Silvestri Says – Avoiding the Skull

This summer is going to be a big deal in terms of PTQ attendance and finding out whether the dominance of [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] and [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] has truly hurt attendance. I know for the first PTQ held in Northern California only 78 people showed up which is unheard of for a Standard PTQ. Then I took a look at other reported PTQ attendance across the country which you can find here.

Only one PTQ broke the 100-player mark and that was in Illinois of all places. MTGO PTQs have ranged into the 200 player range which isn’t particularly impressive either and the metagame online is rather distorted to the budget concerns and the lack of New Phyrexia. Now normally I wouldn’t be too concerned with this as many of these PTQs were held when card availability was an issue, close to finals and other reasons. However seeing a swath of PTQs with low numbers concerns me that perhaps this is the crossing the line moment for the format. People have finally had enough and simply aren’t showing up to the tournaments to play Standard anymore. It’s possible that this early into summer that people are just getting out of school and we’ll see a resurgence once we get into the summer months.

Now this may surprise you to learn, but Batter-Blade is really good! I know right? Who would have guessed that a deck running multiple cards that just made top eight of a Legacy Grand Prix would be good in Standard as well! The problem with the majority of decks trying to take down Caw are that they inevitably end up very narrow in scope and even then many times can’t handle all the different angles [card]Batterskull[/card] now gives them. Getting narrow margins on the best deck isn’t enough for most people to justify not playing [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], [card]Batterskull[/card] and [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card].

Still you can get a big edge by playing a strategy just slightly off from what people are expecting. These decks aren’t configured to deal with much when they can’t brute force decks around with the power of the equipment package and [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]. Unfortunately many of the decks with enough raw power to defeat Caw just fell off a cliff or can’t race turn two [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]s without their own section of narrow cards. With that said there are a few interesting decks still floating around that aren’t Caw and we could see make an impact in the near future.

Adrian Sullivan, 3rd – Madison PTQ

[deck]4 Birds of Paradise
4 Lotus Cobra
3 Nest Invader
4 Fauna Shaman
3 Spellskite
2 Phyrexian Metamorph
4 Vengevine
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
3 Acidic Slime
3 Frost Titan
1 Consecrated Sphinx
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Halimar Depths
2 Verdant Catacombs
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Scalding Tarn
3 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Evolving Wilds
8 Forest
3 Island
4 Deprive
2 Obstinate Baloth
3 Into the Roil
1 Mold Shambler
3 Natures Claim
1 Roil Elemental
1 Consecrated Sphinx[/deck]

This is one of the first [card]Fauna Shaman[/card] decks that I’ve seen outside of Elves that didn’t look like it auto-scooped to [card]Batterskull[/card] or [card]Oust[/card]. Another Adrian Sullivan special in that it runs some unique cards in [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card] and attacks Caw/Darkblade’s mana base directly with [card]Acidic Slime[/card] and [card]Frost Titan[/card]. Incidentally it turns out these cards can be pretty useful against [card]Batterskull[/card] and equipment as well, who would have imagined? What’s unique about this build is that it matches SFM with it’s own pair of powerful two-drops and really goes out of it’s way to hit four and five-drops a turn early. By accelerating the pace of the drops it can put Caw on the backfoot early and force them into a defensive posture, which allows the LD element and [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] to get stronger.

The two notable cards in the maindeck from New Phyrexia are [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card] and [card]Spellskite[/card]. While [card]Spellskite[/card] has already been shown to have a great deal of value in [card]Splinter Twin[/card] and Darkblade, the same can apply for this deck as well. Protecting [card]Lotus Cobra[/card] or [card]Fauna Shaman[/card] while simultaneously being an anti-Twin measure can be a huge boon. In fact that’s the reason this type of deck actually has a shot against Burn or B/R Vampires because you can delay your drops and successfully protect them without leaving mana up every turn.

[card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card] on the other hand is a bit of a hidden gem. Everyone knew it was good enough to see play but that was no guarantee of it actually breaking through onto the big stage. At first glance it seemed as if the only point of [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card] here was to have additional [card]Acidic Slime[/card] and [card]Frost Titan[/card] without needing to dedicate extra slots. The first time I used it to copy a [card]Batterskull[/card] quickly changed my general opinion of it from cute to duly impressed. Same reaction applies to using it to copy other equipment and in fact I was a little disappointed the deck didn’t feature a Sword of some sort to fetch out when I wanted to copy [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]. The card felt powerful and flexible when I got to try it out in this deck and I quickly revisited my older Bant and [card]Birthing Pod[/card] decks. Being immune to [card]Spell Pierce[/card], [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card] and [card]Duress[/card] are also major selling points if you’re on the fence about trying this card out.

While I feel the deck has a ways to go in the Exarch-Twin matches, at least preboard, I was impressed by the amount of game it had against Darkblade. Obviously WU has major issues since it cut all of the best anti-aggro cards and this deck actually has a reasonable plan for dealing with a [card]Batterskull[/card]. Being worthwhile against Darkblade though was a tougher sell, but the amount of acceleration and inclusion of [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] in addition to the [card]Fauna Shaman[/card] and [card]Vengevine[/card] engine gives it enough reach to not fall apart in the face of spot removal and [card]Batterskull[/card] / [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card].

