Silvestri Says – General Notes and Failed Decks

One question I’ve been getting a lot lately that’s impossible for me to answer is, ‘What do you think is going to be good post-rotation?’ It amazes me people ask this despite not knowing an entire set in a 5 set format since there’s practically no chance it doesn’t have a notable impact, but people love new and untraveled paths I guess. As stated it’s impossible for anyone to really answer this question without Innistrad, the best I can do is look at what succeeded in Scars Block and what decks don’t lose a large bulk of their cards when rotation hits. Otherwise my general advice is just to pick up any powerful cards that see play now or are just on the cusp of seeing serious play and moving forward from there once you get a good idea of what Innistrad holds.

For the most part I have been buying some of the cards I feel could be powerful or at least playable in post-rotation play since right now the prices on many of these cards is at a low, at least on MODO. There’s no particular sleepers: [card]Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas[/card], [card]Venser, the Sojourner[/card], [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card], [card]Hero of Oxid Ridge[/card], [card]Blade Splicer[/card], [card]Mirran Crusader[/card], [card]Lord of the Unreal[/card], the entire Tempered Steel deck and the various Swords are all good starting places. Better still if you can afford to wait until the current Standard begins to die off and people start selling cards in which case [card]Birthing Pod[/card], [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card], [card]Koth of the Hammer[/card] and the played Titans may all see a downturn to jump on for some cheaper prices.

While looking to the future is fun, I have to say that the Standard format at present is quite healthy at the moment. Yeah Caw sees a bit too much play for many players taste but if you can stomach that and look at the actual data it tells a story of 4-5 ‘good’ decks and 8-10 that can top eight a SCG Open or similar tournament on any given day. Just over the past two weeks we’ve seen the resurgence of UR Twin, an actual Illusions deck make an impact and RDW, Valakut and UB Control all making valiant returns to the field. Honestly I’m happy to see RDW start to live up to some of the hype I was throwing it’s way when M12 first spoiled [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card]. [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] is such a depressing card to play against and I really feel for anyone who sets out to beat that card and the decks that play it.

Despite the healthy metagame and my interest in Caw and TwinBlade with the uptick in my collection I wanted to try out some older strategies that had fallen by the wayside. Neither of them got where I wanted to be in the metagame, but they at least showed some signs of competitiveness and maybe someone can build on what’s presented here.


Tezzeret decks are odd ducks in a format full of [card]Spell Pierce[/card] and [card]Squadron Hawk[/card], both cards that make strategies relying on a planeswalker a risky venture. Even worse is that Tezzeret decks need to be built within certain specifications or there becomes no point in playing the namesake card itself. So at your core every Tezzeret decks all fall under the same deckbuilding restrictions, you have to be UB and you must have at least 14-16 artifacts with your set of Tezzeret. That’s already about 20 slots down the tubes and assuming you end up in the 24-26 land range, then there isn’t a hell of a lot of room to work with for non-artifacts.

First question is what do you need the artifacts in your deck to be doing? [card]Everflowing Chalice[/card], [card]Sphere of the Suns[/card] and [card]Mox Opal[/card] were all popular in the deck for being cheap drops that could help out-mana your opponents and cheap enough to drop and snap transform into 5/5 creatures. [card]Tumble Magnet[/card] and [card]Contagion Clasp[/card] are both good choices for the same reason, they make immediate effects when they hit play and can be reused by Tezzeret down the line. The problem is that none of these cards are particularly high impact and the cheap artifacts that are (Such as the Swords) all require a multitude of creatures to function.

Immediately this forces you into to decide if you want to be aggressive or fall into the midrange controlling role almost every Tezzeret deck falls under. Quite frankly the current format just doesn’t have the aggressive guys necessary to support that sort of assault. I did try using cards like [card]Vault Skirge[/card] and [card]Spined Thopter[/card] out of desperation but found them to be underwhelming at best. [card]Vault Skirge[/card] in particular is a card some players run on Magic Online in their Tez builds and I never understood why. For every situation where Skirge is a real card, there are at least ten others where you just played a 1/1 lifelinker and actually expected it to have an impact without Tez or Sword in play. Well if either of those cards is in play, then I can justify just about any artifact creature, so what’s the point?

After dismissing any sort of aggressive plan with Swords* I focused back on the controlling plan and was just doing a worse iteration of it than UB Control could pull off. The one thing I could do slightly better by contrast was throw high-end threats at the opponent since the mana acceleration and Tezzerets sped up the clock significantly. Once I felt that was the new plan of the deck, I reconfigured the deck into something I actually liked playing.

