Duel Decks : Jace vs. Vraska

vs logo

There’s a cute back story to be sure, but the cool part here is that we get two pretty nice planeswalkers. It’s not like that failed Sorin vs. Tibalt abomination or even the less popular Nicol Bolas vs. Ajani Duel deck. This one actually contains two very desirable planeswalkers and two color combinations we have not really seen paired up against each other (well, Izzet vs. Golgari might have been close).

jace vs vraska

Definitely not a huge fan of the planeswalker art

It probably seems better if you view it as getting this:

jace architect versus vraska

                                                          That’s much more like it !

It would also be cool that if you were to maybe combine the two decks you can end up with a really nice BUG control deck, as I imagine both decks will be very much control-ish in their own right. Maybe give the Jace deck a bit of the Monoblue Aggro elements we have seen at the recent Pro Tour. You can then maybe get some of the Monoblack Control elements of the Monoblack deck that Top 8’d the Pro Tour as well. I’m not saying we will get some insane value, but Wizards of the Coast knows how to market these really well.

jace vs vraska logo

The Jace ‘insignia’ combined with what I’m guessing is like Vraska’s ‘hair’

Remember: it comes out on March 14,2014 so don’t hastily get rid of all your copies of these two cool planeswalkers just yet – March is quite a while from now. As of this posting, Jace’s value alone is almost double this Duel Deck’s MSRP.

FNM Promo for January 2014

fnm promo warleaders helix

4 damage seems somewhat more lethal in this version of the card

Warleader’s Helix was quickly dismissed as a bad Lightning Helix reprint when it was first spoiled. Nowadays, it probably kills most creatures (a lot of 4-toughness guys) like Loxodon Smiter, Kalonian Hydra, Archangel of Thune, Gray Merchant of Asphodel and the list goes on….

loxodon smiter

Bigger, badder creatures need bigger, badder burn

The card saw some play in UWR/USA Flash decks before Theros and is now usually relegated to Dega Midrange decks (BWR). It’s probably missing a more established and efficient deck to call home. Perhaps Naya and UWR will become more of a ‘thing’ with the release of the 5 other temples in the next Theros Block expansion. For now it’s just a good card without a good deck.

 

warleaders helix

The ‘weaker’ looking original version

Sure, the original version actually has Aurelia, Warleader illustrated on the card, but it just doesn’t really seem like much of a removal spell. The FNM version has that whole ‘dark lightning’ thing going for it, reminiscent of Star Wars. The character (likely an ‘armored’ version of Aurelia) seems colder and might as well have a comic book speech bubble that reads : “DIE!”.

warldeaders helix full art

 

Remember that you can only get these in January 2014, which is still quite some time from now. Go to your local brick and mortar store FNM events for a chance to win them either randomly or by finishing in the Top 2.

 

FNM_logo

Remember that two are given at random and two to 1st-2nd place

Modern Tezzerator

tezzerator modern

 

by Francis ‘ACE’ Jodin

Are you the kind of magic player that enjoys winning without turning creatures sideways? Do you like long games consisting of denying your opponent from doing anything? Then i might have something for you!

Prison-style decks have seen play in Vintage and in Legacy, but in Modern there doesn’t seem to be any equivalent. Most likely because all the broken enchantments, lands and artifacts are too old. Well, most of them. There is one card that can lock your opponent from doing things if his deck is about winning with creatures:

ensnaring bridg

Think of it as proactive creature control

Now if we are to take full advantage of this infamous artifact, we first need to be able to empty out our hand quickly. The traditional draw-go control style, were we hold on to removal and counters does not synergize with Ensnaring Bridge. We want to play mostly cheap permanents. We also want our permanents to hate out our opponent’s strategy. Turns out many cheap artifacts do just that. We also need a way to win and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is probably the best way to do do that with artifacts while hiding behind a Bridge.

This is my current list:

Engines: 9

1 Expedition Map

2 Thopter Foundry

1 Crucible of Worlds

3 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

2 Trading Post

Control: 13

3 Engineered Explosives

2 Pithing Needle

1 Lantern of Insight

1 Codex Shredder

1 Scroll of Griselbrand

3 Ensnaring Bridge

2 Liliana of the Veil

Cantrips: 6

3 Chromatic Star

2 Scroll of Avacyn

1 Nihil Spellbomb

Acceleration: 2

1 Mox Opal

1 Talisman of Dominance

Creatures: 7

3 Spellskite

4 Trinket Mage

Lands: 23

4 Darkslick Shores

4 River of Tears

2 Glimmervoid

1 Island

1 Swamp

1 Bojuka Bog

1 Tolaria West

4 Mutavault

1 Darksteel Citadel

1 Ghost Quarter

1 Tectonic Edge

1 Buried Ruin

1 Academy ruins

Sideboard

4 Surgical Extraction

4 Chalice of the Void

2 Defense Grid

2 Pithing Needle

1 Grafdigger’s Cage

1 Executioner’s Capsule

1 Welding Jar

tezzeret the seeker

Notably absent from the deck

I’ve seen some lists run Tezzeret the Seeker instead of Agent of Bolas. I’m not sure which is best but Bolas can provide a steady stream of card advantage and can quickly win the game with a +1 followed by a -4. We don’t want to give our opponents more time than required to find answers! Also, sometimes you’ll win the game with a few activations of his -1. With an artifact in play, he can actually protect himself if you don’t have a bridge. Making a Darksteel Citadel into an indestructible 5/5 can be a powerful play.

tezz minus 1

Make some beefy protectors

The hate

Artifacts are good at hating. I have selected those that are best against the widest array of decks.

engineered explosives

Boom!

