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Feature Article – Wall-U

 

I wanted to write some kind of top-level strategy article but I’ve been having way too much fun drafting Red-Blue control in triple Rise of the Eldrazi draft that I couldn’t pass this up. Its exactly the type of deck I adore to draft, one that completely bypasses the normal rules of limited Magic, such as the need to attack. The best build of this deck involves little to no creatures that beat, other than an occasional Sea Gate Oracle or Emrakul’s Hatcher, both of which are excellent in the deck. I love how Rise of the Eldrazi draft offers so different playable strategies. This is for the control players out there.

Ways the deck wins:

Vent Sentinel activations and a few Staggershocks.

A Lust for Warred guy that may or may not be locked under a Narcolepsy.

A cool rare like Sphinx-Bone Wand or Keening Stone.

I’ve had the chance to draft this archetype six times now, with favorable results. A small sample size of course, but I like my odds here. I don’t promote forcing it, but it you see it open, I recommend giving it a try. I typically fall into it after taking my share of good removal while still staying open. If you see a Vent Sentinel or a Mnemonic Wall make the lap after pack 1 there’s a good chance you’ll be able to pick up this deck. If multiple players are trying to get a Vent Sentinel or Mnemonic Wall deck they’re all gonna come up short.

Here’s a list Heat Rayof key cards of each rarity – roughly in order of importance. An actual pick order is different as you can easily lap cards that will only be valuable in this deck. An example would be taking Heat Ray over Vent Sentinel early since the chance it’ll come back is fairly high.

Commons:

Blue:

Narcolepsy – Not every creature can be removed with burn, Narcolepsy deals with those.

Mnemonic Wall – Very key, take them highly as they’re the engine behind both the Walls and the Spells plans.

Regress – You have few nondamage-based way to deal with permanents, Especially ones enchanted with Totem Armor.

Deprive – The deck wants about 2 counterspells and Deprive is the best of the bunch.

Sea Gate Oracle – Helps in most situations to find the right answer, or to hit your 4th land. And its not a bad blocker either.

See Beyond – Its good to have one of these to filter away sometimes useless cards like Ogre Sentry and excess lands.

Lay Bare – Worse than Deprive. Seeing their hand is pretty important here since you’re the guy answering their threats you need to know which are important and which you need to save removal for.

Fleeting Distraction – I like playing 1 in the deck since its a clutch Surreal Memoir target if needed. I take these higher if I see some Valakut Fireboars going by. A cheap cycler that can sometimes 2-for-1 like letting your Ogre Sentry live through a battle with Kozilek’s Predator.

Red:

Flame Slash – Best common removal. A common play is to Flame Slash a mediocre target early then Mnemonic Wall + Flame Slash on turn 6.

Staggershock – Often a win condition. Having multiples of these revs up a Surreal Memoir engine.

Vent Sentinel – Core to the deck and best in a critical mass of defenders, which tends to be 8-9.

Emrakul’s Hatcher – The tokens provide for good blocking against lifelinkers and creatures that are too large for your walls. Sometimes the tokens won’t be good for combat and you’ll use them to cast walls while leaving up [card]Deprive[/card] mana.

Heat Ray – Never super efficient but fills several roles.

Ogre Sentry – Much better with a Warmonger’s Chariot in the deck, he’s around to strengthen Vent Sentinel and to trade when he can.

Spawning Breath – Fine to run, though they’ll get sided out in some matchups. Paired with

Staggershock or Flame Slash will remove 3 and 5 toughness creatures if needed. Note if you side them out that it will weaken your rebuy cards like Surreal Memoir and Mnemonic Wall.

Uncommons:

Guard Gomazoa – One of the few ways to deal with really big creatures and flyers

Domestication – Merely “ok” in the deck but too good to pass up. Its almost worth hating sometimes since every creature in your deck can be taken and you don’t have any pumping options to get it back.

Enclave Crypologist – Though most levelers should be avoided, this one follows the non-attacking theme and provides good card advantage.

Unified Will – About as good as Deprive and you tend to cast it about the same time…. around turn 6. When the games play out you kill off most of their small guys then subtlety gain a creature advantage with Spawning Breath, Mnemonic Wall, Sea Gate Oracle, and Emrakul’s Hatcher.

Lust for War – A fine win condition. Great with Narcolepsy or on a small creature that can’t get past an 0/4. Watch out as Bloodthrone Vampire and Aura Gnarlid makes its value go down.

