I planned on playing UWR for weeks before the Starcitygames 5k, and I even have an email to prove it! Every now and then I write a sort of mini-primer on decks that I have been playing, especially if I’m trying to convince other people to run them. I did last PTQ season that was Standard, and the Ocho and wrapter both won PTQs with the 5-CC list that we tested on MTGO. Emails like this are for my benefit as well; by forcing myself to write my thoughts out I find that it makes me think about the reasoning behind the sideboarding and maindeck choices I have been making, which ultimately helps me tune the deck. I figure it might be kind of interesting to copy the email here, and it has the hidden bonus of having all the sideboarding I used during the actual tournament, which means I don’t need to write it out each round!
Understandably, the email is written in a less formal style than my articles, but here it is (sent 13 days ago, according to gmail)
So, as most of you know, I’ve been playing UWr for a while, and I’m quite happy with it. I plan on playing at the Starcity 5k on Jan.2, and who knows what else. I figure you guys might be interested in playing it at some point, whether it be on MODO or at some big tournament (like the starcity thing), and I like writing, so here’s a little guide.
The only change I might make to the maindeck is cutting the one Elspeth for the 3rd Earthquake (which was what it was originally). Elspeth is better vs control, both are mediocre vs Jund, but Earthquake helps your worst matchups (Boros and Vampires) probably more. Still not sure, since the one Elspeth is pretty sweet sometimes…
This deck is pretty sweet, and as long as you don’t play against Boros or Vampires I think you are happy, which seems like a good place to be at a standard tournament, since both those decks kind of suck now.
G1 you beat Jund and Mono-Red pretty convincingly, and are slightly behind vs Grixis. Not entirely sure about WG/x decks, even though I have beat all I have come across, since I haven’t actually played that many matches against WG. TurboFog and Time Sieve are pretty tough g1, but get better postboard. In general, g1 is kind of tough against the Blue decks, since you have 4 seas and 4 ffreeze that aren’t spectacular, but the sideboard handles those matchups pretty well, and there are way more Red decks than Blue decks at this point. I also have won by far the vast majority of my matches against Blue decks overall, even with a bad g1 matchup, and if they are the mirror you have a huge edge with the list vs the one I had in my article (which was my exact list at the time, but didn’t account for the popularity of Grixis, so the anti-control cards I added to beat Grixis also crush the mirror).
One common question I also get is about the Angels, since I side them in for every matchup. I like making all removal dead g1, since even if they know you are bringing them in, they still pretty much always cut a bunch of removal, making Angel-based mises possible, and sometimes you don’t even draw the Angels and they still choke on dead removal.
SB: +4 angel +2 essence scatter
-1 elspeth, -3 lightning bolt, -2 jace
If you know for a fact that they don’t have siege-gangs, bolts are probably better than earthquakes, but otherwise quakes are good. Between Seas, Walls, Flashfreezes, and Sphinxes, this matchup is pretty excellent overall. Postboard Angels get them more often than not, because they usually go down to just Maelstrom Pulse, and their 3 Pulses vs your 4 angels is a good fight, esp since you sometimes even have flashfreeze to stop them. Don’t get blown out by Blightning or Goblin Ruinblaster etc, and just spread em.
SB: +4 angel, +2 essence scatter, +2 negate, +2 cancel
-2 jace, -2 mind spring, -2 earthquake, -4 spreading seas
If you cast t3 wall, they almost never win, since it basically blanks their hellsparks and ball lightnings. Just preserve your life total by using removal and counters pretty aggressively, and then slay them with an angel or sphinx. Ajani them to gain life immediately almost every time. Your cards are so good against them; the only way you really lose is if they have Goblin Guide and Geopede and you are light on removal.
