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Sweeping Ice and Other Important Topics – Ebony and Ivory, Working Together in Harmony

 

There’s just one problem with being friends with a bunch of prominent writers all over the internet. When you work together on a deck, everyone wants/needs to write about the same thing. There’s really no way around it. One the one hand, this is good because you get a couple different perspectives on one strategy. On the other hand, this sucks because, well, you get a bunch of different perspectives on, you know, the same strategy. I don’t want to be the guy that writes the twelfth article on a deck that everyone knows about by now, but I also refuse to be the guy who writes about something he doesn’t know, hasn’t tested, or isn’t willing to risk his name on.

I know, I could write about the shocking upheaval of the Extended format! Time Spiral/Lorwyn standard was one of my absolute favorite times to play magic, and the format at which I posted my best career finish! Topic decided!

Fourteen minutes ago, I received the following text message:

“Shotgunning extended changes as topic for Sunday. Back off! She’s mine!”
-Tyrannical Editor, Zaiem Beg

Well played, sir. Well played.

So, here I am, writing about a deck that has had a whole host of different articles written about it in the last week. Since everyone’s lists were a little different, most of the card choices have already been explained, and since I actually played a pretty large part in the development this time, I’m going to try to cover the conception, development, and honing of the deck, as well as a few stories from the week leading up to the tournament. Like I said last week, you gotta bring something memorable to the table.

Some Number Of Weeks Ago

Adam Prosak built the deck about a month or two ago. He had some maindeck Fogs, some Rampaging Baloths, 4 Ponder, and some other small differences. I battled with it some, but for some reason wasn’t impressed enough to pursue it. It got shelved so I could play with some angry plants. Hm, that analogy isn’t quite as effective as I thought it would be…

Sunday, June 6

Two weeks ago I was watching the webcast for the Philly 5k, and they had featured Ali Eldrazi and his version of the deck. It had some very interesting additions, mostly Mind Spring, and All is Dust, along with a supporting Eldrazi cast.

From the times I had spent battling with Prosak’s original list, Jund and any aggressive creature deck had been a fairly serious problem. Mind Spring and All is Dust helped those problems, at least on a theoretical basis. I got to working.

I messaged Cedric on AIM, and we had the following conversation:

Okay, so it turns out this is a family site, and I can’t realistically copy the things we said. Too bad, because we had a lot of fun upgrading some pretty obvious loose ends.

The first to go was [card]Overgrown Battlement[/card]. I want to say this is a pretty obvious cut to make room for [card]Rampant Growth[/card], but it might not be, so I’ll try to explain. It doesn’t block [card]Putrid Leech[/card] or [card]Plated Geopede[/card] (or anything at all if you want a four drop on turn 3). It doesn’t add blue mana for Jace or Mind Spring or [card]Time Warp[/card]. There are a multitude of occasions where you need four blue mana for Jace + Warp or some other shenanigans, and Battlement just doesn’t cut it. It’s also pretty embarrassing against aggro when we are “ramping” into All is Dust, only to lose all of our mana development.

Next was the Garruk. Jace 4 thanks!

Then we cut the Expedition Map and the Eye of Ugin for real cards. Deceptively, this is where the deck actually took off. Cedric wanted a Tectonic Edge, since Celestial Colonnade was a real problem. I wanted to try Lotus Cobra, and he wanted to try Ponder. I started testing a 4 Explore, 3 Rampant Growth, 3 Lotus Cobra configuration, leaving the Eldrazi, while Cedric moved away from the giant aliens and towards a more streamlined midgame with Ponder and Rampaging Baloths.

Monday, June 7

Once he cut the Eldrazi, Cedric told me to cut Eldrazi Temple and play four Tectonic Edge. I did, and was immediately thankful. Being able to kill Colonnades, as well as cutting Jund off of a color in the mid-game, was pretty valuable, and I can confidently say that the 4 Tec Edge configuration is miles better than the others. I stayed with the Eldrazi plan, and even without the Temples, was able to put forth the following sequence:

Turn one: Khalni Garden
Turn two: Island, Lotus Cobra
Turn three: Misty Rainforest, Oracle of Mul Daya, reveal Misty Rainforest, play it, Jace the Mind Sculptor.
Turn four: Lotus Cobra, Brainstorm with Jace, play two lands from my library, play Oracle with the mana, play another land, tap it and my other lands to play Time Warp (7 lands in play)
Turn four (the second): Brainstorm, play three lands, making 10 lands in play, and 6 mana floating.

