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Breaking Through – You Can’t Win the Game

 

Yes, I love Abyssal Persecutor. There, I said it. We will be registering at Sears and the Magic Online store. The wedding is in August. We have a strict invite-only list so unless you are are on said list, or are a Mythic, just send a gift and stay at home. Thanks.

Now that we got that out of the way and likely lost about 20 comments from the end of this article claiming similar events, let’s move on to the newest Persecutor creation, shall we? About 3 weeks ago when Turboland really got big at the Seattle 5k, I saw a shift in the metagame. It wasn’t a huge shift like the printing of Mana Leak may invoke, but it was significant enough to get me thinking.

Blue/White now had another deck that presented it with a bad matchup while something like Mono-Red had a deck to prey on. This would put a lot of people in the Mono-Red camp while some people would move off of U/W or Planeswalkers etc. Jund would still be Jund of course, and Next Level Bant was looking to likely capture the former U/W players as the deck interacted with the metagame and at least had an outside shot at beating Turboland. R/G Eldrazi was another deck that capitalized on its Turboland matchup as well. Beyond that, Turboland itself was bound to be a contender.

The Brew

With these changes in mind, I wanted to build something that could attack the aggressive decks while having a leg up on Turboland. Of course the deck would need to pull its own weight against Jund as well, otherwise, what’s the point right? But what I was not as concerned with were the true control matchups. Next Level Bant is a fringe control deck, but it needs to be attacked with different cards than a traditional control deck does. I got started brewing and began at a G/B/W concoction.

This list is obviously very rough, mainly because I was so displeased that I moved off of it after about a dozen playtest games. The issue with decks like this is always the imbalance that occurs with your draws. One game you draw a bunch of 5 drops and no removal, while the next you have 3 Lotus Cobras and nothing bigger than a Knight of the Reliquary.

Granted, this deck tried to centralize mana costs more than most “ramp” decks but the problem still persisted despite my best efforts. Whenever a deck falls apart like this though, it is always good to run through it one last time and note what worked and what didn’t. He is my cleaned up notes on the deck.

Abyssal Persecutor plus Baneslayer Angel makes for amazing board position. Protection against Maelstrom Pulse, good curve, etc. Persecutor offers speed to a deck without making it aggro and is a solid threat against decks where speed is required, like Turboland.

Identity Crisis leads to blowouts, but also clunks up the hand when drawn off a topdeck. Without mana acceleration, 2 of these is definitely too many.

-Having only 4 things to do in the form of instants makes the deck pretty blatant in its actions. Sure a Knight of the Reliquary can activate as well, but the deck plays too slow and straightforward to outmaneuver an opponent most times. You are just relying on the power level of your cards.

-The manabase is rougher than it should be. So many basics are needed to fuel fetch lands and Knights that you have awkward draws at times if your Lotus Cobra or Noble Hierarch die.

-You run out of gas very quickly as you have few cards that generate card advantage.

Basically, I wanted to keep the Mythic beater package but I wanted to have a way to generate more card advantage. The Hierarchs and Cobras were supposed to be the replacement of things like draw spells for the deck, as they move you into aggressive mode, but they weren’t consistent enough. And of course, whenever you seek card drawing and manipulation… you turn to your old buddy Jace, err I mean blue.

I was familiar with the Esper set up, having just come off a Grand Prix where my Esper list performed pretty well, so that was the logical next step. In essence, I was looking to cut away the mediocre or inconsistent green cards and replace them with consistency. This meant more draw spells, cantrips, removal, and as a result of losing Knights and Cobras, and a more reliable mana base not hinged directly on fetchlands.

My D.C. List had some neat things about it that I wanted to incorporate still as well. Esper Charm for example, was an all-star and I would not be gaming with UWB without 4 of those in my main – period. In addition, some slots were already occupied, like the 2 drop slot of [card]Wall of Omens[/card]. It was elementary enough. Removal was the next thing on my slate, and that’s when I realized that Persecutor actually was perfect for this style of deck. Examine the removal spells from my D.C. Deck:

 

Now look at the removal spells from the Persecutor build:

 

You could have literally put either configuration into either deck. I had no need to stretch my deck to play any spells that weren’t natural includes. Most Persecutor builds need to reach for things like Gatekeeper of Malakir or Sarkhan the Mad, which, while good on their own, are really just nods to the inclusion of Persecutor. In an Esper control list, the pieces already exist to make Persecutor a “freebie,” if you will.

Esper

So I was set on the makeup of the deck and eventually arrived at the following list:

 

There were some points in time where things like Sphinx of Lost Truths took the place of a Jace and the mana was different, but in general, the list was never more than 5 cards from its original starting point. Tim Landale and his buddy messaged me about obtaining this “super secret tech” that I had locked away (their words, not mine), so I obliged them. Tim has played one of my decks before and is a good guy, so shipping him a list to PTQ with the same day that I would be at the 5k looked to have little downside. Beyond that, I hooked the Seattle crew up with the list, although none of them ended up playing the deck.