SB: +3 luminarch +2 cancel +2 essence scatter +2 negate +2 mind control +3 baneslayer
-3 lightning bolt -2 earthquake -2 path to exile -4 spreading seas -2 flashfreeze -2 wall of denial
Game 1 is pretty interesting in the mirror. If they are using the “stock” 4 divination list, you should be able to crush them with jace. This matchup almost completely revolves around Ajani g1, since Walls tend to stop Sphinxes. Spreading Seas will eventually cut both players off of Red spells, so don’t ever play or fetch a Mountain until you are going to play a Red spell (Ajani, basically, but Double Neg sometimes). Flashfreeze stops both those, but a resolved Ajani is kinda tough to beat. If you can get both their mountains before they resolve Ajani, they have no outs to Jace besides out-sphinxing you, which rarely ever happens.
I’m not entirely sure about sideboarding, since might want to cut more walls and leave in more ffreeezes. Again, if they are on the list I put up, you should crush them w luminarch and the extra counterspells. Mind Control is obviously for Baneslayers, so if you are winning on the board and can’t stop an opposing Mind Control, don’t play an angel. Besides you getting manascrewed or something, this is a pretty good matchup.
SB: +3 luminarch +2 cancel +2 essence scatter +2 negate +3 baneslayer
-2 earthquake -2 path -4 seas -4 wall of denial
G1 is in their favor, as they have 2 negate 3 ffreeze 1 sorin 3 cruels 3 essence scatter vs your relevant cards, but sometimes you mise them with jace (always +2 it, they can’t kill it except w quake and bolt).
The only reason I keep in Bolts is that they usually keep in 3 Nighthawks postboard, so you want a way to kill em. Ascension bashes em, and all the counters help quite a bit. I have beat Grixis almost every time I’ve faced it, even if I usually win like 1/3 of the preboard games, since postboard I win most of the rest. Beware Ruinblasters, since some have em.
SB: +2 essence scatter +4 baneslayer +2 mind control +2 cancel
-1 lightning bolt -4 wall of denial -4 spreading seas -2 flashfreeze
Most GWb decks are actually pretty slow, so bolts don’t help an enormous amount. They kill emeria angel and lotus cobra, and sometimes knight, so mise. Ffreeze is also not all that good, since their only real threat it stops is knight. Wall doesn’t really do much either, since it doesn’t stop knight, emeria angel or baneslayer really. You are pretty good vs the slower versions, and those are waaay more popular (at least on MODO) than the faster more aggro versions. Mind Control is sick, and your counters are pretty nice vs the 3-5manathreat.dec that they are. Quake can sometimes mise a few guys, so it stays.
These decks suck, but you would rather not face them probably. Game 1 is pretty bad, since all your cards do nothing.
SB: +everything but essence scatter and mind control
-4 wall -4 fffreeze -3 seas
Path is still dead most of the time, but excess Seas are worse, since every now and then they side in baneslayers, and with all the howling mines and stuff you really don’t need the seas. Once you board into a cheap threat (ascension) and a bunch of counters, the matchup vastly improves, and I am 4-1 vs these deck so far (but probably got lucky a few times).
They can Gatekeeper your untargetables, sludge your hand, hexmage your walkers, nighthawk your walls and sphinxes, bloodwitch past your walls, sorin you, duress you. To top it off, you have 8 pretty dead cards (and 4 of those are actually stone dead) Yeah, this matchup sucks.
SB: +4 angel +2 cancel +2 negate +2 essence scatter +2 mind control
-4 seas -4 ffreeze -2 wall -2 path
This isn’t completely hopeless, but it’s by far your worst matchup. Luckily, it also isn’t a real deck, since vampires are terrible.
It’s like monored, but way faster and with more creatures that stick around, so they don’t just lose to wall. They also have rangers to refill midgame, making this a tough one.
SB: +4 angel +2 essence scatter +2 cancel
-4 seas -2 mind spring -2 jace
You really need bolt or path or quake in your opener (quake isn’t always great on the draw if they expect it and leave up fetches) or you get run over by lynxes and ‘pedes. Try to save a counter for ranger if possible, and survive until you can drop a boom boom. Ajani does help alot, and so does drawing bolt and wall. Overall not a great matchup, but not terrible either (like vamps).
