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Decks of My Week – Christmas Edition

This may look like any other article I write, but it is in fact a new feature I’m going to try out. I have been known to play Magic Online from time to time, and I thought that a peek into what I have been playing could be interesting, as well as relevant (even for those who don’t play MTGO). I’ll go over the decks I’ve been using, the formats I’ve been playing, and offer any observations I can think of. I can’t promise I’ll do it every week, since my MTGO habits do wax and wane, but when I have been playing interesting decks, I figure I might as well talk about them. Some of the formats are MTGO-only, but Extended and Legacy should be of interest for people who don’t own digital cards, and who am I to say that there isn’t a store somewhere running Tempest-Stronghold-Exodus FNM drafts?

Despite the holidays being in full swing, I have had some time to battle online, at least between family dinners and other such things. This week, I played a few different formats, some of which are a little more widespread than others. Starting with…

Extended

The first format I want to talk about is Extended. I mostly played in the 2-man queues, but the Extended 8-mans filled, which is pretty nice. I’ve noticed that the metagame seems to be made up of mainly Faeries, Omen decks, UW, and 4-CC, with a sprinkling of creature decks (Jund, Tempered Steel, GW Trap).

There are actually two decks I wanted to mention today. The first is not exactly 4-CC…more like 2-CC. This UW deck not only 4-0ed two Daily Events, but, and more importantly, beat me 3 times in the heads up queue. I say that not sarcastically either…4-0ing a Daily Event means very little if you can’t see what the deck played against and how they played, but it beating me three times gave me the opportunity to decide for myself if the deck is good. First, the list:

UW, by JB2002

I don’t think it was the same pilot who played me in the 2-mans, but the list seemed close enough. I initially thought this was just a worse version of 4-CC, since it plays much of the same cards, and really just improves the manabase at the cost of some card quality. Then again, I also assumed 4-CC would be able to easily defeat this deck, which didn’t seem to be the case. The games were pretty close, but it still seemed tough. Jace Beleren and Sun Titan in particular are quite difficult to deal with, and I even lost after resolving two Cruel Ultimatums once. He had Kitchen Finks to absorb the edict part of the Cruel, and Sun Titan + Jace to get card value back.

I’m not sure if this deck has what it takes, since I haven’t played with it yet, but if it beats 4-CC and occupies sort of the same metagame space, it might be a good call. It can sideboard some interesting cards, and the mana is certainly more resistant to disruption than 4-CC. It probably still dies horribly to Faeries, though War Priest of Thune is a little interesting, but 4-CC hasn’t been beating Faeries either.

Speaking of 4-CC…

An update is probably in order, since the list continues to evolve. Unsurprisingly, Faeries is the main thorn in my side. I haven’t really lost to anything but Faeries (with exception of some losses to UW, of course), and if I could just figure out a way to beat Faeries I would definitely be locked in on the deck. Faeries has always been the problem, but the non-Faeries matchups have been positive enough that I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to beat the winged menace while still getting to play my Reflecting Pools.

Here is what I just changed to recently:

The main differences from previous builds is the inclusion of the maindeck Vendilion Cliques, and I have to say I’m pretty sold. With aggro taking a back seat to control and combo, Clique is insane. Turn three Clique into turn four Jace is almost unbeatable in the mirror, and even against aggro, Vendilion Clique usually trades for a card.

The most noticeable thing about this list is the addition of Great Sable Stag. As much as I resisted adding them, I have come to the realization that Faeries just is impossible without them (and still isn’t great even then). In order to accommodate the 12-point buck, I switched out the Scalding Tarns and Mountain for 2 more Vivid lands and an additional filter land, which ended up being Cascade Bluffs. I also added another Volcanic Fallout since Faeries etc.

The one Sunblast Angel is experimental, and I’m almost to the point of cutting that slot entirely. With Vendilions in the deck, killing them isn’t too tough, and I don’t even know if another 6-drop monster is needed. The cards that rotate in and out of the deck are:

 

Basically, the removal/early drop suite are somewhat in flux, with the core of the deck not changing much. At times I have had 3 Bolts, once even 3 Preordains, and obviously the Vendilion Clique slot has changed many times. Right now I like where most of this build is, but Faerie is still too big of a problem. Even with 4 Stags and 3 Fallouts, I haven’t gotten the matchup to a reasonable point yet, and they can always just side in Wall of Tanglecord (which they should have). Don’t be afraid to mess around with the deck, since it is pretty customizable, and you might just stumble on to some awesome configuration. I know I change a card or two after every five matches or so, since at this point I’m just interested in testing different cards, seeing as how I have enough practice with the base deck.

At the end of the day, if Faeries is this bad a matchup, I might have to rethink my attachment to 4-CC. As much as I want to play the deck, I won’t play it if it looks like Faeries is going to be all over (which is the case online right now). If anyone has any solutions to the matchup, please, let me know!

Legacy

Now that Survival is gone, Legacy should basically move back to where it was before GP: Columbus. Counterbalance, Storm, Merfolk, and various terrible aggro decks are all back in the mix, though I suspect people are still going to try and break Vengevine. The list I’ve been using recently is basically Ari Lax’s list from GP Columbus, though I made a few minor changes:

Really the only changes I made were to the sb, since the maindeck is pretty sweet. I just love UB storm decks with a ton of basic lands and cantrips, since they give you such good control over your draws. I also like being resistant to Wasteland, which this list very much is. Maybe it is my Vintage roots, but being able to play out basics and fetches for the first couple turns is a huge draw for me, since Wasteland is one of the most common disruption cards in the format. For that reason, I wouldn’t consider playing the 3 or 4 color storm deck, since the additional colors just open you up to losing games to Wasteland, without adding that much in the way of power.

