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Rule of Law – Breaking Good

In the recent SCG Open LA I started 7-1 with GW in Standard, couldn’t draw in the final round, and lost in a match featured on ggslive. The next day I would start 6-1 in legacy with Elves and again lose the last round on ggslive. Fun stuff.

Before I would have the chance to watch the rug pulled from under me (twice), I first had to figure out what Standard deck to play. I had played caw-blade (UW) in the previous 2k I attended a few weeks ago, but I didn’t want to just show up and grind away with the “best deck.” At least not if I could brew up or locate a viable alternative.

I began my mental search by thinking “when I was playing Caw-Blade, what decks or cards gave me the most trouble?” I thought about Vengevine. Whether you play Day of Judgment, spot removal, or Tumble Magnet, Vengevine is really annoying. The next annoying card to come to mind was Lotus Cobra. RUG without Lotus Cobra is nothing special against Caw-Blade, but when they draw the Cobra, things can get really ugly really fast.

Why wasn’t anyone playing Lotus Cobra and Vengevine in the same deck? I don’t know, but I set out to change it.

Here’s my initial list that I played at the Open without having tested a single game (brewed up and tweaked with Thursday and Friday before the Saturday event).

Strengths and Weaknesses

The deck is very explosive and resilient, which is what you want your aggro decks to be. We have so many good 2 drops that the beginning of the game is consistently really productive for us. The end game is nice too, as Vengevine, Fauna Shaman, and all the fatties, in addition to Squadron Hawks, will keep up busy applying pressure. The strengths are what they are, just look at all the threats we present. Wherever the opponent threatens Cunning Sparkmage, Linvala tends to be awesome, so sometimes that perceived weakness turns into a strength as you blank their entire board while they wait to draw one of their 2 Gideons.

The weaknesses are unfortunately also many. There is a tradeoff to packing all threats; you have very few answers.
If an opponent casts the card Inferno Titan, which has been gaining in popularity, the game is often over right then and there. The same is true of Primeval Titan. The deck is also very vulnerable to Pyroclasm and Slagstorm.

Based on the previous 3 sentences, can you guess how our Valakut matchup is?

Just like if you play RUG, Valakut is a nightmare, so you have to hope Caw-Blade decks knock out the Valakut decks. Caw-Blade is “Rock” in this format, I’ve build a “Paper,” and Valakut is “Scissors.” That analogy is rarely this accurate.
Other weaknesses the deck has are other large annoying threats like Baneslayer and Gideon. Our own Gideon answers both, and I have considered moving up to 4 Gideons in the 75. Without our own Gideon things can turn sour. Sun Titan is slightly more annoying than Baneslayer, since it brings back a Hawk to block (which is like gaining life) and Gideon can never kill it.

Tips and Tricks

Regarding sideboarding, I’ve found that boarding out the equipment package vs Caw-Blade is effective. They often bring in Diving Offering, which you can turn into a dead card, but more importantly, the equipment just isn’t your best use of mana. Hawks are ready to chump block, Tumble Magnets are ready to tap, and Condemn is ready to get boarded in. Just playing more threats is more effective than equipping the first threat after boarding.

Don’t be afraid to sideboard out what seem like “key” components of the deck. Against Red mages, I board out Fauna Shaman. It just doesn’t live very often, and when it does, will it perform better than a mana creature like Lotus Cobra or Birds of Paradise? Probably not, since accelerating into more things helps keep pace with an aggro deck (and because if they didn’t kill it, that means their draw is probably threat heavy and removal light, something like a bunch of Lynxes or Goblin Guides. This means spending G to find a creature isn’t as effective as playing a big bomb faster or multiple blockers).

Boarding out the Birds or Cobras can be correct where you suspect the opponent will be casting board sweepers like Pyroclasm or Slagstorm or Day of Judgment. You have to visualize how the games will likely play out, and be cognizant of whether you are on the play or the draw. Sometimes on the play you hope to just be faster than Day of Judgment and stick a Gideon or some Vengevines, so Birds of Paradise might be very effective.

Bonehoard. People misplay this one all the time. It isn’t essential that you get use out of the Germ part of the card. I see people not casting or not Mystic’ing this into play because there aren’t yet any creatures in the graveyards. It is often correct to just put it out (instead of, say, another Hawk or two) so that when that Day of Judgment or Arc Trail does emerge, or the opponent just trades 2 Hawks for your Hawks, you can get a creature equipped and huge for just 2 mana rather than 6. Having a 4 mana 4/4 just isn’t as impressive as playing a Hawk and equipping it to 5/5 flying, so why are you sandbagging the Bonehoard?

Where are the Birds?

Why only 3 Birds of Paradise? I cut the 4th BoP for a 25th land because I didn’t want too many mana sources to be vulnerable to sweepers and other removal. In deck construction there are many ways speed and resiliency must be balanced, and this is a perfect example really.

If you do get paired against Valakut, try to Fauna Shaman for Mirran Crusader and put an equipment on it (Body and Mind is typically the best). It may be your best chance.