Ember Shrine
James Netzel – Winner – PTQ in Madison

[deck]4 Goblin Guide
4 Ember Hauler
4 Spikeshot Elder
4 Koth of the Hammer
4 Staggershock
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Burst Lightning
4 Searing Blaze
4 Shrine of Burning Rage
12 Mountain
4 Teetering Peaks
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Arid Mesa
3 Combust
4 Arc Trail
2 Crush
3 Mark of Mutiny
3 Dismember[/deck]

I talked about this archetype last week and after a bit more time I’ve realized this is probably the second best deck in the format for as long as people aren’t boarding against it. Even against other decks like Vampires, UB and flavors of green all of them are reasonable matches simply due to the sheer amount of removal at your disposal. [card]Shrine of Burning Rage[/card] truly changed the game and shifted the deck into beast mode whenever it had it early. Throw in [card]Koth of the Hammer[/card] which is one of the only amazing non-Caw cards in the format and you can see why this deck is legit.

Now the argument over one-drops or the need for one-drops is one that I’ve had with a number of people over the past week and ultimately I have yet to come to a conclusion. As you can see the winning list here has [card]Spikeshot Elder[/card] in it and I think that’ll be the default choice for many players. It’s a one-drop that gives you something useful to do early on and it actually gives [card]Teetering Peaks[/card] a purpose by letting you jam some damage through blockers. While I think [card]Spikeshot Elder[/card] doesn’t have a true role as it’s a pretty bad early attacker and is slow to pick off X/1’s the combination of this means you can still get decent value from it. Outside of [card]Spikeshot Elder[/card] I’d really consider just running an extra burn spell such as [card]Arc Trail[/card] or [card]Volt Charge[/card].

As for some of the discussion in last week’s comments I’ll answer many of the questions I got with a brief summary:

A) [card]Act of Aggression[/card] was used as an additional anti-Twin measure while also allowing me another way to fight past [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card] when using my one-drops. While it is slightly worse against Titans due to the lack of a +1, the life loss is negligible in Burn and it typically only comes up when you sequence badly and need an extra turn or two to topdeck something. It also pops up as a useful card to draw in a creature fight (Vampires and [card]Vengevine[/card] decks) while not being as narrow as [card]Arc Trail[/card].

B) [card]Crush[/card] was chosen simply because I didn’t feel I would play against very many [card]Spellskite[/card] in the WU / Darkblade matches. Even if I did I wanted to have the best answer against [card]Batterskull[/card] even if they had [card]Spellskite[/card] in play. After playing more I’m not against moving to [card]Shatter[/card] for an answer to deal with the players who board in 3-4 [card]Spellskite[/card] since it can be a major pain to deal with on the draw. When your best case scenario is giving them a two for one and potential blowout when [card]Spell Pierce[/card] is involved it becomes worthy of a second look when assigned sideboard slots.

C) Stop trying to reinvent the wheel when making alterations to the deck. You can definitely take the deck another direction if you feel the need, but the base 32 spells in the deck play out very well against the top two decks in this metagame.

Mike Flores, U/R Twin – 1st in NY Open

[deck]1 Pilgrims Eye
4 Deceiver Exarch
2 Inferno Titan
4 Sea Gate Oracle
4 Splinter Twin
4 Into the Roil
3 Mana Leak
2 Spell Pierce
2 Jace Beleren
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Preordain
10 Island
8 Mountain
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Tectonic Edge
1 Basilisk Collar
1 Elixir of Immortality
2 Spellskite
1 Consecrated Sphinx
2 Manic Vandal
1 Trinket Mage
1 Dispel
1 Jaces Ingenuity
2 Spell Pierce
1 Jace Beleren
2 Pyroclasm[/deck]

Flores version of UR Twin is the first one I’ve seen that actually feels like it has enough draw to consistently see both combo pieces and not die to random answer spells. While RUG mostly falls back on the [card]Inferno Titan[/card] plan, this build decides it just wants to draw a ton of cards and either deploy infinite 1/3 and 1/4 blockers or win the Jace war while setting up it’s combo kill. The other thing I feel this deck does right is it actually runs enough lands that it doesn’t lose to itself by default and by sticking with two colors just brings so much stability over the other builds.

I honestly didn’t ‘get’ the sideboard and still don’t even after talking it over with other players. While some of the choices have some grounding in basic match-up logic the sheer number of singletons and plans going on make it difficult to board with. If you choose to keep the same sideboard (and I doubt many will) you really need to map out what you’re trying to accomplish in each match-up and plan ahead accordingly. There are also many variations you could attempt depending on the exact configuration of your opponents.