Summon Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

In case you were wondering, Rashad, yes. I do feel powerful.

I knew this was the deck I was going to play, but I needed to fix the sideboard, since none of the actual problems were solved by the cards in it.

Jund doesn’t beat you with cards you can Flashfreeze (they might have Thought Hemmhorage now that UG is popular, but they didn’t before), so they don’t actually help that much. We were beating every Jund deck that didn’t have a turn two Leech, and if they did, the games were pretty heavily in their favor, but we could still steal one once in a while. Since Leech is actually the only card we cared about in the matchup, out went Flashfreeze and in come Narcolepsy. Now there are three ways the Jund matchup can play out.

1. They don’t have Putrid Leech. Hooray! Massive favorite!
2. They have Leech, and we don’t have Narcolepsy. Sad panda. Heavy underdog.
3. They have Leech, and we have Narcolepsy. Hooray! Massive Favorite!

I’ll take it.

Fog was for Naya (Allies or Vengevine), any Eldrazi Monument deck, and MonoRed Summons decks. Moving forward, this is probably a card that can be reduced or eliminated altogether, but for this tournament they felt necessary. Fog is also quite good against the Cobra / [card]Vengevine[/card] Jund decks that are starting to get fairly popular, and much more of what you are trying to do than Narcolepsy against those configurations.

Blue White Control and Next Level Bant are your two best matchups, and neither is remotely close. The Bant decks will steal some games from you with fast Vengevine + Elspeth starts, and can keep you stunted if they land Jace first, but otherwise it is nearly impossible to lose. They will also adapt their sideboarding in the weeks to come, so this will no longer be the case, but was definitely so for this tournament. Cedric and I decided on the following basic sideboard configuration:

4 Narcolepsy – Jund
4 Fog – Naya, Monument, Allies, Red
2 Mold Shambler – Slow Jace decks or decks with awful mana
1 Emrakul – UW for absolute inevitability
1 Mind Spring – Jund, UW, Mirror, Grixis
3 Cards for Mythic

Tuesday, June 8

I don’t own very many cards. I have maybe 100 rare cards total. One day I was thumbing through them. Most of them are like Apocalypse Hydras. Or Coralhelm Commander. Or Door to Nothingness. Or Roil Elemental. Or Wolfbriar Elem

WAIT A SECOND!

What are the problems with the Mythic matchup? Preboard its a race to our All is Dusts or Avenger + Time Warps, versus their Sovereigns of Lost Alara, aside from the obvious Jace battle. They are a slight favorite, but can’t we just jam more All is Dusts? That would work, except they are almost assuredly bringing in a set of Negate for just that purpose. What better way to trump Negate than to sideboard a dominating creature?!

I immediately texted Cedric, got everyone else on board, tested them for two days to make sure they were who we thought they were, and sleeved up.

I want to say up front that the lists Cedric and I derived are probably not optimal moving forward, as the format adapts to accept this powerhouse strategy, but we were 100% confident in their strength for this specific event.

Thursday, June 10

Cedric and Gerry were supposed to stay at my apartment for the weekend, but Gerry didn’t have any money because his paycheck got sent to the wrong address (looks like somebody is writing for the wrong site), so it was just me and Cedric. Anyone who knows us knows that Cedric is the only person who can even put up a fight at Loving Taylor Swift as much as me. It was seven days of Pop Princess heaven, blaring Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, and Justin Bieber at the highest possible volumes. Romeo, save me…

I woke Erika, my girlfriend, up Thursday morning to go pick Cedric up from the airport. I texted him when we got there:

“We’re at the Cell Phone lot. Just holla when you have ur bags. Also what airline?”

“Are you with KyleB? (creator of Boddy Horizons)”

“Uh oh”

“Aaaaaand this is awk!”

Needless to say, Erika was a little upset that we had driven all the way to the airport to pick up a person who already had a ride. Off to a wonderful start! Then, as if to kick me while I was down, KyleB (originator of Boddy Horizons) and Cedric went to Paseo without me! Dagger!

