Feature Article – Shipping it in Dallas

A few weeks ago, the question on my mind was whether or not an esper version of CawBlade was better than a strict UW version. It’s pretty apparent now that I came to the wrong conclusion. It turns out that the sacrifice in mana consistency isn’t worth the benefits that black provides. CreepingTar Pit may be better than Celestial Colonnade, but I failed to realize that it isn’t better than Colonnade + Tectonic Edge in the same deck.

With that out of the way, I can move on to my preparations for Dallas. Besides CawBlade, I also considered a GW Fauna Shaman deck but was pretty quick to dismiss it because of its poor Valakut matchup and overall inconsistencies. It’s important to play a consistent deck in a big event (or any event) and Preordain plus Jace are just too much to pass up.

I tested and considered a few different things to improve CawBlade including:

Phyrexian Crusader

I think Phyrexian Crusader is considerably underrated. It’s hard to find a home for a card that seems so narrow, but besides being a great defensive creature against red and/or white decks, it’s pretty easy to kill with one. Brian Kibler’s infect deck enticed me to play more with it, but I ended up discounting the deck for lack of power (though I do like it). I still boarded the Crusader in the EsperBlade list I was testing and it proved better than Kor Firewalker at the very least.

Hero of Bladehold

For the ChannelFireball 5K, I played two copies of Linvala, Keeper of Silence, which filled a few different roles, one of which was holding back creatures with a Sword. Hero of Bladehold can do the same (albeit not against a Hawk) but can also threaten to take down a Gideon Jura. It represents 7 power by itself and a lot more as turns pass (plus Hawks). Unfortunately, it is weak to Tumble Magnet, Jace, and removal, which led me to postpone making use of it, but it is a big enough threat to keep in mind for later on. I’ll certainly be keeping a few on hand.

Into the Roil

Hailed as a “catch all,” Into the Roil can serve as a temporary answer to Planeswalkers in a format where removing one (without your own copy) can be difficult. I ended up boarding one for Dallas rather than maindecking it because I felt it wasn’t good for much outside of the mirror match (where it can also bounce Sword). For the future, I will probably be testing without it. If you ever find yourself in a weird situation with this, don’t forget that you can bounce your own Tumble Magnet!

Thada Adel, Acquisitor

Thada Adel was featured in my board until the day before Dallas. It served as a cheap threat that could steal opposing equipment and Tumble Magnets as well as a way to get through with a Sword and/or kill Jace. I really wanted it to be good but I eventually decided that it wasn’t what I was looking for. It doesn’t do anything special when on the draw (which is important) and it’s in obvious competition with Jace Beleren, which, on the other hand, is one of the better answers to Jace, the Mind Sculptor and has fantastic synergy with Sun Titan. Jace Beleren ended up in that slot.

Inkmoth Nexus

I abandoned the idea of Inkmoth Nexus pretty early because it seemed so pointless, but it actually has a lot of functions. Inkmoth by itself can be helpful in finishing off Planeswalkers or saving your own. Combined with a Sword, it acts as a Creeping Tar Pit against Jace or “free” Scepter of Fugue, not to mention that 3 infect damage is a very fast clock regardless of the fact that it doesn’t count toward regular damage.

Inkmoth Nexus was one reason that prompted me to also run Mortarpod in the maindeck, which allows you to hit 3 times with a Sworded Nexus and finish them off with the Mortarpod.


I’d never given much respect to Oust until Friday night when Gavin Verhey told me he couldn’t resist playing 4 somewhere in his list. I still wasn’t keen on playing it until finally Matt Nass convinced me about half an hour before the event.

As of now, I’m content with playing one copy maindeck because it’s a proactive removal spell (in comparison to Condemn and Day of Judgement) but it wasn’t as impressive as advertised against RUG. If you’re on the draw and they have a Lotus Cobra, then yes, it’s pretty useful. But if you’re on the play or they don’t have a Lotus Cobra then Day of Judgment (or Mortarpod if the former occurs) will suffice.

Finally, the list I settled on:


The list itself was great and I’ll play a near exact copy again soon, but the main event ended for me at 5-3. I can only blame bad luck for one of my losses and myself for the other two. If there’s any outside variable responsible for my mistakes (besides fatigue) it’s that I was playing too fast in order to avoid a draw, and was playing worse as a result. Playing a deck that takes a while to win makes drawing a risk factor, and a draw is basically equivalent to a loss (in most events, not just a GP).

On MTGO time constraints are a little different. You don’t have to spend time shuffling and sideboarding and you can make up for lost time later in the match if you need to (and there’s always F8). I think that if I want to improve I should be dismissing the clock until it starts to matter, but at the same time shuffle faster/less so that it is less likely to be an issue.
With my Day 1 coming to a close, I made arrangements for one last bout in Extended this season. UW Faeries (UW Stoneforge with Spellstutter Sprites and Vendilion Cliques) has been doing pretty well for the last two weeks so I was going to play that until half an hour before the event. I hadn’t played the deck at all, but I was pretty convinced that the “mirror match” is worse when you have Spellstutter Sprites instead of Squadron Hawks, so I went back to my original list but made room for a Vendilion Clique in the main and board.