The Emeria Angels are for control decks, not Red decks. Linvala is actually better against Red due to 4 toughness. On turn 4, Angel just gets Bolted while Linvala is often quite annoying for the opponent. Also, Sparkmage is always a possibility for a red opponent. Just trust me and stay away from Emeria Angel. The card is awesome against control though, as no number of Tumble Magnets or Jaces or Squadron Hawks will keep it from winning the game over time.

Improvements Going Forward

The first thing I would change is a change that I thought of before the tournament started but I simply forgot to do it. I wanted to add an Admonition Angel to the sideboard, but I looked through my box and I don’t own one. I got to the site and forgot to buy one. This shouldn’t happen. I should have just proxied one in the board so that I didn’t forget. In any event, the card is good because a) it trumps Baneslayer or Gideon or Sun Titan, and b) if the opponent is threatening Day of Judgment, you can hide other threats under the Admonition Angel so when they wrath the hidden away threats come back. This matters more than you think because you’ll get to board states where you’re way ahead…but a Day of Judgment can eliminate much of that lead you’ve built up.

Another possibility for the sideboard is 1 Swamp and some Doom Blades and/or Memoricides. The fetches I played (4 Catacomb and 4 [card]Marsh Flats[/card]) reflect the fact that I was considering a black splash in the board. The [card]Doom Blade[/card]s are a great answer to [card]Inferno Titan[/card] or [card]Primeval Titan[/card], and they also kill [card]Lotus Cobra[/card], Linvala, etc. etc. Memoricide is probably too narrow to make the cut. I’m still a fan of “fingers crossed” hope I don’t play against Scissors. Even the [card]Doom Blade[/card]s don’t quite seem worth it to me. If we can get another [card]Mortarpod[/card] or two to keep [card]Lotus Cobra[/card]s dead, then against RUG we don’t need to worry about Inferno Titan quite as much.

[card]Mortarpod[/card] was excellent, as I suspected it would be (the card is chronically underplayed right now). [card]Sylvok Lifestaff[/card] was unimpressive and unnecessary, so perhaps 3 [card]Mortarpod[/card] is better. If we play [card]Doom Blade[/card], however, there won’t be room. If we don’t play Doom Blade, this will do a great job killing Cobras, Sparkmages, [card]Steppe Lynx[/card]es, [card]Necropede[/card]s, and Hawks (Boros’ hawks, not UW’s hawks, since we won’t board it in vs. Caw Blade).

I’m reluctant to mess with the Sanctifier and Corrupter numbers. Against Caw Blade and Boros it is so good to just not have to worry about their Equipment or their Journeys or their Tumble Magnets, and the rounds you get paired against Tezz or Infect, you’ll smile as you reach for your sideboard.

In the maindeck, the 1 [card]Sunpetal Grove[/card] needs to be a 3rd [card]Stirring Wildwood[/card]. The manlands are a bit more useful than I anticipated.

Here’s how I might construct the deck for a tournament this weekend.

[deck]1 Bonehoard
1 Sword of Body and Mind
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Baneslayer Angel
3 Birds of Paradise
4 Fauna Shaman
1 Kor Sanctifiers
4 Lotus Cobra
1 Mirran Crusader
4 Squadron Hawk
3 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Sun Titan
1 Sylvan Ranger
4 Vengevine
1 Viridian Corrupter
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
2 Gideon Jura
5 Forest
4 Plains
4 Marsh Flats
1 Misty Rainforest
4 Razorverge Thicket
3 Stirring Wildwood
4 Verdant Catacombs
Sideboard
3 Mortarpod
1 Admonition Angel
3 Emeria Angel
3 Kor Firewalker
2 Kor Sanctifiers
1 Viridian Corrupter
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Gideon Jura[/deck]

17 thoughts on “Rule of Law – Breaking Good”

  1. with sun titan added what about sylvok replica instaed of kor sanctifiers?

    Ive been playing a deck with the black splashed for a while now (for inquisition, doom blade, memoricide in the board with occasional phyrexian crusader). Turn 3 gideon or baneslayer is literally unstoppable for 1/2 the format right now and post board with memoricide and the duress/inquisition against valakut i could see that being a winnable matchup also.

    is the equipment package correct? sword of feast or famine seems lackluster in these types of decks.

  2. I am wondering why you excluded the Green Sun Zeniths? In my experience the deck runs far more consistent if you can tutor up the shaman on turn 2, with help from the BoP. And with that in mind Acidic Slime while a little slower, does what Corrupter and Sanctifier at once.

  3. I posted a comment a few minutes ago, but it doesn’t show. When I try to repost it, it says “Duplicated comment detected”. Is there some kind of limitation to what you can comment or something else I don’t know about?

  4. What do you think of about steppe lynx against valukut?
    -1 corrupter
    -3 birds of paradise
    -1 sylvan ranger

    +4 steppe lynx
    +1 evolving wilds

    Pros:
    Lowers your curve, allows you to take out do nothings against them. If they want to bolt it, it frees up fauna shaman or a mirran crusader. Puts a signifcantly faster clock on them. And your already running 8 fetches.

