench in your opponent’s sideboarding because it is a merger of two different plans and I wouldn’t be surprised if it proved to be a major force in the format for as long as Dig Through Time remains legal in Legacy– which is at least till fall at this point.

Now, have I managed to make you interested in some Demon Rum? Just initials here and here, then sign there. Oh, in your own blood if you please… you know, just a formality.