FNM Report, 6/3/2011: CawBlade

I know, I know, CawBlade isn’t exactly original, but I hadn’t been thinking much about constructed and I had it still together from GP DFW, so I broke that out and made some changes to deal with New Phyrexia. Frankly, I’m not surprised that Caw is still the dominant deck, since Batterskull is the stone cold nuts, and is at its best in none other than Caw. Stoneforge Mystic wasn’t a broken card when it was first printed because there wasn’t any really insane equipment in the environment. I think the power of the Mystic would have been more apparent had a card like Jitte been present. Now with three Swords and Batterskull, the Mystic is simply way too good not to play it.

I have to say that normally I’m not a fan of playing whatever is the “best deck” at any given time—I never played Jund, for instance—but I actually kind of like CawBlade. While Caw is the big boogeyman of the format, it’s actually not very popular at my local FNM. I think this is in part due to expense, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. The other thing about Caw is that it’s skill-intensive and really rewards good play in ways that other “top” decks didn’t. While skill was certainly a factor with Jund, I don’t think it was nearly as much of a factor as it is with Caw. Also, I just find CawBlade so elegant in the way it all works together. As Lauren Lee (@mulldrifting) put in an awesome tweet: “In my experience, aggro-control is about tempo; midrange is about board presence; control is about cards/endgame. Caw does all of it.”

So, after that homage, here was the list I played. I expected a lot of aggro in the local meta and not very much in the way of mirror matches, so I went with a build with two main deck Day of Judgment and no main deck Divine Offering, which seems to becoming more common in the PTQ scene.

16 players at Montag’s Games, so four rounds of Swiss cutting to top 8 with only top 4 earning.

Round 1: Kelly, playing RDW
I’d never seen Kelly at Montag’s before. She seemed both capable and was fun to play against, so I hope she comes around again. Game 1 was a disaster. She went first, leading off with a Spikeshot Elder on both turn 1 and turn 2. My turn 2 I got a Mystic into a Batterskull, but she had a Burst Lightning to kill the Kor so I couldn’t flash in the equipment. Her turn 3 was a Goblin Chieftain, and her turn 4 was a kicked Bushwhacker—too much, too fast, and not enough in the way of answers for me. I sided in 10 cards: Condemn, Purge, Flashfreezes, Spellskites, third Day, Linvala, second Batterskull. Game 2 went much better. I dropped Linvala early against her board of two Spikeshot Elders and an Ember Hauler and even had a Purge in hand when she cast Koth. Thus, I was able to hang on long enough to actually hard cast a Batterskull, even though she had killed the Mystic I had used to tutor it up. Batterskull is amazing, especially against RDW. Game 3 I also got Linvala and a Batterskull out, and then a Sword of War and Peace. She Shattered the Sword after one hit, but it was too late by then for her to come back.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: Paul, playing mono-Black
Paul is a regular who I’ve played many times, and is always a fun opponent. His deck was pretty interesting, and set up specifically set up to beat CawBlade. It’s hand kill, spot removal, and a few very efficient creatures: Vault Skirge, Bloodghast, Nantuko Shade, and Phyrexian Obliterator. Game 1 was ridiculous. I kept a hand of Jace, four land, and two Preordains. I won the roll and Preordained on the first turn, which netted me… a Preordain. His turn 1: Duress, and of course he took Jace. Then he blew me away by casting Surgical Extraction, naming Preordain, meaning I was down three cards and had only land in hand. I never quite made it back from that, and his Shade applied some serious beats. I think I sided in the Condemn, the Purge, the second Batterskull, and the two Spellskites. It didn’t matter, though. I got turn 2 Stoneforge to get the Sword of Feast and Famine. He killed the Mystic right away and I never drew another creature. I mostly just drew land and died pretty quickly. Not very interesting, unfortunately. We had a lot of time to kill, and I switched decks and played with Tempered Steel and mostly rolled him with it. Ah well.
1-1 matches, 2-3 games

Round 3: Daniel, playing Esper Tezzeret
Daniel is an irregular who I’ve played maybe once or twice before. He won the roll and went first. Game 1 I got turn 2 Mystic into Batterskull, he didn’t kill the Mystic, and I blocked his turn 4 Hero of Bladehold with a Germ token wearing a Batterskull that I flashed in. He did get out a Grave Titan, which I bounced with Jace, and then I got a Sword of Feast and Famine, and went to town. He never recovered and I won at 40 life. I sided in Spellskites, Condemn, and the Purge. Game 2 was pretty similar, but without the Grave Titan on his side. I felt like I kind of cruised in this one.
2-1 matches, 4-3 games