Explosives can pretty much answer most of the commonly played permanents in theModern  format. We can make x = 3 or 4 with some Chromatic Stars, Mox Opal and Glimmervoids. We just make sure we don’t blow some of your own important stuff! Also, in a pinch your can cast them for zero if you need to empty your hand for Ensnaring Bridge or need that extra artifact for Tezz’s ultimate to get lethal damage.

tezz ultimate

That’s pretty ‘Ultimate’

Pithing Needle is totally maindekc-worthy in a deck like this. Just try and think: which modern deck doesn’t use any activated abilities? Yeah, not many. The fact that it can hose lands is a big deal with all these manlands in control/midrange decks. Oh, and remember: Deathrite Shaman’s first ability isn’t actually a mana ability since it targets and therefore uses the stack!  We can even max on Pithing Needles from the sideboard for when you really can’t get enough of them, mainly against Tron and Pod decks.

spellskite

It’s not even a defender!

Spellskite is another maindeckable “hate” card, even in a creature-light deck. First of all, it is a 0/4, which is nice to have against aggressive decks. Secondly, Abrupt Decay is a card and Spellskite answers it. We don’t want to lose the game to a couple of Tarmogoyfs because your opponent just killed your Ensnaring Bridge ! Lastly, it hates on  some decks: Infect, Kiki Twin, Aura Boggle, burn, and non prismatic omen scapeshift to a lesser extent come to mind.

A single Nihil Spellbomb deserves a spot in this deck. Is is obviously good against graveyard combo decks (glass cannon, living end, melira pod, storm) but also against all black/green/x decks. It is better than relic of progenitus here because we don’t want to exile our own graveyard. Also, it can be sacced to thopter foundry/trading post for extra card draw, when the graveyard hate isn’t so relevant.

Lantern of Insight + Codex Shredder is the last of the hate engine. Usually, if you draw one of the two, you want to fetch the other with a Trinket Mage. Controlling the top deck can win us the game in the long run. When we see something we don’t care about on top of our opponent’s deck, we get the opportunity to filtering our own draw as well. Codex Shredder’s second ability is also actually pretty decent.= as well. We can get back any card, not just artifacts, from our graveyard. For instance : we can ultimate a non-lethal Tezeret, Agent of Bolas if we fear for our life total, then get it back later. It’s also good when Tezzeret gets countered earlier on.

The engines

gears icon

Looks strangely enough like the expansion symbol from another artifact set

Everybody likes card advantage and recursion. Well, this deck is full of that. Aside from Tezz himself, Trading Post does everything we want in this deck. It can discard a card from our hand to keep our Bridge active and gain us precious life points against aggresive decks. It can recycle our non optimal hate artifacts into more juice. It turns any Chromatic Star into a Divination (you draw the card when the Star is put into your graveyard, not when you activate it). Just be careful when you do that, drawing multiple lands can ruin your Ensnaring Bridge lock as it will prevent you from emptying your hand … Lastly, it can recur any artifact in your graveyard by making a Goat Token and sacrificing it on the next turn. Combined with Thopter Foundry, you can recur any artifact. Just sacrifice the artifact to Thopter Foundry (in response to a removal spell, for instance) and then sac the Thopter Token to your Trading Post.

thopter foundry

Not quite as broken as it was with the Modern-banned Sword of the Meek

Speaking of Thopter Foundry, it can actually be a win condition when we hide behind an Ensaring Bridge. Just draw your card for the turn, attack with your token(s) and then play your drawn card on your second main phase! Foundry also turns any Chromatic Star into a “free” token. I’ve won some games by sacrificing all of my board to Foundry during my opponent’s end step and swinging in for lethal on my turn. The lifegain clause  is also relevant and sometimes we’ll also want to produce 1/1 Thopters in order to trade with Modern Affinity’s numerous 1 toughness flyers.

Trinket Mage is soooo good here! He can pretty much find any card we need against any deck in almost any situation. He also sometimes beats for 2 or chump blocks, which isn’t that negligible. Any chunk of life points we can take away from our opponent makes Tezzeret’s Ultimate that much more effective and game-clinching.

Liliana of the Veil does her fair share in this deck. Her +1 ability is often free since we can empty our hand quickly. We can pitch extra lands to her ability thus keeping our Bridge active. Behind a bridge, going  ultimate is a very common occurence for this deck . Her -6 ability is very good against the opposing hate cards, as we can make a pile with hate and another pile with everything else. We can then restart +1’ing  her again for even more value and Bridge protection. Planeswalkers are this deck’s main way of winning through a  Stony Silence (it is quite feasible as  i’ve done it multiple times in the past).

stony silence

On of the many opposing hate cards to be aware of

The lands

The lands play a key role in this deck. Since most of the deck runs on colorless mana, we can afford to play many colorless lands. We still need some color and since we are Blue/Black, we have an alternative to painful shock lands and fetchlands: Darkslick Shores, River of Tears and Glimmervoid (as well as 2 basics)! I’ve played the deck a lot and most of the time the mana is just fine. The singleton Talisman of Progress and Mox Opal help, but we don’t want to draw them in multiples. Also, the Chromatic Stars can fix when you need them to.

darkslick shores river of tears

                                                 The less pricy alternative

Crucible of Worlds turns your special lands into a steady stream of card advantage . Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge need no explanation. Buried Ruin is surprisingly effective, turning extra lands into more artifact resources . Academy Ruins works as another recursion engine (and can also randomly wins against mill decks) . We can fetch Academy Ruins with Expedition Map and then get back the map with Academy Ruins in order to  find any land we need!

Mutavault is the most recent addition to the deck. With Crucible of Worlds he is an ‘immortal’ blocker. Much like Trinket Mage, it can ‘Shock‘ our opponent when we have the opportunity. More importantly however, Mutavault works with…

The scrolls !

