Silvestri Says – The Monster With 32 Faces

“Dear dumb Wizards. Don’t tell a lie. All crimes begin with a lie. Don’t you know that?”

Dallas ended with a split of four CawBlade and 4 RUG players slugging it out in the top eight, with the victor being a traditional UW build. In fact every single CawBlade deck in the top eight was a straightforward UW build. All of the RUG lists were also cut from the same cloth with very few differences between any of the builds. You would have the exact opposite reaction from this top eight than if you went by GP: Barcelona, you would say Standard decayed and Jace finally showed how oppressive and powerful he could truly be. After all there were 32 of him in the top eight, so he has to be the culprit behind the whole mess.

While a bit unnerving to see such a decisive top eight after weeks of seeing some semblance of balance, not all hope is lost. For some this is actually a great turn of events because it may finally force people to confront the fact that their decks cannot beat good CawBlade pilots and that RUG is in fact a real deck regardless of its issues. In my mind Dallas confirmed that CawBlade is the best deck in the format and RUG is the best run-good deck in the format. People will be quick to point to Jace and cry foul… and actually be right. Originally this would be the point where I defended JTMS and spoke of all the other reasons these decks are dominating. The whole matter of consistency gained from having Preordain and Jace in the same deck just does so much for the blue decks. Then I stopped, thought about it more and realized just how absurd the stats are behind the Jace decks.

As pointed out by esteemed colleague Ted Knutson in his blog post: http://mixedknuts.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/jace-t-mind-sculptor-will-you-please-go-now/

There are no good answers. There are only good Jace decks.

Event Jace Decks
GP Dallas 8
SCG Mem 5
GP Barce 5
% Jace 77

That is simply absurd and helps confirm that without a Jund or Faeries level threat in the room to keep Jace in line, which anyone not playing Jace is going to have a pretty low shot of winning anything. I say this not because I want the card banned, but rather because there’s no point in thinking about it unless you think the DCI is willing to run another emergency ban (ha-*******-ha). As my old buddy JP Meyer pointed out in the comment section, here’s what we’ll be looking at for the next B/R.

“Next B/R update is 6/18, to take effect on 7/1. Innistrad becomes legal around 10/1.”

So there’s no real point in banning unless they want to mess with a nearly complete PTQ season. Plus, in a top eight full of masters, they played 64 cards that made their decks more consistent and actually take advantage of their play skill. I can’t believe it. That just boggles the mind right?


On the other hand the number of times any GP or PT-level event has had 32 of a single card have been so few in number I can’t even remember them. I know Skullclamp had a day in the sun, Rishadan Port was in every deck of a top eight and Tinker had a really good showing. However none of them put on the show that Jace has and Preordain, of course, but Magic players always forgive the Brainstorm-esque effects since they actually keep some skill in the game.

With luck, you still have time to focus on what beats these two juggernauts before Regionals this upcoming weekend. By the time you read this, the MTGO Standard PTQ season will have already started and the first Constructed PTQ may have already fired. While New Phyrexia could shake things up or bring new strategies to the table, we still have a solid month of the current format in front of us. Right now the biggest crime you could commit is overrating your CawBlade or RUG matches based on weak opponents, weak lists or just small amounts of testing. Just like when Fae and Jund were popular, people always claim to have the deck or strategy that absolutely dominates them in testing and then cry on the car ride home about the myriad of reasons they lost anyway.

Don’t be that guy.

It may suck that ultimately all your decisions are going to come down to beating Jace (nice fair card, etc.) decks, but right now that’s going to be the case. Right now the biggest problem with taking CawBlade down is the number of angles it can hold and beat you with. Most of the decks that beat CawBlade are very linear in nature and can’t adapt or adjust well to other decks. Meanwhile, CawBlade gets to attack you directly and then cornershoot some angles you might not be able to cover with a balanced deck and beat you anyway. The planeswalkers are just one attack that CawBlade can throw at you and it’s best to not ignore any of it unless you plan on going over the top with a massive trump, ala Valakut or Eldrazi Green.

If you want to fight fairly in Standard, you best be able to achieve that level nearly every single game because otherwise you’ll be playing a worse CawBlade deck. There are very few decks that can fight fairly and expect to come out on top of the decks. Boros post-board can become a bigger is better board control deck and beat CawBlade in close games since it can match the missing card advantage of Jace with Inferno Titan and Koth of the Hammer. RUG minus Lotus Cobra is a bit of a dog to Caw but they at least show up to the gunfight with an actual gun. Even taking the Lotus Cobra aspect out of the deck, they still have good spot removal, Precursor Golem, Jace, Inferno Titan and Avenger of Zendikar to try and best Caw in a fight. Vampires can also put up a reasonable fight thanks to Bloodghast and Dark Tutelage plus a ton of removal to deal with any pesky Sword wielders.

To my knowledge outside of these decks, everybody else wants to try and cheat by winning early or going over the top. This is viable if you’re absolutely sure your scheme is actually worth the sacrifices you make in other matches. Having a bad Valakut matchup and trying to duck or having a bad RDW matchup is a lot more defensible now than it was a few months ago, but only if you actually beat RUG and Caw by a notable amount if you don’t let bad guys like us get away with it. Of course you could do what many players have done and just join the party where you have very powerful strategies backed up by Preordain and Jace to help the consistency out. There’s no shame in doing so and for many players this is going to give you a better chance at victory than playing any other deck in the field.

