With my PTQ article out of the way I’m back to the Constructed grind—wait, MTGO is only lame duck formats now, and there’s no real Standard events locally unless I go to Vegas this weekend? Well I guess that limits my Standard options for a week. Still, for being a special snowflake, guru, expert, mustachio, observer, master, champion, or any other titles attached to ‘Standard’ in my bylines, I should probably include something about it.
I do like the fact that the DCI non-banning is immediately paying dividends, as Delver margins continue to fall, and the rest of the competitive field has caught up to, or has a slight edge on Delver decks. Michael Hetrick has done some good work recapping the SCG Open’s every few weeks, and M13 gave the traditional Delver decks nothing of note. I did enjoy seeing Adam Prosak’s take on Talrand Delver, though honestly at this point I’m pretty done with [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] the actual card. In a field full of decks where [card]Blade Splicer[/card]—[card]Restoration Angel[/card] is still the best thing you can be doing, I just don’t care for the 3/2 unless you curve out with a bunch of [card]Vapor Snag[/card]s and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]s.
3 Augur of Bolas
4 Delver of Secrets
2 Phantasmal Image
4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Talrand, Sky Summoner
2 Gut Shot
2 Mana Leak
2 Mental Misstep
2 Mutagenic Growth
4 Thought Scour
4 Vapor Snag
4 Gitaxian Probe
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sword of War and Peace
3 Glacial Fortress
2 Moorland Haunt
4 Seachrome Coast
2 Phantasmal Image
4 Restoration Angel
1 Gut Shot
2 Steel Sabotage
1 Cavern of Souls[/deck]
Given the white splash, and the fact that Talrand is more of a value-over-time card, I really want to see [card]Blade Splicer[/card] or some other good defensive card in here. Not having access to any maindeck removal outside of [card]Gut Shot[/card] is a bit of a concern, but I guess as long as people aren’t slamming [card thundermaw hellkite]Hellkites[/card] everywhere that isn’t a huge problem yet. This base is definitely something I’d love to see built off of.
Speaking of [card]Blade Splicer[/card] and green decks, Caleb Durward built the same deck I was brewing, and won with a Pod deck sans [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card], and cutting down on [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card]. I’m very happy to see [card]Elvish Visionary[/card] and [card thalia, guardian of thraben]Thalia[/card] over Geist, and while I don’t agree with all the choices, I do like that he included a 7-drop. Now that the field has a fair amount of Zombies, Pod, and G/R Aggro decks to pick on, moving back to a chain that can get all the way to [card elesh norn, grand cenobite]Elesh Norn[/card] is preferable. I wish there was a [card]Sublime Archangel[/card] in the deck to allow for a two-turn kill in certain situations, but outside of that and the absence of [card]Inferno Titan[/card], I like that as a starting point for future Naya Pod decks.
As for G/R Aggro, it’s one of my favorite decks with the release of M13, because now I can play a real threat at the five slot.
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Borderland Ranger
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
3 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Silklash Spider
4 Thundermaw Hellkite
4 Brimstone Volley
4 Bonfire of the Damned
4 Green Sun’s Zenith
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Rootbound Crag
2 Kessig Wolf Run
3 Wolfir Silverheart
3 Ancient Grudge
2 Zealous Conscripts
1 Stingerfling Spider
1 Acidic Slime[/deck]
A card like [card]Rancor[/card] is certainly an option, but it loses some punch once you take [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card] out of the deck. Of course the Geist doesn’t fit well once you go big, and the card is horrific against [card]Blade Splicer[/card]. By making the deck bigger, you protect yourself against non-miracle [card bonfire of the damned]Bonfire[/card], and have a real way to get through a ground stalemate that’s quicker than [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card]. You’ll notice I left Swords out, and instead went with [card]Brimstone Volley[/card] as an option that addresses both [card blade splicer]Golems[/card] and [card restoration angel]Angels[/card], then teams up with Hellkite to end the game over the course of two turns.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with the UW midrange list I ran a few weeks ago, and Sam Black piloted his own updated version to 20th place at SCG St. Louis. Stalling until you slam a [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card] or [card]Sun Titan[/card] on the table is a big game, and even [card]Batterskull[/card] can turn a game around in a hurry. Having access to [card]Blade Splicer[/card], [card]Restoration Angel[/card], and [card]Day of Judgment[/card] is about as good as it gets when facing down green decks, and while [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card] is a reasonable subsitute at times, Day just kills everything whenever you need it too.