Yeah, this is my personal secret tech. When Scroll of Griselbrand and Scroll of Avacyn were spoiled, I really wanted to find a deck for them. Playing actual demon + angel tribal seemed pretty bad. That was until I realized that Mutavault is every creature type once activated. Scrolls are actually pretty good with Mutavault. We get to cycle and gain five with Scroll of Avacyn. If we can recur it with Academy Ruins, the scroll also grants us our regualr draw  for the turn as well. You can do the same thing with Scroll of Griselbrand. Instead of replacing our draw, it denies your opponent’s non-instant draw, provided we activate it during his/her draw step! It also takes hits them for 3 ! We need to be cautious with thise strategy though as our opponent can destroy our Mutavault in response to the activation of one of the Scrolls.

Yet even more hate …

The Sideboard must always be adapted to your local metagame, but some cards are essential.

We want a Grafdigger’s Cage somewhere in our 75. It pretty much prevents Birthing Pod decks from working properly. The only game I have lost to Pod with a Cage out was when the pod player topdecked his single Harmonic Sliver and then triple Restoration Angel’ed it the following turns… Yeah, that was really painful! We need Welding Jar for tutorable protection fetched via our Trinket Mage. If we can recur them we can always protect our board from some kind of hate. Defense Grid is pretty good against all those American/UWR decks full of counterspells.

defense grid

Some really really old school hate

Conclusion: should i play this deck?

If the metagame in your area is filled with creatures then i would recommend this deck if you want to try something different. You’ll be crushing your opponent’s hopes and dreams with Ensnaring Bridge, A lot of decks have zero ways of winning the game when this card hits the table (before sideboard). Black/Green/x midrange is harder because of Abrupt Decay and Maelstrom Pulse (although i’ve seen some lists without them), but is still winnable. Just be sure to pack some Welding Jars in your sideboard or perhaps even in the main. Scapeshift is probably the deck’s worst matchup, especially the Prismatic Omen version. You pretty much need Crucible of Worlds + Tectonic Edge/Ghost Quarter to beat them. If you see a lot of those in your meta be prepared to have a hard time. Also, be aware that if your opponents are packing some Shatterstorms in their side, you’ll suffer when this spell is randomly cast. It even says “can’t be regenerated” for some reason, as opposed to Creeping Corrosion, making Welding Jar useless!

welding jar

An odd yet effective inclusion to the deck

Theros Event Deck Review

The deck is a Blue/White Heroic deck. It’s pretty well-designed for newer players and contains a lot, and I mean a lot of quality cards. As we did with previous event decks, let’s examine the Rare cards in this deck. As opposed to the older Event decks, this one comes with 1 Rare cards.

 

Hallowed Fountain

hallowed fountain

 

It’s nice to see that recently Wizards of the Coast has been giving each event deck its own Return to Ravnica dual land. This gives people a great sense of value and newer players get to trade this off for other cards if they don’t care for the dual lands. This is pretty much where all the deck’s value goes if we refer to older Event Decks, however Wizards of the Coast have outdone themselves this time.

 

Fabled Hero

 

 

falbed hero gatherer

Great quote there

We get a Hero as expected in a Heroic deck. He is much reminiscent of Mirran Crusader. It’s a great card to make new players go “Wow!’ and veterans look for ways to abuse it. It’s got decent value for the time being and it drop anytime soon.

Frontline Medic

 

frontline medic

A great card without a home

Frontline Medic was good when people were playing Bonfire of the Damned. Its best use in the current metagame is to probably counter a Sphinx’s Revelation or just out-aggro your opponents. A 3/3 body for 3 is pretty solid but something is missing for this to truly make Boros/White Weenie decks a force to be reckoned with. It also competes for the 3-drop slot with cards like Boros Reckoner. It’s pretty decent from a value standpoint though.

Imposing Sovereign

 

imposing sovereign

Not too shabby!

Blind Obedience on legs has yet to make the impact that people thought it would. It hasn’t lost much of its value considering it has not seen much play in a competitive environment. It definitely has a home in whatever White Weenie deck, problem is : there isn’t a good one at the moment. It’s not quite a sleeper, but I’m glad that this Event deck includes two of these.

Lavinia of the Tenth

 

lavinia

 

I guess it’s thematically correct …

While not the most exciting or valuable card of the bunch, Lavinia is still a decent inclusion. Sure she’s in bulk rare territory by now, but her effect on a game can be pretty huge. Gone are the ‘flicker’ effects from Standard (Restoration Angel, Conjurer’s Closet, etc.) that made her that much better.

Precinct Captain

 

precinct captain

 

Get your Soldier Tokens ready !

Had this been released at an earlier time, this card would be laughable. Since the Pro Tour happened, this card’s stock is rising. It’s really much better than it used to be and goes a long way in fighting what is now one of the format’s top cards: Desecration Demon. Pick up a playset while they’re on the cheap – you won’t regret it.

Soldier of the Pantheon

 

soldier of the pantheon

 

The new measuring stick for white one-drops everywhere

I know that originally this card can’t seem too exciting, but it has proven to be rather good in Standard. With devotion decks being a thing, this guy is at an advantage. While the devotion decks encourage you to stay in one color, a lot of the cards that make devotion work are hybrid cards (Boros Reckoner, Nightveil Specter, Burning-Tree Emissary) and thus multicolored. He adds even more value to what is already a really awesome Event deck.

Detention Sphere

 

detention sphere

 

This thing just got much, much better

We were spoiled last Standard format with Oblivion Ring and Detention Sphere. There was also Acidic Slimes in that format, which made the Sphere much less effective overall. With none of the two aforementioned cards in Standard, Detention Sphere is so much more effective/impressive. Detention Sphere also used to be worth about 2$. That value has more than doubled now, so it’s a good thing we get two of these babies in our Event deck.