    You put a lot of emphasize on gideon being extremly important against decks with baneslayers and there own gideons. Maybe explore could be the right card here, It will accelerate you into your own gideon without making your mana dorks vulnerable to doj.

  5. ofDeath says: April 4, 2011 @ 3:39 am

    @Wou t=computer says no.

    –> I don’t understand this post at all. What are you trying to say?

  6. Possible directions could be:

    1) Just add 4 mana leak in the main, and some unified wills and Flashfreezes to the board, and keep the rest of the deck intact.

    2) Add 4 hedron crab, maybe some enclave cryptologists and maybe some mana leaks to go the “Dredgevine” route. (I did not make this up myself, there’s a deck out there that did decent in Barcelona I believe, so credits go there)

    3) Go more like Next Level Bant last season by adding Jace TMS to the mix. This way you could play some of the best cards in the format: BOP, Cobra, and Fauna shaman + Vengevine from green; hawks, Mystics and Gideons from white; Jace TMS, Mana Leak, and maybe preordain from blue.

    As for myself, I’ve been testing with both of the latter (2 and 3), and being impressed: you basically have all of the offensive power of GW, but once you have one or two threats out you can stop committing threats to the board and hold up mana leak.

    What do you think? Is adding blue worth it? or does it take too much away from redundancy/consistency?

    Thanks beforehand for you reply.

  7. p.s. like I said earlier, something went wrong with my posting. This part should have been before my last post:

    I also often have issues with having no answers when playing a midrange-like deck like this. What do you think about adding blue for mana leak, or if you really feel like getting cute: unified will?

  8. Justin Richardson

    a little off topic, but do you have any changes you would make to your elves deck, ive been looking to start playing it and every list i see seems pretty radically different

  9. @pekka:

    thanks for telling me, now OfDeath’s comment makes sense 😀

    I’m curious if the author will join the discussion at all, answering our questions and stuff…

    Would be nice!

  10. Wout: You may want to look at matt nass’ most recent article: brewing bant in standard. Seems to take a similar line to what you suggest.

    I play bant, but I’ve taken spreading seas and frost titan to attack valakut with, rather than counterspells. You tap out too much in this deck imo.

  11. @wout: depending on how busy he is you might get some short responses in a day or two, I wouldn’t count on it though.

    Generally speaking the deck list looks good to me, I don’t think adding another color is going to be worth the mana base problems it would cause. This deck needs to curve out perfectly as much as possible to win consistently, so the B-removal,U-counterspell/Jace plans are hard to make go. Matt Nass did have a Bant midrange build that looks somewhat like you are suggesting, but I don’t think it went to far.

    I think this deck could benefit from Hero of Bladehold. If you can stick one of these turn 3 backed up by some other attackers, its insane. 2 hero of bladeholds attacking is exactly 20 damage. Hard for Valakut to deal with all the little fires that pop up. If they dont kill the hero, it brings new soldiers every turn.

  12. Green Sun Zenith is an interesting idea, and I could see playing a couple. I think as UB is now played again, spell pierce will be coming back into style, so do look out for that.

    Re: elves, add 2-3 quirion ranger to the maindeck and sideboard buried alive and vengevine instead of natural order would improve my scg t16 list.

    re steppe lynx, ive considered it, but we really aren’t that well suited to try to purely race someone, we usually play a more midrange game. Its absolutely something worth trying though, so give it a spin and find out how it does. I don’t think it swings the Valakut matchup though. Still tough to race, still can’t beat a titan, still blown out by slagstorm and clasm

  13. I heartily agree with Emeria Angel. I’ve been talking about it for weeks, and I run a tutorable one main deck and 2 more in the board for Caw-blade. I find it’s great against some of the midrange aggro decks like Vampires and Elves as well, since you blank a lot of their swings with it. At one point, I was combining main-board angels with Elspeth but it was too cute.

    Matt Nass built a similar list a while back, but he added blue for the Valakut matchup, and it seemed to be a house.

    Dropping, say, most of the misers; Linvala, Mirran Crusader, Viridian Corrupter, Sword of Feast and Famine, Sylvan Ranger, Kor Sanctifiers, all 3 BoP’s, and a Baneslayer….

    Gives you room for: 4 Mana Leak, 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, 4 Preordain

    In the sideboard, you can slam in 4 Flashfreeze and 1-2 Volition Reins. Not only does it shore up the valakut/RUG matchup, being able to answer Primeval Titan and Inferno Titan with a hard counter, you have the added tech against the Caw-Blade matchup of Volition Reins. Someone took first this past weekend with two in the board just stealing opposing Gideons and Swords, and they faced 8 caw-blade decks on their way up.

    It also happens to be good against Valakut, as you can take their primeval titan if it tables, kind of like Mark of Mutiny.

    Might not be incorrect to run 1 Venser in there too, as it’s -1 seems to be amazing when all the control decks have a million blockers.

  14. Flashfreeze, Mana Leak, and JTMS swing the Valakut matchup. Drop birds for Preordain, drop misers for blue cards, and add some Flashies to the sideboard. It makes it hard to lose.

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