Hanging around saunter over to MTG Mom.
Apparently the StarCityGames.com Open in Edison NJ is next weekend! What the!?!
I have spent almost all my free time for the past month on my new endeavor here which I hope to have up for an early April release and I haven't played very much Magic at least since Mirrodin Besieged was a reality in reality but not yet on Magic Online (now remedied).
But enough about that... I had to start brewing for the upcoming Edison tournament.
What is the state of Standard?
As I've said many times before I think the death of Valakut is a bit overblown. The deck can't go from the most popular deck by a fair margin to “completely dead” just because of Sword of Feast and Famine. I mean Sword of Feast and Famine is undoubtedly good – but not so good it blanks the minds of all the paps who a month ago would have slavishly sleeved their Molten Pinnacles and Primeval monsters.
That said from the other side CawBlade is – as either @bmkibler or @briankiblersego asked I don't remember which – “great deck or greatest deck?” … Really it's the real thing. I expect it to be out in force full force everywhere and very good.
And then you have some other decks.
Boros might be a real deck but if previous Star City Games Open finals are any indication the decks I brew ignore Boros (and quite possibly to their detriment) so no reason to break with tradition now. I really do see Valakut and CawBlade as two of the big sticks holding up the teepee.
So I ask you...
What do they have in common?
Both these decks like to search and shuffle. If you want to throw Boros in there with its own Mystics Hawks and interminable number of Arid Mesas... all the way down to humble Terramorphic Expanses you have a whole universe interested in nothing more than tapping out on turn 2 or cracking a fetchland at some point some-when to go and find a some-thing.
And you know who likes that like a fat boy hugging two pudgy arms-full of cake?
There are different ways you can approach a metagame. You can roll up your sleeves and choose “Faeries” or “Jund” hoping you are better and luckier than the other guys who chose “Faeries” or “Jund.” You can look it straight in the eye and say “I will play your game only better” like a Critical Mass or a Naya Lightsaber. You can scoff at it tip your nose down and maybe deign to spend a card or two destroying it from the lookout of your fur-lined platinum-plated commode like a Napster. You can level it like CawBlade going into Paris or shiftily fool it like Innovator Dragonstorm in 2007.
… Or you can sidestep it entirely like a Wes Anderson film.
Wes Anderson – the man behind The Royal Tenenbaums Rushmore and so on – likes to pretend that the world is a certain way some certain way that it's not – not in "reality" – and makes movies that take place in his world. Sure it looks like our world but you can see pretty quickly that the rules are a little bit different and the motivations of his world's denizens are not the same as those of the guy sitting next to you in class or the girl in an adjacent cube.
That's what I want to do with this deck kind of sidestep the metagame.
Not ignore the metagame... Kind of move about two feet to the left of it; let everyone else fight over their damn Titans and Mind Sculptors and “dealing damage” to each other. I'm going to craft my unbeatable opening hand.
And I'm going to do it with this:
Even though I wasn't here at the time many of you probably recognize this deck as being very similar to my 2010 New York States deck. The difference now is that with Kozilek Butcher of Truth; Ulamog the Infinite Gyre; and Emrakul the Aeons Torn “15” no longer being played in the most popular deck I no longer have to waste space on maindeck Ravenous Traps.
This deck has three different paths to victory one of them the fastest in the format the other two just more pleasant and exciting (as far as I can tell) than what everyone else is doing.
Unbeatable Opening Hand
Trap Pyromancer can lucksack into what can only be described as an unbeatable opening hand. I actually got “the hand” against Nick Spagnolo at New York States... and then lost. The hand itself might have been theoretically unbeatable but then again so was Nick at the time. I had three copies of Archive Trap and Trapmaker's Snare. Nick cracked a Misty Rainforest and played Trinket Mage. Now I should have responded to his Trinket Mage with “39 cards” off the top but instead I let him search. I was already running big brags so he got the Elixir of Immortality! Who even runs that? Why did I smile like a hungry chocolate addict locked overnight in Jacques Torres's SoHo factory? Only Nick :(
So at that point we played an infinitely long game but I had essentially triple-mulliganed by my own poor play. If I ran it right I was probably over 80% to get the scoop that turn; Nick didn't “beat” me with the Elixir. He just bought a ton of time with it to take me with multiple Memoricides (also ran that main and recycled it with the Elixir) despite the fact that I fought into a powered up Pyromancer position. After the nth Memoricide or so I just didn't have a good way to go about it.
In any case... When your opponent plays a Squadron Hawk or just cracks an Evolving Wilds he's opening himself up to lose if you have the right hand which you get fairly often. Two Archive Traps and a Trapmaker's Snare (or you can swap in a second Trapmaker's Snare if you have a little extra time) don't end the game per se but usually the opponent doesn't have enough cards to win and you can defend yourself with Lightning Bolts and Mana Leaks or just draw a Call to Mind in the meantime.
In this format milling for 13-39 might not actually kill the opponent right then and there but not only does it put most decks into a “what am I supposed to do now” mode but it can actually have strategically far-reaching implications.
When you start crossbreeding the two branches of the deck you get to a very compact and high-impact two-card combination.