Briefly I want to touch on a few of the key tweaks we can see in the top eight lists before we move onto the remaining contenders. You can check out all the lists here: http://www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/eventcoverage/gpdal11/welcome#1

RUG: 2nd at GP: Dallas – Orrin Beasley

When I said brief, I meant it specifically for these lists. The differences between the four lists maindeck configurations are all one to two cards within one another.

The only maindeck spell difference between all of the lists: 1 Precursor Golem vs. 1 Garruk Wildspeaker vs. 1 Avenger of Zendikar vs. 1 Twisted Image

That’s it. Oh and Michael Jacob swapped an Island for an extra Forest.

Sideboard-wise the same thing applies, all of them agreed on cards within three slots of one another. The only difference was whether they ran a Jace Beleren, one or two Acidic Slime, the full set of Pyroclasm, or the full set of Flashfreeze.

In other words if you want a standardized RUG list to test against or build, you can pick any of the four lists in the top eight and you would be playing a near card for card copy of any of them.

UW CawBlade:

Key agreements between all four builds include the equipment choices of Sword of Feast and Famine and Mortarpod as maindeck inclusions. Two only had one Sword in the maindeck, but packed an additional one in the sideboard. Three of the four builds had Sylvok Lifestaff in the sideboard as additional equipment against aggressive strategies.

Notably all of them had Tumble Magnet in the maindeck and all but Korey McDuffie had Condemn in the maindeck. On a similar note, everyone except Josh Utter-Leyton had Day of Judgment in the maindeck ranging between one and three copies. Meanwhile, Korey also packed Into the Roil into the empty slots as a catch-all and also had the most Days in the maindeck. The remaining removal slots were split presumably by what each player expected to fight more of at the GP, Wrapter had Oust in the maindeck which is a great boon against Lotus Cobra and landfall creatures while others leaned on maindeck Day.

All but Wrapter had 26 lands in the maindeck, but Josh was also the only player to have two Inkmoth Nexus in his deck. Winner David Shiels also packed a single Nexus in his maindeck and it wouldn’t surprise me to see this land package pick up over the next few weeks. Having an Inkmoth around to block can be quite the boon and combined with a Sword can actually end the game at a reasonable pace. It provides some extra value at minimal cost to the deck which is just feels like a rich getting richer development.

The only thing that stood out about the remainder of the maindecks was the pair of Emeria Angel in Austin Bursavich’s list. While they’ve been discussed as an option before, this is the first notable sighting of the card in a CawBlade deck. Having tried it I’m not a huge fan of it in the mirror; it feels like Hero of Bladehold in that it’s amazing if the opponent can’t deal with it right away and isn’t doing anything really powerful. It’s something I would like more if the deck had the capability to drop it on turn three, though at least Emeria Angel can make a token before being bounced. I’d love to hear from him how it performed in the maindeck as it’s a card that could definitely be valuable in the right circumstances.

Sideboard sets were all pretty similar and there was no glaring technology to be stolen and used for nefarious purposes. Many of them reflected their owner’s mainboard so I’ll just remind people not to copy paste too quickly if they start making alterations to the main. Otherwise make sure to have a valid anti-Valakut strategy and depending on how you feel about the match, some sweet RDW hate.

For other contenders, I’m hard-pressed to recommend anything that doesn’t pack Jace. However if you have to go with other options, RDW, Vampires, GW Quest and Eldrazi Green don’t necessarily make me want to skip tournaments out of pure disgust. Actually now may be a nice time to bring GW Quest out of retirement as it still has one of the best RUG matches in the format and an even shot against CawBlade according to Boland. As for Eldrazi Green, the one brew I like is the one loosely based on my old Turboland deck core and borrowing some modern Eldrazi elements.

Yes, my solution to Eldrazi Green was to add Jace. I’m an innovator at heart.

While not as explosive as olden-time Turboland or with the crushing late-game of Genesis Wave, I’m reasonably happy with how the deck plays out. Early on you still have some defense and the ability to lay a turn three Precursor Golem and just crush people into a fine powder. You then can jump into a late-game which abuses two of the best threats in the format right now and retain the ability to tutor for them. Really that’s the one selling factor of the deck; there’s a lot of consistency other ramp decks lack between Halimar Depths, Preordain, Jace and Green Sun’s Zenith. There’s also room to play around with the toolbox such as adding a Primeval Titan or going full-on ramp and cutting Precursor Golem as an early threat.

You’ll be soft to aggro before sideboarding, but after that you pack a heavy counter suite against Valakut and eight lifegain creatures against aggro. Combined with your package of wall buddies it isn’t too difficult to hold out until you take over the game. Speaking of the sideboard you can also slide in the 4th Wall of Tanglecord over a Wurmcoil if one so desired. Another potential option was the use of Tumble Magnet or All is Dust in the sideboard as a catch-all, if you’re willing to cut some of the aggro slots or weaken your Valakut matchup for the room that’s definitely an option.

Assuming I can attend Regionals this weekend, in all likelihood I’ll be playing UW CawBlade unless I am firmly convinced that a trump deck is a great choice. What can I say really? I know Chapin is with me on this when choosing to play as ‘The Enemy’ and in the end I can’t fault anyone for jumping ship. As for those trying to beat the deck? To quote some scumbag getting killed by Liam Neeson in Taken, “Good Luck.”

“We are bad guys. That means we’ve got more to do other than bullying companies. It’s fun to lead a bad man’s life.”
Monster with 32 Faces

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

P.S. If you’re interested in odd unsolved crimes, Google “The Monster with 21 Faces.”


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