First DGM Standard: Money with Bant Auras

I know I haven’t done one of these things in ages—not since GTC Game Day—but I’ve been busy. I only played about a half-dozen constructed tournaments with GTC standard anyway, and had to replace a bunch of cards because my son lost a deck along the way. So not the best set for me.

So, my first DGM Standard, and I decided to play something simple and fast, or at least potentially fast. During GTC I played Aristocrats a couple times, Junk Rites a couple times, and Bant control a couple times, and wanted something a little less grindy. Here’s the list I played:

Not a huge turnout, so 4 rounds of Swiss cutting to top 4.

Round 1: Ryan, playing Junk (not Reanimator)
I lost the die roll, and I actually managed to lose Game 1 to a turn 4 Primordial Hydra despite hitting for 16 on my turn 4 (that’s Fencing Ace with Spectral Flight, Rancor, and Ethereal Armor), because he O-Ring’d the Ace the next turn and the following turn put an extra counter on the hydra with Common Bond. Ugh. Game 2 he kept a 1-lander and scooped to my turn 2 Geist, turn 3 Spectral Flight. Game 3 I got turn 3 Geist and while I didn’t immediately have enchantments for it, I found some and carried it home.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: Paul, playing WBR Control
Paul is a regular who I’ve played many times. I got turn 2 Invisible Stalker and turn 3 Unflinching Courage, so I decided that I could just race him regardless of what he did and didn’t immediately kill his turn 4 Sorin (with four spirit tokens on the board from a Lingering Souls with flashback). That was a mistake, as he ultimately was able to race with some timely lifelink of his own. Game 2 I got an early Geist with Ethereal Armor and sailed in. I have to admit I don’t really remember game 3 all that well, but I’m pretty sure it involved a Geist as well.
2-0 matches, 4-2 games

Round 3: Ryan, playing Bant
Didn’t see any Prime Speakers or Wolf Runs but there were mana dorks Farseeks and Acidic Slimes and Ætherlings. Game 1 I got a turn 2 Fencing Ace followed by turn 3 Unflinching Courage and got in once, but he took out the Courage with an Acidic Slime. We went back and forth a bit, he got down an Ætherling but actually had to chump with it (he couldn’t blink it out before damage because the Fencing Ace he was blocking had Rancor on it) when I alpha struck with the Ace and a Geist. That killed both my Geist and Ace, but left him at 2, and I was able to get there with a Voice. Game 3 he got an early Centaur Healer an then a Thragtusk but I had a Stalker out with Rancor and then Unflinching Courage and then Spectral Flight and his lifegain wasn’t going to outrace that.
3-0 matches, 6-2 games

Round 4: Simon, playing UB Zombies
Yeah, you read that right, UB Zombies: Diregraf Ghoul, Gravecrawler, Messenger, Blood Artist, Killing Wave, Diregraf Captain, etc. It’s better than you think, as Simon has won or top4’d three straight tournaments with it (note: sans sideboard!) and every time I play against it, it’s just better than it should be. The only RTR-block cards are shocklands, Syncopate, Rakdos Cackler, and Ultimate Price, but those are pretty good ones. Anyway, we were the only undefeateds, so we ID’d.
3-0-1 matches, 6-2 games

Semis: Angel, playing RWU Control
Angel is one of the store’s quality players and always plays a strong deck. I lost the roll, came out with turn 2 Fencing Ace (ate a Pillar), turn 3 Geist, turn 4 Spectral Flight on the Geist, hit him down to 11. He came back with Supreme Verdict, I played another Geist and a Rancor, he played Snapcaster to flash back the Verdict, I came back with a Voice with Rancor on it. Voice ate a Warleader’s Helix, I got the token, Rancor’d it up, played a mana dork, and hit him back down to 10. He was out of cards and top decked… his singleton Entreat the Angels. Well, then. Game 2 an early Verdict netted me an Elemental token, which got Rancor on it, and went almost all the way while I was stuck on two lands. He killed it, I got another Voice, he killed that and was down to two cards and mostly tapped out, I came back with Nevermore and named Sphinx’s Revelation, which he conveniently had two of in hand. He drew, I hit him down to 1 and tried Nevermore again for Supreme Verdict, he countered it and I passed back. He didn’t have many outs there, said “I need a miracle” and then topdecked… Entreat the Angels. Again? Really? I never got through his wall of fliers.
3-1-1 matches, 6-4 games

Not too bad overall, though a bit of a bummer losing to the same topdecked singleton both games. (At FNM two days prior I lost in the final to turn 2 Pack Rat both games… I think I’ve had enough of this for a while.) Still, a money finish is a money finish, and I’ve finished in the money the last five straight events I’ve played (counting this one; the last four were all limited), so I’m on a bit of a roll right now, which is nice.

Now, the deck. It’s been in the top 8 or top 16 of a lot of big events recently, and that’s not an accident. It is, however, a pretty high-variance deck. The best openers are amazing (turn 2 Geist, basically) and the weaker ones still have potential. I think the hardest part about playing this deck is mulliganing, otherwise it’s pretty much suit guys up and turn them sideways. Playing a deck with no removal at all always creeps me out a little, but the deck is fast enough to race a lot of things, even Thragtusks.

Most of the lists for this deck are pretty much the same—maybe a little variance in the land mix (but not count) and the sideboard. Fencing Ace feels like the weak link here because it just dies to everything. Yes, the double strike is great when he’s got some kind of enchantment, but he dies to Tragic Slip and Electrickery and Pillar and leaves you with nothing when he goes down. There was a recent list that won a PTQ that didn’t run Voice in favor of a playset of Loxodon Smiter. I’m not sure I like that, as Voice seemed pretty good, especially with Rancor around.

A more interesting variant finished 12th at this weekend’s SCG Open: it ran a playset of Loxodon Smiter and didn’t run any Fencing Ace. I’ll have to test out that version as well.

The deck also felt like it was running 1 too many land. If I put in Smiters then the curve goes up a little and that will probably be fine. If I keep in the Fencing Aces, I’d consider cutting the basic Forest and adding another Simic Charm, which seemed very good in this deck.

Double Top 8 at Game Day

So, today was an exciting day, since it was the first sanctioned tournament for my 8-year-old son, Stuart. I wasn’t actually planning on playing at Game Day at all but he really wanted to play, and I decided he could be ready if we gave him a deck that was somewhat forgiving and generally straightforward, so he piloted RDW. I really wanted to play The Aristocrats, but couldn’t make that happen since RDW got the Boros Reckoners, and I only have one playset of those. So I played Orzhombies.

Here’s Stuart’s list:

I didn’t catch all the names of all his opponents, nor did I watch everything in every match, but I caught enough of it to get a general feel for things.

Round 1: Andrew, playing GB Rats
I know this went 3 games. Stuart won the first one very quickly, I didn’t see the second one at all, and the third one Stuart just drew the right combination of creatures and removal that, despite making several mistakes, he still cruised to victory here.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: Jake, playing GriselBros
In case you’re not familiar, GriselBros is a reanimator deck that attempts to reanimate Griselbrand and Borborygmos. I didn’t see all of what happened in game 1, but I know it involved reanimating one of the big guns. Game 2 I also didn’t see, but they were playing right next to me and I heard how it ended: “Traitorous Blood your Gisela, attack with everything.” Very tech play, Stu. Game 3 Jake got out both Griselbrand and Stu never quite caught up.
1-1 matches, 3-3 games

Round 3: Nick, playing something GW
Game 1 Nick kept a 1-lander, took a couple turns to draw his second land, and was pretty much dead by then. Game 2 I didn’t see at all, but it was over very quickly in Stuart’s favor.
2-1 matches, 5-3 games

Round 4: ? playing Boros
I didn’t see game 1 at all, but Stuart won that. Game 2 Stuart lost to a Boros Reckoner that had Madcap Skills on it. Game 3 Stuart won with a Boros Reckoner with Volcanic Strength on it. Hard core.
3-1 matches, 7-3 games

Round 5: Me!
All the 3-1s could draw into the top 8, and so we drew.
3-1-1 matches, 7-3 games

Top8: John, playing Naya
John kept a sketchy hand game 1 and Stuart came out blazing to a quick win. Unfortunately, Stuart kept a 1-lander game 2 and didn’t draw a second land for a while, and he got rolled. Stuart mulled to 5 in game 3, as his six were six mountains, yikes. His five he actually kept a zero-lander but did draw some land fairly soon and made it a game for a while, but just couldn’t quite keep up all the way.
3-2-1 matches, 8-5 games

All in all, a fantastic outing for an 8-year-old playing in his first tournament! 5th through 8th place got the Game Day promo card, of course, and two packs, and Stuart pulled a Sacred Foundry from one of them, so a sweet deal all around.

OK, so my deck and rounds:

Seriously can’t believe people just call this “BW Zombies.” Could that be more boring? “Orzhombies” makes it clear immediately what the deck is, and has some cache. Let’s get with the program, people.