Final Verdict

 

If you need any of these cards at all then you should probably be purchasing a couple or so of the Theros Event deck. It’s a really good value buy based on Rares alone (the uncommons aren’t that bad either). If you’re looking to get a friend, sibling or a son/daughter into the game – this Event deck is for you.

You can also unlock the Event deck unofficial achievement: win your local FNM or weekly store tournament with this deck.

The deck itself is available for purchase worldwide on October 18th, 2013.

Theros Event Deck

theros event dekc pics

 

Theros Event ‘Inspiring Heroics’ Deck Contents:

 

4 Azorius Guildgate
1 Hallowed Fountain
5 Island
14 Plains
24 lands

2 Ascended Lawmage
2 Banisher Priest
3 Battlewise Hoplite
3 Dryad Militant
1 Fabled Hero
1 Frontline Medic
3 Hopeful Eidolon
2 Imposing Sovereign
1 Lavinia of the Tenth
3 Lyev Skyknight
1 New Prahv Guildmage
1 Precinct Captain
1 Skymark Roc
1 Soldier of the Pantheon
25 creatures

2 Dauntless Onslaught
2 Detention Sphere
2 Gods Willing
1 Ordeal of Heliod
2 Ordeal of Thassa
2 Pacifism
11 other spells

Sideboard
2 Arrest
2 Gainsay
2 Gift of Orzhova
2 Glare of Heresy
2 Negate
3 Solemn Offering
2 Triton Tactics
15 sideboard cards

 

hallowed fountain

 

 

Afterburn Gunn Control

afterburn gunn control

 

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

 

Billy Gunn 

Backstage: Fifth Anniversary

Pre-Match (10)

3 x The Luck of the Draw
1 x The Best Surprises Sneak up from Behind
1 x Underrated Superstar THROWBACK
1 x Franky Takes Hollywood
1 x Fans Love an Underdog
1 x Vince McMahon, Guest Ring Announcer
1 x Managed by William Regal
1 x For the Love of the Game

Mid-Match (10)

1 x A No Show
1 x Change in the Programming Lineup
1 x Unscrupulous SOB
1 x The One Billy Gunn
1 x The Road to Victory
1 x Sustained Damage
1 x Restricted Use in This Area
1 x Rico Enters
1 x Backlash!
1 x The Ref Takes Control

Maneuvers (18)

1 x Sucker Punch
1 x The Maneuver of Doom
1 x Fame-A$%er
1 x The One and Only
1 x Slam
2 x Spinning Kick
2 x Entangle in the Ropes THROWBACK
2 x Snap Neckbreaker
2 x Sizzling Clothesline
2 x Triangle Choke
1 x Brass “Nuks” Shot
1 x Sidewalk Slam THROWBACK
1 x Running Elbow Smash THROWBACK

Reversals (31)

1 x Two for the Show
1 x Help’s On the Way!
2 x Manager Interferes
3 x Headstrong
3 x A Revolution of the Mind
3 x Elbow to the Face
1 x The Price We Pay
1 x We’re Sorry … But this Has Gone too Far
1 x The Federation’s Purest Athlete
2 x Get the ‘F’ Out
3 x Leave Me Alone
2 x Quick Reflexes
2 x Unexpected Turn of Events
2 x Get Back in the Ring
1 x Lift a Boot THROWBACK
1 x I Already Warned You
1 x It’s Great to Be Back Here In …
1 x Divine Intervention

Actions (11)
2 x Stay Away From Daivari
2 x Feel the Fire
2 x Sparks of Glory
2 x Afterburn
1 x Don’t Try This at Home
1 x Volley This
1 x I’ve Got Two Words For Ya!

 How does it win?

 

billy gunn face

 

Simply put, this is a mill deck. The purpose of the deck is to get a copy of Afterburn in play and then use it to mill out your opponent. If you ever find yourself short on Heat maneuvers to discard to Afterburn, simply use your Superstar ability to overturn cards until you get one. Additionally, you can use Fifth Year Anniversary or any other recovery to get some Heat cards into your ‘removed from game’ zone. The Best Suprises Sneak up From Behind is usually going to be naming Afterburn so that it becomes impossible to remove once in play. You can sometimes find yourself winning a game at almost no fortitude via Afterburn. If you need to actually recover some cards, feel free to activate all 3 copies of The Luck of the Draw and play as many Stay Away from Daivari as you can.

 

 

Fear the Sp(h)ear!

fear the sphear

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

It’s Friday and  I’m looking for some kind of tournament, preferably one that will allow me to test my standard deck. I decide to avoid the one store that runs such Standard on Friday nights because I will probably run into a lot of these guys at the 2013’s Provincials tournament tomorrow. I go to another shop in order to draft. Unfortunately, the draft started at 6 pm instead of 6:30 pm. I can either go home and just get some good old fashioned sleep or wait until 9 pm and get some draft action in. My friend Ronald is at the store and just barely made it for 6 pm. himself. He drafted a RUG deck and opened some value in the form of Purphoros and Temple of Abandon. I sort of help him with deckbuilding, but not that much. He is clearly the better limited player between us. Sure, I did OK in sealed play at the Theros prereleases, but draft is a completely different beast.

Ron goes 2-1 during the draft and lets me have his packs. I gamble on in a ‘Power Pack’ mini-game in which players take turns revealing mana costs from their decks until you beat the previous high score. It then continues until there is only one winner, who then gets everyone’s packs. I get eliminated last, losing the Temple of Triumph I opened (which didn’t contribute much to the mana costs total). A second draft is announced and I hastily register. As we are opening our first booster, someone proposes we run a third draft after this one. I was not really 100% confident in my Standard deck and this made me consider just sticking around to draft with the guys over ‘wasting’ 25$ on maybe Top 8’ing/Top 16’ing the Saturday Standard tournament. Top 16 would get half a box of Theros, which is still decent value. The voices in my head duke it out and this time ‘Reason’ prevails. I take off at 1 am. and rush to my apartment. The subway system had closed by that time and I’m forced to take the bus to another station so that I can grab a night bus home from there.