I suffered a round 1 loss to a pretty good faeries player (my least favorite matchup) but managed a six win comeback that would allow me to draw into Top 8 had my breakers not been the worst, of course. Instead I would have to play against mono white control. I consider the matchup unloseable because of cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Cryptic Command.

It was a pretty brutal match. In game 1, I had an early lead but he managed a pair of Scepter of Dominances to hold off my two Swords. Unfortunately, for the remainder of the game I only drew lands and more Stoneforge Mystics, and eventually succumbed to Sun Titan. In game 2, I cast all my Hawks, got double Edged, and never played another land.
Quite the heartbreaker, but at least I still had all these MBS packs as prize, as well as some thoughts on the next Extended format (the white Tumble Magnet could prove to be an interesting player, albeit in a better deck).

Stories from Dallas

Still Had All These Clothes
Having arrived in Dallas a few hours after my group, my friend, Noah Koessel, still had his bag of clothes with him at the Convention Center. He offered me $5 to hold onto it and bring it to our hotel room when I left (2.5 miles away). I gladly accepted, being slightly broke and all, but Shahar “the rat” Shenhar, who overheard us, offered to do it for $4. I countered with $3 strictly so that Shahar wouldn’t be receiving any money in this transaction, but he had the trump — $2. I decided that I was okay with that, but Shahar wanted ultimate value, and said that I could carry the bag for $4 if I split the money with him. I accepted, intending to keep the $4.

While playing in the same grinder, Noah and Alex Bertoncini wanted to get a cube draft going. They both ended up on my team (which was good because Noah passed Mind Twist to Bertoncini). Bertoncini also had a lot of bags with him, having just come off an extended trip to various places, so I was responsible for watching all of them while they were off grinding and I was playing against durdles Ricky Sidher, Frankie Lunceford, and Shahar.

Bertoncini lost in round 2 of the grinder, which allowed us to finish most of the battling without Noah. I 3-0ed and also finished a match with Noah’s deck so that a group of us could leave to get food. We walked with Gavin Verhey, who was leading us to an Italian place called Uno (they had some amazing pizza). While eating, we tried to contact Noah to see how he was doing in the grinder. We assumed that his lack of response meant he had started round 4.

After eating, we walked back to our car and drove to our hotel. Noah called us to let us know that he had lost in round 4 and that his ride had also left him at the Convention Center. We made our way back to the Convention Center to pick him up, and upon arriving I realize that I hadn’t been in contact with Noah’s bag since we finished cubing. Sure enough, Noah doesn’t have it either. We drive back to the hotel while Noah laments his bad luck.

The next day, I take the opportunity to check at the judge’s station for lost luggage. There is only one bag there, of solid green, but I know that Noah’s is beige with green outlining, so he goes without a change of clothes for another day.
That night, while walking to our car, Noah surprises me by hitting me with his bag. It turns out that the solid green bag was, in fact, Noah’s bag.

Shahar and I (who ended up splitting $1 – $3) got to keep the money.

Still Had All These Packs

While awaiting the end of the last round in the PTQ, so that I could get my prize and go eat, Noah, being the nice guy that he is, offered free packs to his teammates, Ricky and Shahar, so that they could draft against Kyle Boggemes, Ari Lax, and Dan Jordan.

Kyle’s deck featured Venser, Hoard-Smelter Dragon, and Sword of Feast and Famine, Ari’s had Sword of Body and Mind and lots of removal, and Dan’s was a poison deck with Hand of the Praetors. Of the other 3 decks, Massacre Wurm from Shahar is the only thing worth mentioning. After objectively seeing all six decks, I told Noah’s team that they should just quit and go eat with me, but they wanted to battle it out.

I left them there to get slaughtered, picked up my packs, and went to eat with some friends. In the hallway just outside, one of my so-called friends made me an offer that I simply couldn’t refuse: he offered to throw my 12 MBS packs into the air and pay me $5 for each pack if the majority landed face-up or, conversely, get them all for free if the majority landed face-down.

There was definitely some value here. The average payout is $2.5 per pack, which is more than I could easily sell the packs for, and I wouldn’t mind getting rid of them swiftly.

He throws them into the air and they land abruptly. I start counting face-up packs, seven being the magic number.

Directly in front of me are four face-up packs with no face-down packs in sight, but it doesn’t take long for all the packs to be accounted for. Much to my dismay, the remainder of the packs landed face-down. But the weekend wasn’t a complete bust. Matt Nass at least paid for my meal on Saturday night (thanks again).

As for the result of Noah’s draft, Noah 0-2ed, Ricky managed an 0-3, and Shahar somehow 3-0ed.


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