Round 1: Jason, playing UWR
Jason is one of the store’s better players, has multiple PTQ top 8s and GP day 2s to his record. However, he’s been in and out of the game lately since he started college, which is understandable. Game 1 I won on the back of Obzedat, and sided in three Thalias and 2 Duresses. Game 2 I dropped a Thalia that he eventually killed, but it did slow him down a little. I took it with multiple Sorins—both of which made emblems—and got there for lethal with Blood Artist and Cartel Aristocrat. Game 2 he actually drew 3 Reckoners but I had two Orzhov Charms so I was able to keep them off me for the most part.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games

Round 2: John, playing Naya Humans
Both of these games were very, very close, but I lost both of them. Too much Silverblade Paladin in the deck made it so that I could not race. I sided in the 3 Nighthawks and the Sever. I got a turn 3 Nighthawk in game 2 and eventually had him down to 4 but he made a tech play, playing a Resto to blink Silverblade Paladin, pumping his Champion and giving it double strike to just kill me the turn before he died. Actually, in game 1 he also just killed me the turn before he would have died—these were both close, fun games.
1-1 matches, 2-2 games

Round 3: Oscar, playing Bant Aggro
This deck was a little weird, Silverblade Paladins again with Rancors and other Bant-flavored weenies. Game 1 was close—he double-Rancored a lifelinker, which made it hard to race, but I eventually was able to block enough to kill it and got there. I again sided in the Nighthawks and the Sever. Game 2 he had a slower start and I got turn 5 Obzedat, and that was just too much.
2-1 matches, 4-2 games

Round 4: Ryan, playing RWU
I got reasonable starts both of these games. Game 1 I got Obzedat on turn 5 with a Cavern, which pretty much went all the way. I sided in the three Thalias and the Duresses. Game 2 I got a turn 2 Thalia that he was clearly unhappy about. He never really mounted much of a threat and I managed to Resto a Messenger that had already died once and had Lingering Souls going as well, and carried that one without too much trouble as well. Obzedat seems really good in this matchup.
3-1 matches, 6-2 games

Round 4: ID with Stuart
See above.
3-1-1 matches, 6-2 games

Top8: Angel, playing Naya
This at least had the good grace to be over quickly. Game 1 he won the roll cast T1 Pilgrim, T2 Smiter, T3 Huntmaster, and I had kept a 2-swamp hand and didn’t draw a third land, though I had a pair of Gravecrawlers, they aren’t great blockers, and I got rolled. Game 2 he again got T1 Pilgrim into T2 Smiter, which I Orzhov charmed, then he went T3 Bonfire for 1 to kill my two Gravecrawlers, then went T4 Thragtusk, T4 Thragtusk, T5 Thragtusk, and had both a Township and a Wolf Run on the board. Yeah, OK, no way I’m beating that, no matter what I draw.
3-2-1 matches, 6-4 games

The deck is OK, but I don’t think this particular build is optimal. It doesn’t feel like it has enough removal, and I sided out all the Diregraf Ghouls every single match. It feels great against RWU—the two sweeps didn’t feel like accidents—but it’s just slower than the Naya decks. Maybe some main deck Victim of Night would help.

Undefeated Night of Naya

So, it’s been almost a month since my last MTG entry. I missed a few weeks with the holidays and all, but since that last report I’ve played 4c PeddleCaster (fun but I made a couple too many mistakes and missed the cut on breakers at 2-1-1), Dark America (went very badly, mostly because I again played poorly, finished 1-2 drop—but still a fun deck), and UWR Flash (2-1-1 then lost in the top 8 to Dark Naya, played a little better but should not have had the one draw on time; however, this was not a fun deck, not sure why). So, time for something new!

Having just completed my grand survey of RTR Standard, and since my son was playing Golgari meaning I had no access to Overgrown Tombs, I decided to play Naya this week at FNM. Naya has been getting more popular lately at big events, and I haven’t played it yet, so I went with it. Here’s the list I played:

5 rounds of Swiss, cut to top 8 as per usual at my FLGS, Montag’s.

Round 1: Parker playing RDW
Parker has been playing RDW pretty consistently for a while so I knew what I was in for. Since my custom is to switch decks every time, he had no idea what he was facing. Game 1 I curved beautifully for this matchup: Centaur Healer, Huntmaster, Thragtusk. Too much life gained for him to win the race once a Silverheart came down. In came the Pillars, the Smiters, and the third Bonfire. Game 2 he came out blazing. I had a turn 3 Healer but his first three turns were Rakdos Cackler, Ash Zealot, two more Cacklers. I never really caught up to that, and when he put Volcanic Strength on his Ash Zealot, though I had no Mountains, even a Huntmaster didn’t get me back into this one. Game 3 I again had an early Healer and then a Huntmaster, both of which got burned off, but I carried it with a Resto soulbonded to a Silverheart.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: John, playing Selesnya life gain
This is a deck based around Trostani and other life gain dudes (Centaur Healer, Rhox Faithmender, etc.), set up to crush RDW and Rakdos aggro/BR Zombies. Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t playing either of those decks. Game 1 it was me with the life gain with a turn 4 Thragtusk followed by a Huntmaster that flipped, followed by an Angel of Serenity to clear the board and let me swing for lethal. I don’t remember what I boarded for this one. Game 2 was a little more back and forth, but I hit a Bonfire when he had only 3-toughness dudes out and that was enough of a path clear for me to win.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games

Round 3: Jeff, playing Jund Midrange
This is a really interesting matchup in that the two decks share a lot of cards (Farseek, Huntmaster, Thragtusk, Bonfire, etc.), but still have important differences. Naya gets the re-use of the value creatures through Resto and the top-end power of Angel of Serenity, Jund gets more removal (including the very good Sever the Bloodline) and Olivia. Olivia, it turns out, is very good in this matchup, and it’s what carried game 1. I had a Selesnya Charm in my hand most of the game, but he never put a second counter on Olivia and I never got a flier to stick (never drew Serenity) and he ground me out. His tech play of the day was I had two Huntmasters out and he cast Abrupt Decay just to kill a wolf token on my end step to keep them from flipping. Pretty good, particularly when he next topdecked Sever to kill both of them. Grr. In came the third Bonfire and the two Zealous Conscripts, and possibly the ORings though I’m not sure about those. Game 2 contained a sweet play for me, though I don’t remember the exact sequence of events that got us there. Regardless, the board state was me with a flipped Huntmaster and a Thragtusk, he played Thragtusk to go back to 19. My next turn: Zealous Conscripts! I borrowed his Thragtusk to swing for 17 and brought him down to 2 while I was at 27. So that one went my way. Game 3 featured another battle of value life-gaining creatures. I got a Huntmaster and two Thragtusks, he got a Huntmaster and only one ‘Tusk—the total life gained on both sides was silly. I again broke the board stall with Zealous Conscripts, stealing Thrag and getting through. I was all set up for an amazing following turn, as I had a Resto in hand and a Stronghold out with enough mana to Resto the Conscripts and activate the Stronghold. Unfortunately, on his turn he killed the Conscripts. It took away my tech play but actually since he didn’t play a creature I had enough to swing for lethal with Wolf Run anyway.
3-0 matches, 6-3 games

Round 4: Michael playing Jund Midrange
Sometimes from 3-0 you can ID in with the number of players we had, but I couldn’t because I got rounded down and so my opponent needed to play. Michael’s build was a little different than most, as he ran a few off the beaten path cards like Deadbridge Goliath and a one-of Mikeaus, the Unhallowed. I have to admit I’m a little fuzzy on the details of these games, especially game 1. I know in game 1 that I Charmed a Deadbridge at one point and won by grabbing another Deadbridge and a couple cards from my graveyard with Angel of Serenity. Game 2 we did a lot of my creatures trading with his removal, but his board was pretty light, and when I cast the big Angel it was to his empty board so I pulled three things from my yard. He managed a Thragtusk when he was at 8 followed by a Deadbrige. I came back with Zealous Conscripts. He came back with Mikeaus and then made a tech play by casting Disciple of Bolas, sacrificing his own Thragtusk with Mikeaus out to gain 11 of life and create another big blocker, which was pretty cool. I played another Zealous Conscripts to borrow Mikeaus and bash him down to 2. I was at 9 from the swing backs, and then he played a Nighthawk to give him a blocker for the Angel, but I had a Wolf Run out and drew another land, so the Angel got there with trample damage.
4-0 matches, 8-3 games

Round 5: ID with American Midrange
We were the only 4-0s, so we shook hands and watched everybody else.
4-0-1 matches, 8-3 games

Quarterfinals: Zack, playing Azorius Humans
We sat down to shuffle up and then Zac realized his ride was on the way so he scooped. I felt bad that we couldn’t play, but sometimes this happens—it was getting late. I wasn’t sure what my winnings would end up being, but surely something, so I gave him a pack out of my projected winnings.
6-0-1 matches, 8-3 games

Semifinals: ID
So, it turned out that the quarterfinals took forever. My third-round opponent, Jeff, played my fifth-round “opponent” and they took three incredibly long, grindy games to come up with a winner. The top 4 was thus two Jund Midrange and two Naya midrange. It was after midnight at this point and these were probably going to be long matches (yay for 16 copies of Huntmaster and 16 copies of Thragtusk in the top 4). There was a PTQ the next morning and one of the guys in the top 4 was going to be playing in it, so we just decided to split. I came out with $27.50 of store credit, minus the pack earlier, and bought two Liliana of the Dark Realms and a pack of Pokemon for my younger son. I went with Liliana because I don’t have any and I have a suspicion that with Boros Charm coming up that Mutilate will be making a comeback in control decks.
6-0-2 matches, 8-3 games

Thoughts on the Deck
Well, I can see why it’s become a more popular decks as it’s very good. However, I didn’t face a single deck with any kind of counterspell in it all night, which seems a little on the lucky side to me—that seems tougher for this deck. Some thoughts on specific cards:
• I’m glad I played two Wolfir Silverheart. He seemed really good most of the time. I almost didn’t play these and I think it would have been a mistake.
• Zealous Conscripts are fantastic. I didn’t main deck them because they’re bad against control and not particularly great agains the really fast aggro, but they rock in the midrange matchups.
• Angel of Serenity was also very good, but I do think two is the right number. It’s not the easiest card to cast, though with the Pilgrims and with Farseek it’s not too hard to hit the right mana, but I don’t think you want three of them. The 1 Sigarda was in the slot instead, and that seemed pretty good, though I might relegate that to sideboard duty next time around.