Moving on, we now have Magic 2013 draft to keep us occupied until the Return to Ravnica is complete. Thankfully it isn’t the horror show that was Avacyn Restored, or the snoozefest of older core sets—though it does lose some of the speed M12 brought to core set draft.
First things first, there are six cards in Magic 2013 which are the top of the Limited class, and should rarely ever be passed. The list is very short and easy to remember:
[draft]Jace, memory adept
Garruk, Primal Hunter
Ajani, Caller of the Pride
Odric, Master Tactician
There are other very strong cards in the format, but these six stuck out to me as the best things you can do. Three are exceptionally powerful planeswalkers, with Jace taking the honors of best Limited card in the set, with Garruk not far behind. [card]Sublime Archangel[/card] is a close parallel to [card]Wolfir Silverheart[/card]—less of an immediate impact, but one mana cheaper, and evasion makes her about as unbeatable. Liliana and Chandra are both great cards as well, but don’t put the game on lockdown or immediately end it like the other three in the set.
[card]Odric, Master Tactician[/card] is a solid creature with an ability that essentially wins the game if you ever get it to go off, either as a [card]Falter[/card] effect or a [card]Plague Wind[/card]. You can make a case for a number of cards over Odric in a straight P1/1 situation, because the ability is difficult to trigger, but there aren’t a lot of downsides for overextending in an attempt to get it going in this format. Additionally, white has plenty of creatures that can sit back and still contribute via exalted, so there isn’t an issue of having to run a bunch of [card]Grizzly Bears[/card] to turn Odric on. With that said, other creatures with an argument for the slot are [card]Captain of the Watch[/card], [card]Krenko, Mob Boss[/card], and [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card].
[card]Talrand’s Invocation[/card] may require a bit of explanation when surrounded by known powerhouses. As LSV wrote in his review, the card is effectively [card]Lingering Souls[/card], producing an immediate army of flying creatures. Playing a [card]Welkin Tern[/card], some defender such as [card]Guardians of Akrasa[/card] or [card]Kraken Hatchling[/card], and [card]Talrand’s Invocation[/card] is going to crush the vast majority of opponents. The card is obviously a first pick, but honestly there are just very few rares that I’d take over it. [card]Captain of the Watch[/card] comes to mind as a reasonable choice, though I mainly list Invocation because it’s probably the only power uncommon left in the set. Depending on how you felt about [card]Fireball[/card], [card]Overrun[/card], [card]Lingering Souls[/card], and [card]Druid’s Familiar[/card], this may be a pleasant thought.
The best deck in the first week of the format has to be B/W Exalted, not only do the exalted creatures go later than you’ll see them in the near future, but people highly underrate creatures like [card]Duty-Bound Dead[/card]. Remember [card]Akrasan Squire[/card]? Take that, color-shift, and instead of one point of power, give it regeneration so it can be used as a wall in the late-game. Oh, and put it in a format with almost no playable one-drops, where curving out against half the archetypes is better than nearly any bomb.
A combo of B/W also features the upsides of having the best common removal, the best creatures in white are exalted-based, and you still get a fair bit of evasion from [card]Tormented Soul[/card], [card]Griffin Protector[/card], [card]Aven Squire[/card] and [card]Bloodhunter Bat[/card]. Outside of some awkward BB and WW costs, the deck excels in nearly every area you want from an aggressive deck, and has its own late-game reach thanks to exalted.
As for the other first week deck that reigns over all others, I suspect WG Soldiers, Spiders and Bears, Oh My! will be the other overdrafted combination. It isn’t hard to take a look at a card like [card]Sentinel Spider[/card] at common and see just how efficient the green creatures are without assistance. Green also finally has a real removal spell in [card]Prey Upon[/card]—and while it lost [card]Overrun[/card] as a power uncommon, access to [card]Rancor[/card] is a nice consolation prize. With green monsters already starting above the average P/T at nearly every point on the curve—a little bit of white gives you combat tricks, additional exalted buffs, and some sorely needed evasion against durdle decks.