That should be it in terms of matchups. I don’t want to put too much stock in winrate on MODO, but I have played what seems to be a pretty decent sample of what type 2 has to offer, and this deck matches up well vs the decks I think we would face. Crushing Jund and MonoR (I know many people think their decks crush jund, but this really has been winning more than anything I have ever found vs jund) is nice, and there seems to be a lot control popping up (which I also think this is good against). I mean, when all is said and done this is Standard, so what else are you going to play? Jund? Finding a deck that beats Jund, monoR, and control seems like more than you can ask for in this stupid format, and if I had this deck at worlds I woulda played it in a flash. You have enough powerful cards (untargetable monsters, card draw, counterspells, baneslayers, mind control) that I assume you are going to be fine against random niche decks also, unlike say WG with its very specific Vines of Vastwoods and md Sable Stags (if we are talking about jund alternatives).
As you can see, I was happy enough with the list that I didn’t really change it much in the last two weeks before the tournament. The only changes I made were to cut the 1-of Elspeth in the maindeck for a fourth Lightning Bolt and to cut one Cancel for an Oblivion Ring. Since I’m sure people are going to ask why I posted the original version of UWR in my first article and then made changes that beat it, I will hopefully head most of that off now. When I originally wrote about UWR, Grixis control wasn’t a deck, but that same weekend, two copies made t8 of the St. Louis 5k. Like I said in the email above, the changes I made to beat Grixis also were quite effective against the mirror, which is basically the whole story. Anyways, on to the report”¦
After 5 hours of driving, we did some drafts and then got to bed kind of early on Friday night. I had some trouble finding all the cards for the deck, since certain people who were supposed to bring me two Beta Earthquakes only brought me one, and I was certainly not going to play one Beta and one M10. I took it in stride, and certainly didn’t complain about it the whole weekend long. The next morning, I got up ready to battle, and battle I did!
Round 1 vs Luis Solis (Vampires)
We had a feature match, undoubtedly because of the fact that we are both named Luis. After he played two Swamps, I inwardly sighed and prepared for a tough match. Vampires is by far the worst matchup for UWR, so playing it round 1 was a nice way to start the tournament.
Game 1: I mulliganed to a six card hand with two lands, and missed on my third land for a number of turns. Meanwhile, he was bashing me with two Bloodghasts and a Vampire Hexmage. I started drawing lands, but it was too late.
The only bright side of this matchup is that you get to cut all the dead Flashfreezes and Spreading Seas post-board, even if that still leaves you pretty far deep in the hole. I added in everything but the Luminarch Ascensions, also cutting some random spot removal and Jaces.
Game 2: This one started a little better, since he didn’t have any early guys, which let me cast Divination in peace. Ajani harassed his mana a bit, and I was able to use Double Negative and Essence Scatter to stop him from landing anything. I was pretty dead to a Mind Sludge for most of this game, but he never drew one. After I Armageddoned him with Ajani the game was basically over, although Baneslayer is what actually killed him.
I noticed that he quickly went to re-sideboard, and I assumed he was boarding in more removal to hit Baneslayers. Jace came in for one of the Baneslayers, a change which ended up being insane.
Game 3: He again didn’t have a two-drop, and I Bolted his turn 3 Nighthawk. I dropped Jace on turn 3, and started pulling ahead. Turn four was a big turn, since he played a Vampire Nocturnous. If his top card was Black, I was pretty screwed, since the only way I could kill it was with the Ajani in my hand. Luckily he flipped a Swamp, and I successfully played Ajani and Helixed his Vampire away. With two active Planeswalkers against his empty board, I was pretty far ahead. Ajani eventually died to a Hexmage, but Jace survived the whole game, and once again Luis never found a Mind Sludge. Sphinx closed out the game once he was on no cards in hand vs my full grip.
Round 2 vs Eric Weeden (Mono-White Control)
A recent transplant from Colorado, Eric used to play with Cheon (before Cheon moved to a tropical paradise).
Game 1: I mulliganed to six, and kept a pretty slow hand of Mind Spring and lands. On the play vs an unknown deck, I think the hand is fine. It is pretty bad vs aggro, but should do ok against midrange or control, and at six cards you can’t get too picky. As it turned out, Eric was Mono-White, which made the hand perfectly fine. I should have waited longer on Mind Spring than I did, but since I hadn’t drawn any spells by turn five I cast it for three.
