Category Archives: Brews

JundWave

Ever since we brewed a Genesis Wave deck on episode 33 of Horde of Notions, there’s been a lot of interest in the list from listeners of the show. It’s tremendous fun to play, it’s explosive as hell and even if you don’t draw a Genesis Wave you’re still on the mono-Titans plan. All the ramp means you are more often than not dropping a Titan on turn 4, and then every topdeck is a potential nightmare for your opponent.

Here’s the list, with explanations of each choice.

1 Pristine Talisman – I’m not sure this needs to be in the deck. The life gain rarely matters and this might just be better as another Manalith.
4 Primeval Titan – Go on, pretend you’re surprised. Every ramp deck should be running this card, at least 3 and probably 4 in most cases.
3 Manalith – One of two maligned cards in the deck. Seriously, you need this. It ramps you AND lets you use it the turn you play it, plus it helps with the three-colour manabase without limits on usage.
3 Dawntreader Elk – Speed bump that ramps you. Be careful when you use it as it enables Morbid. Helpful against attacking Obliterators.
2 Massacre Wurm – A necessary evil. If you Wave into it, it helps clear the way of Spirit tokens and blockers. If you hard cast it, it keeps you alive.
2 Solemn Simulacrum – I would try up to 4, but normally by the time I can cast the second I would rather be casting a Titan. Good speed bump though.
4 Birds of Paradise – If there were a non-creature 1cc ramp spell, I would play it. Relying on this in a world of Tragic Slip, Gut Shot, Vapor Snag and Galvanic Blast is perilous to say the least. Still, there’s no better choice right now.
1 Shrine of Boundless Growth – People have stopped reading when they see this. Don’t sleep on this card. You drop it turn 2 or 3 and it beats a Mana Leak on your GWave by itself. I might play a second but any more would be wrong for sure.
2 Grave Titan – A case of it being better than any other creature option in these three colours, and it’s just stupid with Urabrask off a Wave.
3 Urabrask, the Hidden – Absolutely vital to the deck, especially against sorcery-speed sweepers. You can board this out against decks without them for more beef, or for like a Karn maybe. The only thing better than Waving into 3 Titans is Waving into 3 hasty Titans. Well, maybe Waving into 4…
4 Genesis Wave – You might actually be able to get away with 3 in the deck. Risky though.
4 Sphere of the Suns – I want Fellwar Stone back 🙁
3 Inferno Titan – The best Titan when you have Urabrask. Just a beating.

1 Inkmoth Nexus – Plan C, in case something goes wrong (waving into nothing, for example).
1 Kessig Wolf Run – See Inkmoth.
5 Forest
3 Mountain
1 Swamp
4 Woodland Cemetery
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Copperline Gorge
2 Evolving Wilds
2 Dragonskull Summit

 

The mana base is solid, I have only had issues with BBB for Wurm once or twice. Sideboard needs something to answer heavy permission (likely Autumn’s Veil), a plan in case you want to side out of GWave (Garruk 3.0 or Karn seem fine, even 2.0 would work), more beef against decks without sweepers (extra Titans probably), potentially Acidic Slime for Pod (which has been a rough matchup) and maybe Markov Warlord (against Obliterator, which is BAD for you) or Warstorm Surge.

 

So how does it play? Against Delver they basically have to either counter your ramp and race you or counter your beef and hope you die before you run out. Neither plan is particularly good for them. Remember many Delver decks are only running 3-4 counters main. Post-board they likely bring in Dissipate and maybe Flashfreeze, so you need either the Autumn’s Veil plan or the planeswalker one. Massacre Wurm is a bomb against the non-anthem versions of the deck, so never cut those. Urabrask however is a liability as it WILL be Vapor Snagged after the Wave. If you have the Veil then that’s not a concern, but consider siding him out.

 

Wolf Run needs a nut draw to compete. You’re both ramping in the early turns but their turn 4 or 5 Titan looks really bad next to your turn 5 or 6 Genesis Wave. Slagstorm can be an annoyance if you don’t play out your Elks with mana open, but otherwise you just shrug and go off. The white version on the other hand can be a real problem. Gideon Jura can ruin your day, especially if they have Day of Judgement in hand. Elesh Norn is also not something you want to see. That’s a bad matchup for you and I’m still trying to figure out how to beat it, though it probably involves Karn.