While on the bus I notice that I was headed towards another Montreal shop and was unsure if my friend who was working there would maybe still be there. He usually closes late and there may have been enough people left over from the FNM to test with. I text him and he informs me that he an help me with my sideboard and perhaps get some playtesting in.

Once at the store, I notice that all the Standard players are gone and there are only some Commander players left. My friend and I go over the sideboard and we both decide that Solemn Offering and Rest in Peace have no business in there. I am fairly sure that almost anything would be better than Solemn Offering, but I attempt to stand my ground on Rest in Peace. What if some random wacky reanimator popped up? Vince (my friend) convinces me that there will probably not be any reanimator as no one will be throwing their money away to randomly catch people off guard. I’m still not convinced and I ask if he has a better suggestion. He likes the Glare of Heresy and thinks that two might be a good number. It will get rid of opposing Elspeths and Detention Spheres, perhaps even the odd Fleecemane Lion. I agree with his assessment and quickly make the appropriate changes.

fleecemane lion

You don’t want to be on its bad side!

We go over my Theros and Standard trade binders in order to search for a good sideboard alternative over the Solemn Offerings. I joke about Fiendslayer Paladin until we realise that it’s exactly what the sideboard was missing. It’s great versus Red and removal-heavy decks, nets some life and more importantly: it contributes 2 white mana towards Heliod’s devotion requirement (as well as Nykthos). We figure that three is a good number. It’s really too tight to run a fourth. In retrospect however, I may have wanted to cut the Jace, Memory Adept for the fourth Fiendslayer.

fiendslayer paladin

MTG’s Jedi Knight

Here’s how the final list ended up:

UW Sphere Control

4 x Azorius Guildgate
4 x Hallowed Fountain
2 x Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
10 x Plains
6 x Island

26 Lands

2 x Heliod, God of the Sun

2 Creatures

3 x Sphinx’s Revelation
3 x Supreme Verdict
3 x Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
2 x Gideon, Champion of Justice
2 x Spear of Heliod
4 x Sphere of Safety
3 x Martial Law
4 x Blind Obedience
4 x Detention Sphere
4 x Security Blockade

32 Other Spells

Sideboard:

2 x Jace, Memory Adept
3 x Fiendslayer Paladin
2 x Gainsay
2 x Negate
3 x Celestial Flare
2 x Glare of Heresy
1 x Pithing Needle

15 cards

The singleton Pithing Needle was to shut down cards like Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver pre-emptively. That card is a total beating against us and we need something other than a Detention Sphere (that is already working overtime) in order to contain him. The other change, this time in the maindeck, is +1 Plain, – 1 Island. Vince was quick to notice that aside from Sphinx’s Revelation, no other spell really required 2 blue sources. Sphinx’s Revelation was never really cast early in the game, so it was fine to be on one blue mana until like turn 6. The changes all seemed for the best and I was somewhat more confident going into Saturday’s tournament. I got back home at 4 am, which gave me about 4.5 hours of sleep. Clearly, this was not enough sleep. It would however have to do,  if I was planning on playing in tomorrow/today’s tournament.

detention sphere

As good as it is, we can only run 4

It’s 8:30 am and I’m just getting up. I add the appropriate tokens to my deck box and verify that all the main deck and sideboard cards are there. I quickly checkout my trade binders and make sure I’m to date with prices and what cards I’m low on so that I know what to trade for. I never really like strictly trading for value as I’d much rather know what cards I’m mostly looking to get. You lose focus and will almost settle for any random advantageous trade instead of picking up stuff you may be missing.

At 9:20 am – I am grabbing the subway for 12 stop run until the tournament location. I get out of the subway with 10 minutes to spare, but I need to walk uphill a bit and then there’s another 5 minute walk to the hotel. “Be there in 5 minutes”, I text my friend. “Tell them to wait up a bit for me, or register me. I’ll pay you back”. I don’t get any quick replies and it makes me walk a little faster to the event. Once there, I am trying to remember if it was upstairs or downstairs of the hotel venue. I assumed it was downstairs like the previous events held there. Nice! I guessed right and now I just need to register. Unfortunately for me, I have to go back upstairs with the portable POS device as it does not properly obtain a signal all the way down the hotel. I finally get through all the formalities and it’s time to write my decklist. Thankfully for me, I used up my time in the subway productively. I had typed down the decklist on my ‘smartphone’ and was ready to transcribe it to the DCI Registration Sheet.

Before pairings are called, my friend Charles asks me for my decklist. He knows I’m playing a ‘troll’ deck and he hands me over his list for review. We quickly mock each other’s lists and joke about how low we are on win conditions. Pairings go up and I’m informed that I’ll be playing against someone I know. I go sit at the last table to a familiar face: it’s Maxime playing a RB Control build. I recalled that it won with Master of Cruelties or simply with Desecration Demon swings. He is pretty sure his matchup against me is bad, but I’m rather scared to go to 1 life when his Master of Cruelties connects. Sure, I can make him pay a lot to attack but he does not need to attack with more than one creature.

round 1 banner

vs. RB Control

I win the die roll and start off with the usual Azorius Guildgate. Not much happens early on, aside from the odd Detention Sphere on Desecration Demon. Turns later, I find myself at one life. Ouch! Anything can pretty much finish me off. He then plays a Chandra, Pyromaster in order to seal the deal. He pings me, but I have a Security Blockade in play. Who would have thought? I stay alive for a few turns thanks to Blockade, cast a Sphinx’s Revelation to grab more cards and temporary life. My life total quickly goes back down to 1 thanks to Master of Cruelties (who had initially brought me down to 1). I later establish more board presence and gain some more life, making my opponent concede that game.