Speaking of opponents the deck has a good Caw Blade / Darkblade match-up and I don’t say that lightly. It isn’t a massive advantage but you are definitely favored against the current builds seeing play and unless someone has a very odd build I would say your game one will always be favorable. On the other hand post-board is a tougher proposition against Darkblade and your success there can be linked to how prepared your opponents are and what angle they take as a counter-strategy. Beating sideboard plans that include permanent hate versus trying to win an instant fight are difficult even with the quad [card]Into the Roil[/card] and possible [card]Maniac Vandal[/card]s. On the draw it can also be difficult to beat more aggressive starts if you lack a big Jace since often you can’t spend the [card]Into the Roil[/card] early due to [card]Spellskite[/card]. Of course the flip side is that with so much draw and the ability to change up your post-board options you can be better equipped to deal with these sorts of starts in a game three situation.

Brandon Tabaldo – 5th-8th Place, Santa Clara PTQ

[deck]4 Fauna Shaman
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Squadron Hawk
4 Vengevine
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Viridian Corrupter
1 Sun Titan
1 Phyrexian Revoker
3 Lead the Stampede
1 Batterskull
2 Sword of War and Peace
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Stirring Wildwood
4 Razorverge Thicket
4 Forest
3 Tectonic Edge
3 Plains
2 Marsh Flats
2 Inkmoth Nexus
3 Obstinate Baloth
3 Memoricide
3 Natures Claim
2 Beast Within
2 Spellskite
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Swamp[/deck]

Now this is a sweet GW deck I have to say. It’s essentially what I started with for a GW [card]Birthing Pod[/card] deck a hodge-podge of all the best green and white two-drops and running them in a single deck. However instead of my engine and fitting in some clunky cards to take advantage of that, it says the equipment and [card]Vengevine[/card] engines are already good enough and throws in some [card]Lead the Stampede[/card] for good measure on the card advantage front. This deck gets slammed by [card]Oust[/card] just as badly as anything I’ve seen but has so many redundant early drops it can probably just shrug it off by playing another one (or two) on turn three.

Now I haven’t had a chance to test this deck out but I saw it in action at the PTQ and it just looked impressive throughout the swiss. Obviously the biggest drawback is the lack of [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] and [card]Preordain[/card], which means it can get a bit choked on certain hands with equipment and creatures playing out a bit slowly. It also lacks real interaction until the sideboarded [card]Nature’s Claim[/card] and[card] Beast Within[/card] relying on a few singletons and brute force to power through opposing equipment packages and other aggro strategies. The only card I feel it lacks though is [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card] which can actually be taken advantage of more effectively in this deck than the Sullivan brew by getting full value if it copies an opposing [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] or [card]Squadron Hawk[/card]. I would definitely want to try a couple of those somewhere in the 75 and a maindeck [card]Spellskite[/card] also wouldn’t be the worst considering Exarch-Twin is the second most played deck as of late.

Past those minor concerns I like the shell a good deal and by fully embracing the [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] package it gains ways to battle past opposing [card]Batterskull[/card] packages or at least hold serve while establishing one of your other gameplans. The core twenty of the deck also seems like a great starting point if you wanted to adapt the GW shell into a Bant, Naya or Junk build. With [card]Memrocide[/card] in the board showing it isn’t unreasonable to be looking at a splash, it wouldn’t take a lot of effort to convert this into a tri-color deck for some more play against Exarch-Twin and other matches where you can’t simply grind the opponent out.

That’s all for this week, with luck the upcoming Invitational and Grand Prix Singapore will give us some new strategies to look at for inspiration to a [card]Batterskull[/card] dominated world.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

60 thoughts on “Silvestri Says – Avoiding the Skull”

  1. I wouldn’t blame a single person for not participating in a Standard PTQ. While there are decks that have the capability to beat Caw-Go, the fact of the matter is that Caw-Go has the most versatility of any deck out there. Caw-Go can completely shut down any deck in the format starting on turn 3 when they untap with Stoneforge in play. The deck just keeps getting better and better, and cards that were meant to “hose” Caw-Go didn’t get the job done (Hex Parasite, Despise), or are being used in Caw-Go itself (Sword of War and Peace).

    In regards to the red deck with Shrine, its absolutely obvious that Caw-Go should run a few Day of Judgments and Gideons nowadays. Those two cards, combined with now-maindecked Divine Offerings, Batterskull, Sword of War and Peace, Spellskite and in some cases Vampire Nighthawk, makes the red match-up is a joke, especially with Celestial Purges and Kor Firewalkers possibly out of the sideboard as well.

    Gideon is also very good against Splintertwin, and so is Spellskite, and so is Divine Offering. Splintertwin needs to get two cards on the battlefield, and need to win on a singular turn. That’s a lot harder than it sounds against Caw-Go, especially when all Caw-Go needs to do is vial in a Batterskull. Oh, and if it gets really bad, Caw-Go can sideboard Soul’s Attendant or Suture Priest.

    Its a disaster, and I believe that the only fix is to wait until Stoneforge and Jace rotate. AJ Sacher predicted that half of the decks at the SCG Invitational will be Caw-Go, because its the best deck piloted by the best players. I wouldn’t doubt him for a second.