 

Zombies can be bad if they get a fast start. The nine-power-attacking-turn-three draw is tough for any deck to handle, and we’re not exempt from that. It’s made worse by the fact that a Massacre Wurm will wipe their board…and deal 3 to you in the process. Obliterator can also be nasty, though sometimes your Wave will be good enough to just attack on through it. Karn, Warstorm Surge and Markov Warlord are all options here, as well as playing out Urabrask before they can drop Obliterator, then Waving the turn after they do.

 

Humans needs anthems to have a hope. Champion into Gather is a tough start but fortunately it doesn’t have trample. Without anthems your Massacre Wurm is just that – a Massacre. Acidic Slime is a must out of the board, as is the fourth Inferno Titan.

 

Things I’ve Learned

 

Believe it or not, people actually come to me for advice on decks. I know right? Took me by surprise too. Because I’ve been there and because I know how hard it is to find someone to be helpful and provide constructive criticism, I always try to help out with advice when I can. People like Conley Woods, Mike Flores, Jesse “Smi77y” Smith and Patrick Chapin have provided me with so much knowledge, both directly and indirectly, that I feel like it’s my duty to pass it on. Kind of like that book in American Pie, y’know?

 

Deckbuilding is hard. No no, bear with me. When I say that, I mean building your OWN deck is hard. Physically collecting the cards to play the latest Gerry Thompson Delver version is really rather easy. I’m not about to turn this into the age-old netdecking vs brewing argument (my stance on that has changed DRASTICALLY over the last 6 months anyway,) but the fact remains that many people prefer to build something that is uniquely them. And bravo! I think that part of the learning process of this game requires us to go through that stage, where we explore our own ideas and stoutly reject anything else. For some players it is drastically shorter than others, but like learning to ride a bike it will eventually come to most people who want it.

 

Like a parent watching his first child grow up, I often see the same mistakes I used to make running through the decklists I receive, and I knowingly shake my head with a wry grin. My mother always told me that when I had kids of my own, I would find myself saying the same things to them that she was saying to me. Of course I was an adolescent and I knew better, so I scoffed at this obviously ludicrous assertion. I was never going to be as strict, as stuffy and as unfair as MY mother! (As an aside, I had the least strict and stuffy mother of anyone I know.)She was right, of course. Certain life lessons have to be taught, and the way you were taught them tends to be the way you pass them on. With that in mind, and with the hope that people who listen to my podcasts will read this and find some value in it, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned.

 

Lesson One: What are you doing with your mana?

Magic is a logic problem mixed with a resource management game. Cards in hand, cards in your library, permanents and mana are your resources, and in general the person who makes the best use of them will win. Each player can play one land a turn and draw one card a turn. If you have some way to bend or break those building-block rules of the game, you can put yourself ahead.

 

With mana though, it is not enough to just have more of it available. What matters most is what you DO with that mana. Let’s illustrate with an example. Josh is trying to build a WBG Tokens deck. He puts many powerful cards: Doomed Traveler, Blade Splicer, Gather the Townsfolk, Intangible Virtue, Lingering Souls. At the four-mana slot, he includes Parallel Lives. Doubling the tokens he can get seems like a great plan to him, and he’s seen the card in action doing some very powerful things in both Limited and EDH. Josh takes his deck to FNM, and Josh loses. A lot.

 

Parallel Lives is a skill-testing card. The effect it has is undoubtedly a powerful one, but is it worth the cost? I don’t just mean 3G, which is actually quite good for the effect. I mean the opportunity cost, a term I got from Limited Resources (if you’re not listening to that podcast, you are doing it very wrong). Parallel Lives occupies a spot in your deck and a slot on your mana curve. Optimally you want it in play as early as possible, which means you are likely tapping out to play it. It then has no effect on the board until you untap and draw a card. That gives your opponent a whole turn to deal with it with sorcery-speed effects, basically invalidating your entire turn and making you “waste” four mana. It also encourages bad play, as you will be tempted to hold back your token generators until you have this card in play.

 

Compare this with casting Garruk Relentless. At the same mana cost you can instantly impact the board, either by creating a token or killing an opposing creature. If your opponent then untaps and deals with your Garruk, you have still managed to impact the board. Don’t get me wrong, it still sucks for you. But at least your investment of 4 mana yielded some return. This is even more important at four mana, which for most decks running 23-25 lands is the “breaking point” at which you stop expecting your mana growth to match your turn number. Four mana on turn 4 is reasonable, 5 on turn 5 is less likely.

 

It’s a fundamental truth that the power of your spells increases with the mana cost, at least when it comes to tournament-quality cards. When building your decks, take that into account. Figure out what turns are your key turns, and by what turn you can expect to have “critical mass” of mana. Then make sure that the things you are doing with that mana are the most powerful things you CAN do for the deck you are building. Don’t put yourself in a position to get blown out by a commonly-played removal spell that wrecks your whole strategy if there are better options.

