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FFfreaky Friday – Caw-Go! at Worlds

I am writing this article from my hotel room in Japan only two days before the event. This is my first time in Japan and long story short, it’s weird here. I don’t really know what I am ordering when I go out to eat, and then I have no clue what I am eating once I get it. The best part about this trip is the time change works perfectly for me since it’s exactly the same sleep schedule I have back home.

Well, I know you are reading this after day one of the competition is already complete. Let’s just pretend this is not the case. That way I can talk about the Standard deck choice I made and you wouldn’t already know if I was a genius or an idiot for picking it to play. I know most of you want me to talk about Extended but I still need to test that format and really don’t have a clue what I am going to do for it. So let’s talk Standard.

The last two weeks I have been testing and talking with pretty much every level 7 or higher American mage. It has been a great way to help understand the format. I was thinking about playing RUG last week. It seemed like the deck to play since I knew it the most and I was beating people in tournaments like the Superstars 1k and Magic Online 8-mans. The problem was that I couldn’t beat players from Team Channelfireball with it all that much.

Vampires was also a very bad matchup since their spells are so cheap and can gain too much tempo for the deck to come back from. This is when I picked up the team deck which was UB control. This was the list:

UB Control

I started testing this deck the day before we left for Japan. This would mean most of the testing before my flight would have to be on Magic Online. Good thing I was with the two biggest Magic Online ringers in the game, Michael Jacob and Ben Stark. We were all battling on different accounts and Josh Utter-Leyton’s house trying to get a feel for this format.

I got tricked into joining an 8-4 draft while my brother and Ben were playing Constructed. They told me they would both be in the draft so I joined it and went to the bathroom. When I came back I was 30 seconds into my first pick, which was Hoard-Smelter Dragon, and both of them were in a Standard 8-man. It was a beating. The best thing happened while I was drafting the sickest WR metalcraft deck of all-time. Ben Stark played against .Archer. This was the infamous Akira Asahara. He is not only one of the best Japanese players, but he is in the Magic Online Championship tournament as well. Akira beat Ben Stark playing a UW control deck with Squadron Hawks. This was very interesting to me.

I told Ben to ask him for the list and all Ben did was joke that Akira would not give away a decklist a few days before Worlds. I asked Akira for the decklist and he gave it to me. “Must be nice to be Brad Nelson,” Ben immediately shouted. It is!

I had to get the deck Americanized and quickly took out all of the random one-ofs that made no sense to me. After a few 100 games of testing, this deck became the one I am battling with at Worlds. Well, I think I will be. This is my up-to-date list. No need talking about how I changed random cards and just get to the meat and potatoes….mmm potatoes. I give you…

CAW GO!!!!!

Yes, this might be the best name for a deck in years. We have Brian Kibler to thank for this one. I just hope the deck is as good as the name.

Caw-Go!

 

So lets first talk about some of the random numbers/cards.

 

4 Squadron Hawk 

So this is the card that makes this deck different from the other UW control decks. Squadron Hawk seems weak at first glance. It is taking up the slot that most decks play Everflowing Chalice or Wall of Omens. What makes this card so good?

The biggest reason this card is good is how well it works with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I don’t really know where to begin. It helps give you some early bodies to help protect the Jace when you cast it. That is the biggest thing. Being able to untap with your first Jace can be game over. The other thing is once you have the Jace in play, you can Brainstorm and then have a very easy shuffle effect by simply casting another Squadron Hawk. This makes digging for cards so much easier.

The next big thing is that this card loves killing opposing Jace, the Mind Sculptors. A couple of Hawks might not put much pressure on a player in the early turns, but will definitely threaten a planeswalker’s existence very quickly. It is very hard to keep a Jace on the board when the other player has a few Hawks on the board. Let alone counter back up after a few turns as well.

Squadron Hawk has swung the U/X matchup considerably in my favor. These are easily my best matchups. When I take into consideration that I think the best players in the world will be playing these decks, it gives me a real good feeling about this deck choice.