  2. Yeah that Green white Fauna deck was very impressive the whole tournament in santa clara. He lost his first match in the top 8 which he could have easily won if not for a aggressive play mistake that I am sure most people would of made when you saw the board position. The deck just feasted on Caw Blade all tourney (I think it went 5 and 1) vs caw blade, being that almost every deck he faced was Caw blade or Darkblade. Now I have no idea how it would of done against the rest of the meta because I did not see it in action vs the other decks, but if you are going into a tourney where most of the caw blade decks are not playing board wipes or gideons, and has limited amount of spot removal, you can gain a lot from vengevines, cobras, and shamans.

  3. would love to play the red deck but what do you do besides scoop against the white leyline and gideon ugh. have had a lot of success with BIG RED deck though.

  4. I nearly top 8’d (got top 16) at the Madison PTQ playing an All In Red style deck. I went 3-1 versus CawBlade at the tournament beating a few statechamps and nationals qualified players along the way (and Ben Sw). Only if I top 8’d, it would have been mentioned here!

  5. Always: a good red image playing a burn deck isn’t bothered too much by day/Gideon, since so few creatures are being used (Gideon is a joke when hauler and elder still have value, and guides that survive that longnshoukd give you far more than that one man a investment, And stopping the production of 4/4’s doesn’t let them ignore koth). Batterskull is no better than baneslayer which doesn’t stop burn from being competitive, unless its coming down in turn three in which case the red image is bad and deserves to lose. Day really doesn’t do that much when you your haulers still damage them and guide has already gained you significant value, especially in lists that cut the elder in favor of a noncreature spell. Offering gives gives them a solid answer to shrine, but not much else. They shouldn’t be able to equip sword unless you’re about to kill them anyway, and I’ve won multiple games despite multiple sword hits. Firewalker has always been a problem, but dismember makes it easier than ever to deal with. Honestly, its by no means an easy matchup for the red deck, but if they know what theyre doing, it isn’t for the caw player either. The problem is that so many people are *bad* at playing red decks (generally the ones that complain about it needing turn one guides and whatnot to win, which just isn’t true) that it seems like decks are better than they actually are against it a lot of the time.


  6. Just to clarify, Crush gets rid of the Batterskull even if they have a Spellskite, but at the cost of not dealing with the Spellskite itself if that’s what you want, correct?

  7. Those opening stats are good fuel for the ban debate.
    Personally, I am sick to death of how to beat blade articles with lists running Jace or Vengevine. I’m not ragging on you Josh, I like your articles. It’s just the format.
    The Koth deck was a slight bit of fresh air.
    I’d just like to add – die Jace die!

  8. Caw-Blade has become Affinity-esque dominant. If Stoneforge Mystic had come out this year rather than last year I think it would have been banned, but because its about to rotate they are not going to do anything about it.

    I really hope the next block does not make a SOM card into the new Stoneforge. I mean cross block synergy is good thing, but Stoneforge is a 2 mana tutor that essentially comes with a free dark ritual if it lives for a turn… How did they not catch how format breaking it would be?

  9. Batterskull was a huge mistake, but I think that either card on it’s own isn’t ban-worthy… at this point I wouldn’t object to a ban of Mystic, but I don’t think one is necessary either. We can’t just ban something every time a deck becomes dominant, especially when other decks are surviving despite its dominance (Twin being the most obvious example, though that’s misleading as it’s not surviving but coming, meaning people are still learning and tuning against the deck).

  10. The problem with Caw-Blade is that it is ridiculously flexible. For the Caw-Blade deck player, a lot comes down to predicting the metagame, as Caw-Blade can be easily tuned to have a favourable matchup with just about any deck at the expense of its matchup with another deck. With Splinter Twin and Mono-Red aggro being the second and third best decks in the format, Caw-Blade can actually adjust for both at the same time, with its matchups against weaker decks worsening being less relevant because those worse decks won’t be faring as well in the tournament anyways – adding in Diving Offering is good against both, as is more Into the Roil, as is Spellskite, as is sideboard Celestial Purge, and so on.

  11. White and Blue are the two colors in magic that have not had an emphasis placed on them to be monocolored. So naturally they are the most flexible. The following is a list of powerful cards or deck arch-types that seem to say go mono-colored or at the very least make it difficult for you to not go mono-colored..

    – Shrine of Burning Rage
    – Goblins
    – Koth of the Hammer
    – Obsidian Fireheart
    – Kuldotha Pheonix
    – Kargan Dragonlord
    – Moltensteel Dragon
    – Corrupt
    – Phyrexian Obliterator
    – Lashwrithe
    – Gatekeeper of Malakir
    – Vampires
    – Mind Sludge
    – Sign in Blood
    – Elves
    – Green Sun’s Zenith
    – Khalni Hydra
    – Wolfbriar Elemental
    – Leatherback Baloth
    – Grand Architect
    – White Sun’s Zenith
    – Student of Warfare
    – Devout Lightcaster

    Now imagine if Jace said UUUU for his mana cost or if Stoneforge said WW and WW to put an equipment into play. If Magic wants diversity in decks then they need to stop making it so easy for the best cards to go into every deck. Phyrexian mana cards and artifacts further compound the problem by being easily accessible to every deck (i.e. spellskite, hex parasite). They did it right with Phyrexian Obliterator, an over powered card but you are severely restricted if you want to play it.