*If you really want to know, the best shell ended up adding [card]Squadron Hawk[/card] and [card]Blade Splicer[/card]. Shocking.

[deck]4 Consecrated Sphinx
2 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Grave Titan
3 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Spellskite
4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
3 Sphere of the Suns
1 Mox Opal
4 Everflowing Chalice
3 Tumble Magnet
3 Torpor Orb
4 Preordain
2 Tezzeret’s Gambit
4 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Inkmoth Nexus
3 Swamp
5 Island
3 Doom Blade
3 Disfigure
2 Black Sun’s Zenith
1 Consume the Meek
3 Despise
1 Torpor Orb
2 Jace Beleren[/deck]

The list isn’t anything particularly impressive and in the end I just couldn’t get enough matches covered with the maindeck. Instead I focused more on my match against decks such as Valakut, Caw and Twin ; dealing with aggro via the sideboard. The maindeck focused on hitting mana drops and disrupting the creatures many decks lean on instead of just trying to kill them off with one for one trades. Then later in the game you would simply keep pounding away with six-drops and Tezzeret until the opponent folded. While this was actually quite the effective plan against Caw and Valakut it left much to be desired against even a slow midrange strategy such as Birthing Pod decks. Goblins was also a nightmare match even after adding a ton of early game removal just because it disrupted your own game plan fitting in enough defense to survive.

In the end that’s been my issue with Tezzeret decks in the format, there simply isn’t enough room to fit the defenses needed against such a variety of decks. If other slow control decks were popular or you could make the focus entirely on beating decks like Valakut and Goblins there wouldn’t be such a problem. Standard has too many viable strategies and no way for the Tezzeret deck to go proactive and just ignore some of them without devoting substantial sections of the deck against them. That was the lesson I ended up learning, if the deck requires a lot of space against every subset of deck it simply isn’t going to work in the format. Birthing Pod decks can get away with it because it has a powerful tutor engine and can run one to three cards to shore up entire matches.

For what it’s worth though, check out Phillip Lorren’s 9th place Tezzeret deck from the 75k championship.

[deck]2 Spellskite
4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
1 Batterskull
2 Black Sun’s Zenith
2 Brittle Effigy
4 Contagion Clasp
4 Everflowing Chalice
4 Galvanic Blast
2 Mox Opal
4 Preordain
2 Prophetic Prism
3 Tezzeret’s Gambit
4 Tumble Magnet
2 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Creeping Tar Pit
3 Darkslick Shores
2 Inkmoth Nexus
2 Island
2 Mountain
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Tectonic Edge
1 Batterskull
1 Flashfreeze
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Pyroclasm
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Spellskite
3 Spreading Seas
3 Torpor Orb[/deck]


Like others I wondered what happened to good old Boros after the bannings took place when it was one of the few decks to have any success at all against the original Caw deck. Certain creatures like [card]Steppe Lynx[/card] and [card]Mirran Crusader[/card] were strong regardless of how fast or slow I built the deck. Unfortunately the awfulness of the mana rears its head and screws up getting [card]Goblin Guide[/card] and Crusader mana up that early. Having only [card]Arid Mesa[/card] to help you out really limits the flexibility you can have when picking early creature drops.

So because Caw is slower now and pure speed with Boros only matters as much in the Valakut and UR Twin matches, I can cut back on the amount of red in the deck. Instead of being a balls out aggressive strategy I was OK with only using [card]Steppe Lynx[/card] as a creature that needs to land early. [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card] was fine when played on turn three or five and the only late-drop that is irreplaceable was [card]Hero of Oxid Ridge[/card].

At the end of the day the main reason to even stay in Boros colors is for [card]Hero of Oxid Ridge[/card] and not for [card]Goblin Guide[/card] or any other option. While [card]Dismember[/card] and even [card]Into the Roil[/card] can be a quite the annoyance for Hero, it remains one of the few legitimate ways an aggro deck can threaten Caw. Meanwhile nearly all the other dorks fell under the WW banner with only Lavamancer and Hero being creatures I actively wanted in the deck. Here’s the list I ended up using in the two and eight-man queues for a few days.