Unfortunately, I drew two Flashfreezes and yet another land, so I was significantly far behind. Eric managed to kill me with a Knight of the White Orchid and a Baneslayer Angel, seeing as I wasn’t actually doing anything.
Much like against Vampires, I sided out all the dead Blue cards (although I left in some Seas for his Emerias) and some of the removal, although this time I also brought in Luminarch Ascensions.
Game 2: I soon realized how bad Luminarch Ascension was; not only did he have Orchids, he also had White Knight and Kor Cartographer. All of the random 2/2’s made it very difficult to accumulate counters on the Ascension, a point which was rendered moot when he Solemn Offering’ed it. We traded Baneslayers, but he drew another, and I was out of cards. On my next turn I peeled Mind Control, and his stolen Baneslayer bought me enough time to draw a bunch of gas. He did resolve a Martial Coup for 13, but I killed him with the Earthquake that my Mind Spring for 12 found.
Game 3: The Ascensions came back out, and more spot removal was put back in. The big difference between our two decks was on display this game, as I had two Mind Springs and he only had Armillary Sphere in the card draw department. Drawing so many extra cards gave me inevitability, and I answered all his threats one by one (Spreading Seas for Emeria, Mind Control for Angel, Earthquake for assorted 2/2s). Like game 2, Earthquake for a bunch finished the job.
Round 3 vs Ryan Hart (Jund)
Ryan regularly comes to Superstars in San Jose, so this isn’t the first time I’ve played against him.
Game 1: I was pretty sure I was winning this game on about turn six. The board was my two Wall of Denial vs his Leech and Thrinax, and I had Earthquake, 2 Ajani, and 2 Flashfreeze in hand, with him only on two cards. Unfortunately he did a pretty good job of baiting out the Freezes with Blightnings, and managed to resolve two Broodmate Dragons. The double (double) Dragons killed me pretty quickly, since I wasn’t able to find a Sphinx.
Game 2: This game went more like planned. I countered some stuff, played a Wall, then Baneslayered him to death. He had Pulses in to stop Angels, but I didn’t see any Terminates or anything. Jund decks usually just have Pulse post-board to deal with Angel, so playing Angel with Flashfreeze up usually is enough to take the game, what with Baneslayer being virtually unbeatable if it ever stays in play.
Game 3: My six-card hand was pretty mediocre (2 Arid Mesa, Divination, Flashfreeze, Mind Spring, Essence Scatter), and his turn 1 Duress didn’t help. He took Divination, but luckily I drew a Blue source in time to stop his turn 3 Blightning. Then, a ray of hope appeared; he was stuck on only Black and Red mana! After he failed to draw Green sources for like 5 turns, he finally peeled a Savage Lands, which I promptly Spreading Seas’ed. I had been saving the Seas for just such an occasion, and his Green source coming into play tapped only made it that much better.
As it turned out, he probably would have won if he didn’t Duress me turn 1, since he had to break Verdant Catacomb for Swamp to do it. Instead of just going for the turn 1 Duress, he should have played a tapped Dragonskull Summit and Duressed on turn 2; all he had to do was take a second to consider what his Duress is trying to accomplish, and remember that my deck has no turn 1 plays.
At this point, fob (Jeff Huang) was also 3-0, and wrapter was busy cubing with Mashi, having run into a pair of [card]Ball Lightning[/card]s.
Round 4 vs Daniel Sneider (Naya)
We got pulled into a feature match, which got underway quickly.
Game 1: Daniel mulliganed to six, and had a turn one Sunpetal Grove, which led into a turn 2 Lotus Cobra. I turned his Sunpetal into an Island, and he missed on his third land drop. I just played a Wall, and he drew a Marsh Flats. With the first Cobra trigger, he played a second Cobra, then cracked his fetch and played a Bloodbraid Elf, which cascaded into a Scute Mob. After taking a few damage, I had to figure out what to do. I had Ajani, but didn’t want to cast it just yet. I settled on turning his Plains into an Island and Bolting one of the Cobras. If he didn’t have another land, he wouldn’t be able to cast anything, and then I could play Ajani plus spot removal in the same turn, which would give me more value. My plan went off without a hitch, since he missed once again on lands. The follow-up Sphinx was more than enough to take the game.