  12. the skull.. haha) black summer actually seems like a time of a large variety of decks compared to today, right?) good old necro times)

  13. I haven’t really been interested in standard for a good while either, so I can understand why PTQ attendance is down. All the good decks are TMS decks and I can’t afford to play them.

    BTW, is it just me or does the link to LSV’s latest video not work? It just dumps me back on the front page.

  14. @Steve
    Nice points.
    Quest decks never got out of hand because there was no second colour. No Jace. There might be a case for saying the same thing about Jace decks without Stoneforge, but personally, I find Stoneforge and friends easier to deal with than Jace – unless I’m playing counter spells, in which case I’d be running Jace.
    Similar to your line of thinking, if Jace was black, red or green; the format would look very different.

  15. Why Plated Geopede is considered so bad? Isn’t it better than Spikeshot Elder? (Too slow to combo with a +2/+0, quite useless except for hawks) Also, I’d even prefer a Kargan Dragonlord in that slot…
    About WG Fauna: is a red splash worthy for better removal spells and a more explosive combination overall?
    Also, I’m trying to compile a list of viable options in standard:
    All cards available: Darkblade/Cawblade
    SFM not available: UG Vengevine or UR Twin
    Jace not available: WGx Fauna decks
    Neither SFM nor Jace available: MonoRed Burn or MonoGreen Elves
    What are your thoughts? Do you like also the Machine Red variant?

  16. It depends on more than what cards you have available… personally, I am much better with mono red, and I think that I have a better chance of winning a tournament with it than caw blade, all other things being held equal, despite caw being the objectively ‘better’ deck.

    Geopede and Dragonlord are 2-drops. The difference between 1 and two mana is HUGE!!!!! On turn two you need to be killing their SFM that just found batterskull, not playign a creature.

  17. Jace just needs to go away. I went 4-2 recently in a tournament (finished 10th) playing a boros variant. The only 2 matches lost were to jace decks

  18. Wait… so, because the only decks that managed to beat you played Jace, it needs to go away?! If your standards are “my deck should be unbeatable” you’ll find very little support…

  19. I prefer goblins than RDW
    Because in this format I saw more white leyline than day of judgment or Gideon

  20. How about playing volt charge instead of staggershock? volt charge allows you to ultimate koth the turn after you play him. Maybe a split 2/2 volt charge and staggershock? Or probably take out 2 spikeshot elder and play 3/3 split volt and staggershock?

  21. Staggershock also gives you 2-for-1’s against decks like goblins or vampires, however.

  22. I play Caw-Blade have for a few months now. The deck has such flexability that it can be easily modified to suit any shifts in the meta game. In my local area when everyone started to switch to red and vamps to fight the Caw players extra Living Weapons and Firewalkers came in. When Darkblade picked up steam Vault Skirge came in to foil all their removal. What needs to happen is finding a deck that is as flexible that can at least be 50/50 against Caw-Blade. The current infestation of combo decks means a narrowing of the metagame and fringe decks that just needed a bit more tuning will be forgotten completely.

  23. Stoneforge is awesome we all know that but he’s the the real problem

    ITS JACE and no one wants to be put in a position of : EIther pay $300-400 for 4x JTMS, or not be competitive.

    I’m very very glad attendence is down. I’ve been screaming about how much I despise the Mythic rarity, its hard for me to contain my anger about it. Mythic for me anyways, has ruined constructed. I have not played standard since Mythic has existed and I seriously doubt anything will change, because I know WoTC will never backtrack on mythic.


    Jace and cawblade are analogous to Arcbound Ravager/Disciple and Affinity.

    C’ya soon Jace. (And I don’t mean when Zen rotates)

  24. The results of Caw-Blade do not resemble those of Affinity pre-bans. They exceed them.

  25. I’ve had problems with the website post-shutdown. None of the rollover links (the ones that show the image of the card) work except in the deck lists….is there something wrong with my settings? It still works for me on the official MTG website.

  26. Steve makes in interesting point. It seems to me that WOTC is in a tough design spot. The diversity of Legacy truly embarrasses Standard, because of course Legacy has such a huge card pool (without being warped by restricted Vintage cards). There are tons of powerful cards and strategies in Legacy, hence the diversity. Injecting new blood into Legacy seems like it requires occasionally printing cards like Stoneforge Mystic (that card wouldn’t be seeing much Legacy play at WW or more, and equip at WW or more), but the problem is that doing so gives Standard such a ridiculous card, with problems indicated by Steve above. Making a card like SFM more reasonable for Standard makes it much less reasonable in Legacy. Since I want both formats to grow and thrive, I’m not sure what the answer is. (I don’t think SFM is “too good” for Legacy by any stretch – it seems appropriately sweet.)