The Hawks also help out against creature matchups. Just having a stream of early bodies can really threaten some of the vampires and white aggro creatures roaming the battleground. Not like these guys will take out a team of critters, but they will do a good job at getting in the way to help the deck get to the later turns of the game. It is a ton of card advantage to have four cards for the price of one, and to have it pad the life total.

Hawk is not the best against Valakut, but I have easily killed some players with them by just casting them early and dealing with their boom booms with countermagic. It doesn’t take too many turns for a mage to die by Bird.

4 Spell Pierce and why I cut down to 2 Mana Leak

This card choice and number is the one I have been explaining to my teammates all day. I don’t get why it is a weird number, but it seems to be to everyone else. There are many reasons for this card choice. The first reason is that Mana Leak is not that great right now against aggressive decks. Vampires has a card that can not be countered all that well (Bloodghast) and most of their spells that need to resolve will given enough time. It is not like a control player can hold countermagic for the entire game. They will have to tap out eventually. This means that Mana Leak is primarily for slower decks like control and Valakut Ramp. Spell Pierce is just better in those matchups. It is cheaper and can get unsuspecting opponents.

The other reason for this card is how this deck taps its mana. Squadron Hawk is very good against other control players, and playing two Hawks by turn three happens a decent amount of the time. This means that you will tend to have one land untapped on turn three. This is the play that gives the deck its name. It is not a Draw Go deck, it’s a Caw Go kind of deck. This play sets up some very devastating turn threes. Your opponent will use this opportunity to Harrow or Jace, the Mind Sculptor into a counterspell and allowing you to easily tap out next turn for a Jace.

This card also helps you beat Summoning Trap and the early acceleration that Valakut has. Beating Valakut in the early turns can be very important. It is possible to beat them by countering there turn 2 spell and casting Spreading Seas on their Forest. The deck doesn’t run that many of them to begin with.

2 Stoic Rebuttal

1 Deprive

Stoic Rebuttal is just another hard counter. It isn’t that amazing, but it does do its job. It doesn’t do it that well, but it does do it. Deprive is a much better card, but it is hard to win a game where you draw two of them in the same game. That is why I picked these numbers.

The best part about Deprive is that it sets up so many big blowouts. People will be playing around Mana Leak. Not many people play fewer than four of them. This means that I can get a big swing in the game when they think the two mana open is representing a Mana Leak. It also helps get back a [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] when it is been hit by Spreading Seas.

These cards help out the most against Valakut. That deck is very hard to deal with if your strategies are not strong. You either have to go over or under them. Since this deck can not beat them faster then they can play their spells, you have to weather the storm and counter some big spells. I know three counters in the maindeck are not a ton, but it should be enough when you are digging with Preordains and Jace, the Mind Sculptors.

0 Sun Titan, Frost Titan, Baneslayer Angel, Morphling, Flickering Spirit

Most UW decks these days have at least a few creatures that get business done. I don’t think this is necessary. Gideon Jura and Celestial Colonnade do a very good job at finishing an opponent. They also do not die to Day of Judgment. This makes it very easy for the deck to be able to switch gears all of a sudden and take the aggressive role before the opponent is able to recover and get back the footing they have lost. The big threats are not that flexible and can cost the UW player games because of this. There are just too many big guys out there that can come over the top of these guys.

Matchups

Valakut

Valakut is probably going to be the most popular deck going into worlds. Vampires might take this over but I would put my money on (Wescoe check!) Valakut taking the crown. I thought this would be a very tough matchup but it is not that bad. This deck has more counters than most decks in the format and very quick ones at that. It also can counter spells until it is time to kill them in multiple ways. The easiest way to finish the game is with Gideon Jura and Colonnade. These cards are a two turn clock when working together and can easily finish off a game in short order. The other way is with big Jace.