Not sure what I’m playing next week; we’ll see what my son wants to play and therefore what dual lands are available to me…

Yes, I’m Still Playing: Money Finish with Esper Flash

I know, I haven’t posted in a long time—a really long time. I’ve been really busy at work and with both kids in sports, my evenings have been pretty taken up. But the semester is over (yay) and fall sports are over (both kids went to the postseason, too, so great but long seasons). I really have played since August, but I haven’t actually played since mid-November. Prior to rotation, I played some mono-Green Infect and some ZombiePod and a very fun Izzet control list with a one-of Lone Revenant and some Titans—that was a fun list.

Post-rotation, we did a month of draft, and for Game Day I played Grixis Control, which was OK but had trouble with Zombies (probably a bad metagame choice) and then a UWR midrange list that I couldn’t draw well with at all (and made a couple mistakes)… and that’s it. So, this was my third time out for RTR standard and I basically hadn’t touched a Magic card in a month. So, what to play? I like the style of the UW Flash lists but they always felt to me like something was missing. That is, until I saw an Esper list with Lingering Souls in it. That’s the stuff! Here’s the list I played:

I know it’s a little goofy with a lot of one-ofs and three-ofs, but sometimes that’s actually OK. For example, the mix of counters (2 Syncopate, 2 Dissipate, 1 Rewind) seemed exactly right. I haven’t seen this exact list anywhere, but of course it’s not really all that different from the other “Esper Midrange” lists you can find on TCGPlayer.

Round 1: Ryan, playing BR Zombies
Game 1 was all about Lingering Souls. I drew many of them, and he had a somewhat slow opener, though he did have a turn 4 Aristocrat. I eventually got a Pike on one of the Spirit tokens and while he was able to chump with the Aristocrat and sac a Gravecrawler to it, then re-cast the Crawler, when I got the second Pike it was all over. Game 2 he got a fast start and I didn’t have much early and I pretty much got run over. Game 3 was a little more back-and-forth, but again, he came out quickly. I was able to stop some of the beating with a Purify, but eventually he got ahed of me. I had to equip a Pike on a Resto just to stay alive, holding back a Revelation, but he top decked a burn spell so I had to use the Revelation for only two life just to stay alive, and of course drew 2 lands off of it. Just not quite enough.
0-1 matches, 1-2 games

Round 2: Bye
Odd number of people at FNM, someone with a loss gets a bye in round 2. It was me.
1-1 matches, 1-2 games

Round 3: Chris, playing BR Zombies
One of the guys I chatted with before the tournament started commented to me that BR had taken over the store meta, and clearly he was right. I had turn 2 Augur in both games, which is a nice roadblock for Cackler and Gravecrawler. One of those drew me a Lingering Souls, too, which is about as good as it gets. He had trouble getting red mana both games, too, which didn’t help his cause. Game 2 I cast a Verdict to 3-for-1 him with two Lingering Souls in my graveyard, that was pretty much that game right there.
2-1 matches, 3-2 games

Round 4: Dave, playing BW Exalted
Game 1 was pretty much the perfect opener: turn 1 Thought Scour, putting two live cards in the yard, turn 2 Pike, turn 3 Geist. He went all the way. Game 2 he came back with a turn 2 Knight of Infamy and I all had were Spirit tokens. He kept drawing exalted guys and removal so he was winning the race. I finally put my foot down and cast Verdict with a Pike on the board and two Lingering Souls in the graveyard, and that sealed the deal.
3-1 matches, 5-2 games

Quarterfinals: Dillon, playing Grixis control
3-1 was good enough for the top 8, so in I went. Dillon is one of the stronger players in the store, and this was a Grixis build aimed squarely at the store meta, meaning three main deck Curse of Death’s Hold. Not fun. He managed to stick one of them when I had 4 Spirits on the board. I got out a Resto, got a Pike on it (though only for +1) and then he stuck a second Curse. My next draw was, of course, a Geist. Grr. He eventually killed the Angel with a Pillar and eventually killed me with a Snapcaster and a Rakdos Keyrune. I boarded in The three Spheres, both Appeties, the Dispel, the Negate, and the Tamiyo. I took out two Lingering Souls, the Verdict, all three Charms, 1 Scour, and 1 Ultimate Price. I’m not 100% sure if that’s right, but I think it’s close. Anyway, Game 2 was one of the best games of Magic I’ve been in for quite a long time. Here’s the kind of game it was: turn 2 I cast Appetite for Brains, and whiffed. Ugh. I got out some Spirits and a Pike, he kept generating answers, and I kept answering his answers. We eventually were both down to zero cards, just working off the tops of our decks. Most critically, I did draw all three Detention Spheres from the sideboard (and got all of them to stick), nabbing a Tamiyo, a Curse, and a Desecration Demon. That last one allowed me to swing for lethal with my Piked token. Absolutely great game, though it did take like 40 minutes. Good thing no time limit in the top 8. Game 2 I again had an Appetite on turn 2, but this time I nabbed a Jace. I had a Resto in my hand along with a Dispel, so a the end of his sixth turn I went for Resto into an empty board, he Dissipated, and I countered with Dispel. He tapped down for something else the next turn, and I came back with another Resto. From there I just rode the Angels all the way, trying to counter and disrupt anything he did, and the winged ladies got me there.
4-1 matches, 7-3 games

It was getting late and the rest of the top 4 decided they just wanted to split prizes and go home, and that was OK with me.

So, it was nice to come back after a hiatus and a losing streak with a good night. The deck is solid in concept if a little sketchy in execution; Lingering Souls is just amazing in this shell; that was definitely my MVP card. I’m not sure I’d take it to a PTQ or anything, but even there it’s probably not awful. Obviously it’s bad against Thundermaw Hellkite and the more Zombies players that run Knight of Infamy the worse off you are, but otherwise it feels like most matchups are sound. I’m still just loving Augur of Bolas. It’s awful when you whiff, but it’s so great when he pulls a key card like Lingering Souls or a counter.

Izzet Delver Top 8s FNM but I Scooped Anyway

I’d been playing the same deck, the Bantnanigans deck, for a while now and prior to that Naya Pod and then UW Delver, so I wanted to play a deck with no green or white in it. I don’t have the cards for Monoblack control, and Esper is also out because of the white.

So, that meant either Grixis or Blue-Red. I wasn’t up for Grixis and since it was a really busy week at work for me I decided to just netdeck. I also love the Izzet color combination since I used to play CounterHammer and CounterPhoenix back in the day. In fact, I played a UR Delver deck back in December, but that was a couple sets ago. Anyway, based on a recommendation from @Smi77y’s tweet, I decided to go with Henry Romaro’s PTQ-winning list, though with a couple tweaks of my own. Here’s my version:

Basically, I cut the Twisted Image and one Arc Trail for two Bonfires, and I moved one Cavern to the main deck. Having now played the deck, I’m happy with those changes.

Incidentally, I’m calling it “Izzet” rather than UR as I’m trying to get myself to use the Ravnica Guild names with Ravnica coming up soon.

Round 1: Andrew playing Elf Wave
I got a Delver on turn 1 and got it to flip, repeatedly Snagged his one Elvish Archdruid to prevent him from ramping like crazy, Arc Trailed a couple other elves, and got in there for the win. Game 2 I got an early Lavamancer and had enough cantrips to keep him fueled up, which is bad news for a bunch of little Elves—he was pretty much a machine gunner. This was over pretty quickly.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games

Round 2: Kevin, playing Esper Midrange
This was not the “standard” build of Esper Midrange that has been around. This featured Silverblade Paladin, Geist of Saint Traft, and Sun Titan. Game 1 he got a turn 3 Geist to my empty board and I was never really able to catch up. Game 2 I managed to have a Phantasmal Image when I needed it and burn when it was relevant, and crucially got a Sword on something to keep him off cards. Game 3 I got stuck on three land for a long time and he got out a Sun Titan and was recurring a Geist and a Paladin. I kept Snagging the Geist’s Angel token (I actually had all four Snags in hand at one point in this game. In fact, I Pondered once with three in my hand, the fourth was in the top 3 and I shuffled, and drew… the fourth Snag. Ugh.) that was soul bound to the Paladin and chumping the Sun Titan. This game had my punt of the night, when I finally drew an Image and copied his Titan. What happened is that on my own next turn I drew Talrand, cast Talrand and then Ponder to make a token, all of which would keep me alive for another turn… and then forgot to attack with the Image to copy his Titan and get the other Image in my graveyard. Oops. Unfortunately I drew nothing useful the turns after that, and he just killed me. Ugly mistake.
1-1 matches, 2-3 games

Round 3: Josh, playing BW Smallpox
Game 1 was back-and-forth, with me drawing enough Ponders so that his Smallpoxes were not keeping me off land. At one point he had Liliana at 4, then cast Lingering Souls and flashed it back. I usefully managed to topdeck a Bonfire to wipe his board, attack with my Snapcaster, and Gut Shot Lily to take her out. I was assisted in this game by the fact that he was kind of flooded. Game 2 he had a rough opener without two sources of black and it took him a couple turns to get the second black when he had two Sign in Blood and two Lilys in hand. He did get the Lily down, and I killed it with an attack from a Snapcaster and by using an Arc Trail to do one to myself and two to her. I followed that up with a Sword, and that carried it.
2-1 matches, 4-3 games