 

Brian Kowal jumped on board late and looked to be all into the deck but ultimately made the switch at the last minute and just ran Jund. He ended up handing his 75 to Ben SW though who managed a 7-2 record with the deck cold, so I guess that worked out.

The list played out really well for me and if not for some poor mulligans and Blightning games I think I would have been fine. I ended up running against Jund in rounds 1 and 3, and within 4 games against those two decks, 13 Blightnings found their way to my head and what appeared to be the most inopportune times possible. Coupled with a few mulligans to 5 and it just wasn’t my day. That’s Magic though, so no complaints are warranted.

Meanwhile, back at team Landale, both he and James Pirkey managed to make it into the Top 8 of their local PTQs. James was knocked out in the quarters, but Landale progressed all the way to the finals before being knocked out by U/W Control. I found that matchup to be unfavorable in game 1 situations but a coin flip or better after board as you now have so many ways to interact with them.

After speaking with those two about the deck and getting an extra feel for it myself, I decided the list was about 2 cards off. Ultimately, I wanted to cut the maindeck Identity Crisis as it was nearly dead more often than not and although you were able to steal wins with it, that happened infrequently enough that I thought have a pair in the board was good enough. In its place I either wanted 1 of 2 things:

1 – Another cheap spell, like Doom Blade or Divination in order to have more action early on,
OR
2 – Another source of huge card advantage that would not be quite as dead like Mind Spring.

Sphinx of Lost Truths had been tried out before and it was pretty bad, so I was leaning on category 1. Ultimately, that is exactly what happened as we moved a 2nd Doom Blade to the maindeck. The sideboard now wanted to fit in another Crisis, so the very deck-specific Infest (in there against Eldrazi Monument decks) was cut to make room. This leaves the updated list as follows:

I am in a Daily Event on MTGO as I write this and the recording of that should go up next week some time to allow for everyone to get a feel for the deck as the PTQ season winds down. As is, since this list really doesn’t have a comparison point for it yet, I figured I would leave you with a sideboarding guide for most of the main matchups. Certain cards found in an otherwise stock list will always affect your boarding, but in general, this is what I have been doing.

Versus U/W
-3 Day of Judgment
-4 Wall of Omens
-2 Doom Blade
-1 Path to Exile
+4 Duress
+2 Negate
+1 Oblivion Ring
+1 Gideon Jura
+2 Identity Crisis

Versus Planeswalkers
-3 Day of Judgment
-4 Wall of Omens
-2 Doom Blade
-1 Path to Exile
+4 Duress
+1 Oblivion Ring
+2 Identity Crisis
+2 Negate
+1 Gideon Jura

Versus Red
-4 Jace the Mind Sculptor
-3 Day of Judgment
-1 Oblivion Ring
+2 Doom Blade
+3 Celestial Purge
+1 Gideon Jura
+2 Negate

Jund
-4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
+3 Celestial Purge
+1 Gideon

Versus Mythic
-4 Wall of Omens
+2 Doom Blade
+1 Gideon Jura
+1 Oblivion Ring

Versus Next Level Bant
-4 Wall of Omens
-2 Day of Judgment
+2 Identity Crisis
+1 Gideon Jura
+2 Doom Blade
+1 Oblivion Ring

Versus Naya
-4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
+2 Doom Blade
+1 Gideon Jura
+1 Oblivion Ring
(Certain Naya builds include a Celestial Purge so keep an eye out for that.)

Versus Turboland
-4 Wall of Omens
-4 Path to Exile
-2 Gideon Jura
+4 Duress
+2 Doom Blade
+2 Negate

On the Play
+2 Identity Crisis

On the Draw
+1 Identity Crisis
+1 Oblivion Ring

Versus Brilliant Ultimatum
-4 Wall of Omens
-2 Doom Blade
-3 Path to Exile
-3 Day of Judgment
+4 Duress
+2 Negate
+1 Oblivion Ring
+2 Identity Crisis
+2 Celestial Purge (It’s better than Path to Exile at taking out Liliana Vess, Creeping Tar Pit, Borderposts, and still hits Persecutor. 1 Path is left in for Celestial Colonnade or Gideon if they bring that in.)
+1 Gideon Jura

Look for those videos to be posted sometime next week among the regular draft videos. As always, thanks for reading and continued luck as the PTQ season grinds on. And of course, happy 4th of July!

Conley Woods

28 thoughts on “Breaking Through – You Can’t Win the Game”

  1. I love this build. I can’t ever seem to win when I play Esper builds, but there is NOTHING better than having a BS and Persey out at the same time. It’s just great

  2. I run a list nearly identical to this, and have been having success at FNMs.
    My list is different slightly, but maybe you’ll like this idea. I run 3 BSA, 1 oring and 3 path,. So that opens up 4 slots off your list, where i run timewarp x4. If you can have any 2 of the 4 (jace/gideon/baneslayer/persecuter) and you time warp after attacks, you win most matchups. in place of your doom blade i run 2 chalices, and in place of glacial fortress, 3 borderposts (i usually try to hard cast them as accelleration). I do keep doom blades in the side, but have found I rarely want them, except against mythic, which isn’t a bad matchup with 4 espercharms main and 3 DOJ.

