Yes, I’m Afraid It’s Another Rising Waters Deck Analysis

I know what your thinking,“Not another analysis of the deck from MBC! We’ve had enough of those already!” And you may be right. I may be crazy. But it just might be a lunatic you’re looking for. But it was either this or another random thoughts column, and two in one month would make me…

I know what your thinking,“Not another analysis of the Rising Waters deck from MBC! We’ve had enough of those already!” And you may be right. I may be crazy. But it just might be a lunatic you’re looking for.

But it was either this or another random thoughts column, and two in one month would make me look bad (or at least worse than I normally do). It’s not like I anticipated everyone and their grandmother jumping on the Rising Waters bandwagon and writing about it.

I’ll try to be moderately entertaining, so stay with me and I’ll try and slip in some arcane references if you pay attention, okay?

Now, I had said in an earlier column that I didn’t know why they banned Lin Sivvi and Rishadan Port, since I doubted there were going to be any more Mercadian block qualifiers. Then I get news of the latest PTQ, which will be—Mercadian block constructed. And I look, well, dumber than I usually do. Thanks, WotC!

Then again, it’s not like it takes a lot of work to make me look dumb. Ask my friends!

So I start working on decks for the local MBC qualifier in what little spare time I have. I had two decks I started testing, one being the ubiquitous Rising Waters deck, the other being a Tangle-Sligh tap-out red deck, using fun Prophecy cards like Spur Grappler, Chimeric Idol, Veteran Brawlers and even the quite crappy Wintermoon Mesa.

Early testing showed that Tangle-Sligh simply rolled over and died against a deck that simply didn’t care if all of its lands were tapped. Thwart, Daze, Foil…it was like being taunted by C. Montgomery Burns. “Ooooh, the Spur Grappler is mad at me, I’m so scared! Oooh, the Spur Grappler! Uh, oh, the Spur Grappler is coming to get me! Oh, don’t let the Spur Grappler come after me! Oooh, it’s so big and strong!”

Tangle-Sligh went back in the box and the Mesas went into the trade binder, never to emerge. And to this point, Rising Waters has not disappointed, beating most everything it’s come up against.

After the banning of the mighty Port, the big question was, “Can Rising Waters work without the Rishadan Port?” The answer so far has been an unqualified“Yes.” I don’t think blind luck alone is responsible for my 12-2 record in Arena play so far.

Prophecy brought the deck some new critters, new “free” counters and more bounce. The trick has been to find the right amount of counters and bounce to add.

The backbone of my version of the deck remains relatively unchanged from the Mogg Squad version that won PT-NY 2000:

22 Island
4 Eye of Ramos
4 Thwart
4 Gush
4 Rising Waters
4 Stinging Barrier
4 Ribbon Snake
4 Waterfront Bouncer

The only major change is upgrading Drake Hatchling to Ribbon Snake. Having the same casting cost for all intents and purposes, the Ribbon Snake does not need pumping to get up to two power, the all-play lose-flying ability synergies well with Rising Waters, and even if your opponent“grounds” it, at 2/3 it’s still a pretty tough little beatdown machine against any color but green.

The Snake is essentially the“Li’l Blue Beatdown Machine,” since you can no longer count on using Ports and Eyes to keep an opponent locked down. With the Waters soft-lock now even softer, the deck needs to deal more offense, faster, and the Snake is the way to go.

That’s 50 cards, leaving room for 10 more. The remaining contenders for spots in the deck are:

Pros: When you absolutely, positively have to say“No!”, this is the card to use. No fuss, no muss, no ugly cleanup.
Cons: Requires having two blue mana free to use, often difficult under the Waters soft-lock without sacrificing a valuable Eye of Ramos.
Verdict: Two main deck, one sideboard.

Pros: Effective in early game against a rush deck and when Rising Waters is in play, the threat of having one can slow an opponent down.
Cons: Often a dead card in the mid to late game, opponents can play around it.
Verdict: Two main deck.

Seal of Removal
Pros: Extra early bounce against rush decks.
Cons: Often a dead card in the late game when you’d rather have a counterspell or a creature.
Verdict: Too good not to use, two main deck, one sideboard

Pros: Extra bounce, can double as time advantage, double bouncing two of opponents creatures of being used in response to a removal spell to save one of your creatures.
Cons: Needs two targets to work, occasionally ends up being a 3cc Boomerang.
Verdict: One main deck, one sideboard.

Pros:“Free” counterspell that can be used first turn before you’ve played a land, great synergy with Thwart and Rising Waters.
Cons: Horrible card advantage (three cards for one), sometimes you’d rather have a Daze.
Verdict: Two main deck.