Round 4: Blaine playing 4C Pod
Blaine is someone I thought I had seen in the store before and never played, and he’s clearly kind of new. Game 1 I Pondered on the first turn to set up both a Delver flip and Bonfire for 1 to kill both a Bird and an Elvish Visionary. He did get a Pod and a Blade Splicer, but I Snagged the token and he podded the Splicer itself later (though I don’t remember what he got with it). I then just raced him, using Vapor Snag a couple times on his Wurmcoil Engine to finish him off. Game 2 my sideboard did some great work. He started the game with turn 1 mana dork, turn 2 dork and Rampant Growth. His next turn he Imaged my non-flipped Delver. I flipped Delver (I had just cast Ponder) and hit him for three. He came back with a Sunblast Angel (I love that card) to kill my Delver, and he swung for one with his copy of my Delver. So next turn I Imaged his Angel to kill all his mana dorks and his Image. Next turn I attacked with my Image because I had an Arc Trail in hand. He didn’t take the bait and just let me hit him for 4. He cast Thrun so I didn’t swing next turn, and instead I cast Talrand and a Scour to make a Drake. He cast a Metamorph, and said he was copying Thrun. I asked “Are you sure?” He looked at the board, asked if he couldn’t cast it because of the Hexproof, and I pointed out that the copy ability doesn’t target. “Hmm,” he mused, “so what’s the problem?” I probably shouldn’t have answered but instead I was nice and said “Legend rule.” He realized what was up, and then figured out that right thing to copy was Talrand. Hey, it’s FNM. Anyway, I topdecked an Image of my own to kill his Thrun, Arc Trailed him down to 10, and equipped a Sword I had cast earlier. He came back with an Acidic Slime to kill the Sword but nothing else, and was tapped out. With him at 10 and with no other fliers but the Angel, I borrowed his Angel with Act of Aggression and swung for exactly lethal in the air.
3-1 matches, 6-3 games

Round 5: Jeff, playing RG Aggro
Game 1 was actually pretty interesting. I got an relatively early Delver flip off a Ponder and he came back with a main deck Daybreak Ranger—yikes. The good news was that I had a Sword out and was able to equip it to protect my Delver and swing in, costing him a card. Next turn I had a cool play: I had four land out, the Sworded Delver, and in my hand Talrand, Ponder, Snag, Probe, and Thought Scour. I tapped out for Talrand, swung in and untapped my land, and cast all of that to make four drakes. He shot one with the Ranger, of course, but he did not topdeck a Bonfire and I made two more drakes during his end step off the cards I drew from the cantrips, and easily swung for lethal in the air. Game 2 he went turn 1 Birds, turn 2 Elf and Rancor the Birds, swing for 2. I Arc Trailed the dorks. He did nothing his turn 3 (still with the Rancor in his hand), and his turn 4 he tapped out for Huntmaster. I came back with Delver, Ponder, and Pillar for the Huntmaster, leaving a blue open and with Snag in hand. He went for the play I hoped for next turn, which was to Rancor the wolf token, which I of course Snagged in response—sweet. Delver flipped, I drew a Leak to go with the Snap in my hand, and pretty much cruised through the rest of the game.
4-1 matches, 8-3 games

Quarterfinals: Simon, playing Esper Control
Yes, I got paired with my 11-year-old son in the top 8. Sucky. We had played this matchup on Thursday night when I put the deck together and he’s definitely favored in game 1 unless draws are bad or mistakes are made. It went pretty much according to script: I failed to open with a Delver, eventually beat him down to something like 7 before he got Gideon and Day through and finished me off with Elesh Norn. Game 2 I sided out the Bonfires and Gut Shots and an Arc Trail for the Dissipate, the two Negates, and the Steel Sabotages (he runs a Batterskull and a Wurmcoil, so Sabotage isn’t great, but it’s less awful than Gut Shot). I didn’t get off to a fast start, but I had a Snap and multiple counters in hand so I just sat back and countered stuff, drawing two Augurs to keep my hand full and peck at him, and managed to ultimately draw both Negates, one Leak, the Dissipate, and multiple Snapcasters and just locked him out. At one point he did stick Sorin because he had Leak backup but by then I had a flipped Delver and a Lavamancer so I took care of the Lord of Innistrad without too much trouble. So, here it was for all the marbles and… I gave him the win. Come on, it’s my own kid! We played a third game just for bragging rights and I managed to pull it off with two Augurs and two Lavamancers that went all the way against both Gideon and Sorin. So, while I did actually win, he was the one who advanced to the semis, where he got blown out in about ten minutes by Zombies. Much better matchup for me, but Simon got store credit for making top 4 so he was happy, and having your kid be happy is always a win.
5-1 matches, 10-4 games

Thoughts on the deck:
• I firmly believe that adding the two Bonfires was the correct thing to do. I’m not sure about main-decking the Cavern as I only drew it a couple times. Everybody in the deck is a Wizard so it seems reasonable in principle.
• In general, this deck performed much better than I thought. I had grossly underestimated just how good Lavamancer is right now. Lots of people asked why I was playing Swords instead of Pikes (particularly since I was playing 4 Thought Scour), but I’m sold on the Sword because you want the cards in your graveyard to power up Lavamancer, which was amazing.
• Arc Trail was fantastic. Right now I actually think the right mix for red decks is a split between Bonfire and Arc Trail, and I think the 2/3 split I ran was actually pretty good. Bonfire is pretty bad in a non-ramp deck when you don’t miracle it—though sometimes even a non-miracle Bonfire for 1 is a value play—and in this deck, I think Arc Trail is overall slightly better.
• Auger is awful when he misses, but it was so worth it for every time I hit a Ponder. I think 3 is correct.
• The sideboard was just about perfect. The only iffy card, I think, is the Flashfreeze; I would actually consider a Redirect there because of what a blowout it is for Bonfire, Brimstone Volley, even opposing Vapor Snags. Might be too cute, maybe a Dismember or Grafdigger’s Cage/Tormod’s Crypt instead.

Mo’ Money FNM finishes: Resto Delver & Naya Pod

Been on something of a roll these last two weeks and I’m stuck at a kids’ birthday party at a bowling alley so I thought I’d generate a report.

Delver

Last week (June 1st) I had had a really busy week at work with a pair of grant proposal deadlines so I had no time to think about MTG, so I went least-effort on deck selection and just played Gerry Thompson’s list from SCG Nashville. It’s a REALLY good deck, though having played it I would tweak it a little.

Anyway, the event. 34 players, meaning five rounds cutting to top 8. I’ll admit up front that my memory for some of these is pretty sketchy.

Round 1: Jack, playing Bant Pod Spirits
I do like this deck. It’s a lot like Finkel’s deck from the last Standard PT, but with green for Strangleroot Geist and Birthing Pod to make sure you get the Captain. In this particular matchup, I should be favored unless the game goes long, because a whole bunch of hexproof spirits is not something I can handle. Game 1 I got an early Delver to flip and got a Sword on it, and that was it. Games 2 and 3 were much the same, in that I got stuck without white mana in either game and just could not stop him, even though I had Divine Offering in my hand in game 2. Game 3 I lost mostly because my two Delvers did not flip for four or five turns. A source of white in either game would have won it for me, but some days you just don’t draw it.
0-1 matches, 1-2 games

Round 2: Seth, playing UB Zombies
I got turn 3 Geist of Saint Traft, got it in a couple times with Snags, got a Resto and a Sword, and that was it. Game 2 was better. He got a Diregraf Captain, then another. I had Timely Reinforcements to buy time. He Imaged a Captain, I Snagged the Image, he cast another, I Snapped and Snagged it, got a Geist and a Resto, Snagged yet another Image, and that carried it.
1-1 matches, 3-2 games

Round 3: Nick, playing UG blink/bounce
This is kind of a weird deck, designed to bounce ETB creatures with things like Conjurer’s Closet. Frankly, it’s not really all that good, and I didn’t have that much difficulty. Restoration Angel with a Sword carried it both times, I believe.
2-1 matches, 5-2 games

Round 4: A.J., playing Jund Wolf Run
This is Wolf Run with black for Black Sun’s Zenith, Glissa, and Go for the Throat. I got a turn 3 Geist, blinked out of combat on turn 4 with Resto Angel. Next turn I swung in again with both the Angel and the Giest, he double-blocked Giest with Solemn and Glissa. I Snagged Glissa and used Divine Offering on the Solemn, dropping him to 8. Next turn I swung again, 7 through the air he couldn’t block, and did the lethal point with Vapor Snag. Game 2 he mulled and looked unhappy, on turn 2 Zenithed for a Bird, and I Gut Shot the bird and he missed his turn 3 land drop, casting only an Emissary. I flipped a Delver early, and raced his single Viridian Emissary, using counters and Snags to keep his other threats off the board. I got a Sword on the Delver, beat him to 1, and Snagged for the win.
3-1 matches, 7-2 games

Round 5: Nathan, playing BR Heartless Summoning
My tiebreakers were awful so I could not draw in. I won the roll and Pondered into a couple of Mana Leaks. He killed my turn 3 Geist with a Whipflare, , but ultimately I got a Delver flipped and Sworded, Leaked both of his attempts at Heartless, and that was it. Game 2 he got out a Wurmcoil Engine, which I copied with Image and then killed with Divine Offering. He Doom Bladed my Image, we traded tokens, but I had a flipped Delver and an Angel and they went all the way pretty easily.
4-1 matches, 9-2 games

Quarterfinals: Warren, playing RG Wolf Run with Glimmerposts
I have to confess that I don’t remember the details of this one very well. The important point was that I didn’t take a single point of damage in either game and his life total went down in large chunks both games.
5-1 matches, 11-2 games

Nobody else in the top 4 wanted to play it out so we all split, got $42.50 each. I got myself a couple more Huntmasters so that I could play Naya the following week along with some Pokemon cards for my younger son.