[deck]4 Steppe Lynx
4 Grim Lavamancer
4 Squadron Hawk
3 Porcelain Legionnaire
4 Mirran Crusader
2 Blade Splicer
4 Hero of Oxid Ridge
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Dismember
3 Adventuring Gear
4 Arid Mesa
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Marsh Flats
1 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Mountain
8 Plains
4 Forked Bolt
3 Hero of Bladehold
3 Oblivion Ring
2 Sword of War and Peace
3 Torpor Orb[/deck]

I actually was having a fair amount of success with the equivalent of Slow Boros and it was one of the only aggro decks that could beat [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card]. By cutting back on pure aggression the deck was made worse against Pod and combo decks, but it helped stitch together a very loose manabase and Caw and UB Control in post-board games. Additionally you weren’t quite as dead to [card]Pyroclasm[/card] or [card]Arc Trail[/card] as the older build which had [card]Goblin Guide[/card] and even [card]Plated Geopede[/card] for a time. Speaking of Geopede, Legionnaire is a no-frills versions of Geopede that’s easier to cast and a better topdeck later in the game. The one card that was a real sacrifice by cutting back so heavily on the red is [card]Searing Blaze[/card] which went from being quite excellent when I just accepted a bunch of mulligans to not making the deck due to early RR struggles.

In the end Boros is always going to be hamstrung by its mana and how many mulligans and awkward missed drops you’ll have to keep the best of red in the deck. Many builds of Boros simply don’t gain enough from straining the mana to succeed and still don’t have a very good plan against [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] when they don’t draw Hero. This version suffers against combo, but has far more consistent draws and every creature in here can take down multiple 1/1’s in combat or evade them. It also has far more single card threats against Caw or UB post-board than nearly every deck in the format.

By understanding the two biggest weaknesses of Boros: Bad mana and over reliance on a few key cards the deck was modified into a variation that’s respectable in most matches. The main drawback with this iteration is that I may have cut the aggression back a little too far. As of now if my Boros doesn’t have a turn one [card]Steppe Lynx[/card] it’s hard pressed to kill people before they can execute their own game; a staple of classic Boros. So while I felt alright playing against midrange and control all day the deck just isn’t a better option then straight Caw with Crusaders for a more aggressive angle.

I highlight these two failures because I hope that people can learn from why these decks failed or that others can overcome their weaknesses and make them into legitimate strategies once again. Grand Prix Pittsburgh is this weekend and if I were to narrow down my recommendations to three strategies they would be Caw (With or without red), UB Control and RUG Pod. Special exception given to UR Twin to a very small cross-section of player who may have better percentage points playing that combo over Caw. As for a good, but not great or particularly combo inclined player, Caw just has slightly better matches than Twin across the board. If you absolutely have to go aggro, Goblins with [card]Hero of Oxid Ridge[/card] is one of the only decks I’ve seen with reasonable results against the field.

If you want a Caw deck with a little punch to it, here’s my most recent UWR one without the Twin package.

[deck]4 Grim Lavamancer
4 Squadron Hawk
1 Azure Mage
2 Phantasmal Image
1 Sun Titan
2 Inferno Titan
4 Preordain
1 Psychic Barrier
2 Mana Leak
2 Spell Pierce
2 Dismember
2 Oblivion Ring
3 Gideon Jura
1 Jace Beleren
2 Timely Reinforcements
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Seachrome Coast
3 Glacial Fortress
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Arid Mesa
4 Island
3 Plains
2 Mountain
1 Plains
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Azure Mage
2 Combust
2 Torpor Orb
4 Mirran Crusader
4 Flashfreeze[/deck]

I actually ended up cutting [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] because I found getting it active was often far more trouble than it was worth in the majority of my matches. The only times where it really felt like a boon was against Valakut and UB Control and even both of those decks had a one mana answer to the card in their 75. Losing [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] was a similar annoyance rather than a true sacrifice, often I never wanted to [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] my opponents opting to get to six mana and drop a Titan or Sphinx into play with the standard WU Caw lists. In this build with the extra six-drop and mainboard [card]Azure Mage[/card] I much rather keep my land unless I’m crippling a land light opponent or stopping Valakut from killing me.

As for the straight WU Caw list I don’t have anything special cooked up, the main thing I learned from playing against LSV was that having a good sideboard plan was important and that whoever missed an early land drop was going to just get ranched. I’m a fan of having a 28th land in the sideboard as many of our games were decided on mana one way or the other and it’s a lot easier to stay in a game where you get flooded with Caw than with any other deck. I suggest watching my games against LSV in the Running the Gauntlet earlier this week for some solid commentary on the mirror.

Best of luck to those attending Pittsburgh this weekend!

