A couple weeks ago I came to a startling realization—I knew what deck I'd be playing for Regionals! It was startling because I nearly always flail week to week deck to deck and rarely settle on what I want to play until a few days before the tournament.
It came to me while reviewing various decklists that didn't run Jace the Mind Sculptor and coming to a couple of conclusions:
2. I wanted to run Stoneforge Mystic for similar reasons and the fact that it's proven to be very powerful in the current metagame.
3. Running Vengevine with Fauna Shaman made me also want to run Squadron Hawks something that's also proven to be powerful alongside Stoneforge Mystic. Clogging your hand full of Hawks to shove Vengevines into the graveyard that can come out running next turn just seemed like a fantastic line of play to have in the deck.
With a G/W core of Fauna Shaman/Vengevine/Mystic/Squadron Hawks I naturally looked at the G/W Aggro/Jumanji lists… but they just didn't feel like they had the right level of “oomph” to really compete in such a Jace-warped format. They were close and oh so enticing being exactly the sort of deck I love…
If it weren't for that horrible horrible Overwhelming Stampede. Ugh. I know that's supposed to be a card to break open games but there are going to be times when it's just not going to do much more than +1/+1 or +2/+2. I wanted a five-mana spell that would be devastating guaranteed!
Vengevines… Squadron Hawks… I suddenly knew the card I had been searching for—EldraziMonument! That artifact is backbreaking and while its upkeep costs are high Vengevines and Hawks (and even Sun Titan) can easily keep the Monument fed while you quickly put away the game in a few short turns. I also loved how it could really punch opposing planeswalkers when you didn't have fliers available.
My last big tournament success was making the Virginia State Champs finals piloting a G/W deck that ran EldraziMonument and while I won't have the amazing Knight of the Reliquary to abuse searching up creatures and equipment is much more fun than lands! Here's what I've got cooked up currently though in a deck like this minor tweaks or a tech discovery could shift the list around in the coming days and make pretty big differences in play.
- 1 Molten-Tail Masticore
- 1 Sylvok Replica
- 1 Baneslayer Angel
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 4 Nest Invader
- 4 Squadron Hawk
- 4 Stoneforge Mystic
- 1 Sun Titan
- 1 Sylvan Ranger
- 4 Vengevine
- 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Some notes on a couple card choices:
Nest Invader vs. Lotus Cobra: The snake is sick. I played it in my nearly-Champs-winning G/W list and of course everyone now appreciates just how potent he is. However in a two-color list like this with rock-solid mana I'm not so sure about the trade-offs in life loss for the occasional explosion of mana. Also with RUG clearly one of the two defining decks of the format more and more people are rocking Mortarpods to deal with the threat. Nest Invader is quite appealing—it can rumble and win against a naked Stoneforge Mystic and the Spawn token can block a Mystic equipped with any Sword. You can run a Nest Invader into a 1/1 Squadron Hawk on defense. Lastly this is a EldraziMonument deck so getting an extra creature out of your cards can be quite helpful.
Linvala Keeper of Silence: She's good at blocking Sworded-up Hawks shuts off opposing Fauna Shamans and legend-rules opposing Linvalas. It also does a great job of laughing at Treespeakers and Overgrown Battlements if Valakut shifts in that direction.
Overwhelming Stampede: I know I just talked about how horrible I found this card… but I decided to go with this as an answer to Valakut which is otherwise just a horrible horrible matchup for any sort of midrange deck. I'm not so sure that I'm going to have to worry about facing down more than 1-2 Valakut decks at Regionals given the way the metagame has shaped up but I feel I can't completely ignore the matchup. I figure Overwhelming Stampede at least gives me a shot at a fast win if I get a good Hawks/Vengevine draw and Valakut stumbles a tad. I know some people look to splashing black for Memoricide but in my experience Memoricide is far from a game-winner against Valakut. I think pushing the aggro side of my deck is the better way to go. I'd also be boarding in Bonehoard in case Valakut boards into a more controlling stance with Pyroclasms and Slagstorms.
Hero of Bladehold: I kind of want to run this in the maindeck since making two dudes with each swing plays nicely with Eldrazi Monument I but don't want the four-slot too crowded. Masticore feels just slightly better to have in the maindeck.