Game 2: This was a pretty short game; he didn’t come out overly fast, and I soon found that he sided out all his ways to deal with Baneslayer. Double Negative stopped his Bloodbraid Elf, Wall kept me alive, and a quick Angel made it almost impossible for him to win. Double [card]Naya Charm[/card] almost let him outrace me, but my O-Ring on his Wooly Thoctar quashed those hopes.
Round 5 vs Weston Brown
I completely blanked on this round, and for the life of me just can’t recall what I played against! Sorry about it, I usually am better about remembering my tournaments.
Round 6 vs Adam Reiser (Grixis)
After playing next to Adam for a few rounds, I knew that he was Grixis, a matchup I didn’t particularly relish playing against.
Game 1: As expected, neither of us do anything for most of the game. He was able to stop all of my threats with Flashfreeze or Essence Scatter, and he then dropped one of the cards that this deck just can’t deal with: Sorin Markov. Since I didn’t have one of my two Double Negatives in hand, I couldn’t stop it, and lost quickly.
Game 2: Apparently, Adam played multiple Sorins, which was bad news. We battled over some minor threats, and once again he dropped Sorin. I played a Sphinx to try and fight it, but he had his own, which led to me getting Mindslavered in short order. Grixis with multiple Sorins got me pretty good, and I just hoped not to face it again.
Round 7 vs Graham Stephens (Jund)
Game 1: He had a turn two Leech, but my Wall was able to hold it off. I Flashfreezed a Blightning, essentially traded Divination for a second Blightning, Flashfreezed a third (!) Blightning, and finally got hit by a fourth Blightning (!!). That was a lot of Blightnings, but since he wasn’t actually pressuring me, it wasn’t that bad. I Sphinxed him out pretty soon thereafter.
Game 2: He mulliganed to five, and for some reason was playing this weird misprinted Savage Lands that only tapped for Blue mana. I was stuck on lands myself, but had Walls of Denial in abundance. On turn six my board was Island, Mountain, Plains, Wall, Wall, Wall, Wall. Luckily, he never drew a Maelstrom Pulse to blow me out, and my Walls kept him from ever damaging me.
Jeff was 7-0 at this point, after defeating two Grixis decks in a row. Some people are just blessed
Round 8 vs Darwin Boy (UW Shaheen Sorani Control)
I saw Darwin play against Jeff earlier, so I knew he was on UW.
Game 1: He got stuck on just Plains for a while, so I ended up Spreading Seas’ing one of my own lands. He made some odd discarding choices, and pitched two Flashfreezes, which ended up being pretty important. I figured he must have had like three or four Freezes in hand, but later resolved an Ajani into his four untapped mana (two of which was Blue). That same Ajani ate all of his lands later, which ended the game.
Game 2: This time it was my turn to get stuck on lands, although I did have a turn two [card]Luminarch Ascension[/card]. He wasn’t able to stop me from ascending, since my Wall kept his Baneslayer at bay. First I made one angel a turn, then two, then eventually three. It turns out that seven angels can race a Baneslayer, especially when next turn its ten angels. I never would have thought that I would win a game in a control mirror when I was on three lands to his nine, but Luminarch Ascension is a nice card.
It looked like I could draw in, but soon the standings went up. Matt Sperling and I saw that we would be playing each other the next round, and couldn’t draw in. However, we had an out! If Jeff (who was 7-0-1) dreamcrushed his next opponent, since he would get paired down, both Matt and I would make it. We decided that if we played, only one of us would make it, but if we drew, either one or both of us would. Add in that Jund was a good matchup, and we knew that Jeff was battling Jund, and we decided to gamble. Plus, Jeffthefob loves to dreamcrush (“I came to play” is his favorite line), so it wasn’t hard to convince him to battle.
Round Nine vs Matt Sperling
ID, for the reasons I just described. Jeff won a tight match against a Jund deck with 4 Mind Rots, which makes it much tougher than normal Jund. I’m sure he will describe his match in his upcoming report, but I’ll just say that Ajani blew up a lot of lands. A lot.