Game 2 is not at all the same as I get off to a better start. I believe I get 2 Security Blockades in play this time. I get a Elspeth Sun’s Champion into play and she is protected from harm thanks to the Security Blockades. Chadra’s +1 ability being prevented won’t allow Elspeth to lose any loyalty. I rally my little Soldier tokens behind Elspeth and turns later -7 for the win!

elspeth emblem

Elspeth Emblem # 2

Record: 1-0

It really sucks that I had to face Max this early as we both obviously wanted to face some random players we didn’t know in the early rounds.

round 2 banner

vs. Red/White/Black

My opponent has no idea what this deck is and is under the impression that his hand is good. Once he begins to slowly realize that this is a UW Enchantress deck rather than a UW Control deck, he knows he is in trouble. Clearly, he has some Merciless Evictions in the sideboard. Judging by the fact that he cast Anger of the Gods to kill my soldier tokens and Hero’s Downfall to take out Espeth, I doubt he has much more steam left. I get a Gideon, Champion of Justice to stay in play, growing by 4 loyalty a turn. He’s being protected by Sphere of Safety but I know I need to win soon or face a soul-crushing Rakdos’s Return later on. I get Gideon to 21 and go -15 (ultimate) on the following turn. I had floated some mana which allowed me to Detention Sphere his Rakdos Keyrune afterwards. This was probably the turning point in this game, he never drew a second mana in order to cast Dreadbore on my Gideon. I just kept attacking with Gideon on an empty board in order to take Game 1.

gideon ability 3

Yes, it sometimes happens

Game 2 is much different in that we both make some really bad mistakes. The worst of the mistakes ends up being his: forgetting to exile Obzedat at end of turn would allow me to exile it with Glare of Heresy. I made some other mistakes like not killing my opponent off with an all out attack on him combined with a double extort trigger had I cast my Jace, Memory Adept. He kills my Jace and gets ahead with a Blood Baron of Vizkopa. I draw Elspeth and consider making tokens. A little voice inside my head tells me that I’m about to make a big mistake here and that I should slowly reconsider my options. I re-read Elspeth and decide I would much rather do her -3 ability this eliminating Blood Baron and the Desecration Demon that were in play. I’m at 10 or so and one land + Rakdos’s Return away from dying. I draw my card and see that it’s a Negate. My opponent is in top deck mode. I say F* it! and just cast Spear of Heliod with double extort and respond to my own spell with a Negate double extort. That’s one expensive Warleader’s Helix that ends up winning me the game.

Record: 2-0

We discuss our mistakes afterwards: I clearly made more of them, but his Obzedat one was clearly the most costly.

round 3 banner

vs. Black/White Human aggro

here’s a sample of what cards I was up against:

Xathrid Necromancer

Soldier of the Pantheon

Tormented Hero

Rakdos Shred-Freak

Rakdos Cackler

Bascially, a bunch of dudes that can end the game before I can say : ” Supreme Verd…”. You get the picture.

He wins the die roll and starts of aggressively from the get-go. Tormented Hero is joined by an unleashed Thrill-Kill Assassin and later a Mogis’s Marauder. I do my best to contain him, but I hit no 2-for-1’s on my Detention Sphere and they end up just being Oblivion Rings instead. I get a Heliod in play and somewhat stabilize, but end up scooping when he lands another Mogis’s Marauder. I had also gotten double Thoughtseized somewhere in there as well, losing an Elspeth and a Security Blockade.

mogis marauder

Apparently a real card now …

I get off to a good start in Game 2. Turn 2 Blind Obedience into turn 3 Fiendslayer Paladin. This is pretty sweet! I land a turn 4 Martial Law and follow up with a Sphere of Safety next turn. I eventually draw a Heliod and he does what he does best: make little tokens that make it increasingly harder for my opponent to attack me (the tokens are also enchantments). I get a Nykthos (which roughly means ‘the night’ in Greek) into play and it’s night night for my opponent.

nykthos shrine to nyx

Now also a ‘thing’

My opponent comes out swinging in Game 3. He gets a Tormented Hero on Turn 1 and a Rakdos Shred-Freak on Turn 2. My first two turns are tapped lands (Azorius Guildgate and Hallowed Fountain). He Thoughtseizes me afterwards and gets rid of one of my Detention Spheres. I get to play a Security Blockade to ‘stabilize’ on my turn. He gets a Xathrid Necromancer later on and has me at 10 life. I draw and now have a pretty tough decision to make:

A) Play Detention Sphere on his Xathrid Necromancer and take 4 next turn, but play the Supreme Verdict next turn without running the risk of a huge backlash.

B) Play Supreme now, hope that he doesn’t play 2 creatures on his turn  (he had 3 cards + whatever he would draw), then play a Detention Sphere to take care of the Zombie tokens created by Xathrid Necromancer.

I chose what I believe was the better option: A

I go ahead and cast D-Sphere and pass the turn. He doesn’t get a Shred-Freak in play this turn and swings for 4 (instead of the 6 had I chosen option B).

supreme verdict

Finally ..

I’m super-psyched that I finally got to contain him slightly and cast my Supreme Verdict. I’m about to breathe a sigh of relief, but then …

“In response …”

Are you kidding me?

What response can you possibly have in this Black/White Human aggro deck to a Supreme Verdict?

Well, it turns out that Renounce the Guilds is also a card. Yes, Renounce the Guilds! I’m not sure about you, but this is the first time I felt like getting myself DQ’ed for grabbing an opponent’s card and shredding it to pieces. Ok, I’m probably exaggerating but you can imagine how I felt. the people to which I described the scenario were pretty much all in agreement that this is the last card they would have expected.