While you can go for aggression, G/W also plays into the playstyle that will most likely be most popular once the format gets established—the more traditional, durdle version of core where every deck needs to be built with an actual end-game plan, because you will inevitably need one in some of your matches. The nice thing, from what I can see thus far, is that you can draft archetypes that sidestep this to some degree. So unlike old core sets, every game isn’t a straight grind unless you flooded out of the game. While not as bloodthirsty as the M12 drafts were, you can still get some very nice curve outs. Removal being scaled back a tad means you aren’t punished as often for using auras like [card]Tricks of the Trade[/card] and [card]Dark Favor[/card].
Initially I thought blue would reverse course from being the default best or second best color in core, and instead come up short this time around. If you look at the common sheet, for the most part it just has a lot of [card]Wind Drake[/card]s, with a small smattering of counters and draw spells to go along with it. [card]Encrust[/card] isn’t exactly a top flight removal spell, and [card]Unsummon[/card] can be hard to take advantage of in many blue decks. What I found was that while blue had been weakened considerably, the uncommons were a cut above the rest, and still did enough things right. It certainly wasn’t the lackluster dreck that ended up befalling red this time around.
Red has five real commons, and a handful of filler-to-OK ones. Basically, unless you want to go in on a [card mogg flunkies]Flunkies[/card] strategy or really take advantage of firebreathing, you only want to see [card]Searing Spear[/card], [card]Turn to Slag[/card], [card]Rummaging Goblin[/card], [card]Goblin Battle Jester[/card], and [card]Bladetusk Boar[/card] in multiples at the common slot. Cards like [card]Reckless Brute[/card] and [card]Fire Elemental[/card] are at least passable most of the time, but they hardly impact the board as much as the commons of the other colors. I actually think [card]Volcanic Strength[/card] is underrated, since aura cards live for a while in this format—and it can actually make [card]Reckless Brute[/card] or [card]Dragon Hatchling[/card] into must-kills that actually live through combat with a stiff breeze.
Otherwise, you really don’t want any of your creatures to get into fights since they’ll just die horrifically, the [card]Goblin Welder[/card] squad cheaped out this year and replaced everything with glass. Well except for [card]Wall of Fire[/card], which is another card that won’t see nearly enough play for how useful it can be.
Here’s a general breakdown of the commons, but I’m only seven drafts into this format and nothing is set in stone. Also note that these aren’t in order, and that I value exalted pretty highly in this format.
[card]Tricks of the Trade[/card]
[card]Merfolk of the Pearl Trident[/card]
[card]Servant of Nefarox[/card]
[card]Sign in Blood[/card]
[card]Mark of the Vampire[/card]
[card]Knight of Infamy[/card]
[card]Turn to Slag[/card]
[card]Goblin Battle Jester[/card]
[card]Wall of Fire[/card]
[card]Flames of the Firebrand[/card]
[card]Mwonvuli Beast Tracker[/card]
[card]Guardians of Akrasa[/card]
[card]Show of Valor[/card]
Uncommons of note:
[card]Knight of Glory[/card]
[card]War Priest of Thune[/card]
Additionally, I plan to keep track of the average turn of the format by recording results from our local draft events, preferably at FNM level. While normally this wouldn’t be a huge amount of data, the fact that we have 120-140 player FNM’s (over 100 drafters last Friday!) gives me ample opportunity for at least some data collection at a local level.
This first week I was only capable of grabbing one round’s worth of data, so there’s not a lot to be drawn from it. For what it’s worth, after I went through it, the most common turn the game ended was turn 8, and the average after removing outliers was about 9.1. The quickest finish was on turn four, from what I was told was a turn two [card]Mogg Flunkies[/card], turn three [card]Reckless Brute[/card], into turn four [card]Mark of Mutiny[/card], into a scoop. The longest I was given was a match that went into turn 30. I can only assume that was a cripple fight from start to finish.
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom
Before I go, last week I talked about several PTQs, and posted some of the feedback I got from players. Two of the TOs took time out to respond to the feedback left, and I’d like to take a moment to highlight them if they were missed. Sadly, some of the more helpful information got buried in the discussion, but I’m happy to have gotten a few replies from TOs that read the advice, and will hopefully take it to heart. Just for that alone I’m glad I wrote the article.
I’m planning on doing this again next season, so until then this’ll be my last post on the subject.