    Under the assumption that we just ignore Legacy and focus only on Standard, printing SFM (with them knowing about Swords and Batterskull) seems foolish. Easy to say in hindsight, but I suspected it would be broken as soon as I heard the next block was artifact based, and at any rate WOTC had actually *tested* it with Mirrodin in FFL. I know Spikes love their powerhouse cards, but SFM seems far too much. And Mike Turian — I think you’re awesome, but Jace with brainstorm at 0 is just absurd. Anyways, as Jimmy says, people vote with their entry fees. We’ll see how it shakes out.

    Still, like Steve, I personally wish cards were more tied to colors. Cryptic Command and Phyrexian Obliterator seem about right. Awesome cards can be color-intensive. Force of Will is pretty damned blue, and it’s sweet. Jace is probably not blue enough at 2UU (and is too powerful aside from CC). Also, not that it’s warping any formats currently, but a card like Dismember just takes a huge dump on the color pie, and I personally don’t like it. But that’s a problem with designing cards for all formats. Flavor-wise the Phyrexian mana cards make sense in block/limited, but the problem is now every color has Dismember in eternal formats, and you can’t undo that. Tough game to design for.

  27. Seeing as how Standard is where the largest percentage of new, serious, Magic players start, it seems to me that WotC would put some kind of priority on fixing the format, either through NPH or banning of the ever-warping duet TMS and SFM. Wizards is usually highly aware of how they are impacting the future Magic scene, but to have released NPH without a Standard shake-up, shows a lack of import given to both the future and the Standard format. Hopefully Innistrad and M12 give us all a reason to get off the bladed format and renew our faith in Wizards usually healthy ability to see the future…

  28. Count me in as another person sick to death of Mystics and Mindsculptors. The only Standard events I’ve bothered to attend are FNMs, where there’s some breathing room for brews and novel strategies. Paying $40 to go grind six rounds of Blade mirror matches does not interest me at all – especially given that the present, refined version of Blade pretty much plays itself.

    I never thought I’d say it, but I miss Bloodbraid Elf.

  29. Yeah, I won the PTQ in Providence with almost the same list as Adrian Sullivan’s, we’ve been working on it for quite a while

  30. Jim Storrie: Saying that the deck plays itself is a bit of an overstatement. The deck’s not extremely hard to play or anything, but Mono-Red Aggro, Mono-Green Eldrazi, Valakut (when it was dominant), and such are certainly easier to play. Caw-Blade takes enough skill so that in a mirror match the better player wins most of the time, rather than it coming down to who had a better draw.

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  32. I have to agree about casting cost restrictions. I think that’s actually why multi-colour blocks like Ravinca, Lowryn, and Alara work so much better- you end up with costs that require a lot of investment in specific colours, even if they are multiple colours. Even though Putrid Leech at GB is not quite as restricting as it would be at GG or BB because you have access to two colours, it also ties you to those colours significantly. Likewise, if you wanted to play Bloodbraid Elf with Jace for some reason, you’d be restricted to RUG.

    But it’s a lot harder to build a format around costs like GGG than it is WGR, as the difference between Leatherback Baloth and Wolly Thoctar demonstrates. Double and triple colour mana costs strike a nice balance between restriction and flexibility which is hard to duplicate with mono-colour costs.

    I think that’s part of why Jace is so much more powerful now. His -1 effectively shuts down anything that costs more than 3 unless it somehow immediately has an impact, and a deck with him in it can potentially run any viable card in the format because everything is monocoloured. So instead of choosing between Jace and one of several powerful non-blue packages, you choose Jace AND the best package of two colours.

  33. Also, I tend to agree that Jace would be a tad more balanced now at 1UUU like Cryptic Command. I like that cards that are printed now can be eternal format powerhouses, but a triple-blue cost would make it hard to run Jace in three colour standard decks, mitigating his flexibility in standard while not really harming his eternal potential much.

  34. Steve is exactly right and bears repeating.

    If Magic wants diversity in decks then they need to stop making it so easy for the best cards to go into every deck. Phyrexian mana cards and artifacts further compound the problem by being easily accessible to every deck (i.e. spellskite, hex parasite). They did it right with Phyrexian Obliterator, an over powered card but you are severely restricted if you want to play it.

  35. Caw variants definitely don’t play themselves. It is precisely because they are so decision-rich and interactive that makes them reward high-skill play. I know that despite a lot of testing with Caw, I still punt decisions >1/game. As it happens, against many opponents I get away with it due to the overall power of the deck, but it is pretty punishing in a defensive scenario where you’re playing to your outs.

    Monored definitely requires skill to play as well, as demonstrated by how differently the best red players perform from others. Monored play is definitely a unique skill and is perhaps somewhat more ‘solvable’ since the apparent amount of interactions is lower, but end-of-day it is hard to consider a deck low-skill when so much of it is playable speed and sequencing is vital.

