“The ??? is very, very exciting. I wanted to write about it for this article but Martin wants to keep it secret so he can requalify with it. Keep your eyes peeled for decklists from the next Seattle PTQ. Hint- it is the most ridiculous Sword of Feast and Famine deck you will see.”
-Me a week ago.
Saturday was the last Seattle PTQ of the season, but unfortunately I had a final exam on information systems. After slaying the exam and dropping $30 on $1 sushi plates, I got to the tournament around round 4. It’s nice to play in a tournament but it’s also nice to be a tournament grandfather. As Mr. Miyagi, I would have to look around see how my students were doing.
As I tried to navigate through the hall I first had to wade through your average out-of-context bad beats stories. Occasionally someone would ask how my exam went, and I had to resist the temptation of diving into extreme detail, with no background information, of critical decisions, results, all leading up to complaints about getting unlucky about having the wrong version, or something. Unless your bad beat story is really, really interesting, no one wants to hear! Let’s talk about something positive!
I finally found Martin, my prized pig. He was 4-0, just as I had expected. I suppose now is a good time to share his deck instead of teasing you.
In the beginning of 2010, Paul Waite and Charles (Aceman) Dupont worked on UGw Bantwarp for PT San Diego. The basic idea was accelerators, awesome planeswalkers, and Time Warps. By the midgame the deck could create enough momentum off of Garruk and extra turns to nail the coffin out of nowhere.
All the local players ran it, some to great success (Martin 5-0 day one), some to great disaster (Charles Wong 0-5). Aceman talked through the deck with his friend Fffreak (Brad Nelson), who agreed to feature it in an article on this here site. Paul Waite waited, in excitement, until FINALLY the article went up. Of course, Paul’s name was not in the article as Aceman got all the credit.
From that moment Paul decided Brad was his archenemy. The rest is history. Brad started to win tournament after tournament, and after each Paul shook his fist at the heavens. For the rest of 2010 Brad ran hotter than a channeled fireball, and here he is, player of the year.
Why this deck is good and how to play it
A year passes, and Bantwarp comes back into the limelight, with a fresh new wardrobe. This deck is very interactive- it has a lot of counterspells and its creatures are equipped to trade. Well, that isn’t exactly true- it’s creatures are equipped with Sword of Feast and Famine, making Time Warp completely bonkers.
Why is Time Warp good in this deck but no more than cute in almost every other deck ever? It has to do with the accelerators, the planeswalkers, and the counterspells. You don’t give up much tempo even the initial turn you play a planeswalker in this deck. They are well protected by Finks, bounces, beasts, and Mana Leaks. By the time the deck hits it’s fourth or fifth land drop it can sneak a Sword hit through which activates Time Warp. The bonus turn can be spent deploying more guys, ending with another Time Warp or Cryptic Command. Usually that critical turn is all it takes to seal the game.
This deck is not a control deck. The cards are designed to be interactive. Note Kitchen Finks and Vendilion Clique as the 3-drops of choice. When the deck gets a window, it can end the game via hyper combo finish, but that does not make it an aggro deck. It is a little like Faeries. Trade, trade, Mistbind Clique, Mistbind Clique, Cryptic Command, good game!
How to sideboard (basically)- The deck is interactive, so think about how you are going to be interacting. Mana Leak might be too slow on the draw. Vendilion Clique is not good if it’s trading with a 1/1. Finks is not good if your opponent doesn’t want to trade. Qasali Pridemage is no good if they don’t have equipment.
I don’t like to do matchups, especially with a deck that is so non-linear. How you and your opponent play is going to decide the winner, not how good the matchup is. With that said, the deck likes to bash on the ground, so elf-lords and Mirran Crusaders are tough. Anything else and you can trade and tempo them out.
Pac 10 Championship Game
After hobnobbing with the good guys I made my way downtown to catch the second half of the Pac 10 Championship game. I’m a fair-weather spectator of the worst kind. I’d always rather play basketball than watch it (or football, or TV, or anything, except for maybe Seinfeld), so I don’t have much incentive to be a fan of anything. Still, my friends who were showing out were guilt-tripping me (guilt-feeder?) and it was a CHAMPIONSHIP game, so I decided it would be worth it.