I think the rest of the card choices are pretty self-explanatory. If anyone has some experience with G/W in the current metagame and good advice to lend please drop me an email or chime in on the forums. I do feel extremely comfortable playing this sort of deck; it's chockfull of great cards great synergies and flexibility. The fact that I don't have to win Regionals and simply Top 8 to qualify also makes me feel good about not playing the most broken card in Standard since Skullclamp.*
Just because I've locked in on G/W Eldrazi doesn't mean I don't have a Plan B deck. I really like Michael Rooks' Furnace Celebration deck and in the wake of Dallas I asked him how his deck would fare in a metagame defined by Jace the Mind Sculptor with RUG on one side and several flavors of Caw-Blade on the other. RUG is a tough matchup while Caw-Blade is generally very good. Rooks secured a StarCityGames.com Invitational berth with his latest version of the deck over this past weekend. I was curious to read the article by Jon Agley this week on StarCity and his spin on Furnace Celebration but it seemed to gut a lot of critical parts that make Rooks' deck so potent and fun. The one thing I did like about his deck was the interesting synergy of Mortarpod with deathtouch creatures like Acidic Slime and Wurmcoil Engine letting you sacrifice them to kill any creature you want.
Which sent an alarm bell off in my head… there's another good creature in Standard right now that has deathtouch right?
If you've been following my column regularly you know I've been trying to figure out a deck that best uses and abuses Glissa the Traitor ever since she came out in Mirrodin Besieged. I've been doing cute things with Fauna Shaman Kuldotha Forgemaster and even Eldrazi Monument in the deck. The idea of maxing out the Mortarpods and deathtouch creatures got me brewing in a whole different direction:
- 4 Perilous Myr
- 4 Sylvok Replica
- 3 Wurmcoil Engine
- 4 Acidic Slime
- 4 Sylvan Ranger
- 4 Vampire Hexmage
- 4 Glissa, the Traitor
It's odd and kind of refreshing to have a decklist filled out with fours yet still chockfull of synergies and utility. I really wish I had the time to flesh this list out but since Agley's column just went up as I was writing this article I haven't had too much time to hash out an optimal configuration. I've got Glissa the Slimes and three Wurmcoil Engines for plenty of deathtouch action for Mortarpod. I went ahead and packed in Vampire Hexmages since Jace the Mind Sculptor is pushing maximum metagame saturation (not to mention a handful of other planeswalkers that need her gentle touch). Perilous Myr obviously does great work with Mortarpod especially with Glissa on the board to get back artifacts from the graveyard as you mow down opposing creatures. With all the Stoneforge Mystics running around I doubt that Sylvok Replica will ever be useless.
I can't imagine I'd have the nerve to audible to this thing right before Regionals… but I really like the core ideas in this deck. What do you think? What might be able to kick it up a couple notches?
Friday night my daughter Anna Marie has a dance recital so I get to be a proud papa before heading home for a good night's sleep before the big day. A car-full of us will be heading to the Regionals in Northern Virginia so if you're there too hunt me down and say hello!
Also Commander fans—hopefully you listen to the awesome weekly Commander Cast but if you didn't hear the one from this weekend check it out: guest-starring Giant Shark and yours truly! It was fun doing a 'cast with the guys and I hope to do it again sometime.
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format building your first deck or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2(Mana Requirements Randomness Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy Griefing Staples Building a Doran Deck)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Savra Queen of the Golgari Demons)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
*Banning Jace the Mind Sculptor in Standard
Considering that this was a hot topic of Magic discussion in the wake of Grand Prix Dallas I felt like I wanted to weigh in with my opinion in a form much better suited than one with a 140-character limitation. Since I know some people find the argument about banning a card in Standard tiresome I put it down here as a postscript.