Spiketail Hatchling
Pros: Counterspell and a 1/1 flyer all wrapped up in one. Essentially functions as a“Seal of Force Spike.”
Cons: There are times when you’d rather have a Counterspell, when the Force Spike effect is basically worthless.
Verdict: One main deck.

Alexi’s Cloak
Pros: Instant-speed untargetability is good against removal spells like Snuff Out, Vendetta, Last Breath as well as foiling other bounce decks.
Cons: Frequent victim of Dead Card Syndrome, playing it also means you can’t bounce your own critters.
Verdict: This bit of tech has one slot in the sideboard.

Pros: With Rising Waters in play, it counts as a full-on Counterspell.
Cons: It’s three mana I’d rather spend on something else—like a Counterspell and an active Bouncer.
Verdict: We pass on this card.

Rhystic Study
Pros: Synergies well with Rising Waters, slows opponent down unless they don’t care about you drawing lots of cards.
Cons: It’s not a counterspell; can be played around.
Verdict: Has potential, but is out of the deck now.

Rhystic Deluge
Pros: Effective at slowing an opponent down when you don’t have Waters in play or with Waters, can stop a creature rush entirely.
Cons: Sometimes, you need that mana for other things, can’t always stop rushes. Probably better suited for a Cowardice deck.
Verdict: Omitted from deck for now, but further testing is called for.

Pros: Thins the deck out, can“hide” cards from discard effects.
Cons: Personal preference; not worth playing with if you’re not playing four.
Verdict: Left out of the deck.

So here’s my version of the Rising Waters deck looks now:

“When The Levee Breaks”
22 Island
4 Eye of Ramos
4 Thwart
4 Gush
4 Rising Waters
4 Stinging Barrier
4 Ribbon Snake
4 Waterfront Bouncer
1 Spiketail Hatchling
1 Withdraw
2 Seal of Removal
2 Counterspell
2 Daze
2 Foil

3 Misdirection
2 Bribery
4 Stronghold Zeppelin
1 Alexi’s Cloak
1 Withdraw
1 Seal of Removal
1 Counterspell
1 Rath’s Edge
1 ???

So that’s one sideboard slot still open. Brainstorm? Dust Bowl? Another counter? More bounce? Flowstone Armor? I’m certainly open to suggestions.

The sideboard, by and large, is very familiar to the one Sigurd Eskeland used to win PT-NY. Misdirection is a beating against cards like Last Breath, Arrest, Afterlife and Extortion as well as functioning as another counter in the mirror match, but is less useful against black decks with their non-black targeted creature kill (that’s where Alexi’s Cloak is a better card). Bribery is powerful against most green and red decks running fatties like Flowstone Overseer and Rushwood Elemental, and Stronghold Zeppelin is the Big Blue Beatdown Machine that comes in, sometimes, in the mirror match and against a Rebel deck, replacing Rising Waters after they bring in all their now-dead Disenchants and Seals of Cleansing (that’s the theory, at least).

Against any deck that’s slow or mana-intensive, such as Roshambo, or against the red tap-out decks, Waters is a virtual auto-win.

Against rush decks like the current version of Rebels, using the Steadfast Guard/Ramosian Rally engine, or Mercenary decks that are centered around the inexpensiveness of that hero of wine, women and song, Brian Boitano (Cateran Persuader), the deck has problems. If you don’t get an early Rising Waters and a Stinging Barrier, and if you can’t stop the early Sergeant or Persuader with counters or bouncing, you’ll likely be overrun before you can stop the bleeding.

I have found that the deck is usually capable of stabilizing around five to ten life against most rush decks. Against Rebels, that’s no so bad. Against cheap Mercenaries, which may or may not be packing cards like Rhystic Siphon and Highway Robbers, that might not be enough. That’s the one deck that gives the current version of Waters the most trouble.

That makes three cards the deck fears: Ramosian Sergeant, Cateran Persuader, and (wait for it) Rushwood Legate. Before you start scratching your heads, remember, that it’s a 2/1 for free in this matchup that can’t be Dazed (as long as your opponent isn’t an idiot), and a double drop on turn one or two is pretty much game. If—and it’s a big if—green decks come to the fore by the next PTQ, this is another card to watch out for.

I’m actually hoping to see more green decks in the next PTQ, since they pack better Mercenary defense (Root Cage) than I do, and I like the Waters’ chances against green more than I do Brian Boitano. That’s me, playing the metagame and hoping for the best. It worked for me last time when I took Three-Deuce to a Top 8 in a Trix-heavy field, we’ll see if we can go two for two.

At the very least, the next PTQs will see more variety in deck archetypes besides Rising Waters, Rush Rebel and Control Rebel. But so far, as far as my testing goes, Rising Waters is still the king of the heap.

Hail to the king, baby.

Dave Meddish