The time came and I was ready to battle. I grabbed my deck and a traveler’s pillow for my epic journey to the Midwest Masters in Minneapolis. I should have known this trip was going to be a disaster when I realized I left my iPod at home, but I was too distracted with thoughts of winning and glory. We got onto the highway all right, but then we realized something very important: there was a quarter-inch of pure ice on the roads thanks to freezing rain.
That’s right, we were skating down the highway without any clear answer as to when we could even get off the road. At this time an idiot rolls past us going 75 miles and hour. One guy in our car said we were going to see him in a ditch a mile up, but before he finished talking, the white car spun out directly ahead of us. If it wasn’t for my roommate and savior Ryan already feathering the brakes to slow us down from 50 to 40 m.p.h., we would have been totaled. After that, we decided to pull over at the next exit.
We found a very nice diner to wait out the rain and head home since we would not get to the tournament until two hours after the first round. The trip wasn’t over, though, because a jackknifed semi half on the road brought traffic to a stop for another hour. I got home just in time to start watching coverage. It was a fun weekend. Props to Fargo’s own Dan Green for taking second place. He may not be able to hit a Blood Seeker trigger to save his life, but he can cascade himself to the finals of a tournament.
I was ready to gun some Standard, so I was pretty disappointed we didn’t make the tournament. MTGO was my competitive outlet once again; I decided to grind out 45 qualification points as fast as possible. I ran as many Standard and Block daily events as I could from Saturday to today.
I am not going to go into detail about this deck list, but since I did not get to sling it last weekend at the Midwest Masters, I don’t want it to go to waste.
I hope this list brings someone more happiness than it did me.
I was very pleased to get to take a swing at Block Constructed. Last week I talked about the format a bit and put up some of the more exciting lists on the format. Now I get to game them. I bought a few overpriced Jace, the Mind Sculptors and went to battle with UW Control. This lasted for all of fifteen minutes.
I don’t know if others playing the format know this, but that deck is not great. It has all of the pieces to make a powerful control deck, or so I thought. Even though the deck has a Wrath of God, a Signet, and a draw engine, it still is rather weak. The win conditions take forever to get online and the entire deck is weak to a man-land. Tectonic Edge is available, obviously, but that threatens to make your mana base rather weak. It was a train wreck.
Shortly after deciding UW Control was pretty terrible, I ran into Michael Jacob, who was also running the Block Dailies. We started talking about Block. He had an updated list of Valakut Ramp he was nice enough to share with me. I registered his 75 and went to battle. After two Daily Events I was 8-0 and had a new love. After a few more events I started to make a few changes to it, but 70-75 are still Michael’s original choices.
MJ’s Valakut Ramp
This has got to be the most fun I have had playing Magic in a while. This deck is explosive and powerful, but the most fun is the game you play post-sideboard in the mirror and against UW control. Michael did a lot of work to make the UW matchup a breeze. The numbers might seem a bit weird so I will go over them.
Oracle is the most powerful card in your main deck. The ability to play lands of the top of your library lets this deck do very explosive things. The problem with the card is having two is always terrible. It is just a wasted card when you have it. The other thing is that when you play it and play a land off the top, you have already gotten a ton of value out of the card. Now if your opponent wastes the turn killing the Oracle and not putting pressure on you, you get ahead in the game. Playing a second Oracle after that is a waste of time on your part more often than not.
I didn’t understand the importance of this card until my opponent played a Bloodghast and I had Sparky in my hand. Bloodghast is a real problem for this deck. It’s only bad matchup, after all, is Vampires. If it weren’t for the hasty 2/1, Vampires wouldn’t win a game against Valakut. Sparkmage is also really good against random Steppe Lynxes and shooting down 3/3s with the help of Punishing Fire.
These numbers are still being moved around, but the burn spells in the deck are very similar. The only problem is they all excel in different situations. When the metagame shifts, so does the burn package. Right now I think these are the correct numbers.
Expedition Map is a very weak card. It is slow and doesn’t usually do much for the deck. Because Valakut Ramp cannot afford to run many lands that make green mana, however, Expedition map not only fixes Forests, but can search up Valakuts as well. It might not be the best way to get them, but it is the best we have found so far.