 

Lesson Two: Don’t be a slave to your theme

For perhaps the first time since the Lorwyn block, we have a Standard environment in which more than one tribal deck is viable. Both Spirits and Zombies have placed highly at professional-level events, with Zombies going undefeated through a Grand Prix. Human’s has been a perpetually strong archetype since Innistrad came out. It’s only a matter of time before Werewolves becomes a deck, and Vampires are pretty strong in an unexpecting meta.

 

There’s an inherent trap in building a deck around a tribe, a theme or a mechanic: including cards just because they fit the theme, or excluding cards because they don’t. Almost without fail, that’s wrong. Delver of Secrets is not a Spirit, nor does it transform into one. How many Spirit decks are NOT playing four of them? Fume Spitter and Phyrexian Obliterator aren’t Zombies either, but they are both close to ubiquitous in the Zombie deck.

 

When building a deck to be competitive, goal number 1 should ALWAYS be to include the best cards that do what your deck wants to do. If you start off with the idea that “I want to abuse the fact that most Spirits have flying, so making them big and giving them hexproof seems good,” then you want to figure out first of all how many of your cards are going to be dedicated to that goal. Thirty-seven spirits and 23 land will win you precisely zero events. Cards like Lingering Souls and Midnight Haunting are very powerful, and they make Spirits. Drogskul Captain buffs them. Great, we have a start. Lantern Spirit is hard to kill anyway, but for one less mana I can copy my Captain AND buff it at the same time. Phantasmal Image dies when it is targeted BUT…it’s hexproof now. Awesome, we have a base. This is where most people fall into the trap. It’s really easy to throw in things like Lantern Spirit to dodge sweepers, Niblis of the Breath to tap down Titans, Battleground Geist to give your dudes even more of a boost. It’s also probably not as good as adding Snapcaster Mage, Delver of Secrets and Mana Leak. “Spirits” is just a name for the deck, don’t let it lure you down the path of tribal troubles.

 

There are no prizes for keeping your deck on theme. There are, however, prizes for playing good cards. If you can do both, fabulous! Ask yourself two key questions: Why am I playing this card? Is there another one that does a similar thing? If your answer to the first starts with “because it fits the theme” and the second answer is “yes, and it costs less” or “yes, and it does it better” then chances are you should change it. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it’s a great starting point. This is a hard habit to break but once you do, you’ll notice a major jump in the quality of your decks.

 

Lesson Three: Nine out of ten decks built by the best SUCK.

That’s a direct quote from Patrick Chapin in the song “Brewmaster’s Delight.” Live by it. If you ask Mike Flores, he’ll tell you it’s more like 95 out of 100. For us mortals, we can expect that number to be in the 99th percentile. That deck you thought of with the Necrotic Ooze/Grimgrin/Bloodline Keeper combo? The professional brewers all thought of it too. There’s a reason they are making money on the Pro Tour and we’re aspiring to win a PTQ: they’re better at this than we are. They find the combos faster and they test them religiously. The thing that makes them better is that they know when to let an idea go.

 

You see, they built the same deck you did. They included all the same cards, and probably other ones you haven’t considered. They probably built a better mana base. When it didn’t win consistently, they discarded it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, far from it. As good as these players are, they are fallible human beings. The key here lies in recognizing when a deck idea just isn’t good enough, and subsequently in putting it down and walking away.

 

I firmly believe that, for regular players like you and me, any idea is worth testing. If after a few rounds of tweaking you’re STILL losing, it’s time to let it go. You found one of the 99 bad ideas that are hiding the good one. This isn’t a failure! It’s a learning experience. Whatever you do, don’t tear up your notes and never think of it again. A deck that is two turns too slow right now might be three turns faster when a new set comes out or when rotation happens. It’s just not the right time for your idea. If you aspire to be better at deckbuilding, this is very hard to do. Your deck is your baby, this is your idea and you don’t want to let it go. I understand. I’ve been there so, so many times. It was the hardest thing I had to learn and I still struggle with it. The thing is, your time can better be spent elsewhere. MOVE ALONG.

 

This also applies to card choice within a deck. Very often you will come up with an idea based on a couple of cards and the idea will work. But one of the cards that initially led you down this path just isn’t pulling its weight. No matter how much you love the card in a vacuum, you have to cut it. Magic, like nature, abhors a vacuum and you can’t make card choices based on how you wish they played out. If you draw a card on turn 3, turn 9 and turn 12 and ALWAYS wish it was something else…it should be something else.