Aside: Paseo is the greatest sandwich shop in the world. You might think you’ve had a better one. You would be wrong. The place closes for three months a year because the owner thinks it is “too cold” here and goes back to Cuba. He comes in before opening every single day and makes the marinade for the day, and he is the only one on the planet who knows the recipe. He won’t even tell his GM’s. Honestly, I wouldn’t either. If you ever visit Seattle, make it the very first thing on your to-do list. You know how talkative and loud a group of magic players can be? They can be right in the middle of a heated discussion of whether card X should be banned/unbanned/restricted/unrestricted in format Y, it doesn’t matter. As soon as there is a Paseo sandwich in front of them, all conversation ceases completely. No one will utter a word until they are done, and I guarantee you it will be a statement of regret that there is no more sandwich to eat. They are THAT good. End Aside.

KyleB (of Boddy Horizons fame) and Cedric informed me of the Karaoke shenanigans that were to occur that evening, and I instantly informed them they had broken the format. The squad was absolutely unreal. Evan Erwin, Lee Sharpe, Zac Hill, Zaiem Beg and his wife Hollie, Fffreak, Max McCall, Cedric, KyleB (he made some amazing Legacy deck out of thin air one time), and numerous others. We were there all night, and sang numerous Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus bits.

Friday, June 11

Cedric and I needed to pick up cards for the deck, so we went to the local store and met up with some people. I tried trading for Time Warps, but that card is impossible to pry out of people’s hands. We got Corbett Gray to give us a ride over to Max’s since he had most of what Cedric needed. Once we got there, Gavin Verhey and Ben Swartz joined us, and were looking for a ride back to the store. They get basically no-sir’d and Cedric, Max, Corbett and I head outside, and I (master that I am) call shotgun. It is then determined that Gavin and Ben are actually coming with us, and Corbett tells me to get out of the front seat. Sorry Corbett, I don’t care if it is your car. No way am I getting out of my seat just so I can get smooshed in the back seat, espescially when I called shotgun months ago. I am a man of principles. Well, mostly just shotgun. Serious business. So they rode four wide in the back while I stretched my legs and enjoyed the breeze on my face. It was going to be a good day.

We went on a dinner adventure that involved a way-longer-than-advertised trek to a restaurant that it turned out we couldn’t even go to because BenSW and Travis Woo aren’t 21. We Magic players sure know how to coordinate, don’t we? It all worked out though, and my belly was filled with delicious BBQ Cheeseburgers, and I got to make fun of Ben’s semi-kosher eating habits. I’m sorry if I offend anyone here, but whoever came up with those rules is clearly crazy. I can not believe people actually do that.

We went to Denny’s later after drafting some, and I ordered the Moons with a side of Ranch.

Before bed, Cedric and I crushed a couple 8mans with TurboLand, and we felt pretty good about our chances at the 5k.

Saturday, June 12

I got to the site, and numerous people from the store were swarming me for my final list. I love helping people and sharing information, so that if a time arises that I need some help myself, people will reciprocate, but for some reason, this felt different. I didn’t mind sharing the deck, since I had more practice with it than everyone in the room except Cedric, and it was very hard to play correctly. Regardless, I was feeling a little regret for being so open about the deck with people who were going to be my direct competition. Oh well, nothing I can do now but shuffle up and deal.

Round One I beat a mono red deck somehow. He kept some slow hands, and my draws were very good. He had a window to topdeck a burn spell in game two because I fetched one too many times, but he missed, so I escaped. 1-0.

+4 Fog, -2 Mind Spring, -2 Time Warp

Round Two my opponent was playing a UW variant with, I believe, 16 counterspells after sideboarding. He played Negate, Cancel, Flashfreeze, and Deprive against me in our games, and he played multiples of each. I played pretty badly in this match, but his deck was so threat diluted that it game me time to draw out and just keep running giant threats into his counterspells. 2-0.

+2 Mold Shambler, +1 Mind Spring, +1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, -1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, -2 All is Dust, -1 Lotus Cobra

Round Three was against Mythic. I dusted him in game one, and he turn three’d me in game two. Game three I had turn 3 Jace on the play and his tempo was stuffed right there. The rest was just going through the motions and finding an Avenger of Zendikar, as he was a little choked on mana and Jace was getting work done. 3-0.