Round 4: Andrew, playing Br Vampires
Andrew is a semi-regular, and I’ve played him several times before. He won the roll and started Game 1 with a Pulse Tracker on turn 1. I got a Mystic into Batterskull on my turn 2, but he came back with Arc Trail to kill her. He beat me down for a while with the Tracker and another small Vamp, which I slowed down a little bit with an Emeria Angel and two tokens off a fetch, then Jace, and eventually I was able to hard cast the Batterskull and stabilize at 9 life. He managed to generate enough removal and chump blockers to stall for a while, but eventually I got the ‘Skull on a Hawk and he couldn’t block that at all and I carried the game. This took a while so we knew we didn’t have a lot of time for the remaining game(s). In came the Purge, the Condemn, the Spellskites, the third Day, and the second Batterskull. Game 2 I once again got out a Batterskull early on and he was never able to handle it, and I won at 41 life.
3-1 matches, 6-3 games

That was good enough to give me a good seed in the top 8, so I got to continue on.

Quarterfinals: Dillon, playing Grixis Twin
Dillon is a semi-regular at Montag’s and a strong player, so I was really looking forward to this because I wanted to see the combo in action. I also knew this was going to be a slow grinding match with a lot of “draw-go” turns, which it was. Game 1 was an epic 40-minute battle. I kept a questionable hand: two Day of Judgment, which I knew were bad against him, but the hand had three land and two Jaces. Unfortunately, he got an early Jace TMS and started fatesealing right away. I actually had three Jaces in my hand (one Beleran and two TMS), but only one source of blue mana so there was little I could do about his Jace. He was fatesealing me every turn, and my only recourse, stuck on 4 land, was to hit him with an Inkmoth Nexus equipped with the Sword of Feast and Famine I had cast on turn 3. I had to swing at Jace, though, to keep him off his ultimate, and he started hitting me with manlands. I finally drew another source of blue and tried for baby Jace, but he had a Negate (main deck, wow). My next Jace got through, though, which was big because his Jace was at like 10 counters. I managed to draw a couple more land and stick a Jace of my own, killed his manlands with Tectonic Edges, and eventually grind out a victory with a Sworded Hawk. I brought in the 4th Into the Roil, the Spellskites, the Celestial Purge, and Linvala. Game 2 he again got an early Jace and I had a Hawk with Sword of Feast and Famine on it. I actually made a horrible mistake and gave him a window to go off, tapping out to animate a Celestial Colonnade to attack Jace while attacking him with the Hawk, and he flashed in an Exarch to tap my Hawk so my land didn’t untap. If he had a Splinter Twin in hand I was dead, but fortunately he didn’t. I managed to kill his Jace next turn with my Hawk, but he Duressed me for my only answer to the combo (Into the Roil), so he had another open window to win, but again could not go off. The Sworded Hawk had him down to only two cards and I got out another Hawk with the other Sword on it and him at 8. I had two Spell Pierces in hand in case he tried to go off, he didn’t have it, and the two sworded Hawks swung for lethal. I got a little lucky in the second game, but I’ll take it.
4-1 matches. 8-3 games

My opponent in the semis was to be my round 1 opponent Kelly, but she and the other two people in the semis wanted to just split and go home. After the marathon match I just had, and the fact that I had skipped dinner and was really hungry, I agreed to it even though the RDW matchup seems pretty reasonable with Batterskull.

Thoughts on the deck: obviously, as I mentioned in the intro, CawBlade is spectacular, particularly with Batterskull, which just seems too good to be true. After losing three games in the first two rounds, I didn’t lose another game all night, which is pretty impressive (for me, anyway). There was only 1 other CawBlade there, and he didn’t make the top 8: 2-2 with bad tiebreakers. Both losses were to RDW, too, which seems a little unlucky.

What I didn’t expect was to be siding in Spellskite in literally every match. Maybe main decking them would be OK—I’d probably take out the Emeria Angels, even though that’s one of my favorite cards. I wouldn’t have brought the Spellskites in for the mirror, Elves, Valakut, or Knights (Knights have been oddly popular at Montag’s of late, but of course I didn’t face it tonight). I was really happy with the sideboard, though. Almost every time I drew a sideboard card it was perfect, and I always felt like I knew what to side in and what to take out.

Now I just have to figure out what to play next week since I don’t allow myself to play the same deck two weeks in a row…