So, the deck deserves some commentary:
• It’s a terrific deck. This version, running Sword of Feast and Famine instead of Pike or War and Peace, plays more like Caw-Blade. Basically if you get to four mana you just sit on it and do nothing, either countering, Snapping something in, or dropping an Angel. The Angel is pretty amazing.
• I hated Thought Scour and sided them out literally every single match. I would replace them with two things from this set: a fourth Probe, a third Gut Shot, a Mutagenic Growth, or a Faith’s Shield.
• Too many Moorland Haunts. You don’t have enough targets, and you need colored mana. I’d replace it with a Plains, especially if I had added a Faith’s Shield.
• The sideboard is excellent, and it’s a really easy deck to sideboard; I always took out the Probes, the Gut Shot, and the Scours for whatever the best six were in that matchup.

Naya Pod

Now, this most recent Friday I had a little more time and decided not to play someone else’s list. Yes, Naya Pod isn’t exactly an original idea, but at least this is my own take on it. I actually looked at a bunch of recent successful lists, did some math to come up with an “average” version, and then did something else anyway. Here’s what I sleeved up:

The single Angel of Glory’s Rise was because Zombies is moderately popular at my local FNM and I thought it’d be funny to pod into that. I would rather have run a Wurmcoil over the Inferno Titan but my son had all the Wurmcoils in his Tezzeret deck this week.

The really dumb thing here is that while this is ostensibly a Pod deck, I drew a Pod exactly once all night, so this was pretty much Naya Aggro.

Round 1: Eric, playing Mono-Black Infect
I actually played a version of this deck off and on for a while prior to Dark Ascension, and it can be better than many people think. Anyway, I won the roll and led off with a Strangleroot Geist into turn 3 Blade Splicer, he led with turn 2 Livewire Lash followed by turn 3 Phyrexian Crusader. I Slimed the Lash and dropped a Huntmaster. He came back with a second Crusader and a Lily, making me sac the wolf token. Neither of us could productively attack, but the stalemate let me flip the Huntmaster to kill Lily. I followed with a Borderland Ranger to fetch out a seventh land, and cast Elesh, to which he scooped. Game 2 he again led with a Lash but followed with a Whispering Specter. He hit me for three poison but did not make me discard and the Specter died when my Huntmaster flipped. From there I had gas and all he could muster was another Lily, so it was brief.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games

Round 2: Chris, playing Resto Delver with Blade Splicers
I lost the roll and he opened with Probe and Ponder. I had kept a sketchy hand with a Geist but no second source of green, but it didn’t matter that much. We both had Blade Splicers and were both blinking them with Angels, but he drew one more Angel than me and Leaked my third one and that carried the day. Game 2 he again opened with Probe and Ponder, and followed that with a Delver. I came back with a mana dork into a turn 2 Splicer. His Delver did not flip, but did hit me and I came back with a Fiend Hunter. He answered with Geist of Saint Traft. I played land and swung with everything, and he took the bait and blocked the Splicer with Geist. I activated my Gavony Township to pump my team so he lost his Geist and never recovered from the lead that created. Bit of a punt on his part, but it’s easy to forget about lands that do stuff like that. Game 3 was the most interesting. For the third game in a row, he opened with Probe and Ponder on turn 1. I opened with a mana dork on 1 and a Mimic Vat on turn 2. I next stuck a Garruk and made a Wolf, he came back with Geist. He swung with Geist and I flashed in an Angel which I threw in front of the token, meaning the Angel died… and I put it under the Vat. Today’s MTG Tip of the Obvious: Restoration Angel under Mimic Vat is amazing. I was able to protect Garruk and kept pumping out Wolves, blocking with my Angel token. He got a Snapcaster to Snag a token, and I killed that with Garruk to make smaller, but more lethal, Wolves. He got a Resto Angel of his own to save his Geist from a Wolf and we were kind of stalemated, except that he couldn’t get through to Garruk, and so tokens continued until I could build up enough mana to both make an Angel token with the Vat and activate Township on the same turn, and then things quickly went my way.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games

Round 3: John, playing UB Tezzeret
This is actually a very cool deck with amazing inevitability, but it’s sometimes a bit slow. I mulled my opening hand because the first action it had was a 4-drop into a fast hand with Pilgrim, Geist, Blade Splicer, Huntmaster, and two land. My hand was fast enough to overwhelm him before he drew enough removal to deal with it, especially since my second draw was another Geist. Game 2 was more interesting. I opened with a hand with two Geists, a Sunblast Angel, a mana dork, a Zenith, and land. Turn 1 he Despised me, taking a Geist. I went out hard but didn’t make the kind of progress I made in the first game and he slowed me down with a Torbor Orb and double Pristine Talisman. I drew an O Ring for the Orb and then a Grudge for both the Talismans. I had out a few guys with 1 or 2 toughness and the Sunblast Angel, and he Black Zenith’d for 2 to kill most of my team. I was beating him up with a 2-power Angel and drew a Metamorph that I used to copy my Angel, and fortunately he didn’t draw a Metamorph of his own and my Angels got there.
3-0 matches, 6-1 games

Round 4: Jack playing Resto Delver
I have to admit that I don’t remember the first game very well. I can tell from my life totals that he hit me with a flipped Delver and I had a Huntmaster come out at some point, but other than that, I don’t really remember it. I do remember game 2 better, though, as I distinctly recall getting two mana dork killed via Gut Shot (the second one off a Snapcaster) but he was stuck on three lands, then I hit one of his lands with Slime, then used Restoration Angel to blink the Slime and take out his second land. He did topdeck a land, but then I got a Daybreak Ranger and got it to flip, followed it with another. He got another land and Snapped back a Probe, saw an Inferno Titan, and scooped.
4-0 matches, 8-1 games

Rounds 5 and 6: ID
There were only two of us who were undefeated going into round 5, so we figured out that we could just draw in, which we did.
4-0-2 matches, 8-1 games

Quarterfinals: Daniel, playing UW Miracles
My opener here was pretty awesome: turn 1 mana dork, turn 2 Geist, turn 3 Huntmaster which flipped when he had no play on his turn, then team swing on turn 4, pumping the team with Township, dropping him to 3. He came back with Day of Judgment, but he was at three. Another Geist finished him off. Game 2 I got a turn 2 Mimic Vat followed by a turn 3 Huntmaster, and for the first time all night, I got a Birthing Pod! I made a Huntmaster token, swung, then podded the token into Vorapede. He miracled Terminus, but that didn’t stop me from making the same play the next turn. He miracled Entreat the Angels for only three Angels, but I came back with Zealous Conscripts. Now, I did make a mistake here in that he blocked the Conscripts with one of his two Angel tokens and I didn’t put Conscripts under the Vat. I hit him next turn with a Huntmaster token, dropping him to three, but then he miracled Devastation Tide, so it ended up not mattering. I drew a mana dork, played Pod again, podded the dork into Geist, and he scooped.
5-0-2 matches, 10-1 games

It was a little after 1:00 in the morning at this point, so since there were 40 people, there was $200 in the prize pool and we decided to four-way split again.

Comments on this deck:
• The deck is good, better than I thought it would be. I wasn’t expecting to do so well with it.
• Pod? Who needs Birthing Pod? I drew it once in 11 games. Now, I did only run three in favor of one Zenith, but what impressed me most about this deck was its ability to win without Pod. Since there are a lot of 3-ofs and a couple 4-ofs in drops 1 through 4, it is more consistent than other Pod decks I have played in the past when Pod doesn’t show up.
Gavony Township is outstanding. Play this card if you’re playing Naya.
• Oblivion Ring was very good. I would not cut this.
• As I said, I would cut the Inferno Titan for a Wurmcoil Engine.
• I’m not so sure about Vorapede, but maybe that’s because I never drew a Pod. Might go with Archon of Justice or Wolfir Silverheart instead. Zealous Conscripts is great, though, definitely keep that.

Two money FNM finishes: Esper Control and Frites

Yep, two reports for the price of one. It’s been a while since I’ve written a report—partly because we drafted for a month after Dark Ascension came out, and I don’t get much out of writing (or reading) reports on drafts.

First, here’s the list and report from March 2nd:

Nothing too fancy here, just my take on an archetype that was still sort of forming right after rotation and DKA became legal.

Round 1: Daniel, playing Boros Aggro
This was an original deck, basically a fast White Weenie deck that also ran Red for burn and Hellriders. Basically, I had bad draws both times (definitely should have mulliganed the second game given what I knew was coming) and got run over in about ten minutes. Not what you’d call an auspicious start.
0-1 matches, 0-2 games

Round 2: Andrew, playing BR Vampires
This match was all about early stalling with Lingering Souls and early removal/counters, then taking control with the planeswalkers. In game 1 I had both Gideon and Sorin out, and was able to protect Sorin long enough to get his ultimate, which was pretty much game over. Game 2 I got Lili, Elspeth, and Sorin and just killed him with 3/1 tokens.
1-1 matches, 2-2 games

Round 3: Daniel (obviously a different one), playing RG Kessig
Game 1 was interminable, a really long grinding, close game in which I got him down to 2, but eventually I ran out of counters and ways to kill Nexuses. Game 2 was not short but I had Flashfreezes when I really needed them and got there with Gideon and tokens, but again, it took a while. We were in like turn 3 of the third game when time was called, so we didn’t have a chance to finish that. This is a very tough matchup for this deck; I think it needs more than two Flashfreezes in the sideboard.
1-1-1 matches, 3-3-1 games