The guy did not see any other multicolored permanent on my side of the battlefield, yet he found it ‘appropriate’ to side in a Renounce the Guilds. Riiiight … I would have accepted a Rootborn Defenses, but this? Really?

renounce the guilds

Words cannot describe the horror

I know what some of you are thinking: “But he won!”.

Yes, but he was clearly already ahead and well on his way to probably winning that one. He basically just sided an odd card that might do something, sometime. This is technically not a good call. You are lowering your deck’s threat-density for a reactive card to ONE of your opponent’s answers. I would have preferred he played a Sin Collector on my Supreme Verdict instead as that would have shown more proper planning.

I hold no ill will towards him, but I do hope he plays better on the Pro Tour and wish him luck. He had won a Pro Tour Qualifier with Naya Blitz (he loves the aggro) and is probably already in Dublin at this time. Bonne chance Mr. Beland!

Record: 2-1

round 4 banner

vs. Mono Red Aggro

I’m sitting in front of a kid. I know him from a local store close to the West end of Montreal. We’ve played an traded before. I know that he usually plays super aggressive decks and was unsurprised when his first land drop was a mountain. “Mono red?” “Yup!”

I ‘curve out’ with my deck as of Turn 2: Blind Obedience, Security Blockade and Heliod, God of the Sun. My opponent is rather annoyed at the amount of defensive cards. This is the reaction I was hoping to get from him, hopefully it was genuine. I then get the Martial Law in play. He’s basically got to attack me, only that he’s attacking into a 5/6 indestructible creature. I continue to mark my territory with more permanents and slowly start churning out these lovely tokens:

cleric token theros

My little Gandalf the Grays! You will not pass!

Between these guys and the Security Blockade constantly reducing direct damage, I am at a healthy twelve or so. A few turns later, Nykthos happens and he quickly concedes (4 Cleric tokens a turn). He is clearly frustrated by the lockdown/prison style deck and knows that he probably has to side in extra burn over creatures if he wants to pick up a quick win.

Game 2 is different, but not the way you would think. He gets a Firedrinker Satyr and a Mutavault in play by Turn 2. I go Blind Obedience, Blind Odedience, Blind Obedience and Sphere of Safety. Is it safe yet? You bet it is! I then play pretty much anything with triple Extort, basically making any spell I cast into a Lightning Helix. My opponent stumbles a bit on mana but it’s already to late. At this point, I just wanted this game to end quickly. I triple extort a Sphinx’s Revelation for x =0 and respond to it by 3 x extort Negate. I was going mad with all the power and becoming a master extorter.

blind obedience

Oh yes!

Record: 3-1

round 5 banner

vs. WB Trading Post Shenanigans

I’m playing against a friend that I then have to go eat sushi with later in the evening. We need to make this epic so that we can have something interesting to talk about during our supper. It’s Charles, the guy that glanced over my deck list while I did the same with his. We know what each other has, but we don’t know how well each other’s decks play out.

Hint: Mine wins wayyyy quicker.

I get to start things off in Game 1 and do not fail to disappoint with my deck’s slow start. Yes, this deck has no turn 1 plays and that’s just fine. Turn 1 is reserved for not having to play any lands tapped later on. Pour on the Azorius Guildgates early on so that they don’t have to be land # 4 when you need to absolutely cast Supreme Verdict. Charles hits me with a Thoughtseize and nabs the Elspeth, Sun’s Champion that I have been concealing from him. I cast another Elspeth later on, make some tokens with her +1. Unfortunately, she is taken out with a Hero’s Downfall (such a good card!). He buys himself some time here and there by drawing cards, ‘ramping with artifacts’ and gaining some life. Heliod jumps onto the battlefield and ends Game 1 rather quickly (before Charles can cast a Merciless Eviction to turn the tide).

heliod

Part Gideon, part Elspeth – Fully awesome!

Game 2 is quite different from the first – a lot more things happened. Charles gets an Angelic Accord into play, which I quickly dismiss with a Detention Sphere. I know it’s the only one in his deck and this card is one of his main win conditions. It definitely warranted a Detention Sphere. I now get to decide which one of my planeswalkers is going to eat a Hero’s Downfall . I know he has it or will have it and as such need to sort of ‘play around it’. I decide that Gideon will be the first to get hit, which he does, one turn later while trying to attack.

Charles gets an Obzedat in there, but for some weird reason forgets to exile it at end of turn (I think this is the misplay that began the streak of misplays he will later make later in the afternoon). I profit from his error by casting a Glare of Heresy on his stray Obzedat. Just or the record: Obzedat would never have attacked in the current board state. I had a Blind Obedience in play, but he would be re-entering the battlefield each upkeep and draining me for 2 life. This could have made me lose the game over a long period of time as I don’t really have much lifegain in this deck outside of Fiendslayer Paladin, a card that is sort of average versus this deck. Charles then plays a very odd card that is deceptively good: Akroan Horse.

akroan horse

It allowed the Greeks to beat the Trojans, so it can’t be that bad, right?

Sadly, this card is fairly good against me. He gets to amass a little army, chump block my attackers and get value by sac’ing his soldier tokens to Trading Post. tThis gets very annoying very quickly. I need to establish board presence without committing too many enchantments only to lose them to Merciless Eviction.

merciless eviction

Ack! the bane of Magic Spheres everywhere!

Charles eventually casts Merciless Eviction, taking out about 5 of my enchantments. I did however resolve a Sphinx’s Revelation in response, which netted me 8 cards (thanks Nykthos!). It was a minor setback and perhaps a more permanent one if only he played the little bit of tech that I spotted in other various trading post decks:

codex shredder

Note: this is not a joke. Please do not LOL!