Let's assume Pyromancer Ascension is powered up...
In this spot your Archive Traps are each worth 26 cards! If they resolve... You take my meaning I'm sure. When they're free that's the stones but if you have to slow-play them over multiple turns that can be good enough a lot of the time because if you do you win. The best is when you run this in response to a mid-game search when you haven't yet revealed your deck's exhaustion arm and you end up spending about two mana to nug for ~52 with double Mana Leak backup. Believe it!
Regular Old Pyromancer Ascension
I used to have Pyromancer Ascension as the #1 threat in Standard. Not necessarily the number-one card... But if you've ever been on the wrong end of Jace the Mind Sculptor staring across the table at an Ascension you probably know who's in the driver's seat from experience. Pyro is simply the fastest most game-altering card you can play in Standard. Answer it or it will eventually come knocking a tax man in a long black coat carrying a scythe and a chess set.
As you'll see in the videos at the end of this article there are all kinds of horrible things that can happen to you: Multiple kicked Into the Roils Call to Mind setting up like six Lightning Bolts or just a complete distraction...
That might be my favorite actually.
You're “distracted” by arguably the best threat in the format.
It reminds me of the KarstenBot Babykiller days when opponents were “distracted” by turn 2 Ohran Viper... and we really were just hassling them for several turns until we could set up lethal Demonfire.
Which if you think about it is the coolest thing of all!
“All war is based on deception” after all.
So... Is this “the deck?”
My own personal testing tells me that this is an exciting deck. It is a powerful deck. It is a deck that most people don't have the tools to beat. It has the best first two or three turns of any deck in the format. It has tons of early card drawing so it mulligans less than most decks. When it wins the margins are huge meaning you have a bit of play to make mistakes. But...
Is it “the” deck?
We won't know for a couple of weekends... But it has tools.
Here is how you use some of them:
Generally I side down to no Trapmaker's Snares and one Archive Trap even against decks where Archive Trap is very good (exception being Valakut). Usually I bring in five planeswalkers the Deprives and the Spell Pierces meaning I have two too many sideboard cards for this strat and have to cut See Beyonds.
You have to look at Valakut with Lotus Cobra as a separate deck from Valakut without Lotus Cobra (credit: Patrick Chapin). Against one you need to leave in Lightning Bolt. Against the other you can leave in your full Archive Trap strategy and bring in Jace and extra counterspell action which is basically unreal.
Koth of the Hammer and Slagstorm come in against U/W Control. First of all if they open on Leyline of Sanctity you might just be kold. You need to hedge your bet especially since it's very likely you won Game One. Second Slagstorm cannot only nug the opponent if need be (without violating Leyline of Sanctity) but it can kill a Squadron Hawk wearing a Sword of Body and Mind or Sword of Feast and Famine.
I might just add more anti-beatdown. As I said in the first bullet we have maybe a little bit too much action for the minus-seven swap; I really want to be able to switch into “U/R Control with a compact combo kill” against beatdown. You have the tools in this format to kill every creature. Unlike with a real U/R Control deck if you buy time you can just kill the opponent in one turn so you don't have to wait around hoping you don't die for 3-4 turns while ponderously attacking with a solo Titan. So... Might be more Slagstorms?
So... Don't know if we asked this already but is this the deck?
To that I can only say this:
When you look back at your life and your career as a Magic player and imagine how you want to kill your opponent there is probably only one answer.
And that answer is “play Life from the Loam with Jace the Mind Sculptor in play” … Because if you do that... I mean I can't even count that high but it involves putting lands back on top of your deck followed by the dredge mechanic (heard that is good) to re-draw those lands with Life from the Loam and then doing it again next turn while constantly getting free / new looks with Jace. Really there isn't much else to talk about.
But if you're playing in a format that doesn't allow you to dredge back lands the best way to kill your opponent is probably Pyromancer Ascension. It's so hard to deal with unless your opponent is already aiming for you. It's fast... You win 25% of your games just because you went first. You play an Ascension against a blue deck and even if it takes ten turns both of you know the game is probably already over. You play good cards – you play your Preordains and your Mana Leaks and your Lightning Bolts all past or present Top 10 cards – and they do more for you than they do for anyone else. Yes the prettiest girl in town does have time to meet seven different charming and respectful suitors at the door in a single week but you... You she actually likes you (hubba hubba). “Don't worry darlin' the second Lightning Bolt's on me!” You grok? I know you grok.
And in this deck... If you've never just demolished an opponent on the second turn with three Archive Traps I suggest you try it. The only thing more fun that I can think of (other than the prettiest girl in town and / or playing Life from the Loam and Jace the Mind Sculptor in the same deck) is that.
And somehow – maybe it's just all the self-denial – you don't even have that icky combo feeling playing Pyromancer. I don't know what it is but you can somehow convince yourself that you're the good people unlike all those Faeries / Jund / Tog / whatever scumbags that have been hanging all around you over the years.
So is it THE deck?
It's going to be mine in Edison in two. Let's find out!
Pyromancer vs Valakut
Pyromancer vs Caw-Go
Pyromancer vs Mono Black Infect