Round 4: Jared, playing mono-Black
He won the roll and opened with a pair of Gravecrawlers early, but I got a turn two Ratchet Bomb followed by Liliana, and after I blew up his guys and we both discarded (I discarded a Lingering Souls, then flashed it back), I was able to keep his board clear with a combination of Lili, Leaks, and an O Ring, and got there with tokens. Game 2 I don’t actually remember hardly at all, but my life total reads 12-18-24 and his reads 14-8-0 so I’m pretty sure it involved Batterskull.
2-1-1 matches, 5-3-1 games

My breakers were just good enough to squeeze in at 8th since we only had four rounds of swiss, but with the lighter turnout, only top 4 paid out. So I had to win…

Quarterfinals: AJ, playing mono-White Humans
Game 1 was a bit of a back-and-forth that got a little annoying when he dropped an Angelic Overseer. I was able to chump a couple turns with spirit tokens until eventually I got Gideon and a spot removal spell to take out all his other humans, and then I had to use Sorin’s ultimate just to kill the stupid Overseer. However, once I did that, I had an active Gideon and a badass angel. He actually killed the angel, though I don’t remember how, but it was too little, too late. Game 2 he got off to a fast start and got me all the way down to 4 before I could cast a Day and wipe the board, which I followed with a Gideon and flashed back a Leak with a Snapcaster and just killed him with the pair.
3-1-1 matches, 7-3-1 games

Semis: Festus, playing Esper control
His build was totally different, and it’s a deck he’d been playing at FNM for a while before DKA rotated in. Both my son and I had actually kind of owned him lately, so I figured it was time for karmic retribution, and it was. My draws weren’t all that good, but it sort of doesn’t matter since nobody did anything for a while. I got really behind on land in game 1 and he just got to the point where he could play around my Leaks and I couldn’t play around his, so he was able to grind it out. Game 2 was a little more interesting because I mulled down to five and while I didn’t have much board presence for a lot of the game, whenever I did I had Vault active so I was gaining life. Eventually he was able to kill everything of mine and got a Sphinx out on me, and I just could not overcome the card advantage generated.
3-2-1 matches, 7-5-1 games

Not great, but not too bad. The next time I got to FNM, March 16th, I played JunkPod, which was a lot of fun but is, as Pod decks can be, a little inconsistent, and I went 3-2 and missed the top 8. The game of the night for me was getting a Stonehorn Dignitary under a Mimic Vat against B/u Zombies. He didn’t realize right away that it was a lock since he had a couple Ratchet Bombs, but of course I just podded the Dignitary token into an Acidic Slime in before the third counter.

This most recent Friday, March 23rd, I decided to try Frites since I’ve never played a reanimator deck before. It’s a strange choice for me since there’s not only no blue, but no planeswalkers in the deck, for two weeks in a row! Actually what really got me feeling weird about is the complete lack of main deck removal of any kind. I thought it would be an entertaining challenge. Here’s the list I played:

Yes, there are only 3 Elesh Norns in there, because I only own three. I filled the fourth slot with Sheoldred, which seemed an OK substitute. I also played one Flayer of the Hatebound because I thought it would be cute, but I literally never saw it all night long. This week we had a really good turnout, meaning six rounds of Swiss, paying all the top 8.

Round 1: Zach, playing GB Pod
Game 1 there were no shenanigans but I just beat him up with fat things including a very timely Inferno Titan. Game 2 he got a turn 2 Mayor and a turn 4 Bloodline Keeper, and I could not find an Elesh and he just swarmed me. Game 3 I managed to unearth both a Grave Titan and an Inferno Titan and they got there, amazingly enough.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: Craig, playing WB weenies/tokens
Game 1 I Rited out Sheoldred on like turn 5 and she slowly ate all his weenies, and of course he couldn’t block her so it didn’t go well. Game 2 I unearthed an early Elesh but she only stuck around for one attack before he got her under an O Ring, and of course I hadn’t boarded the Rays because I’m an idiot. I hard-cast a Wurmcoil which got in once before also eating an O Ring. I flashed back a Looting to get me an Inferno Titan, and he carried me the rest of the way.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games

Round 3: Jeff, playing mono-Green
He was beating me down with a few green dudes, and had just gotten Thrun to go with a couple Strangleroots and a 4/4 Elder and I drew a Looting, so I could pitch the Elesh in my hand and flash back the Rites that was in the graveyard. Next turn I got a Wurmcoil, and while he could block it with Thrun, the life gain of 8 per turn got pretty stupid. I got a second Wurmcoil and got up to 65 life before I finally killed him. Game 2 I got the god draw and got a turn 3 Elesh, which wiped his board and pretty much got me home. Mono Green seems like it ought to be pretty much an auto-win since they have neither disruption nor removal, but just wait…
3-0 matches, 6-1 games

Round 4: Daniel, playing Bant Spirits
This is a freaking cool deck, and I want to build it an play it, but of course when we started I had no idea what was going on. He won the die roll and came out with turn 1 Evolving Wilds, so I still had no idea. However, I wasn’t too worried because I had the god draw: two mana dorks, Elesh, Unburial Rites, Looting, two land. If I draw a land, it’s turn 3 Elesh, and my second draw was land. However, I actually lost this game! How, you ask? Well, his turn 2, he played a second land and two Birds. I of course, came back with a second mana dork and used my turn 1 Birds to play Looting, pitching Elesh and Rites. He went land, Geist of St. Traft. He had two Birds untapped. Now, what I had drawn off the Looting was two lands, so I had no action and felt like I had to go for it on my turn 3 because I couldn’t just let him hit me with Giest over and over again. So I went for it, and he tapped both birds and Leaked the Rites. Ugh. He then followed this up with: hit me for six, play land, Consecrated Sphinx, go. I drew… whatever, it really didn’t matter, and turn 5 he came back with Metamorph, copying Sphinx. I scooped. Game 2 was almost as stupid since he had a turn two Geist off a Bird, and of course I did not have a turn 3 Elesh to come back with. This was a merciless beating. Counterspells can be a problem…
3-1 matches, 6-3 games

Round 5: AJ, playing UR DelverBlade
I won the roll, which was good because he had Delvers on turns 1 and 2, but they didn’t flip right away. I had no interesting graveyard action going, but had some mana dorks and three big hitters: Wurmcoil, Inferno Titan, and Elesh. He knew this because he Probe’d me (ouch!) on turn 2. I figured my best bet was to just cast them into his Leaks and hope I drew a Rites so I had a shot to reanimate. Turns out he only had leaks for Wurmcoil and the Titan, but no leak for Elesh, which wiped his board. Now, I was at 9 when this happened, so I was still possibly in burn range, so I was swinging with Elesh and the mana dorks, and did Mulch into a Titan and a Rites, and I Rited out the Titan when he was at 3 so he didn’t have a chance to burn me to death since he had double-incinerated me to three. Game 2 I opened with four land, Elesh, Sheoldred, and a Titan, which I probably shouldn’t have kept, but I did anyway. Well, he mulled to four with only one land, though he did get a turn 1 Delver. I drew a Lingering Souls which I used to buy time until I could cast the fatness, and the first attempt at Elesh (I had drawn both the other ones in the interim) resolved, and that was it.
4-1 matches, 7-3 games

Round 6: ID
I got rounded up to play one of the 4-0-1s and was in like fourth place anyway, so we were guaranteed in so we drew.
4-1-1 matches, 7-3 games

Quarterfinals: Han, playing mono-Green
He was a friend of Jeff’s (from round 3), was playing the same deck, and he saw me crush this deck in round 3, so he wasn’t thrilled with the matchup. I was cautiously optimistic since this should have been an easy one for me. I lost the roll, mulled a zero-lander, and opened with: Elesh, Rites, Birds, and three lands. So all I needed was a Looting or getting anything really good dumped into the graveyard by a Mulch or an Instincts. His fist four turns were: Bird, Strangleroot, Strangleroot, zenith for Dungrove Elder. My first three draws were: land, land, land… I basically goldfished for him and died with nothing in the graveyard at all besides the Birds, which valiantly chomped once but it didn’t matter. Game 2 I opened with land, mana dorks, and a couple Mulches. Mulched on turn 2, saw a Massacre Wurm and three land. He had the exact same stupid start. I mulched again into four land. Turn 3 I played the Tracker’s Instinct I drew… into a mana dork and three lands. I drew a Looting, looted, drew two lands, pitched two lands, flashed back Looting… into two more lands. When the game ended, I had seen 23 cards of my deck, 15 of which were lands, 4 of which were the graveyard-fillers, one of which was the Wurm, and three mana dorks. Wow. Yes, I know, it’s a Bad Beats story, but seriously, Frites should win like 85% against mono-green. Very disappointing.
4-2-1 matches, 7-5 games

Some notes on the deck:
• Flayer is cute but I never cast it. Should have been another Inferno Titan, he’s amazing and should have been a two-of. I sided him in for literally every match, though of course I never saw UB control.
• I have no idea what I was thinking with the Sun Titans in the sideboard. The only thing they could get back is Strangleroot Geist, which is itself a sideboard card. I think something for the mirror, like Nihil Spellbomb or Surgical Extraction, would be better, or maybe weenie sweepers like Whipflare or Slagstorm.
• Should have run some removal in the sideboard, probably Sever the Bloodline.
• I didn’t really like Tracker’s Instinct very much and tended to side out two of them for an Inferno Titan and the Massacre Wurm. I never actually played the Wurm, but Inferno Titan was, as I said, an all-star. Anyway, really glad I didn’t play 4 Instincts.

An Open Letter to Wizards of the Coast Concerning Decked Builder

Wizards of the Coast:

Let me preface this by saying that I am, in general, a big fan of Wizards of the Coast. I returned to playing Magic: The Gathering with the release of Zendikar after a ten-year absence, and overall I think the decisions made by the folks in Renton since I have been back have been very good. Even when the decisions haven’t been great, you have also shown a willingness to listen and adapt in response to feedback.