+3 Roil Elemental, +2 Fog, -2 Mind Spring, -1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, -2 Time Warp

Round Four I played against a pseudo mirror, as he still had Eldrazi Temples and Eye of Ugin in his deck. Game 1 he never got a 4th turn, as I had turn 3 Oracle of Mul Daya and chained 3 straight Time Warps to kill him. Oddly enough, I just kept adding 2/2s to the board and killed him that way, since I couldn’t find an avenger. Game two was kind of the opposite, since he had Jace and I bricked with Oracle for a couple turns. Game three, I was able to double Tec Edge him down to 4 lands, one of which was an Eye of Ugin, and then when he bricked with Oracle for the third turn in a row, Mold Shambler came to the party and got it done. 4-0.

+1 Mind Spring, +2 Mold Shambler, -2 All is Dust, -1 Avenger of Zendikar. I boarded in the Roil Elementals in game two, but back out for game three because their impact is a little slow. They are probably better than Mold Shambler though.

Round Five was a Feature Match against my buddy Isaac. I had given him a pretty solid primer on the Naya deck, and he used it to good effect, demolishing me, in what should be a good matchup. He also beat Matt Nassty in like round 1 or 2, so maybe he knows something we don’t. Game one was a squeaker, and he topdecked an untapped white source to play Elspeth and kill me before I untapped with an Avenger. Game two I mulliganed and the only spells I played were Fog, Fog, and Time Warp. Probably not going to win that one. 4-1.

+4 Fog, -2 Mind Spring, -2 Time Warp

Round Six I played against Mythic again. Game one I did a little too much hurfing and durfing, and not enough surfing and turfing, and died to some Conscripted monster on about turn 6. Game two I boarded Roil Elemental in and All is Dust out, trying to blank his Negates, and it worked. He got Roilly owned by it, and I even got to steal his Knight of the Reliquary and start activating it, triggering my Roil Elemental even more times. He packed em in and instantly went to his sideboard and grabbed four cards. Nice Paths to Exile, bro. I boarded back in the All is Dust for the Roils this game, and Dusted him on about turn 5, and he showed me his hand of 2 Paths at the end of the game. 5-1.

+3 Roil Elemental, +2 Fog, -2 Mind Spring, -2 All Is Dust, -1 Time Warp, then re-swap the All is Dusts and Roil Elementals for game three.

Round Seven I battled The Enemy. Jund. My draw is very good but he is on the play with a turn two Putrid Leech, that he makes sure to tell me he peeled on that very turn. He misses his fourth land drop for many turns and doesnt have a Sprouting Thrinax either, so I know his hand is stuffed with removal, but I’m low enough I have to hope it’s just full of Bloodbraid Elves and run my Avenger out. It was removal. Gargly death noises. Game two I mulliganed to 5 and he Blightninged me out of the tournament on turn three. I am a sad panda. 5-2.

+4 Narcolepsy, +1 Mind Spring, -2 All is Dust, -3 Lotus Cobra. If they are more creature heavy, Cobras stay in and you can shave on Time Warp, and not bring in the other Mind Spring.

Round Eight I got my revenge on the Enemy. These games were unbelievably complex, and the first one involved me drawing extremely well in the midgame sequences to pull out of his Sprouting Thrinax/Sarkhan the Mad/double Cunning Sparkmage draw in order to get to 12 mana and play Avenger and Time Warp in the same turn. Game two I Tec Edged him off of red mana for a few turns, and then it became a race to red mana for him, or anything businessy for me. I drew Mind Spring the turn he played Savage Lands, and Sprung into another Tec Edge, and won fairly easily from there. 6-2.

I knew he had Sparkmages, and didn’t have Blightning, so I played my Jaces accordingly: +4 Narcolepsy, +1 Mind Spring, -2 All is Dust, -3 Lotus Cobra

Round Nine. Boy is there a lesson to be learned from this round. I sit down next to a buddy, and while I’m waiting for my opponent to show up, we start making conversation. I ask him what his losses were against, and he tells me he lost to Boros twice. Then he asks me what mine were.

“I lost to Isaac playing Naya in round 5, and then in round 7, I lost to this gentleman, playing Jund.