  3. After reading about the deck at the SCG 5K I decided to play it at the Seattle PTQ this past Sunday. I switched the maindeck Identity Crisis with one of the SB Doom Blades, but otherwise ran 100% identical configuration.

    Gavin was kind enough to give me a last minute sideboarding guide based on one of your mails.

    I found it to be a very powerful deck – it certainly saved me a few times when I tried to punt the game. In particular I felt like I just couldn’t lose vs. Turboland.

    I beat Mythic twice, UW Control, UWr Planeswalkers, and Turboland with it, dropping a couple of games due to play mistakes. I could not buy a win against Jund however, and went 0-6 in games against my three Jund opponents. There were a couple of points where I could have taken a different line of play that might have prolonged my life, but in all of the games against Jund I never really felt like I had control of the game. None of them had crazy good draws (I only had 3 or 4 blightnings and maybe half a dozen Bloodbraids played against me) – they just did typical Jund things, didn’t stumble on mana, and curved out. In particular I found Sarkhan the Mad and Raging Ravines to be really hard to handle.

    I want to play the deck more, but I need to either figure out what I am doing wrong vs Jund or how to improve the deck’s matchup against Jund.

  4. awesome build, I came up with the abyssal baneslayer deck although it was B/W and I think blue is necessary. I’ll test it.

  5. Question: What is so special about this deck? Is there any combo I overlook? What is so good when you have BA and AP out at the same time?

  6. i can see myself persecuting again after the rotation. and it looks like esper is the way to go! why not baneslayer their face too? if only they would reprint time warp…

  7. Hey Conley,

    I absolutely love Abyssals too. I am currently running the “usual” B/r persecuter and was wondering what the biggest weakness was for the build? In local FNM’s, I have had some pretty good success but I was wondering why B/r won’t be the “choice” for Abyssals?

    Great article btw, I really do want to try esper. I also believe that persecuters will become much better after the rotation…

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  9. Can’t wait to try out this Espercutor monstrosity. Nor the opportunity to taunt defeated opponents…

    “You have been Espercuted.”

  10. @Sebastian: because ba and ap are 11 power worth of evasion that comes down in succession on turns 4/5 and are difficult for other decks to deal with for value.

    @Conley: why isn’t that boarded Gideon in the main? You bring it in against everyone except turbo so why not main board it?

  11. Conley,

    Once again, I’m curious to see how you would adapt the list, this time due to the influx of M11. Of course, many of the cards have yet to be spoiled, but once they are, which by next week will certainly be the case, I would enjoy reading your thoughts on updates.

    Before I saw Leyline of Anticipation, I thought for sure that Esper was positioned to make the best use of Mana Leak because it has better instant-speed (read: Esper Charm) things to do than other decks, which allows it to not tap out and not waste its mana when the opponent doesn’t cast something relevant. Now, I’m not sure that the leyline will see play, but it at least grants this advantage to other decks if they want to work for it.

    Either way, I still think that Esper with Mana Leak has the potential to actually get all the way there. It would be nice to read your thoughts while the deck is still relevant (there are one or so round of PTQ’s the week after M11 is released) instead of afterwards.

  12. I played against Ben SW last round of the 5k, I was playing Jund. It seems to have a pretty favorable matchup, Both games I took him low and after Esper Charming in every direction, he stabilized.

  13. Yea, Jund is definitely an odd matchup. I am pretty sure Esper is favored, and in the games you win, it definitely feels like it, but when Jund wins it feels the exact opposite. In testing I was winning more than losing against Jund, but not by a lot.

    The people at the PTQ and Ben SW in particular did well against Jund, where as I did poorly (the Blightning problem).

    As I see, the way Jund wins are a turn 2 Putrid Leech on the play that goes unanswered. Even a Wall to block it right away is helpful. And then following that up with Blightnings and having removal for your first few dudes. Basically a typical Jund draw, but an above average one. If they stumble at all, you can capitalize. The lists with Terminate are much worse than the ones without it as your guys are more likely to die the turn you play them, meaning no tapping out on their turn etc.

  14. Conley, what were your thoughts on Tidehollow Sculler in this mix? He’s usually at least a Silence Bears, right?

  15. And conversely – what about Time Warp? Is untapping with an unmolested Persecutor/Jace/Baneslayer already so good that you don’t need the extra tempo punch to break evil’s back?

  16. Judge, Jury, and Espercutioner. 😀

    So sick beating in w/ a Demon and Angel at the same time ><.

  17. Last time I saw someone running a list like this they called it “second mortgage ” because of the price tag.

  18. I really, really want to find room for a Sorin Markov in this deck.
    There are certain games where he’ll just come out of nowhere and mise the game.

    The triple black can be incredibly greedy, but I WILL MAKE IT WORK.

  19. “…just wasn't my day. That's Magic though, so no complaints are warranted.”

    It’s a pleasure to read a line like this.

  20. Seems like you board in gideon in every single matchup, and board out wall of omens in almost every matchup. Perhaps, at the very least, main should be +1 gideon -1 omens?

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