 

Lesson Four: Never play a bad something else

Every now and then a brewer hits upon an idea that is similar to a deck being played at what the cool kids call “tier 1” level. Rather than take this as a good sign, the nascent brewer will often fight tooth and nail to keep his version intact simply because it is his. Alas, it is very rarely as good. If you find yourself building a green/white ramp deck that aims to get to 7 mana and then cast Chancellor of the Tangle or Vorinclex, you’re guilty of this. You’re doing the same thing early on as a Wolf Run deck, but your end game is nowhere near as powerful.

 

It’s a truism, but good ideas are successful because they are good. Sometimes there is a good reason to deviate from a tournament-winning decklist: the metagame has evolved, or testing shows the changes actually improve the deck. Wolf Run White is probably a better deck than the straight green-red version, for example. But if you’re on the ramp plan I mentioned above, then you’re just playing a bad version of something else.

 

Self-assessment is not an easy thing. Self-censure even less so. Nobody ever said this would be easy either. If it was people like Chapin wouldn’t be paid to write articles on their decks, because everyone could do it. Recognising that your idea is the watered-down Pepsi and the GP-winning deck is the canned Dr. Pepper is the first step to figuring out WHY your deck isn’t good enough. Once you know the why, fixing the problem gets a lot easier.

Final Lesson: LISTEN.

Certain elements of the Magic community have little to no respect for amateur brewers. If you’re a brewer you may have wondered why that is. It’s because by and large, we are the most stubborn, hard-headed bunch of ingrates that ever added mana to their pool. We’ll come up with an idea, we’ll send it far and wide and put it on our blog and beg people we respect to take a look at it…then we ignore everything they tell us. As my good friend and podcast host Chewie would say…HEY DUMMY.

 

Why did you send your list to me, to Smitty, to Jack, to anyone? Were you hoping for endorsement, or advice? If it’s the former, you’re not likely to get that. Anybody who enjoys building decks is going to have feedback to offer on your list, and if they don’t it’s likely because it’s just too bad for them to bother with. Don’t take this as an insult or an affront to your creative genius. Take it the way it is intended: as a potential lesson. You might already have tried the cards being suggested and found that they don’t work, but bear in mind that any advice you get is likely being provided in a vacuum. If you haven’t tried the suggestions, why are you dismissing them? Even if the person offering the advice is not a player you particularly respect, that doesn’t mean they can’t have a good idea.

 

All feedback is valuable, even that feedback you get and do not action. In fact some would say that type of feedback is MORE valuable because it can provide a sort of “save point” you can return to if your choice of paths does not work out. When I was playing GB Birthing Pod I steadfastly ignored any and all suggestions to play Strangleroot Geist because it wasn’t my idea, I didn’t think it would be good and I couldn’t see a reason to try it. Then I tried it, and it WAS good. Really good. I still don’t think it’s a four-of like some people were saying, but it definitely has a place in the deck. The only reason I didn’t know that before was a stubborn refusal to just…LISTEN.

 

 

Although nothing in this article will guarantee you success at any tournament, it will at least remove one obstacle from the road to success: deck construction. You will never catch me suggesting that you should blindly take someone else’s exact 75 to a tournament, but before you can run you have to learn to walk. Play other people’s decks, learn what makes them good and what weaknesses they have, THEN make them your own.

Standard Brew: BG Birthing Pod

One of the major afflictions I have when it comes to Magic is an addiction to brewing. Good ol’ Smitty seems to suffer from the same thing. No matter how much success I have with a given deck, I always feel like I should be building a new one because I thought of or heard about or saw another cool idea. Then I lose a lot and get down on myself and start brewing again. Go go vicious cycle! Gradually I have learned that success means you did it right, which means you can stop brewing and start tweaking. Given the recent success this BG Pod deck has had, I think I am in that phase now. There’s also a lot to be said about familiarity with your deck and what it can and cannot do.

I am far from a great Magic player. I am good in theory, and when watching matches I see way more than I do when playing, but when the cards are actually in my hand I rush and cannot force myself to think things through for some reason. I also tilt way too easily. With that said, I have played this deck at 5 events and lost one match at each. In testing it does exceedingly well. It’s not perfect and even I can see a couple of slots that are underperforming, but there are no matchups that are autolose. I never feel like the underdog when I sit down with it and it is capable of some very, VERY unfair things. Dark Ascension essentially pushed the deck from “good” to “scary.”