I sincerely hope you will be willing to do so again.

Last week I read the following announcement from Tan Thor Jen, the developer of Decked Builder software for iPhone, iPad, and MacOS: Legal Issues and Removal of Deck Building Functionality.

Let me start by saying that I understand that it is important for Wizards of the Coast to protect their intellectual property (IP) and their brand. However, I think this is a bad decision for WotC as it negatively impacts the MTG community. It strikes me as highly unlikely that the timing of this is a coincidence, given that WotC just released their own iPhone application that supports deckbuilding. While the threat of litigation to eliminate competing products (particularly those that depend upon WotC’s IP) is a legitimate business tactic and WotC is certainly within their rights to do so, in this case it appears both inconsistent and unnecessary.

The move against Decked Builder seems inconsistent in that you, WotC, openly tolerate other products that trade on your IP. For example, the magiccards.info Web site uses card images and text, and clearly is in direct competition with WotC’s own Gatherer Web engine. Of course, WotC does not charge users for Gatherer, so there is no potential lost revenue there. However, WotC does charge for MTG Online, and yet does not appear to taking legal action against Magic Workstation (MWS). MWS is a commercial product that competes directly with WotC’s MTG Online product, and trades on WotC IP. (Cockatrice is a similar free software product.) Why do those products, which are much more high-profile than Decked Builder, get a free pass but Decked Builder doesn’t?

Furthermore, this action seems unnecessary in that, unlike MWS and Cockatrice, I cannot see how this affects WotC’s bottom line. Decked Builder exists on three platforms: iPhone, iPad, and MacOS. Let’s look at each of those spaces.

On the iPhone, the newly-released WotC MTG Toolbox product is free. So how does the presence of Decked Builder possibly impinge on that revenue stream? If you were planning on revenue from that source, why did you make it free? My suspicion there is that having that product be free is intended to help WotC’s primary product, Magic: The Gathering cards. You want customers to have a product that encourages them to play the game, and thus buy cards. The presence of Decked Builder in the marketplace does that, too, though it isn’t a free product. What’s wrong with letting customers pay a little to a third party to get functionality not offered by the WotC app? (For example, the ability to easily share with the iPad and desktop versions via DropBox or iCloud.) Even with Decked Builder in the marketplace, people will still get MTG Toolbox, exactly because it’s free. (I have both.)

On the iPad, WotC has no offering at all, and thus no revenue stream for Decked Builder to cut into.

Finally, there is MacOS. Like with the iPad, WotC has no offering at all, and thus there is no lost revenue here, either. However, here I think the decision cuts deeper. Frankly, the Mac is a platform that has always been under-served by WotC and other MTG-related products. There is no MTG Online for the Mac, nor even Magic Workstation. WotC has zero presence on the Mac and has never given any indication of moving in this direction. WotC derives zero revenue from the Mac.

However, by taking Decked Builder out of this space, WotC will destroy the only high-quality MTG-oriented product on the Mac. While I’m sure it isn’t your intent, doing this sends the message that WotC does not value Mac users. One might even be inclined to believe that WotC is anti-Mac. Please don’t take away the only software the MTG-playing Mac user has! I understand the need to protect your IP, but it’s not like Decked Builder on the Mac is exploiting your IP to your detriment—if anything, it helps sustain and build interest in the game in a community WotC is ignoring, a community that definitely has discretionary dollars. How is that bad for WotC? Don’t you want people with discretionary dollars to be maximally engaged in the game?

It seems to me that MTG, and therefore WotC, is actually much better served by allowing programs like Decked Builder to flourish. Don’t you want your customers to have access to tools that encourage them to play the game, and thus buy cards? Of course you do, that’s the point of the MTG Toolbox app. I promise you, the money I have spent on Decked Builder is not money I would have spent on more cards. If anything, using Decked Builder makes it easier for me to tinker with deck ideas, and thus having access to it encourages me to buy more cards. Exactly how does making it more difficult for me (or anyone else, especially Mac users) to build and share decks help serve WotC’s financial interests?

In light of this, I urge you to reconsider your stance. Let Decked Builder be. Make them change the icon that impinges on your logo, fine, but please allow the software to continue to include deckbuilding functionality. Please let us, Decked Builder’s customers, keep our favorite MTG app. It encourages us to play, and thus buy more cards. Isn’t that what you want?

Mike Byrne
Magic player, WotC customer, Decked Builder user
(Note: I have no association or contact with Decked Builder other than being a thrilled customer.)

Mage-Blade Takes Down FNM

Missed FNM last week because I went to GP Austin, where I scrubbed out at 3-3, but that let me catch the second half of the Texans’ playoff game, which was absolutely worth watching. Also played in a great side event on Sunday, Standard Sealed. One pack of everything from standard, with the exception of Innistrad, which was two packs. Lots of zany decks. I didn’t end up actually doing all that well in that, either, but it was definitely a fun format.

Anyway, I’m back, and since I played Mono-Black Infect last time around, I had to play something different. I find it humorous that Mage-Blade is now a real deck, as I designed a deck along the same lines right when Innistrad came out. It was Esper and more of a control build, and definitely not as good as the current versions, but some of the same concepts are there. Here’s that list, which my computer tells me I generated back on October 7th:

The mana base was terrible and there were too many cards with double-colored casting costs, and it never tested well, but I’m gratified to know that in the long run it had the right direction in mind. I obviously didn’t recognize how amazing Vapor Snag is, and wasn’t up on Delver, but I got Snapcaster/Blade/Haunt/Stalker/Geist, anyway. So, here’s what I actually played:

Note that this is not Gindy’s list from SCG Atlanta, though it is obviously similar. My local meta is pretty aggro-heavy and I really wanted main deck Missteps, and Swords are a little slow at a cost of 3, so I cut down to only one of those.

Five rounds of Swiss, cut to top 8.

Round 1: Mike, playing RDW
Game 1 I got turn 3 Geist, got a Pike on it, and that carried it on my last turn to live. Game 2 he burned me out with a large Shrine on his last turn to live. Game 3 I got a Stalker early and we were pretty even after that, until eventually I got a Pike on the Stalker and that won me the race thanks to a little help from Vapor Snag.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: Scott, playing RDW
Game 1 was very close; he got there because of a Spikeshot Elder—I didn’t realize anyone played those anymore, but it seems very good in this matchup; many Spirits died to it. I drew very badly in game 2, missed turn 3 land drop with only an Island and a Haunt out, then drew another Haunt, and missed the next land drop, and finally drew a second Island, but it was too late.
1-1 matches, 2-3 games

Round 3: Chris, playing Tempered Steel
Game 1 he got double Tempered Steel but was light on dudes and with Vapor Snags, a Geist, and a couple chumps, I got there pretty easily. Game 2 was a near thing. He opened turn 1 with triple Memnite. I played very conservatively, holding back counters and an O Ring in case of Tempered Steel. He did stick an Etched Champion but I had Spirits and Delvers to block the rest of his team, and got there with a flipped Delver wielding a Pike.
2-1 matches, 4-3 games

Round 4: Festus, playing Esper Control
Similar in spirit to the list LSV has been playing on CFB. Festus is a great guy but a slow player and I was worried about how much time we’d have to finish this. Game 1 was close; I had him down to 2 with a Gut Shot in my hand and another in the graveyard, but was facing down a Sphinx and just could not draw either a Snapcaster or the third Gut Shot. I spent the entire game with a dead Misstep in my hand. Oops. Game 2 I had decent early pressure via a turn 1 Delver, which flipped turn 2, and drew just enough permission to keep him off his big plays, which I knew were coming courtesy of a very timely Probe. Game 3 was a near thing. I drew all 4 Snapcasters through the course of the game, snapping back two counters and two Midnight Hauntings. The end was zany: Haunting end of his turn, swung my turn, he cast Day on his turn, I snapped back the Haunting end of his turn, swung, he snapped back Day, I used the Snapcaster with the Haunt, and also snapped back the Haunting to swing for the lethal 5 on the first turn of extra time. Whew.
3-1 matches, 6-4 games

Round 5: Paul, playing RDW
Since we were both guaranteed a spot in the top 8, we ID’d.
3-1-1 matches, still 6-4 games

Quarterfinals: Tyler playing WW
Not even Haunted Humans, just straight-up White Weenie with Honor of the Pure and a lot of 1 and 2 drops. Game 1 I got counters and Gut Shots and flipped a Delver early and pretty much sailed in. Game 2 was close, we went back and forth, and unfortunately the Timely and the O Ring in my hand were dead because I never drew a source of white, and he killed me on his last turn to live. Game 3 I opened with both Missteps and a Snapcaster, and countered three of his early plays, Leaked another, and pretty much cruised through with Vapor Snags.
4-1-1 matches, 8-5 games

Semifinals: Kevin, playing Uw Delver Illusions
Game 1 he kept a one-lander and was tapped out on my turn 3, so I put down a Geist. I got a Pike on it and he went all the way in three turns. Game 2 I remember my exact opening hand: Misstep, Gut Shot, Midnight Haunting, Plains, Glacial Fortress, 2 Haunts. He went Island, Delver, I Missteped, he Missteped back, and EOT I Gut Shot his Delver. Whee, five cards out turn 1 before I even played a land. My first draw step was a Leak and then next was a Pike. I Leaked his next play, cast Haunting at the end of his turn 4, put the Pike on one of the tokens. He got in once, then got Vapor Snagged, and the other Spirit carried the Pike to victory.
5-1-1 matches, 10-5 games

It was late and I wanted to get my son home since he had a sleepover the next night, so we split the finals. Not a bad night for a deck I had never played before and threw together right before heading over to FNM. The other nice thing was that last weekend at GP Austin I punted numerous times, but I played pretty clean Magic tonight. Not perfect, of course, but a lot better than I played last weekend.