Surreal Memoir – Unplayable or great, mostly dependent on your Staggershock count.

Forked Bolt – Necessary cheap removal, similar to Flame Slash.

Warmonger’s Chariot – Another win condition that turns your Ogre Sentries into actual threats.

Rare and Mythic:

Four of the deck’s best win conditions are rares, but given that they aren’t very high picks for other decks, you’re likely to see one floating around in your draft.

Splinter Twin – One of the best rares for the deck. Emrakul’s Hatcher, Mnemonic Wall, and Sea Gate Oracle are all sweet common targets. The best is the wall as it lets you lock people out of the game with counters and removal.

Keening Stone – A nearly impossible to remove version of Vent Sentinel that kills in about 3 turns.

Sphinx-Bone Wand – Surprisingly awesome here. Your deck should be packing 8-10 instants and sorceries (some with rebound) and some number of Mnemonic Walls. Growing the charge count high isn’t a problem.

Echo Mage – This guy leveled put them in burn range really quickly. Also with Echo Mage and Reality Spasm, it’s possible to create infinite mana and cast another spell infinitely…making killing your opponent with something as simple as 20 Spawning Breath copies possible.

Other nice rares for the deck that tend to come around late are:

Recurring Insight – Good since your opponent is sitting with their uncastables or their removal waiting for your “real” threat to come along. Becomes really good following a Regress.

Rage Nimbus – One of the few flying defenders around that can make a creature run into your Ogre Sentry.

Angelheart Vial – Really, really underrated and it shines in this deck. Lifegain and card draw is exactly what you need and Angelheart Vial should be taken highly… you won’t be disappointed.

There are other rares and mythics that are good but don’t offer anything special with the deck’s them. Go ahead and take Conquering Manticore or Sphinx of Magosi if you see them. However, Eldrazi Conscription is at its worst here.

Cards that don’t work so well

Levelers. Too often you need to leave mana open to burn a creature in response to their leveling or to counter a spell. Champion’s Drake and Venerated Teacher will never be good for you.
Invokers. Neither Lavafume Invoker or Frostwind Invoker do much with their activation since you don’t have any actual attackers.

Totem Armors. You don’t are enough about your guys dying to run Eel Umbra and Drake Umbra will rarely find a good creature to enchant.

Strengths

Many of your opponents will be blanked or weakened when your creatures have such high toughness and you don’t have to worry about attacking. Vendetta is pretty bad against you and you’ll never get Smited. Their high-toughness creatures like defenders Sporecap Spider, or Jadda Lifestrider lose a lot of value. I had a game tonight where my opponent Vendetta’d my Ulamog’s Crusher to go to 12 then died to 2 end of turn.

Staggershocks then Forked Bolt + Mnemonic Wall for Forked Bolt. Another boon is that you can pass the turn while representing quite a number of instants that you opponent will want to play around. Deprive is a great card in 3x Rise of the Eldrazi but its pretty obvious most of the time when you need to represent it. Having red instant removal, Vent Sentinel to activate, and minimal levelers makes your counterspells much harder to read.

Weaknesses
Bala Ged Scorpion always hits one of your walls or an Eldrazi token. Grotag Siege-Runner has good value against you too as it you’re playing 8-10 creatures with defender. Large flyers are sometimes a problem for the deck to deal with and big Heat Ray, Narcolepsy, Regress, and Guard Gomazoa are your best answers. Equipment, Battle-Rattle Shaman, or similar effects that force you to deal with a single big creature each combat can be tough if you don’t have a flow of Eldrazi Spawn to block with. It’s more important than normal to get all the necessary pieces for the deck and not just “play a bunch of good cards.” It can be filthy unfair or downright awful if there are holes in 22 or 23 you play.

Rise of the Eldrazi is incredibly skill-intensive. I think I drafted about seven different archetypes in my first ten drafts. After drafting the initial GR ramp and WU levelers I just started picking interesting rares and seeing how to get the most out them, which took my down some crazy roads. I like how you can stay open for awhile to shift strategies on the fly. Close attention should be paid to the other cards in the draft as they change the value the cards you drafted so far and your remaining picks. The format is very deep and I’m still leaning it myself. For my next few drafts I’ll try to pick up RBU and RUW decks of similar style to get a feel for what’s best.

Good luck nugging opponents with walls!

