Since I got back from the latest Pro Tour, I have been fascinated with Standard. It’s new and fresh and I have been playing match after match with Boss Zoo. After playing so many matches with this deck I thought it would be a great idea to write about everything I know about the deck. But then The Boss himself told me he was going to write about it, so I decided I should just let the master take a crack at it.
I read some articles, including David Ochoa’s article from last week. In it, there was a small explanation of how his opponent got disqualified for bribery. This started a big uproar in the comments and gave me inspiration to write about some of the rules players need to know. I soon realized that I was not the man to write this type of article and scratched the idea. I did, however, write a small insert about my ideas on this subject and will share them at the end of the article.
All of this left me needing material for this week’s article. That’s when it dawned on me. With all the excitement about Standard, Extended, and Legacy floating around, I completely forgot about my favorite format: Block. I did some research andwas happy to learn it was vast and very developed even though it is an online-only format. That’s right: it’s time for another Block Primer.
I know most of you don’t care about Block because it cannot get you qualified for the Pro Tour, win you a piece of Star City Games’ $5,000, or help you become a Midwest Master. What Block does do, however, is give you a chance to break into Magic Online constructed on the cheap. I’ve said this before and many people have asked me about how to get into constructed without damaging the bank account. Block Constructed is the answer.
Before Worldwake, the only real decks in the format were Vampires and UW Control. These two decks dominated the format like no other. There were a few other decks in the environment but they couldn’t win as much as the two big decks. When I took a gander into what was doing well in block during the last week, I was shocked at how much this format has grown. There are many decks that are all going 3-1 or 4-0 in the Daily Events.
Let’s start with the most popular deck in the format. Even though [card]Vampire Nocturnus[/card] isn’t able to help his bloodthirsty clan, this deck does just fine without him. It is by far the most popular deck in the format and probably the most “deadly.”
The newest additions from Worldwake gave this deck a big boost in power level. Mire’s Toll is a really powerful spell that comes down on turn 4 with a Gatekeeper or Nighthawk. Being able to disrupt the most powerful spell in your opponents hand sometimes gives the impression that the deck just Mind Sludged for 1 mana. Both Smother and Urge to Feed provide the deck with the powerful, early-game removal it was lacking in the last set.
The most powerful thing about this deck is that Worldwake still did not give enough reliable answers to Malakir Bloodwitch. That card owns the skies and any White deck. This is the deck to play if you are just getting into the format and don’t know what to expect. For what Jund does to Standard, Vampires does to block.
Next up is the new and improved UW control deck. If you are casting Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Standard, you should really try him in Block. I don’t think Jace will be at full potential until cards like Bloodbraid Elf, Blightning, and Maelstrom Pulse are not in the environment. In Block, even though cards like Vampire Hexmage are ready to take him out at any given moment, there are not too many other cards raining on your parade.
UW Control plays like the Standard version except it doesn’t have to play by Standard’s rules. It also has a lot of room for development, which means the day could arrive soon that this deck will be ruling the format.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with this format I’ll explain some for odd cards in the deck. The first one is Rite of Replication. Even though this card is powerful, it still doesn’t seem worthy of a main-deck slot. The reason it sees so much play is that Vampires is a big part of the metagame. When you opponent taps out for his Bloodwitch, you show him your 9-mana game-ending burn spell and move on. This card is solely to point 25 points of burn at your opponents face.
This is the deck I’m mostly interested in battling with. It has all of toys I like playing with and you don’t even have to attack to win a game. The power of ramp in this set gives you a goldfish feel for the first couple turns. Once you hit critical mass most of your spells deal damage, your lands deal damage, and your opponents stop dealing damage. It such a great feeling when you cast Harrow with 4 Mountains and 2 Valakuts in play. You feel like its Christmas morning and there is a big box waiting for you under the tree.
Most lists have close to this main deck, but not the sideboard. This sideboard is really geared towards beating control decks, so there is only one card to bring in against Vampires. Playing the land destruction approach is a great strategy, but I have had some success with Oracle of Mul Daya and Seer’s Sundial against the control decks. A more reactive way to deal with opponents’ LD is to board Cobra Traps. They destroy a land on the third turn and you make four to eight snakes that bash him down with little to no resistance.