    Ramp variants is a place where I agree that the deck ‘plays itself’ after the fundamental decisions about mulligans. Whenever I play ramp it definitely feels like ‘live off of the top and get there or not.’ Keeping track of how many mountains you have left and maximizing your valakut triggers is a skill, though.

  36. Mythic rarity stinks. If WotC wants to print at mythic rarity, they should not be power cards.

  37. Funny thing, Valakut only ‘played itself’ after you had extensive experience with the deck and all the matchups. I like control decks, but ppl who say Valakut played itself, never played Valakut.

  38. I have been saying this since they started mythics- Attendance will go down, people will be quitting, prices will go up, games will be less fun, and there will be less diversity.
    Nobody believed me.

    All they had to do to make mythics work was to make them all automatically restricted to one per deck per mythic. Nobody would have ever had any problems with them then. The price wouldnt be so high as to make people quit playing. The decks would be more varied. And of course the biggest – Mythics would actually feel mythic instead of just overpriced.

  39. Mythics have been around since m10 and alara block. Arguing that they are hurting the sales of magic now is silly. Mythics drive more box sales so it’s making wizards money the same way an much worst and terribly balanced game–that rhymes with sucky-oh!–does.

    As for attendance being down, Jund was a super-cheap deck to play so it’s not surprising that attendance is down versus Jund winter. As for the format being in-bred, caw blade is a good deck but also there hasn’t been any big PT standard events. The week before PT paris, the top decks at all the SCG’s were the same tired old decks from worlds despite MBS being legal (+ kuldotha red). Not until the pros devoted themselves to the format did we see REAL new decks come out. We’ve seen some decent variety at top recent PTQs and 5ks recently. All the pros were focused on providence recently. Let’s see what happens when they start jumping into the format.

    Given that GP Dallas (the last Wizards standard event) rocked attendance expectations, I don’t think Wizards cares, especially with boxed product doing well. If big-event attendance goes way down we’ll see but saying so now without a larger sample size is really being overly pessimistic.

  40. Diogenes, your whole first paragraph proves what I said.
    Wotc made mythics just like yugioh which have driven up box sales (due to people and stores needing to open more packs, not due to more players). Exactly the same way that yugioh did, just like you said.
    Who plays yugioh now? NOBODY, the rarity system helped drive the game into extinction just like its starting to do with magic.
    Wotc can keep trumpeting about how they are selling so many packs, but the reality is magic is losing players, attendance at standard events is ridiculously low, and they are only selling more packs because you now have to open 8 times more packs to get the cards you need.

  41. Try to fine one competitive deck in this enviroment besides RDW that isn’t a Jace deck or a Stoneforge deck.

  42. Tracking PTQ attendance is valuable, but I would also suggest that there might be other factors to consider besides “zomg caw-go broked standard”.

    For instance, in the last year the SCG series has exploded and is offering imo much more attractive prizes. Yes, the guy to take 1st at a PTQ is making bank, but the SCG series gives cash prizes (not just to 1st place) and repeat success provides additional benefits. If there’s a PTQ and an SCG event both within my traveling range, I’m choosing the SCG every time.

    On top of that we have TCGplayer series and others gaining popularity all with incentives other than that 1 golden PTQ ticket.

  43. @Zach, when you are almost being forced to own/borrow/buy 4 Jaces to be competitive that SCG 1st place prize, it becomes very unfun. (Yes I know UG infect has won, as well as a very small handful of other decks have won big events recently, but the vastly overwhelming top deck is clearly Cawblade-and it there WAS a major shift in the metagame, cawblade could easily adapt, and has before)

    My problem with the state of standard (which has always been my favorite format since the mid 90’s) is that MYTHIC will now be the focal point. Jace is simply the first really bad mistake, and it’s only a matter of time until we have a new Mythic wreaking havoc on standard.

    I’m sure WOTC’s perspective is:
    -We need to sell more packs
    -We need to compete with yu-gi-oh
    -We need to adapt to other TCG’s for market share

    I’m curious to see if the enormous dropoff in Standard tournament attendance has made the sale of packs and boosters drop off to. I pray it has, WOTC is a business first, whose purpose it is to make money. I am not and will not ever fault them for having to make money, but Mythic is a cheap and obvious quick fix, and I think it has already started to bite WOTC in the ass. Look at how the Mythic Rarity ruined Yu-Gi-Oh (as someone else stated)

    I predict (And I’m almost 100% certain I’m right-time will tell) that JTMS will be banned with the next B&R list.

    That’s only a baindaid for the real problem of this ABSURDLY OVERPRICED forced Rarity that is making the barrier of entry to standard unattauinable for so many people if they wish to be competitive, LSV has said the same in his videos and I could not agree more.

    If you are as fed up with Mythic as I am, I would really hope you speak your mind as I am, and remember: YOU SPEAK TO WOTC WITH YOUR $$$$

    I have spent significantly less on Magic since Mythic because I am so utterly disgusted and I really hope everyone else who feels similarly as I do would speak up and vote with your $$$!!