Last time I played it, I found the Phyrexian Rager and the Grave Titan came out A LOT. There are few matchups where I can see me wanting to keep the Rager in, but a lack of good 3-drops means that right now it stays in the main deck. Against decks with artifacts and/or enchantments to remove, Replica and/or Corrupter come in. I can’t see running the second Replica main as it does nothing on offense, and Corrupter can be a liability. Can we please have Civic Wayfinder back in Standard?

Titan is good against Vapor Snag but I often wanted Massacre Wurm more, and having a second to fetch made more sense. Entomber Exarch never really did much for me, and might end up being Phyrexian Obliterator again. Now, if only I can fit a Prey Upon in here…

The board needs more Ratchet Bomb and more Perilous Myr. Myr is VERY good against Mirran Crusader and also against werewolves, especially Huntmaster of the Fells. With the amount of spot removal decreasing, Precursor Golem might also be a possibility in the board.

Carnifex Demon is very, very good right now. Podding a Vorapede into it and then activating it once resets the undying on your Vorapede, which means you can then turn it into a Wurmcoil Engine. Carnifex also loves blocking Inkmoth Nexus. Two Sheoldred might be too many, I don’t know that the deck even needs a seven. One is probably fine though, if you untap with it you just don’t lose.

Glissa is really good in this deck with all the utility artifacts. She’s the reason you’d run Precursor, she makes blocking anything with Wurmcoil into a profitable venture and turns Ratchet Bomb or Perilous Myr into machine guns. Oh, and Geralf’s Messenger is nuts. You haven’t lived until you Pod Messenger into Metamorph copying Messenger. Oh yeah, and Metamorph is pretty good with Glissa too.

How many of you are scoffing at Praetor’s Grasp right now? I get that a lot. Well let’s look at what my deck can do with it. Against ramp, it steals a Primeval Titan. It can also grab anything from Mono Green. Against the big control decks I can steal Karn. [/mtg_card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/mtg_card] anywhere? MINE. A lot of people have said that Memoricide is just better but I don’t agree. I have literally never lost a game in which I resolved Grasp. I’ve even stolen a Mana Leak to counter Life’s Finale. It’s not the greatest card ever but it DOES swing games and I cannot recommend it enough.

There are a couple of things I’m considering. One would be a main deck Traveller’s Amulet for some fixing, since it plays well with Glissa. Also thinking or boarding into Garruk Relentless against Grafdigger’s Cage, taking out the Pods. I haven’t had to play against Cage yet but siding Pod out when artifact hate comes in might be worthwhile. Garruk does a similar thing to Pod when he flips and has the added benefit of breaking ground stalls.

I love almost every deck I’ve played and done well with, but this feels better than any of them. It’s definitely worth a run at an FNM where people are not expecting it, you’ll be surprised just how powerful it is.

Here’s the list as it stands:

BG Robot Pod

Creatures (26)
Birds of Paradise
Perilous Myr
Viridian Emissary
Geralf’s Messenger
Glissa, the Traitor
Phryexian Rager
Sylvok Replica
Phyrexian Metamorph
Skinrender
Entomber Exarch
Acidic Slime
Vorapede
Massacre Wurm
Grave Titan
Wurmcoil Engine
Carnifex Demon
Sheoldred, the Whispering One

Spells (10)
Doom Blade
Ratchet Bomb
Beast Within
Birthing Pod
Curse of Death’s Hold

Land: (24)
Woodland Cemetery
Ghost Quarter
Forest
Swamp
Sideboard: (15)
Curse of Death’s Hold
Naturalize
Nihil Spellbomb
Despise
Go for the Throat
Praetor’s Grasp
Massacre Wurm
Sylvok Replica
Viridian Corrupter
Acidic Slime

 

Brewing in Draft – WB Synergy

Innistrad draft has been widely acclaimed as one of the best draft formats ever, if not THE best. The green/white Travel Preparations deck is considered by most to be the strongest in the format, with the Spider Spawning and UW Tempo/Token deck also in the running. I think it’s a testament to the Limited environment in which we are operating. Although all of these decks are undeniably very good, they’re also very well known and people are always on the lookout for them.

My rogue-brewing penchant is well known, and it extends to the draft format. In Innistrad I’ve had most of my success with a BW deck that is steeped in synergy an makes good use of some otherwise mediocre cards that you can often pick up late. It has a solid curve and can grind out a win just as easily as it can stomp face. Let’s look at some of the cards you want to pick up.