Tom Ross
CitrusD on MTGO

32 thoughts on “Feature Article – Wall-U”

  1. Halimar Wavewatch despite being a leveler should be in your pick order, probly over see beyond. Card is just awesome

  2. Glad to see such a thorough analysis of a draft archetype. My thoughts:

    1. Flamewave Invoker = Lavafume invoker?

    2. Staggershock can be hard to find. It seems like this deck wants it more than any other deck at the table, however, you could easily see 4 or 5 other drafters who also want staggershock since people are willing to splash for it. I dont think I ever have had a draft where I have seen more than 2 staggershocks available.

    3. No mention of unblockables as a weakness? In my experience, Hada Spy Patrol and Aura Gnarlid are two of the best creatures in the format and it seems like this deck just dies to them unless it can be removed (which can sometimes be difficult if they slowroll a spy patrol with counter backup or save the gnarlid until it ETB as a sizable monster).

  3. I find I lose to sideboard cards like Grotag Seige-runner when I draft this deck. Nice article though, keep it up!

  4. Magicthegatherin

    I’ve drafted this deck, though its one of the later archetypes I’ve discovered.

    Splintertwin really is the sickness in it.

    You are completely dead, though, if someone is drafting RW defenders (also a fine archetype, playing out exactly the same except using crusher or dawnglare invokers to finish along with vent sentinel) or is adding a small overgrown battlement/vent sentinel/snake umbra engine to their ramp deck (also a good strategy) this can go off the rails.

  5. I hope people continue to undervalue Splinter Twin. That card is nuts with the right support.

  6. I’ve been drafting UR card advantage since my very first ROE ROE ROE draft. It’s such a ridiculous combination that lets you drag out games where you pile up +1’s. It’s also so fun to play when coming off triple zen and zen block.

  7. Something you didnt mention but I love for this deck is valakut fireboar. Even as a 1/7 wall, it answers some of the high powered creatures that youd need to spend removal on. Also, it makes a nice win condition since once you have control of the game you can end it in a few turns.

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  9. @PelakkaIwantYourBabies:
    Cast Reality Spasm for 2, then copy it twice with the mage targeting a land and the mage with one and two lands with the other. Let the copies resolve, then repeat, netting a mana every cycle. Once you have an arbitrarily large amount of mana respond with the spell you want to cast infinitely, then copy the Reality Spasm again, this time targeting the Mage both times. Let one copy resolve, copy the spell you want to cast many times, once that’s resolved you let the second Reality Spasm copy resolve and again target the Mage twice, and repeat.

  10. correction to my last sentence: you let the second Reality Spasm copy resolve, then copy it twice with the Echo Mage again.

  11. 1) Reality Spasm is uncommon, not rare.
    2) Flamewave Invoker should be Lavafume Invoker (as JSG already pointed out).
    3) Fix this awful “dieing”, it makes my eyes bleed.

  12. There are too many typographical and grammatical mistakes to even try and point out, but that doesn’t greatly detract from the value of the article. The theme here is good and this gives a good general idea of the archetype. I agree something probably should have been said about Wavewatcher, which is another good “wall” and a nice win condition against blue that you can side out against opposing Lusts for War. Tuktuk is another pretty good rare for the deck, as he’s so effective at halting early ground attacks.

  13. Tons of spelling and grammar errors, and a couple of sentences that don’t even make sense. Otherwise, great value in this article; I’ve been trying for a while to draft this archetype and not succeeding.

    Question: About when do you start valuing the cards in this archetype highly? It seems like most of the cards here are absolutely awful outside of the archetype, but some of them are 6-7th picks in weak packs so they won’t wheel even if nobody is in the archetype.

  14. Interesting article, I’ll make sure to be on the lookout for this one next time I try a Rise draft! U/R is usually a solid combination anyway, either going for an aggressive tempo route or the tons-of-spells control builds.

    Definitely taking some time to wrap my head around Rise as a format, but it’s been good fun so far – finding a viable archetype and jumping on it as soon as possible really helps you get the most of your picks from what I’ve seen.

  15. This deck and the UB version with black removal and Cadaver Imp are both reasons to start valuing Suffer The Past higher as a SB card. Also, I always try to draft multiples of Bala Ged Scorpion just to stomp the wall.