I’ve recently graduated to 21 so I haven’t watched any big games in real bar settings so it was pretty cool. It was especially hilarious watching the crazed fans who couldn’t BELIEVE the call the refs just made. Wide eyes, clutching their heads, slowly leaning their necks into their friends, and so on. I’m a pretty unbiased spectator and usually end up rooting for whoever is losing, just because I like to watch close games.
We (University of Washington) were up by 2-5 points for the entirety of my time watching, until the last 3 minutes. We bricked 3s on like 5 consecutive possessions and ended up down a few possessions with not much time to go. On cue, Isaiah Thomas hits a 3, creates a 3 for a teammate, and creates a 3 for a teammate. That’s 9 points in our last 3 possessions, and we force overtime.
Overtime was just as close as regulation, and the game ended up tied with the ball in Isaiah Thomas’ hands. Everyone else on the team got on the baseline, and stood there. IT was going to shoot, no question about it. Here, check it out for yourself-
We were running around high fiving strangers.
Nothing in team sports is as climactic as a buzzer beater.
Games that close are pretty insane, and they cause basketball to be a lot more emotional than most other sports. Crying on both the winning and losing team is common, and that does not take away from the masculinity of it. It only enhances it. When two teams fight that hard, and establish themselves as equals, and the game only ends because one of the two teams has to win, that’s a real shame. Wow.
Oh, and BTW- Isaiah Thomas is like 5’8. NO EXCUSES!
I made it back to the tournament hall in time for the top 8. Martin was (in my mind) ready to make a trip back to the Pro Tour. I asked Zaiem and others to find out what else was in the top 8 of this 180ish player PTQ.
Scapeshift, White Weenie, Bantwarp, UW sword, RDW, Warrior Elves, Boros, and Mono-White Control with Lone Missionary
I had briefly taken a look at the Mono-White Control deck earlier in the day, but I kind of assumed it was just a casual game that had been set up at the top tables after everyone else was finished. I had seen Lone Missionary, Flickerwisp, Emeria, and not much else. Was the deck good, or had our PTQs gotten this bad?
Martin (Bantwarp) vs. Doogle (Warrior Elves) (match coverage by Adam Ruprecht)
Martin wins the roll.
Martin plays Colonnade tapped. Doogle plays Arbor Elf and gets his Heritage Druid Mana Leaked.
Martin swings with his Beast and charges Garruk to cast Time Warp. On his extra turn Martin makes another Beast and plays another Time Warp. On his third consecutive turn Martin charges Garruk to play Stoneforge Mystic for Sword of Feast and Famine, equip a beast and attack. Doogle pitches a Bramblewood Paragon. Martin doesn’t have another Time Warp but he has a Vendilion Clique on Doogle’s upkeep, revealing only two Imperious Perfects and a forest.
Martin protects Garruk, animates Colonnade, ultimates Garruk, and deals the killing blow.
Doogle misses his second land and plays Llanowar Elves. Martin plays a second Hierarch and a Stoneforge Mystic for Sword of Feast and Famine.
Doogle adds a second Nettle Sentinel and a second Llanowar Elves. Martin plays a tapped land and passes. Doogle gets his Bramblewood Paragon Cryptic Commanded. Doogle adds a third Llanowar Elves.
Martin plays and sends the Sword into the red zone and Doogle pitches Ezuri. After untapping his lands he passes. Doogle plays an Imperious Perfect and his team is tapped down by a second Cryptic Command.
That was the first full match I had watched of Martin, and the deck was f**king insane. Are you serious? He effectively took twice as many turns as his opponent that match. In a bad matchup! WTF! It’s like he was riding Genesis Wave in Extended. Awesome.
After that match was done I figured I would go see what the hold up was with the match still going. Obviously it was that Mono-White Control deck. What the hell is going on here anyway?
Lone Missionary in Extended
His opponent is playing Boros and he looks MISERABLE. I still can’t really tell what’s going on though. Lone Missionary (hereby referred to as W) has his namesake in play, some Wall of Omens, and not much else. His life total is high. His opponent has some uncracked fetchlands and some land fall guys. So how does this deck win? I finally get to see it when W reaches his sixth land. He plays a Sun Titan, returns Flickerwisp, and blinks his Sun Titan. The Sun Titan comes back and gets another Flickerwisp. Yeah, this is real.