Josh Silvestri
email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

18 thoughts on “Silvestri Says – General Notes and Failed Decks”

  1. Gabriel D. Celery

    I like the idea of running an UWR list, but aren’t the UR twin and Valakut matchup a horror for that deck?

  2. UR Twin can be tough at times and honestly I’ve lost almost no matches to Valakut on MODO. As long as you have Flashfreeze and more than 4 removal spells for Titan I really haven’t had issues with it. I don’t think any Caw player would say it’s a particularly miserable match-up… any match-up for that matter.

  3. Regarding Tezzeret:

    1. Never run Solemn Simulacrum and Torpor Orb simultaneously. It’s miserable. My suggestion is to ignore Solemn and maindeck 2 Orbs to shore up against Valakut.
    2. Contagion clasp is horrible, don’t play it. Ditto for Mox Opal and Sphere of the Suns. Only chalice.
    3. You need at least 2 sweepers main to have a positive matchup against most aggro decks. The Tempered Steel matchup is very draw dependent, they have many hands you simply cannot beat. Vampires feels 50/50 against skilled players. Mono red is easy post-board… their Manabarbs can be relatively ineffectual if you have chalice mana.
    4. You almost always fold to Birthing Pod. I have yet to find a build that can get the matchup even to 25%. It’s that bad.
    5. Don’t run counters main, use Preordain and Inquisition. I run a 2-2 Doom Blade/GftT split but you can adjust based on meta. [Note that no less a luminary than Brian Kibler completely disagreed and ran 4 mana leaks main]
    6. The toughest thing about the deck is learning to use Tezzeret correctly. The ‘algorithm’ you use is highly context dependent… there’s no quick heuristic except: if I make a 5/5 I win then I use -1. It’s also really tough to tell when you should go all in on Inkmoth Nexus.

    The deck could get better (depending on the artifacts in Innistrad) or worse (if more Birthing Pod ends up being played). It unfortunately loses its best proliferate target after rotation (Chalice).
    The red splash may be correct, Pyroclasm post-board (or main?) makes many matchups substantially easier. If you splash, you should cut lands to fit Opals.

  4. Regarding every deck in Standard:

    Don’t play Magic after GP Pittsburgh until Innistrad comes out.

    ~ Acarna

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  6. Good article. I like Tezzeret, agent of bolas a lot, but i just cannot figure out a good list that will have a chance against Valakut, Caw-Blade, Splinter Twin, Birthing Pod, and RDW.
    Torpor Orb is good against Twin Based decks and can slow Valakut for a turn of two, but not well against RDW and Caw-Blade (depending on the list), and i am not sure about Birthing Pod (since some run up to four colors).
    Spellskite is good all around
    Phyrexian Revoker for Gideon Jura and Birthing Pods
    Adaptive Automaton is cool if you choose golem as a creature type
    Phyrexian Metamorph i like much can copy creatures and artifacts. uhm!!!
    Solemn Simulacrum is a must
    Persecutor Golem I like must be aware if act of treason or similar spells
    Wurmcoil Engine, Grave Titan sweetness
    Birthing Pod hey you don’t have to run green to play it and is an artifact which can be searched with Tezzeret in a way i guess. You can also use it as a searching engine like they do.
    Mimic vat can be useful too since we will be doing sacrifices to search for heavier bomb and then we get imprinting some. Hey why not?
    Clone Shell?
    Things like the classic Inquisition of Kozilek, and Duress can help. Go for the Throat, and Doom Blade are useful. Mana leak and spell pierce a like. Into the Roil is good too. Volitions Reins can help and Veldaken Certarch too with Tumble Magnet as well. We can even run Entomber Exarch which we can search via Pod. However, creeping corrosion manic vandal and the like can hurt. i don’t know about this it just a thought but i will try it.

  7. I have to say that I don’t agree with your Boros overview.
    I played a qualify for nationals with a list similar to that one Paul published on his post here (From Bant to Boros) only taking 1 Hero of Bladehold and 1 Koth for 2 Hero of Oxid Ridges.
    I made a 4-2 losing only to a game loss for a late arrival and against a valakut running spellskites, which really pissed me off =)
    Caw decks, WW, combo and monored were all easily stomped by Boros.

    It is still a strong deck, but many people don’t play it because of its mechanics.(Landfall)

    With blade splicer + hero of oxid ridge you have a solid 3-4 drop and if they are nice to us in Innistrad we can see 1 or more great 1-2 drops to bring boros back to life (without landfall, obviously).

