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Feature Article – UW in Two Formats

UW, in whatever form, is currently dominating both Extended and Standard. With Extended season coming to a close, I would like to leave you with what I think is the best deck to play for the few remaining PTQs. And with Standard season about to pick up, I also want to see if I can identify which version of UW is best in the current format.

Extended

The current format is made up of mostly UW Stoneforge, Faeries, and Bant with Elves, Scapeshift, and Grixis rounding out the field. For my last two PTQs my weapon of choice will be UW Stoneforge. Currently I am confident in every other matchup that I am willing to sacrifice almost anything in order to gain an edge against the mirror and Faeries. That realization has brought me to this list:

Mirran Crusader and Sower of Temptation have been popping up in a lot of UW lists. Crusader is great against the various green aggro decks as well as faeries. It can’t be Bant Charmed, Disfigured, Throated, or blocked by Bitterblossom tokens, Knight of the Reliquary, etc. Putting a Sword of Feast and Famine on it seems redundant, but is actually quite good. It’s one of the reasons I have a Sword of Body and Mind over a second Feast and Famine (opposing Jaces, Sowers, and faeries make up the rest of the reasons). The sacrifice that comes with Mirran Crusader over Kitchen Finks is apparent against Mono-Red, but that’s hardly a concern.

While still decent against a few other decks, Sower is mostly for the mirror. I’ve been hesitant to add it to my own list because it’s fragile and can lead to blowouts, but I think the possibility of a blowout in your favor is worth the risk. I had Elspeth, Knight-Errant in that slot, but finally decided that it just isn’t that good. Elspeth just doesn’t add anything to the deck when you have Swords for pump/unblockable and plenty of creatures to pick one up.

Some lists have cut Preordain in favor of Squadron Hawk. I can’t see myself cutting Preordain, but I did manage to make room for Hawks by trimming cards that aren’t as good in the mirror match (like Mirran Crusader). I’m not entirely sold on the presence of Hawks in the deck, but they are definitely good in the mirror match.

Oblivion Ring is a card that no one seems to be playing right now. 3 mana is a lot for removal, but I think being able to answer Jace, Sower, and Sword (as well as Bitterblossom) in one card makes it worth it. I wanted to fit one or two in the maindeck, but the list is pretty tight.

The lack of Vendilion Clique stems from combo decks being on the decline and Squadron Hawk being on the rise. I like the card a lot, but it doesn’t seem very good against a enough of the field to warrant playing right now.

Gideon Jura in Extended is a new one for me. I used to want Elspeth in the mirror match, but now that Sower is prevalent, I would at least rather have a planeswalker that is able to deal with them (and Elspeth still sucks).

I’ve toyed with the idea of playing red for Arc Trail, Lightning Bolt, and/or Cunning Sparkmage but I’ve decided that the red cards, however good they may be against aggro decks, don’t fill the roles that I’m looking for, and that cutting Mutavault isn’t worth it.

Misty Rainforest plus Murmuring Bosk is another thing I wanted to try in this deck. Bosk allows Misty Rainforest to act as a bad Flooded Strand (fetching untapped Island or tapped damaging Plains). Besides the fixing, it also provides a way to activate a stolen Fauna Shaman. I played with this combination very briefly, but haven’t given it much thought since. It’s still something I’m open to.

I will hopefully feel a little more confident once I play in a few events on MTGO, but right now I feel that I am missing something about the format. By the time you read this, my last real life PTQ will be over and I will hopefully know what it is I am missing in time for the last online PTQ.

Standard

I’d say that I have Standard figured out pretty well, but probably not as well as Gerry Thompson does. One month ago it was UWr that was drawing all the attention. Now, it’s UWb, and in both cases it’s Gerry who is bringing the tech. Next week he will probably be rocking UWg CawBlade, but in the meantime, I want to figure out which of the current versions is the best.

Spell Pierce in UW and UWr vs. Inquisition of Kozilek in UWb

Spell Pierce is pretty good against other Jace decks and Valakut, but the decline in power against aggro decks is very steep, whereas Inquisition is pretty good against everything. It’s actually a card that you want to see against aggro instead of a blank, and is still acceptable against Jace decks and Valakut. It is slightly worse when you want to answer Jace or Gideon, but being able to hinder an early Stoneforge or Squadron Hawk makes up for that. Also, the information that Inquisition provides can be quite valuable.

Inquisition of Kozilek > Spell Pierce

Oust/Condemn/Journey to Nowhere in UW vs. Lightning Bolt in UWr vs. Doom Blade/GFTT in UWb

The UW version’s spot removal spells aren’t as good as the spot removal spells available to the splash versions. There’s Oust, Condemn, and Journey to Nowhere, but each is flawed in a different way. Oust and Journey are sorceries and are unable to answer manlands or Sworded creatures. Neither Oust nor Condemn can effectively answer a Fauna Shaman or Primeval Titan. Journey is susceptible to Nature’s Claims that are being boarded in to fight Swords. Considering all this, I think it is fine to continue running Day of Judgment over these three in the UW build.