Have you read this card? It is the best spell I have cast in a long time. The first time I saw this card I thought of it as a [card]Fireball[/card]. It certainly is not like its old ancestor burn spell. This card means business and can do unfair things.
The rest of the cards are pretty self-explanatory. Let’s get into the matchups:
Yes, this deck is still the most popular deck in the format. I still don’t understand how they could print a card like Gatekeeper of Malakir (I really really really hate this card!). You have your best shot in the first game. You barely board against them, but they don’t get to Mind Sludge you. The problem cards in game one are Bloodghast and Mire’s Toll. Any powerful draw will easily destroy them. A few Valakut triggers backed up by a few burn spells easily get the job done.
Some Vampire players don’t learn their lesson and take out most of their cheap removal since you don’t have many early creatures. They keep in 4 Gatekeepers and 2-3 Urge to Feed. If they draw one or two removal spells for your 1-2 creatures the games can be tough. If not, a single Sparkmage can take over the game. Don’t get too invested in trying to combo against them and just try to overload the board with man-lands and Rampaging Baloths. They will attack the hand a bit more, so getting caught in the middle of setting up a Valakut can make things very awkward.
The secret to this matchup is to understand that they will have a tough time killing you. Just like in Standard when I am playing Naya against it, I just try to deal damage when I can without overextending. If there is a spell you don’t want to get countered, just don’t cast it. It is as simple as that. They will tap out eventually and you can capitalize on this with a game-breaking spell. Some lists have [card]Tectonic Edge[/card]s and those are really good against you. Make sure to use your Maps to full value by only grabbing Ravines and Valakuts.
That’s right! I board in my entire sideboard in this matchup. Every card comes in and changes your game plan in this matchup. Oracle only gets better when you have 29 lands. It is also surprising how many control players get caught off guard by a Scute Mob. I have gotten a concession already with turn 1 Scute Mob, turn 2 Explore. They took out all of their removal and had no outs.
They will be more prepared to deal with a late game, bringing in Spreading Seas and a few more counterspells. That is the big reason to have a transformational sideboard. With them having more counterspells like Spell Pierce, your Harrows are worse. Once you take Harrow out of the equation both Expeditions get much worse. This is why all of the creatures in the sideboard get boarded in.
I know Hellkite Charger does not seem like a great creature for this matchup, but if all of their removal is sorcery speed, you have one hasty source of damage. This matchup is a joke after sideboard and until the UW players have a good answer to this strategy it will continue to be.
There is not much to say in the mirror. It comes down to seeing who can go off bigger and better then the opponent. You must deal with the opponent’s Oracle, but after that it’s simply whose draw is better.
Yes, the mirror is a 13-card sideboard. Why is there so many cards boarded in the non-Vampire matchups? Because you will play Vampires three times before anything else. And the sideboard against UW is just as powerful against the mirror. Again you take the responsibility of winning the game off of Valakut’s shoulders and let your six-drops get to work.
This is the matchup that Hellkite Charger truly shines. Setting up a lethal Charger can easily win games, and even though Comet Storm is able to take it down, your opponent has to dedicate his entire turn to dealing with the dragon. Just don’t get yourself caught with your hand in the cookie jar when he takes the dragon out after you invested 7 mana into a second combat phase.
Make sure you understand what your opponent can and cannot do during his turn. If you are positive he cannot have a game winning turn then don’t waste your time casting a Ruinblaster if you have more important things to accomplish.
There are two different styles of white weenie floating around right now, Kor and Allies. Both are very powerful and have similar strategies. The most devastating card out of each of them is Brave the Elements. They both are aggressive. One of the most important things to do in this match is try to keep your life total as high as possible – don’t sacrifice points when you don’t need to. They both lose a lot of steam after five or so turns and you will win the late game.
If both these decks did not have Brave the Elements, I would think about playing something as powerful as Chain Reaction. Because they do, however, it is important to deal with each creature as it presents itself. Sparkmage is very powerful in these matchups and will get you great value if it is in your opening hand. Just keep a high life total and play your ramp spells when you get time.
People aren’t playing many other decks right now. These are the big four right now and until someone breaks a new archetype, I don’t think much will change.
I’ll have a Daily event video up soon using Valakut. Until next week, good luck!
FFfreaK on MTGO