Magic is very hectic during the first few months of the new year. Between 3 different tournaments, I am looking at current Standard, Extended, Legacy, Draft, and Standard with Mirrodin Besieged, so figuring out your priorities are very important. Just because current Standard is not as important as say, Extended, does not mean it doesn’t exist though, and I still have to come up with a deck for said tournament.
Most players would just turn to their “netdecks” at this point and be content with that. Unfortunately though, it isn’t quite that easy for a deckbuilder. I wanted to attend the SGC Open in Kansas City this weekend with something fresh, even if I didn’t have the time to build that something up from the ground. So where to turn? Mike Flores seemed like a good place.
In Chiba, I was rooming with Dave Williams (and by rooming I mean mooching) and so I got to see his U/G Genesis Wave list originally built by Mike Flores. Dave had made some small changes to the deck and then ran it against me a few times while I played Vampires. The results are mostly irrelevant, as I was pretty impressed by what the deck could do. We began working on his sideboard to get it as streamlined as possible for the next day.
Somewhere along the way, Dave was looking at his Into the Roils as a way of dealing with Sword of Body and Mind among other things and it just didn’t sit right with me. Ultimately, if possible, the deck clearly wanted to run no instants or sorceries other than the namesake card. Of course, if some card was just so good at doing its job an exception could be made, but when there were other options available and they came in the form of a permanent, it just made sense to switch. Because of this, I ended up suggesting Acidic Slime to Dave and 3 quickly made their way into the board.
After the Standard portion, Dave mentioned how awesome the Slimes were and said that they were arguably the best card in the deck for him over the 6 rounds. I believe he sided them in for either 4 or 5 of his matches, so I took note of this. Flashforward to modern day, and the issue of time becomes very relevant when choosing a deck for something like an open tournament so I wanted to take something established and make some tweaks to it.
The Genesis Wave deck seemed like the perfect scapegoat. I had already seen the deck in action and had some brainstorming sessions in order to lend a hand with the building process, so getting back into that frame of mind would come easier this time around. I jotted down the idea of a more mana denial version of the deck on my word processor and it sat there for 2 weeks or so until I was ready to begin brewing.
While this probably should come at the end of the article, I know many of you are just here for this, so I will go ahead with it now and leave the explanations for after:
I am writing this before the tournament takes place, so there is a nonzero chance that one or more of those cards ends up not making the list, but as of right now, that is where we sit.
Specifically, Mindslaver can be any number of things that hurt Valakut in our post-board setup. Since we have so many ways to deal with their lands, they really only beat us with Avenger of Zendikar, so a configuration of cards in those 2 slots to beat that strategy is what we are after.
Cards that may end up making their mark are Stormtide Leviathan, Contagion Engine, Lodestone Golem, or Steel Hellkite. None of these are typically good against Valakut, but when you game plan is to just hurt their mana and then go over the top, these cards become relevant. Since we are on the topic of Valakut, I may as well finish before going into the things that this list has an advantage of over the traditional U/W Wave lists.
Against Valakut you are rocking up to 16 spells that disrupt their mana. This is your key point at fighting them as it becomes almost an inverse mana acceleration. While an unmolested Lotus Cobra or Joraga Treespeaker can take over a game, those are unfortunately not as reliable when an opponent is slinging burn spells. A Spreading Seas on the other hand, is only going to be thwarted by a Harrow (which is a point that will matter on occasion so playing around Harrow whenever possible is important).
The traditional Wave decks were just looking to race Valakut which was difficult as our mana acceleration is prone to removal while theirs is not. Now, you have a similar level of explosive offensive power while also proactively disrupting their mana. The mana disruption plan is key but does also offer its own decision tree. You will be faced with the choice of disrupting their Mountains versus their Forests and this often paints the outcome of the game.
Of course whenever given the opportunity, you should destroy or Seas a Valakut, but outside of that, I have been leaning towards slowing down the amount of Mountains in play. The issue with disrupting Forests is that you really only have Spreading Seas to reliably do it on turn 2 or 3, so at that point, you may slow them down, but they almost always end up hitting their green eventually and recovering. Of course if they are stuck on 1 green with no way to recover, then going that route is correct. If instead however, you hit their mountains, they actually begin to have difficulty triggering Valakuts.
If you consider that on average, Valakut decks run between 11 and 12 mountains, you can quickly see why disrupting 3 or 4 of those becomes an issue. With a Valakut out, 2 Forests, and 3 disrupted Mountains, the Valakut player needs to hit 12 lands before Valakut begins triggering, and that is assuming the Valakut is still in play and they have only exactly 2 Forest. In addition, they actually run out of Mountains if they can’t get multiple Valakuts active before killing you. This leaves them with only their creatures to do the winning, and that is why we turn to something like Stormtide Leviathan. Primeval Titan alone is not even scary when we have 7 of our own Titans and 4 Acidic Slimes to take it out in combat.
The original Genesis Wave list had a naturally good matchup against control, which was one of the biggest incentives to playing it. Vampires and Valakut were both match ups that you had to race against and they had ways of disrupting your mana which made it even more difficult. Our own mana disruption shifts the balance in both of these match ups though. We have already discussed the improved Valakut match up, so let’s take a look at Vampires.