Key Pieces
The cards you really need to make the engine work.

Village Cannibals, Unruly Mob, Thraben Sentry – These guys often go mid- to late pack and are they keys to all the synergy in the deck. There are a lot of Humans that you don’t mind killing, and these guys really don’t mind you killing them.

Falkenrath Noble – One of the best creatures in the format. Mini-drains every time something dies are good in any black deck, but here where you are often killing your own stuff it really shines. They also allow you to block more aggressively, always taking the trades where you can get them and letting some guys through if there’s no favourable block. Noble often makes players reconsider swinging in, which gives you time to find more synergy.

Doomed Traveler, Mausoleum Guard – This should not be a surprise. These guys are good in almost any white deck, but they really shine here. I am not above attacking with these guys just to get them killed, then Rebuking them in the End of Combat step if they aren’t killed.

Rebuke, Victim of Night, Slayer of the Wicked – Seems obvious that removal is good, but here they can serve a dual purpose.

Nice to have
These are the cards that go well in the deck, but you can get by without them.

Selfless Cathar, Silverchase Fox – Two efficient creatures that have a useful sac ability but in this deck can make for some intriguing combat maths. You shouldn’t have trouble picking either one up late.

Demonmail Hauberk – A lot of people HATE this card. Nobody denies that +4/+2 is a huge bonus, but sacrificing a dude is a big loss, especially with the potential of being blown out by a timely Smite the Monstrous. That said, it is rather ridiculous in this deck.

Altar’s Reap, Disciple of Griselbrand – Both of these enable instant-speed sacrificing for a benefit, and make combat maths hard for your opponent. If you have BB untapped not many people are expecting you to sacrifice an attacking creature to flip your Sentry, buff your Cannibal and Mob AND draw two cards. It’s just not on the radar for a lot of players.

Unburial Rites – Often goes early, and is by no means essential in your deck, but if you can get one then your Falkenrath Noble is going to do double- or triple-duty. Seems good.

Rares and Mythics
You won’t always get them, but they’re nice to have. This deck benefits from not actually NEEDING any rare bombs to be very good, but these all go well in the deck. I won’t add obvious first-pick bombs here (like Olivia) unless they are markedly better in the deck.

Reaper from the Abyss – Definitely gets better in this deck. Creatures are GOING to die in this deck, and likely every turn. It might occasionally be right to kill off your OWN creatures with his ability.

Skirsdag High Priest – Sacrificing a Mausoleum Guard is good. Doing it with this guy active is just better.

Playing the deck

Although on the face of it this is a pretty straightforward deck, there are some tricks here that you need to keep in mind. With all the sacrificing and growing that can and should be going on, doing so at the right time is very important.

Sacrificing a Selfless Cathar is one of the most important tricks in the deck and possibly the most powerful. For some reason people often overlook it, even though it’s an onboard trick. They either forget the +1/+1 or forget the counters it’s going to get you.

Elder Cathar is a really strong card here. You’re playing a lot of Humans so more often than not you’re going to get the two counters. When you attack (which should almost always be en masse to make the maths as hard as possible for the opponent) he becomes very difficult to block effectively. When blocking, throwing him in front of something with first strike can actually be a huge benefit for you.

I mentioned attacking en masse, and the reasons are various. For one thing you have hopefully snagged a couple of Village Bell-Ringers, and that’s just a blowout in any deck. You’ve also got tricks to turn a tapped creature into an untapped blocker or two, and leaving back a High Priest and another guy can make attacking even more hazardous for the opponent. Bluffing Rebuke can also make your opponent more conservative, and the Noble is another scary card to deal with.

Overall what we have is a powerful engine with a ton of synergy that can slot in with most of the good, strong rares in the colours. It’s also a blast to play. Have fun!

Mayor? I hardly know ‘er!

Mayor of Avabruck is a very powerful card that has yet to really make an impact outside of Limited. When played early it puts pressure on control decks to tap out to prevent it flipping, and against aggro decks it excels late game when they are often in top deck mode. In pairs they work REALLY well, especially flipped when they are churning out a pair of 4/4 Wolves each turn. It has plenty of weaknesses of course: it dies to the currently-ubiquitous Gut Shot, even flipped it dies to Brimstone Volley and Incinerate and it has no evasion. All of these things are true, but if you play the card in a blue shell with plenty of permission then some of those difficulties are mitigated.

