Welcome to my newest weekly column, New Technology! The idea of this column is to go through interesting and unusual card choices that were played in tournaments the past week, explaining why they were there and whether I think they’re actually good or not. This is basically a “pilot,” so any feedback on whether you like this column or not or how you think it could be improved is very welcome.
Fleecemane Lion in the Sideboard of Abzan Control
Fleecemane Lion by itself is not a surprising card—it is, in fact, quite a common card in Abzan. What’s new about it is that everyone had Fleecemane Lion in their sideboards, whereas they used to be found in the main deck or not at all. Brad Nelson, Alex Majlaton, and Chris Fennell all Top 8’d GP Memphis with similar Abzan Control builds featuring four Fleecemane Lions in the sideboard, and Chris Fennell cited Fleecemane Lion as his MVP sideboard card. Here’s Brad’s list for reference:
The format right now might be a bit hostile to Fleecemane Lions, but the cards that are usually good against Lion—Lightning Strike and Bile Blight—are very poor against this deck as a whole, and will generally be sided out. As a result, Lion becomes a powerful game two threat, letting you apply pressure as early as turn two in a matchup where they might expect you to be more reactive. Since you already run some aggressive cards, like Siege Rhino, it’s very easy for you to “switch gears” and go aggressive—it’s much different than siding in a random creature in your UB control deck, for example. If that plan fails, however, Lion also lets you play the long game, presenting a very resilient threat on its own. I expect Fleecemane Lions to be present in most Abzan Control sideboards from now on.
Mastery of the Unseen
When UB Control first showed up in our Standard format, it ran four copies of Perilous Vault, which meant you couldn’t just jam non-creature permanents in the hopes of beating their sweeper. Nowadays we have the more efficient Crux of Fate, which creates room for what are traditionally good cards against wrath effects—artifacts, planeswalkers, and enchantments—to shine again.
Outpost Siege is one of those cards, and we’ve been seeing it in almost every red deck as a way to beat UB in the long game since it’s immune to Hero’s Downfall. Mastery of the Unseen is another, and that is quite new. Ben Stark ran both in his RW deck:
Mastery of the Unseen provides a constant source of threats which can be be “cast” instant speed. If someone wants to overrun you with spot removal and other 1-for-1 answers, then Mastery will make sure they don’t do it. If you ever do get to unmorph something sweet then that’s pretty good for you, but I don’t think it’s necessary for the card to be good.
Curse of Death’s Hold in Junk’s Sideboard
Night of Souls’ Betrayal is a very powerful card that no one can play because it hoses, well, everybody. If you are in the market for 5-mana cards, however, you can play its one-sided, expensive cousin Curse of Death’s Hold, and that’s exactly what Florian Koch did in the Top 8 of GP Vancouver:
If you resolve Curse of Death’s Hold, it should be game over against Infect—normal versions of the deck can never beat it. Affinity basically needs to have a Ravager out already and, if you can kill that and whatever it modulars onto, then they also very likely cannot win the game. Twin needs to remove it, as it kills Pestermite and it makes Deceiver Exarch have 0 power. Even in the mirror it could potentially be good as a trump against Lingering Souls and mana guys if they are playing the ChannelFireball versions.
Overall Curse of Death’s Hold has a lot of potential, and I really like it as a 1-of. It’s expensive, but it’s incredibly powerful, and your deck has a lot of cheap interaction to make sure you reach five mana, at which point you basically win the game. If you have mana guys, I could even see playing a second, since it’s so good when it’s good.