Previously, our game plan against Vampires was straight forward. We would run out a mana accelerant or two, hope to dodge an Arc Trail, and then begin dropping 6 drop after 6 drop. If they had a fast draw or could kill all of our mana accelerants, we were hung out to dry and they would race us easily. The match up was not horrible, but it was definitely in a good Vampire player’s favor.
Our new mana disruption changes the dynamic of the match up though. On the play, we are hard pressed to lose as we either can Spreading Seas our opponent into a losing position, or apply pressure via a mana accelerant, causing them to waste time at sorcery speed removing it and therefore not progressing their own game plan of dudes. With a Spreading Seas or two, we can actually get to a position fairly often where our opponent cannot cast any more creatures and we are therefore content with trading our Lotus Cobra or Joraga Treespeakers for guys just to set up more time for ourselves.
Acidic Slime actually offers the best of both worlds as he is able to cut them off of a mana (including the scarce red mana they might have) while trading for a guy in combat. Trading might not seem like the biggest thing in the world, but it translates into time, and we are hard pressed to lose a game that goes long.
With the mana denial we now have access too, both Valakut and Vampires become favorable match ups, which is obviously a step in the right direction. In previous versions of the deck, Boros and other similar strategies were the most difficult match up for us, so let’s quickly examine the difference that our changes make.
Spreading Seas, while not dead, is certainly not “good” against Boros and easily comes out when we get to boarding, so that change did not do much for us. Acidic Slime on the other hand does offer solutions to some of the problems we previously faced. Dealing with a card like Sword of Body and Mind is now much easier and the Slime can still trade away with a Steppe Lynx or Stoneforge Mystic. The Slime definitely does not make the match up good, but it essentially saves us some sideboard slots as we no longer need to board in a way to deal with the various equipment.
So far we seem to be increasing across the board (which may be true although I am sure some of the fringe match ups go the opposite direction), but how does our match up against the control decks change? Again, previously we had a solid match up here because of the constant stream of pressure that we were able to apply. Early accelerants demanded answers which would lead to our Jace needing answers, then Titans, and finally Genesis Wave. Mana Leak was actively a dead card assuming you were patient enough due to the amount of mana we could produce.
If you look at the current list, all of those elements remain. We did not cut any of our mana produces and still have a very high threat density. We did have to cut 2 Garruk Wildspeaker, a Primeval Titan, and a Genesis Wave, but the Acidic Slimes are hardly irrelevant in their place. In fact, the Slimes along with other mana denial actually provides us with a solid way of handling U/Ws best game plan against us.
Originally, Genesis Wave had Eldrazi Monument in the maindeck so that you would not get blown out by a [card day of judgment]Wrath[/card] right after resolving some giant Wave. For Worlds, Dave moved the Monument to the sideboard for that matchup specifically. Instead, now our Wave of any legitimate size can deal with a Wrath by themselves. Between Spreading Seas, Acidic Slime, Frost Titan, and Tectonic Edge, it is in no way unreasonable to cut an opponent off of white mana altogether, let alone the double White needed for Wrath. It is still important to make sure you are not running 3 or more accelerants out into a Wrath of course, but at least the post Wave worry is over. In addition to this, a nice bonus is that we now have maindeck answers to things like [card]Luminarch Ascension[/card] which was not a big problem before, but could occasionally be annoying coupled with removal.
The changes do come with a few negative points of course. Since we lost Garruk in favor of the slime, the deck can play out a little slow when our mana acceleration is removed. Garruk was not fast by any means, but he came down a turn earlier and helped accelerate out our 6 drops. Slime slows the opponent down, but he comes down on turn 5 without help which can be awkward. Spreading Seas does help to fill this void by giving you something to do in the meantime, so all is not lost.
As for the sideboard, much of it is pretty self explanatory:
Obstinate Baloth – Here for the aggro matchups. Most of the time against aggro you just take out your Waves and become a tap out deck every turn, so the Baloth helps you to do this by filling out the curve and recovering some life.
Volition Reins – Here for control as stealing Titans or lands or planeswalkers is a beautiful thing. Conveniently costed at 6 mana so that your Wave hits it when you cast for the optimal number. We sometimes bring this in against Valakut depending on the build to also steal their Titan or land.
Narcolepsy – This can also be replaced or split up with Wall of Tanglecord. You are basically looking for some spot removal against aggro and both do their job. Narcolepsy allows you to skip on Tumble Magnet as it deals with things like Demon at Death’s Gate and a Titan where as the wall boosts your Overgrown Battlement. I will probably end up with a split of 2 Narcolepsy and 1 Wall of Tanglecord for the event.
Ratchet Bomb – Just a fast sweeper against aggro. I need to test this one more to find out if it hits our permanents too often to be useful. Other options include Contagion Engine, Wurmcoil Engine, or even Steel Hellkite.
Summoning Trap – Obviously here for control and the Acidic Slimes do end up mattering even more with these in. I could see going up to 3 if you wanted to, but your control match up is good enough that I have been content with 2.
Overall I have been more than happy with the deck so far and must tip my hat to Mike for the boost in getting this deck done due to the work he had already put into it. Extended is a tad more important right now so it is always nice to find a way to save some time and still end up with a sweet deck. I know that Standard is on the back burner right now, but give this a try in San Jose or your local FNM and I think you will be surprised. Good luck in those Extended PTQs and thanks for reading!