So we know we’re in green/blue, and we also know we want to be able to ship the turn without casting anything in order to flip our Mayors. We also want to ensure we have multiple Mayors in play, have ways to protect our Mayors and also have an alternate plan to win the game. That all sounds like we want a lot of instants, so Delver of Secrets would appear to be a natural fit. Mayor also pumps Delver, no matter which side is face-up. Cackling Counterpart lets us copy a flipped Mayor (or Delver) at instant speed, allowing for both combat tricks and responding to a flip-back trigger for the Mayor. We want a strong suite of counters, which conveniently flip the Delver as well. Frost Titan is not seeing a lot of play right now but seems fairly well-positioned and is also a great target for Cackling Counterpart.

I had a pair of Runechanter’s Pike in the deck but I always found myself wishing they were something else. They are now Rampant Growths. I somehow only have 1 Dissipate online so I’m playing with Cancel instead, but if you’re going to make the deck then you really want Dissipates there. I’m also short 2 Hinterland Harbor. I’d consider Ludevic’s Test Subject, at least in the sideboard against decks that have trouble dealing with it (not decks running Vapor Snag or any black deck, basically) as it is a good early blocker that is great to copy when it flips.

So, let’s get to the list!
[cardlist title=Mayor Says No style=width:500px;layout:cardbox 2 right;category:tabbed 8;options:true false;]

[spells]
*4 Ponder
*3 Rampant Growth
*4 Disperse
*4 Mana Leak
*4 Cancel
*4 Cackling Counterpart
*1 Dissipate
[/spells]

[creatures]
*4 Mayor of Avabruck
*4 Delver of Secrets
*2 Frost Titan
[/creatures]

[lands]
*3 Ghost Quarter
*9 Forest
*12 Island
*2 Hinterland Harbor
[/lands]

[Sideboard]
*4 Flashfreeze
*4 Steel Sabotage
*2 Phyrexian Metamorph
*1 Phantasmal Image
*4 Moonmist
[/sideboard]
[/cardlist]

Not the layout I was hoping for but I couldn’t get the one I wanted to work. The sideboard is a work in progress, the Moonmist feeling especially loose. Steel Sabotage has felt very good, however. The deck has trouble against mono-red, so Tree of Redemption might need to be in the board. You have enough counters to keep nasty things off the board, but dropping Mayor or Delver early is still sometimes the best play. Disperses help there but something like Quicksilver Geyser might be an option worth considering. Wow, there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. Anyway, this is very much an FNM deck at best, but I’d love to hear your thoughts, advice and results with it. Have fun!

Martyr-Proclamation in Modern (and the bannings)

The banhammer has once again dropped on the nascent Modern format, brewers everywhere are once again donning their chapeaux de brewing to break the format before the Pro Tour Qualifiers start with earnest in the New Year. Being one of those brewers I naturally have something fermenting in the boiler right now, but before we get to that I want to talk about the banned and restricted announcement.

Let’s start with Punishing Fire. Leading up to the announcement you would have been hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t think that one half of the Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows combo would or should be banned. Opinion was pretty much split right down the middle on which half would get the axe (can something get both the axe AND the banhammer?), but personally I expected the land to go. I guess WotC didn’t want another banned rare.

Taken individually each card is fair. Red getting a burn spell that fights one of its biggest weaknesses in a small but possibly effective way is fine, and a land that gives your opponent life in exchange for mana fixing is also not game-breaking. You could even argue that the combination of the two isn’t broken. What it is though is oppressive and unfun. It’s a two-card combo that is heavily resistant to countermagic and renders unplayable an entire swath of creatures. Merfolk, for example, has not taken hold in the format despite being a staple in Legacy and being largely transplantable to Modern. On top of that Grove/Fire is quite possibly the slowest and most grindy way to win a game from behind a creature stalemate that has ever seen play in a high-level aggro deck. With the prevalence of multicolour strategies in the Modern format, the combo was popping up in numerous decks that were already running powerful strategies, which likely made it feel even more dangerous. Although it would be unfair to call the combo “format-warping” it certainly defined what creatures were considered playable.

Wild Nacatl is a bit more perplexing. He becomes the first creature banned for being too aggressive since Kird Ape, which ironically will likely take the crazy kitty’s place in Zoo decks. There’s no question that a creature attacking for 3 on turn 2 is strong, especially in a format where players are effectively starting on 14 life due to shocklands and fetches. But strong enough for a ban? That’s pushing it somewhat. Especially when there’s a nasty-looking 2-drop sitting over there in the corner. Yeah Tarmogoyf, we’re talking about you. I’d ask if your ears are burning but I’m fairly sure you don’t have any.