First let's consider Grand Prix Dallas which really hit home the depth of the problem Standard has right now. I feel bad for WotC and the coverage guys who must find it nearly as mind-numbing to write coverage on Jace Deck 1 battling Jace Deck 2 as it is to read it over and over again. It was amusing to read the text that went with the Top 8 picture before the single elimination rounds finished which heroically spun things as a battle between the best two archetypes – RUG and Caw-Go – rather than the disappointing spectacle of a gaggle of Jace decks maneuvering for prizes. After reading the coverage Sunday I sent out a tweet:
@blairwitchgreen: how awesome would regionals be if they emergency banned Jace TMS? ;)
Now me I've been noticing the Jace problem for a long while in Standard but unfortunately none of the more pro-level/connected pundits seemed to find anything wrong with top tables being choked with Jace the Mind Sculptor decks until we got results so insanely skewed in Dallas that it was impossible not to at least be embarrassed about it. A Top 8 100% stocked with Jace decks and fifteen of the Top 16 decks also Jace decks. And it's not like anyone was particularly surprised by it. Seriously what further proof is needed?
It took a well-researched blog post by a well-connected Ted Knutson to finally point out that the emperor has no clothes in a loud enough voice. Even Patrick Chapin who likely would marry Jace the Mind Sculptor if he could agreed that Jace is right up there with the most degenerate Magic cards created in the modern Magic age. A few things he said on Twitter:
- “I take back my remarks about Jace being the blue Necropotence. Necropotence was never THAT good.”
- “Jace the Mind Sculptor is better than all and this includes Bloodbraid Bitterblossom Cryptic Jitte Mind's Desire & Skullclamp.”
- “Yes I would support a ban of Jace the Mind Sculptor in Standard 100%.”
Hear hear Mr. Chapin!
Ted very simply demonstrated in his blogpost by looking at the past five SCG Standard Opens and the past two Standard Grand Prix that Jace decks represented 77% of all the Top 8 decks. Seventy-seven percent!
Despite the mountains of evidence both obvious and well-argued it was remarkable to see just how many people scoffed at the idea of banning Jace on Twitter. I paid close attention to the people who came down on either side of the argument and saw an interesting pattern. In general [not everyone but most] people who found the idea of banning Jace ridiculous either:
1. Weren't playing Magic when Skullclamp was around and don't realize that banning a card isn't the end of the world or…
2. Really aren't overly concerned with connected to or empathize with the average FNM-playing casually competitive crowd.
It's a shame that a lot of these folks also tend to be the same people with the biggest platforms and the largest audience so their perspective tends to be magnified out of proportion to the actual larger Magic audience who play down in the trenches and who have been growing more and more dissatisfied with Standard and even walking away from the format. These folks are the lifeblood of the game and I'm just thankful that some of the larger voices in the community like Patrick and Ted have spoken forcefully on the issue on our behalf.
The funny thing for me is I'm no longer incensed by the price of Jace right now... I finally see that the sky-high price is simply the result of demand for the most broken Magic card made since Skullclamp (one that is also orders of magnitude rarer than Skullclamp) and that an insane price was the only way to leverage all the singleton copies out of the hands of the more casual players and get them into the hands of the players who wanted to win SCG Opens and GPs and bigger competitive tournaments.
The price of Jace isn't the real issue; if he were a $25 rare he'd still be warping the format as much if not more. The price of Jace is just a symptom of the root problem that Jace is too good for Standard and really should be banned if we have any hope to salvage the rest of the Standard season. We all want to keep people interested in playing and buying product for Standard and lure new players to the game over the next four or five months. Having the premier format in the game in such low state for too long can have some pretty large and long-term ramifications. Anyone who loves Magic and cares about a thriving and healthy community has got to at least understand the concern.
One final point I'd like to make. It was probably inevitable that Wizards would make a planeswalker that was just too good. They've invested a lot of energy from various parts of the company to make sure that planeswalkers are cool splashy desirable and truly the epitome of what it means to be “mythic.” There is every reason to want to push the power level of these cards hard push them to the limit… and we as players want the same thing! We want our planeswalkers to kick ass inspire fear in our opponents and make our hearts swell with hope and excitement when we rip one off the top of our deck. We don't want them gathering dust in the back of our card boxes. If Wizards was too cautious in designing the 'walkers that would have been the bigger mistake. The clich that when you swing for the fences and sometimes you strike out applies here and we love the triples and home runs that Wizards seems pretty darn good at hitting.
While we call on Wizards to step up and correct a very rare mistake we also must thank them for being willing to push the limits to make Magic such a brilliant and entertaining game!