A few deck comments:
• I’ve played some UR Delver and some UW Delver Illusions lately, and I definitely like this better than Illusions.
• Vapor Snag is one of the best cards in Standard when it’s in this deck. I think I boarded in the Disperse against almost everything, so I might go to main deck for that.
Gitaxian Probe was great against the control deck, but continues to underwhelm me against everything else. I think 2 would be plenty, and zero might even be right.
• I didn’t like Ratchet Bomb out of the sideboard, but then I didn’t play against Haunted Humans.
• I was very happy with the decision to run only one Sword, and I could see cutting it completely. Pike is great, though. Pike plus Geist is amazing.
• Main deck Misstep was great vs. everything except the control deck. I would definitely keep those; there are just so many juicy targets for that right now.

Also, my 11-year-old son Simon played as well. He played Mono-Black Infect, which either I or he have played a few times now. Here’s the current list:

Here’s how it went for him:

• Won 2-0 vs. a Black-Red Vampires deck, which he said wasn’t a very good deck.
• Won 2-1 vs. Esper Control, my round 4 opponent.
• Lost 2-0 vs. Haunted Humans. Deck is solid against Humans, that was a little odd.
• Lost 2-1 vs. RDW. Apparently drew zero Spellskites in game 3, despite boarding up to 4. Grr.
• Won 2-0 vs. a “weird Quicksilver Amulet deck” in a very fast match.

Not a bad showing, really, considering that he’s 11.

Double FNM Report: Mono-Black Infect and Uw Delver Illusions 12/30/2011

So, my 11 year old son Simon and I went to FNM at Montag’s Games for the first time in a while since I had been on the road on Friday nights for the last three weeks. We both did OK—Simon did much better, and I’ll explain that as well. The other thing is that I think these are two of the best decks in Standard right now, but that doesn’t say much, because Standard is fantastic right now with so many viable decks that “best” really means “I like somewhat better than the others.”

Anyway, here are the decks we played:

That’s what I played. My son Simon played this:

I’ll go over mine first.

Round 1: Audra, playing Kessig Ramp
This is a matchup that I ought to be able to win, but nothing is certain. Game 1 I opened with a Nexus, then a Stinger on turn 2, then a Specter on turn 3. She burned the Specter but I got a Lashwrithe on the Stinger and that carried it. Game 2 she mulled to six and I kept a slightly sketchy hand and ended up paying for it. I ultimately had a huge Phyrexian Crusader with a Lashwrithe on it, but she was generating wolf tokens with a flipped Mayor of Avabruck and they were chumping. She eventually drew a Primeval Titan and got the Kessing she needed to make her Nexus lethal. Game 3 I mulled to six and opened with a Nexus, then a Spellskite, then a Plague Stinger, then a Trigon. The Spellskite kept the Stinger safe from all her burn spells and mostly what she did was ramp and then die to the pumped Stinger. It was good that I had the Stinger/Trigon because I never drew a fourth land at all.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: Josh, playing UG Splinterfright
He was playing something pretty close to the event deck. I opened with Nexus then Stinger, then Spectre and had him pitch four cards, which actually wasn’t all that great since his next card was a Boneyard Wurm, and then he Mulched to make the Wurm a 7/7. However, I got Skittles next and won that race. Game 2 I got the turn 4 kill. Turn 2 Stinger, turn 3 Piston Sledge, turn 4 Trigon for the win. Nice when you know your opponent has minimal removal. The whole match took like 10-15 minutes.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games

Round 3: Simon
So, Simon was 1-1 at this point, and since I was 2-0, I scooped to Simon to not eliminate him. I knew this would make it harder for me, but I figured it was the least I could do for him since the last time we were in an elimination situation for the top 8 he opted to play and I won, which made him pretty unhappy. So this time I gave him the win.
2-1 matches, 4-1 games

Round 4: Chris, playing Solar Flare
Neither of these games were particularly quick. Game 1 we traded back and forth and at one point he Snapcasted back a Mana Leak and that Snapcaster got me down to like 10, but I got a Specter out and ate his hand, then was free to cast a Skittles and that went all the way. Game 2 was kind of a mess in terms of board state but I got out a Lashwrithe, got him tapped out except for one Isolated Chapel, then got out a second Lashwrithe and double-equipped a Nexus for the win.
3-1 matches, 6-1 games

Round 5: John, playing UW Delver Illusions
So, the situation was that if all the 3-1s drew, then one of them would not make it on tiebreaks. My breaks were not that good anyway, and I did this once before only to have my son Simon be the one who missed on tiebreaks, so I decided to play it out even though I knew my matchup wasn’t very good and I knew Simon would draw. It’s not unwinnable, but it’s not great. If they draw a lot of Vapor Snags you can only win if you have a Spellskite out. Game 1 I got a Spellskite, but he got a turn 3 Geist and I had no answers. He smartly Snagged the ‘Skite when it mattered and had a Gut Shot for my one Stinger and I was too far behind for the Skittles to matter. Game 2 I mulled to six and kept an OK hand, but no Spellskite, and he drew three Snags and a Snapcaster and I had no chance.
3-2 matches, 6-3 games

We found out after that if I had drawn, I would have been eighth. Grr. The good news is that Simon finished 7th. Now, he doesn’t take any kind of notes so I don’t have a full report from him, but I know his matchups and his outcomes, so I’ll recap those:

Round 1: Chris playing Mono-U Grand Architect
Simon won this one, though I don’t know many of the details. I guess in game 3 his opponent stalled on two land after Simon had been flooded in game 1.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: Dillon playing BantPod
Simon lost this match, though he should have won it. Late in game 3 Simon had an empty board and his opponent, who had no Pod in play, tapped out to cast a Wurmcoil Engine. Simon, who was stuck on only 3 land, copied the Engine with an Image, but then did NOT use the Vapor Snag in his hand. Dillon of course untapped, played a Pod, and podded into Elesh Norn. Oops.
1-1 matches, 3-3 games

Round 3: Freebie from dad!
2-1 matches, 3-3 games

Round 4: GW Humans
This one also went three games. Apparently in one game that he won, Simon had a Lord out and was able to copy a Hero of Bladehold with an Image, and in another, he had the “Bear, Lord, Image copying Lord” opener.
3-1 matches, 5-4 games

Round 5: Kessig ramp
Simon chose to ID since his opponent was #2 in the standings so Simon figured his breakers would improve and he’d lock up a spot. Turns out he was right.
3-1-1 matches, 5-4 games

Quarterfinals: Dillon, playing BantPod
This was indeed the rematch from round 2. Since I was out of the top 8, I was going to railbird it, but Simon told me that would make him more nervous, so I took off. Simon carried the first game and told me I could come back to watch, which I did. However, I rather wished I hadn’t. Dillon ramped into a turn 3 Thrun, and Simon ended up just chumping that like crazy for the rest of the match, during which time he drew 10 of his 20 lands. I decided not to watch the decider, which Simon carried and apparently played very well.
4-1-1 matches, 7-5 games

Semifinals: John, playing Uw Delver Illusions
John and I had actually talked about these decks between rounds and he was playing a deck that was maybe 3 or 4 cards different than Simon’s in the main deck. John is a strong player so I didn’t give Simon much chance in this and I decided not to watch. Simon apparently made a couple small mistakes in game 1 and lost it badly, corrected them in game 2 and won easily, and then just got blown out in game 3 by virtue of John having a much better draw.
4-2-1 matches, 8-6 games

So Simon finished in the top 4 and got store credit for the first time ever! He got a nice $17.50 and spent it about a dollar at a time on causal singles (for play with his brother and his school buddies) until everyone was going crazy (it was like 1:00 in the morning at this point) and he used his last $3 on a pack of Mirrodin Besieged, from which he pulled a Bonehoard. Hooray Simon!

Next time, though, I think we’ll just ID.

Some comments on the decks, first on the Infect deck:

• I’m fairly convinced this is the right build, or very nearly so, at least in the maindeck. If I were to change anything in the main, I’d consider putting the Specters in the sideboard.
• I still can’t believe that anybody plays this deck without Trigon of Rage, it just seems ridiculously good.
• I’m also not convinced that the builds that run blue (I mean a real amount of blue, not the token here) in order to run Blighted Agent are really better, since then you lose Lashwrithe. Lashwrithe is excellent. Going two-color also raises the opportunity to be color-screwed or get tempo-hosed by lands coming into play tapped—that never happens with this. This is the only mono-colored deck I’ve played in ages and it is amazingly nice to never have those problems. I see the appeal of RDW sometimes.
• I think maybe the sideboard needs a third Spellskite and desperately needs some better set of answers to Illusions. That’s the only matchup I really worry about. RDW can be tricky, too, but Crusader is really good there. I have no good ideas about dealing with the Delver Illusions deck, it’s just a bad matchup. If anyone out there has any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Now, some thoughts on the Uw Delver Illusions deck:

• This deck needs a catchier name. “Uw Delver Illusions,” though descriptive, is awful.
• The deck is very strong. It plays a lot like old-school Merfolk, of course, and has both explosive starts and a decent midgame. If the game goes very long then it’s obviously a little weaker.
• Geist of Saint Traft is a really solid card, and should probably be a 3-of rather than a 2-of. I’m thinking of cutting one of the Probes for it.
Vapor Snag is spectacular in this deck. This is a card that nobody used to play and is now a serious weapon.
• Gut Shot is also surprisingly good. There are way too many 1-toughness creatures in Standard right now.

So, I’ll be brining these two decks with me to play at side events at GP Austin. Who’s going?