Nacatl is ultra aggressive, no question. It’s probably in the top 5 one-drop dudes in the history of Magic. It’s also very easy to kill. Modern is not wanting for 3-damage burn at instant speed, and Nacatl has no innate protection. He also has no evasion. Tarmogoyf can easily have 4 in the caboose the turn he comes down, depending of course on the deck he’s in. He’s likely more widespread than Nacatl, since any deck playing or splashing green can squeeze him in. He’s generally played in the same Zoo decks as Nacatl too. The only thing that stops ol’ Tarmy and not Nacatl is Spell Snare, which seems an unusually narrow reason to call one fair and one bannable.

What it feels like to me is Wizards being careful, and not about the health of the format. After the Jace banning, they appear to be gunshy about banning another $100 card. You don’t have to be Jonathan Medina to understand that a banning in Modern would tank the value of Tarmy significantly, and that makes for unhappy players. So instead they ban a common. I wonder, when was the last time two commons got banned? Is Modern the format with the most banned commons?

Regardless of our thoughts on the bannings, we now have the parameters within which we will need to operate if we want a plane ticket to Barcelona. Our next challenge is to bust those parameters, and the format, wide open. Now I’m no Patrick Chapin or Conley Woods but I think I’ve hit on a spicy little number that can make an impact on this brand new meta. A quick note before we get to the decklist: this is built for my local meta which is light on control and heavy on Affinity, Storm and Twin. The nature of the deck makes it highly adaptable to suit your local meta, basically switching out main deck answers for sideboard ones.

Creatures

4 Martyr of Sands

3 Figure of Destiny

2 Serra Ascendant

1 Weathered Wayfarer

1 Kataki, War’s Wage

2 Ethersworn Canonist

1 Gaddock Teeg

3 Fauna Shaman

4 Qasali Pridemage

1 Knight of the Reliquary

2 Aven Mindcensor

3 Ranger of Eos

1 Reveillark

Spells

4 Path to Exile

4 Aether Vial

3 Proclamation of Rebirth

Lands

1 Emeria, the Sky Ruin

3 Mistveil Plains

2 Ghost Quarter

4 Temple Garden

9 Plains

2 Razorverge Thicket

Sideboard

1 Kataki, War’s Wage

2 Ethersworn Canonist

1 Gaddock Teeg

3 Tormod’s Crypt

3 Leyline of Sanctity

2 Grand Abolisher

3 Brave the Elements

Now I will point out here that this list is running off some very limited testing. Locally the meta is Storm, Zoo, Goblins and MeliraPod.

The deck is fairly versatile and has main-deck weapons to shut down most of the popular decks. After boarding it dumps the useless cards to bring in more hate against whatever it’s facing. Martyr of Sands is one of the most powerful cards in the format, and in this deck Proclamation can also get back our win conditions in Serra Ascendant and Figure of Destiny. The toolbox nature of the deck makes Fauna Shaman very important, and pitching your 1-drops early is often the correct play as you just bring them back later with Proclamation, Mistveil Plains or Emeria, which of course can be tutored up with Knight of the Reliquary or Weathered Wayfarer. Ranger of Eos can also find you the pieces you need, either to beat down or to jack your life back up. Aether Vial is of course a key piece to the deck and should always be dropped turn 1 if you have it. It might seem like common sense, but you’re setting it to 2 and leaving it there. Reveillark is likely not needed in the deck, it might become a third Mindcensor or Ghost Quarter.

Although on the face of it the deck looks like an aggro deck, it isn’t. The Martyr-Proclamation combo will enable you to stay alive for a very long time, so there’s no hurry to win. You are equipped for the long game anyway with Emeria, Mistveil, Proclamation and Knight of the Reliquary, and Martyr is more effective with a full hand. Against decks with ways to kill your Martyr, you don’t want to drop him turn 1. Make sure you can sacrifice him in response to any kill spell they may have.

Decks that attack your hand are a scary but I don’t know how prevalent they will be. Blightning is a bit of a worry but Thoughtseize and Duress can take our Proclamation turn 1. Leyline in the board should help you post-board. Graveyard hate is also a concern, so using your Pridemages carefully against it will be crucial. You might also need to switch to beatdown mode a little faster against those strategies, or tutor up the Mistveils in a hurry. Teferi is something of a concern as he stops our Martyr combo, so it might actually be worth siding it out in that matchup for more beats and the Grand Abolishers.

Overall the deck is a blast to play and does some absurdly powerful things. I’d love to hear your thoughts and results with the deck, should you decide to take it for a spin.