Seeing a deck I’ve never seen before is always really exciting, especially when it’s unlike anything anyone else is doing. This is almost a Martyr of Sands deck from a couple seasons ago.
The deck is still an enigma to me but I know a little more about it now. According to the creators, the deck is actually pretty decent against Fae, with endless Flickerwisps, Oblivion Rings, and Mortarpods. It looks interesting (and maybe even as awesome as Bantwarp) and if you have a PTQ left I actually recommend it. You are going to have a powerful engine in Sun Titan backed with a surplus of surprise.
With the quarterfinals dragging on into infinity because of this W monstrosity, I had to bounce. My gym was closing in an hour and a half and every day I can I need to get there. Besides, Martin had it locked.
Later on I heard that Martin didn’t win the PTQ. He lost in the semis, supposedly because his deck is impossible to play. He’s top eighted something like a thousand events in a row, so it’s only a matter of time before he gets his just dues.
The winner? Mono-White Lone Missionary Control!
I wanted to share my thoughts on the finalist deck because it was pretty interesting as well. Sword of Feast and Famine has made a lot possible, but unless you are casting Time Warp, it is hard for me to get behind. They pitch a card, you get more mana, why is this so great? I feel like I’d rather be beaming their creature and drawing a card with Sword of Fire and Ice.
I guess it has a lot to do with where Magic has come to. Nowadays you get to do a LOT with your mana. In olden times decks were more likely to run out, putter out, find themselves in pathetic topdeck mode, but nowadays you always have a mana sink. Sword of Feast and Famine ends up generating a lot of mana, and gets around the problem of most equipment- tempo. With most creatures unable to block a SOFF creature, SOFF might as well be a free spell. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a free spell, but every time one comes out it, is completely ridiculous. Frogmites, Myr Enforcers, Time Spirals, and so on. (No Memnite, you don’t count. Go away.)
Decks these days really take advantage of the new cards that let you always have sinks for your mana. Even decks like White Weenie and Mono-Red Burn usually have plenty of plays left before the game ends. White weenie plays cards like Figure of Destiny and Squadron Hawks which are real naturals with the Sword.
Ok, and Squadron Hawk! This is a card that has taken me a long time to get. It is a 1/1 for 2. How can this card be good? Okay, I realize it is a little more than a 1/1 for 2, but if you play 4 you are risking drawing multiple copies, and that is pretty bad. Creatures these days have gotten a lot bigger for their mana cost. 2/2 for 2 used to be the standard, but that has changed. Now there are Kargan Dragonlords and Wren’s Run Vanquishers running around. Fauna Shamans are small and feeble.
What Squadron hawk affords you is utility. The card does a lot. It lets you block a lot, it lets you apply pressure if you need to, it lets you interact. Meaningful interaction is worth downgrading the quality output of your mana. Sure, you can get a 3/3 for your 2 mana, but I am getting the option to play a 1/1 for my 2 mana 4 times over the course of the game. That is actually pretty good. AND… now that SWORD OF FEAST AND FAMINE, exists, Squadron Hawk is going to be propelled to new heights. Hawk is absolutely the best Sword wearer (sorry Stoneforge). I expect to see more and more of Squadron Hawk in Standard (like it’s not everywhere already) as it makes its move into Extended (yes, really).
Here is the finalist white weenie deck:
Historically, as Extended seasons progress, decks get better and better at interacting with each other. Maybe a season will start off with decks like Dredge and Omen, but as the format reaches its close you will always see creatures decks that are fast and great at interacting. Now is a great time for decks like Bantwarp and WW. These are decks that Lone Missionary decks can prey on. Just saying!
Go Out and Brew Something Awesome
You don’t really think there is no room for innovation do you? Of course not. You might build the best deck TODAY. Today could be the day. Take a look at these three decks from our PTQ in Seattle. Two unique, distinct brand new decks, and a startling new look at an old friend.
There is PLENTY of room for innovation in all formats. You don’t have to play with anything but your own deck if you don’t want to.
Top 8 lists for that PTQ can be found here.