The only problem? “This Gentleman” was his opponent. I immediately realized what I had done, and yelled for the Judge to come over. I explained the situation as best I could to him, and he said “Oh boy, I’ll be right back”. Not good. The Head Judge arrives, and says to me “Let’s have a chat.” Really not good.

HJ: Something very bad has happened here.
YT: Yeah, I know, I feel awful.
HJ: First of all, this is normally a Match Loss for Outside Assistance, but since you don’t have an opponent yet, I’ll still give you the match if he doesn’t show up.
YT: Wow, I didn’t expect that, honestly.
HJ: Can you explain to me exactly how this went down?
YT: I was chatting with Colin about his losses, and when he asked me about mine, I told him, and it just slipped out in conversation that his opponent was playing Jund. I saw his opponent’s face, and it dawned on me what I had done, so I instantly raised my hand and called for a Judge.
HJ: You called the Judge yourself?
YT: Yes, sir, right away.
HJ: Ok, here’s what I am going to do. Since you called the Judge on yourself right away, and I can clearly see that this was not intentional, and that you know what you did was wrong, I’m going to downgrade this penalty to a Game Loss. If your opponent doesn’t show up, you’ll win the match, if he does, it will be a Double Game Loss, and you will play a one game match.

I honestly couldn’t believe it, but I was obviously thankful.

My opponent had arrived during this time, and was awarded his Game Loss as well. It turns out someone told him to go to the wrong table, so he thought it was mewho was late. Awkward.

I offered a prize split, because one of us was going to win a hundred bucks, the other would win nothing, and I felt like there was a lot of variance placed on this one game for a money finish. He declined the split, saying “One game for a hundred bucks? Might be kinda fun.” After all, we came to game.

He mulliganed to 5 while I had a turn 3 Jace to bounce his [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] twice before playing Avenger. He drew his 5th mana and played [card gideon jura]Gideon[/card], setting up his [card sovereigns of lost alara]Sovereigns[/card] next turn, but I flashed him the fetch land and 3 Time Warps in my hand, and that was enough to seal it. 7-2.

No Sideboarding.

Cedric, Kyle, and I went to Denny’s where I continued my Mono Moons Control (I believe we went there three or four times while Cedric was in town, and I ordered the Moons-with-a-side-of-ranch each and every time. I don’t order anything else, since anything else would be strictly inferior. Why settle?), and Cedric spent the evening making fun of Kyle’s legacy deck, saying there was no way he could win a match with Terravore in his deck. The sounds Cedric was making to imitate the Terravore were almost as good as my Moons. Good times.

Moving Forward:

I have a PTQ and a 2.5K in two weeks, and this deck is the front-runner. There is not a lot that you can do in Standard that is as fundamentally powerful as the things this deck can do. Throughout the day, numerous people kept saying they felt like they were playing a different format. Luis finished 2nd, Cedric lost his match playing for top8, I finished 13th, and two of my friends also finished 17th and 18th with 7-2 records. As the format adapts to include TurboLand, it will have to adapt in turn. Cards like Roil Elemental are probaby weaker going forward, as Mythic starts to include Bant Charm and Path to Exile in multiples in their sideboards. Naya probably becomes less of a good matchup if they move toward Manabarbs, though if this is the case, UG can start packing some Flashfreeze, since Fog isn’t neccesary as a 4-of. It’s refreshing to see a format get more diverse and open, and I look forward to finding the answer in a couple of weeks.

Steven Birklid
business_socks on MODO
[email protected]

Special Extra:

Cedric: You like Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake uptempo poppy crap like me, right?
YT: uhhhhh, OBViously!
Cedric: Check out this format breaker! *sends me the youtube link for Konichiwa, by Robyn*
YT: Uh, sorry to bust your bubble, but I have that, along with her whole discography, on my Ipod right this very second.
Cedric: WHAT?!
YT: Yessir
Cedric: DUMP YOUR GIRLFRIEND
Cedric: WE ARE MADE
Cedric: FOR EACH OTHER!!!

It’s really true. Never before have two grown men been so similar to teenage girls.

Song Lyric for the Day:
“You wanna rumble in space, I put my laser on ‘Stun’
and on the North Pole, I’ll ice you son!”
__Robyn, from the song “Konichiwa”

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