Basically Codex Shredder is your 5-mana recurring Regrowth spell. It is recurred via Trading Post every other turn by making a Goat Token then sacrificing it or by simply sacrificing the Soldier tokens you get from Akroan Horse. It can allow you to repeatedly Merciless Eviction Enchantments, planeswalkers and sometime creatures. You probably never want to call artifacts though … I then re-spam a few more enchantments and am holding a Sphinx’s Revelation. I figure that I can probably stand to lose a few more then rebuild. A third Merciless Eviction might do me in though (he probably sided in the third one from his sideboard). Fortunately, I get Elspeth onto the battlefield. I do the usual +1 ability 3 times and get her to 7 loyalty. Charles is forced to cast a Merciless Eviction (losing his Akroan Horse in the process) but for creatures this time. He would later admit to me that he did not know it could hit planeswalkers. It does not take long for me to rebuild my army, -7 Elspeth and win.

Record: 4-1

Just before Round 6, pairings are posted, I walk up to Kyle who is playing Esper control and ask him if he will draw if we were paired against each other. He’s first in the rankings and I’m third. He already played against the second place guy, who is incidentally the BW aggro player against whom I lost earlier. He tells me that he’s not out to dream-crush anyone and would not mind drawing into Top 8.

Pairings!

round 6 banner

vs. Esper Control

I go sit at table #1 in front of Kyle, we shake hands and sign the Results slip. We wish each other good luck in the Top 8 and go around the room looking for trades. I more or less help a guy build a midrange BW deck, nothing great but it’s better than what he brought to the event. It’s also much easier to build these things with Wi-Fi access and Gatherer. I scout some of my potential Top 8 opponents.

I might end up meeting the RWB deck that I had beaten in round 2 or his opponent who is playing Gruul aggro (it’s a so-so matchup). Other possibilities include: Charles (WB Trading Post), his opponent (playing Azorius control), an Asian guy playing a ‘Dark Naya’ deck  or Chris playing GW aggro.

Record: 4-1-1 and

the 2013's playmat

Yep! Top 8

round 1 banner

vs. GW Aggro

I’m playing versus Chris, who snuck into the top 8 at 4-0-2 (he was 2-0-2 and almost eliminated a couple of rounds back). I saw his game versus Azorius Control and I was astounded by the speed with which he won his ‘win and in’ game. Some other guys wish him good luck versus my deck, indicating that the matchup is terrible for him. I would tend to agree that may be true for the main deck, but I am in trouble once he sides in his Rootborn Defenses and Glare of Heresy.

Game 1 is the habitual start of me getting pounded early on by Experiment Ones, Dryad Militants, Scavenging Oozes and Boon Satyrs.  I slowly stabilize with some Detention Spheres and a Sphere of Safety. I begin to Extort a little and spam Security Blockades to get a blocker in case my opponent ever gets to attack. I’m still not getting any win conditions and this allows my opponent to actually get some swings in. I’m at 8 life when I cast Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and +1 her for three consecutive turns. My opponent thinks hard, activates the -3 ability on Ajani, Caller of the Pride on a Boon Satyr and attacks. He says : “It’s good? Game 2?” to which I respond: “Prevent 1 damage with my land ?” (thanks to Security Blockade). His reaction is priceless as he scoops up his cards, realizing that he is very much dead on the back swing.

27

the amount of damage you deal with your Soldier Tokens after making 9 and going -7 on Elspeth

We get to Game 2 and I know what’s coming. I was not aware at this point that he is not playing Sundering Growth, but I know he is playing Glare of Heresy. I’m very scared of Advent of the Wurms and anything else that may have trample, such as a Monstrous Fleecemane Lion. Creatures flood the board early on and I am forced to keep mana up to futilely cast some Celestial Flares in order to stay alive. I catch a ‘lucky break’ when I get to play a Detention Sphere on a couple of Voice of Ressuregence, but it’s almost too late. I pray for a timely Supreme Verdict, draw and notice that the Theros Gods are not with me for this game.

advent of the wurm

The new Restoration Angel

I side in some Fiendslayer Paladins, hoping to get some way to contain the GW aggro. The paladin is not big enough most of the time, but the lifegain and ‘crowd control’ it can provide are decent. It keeps their Dryad Militants, Voice of Ressurgences and Boon Satyrs at bay. Other than that, it can provide me some sweet devotion. I also sided in some Negates in order to counter stuff like Rootborn Defenses, Advent of the Wurm and Boon Satyrs (only when Bestowed). I draw an OK opener, nothing to write home about but keepable nonetheless. Chris mulligans his hand though. His hand may have been sub-optimal plus he’s not the one who’s forced to survive the early game.

I had a couple of Detention Spheres in my opener and I can’t skip a turn to not cast it on something like a Loxodon Smiter. Of course it sucks that he casts a Loxodon Smiter on the following turn. Chris is no scrub though, he would have cast something else had I not Detention Sphere’d his pachyderm. He gets an End-of-turn Advent of the Wurm to connect the very turn I play a Sphere of Safety. I get hit a few times by the wurm tokens until I draw another Sphere of Safety. I calculated that he needed to pay 6 per creature to attack and he only has about 7 mana in play. I have another turn to spam more enchantments or draw a Supreme Verdict. Sadly, he casts a Boon Satyr in Bestow Mode on his Wurm token. It’s pretty much over at this point.

boon satyr

Ugh… I have a love/hate relationship with this card

Final Standing: 6th place

sphere of safety

Now that the surprise factor is gone, I’m not quite sure it’s safe anymore

The GW deck ends up winning the whole thing too, beating Charle’s BW Trading Post in the Semis and MonoRed in the Finals.

Not just yet …

I’ll be back to post Charle’s BW Trading Post deck with some random tech explanations (as best I can).