  16. I think this archetype illuminates what makes ROE such a skill-testing and rich draft format – the ability to wheel archetype-specific cards.
    Due to fact that there are hardly any truly unplayable cards at common/uncommon, you have to really pay attention to the cards left in the pack during your first through fourth picks in a pack. If you see a Vent Sentinel in pack 1 and 3, there’s a chance you might get them picks 9 and 11, so you might consider picking up that Ogre Sentry pick 7 or 8 over something like Wrap in Flames or a Fireboar. Same can be said about things like Kiln Fiend, certain Totem Armors, etc.
    On top of that, there’s a balance you have to strike where you make your choices based on what you might wheel, but still leave yourself a plan B if the wheel doesn’t happen.
    It’s been a while since we’ve had a format where you could actually plan on wheeling cards semi-reliably, other than maybe a Fusion Elemental in Conflux.

  17. It’s nice to hear about one draft strategy in-depth, but it would be nicer to see a little shallower article covering multiple common drafting themes and their pick orders.

  18. I think instead of your picture in articles there should be a .gif running of your backflip from The Magic Show.

  19. I think people are spot on about picking halimar wavewatch in this deck for three reasons. 1. it adds another possible win condition 2. you cannot block it and 3. it is not easy to remove due to its large butt.

    @spike hes not mentioning reality spasm as a rare, that’s still inside discussion of echo mage, but there is an extra line break there.

    @twanbon I found fusion elemental to be pretty bad in CONx3 draft. Since most people played the prot from color bears, it couldn’t really attack all that well without an asha’s favor or something. However, it did a decent job of keeping bodies like wild leotau and matca rioters out of your face (still not something I’d pay all 5 colors for).

  20. good article! i had some good success in a team draft with this deck. i splashed black for their invoker (the +3 -3 life guy) and he was good as he only required 1 black source to give another win-con for the deck

  21. If your going to make money writing on Magic, go back to school and learn how to spell. Also, try using proper grammatical structure. I sure hope that channelfireball isn’t paying you much.

  22. I’ve also had the pipe dream “yeah draft a deck and win with vent sents,” it never really comes together.

    If you do manage to gather the amount of removal and burn you talk about in your article, the win conditions in your deck wouldn’t really matter – just about any warm body would do.

  23. Hi.

    Really inspiring article!

    I reeeealy wanted to you a vid of you drafting (or forcing) this arquetype. That would be everything.

  24. Someone who was not Tom edited and uploaded this article (at least, I hope this site has an editor =/), and they’re the ones who did the poor job here. Shame he has to catch the flak for it.

    Good article on the archetype; though I disagree with some of your valuations, I’ve found the most important thing to note is when the rares can be good, as most people aren’t willing to experiment.

  25. I actually drafted this deck once. It is usually pretty wide open. I didn’t do that great with it because I had trouble establishing a win condition once my vents got destroyed.

    Still, I think the deck went 2-2 in matches or something, and with this article I’m sure I could improve upon that.

  26. on the subject of wavewatch:

    I got 4 of those in a prerelease draft in which I finished 9th. Something tells me I won’t be getting 4 in a deck again.

    Everyone is all over them now (as they should be — GREAT card).

  27. The wall deck doesn’t have to be U/R in my experience. Offcourse red is critical for removal of flyers and vent sentinel but white (and sometimes) green can also be nice complements. White offcourse for wall of omen, soulbound guardians, guard duty, puncturing light, smite etc. all of which are very good in a deck that doesn’t seek to win by traditional combat and just plays defensive. Even more then the blue cards listed here they are only really good in the wall deck so you can also pick them up late, especially as white is the least played color by far at the moment.
    Green can obviously be insane with overgrown battlements in this strategy though it doesn’t offer that much besides that and battlements are hard to get by usually.

    Given that all walls and almost all supplementary cards for this strategy require just 1 colored symbol it is not unlikely to go 3 colors either.

    The problem with this archetype imo is that alot of decks can easily get past walls and without the safety of your walls you can really be in trouble. the leveler decks have alot of flyers and other forms of evasion (halimar wavewatch etc.), the ramp decks can drop a troublesome fatty too fast which you can only deal with by narcolepsy a card that is really hard to get by and some other archetypes like the kiln fiend deck or aura gnarlid deck often get by your walls as well.
    That is a big reason why I like R/W over R/U for this archetype as in R/U you are really dependant on narcolepsy to deal with some of the troublesome stuff whereas in R/W you can easily get guard duties, luminous wakes, puncturing lights etc. which all quite shine in the wall deck.

    The archetype should definately not be forced though and just moved into when you got some red removal and some good blue or white cards and then can pick up some vent sentinel’s late. Like many of the slow decks in ROE draft it can completely fall apart if you lack some cards like some quality removal etc.

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