I would be wrong if I told you I thought this was going to be a deck. I forgot there were real Forests in Zendikar. I mean, I know there are because Valakut needs a few, but a deck based on Forests only was a shock. This does make sense, though, because all of the Green cards are really powerful and if a person is not prepared to take on the Green menace, they will get smashed.
I think this is a fun deck, but it doesn’t have the power level of the other decks in the format. Slingbow Trap is not a good removal spell to be running but it’s all this deck has. Add in a few removal spells and this deck is going to have a tough time winning any race. If it is allowed to do what its trying to do, Lotus Cobra and a friend will have a good time. I wouldn’t play this deck, but I see a lot of people running it so it can’t be that bad.
This is more my style. Ever since Zendikar came out I have been bringing my [card]Steppe Lynx[/card]es and [card]Plated Geopede[/card]s to battle. This isn’t an everyday Boros deck – more like barely Boros. Instead of splashing Path and Ajani Vengeant, it’s splashing [card]Steppe Lynx[/card]. I won’t say it is wrong but it is definitely interesting.
The power of this deck is unquestionable. Any draw that starts with both Landfall creatures and ends with a few more fetchlands will seal the deal. The only problem I have with this deck list is the amount of land it is running and how awkward some of the spells in it can be. I don’t know if I would play this list because its Plan B is a bit harder to win with, but if I did go this route, this is what I would probably use:
I think the Stoneforge Mystic package is great in this deck. It gives you more lategame presence and Kor Duelist is no chump when he has his Adventuring Gear on. I don’t know which version is better, but my list didn’t 4-0 a Daily and one of the others did.
ALLIES ON THE AGGRESSIVE
You might think that this decklist is a joke. Can there really be a mono-colored ally deck? Well, when you add two of the most powerful creatures the format has to offer to fight alongside them, then yes. This deck has very powerful, evasion-filled draws that allow you to ignore what your opponent is doing when you attack with your Protection/Lifelink creatures. I have been in a few matches with this deck and have seen its power draw do very unfair things.
The deck is very simple and simple to disrupt. When you get your aggressive draw against this deck, you may think you’re doing well”¦ until they attack you for 7 to 10 Lifelink damage and completely swing the game in their favor. Talus Paladin reminds me a lot of what a surprise Battlegrace Angel was like in last year’s Block format. I was used to the Angel, but not yet prepared for this deck’s explosive life swings.
Probably the most boring deck in the format, but don’t be fooled. In San Diego a White Weenie deck with Trusty Machete made Top 8. THIS DECK HAS THREE!
Seriously though, this deck has very powerful draws and very few mana issues. Being able to cast Devout Lightcaster out of the sideboard is an advantage over playing the Boros version of this deck, but it has a tough time beating a Cunning Sparkmage.
Tectonic Edge should replace Dread Statuary if UW Control gets bigger, but until you stop seeing Vampires rounds 1, 2, 3, and 4, I would keep the man-land. I don’t understand the Conqueror’s Pledge in the sideboard, but when it’s time to “getcha” it’s time to “getcha.”
RED DECK WINS
I will not try to defend this deck list. I don’t understand it, but I saw it 3-1 or better about four Daily Events in a row, so I thought it was worth putting up. The numbers seem weird and some of the spells seem out of place, but if the same person keeps winning with it, he must know something I don’t.
This was the most interesting list of the deck I could find and boy is it ever. So many random one, two, and three-ofs in the deck make it hard to break down. I don’t know why he has Inferno Trap with all the other spot removal, but he must have been having troubles with the White-based aggressive decks. I”¦ don’t know.
So that’s the Block Gauntlet being played in the last week of Magic Online. It’s a fun format that is getting bigger and bigger as the weeks roll on. If you’re qualified for Pro Tour San Juan, it’s a good idea to begin learning the format now, even though Rise of the Eldrazi will be out before we head to Puerto Rico. There is still a ton of information people will have to learn before then.