Valakut is very weak to Jace’s +2 ability since it doesn’t run that many threats. This means that once you know the Valakut player is out of gas, you can just start manipulating his top card and attacking with whatever you have that can get into the red zone. If there isn’t anything that can attack, the clock is about 6-7 turns before they have a very small library.

Sideboarding

OUT:

4 Squadron Hawk

2 Condemn

2 Journey to Nowhere

 

IN:

2 Flashfreeze

1 Day of Judgment

1 Tectonic Edge

3 Spreading Seas

1 Negate

 

Negate is the most awkward card to come in, but it does help against the fight for ramp and traps. The plan in game two is to counter pretty much everything and Day of Judgment away Gaea’s Revenge whenever they find there way to the field. [card]Spreading Seas[/card] can steal some games by either stopping the namesake card or them from casting green spells.

Game two plays the same way game one does but our deck gets much better where Valakut does not improve as much. They just have a very tough time dealing with the fact that 1/5 card in our deck counters there limited amount of spells.

BR Vampires

This is a very rough game one. Every single counter in our maindeck is a blank against this deck. This means that there are 9 cards that rarely do anything. It is very hard to beat them if too many of these cards are drawn. It is not impossible to win this game one however, since I beat Eric Froehlich 4 times in a row when everyone else couldn’t win a game. The run good seem to continue.

Sideboard

OUT:

4 Spell Pierce

2 Mana Leak

2 Stoic Rebuttal

1 Deprive

 

IN:

2 Spreading Seas

3 Celestial Purge

1 Day of Judgment

2 Condemn

1 Journey to Nowhere

 

This matchup gets much better post board. The deck now has thirteen blue cards that draw into a bunch of white cards that kill things. It is simple, but it still gets the job done. Vampires does not have many cards that can deal with all of their early guys going to the bin/bottom of library/exiled from the game.

This is not the way I would like most matchups to go but it is how it has to be. Bad game one with a great game two. This usually means it’s a close match but I think I can get there at least a few times when I play this deck at Worlds.

UW/UB Control

I talked about how to play this matchup when I was talking about Squadron Hawks and Spell Pierces before. This is how I sideboard the matchups.

UW

OUT:

3 Day of Jugment

2 Journey to Nowhere

1 Gideon Jura

 

IN:

1 Tectonic Edge

3 Spreading Seas

2 Negate

 

UB

OUT:

2 Journey to Nowhere

2 Condemn

1 Day of Judgment

1 Gideon Jura

 

IN:

1 Tectonic Edge

3 Spreading Seas

2 Negate

 

Day of Judgment is needed in order to deal with Grave Titan. Since UW has more powerful ways to attack with non creature spells, I keep in the Condemns.

RUG

This is the worst matchup for the deck. It is very hard to beat the early green creatures this deck is able to play. It is also a tough matchup since their Jace, the Mind Sculptors are much more powerful then ours since they can turn three them much more often. They also have the ability to counter our spells with Mana Leak more efficiently then we can Spell Pierce theirs. On top of that, they have Raging Ravine to put us on a very fast clock.

OUT:

4 Squadron Hawk

2 Condemn

 

IN:

1 Journey to Nowhere

3 Spreading Seas

1 Tectonic Edge

1 Flashfreeze

 

This is not the best sideboarding plan but since there is so many decks in the format I have to give up on one of them. I also think that RUG will be one of the least popular decks in the tournament. It is not that good in our testing and is usually not one of the most popular decks that people play with. There is always a gamble when you choose a deck and this is mine.

Quest

This has been a very good matchup. They will often get the Quest to trigger but since this deck is filled with ways to get guys off the table, it isn’t a problem until they hit 6 lands. By then I will often have enough ways to keep them from attacking.

OUT:

4 Spell Pierce 

IN:

1 Day of Judgment

2 Condemn

1 Journey to Nowhere

 

There aren’t enough cards in the sideboard to get out more cards, but this is a very easy matchup so one to two bad cards doesn’t hurt too much.

Well I have to go for now, but I will see you guys next week.

Discussion

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