  44. Hoping to be a bit of a voice of reason here. Y’all need to calm down a little on the mythic rarity. The problem is not the mythic rarity per se. The problem is one or two mythic rare cards being way overpowered and in >50% of the best decks. Since they made sets smaller, it doesn’t require 8 times as many packs opened to get the same number of playsets of the best cards. However, since they are 8 times more rare, their prices will reflect that. If an entire set of cards can be expected to remain steady at some price, the mythic rares will always take up the majority of that price. The problem starts when one card outshines all others. This one card then takes up the majority of that fixed price, and the others drop very little.

    So, if Wizards did a better job of balancing card power throughout the mythic rarity instead of printing 14 timmy fatties and 1 spike chase card per set, we would have much more reasonable prices – at least more in line with what we’ve seen in the past. It would also probably make the Standard format more enjoyable to more people since more balanced cards would likely lead to a more balanced metagame with more viable strategies.

    Wizards might not be willing to do this since if EVERYONE needs 4 of one specific mythic, an absurd amount of packs need to be opened. If the mythics were more balanced, retail stores would reap more rewards in the secondary market probably, but in all likelihood fewer packs would be opened overall, hurting WOTC’s bottom line. I don’t envy their position, but keeping their players happy seems like a better long-term business move than short-term money-grabs. Just my take on the matter. Hope someone found it interesting/thought-provoking.

  45. To all the people arguing about the skill level of caw, there is nothing skillful about the mystic batterskull plan. Its just plain unfair.

  46. @Zach

    Have you looked at the last 2 SCG Opens? The attendance significantly underperformed and Evan Erwin admitted as much on Twitter the other day.

  47. I think there will be a banning of some caw staples come June (Jace or mystic), because 4 more months of this could be disastrous if standard becomes like extended, which statistics seem to be indicating.

    I can understand some of the reasons why this wouldn’t happen; though I feel the pride of the modern design and development team and system would be the primary reason – and that would be a terribly insecure decision.

  48. Mythic rarity is not the problem. Sword of Feast and Famine, Batterskull, and Jace are the problem. Without the first, Cawblade doesn’t have huge inevitability and can’t play Fish as effectively. Without the second, aggro decks once again have a good matchup against Cawblade, unless it adapts, losing win percentage against control or combo decks in the process. Without the third, more people can be competitive (although I think it’d hurt the metagame overall. There’s very little reason to play blue without Jace at the moment.)

    Very true. If that plan never goes through, however, it is pretty skill-intensive, at least if you’re playing UW or UWr. Moreover, given that it’s more-or-less the deck’s sole concession to aggro matchups, it’s actually a weakness to exploit if you’re building.

  49. Preordain and Mana Leak are decent reasons to play blue, but nowhere on the level of Jace. Also Deceiver Exarch.

    I think the biggest problem with banning Jace would be Valakut- although I’m not sure how large a problem it would actually be. Ban Valakut itself, though, and the same decks could play Eldrazi as a finish, which might be slow enough to not be as oppressive but still fast enough to be worth playing. People with a better grasp of the metagame might be able to comment there.

  50. Ok, as well ALL know, this is not a kids game. It may have been 20 years ago, but now most of the players are big kids still playing (mid to late 20s and early 30s). Seriously, stop complaining about 400 bucks for a playset of jaces. That’s nothing, really.. Heck, my golf clubs are in excess of a thousand, and I regret not a single dime I spent. If you can’t afford magic to the extent of playing at the top level, I’m sorry. But, life itself mirrors this fiscal phenomenon where the person with more resources has more advantages in certain ways. Banning a card on price alone would be ridiculous. I’m sorry to sound condescending, but I’m just tired of hearing the incessant whining on the cost of big jace.

  51. @Brad S.

    Lol to stop complaining about price. I don’t play standard much so I don’t really need Jaces, but trying to compare your super gold clubs that don’t rotate out to pieces of cardboard is almost saddening. That and Jace almost doubled what the last expensive card was at its prime (Tarmogoyf at 60$ in standard)

  52. The issue is not the Mythic rarity, nor is it Jace, and I’d even go as far as to say it’s not really Stoneforge Mystic. It’s the players.

    It is possible to beat Stoneforge Mystic on a fairly consistent basis, provided you play good Magic and don’t play-mistake yourself into oblivion. The secret is the same as it’s always been: Hybrid decks are generally soft to a more pure version of either of its components. For example, Faeries generally had a tough time against pure Aggro or pure Control.

    Mystic decks, in their current iteration, are the same. I’ve tested the matchup as much as I possibly can, and I can say without a doubt in my mind that this is the truth. If you want to beat it, you can, but you have to devote yourself to a particular style of play, rather than trying to be as flexible as they are. They have better percentages against the rest of the field, but with the field becoming more an more saturated with the Bladed menace, the ability to beat it becomes paramount.

    Playing smart Magic goes a long way toward making that happen. Instead of just trying to get your deck to do its thing while theirs does it, make them play your game. Mystic decks are not the best when operating under extreme pressure, nor are they quite so dominant when they can’t choose a given angle of attack, thanks to an abundance of disruption.

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