Top Eight vs Jeff (75-card mirror, although without Beta Bolts and lands)
Game 1: With the list we were using, game 1 is pretty stupid in the mirror. Even though I Armageddoned him with Ajani on turn eight, then cast a Mind Spring for 5, I still lost. Both of my Mountains got Seas’ed, and both of my Jaces were in my bottom 14 cards, which put me too far behind in the decking race. There are some ways to make game 1 better, and I expect now that people are going to have to start exploring them. Answers to Spreading Seas and Planeswalkers are a start, so I would try adding a third Mountain, playing 1-2 Into the Roil, and possibly an Oblivion Ring. You don’t want to hurt your Jund matchup too badly, but you need a way to beat the mirror at this point.
Games 2 and 3: Turn two Luminarch Ascension. Thanks. He even had Negate in game three, but I had another Ascension, and he couldn’t stop that one. Another thing to consider now is a way to answer this enchantment, since at the moment the deck can’t beat turn two Ascension when on the draw (besides the one O-Ring).
Top Four vs Sherwin Pu (Jund)
This match was pretty well-covered, but a few interesting things occurred.
Game 1: This was the least close game, since I had out active Planeswalkers for most of it. His dragons held off my Sphinxes, but that is a losing game for Jund. Eventually I drew enough Paths and Sphinxes to start beating him down.
Game 2: I thought this game was going awesome, but he dropped a Malakir Bloodwitch. I didn’t know he had those, and it promptly stopped my Baneslayer beatings. A few turns later and I was dead. Luckily, I won game 1, so I was able to side in Mind Control.
Game 3: He had a pretty slow start after a mulligan, and neither of us cast anything until around turn six. I had Baneslayer, Mind Spring, Flashfreeze, Double Negative, Essence Scatter, Mind Control in hand, but didn’t want to tap out for any of my threats. He went to cast a Garruk and I Flashfreezed it, then cast Mind Spring for five. He couldn’t do enough to really damage me on his turn, and I was able to use Baneslayer plus my other counters to keep him from putting up too much of a fight. I eventually Mind Controlled a Bloodwitch and that was that. Wrapter, who was watching the whole game, pointed out a way stronger line of play.
What I should have done was Double Negative the Garruk, then play Baneslayer with Flashfreeze and Scatter up. That would put him under pressure way sooner, and leave me less vulnerable, since I would never end up tapping out. The way I did it was much worse, although ultimately good enough, since his spells cost more and were less effective than mine (which is why the matchup is so good; this deck does a good job of stripping Jund of many of its natural advantages).
Finals vs Arthur Halavais (Jund)
This was one of the least close matches I played all weekend. His draws were terrible and mine were fine, so I just rolled him. He got super flooded game 2, and actually cast like three spells total, not counting the two desperation Jund Charms to pump his Sprouting Thrinax.
So, where to now with the deck?
I (obviously) was very happy with the deck, and the fact that Jeff also made Top 8 definitely says something. If the deck gets popular (which I imagine it will, at least to some extent), more adaptation is needed. Like before, when I wrote my first article, any list I put up will invariably see some change, so don’t feel like you are beholden to play what I suggest. Think of what problems you are trying to solve, and implement changes to deal with them. That is all I do, and has been what has guided the evolution of this deck.
Currently, the mirror and Grixis are the matchups that need improvement, although I wouldn’t discount Jund, either. It is perfectly possible for people who wish to play Jund to adapt, and assuming they won’t is a costly mistake. Now that this deck is at the forefront of people’s minds, there are going to be changes made to most decks that are intended to take away the edge UWR enjoyed. I’m not saying those changes are going to be successful, but just to be wary of assuming that only you are going to be adapting your decklist.
I don’t have any immediate suggestions, and in fact am probably going to be focusing mostly on Extended at least for the short term, since Worldwake will impact Standard so much more. I feel fine testing Extended without knowing Worldwake, but it will shake up Standard so much that any in-depth testing of Standard is likely to be not that useful.