  8. I’m glad Josh mentioned Boros at all. As he said, Boros’s main inconsistency is in its manabase: you either really want to draw lands or real spells — both happening in a single game. It’s the Boros paradox.

    On the other hand, Boros has access to white, and that’s why it’s the more resilient deck over, for example, RDW. Without a hardcore-heavy Goblin suite, RDW sucks big — and especially postboard where the other decks’ viable sideboard options against red come into play.

    I think if you want to play Boros you must walk the line of not relying too much on landfall while definitely still making it part of your game plan. Playing Adventuring Gear can give you an explosive and early finish but it’s unreliable, and in many cases the Gear doesn’t do much (play two Tolstoy swords instead).

    Gerry T’s Boros concoction is pretty great as is (perhaps cutting one of the four Grimys for a Spikeshot Elder will give you a bit more versatility).

  9. emmanuel: “Solemn Simulacrum is a must”

    No, it isn’t. As someone who has run the deck for like 50 sanctioned matches (and countless unsanctioned ones) I can tell you it’s not that great. On 4, you’re competing with your namesake card (Tezz) and running them alongside Torpor Orb (which is strong in the current meta) is awful. It can help you hit your 6th land drop for Wurmcoil or whatever, but chalices + 25 land is pretty consistent as is.

    IF you cut Torpor Orb completely (which may not be wise depending on the amount of Valakut in your area) then maybe 1 or 2 solemn is good. But I haven’t tested that setup yet… it always felt underwhelming to me.

    If you look at Phillip Lorren’s 9th place Tezzeret deck from the 75k championship it clearly shows zero Simulacrum. I’m not saying that list is optimal (prism???) but it actually managed to Get There. Shouta Yasooka’s list from Japanese Nationals is close to what I’ve settled on and it did well too. No Solemns there.

  10. I like the article this week sir. I too was searching for a good Tezz build, but just went to UB Control. You said everything I could possibly say about why. I also like that you put a UWR build in there without the Twin combo.

    Good Work.

  11. Garrett Campbell

    Solemn can allow you to play a turn 4 Grave Titan or Sphinx in the right series of events which is powerful and worth looking at. With turn two chalice, turn the Solemn and then turn four drop Grave Titan. You can also do this with Tezz Gambit and proliferating the chalice, but everybody knows that trick. All I’m saying is, the deck can to powerful things.

  12. I prefer Paul Rietzl-style Boros, Goblin Guide is too good not to play, and I wouldn’t call the legionnaire a strict upgrade from Geopede. The ‘pede can become a 5/5, and the potential lifeloss from the phyrexian mana could come back to hurt you vs RDW for example. Even as a lategame topdeck Geopede is fine since the otherwise blank lands pump him. In fact when playing 25 lands having only the lynx and gear as landfall cards is not utilizing the potential enough.

    One way of keeping the mana from not getting you in Boros is to cut back on as many mana intensive cards as possible (I’m not sure you need crusader really). The main way you won against pre-bannings Caw was to get a really fast draw, and making the deck slower should not help with that, granted it might be a better plan to deal with Timely Reinforcements.

  13. There is another style of Tezzeret deck which was not discussed: the Kuldotha Forgemaster builds that kill via Blightsteel Colossus.

    The deck is ‘real’ in a sense, but also seems strictly worse than a dedicated SplinterTwin deck. It also suffers from splash damage, as Kuldotha Forgemaster inconveniently has only 5 toughness, making it very dead to a Dismember. And rule #1 is Never Play a Bad Something Else.

  14. i though of Puresteel Paladin in a Boros deck.
    Sword fo Feast and Famine/Sword of War and Peace/ Sword of Body and Mind/ Basilisk Collar/Mortarpod/Adventuring Gear/Explore’s Scope/Trailblazer’s Boots/Darksteel Plate/Flayer Husk/Bonehoard.
    Hero of Oxid Ridge
    Puresteel Paladin
    Goblin Guide
    Blade Splicer
    Plated Geopede
    Stepple Lynx

  15. Does CFB proof-read the articles? The lack of punctuation (or simply incorrect punctuation) in every paragraph made this article rather difficult to read.

  16. I’ve been playtesting a Tezz/Forgemaster/blightsteel deck (close to the one on the MTG deck of the day). It’s fun when it goes off, but I seem to be drawing blightsteel quite often in the first 5 turns. It’s always great fun seeing a win-con automatically go out the window.

    It also is far too slow against aggro, gl beating goblins if you lose the roll.

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