Pro Tour Honolulu was my first Pro Tour and I credit my success of that event to playing so much Block before Alara Reborn came out. Even though new cards are going toenter the format, there is already so much to learn. Good luck to everyone to gives this format a chance!
Before I go I do want to add in the piece I was working on before about the David Ochoa fiasco. This is something I started writing before I decided to talk about Block. Even though it is a whole other topic and different piece I was working on, it is still something I want everyone to read and understand.
An Article Inside an Article!
There comes a day in every Magic player’s career when they go deeper in a tournament then they have ever before and are out of their element. Nervous energy rushes through their body and the excitement of achieving more than they ever have in the past keeps them pumped up. They are ready to play the biggest match they’ve ever played. They are ready to make their first Top 8 of a Pro Tour, Pro Tour Qualifier, 5k, or Grand Prix.
They are ready to fill out their first disqualification form?
I’ve learned many lessons after playing Magic for half a decade, the most important of which is how to stay out of trouble. I have never played kitchen table Magic, having grown up with the tournament structure. I spent a lot of time reading all the rules Magic has to offer and this is something most people haven’t. Knowing how to stop yourself from getting into trouble is as important as knowing how to play this game.
Last week David Ochoa wrote about Round 7 of the 3k Draft:
“I knew that some people had dropped in the early rounds at X-1. That gave me a glimmer of hope that the number of X-1 people would be able to accommodate a draw in round seven. When the standings were put up, I found that to not be the case. Pairings went up and I went to my match. I had been paired up against the only 6-0. I asked if he wanted to concede after explaining to him that he was a lock for top even with a loss. He said that he wouldn’t concede for free, but would if I gave him 25% of what I won. Sirens went off in my head. I had to unfortunately call a judge because my opponent tried to bribe me.
I wasn’t happy about calling a judge because I wanted to battle; my deck was good. However, it was the right thing to do and I had to protect myself. I couldn’t carry on the conversation that my opponent had been trying to have with me any further. I would rather have had the situation not happen at all, but it did. We got split up and interviewed. My opponent got disqualified. This wasn’t the way I wanted to make top 8, but it’s what I was dealt.”
The article received a ton of comments, both positive and negative. But there was one thing in common with all of them: people didn’t really know the rules. They talked about a lot of speculative things regarding how he could have handled the situation. He could have pretended it was a joke and moved on. What David did was the best thing he could do: remove himself from the situation and protect his tournament life.
The Tournament Rules cover this exact situation:
5.2 The decision to drop, concede, or agree to an intentional draw cannot be made in exchange for or influenced by the offer of any reward or incentive. Making such an offer is prohibited. Unless the player receiving such an offer calls for a judge immediately, both players will be penalized in the same manner.
If David did not call a judge immediately, he would be jeopardizing his tournament life. If he said no, started shuffling and the neighboring table called a judge, he could have been disqualified as well (read that last line from the rules one more time).
Now this whole situation started with David asking for a concession. He knew his opponent was already in Top 8 and could help David get into the Top 8 as well. David did not offer anything but was simply asking for a favor. Does this mean it is his fault? No. David was doing something that is legal that is done at almost every event.
Even though many players think they understand these rules and abide by them, circumstances change when the excitement of getting something for nothing becomes apparent. Be patient and don’t get greedy if you find yourself in this situation or you might be watching “your” Top 8 from the sidelines.
One final thing before I go. Last week I put up my first strategy video and the comments were very helpful. Some were good, some were bad, but the one thing I did learn is people love them. I will be doing more videos in the near future and hopefully once I figure all the technology out I will have a new video every week.
This weekend I will compete to become a Midwest Master in Minneapolis, Minnesota at Misty Mountain games on Saturday. They are holding a great tournament with a lot of cash and prizes for the Top 16. GGslive will be there to report all of the excitement and if I don’t do to well in the main event, you will probably find me talking it up with them in the booth. If you are attending feel free to come say hi. I always love hearing back from readers in person”¦ just don’t beat me! Until next week!
FFfreaK on MTGO