For those who haven’t played this deck before, it is pretty simple. The main sequence you win with is casting Infernal Tutor with Lion’s Eye Diamond in play, preferably with a bunch of mana floating. You sac the LED, get Ill-Gotten Gains, bring back Infernal Tutor and some rituals/LEDs, and go get Tendrils and kill them. For every 2 extra mana you have you can increase the storm by chaining Infernal Tutors, and the whole process usually storms for more than enough.

Other wins include finding Ad Nauseam and casting it, or just chaining Rituals and Petals into a Grim Tutor into Tendrils (though this takes a fair amount more work). Your first few turns are almost always the same: Cantrips and Duresses, which usually set up a turn four win. Turn two or three isn’t that hard to manage, but turn four is pretty consistent.

The sideboard is not the best ever, but I have been happy enough for now. Against the control decks, I like adding in Dark Confidant, the extra Tendrils, and possibly Thoughtseize/Xantid Swarm, depending on their build. The Grips/Trop are for Counterbalance, and the bounce spells are for cards like Pyrostatic Pillar, Thorn of Amethyst, Sphere of Resistance, Ethersworn Canonist, and Gaddock Teeg.

There is plenty of room to maneuver in Legacy right now, and playing a very powerful and resilient deck is a good place to be. Now, onto the REAL formats…

Tempest-Stronghold-Exodus Draft

I am quite a fan of this format, and would recommend it to anyone bored of current sets. Every time it is available on MTGO, I draft it a bunch of times, though I think it goes away on the next update (which would be tomorrow). Besides the chance to draft an awesome format, there are actually a ton of money cards to open, such as Wasteland (20+ ticket uncommon), Lotus Petal (4 ticket common), Oath of Druids, Reflecting Pool, Survival of the Fittest, City of Traitors, Sphere of Resistance, and more.

At risk of ruining a good thing, I think that U/x control is an awesome deck (what a surprise). Seriously though, my average curve is something like this:

Turn 2: Hammerhead Shark
Turn 3: Whiptongue Frog
Turn 4: Dream Prowler
Turn 5: Sift
Turn 6: Capsize with buyback

All I do is draft a deck full of defensive guys, removal spells, and card draw, with a finisher or two if I’m lucky. I actually kill them with Dream Prowlers more often than not. Speaking of which, I think Dream Prowler should be unblockable as long as the only attacking creatures are Dream Prowlers. As sad as it is, that situation has come up for me many times.

Important cards: Sift, Merfolk Looter, good buyback spells (Capsize, Slaughter, Searing Touch, Evincar’s Justice), removal, defensive creatures, and roughly in that order. I don’t want too talk too much about this format, since it is pretty niche and rarely available, but when it is, you really should give it a try.

Pauper

And last on my list is my new favorite format, Pauper. Pauper is the all-commons format on MTGO, though I have heard of people playing it live as well. This format has a surprising amount of depth, and the games are insanely fun. My obsession with pauper has spread, and I managed to get a number of pretty awesome players into the Pauper queues this week. Let’s just say that when you are talking to Dave Williams about how to board for the Cloudpost mirror and he mentions that Maher boards differently, the format has to be sweet.

The deck I started with was Gainsay’s UR Cloudpost list, though I can’t for the life of me find the original list. I’m sure a few more minutes searching the various pages on Wizards’ website would yield the list, but it’s irrelevant. Here is what I’ve been battling with:

This deck may look wacky, and yea, probably is, but this is Pauper. Six maindeck Stone Rains might look very odd, but the format is really narrow right now, so they are actually awesome. The biggest deck by far is Esper Storm:

This deck uses Familiars, Snaps, Cloud of Faeries, and Frantic Searches in order to generate Storm and mana, and finishes by Upheavaling them with Temporal Fissure. It was a really tough matchup, but the maindeck land destruction is awesome, since they play a bunch of bouncelands, and really want one in play in order to go off. Kill their Familiars with burn spells, their lands with Stone Rains, and then Capsize lock them. Easy!

Some of the other decks are the mirror, Storm combo (using various Rituals, Invasion taplands, and Empty the Warrens), mono-green poison (yes, really), mono-red Goblins and Affinity. There is also plenty of room to make new decks, but the audience is small enough that people seem to really just be playing Cloudpost, either Storm deck, or Affinity. If the format widens a bit, I could definitely see moving the land death package to the sideboard and putting in more general counters/removal. The other deck I’ve been messing around with is Affinity, now with Atog (thanks to MED4):

Atog + Disciple is pretty filthy, and the deck is certainly capable of really busted draws. It can have problems with Storm, which is why it has Duress, Pyroblast, and Raze in the sideboard (I have been happy with a mix of them, since they all have their uses). The one Perilous Myr in the maindeck is the most suspect card, but I wanted a cheap artifact creature to tap for Springleaf Drum, and Perilous Myr seemed better than Arcbound Worker. Sac it to Atog, shock them!

If you have never tried Pauper, I seriously recommend it. Not only are all the decks very cheap to build (duh), you can really make your own deck, which isn’t possible in Standard or Extended. Yes, the top tier decks are very good, but I’m sure there are a ton of undiscovered archetypes, and if you like to brew, you can probably find something. The games are almost always awesome, and you get to play all sorts of awesome cards.

I hope that among all these formats you find something that interests you, since they all interest me, and next week I’ll see what I’ve come up with. You may note that I didn’t mention Standard, and that is because the last game of Standard I played was round six of Worlds. Standard is ok, but not nearly as interesting as these other formats, so I’ve taken a little break. I might revisit it this week, but we shall see.

If you have any suggestions as to other things I could cover in this column, I’d be happy to hear them, either in the forums or via email, at LSV at Channelfireball dot com.

LSV

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