Lightning Bolt allows you to answer Goblin Guide, Creeping Tar Pit, Jace, and Precursor Golem and it can provide the last points you need to win the game, though it takes 2 to answer a Celestial Colonnade, Overgrown Battlement, or Primeval Titan. This is one reason that the red version is weaker against Valakut.

Doom Blade/GFTT can’t answer planeswalkers like Bolt can, but they are the most efficient way to answer creatures and manlands at instant speed. They can also answer Gideon, where Lightning Bolt probably won’t be able to. They can’t answer a creature that already has a Sword (or Mirran Crusader), but they can before it’s equipped. The main difference between the two is that one can kill Creeping Tar Pit and Vampires and the other can kill Precursor Golem. I would probably run a split that favored GFTT because of Creeping Tar Pit and because RUG doesn’t seem to be very popular.

I think that black wins this one as well. It doesn’t weaken your Valakut matchup like Bolt does, and being able to kill all manlands and Gideon is worth a lot, but I think Bolt still beats out all the white options. They are just too narrow in comparison.

Doom Blade/GFTT > Lightning Bolt > Oust/Condemn/Journey to Nowhere

Celestial Colonnade in UW and UWr vs. Creeping Tar Pit in UWb
Colonnade has never disappointed me, but Creeping Tar Pit is a lot more capable of picking up a Sword as well as killing planeswalkers. It can’t even be blocked by Squadron Hawks!

Creeping Tar Pit > Celestial Colonnade

Manabases
Of the three decks, the UW one has the best manabase plus the ability to play [card]Tectonic Edge[/card]. The lack up Tectonic Edge hurts the splash versions the most against the mirror(s) and Valakut. Having Tectonic Edge against a 3-color version of the deck a pretty big advantage, not to mention how good it is against manlands and Valakut.
UW Mana Base > UWb and UWr Mana Bases

Conclusion
Tectonic Edge and the more stable mana base that UW provides are the two main reasons I’ve continued to play without any splashes. But going forward, I think the best version to play is the one that has the most advantage in the mirror match without sacrificing much against Valakut. That pretty much rules out the red because it loses too much against Valakut. The black version can at least kill Overgrown Battlements and Primeval Titans. Inquisition is probably even with Spell Pierce in the Valakut matchup, so it really boils down to the UW vs. UWb matchup. Whichever one is favored is the one that I would play (if nothing changes when Dallas rolls around, I’ll probably be playing what I decide on in this article).

I think that the overall power of the black cards and Creeping Tar Pit outweighs Tectonic Edge and the more stable mana base, so that’s the deck that I’m leaning towards.

After doing a little testing, I’ve decided that UWb is the favorite in the matchup. The presence of 2-mana instant speed spot removal accounts for more of an advantage than I gave it credit for. When both players have the turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic, a Doom Blade can enable you to get pretty far ahead (especially in comparison to Day of Judgment in the same slot in UW).

With that being said, I’m not sure if I am completely correct in disregarding the rest of the format, but I will be focusing on UWb primarily until I can figure out something better. Even if I’m wrong, hopefully I helped you figure something out something new about the format. Thanks for reading!

And here’s my current version of UWb CawBlade:

 

Bonus Sections

Extended Deck Changes

I top8ed my local PTQ this past weekend and decided it would be worth mentioning what changes I would make to the deck.

Before the PTQ, I made two changes to the list. I went with 2 Sword of Feast in Famines instead of including a Body and Mind because I decided that the marginal benefits of Body and Mind didn’t make up for being an overall worse card than Feast and Famine (drawing Feast and Famine is a lot better than drawing Body and Mind).

The other change was -1 Oblivion Ring, +1 Sylvok Lifestaff in the sideboard. Lifestaff has been pretty good for fighting Mono-Red in Standard, and I wanted another card for the matchup. It also gives Stoneforge Mystic a lot more value. Oblivion Ring was the only card that I could see myself cutting, but after playing with Gideon I realized that I would rather have an O-Ring in that slot. Gideon is a lot more fragile in this format than it is in Standard and O-Ring was a card that I really wanted to see in the mirror.

Other than that, I think the list is still pretty solid.

Fate
What is fate?
Well, it’s a button on your keyboard.
If you press it, you will be in control of your own destiny.
You will no longer be a slave to time.
You will be more fulfilled.
You will thank me…
As long as you are not playing in a format with Force of Will, there is no downside.
F8 – Press it.

Discussion

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