Triple Crown (and I use the term “crown” loosely)
So last week I got some great feedback on the first (actually the first-point-five) version of the Standard Mono-White Control deck.
I was all gung ho to play ye olde Mono-White Control decklist but was convinced (separately) by Brian David-Marshall and Joshua Ravitz to go U/G Genesis Wave instead. You can actually hear me make an about-face in real time on this podcast recorded sledgehammer-free in a lovely park in Hoboken NJ.
It was in having this conversation out loud that I realized that I had never failed to make Top 8 of any tournament where I had played Jace the Mind Sculptor... And then after that I felt kind of stupid for (and I didn't say this on the podcast but those of you who have been following me for some time probably already figured it out) only ever playing Jace the Mind Sculptor the one time (National Qualifiers last year).
So I cashed in all my wife points to play in the New York City US National Qualifier last Saturday. I sleeved this up:
We modified the deck from the Edison NJ StarCityGames.com Open where BDM went 8-2. Main changes were switching maindeck Spreading Seas out for maindeck Acidic Slimes; because Acidic Slime is a five and Spreading Seas is a cantrip two I also added a land in place of BDM's Wall of Tanglecord.
Rather than devoting a ton of time to an unsuccessful tournament report I'll summarize thusly: I largely chose U/G because of BDM's experiences and its mighty combination of Wall of Tanglecord and Tumble Magnet against Sword of Feast and Famine. Lotus Cobra and Primeval Titan make for tremendous companions for Jace the Mind Sculptor.
What actually ended up happening was that I never drew Wall of Tanglecord and it didn't matter how well I baited my Caw-Blade opponents for Mana Leaks; they always had this card Flashfreeze which was the nuts against my Primeval Titans and Genesis Waves. I drew a sum total of zero copies of Wall of Tanglecord and lost to all three of my Caw-Blade opponents (though I did dispatch all two of my non-Caw-Blade opponents).
Ultimately I was reminded of an opinion once voiced by Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa RE: ramp decks. I'd successfully draw my opponents into a parity / topdeck situation... and then draw a ton of lands and/or play turn 14 Joraga Treespeaker off the top. Eventually the opponent would draw an action spell and it would be Squadron Hawk (i.e. four cards) or a Stoneforge Mystic / Sword / whatever and the game would no longer be at parity.
In sum—Jace the Mind Sculptor or no—I ultimately regretted the switch (but congratulations to Lukasz Hall in Virginia who Qed with the Wave!).
Even before I considered going back to the U/G I was already brewing at the intersection of Jace the Mind Sculptor and what I liked about the Mono-White Control deck. Many of you commented having watched last week's videos that it was cool that the deck was winning such a high percentage of games with poison counters despite playing just the four copies of Inkmoth Nexus for infect.
The things that I really liked were Tumble Magnet (Sword of Feast and Famine containment) and Contagion Clasp (powering up basically everything keeping Tumble Magnet alive and helping to poison the opponent to death). So why not build towards an even greater focus on these elements?
Here is a deck I brewed up and quite like:
This deck is a kind of The Legends of Team CMU; it owes a bit to Brian Kibler and separately to Patrick Chapin. After playing a bit I don't really understand how Kibler's deck doesn't want Tezzeret. The dude is such a monster with Necropede and Inkmoth Nexus and kind of keeps every cool card in your deck flowing into your grip which is the very definition of desirable.
Rather than relying on conventional removal options (Go for the Throat Disfigure... even Into the Roil) this deck uses Contagion Clasp and Tumble Magnet to manage the battlefield and/or get your poisoners through a wall of blockers. You have so much Impulse action—via Jace the Mind Sculptor and Preordain Spreading Seas but not really Tezzeret Agent of Bolas—that you can go and find 1-2 copies of Black Sun's Zenith to mop things up (and the nature of Black Sun's Zenith is that it will ideally set itself up for a re-buy while improving the quality of Jace's work).
The combination of Tumble Magnet and mass removal works pretty nicely here particularly with this particular brand of mass removal as it doesn't chomp up too many deck slots.
Why I Didn't Play It:
I think that when you look at the videos (below) you'll see a lot of positives around this deck. Its card quality is to put it mildly infectious. You're just playing out awesome thing after awesome thing. You get to take advantage of Everflowing Chalice for a third-turn planeswalker and you have both a powerful proactive plan and a powerful set of answers to the format's leading proactive plans... So what went wrong?
Ultimately I wasn't happy with some of the minor details. I think the deck probably needs somewhere between one and three lands but I wasn't sure on that number. Also I felt obligated to play Skithiryx the Blight Dragon not just because it seemed like a key threat in Kibler's build but because of a new set of emails from my old Team Discovery Channel teammate Patrick Johnson (aka PatrickJ) innovator of Accelerated Blue. PatrickJ is ancient like YT but has been toying around with some new decks at his local store all based on his interest in the Blight Dragon.
That said Skithiryx seemed like the worst card... But I still wasn't happy with the mana.
Possible Areas of Improvement:
We were chatting about this deck at National Qualifiers and Osyp Lebedowicz suggested that we not only cut Skithiryx but that Kibler might have gotten it right... Is it possible Jace Beleren is just the better Jace in this context?
I mean there aren't many decks that can curve out Inquisition of Kozilek into Necropede into Jace Beleren into Tezzeret Agent of Bolas... Pretty good! Jace the Mind Sculptor really earns his spot when we can increase our chances of playing a four-drop on turn 3. SeparatelyBDM suggested Plague Myr which acts as a terrible Necropede but also a terrible Everflowing Chalice. Before you laugh too much Plague Myr could help play Jace or Tezzeret on the third turn and is a heck of a teammate with the Agent of Bolas.
Some videos of the B/U Tezzeret Infect in action:
Tezzeret Infect vs. Darkblade
Tezzeret Infect vs. Goblins
As much as I like the B/U as a realization of some of the themes that made last week's MWC attractive... The fact is: MWC is attractive!
Among other things I underrated how good the card Mortarpod can be. I talked to the invincible Josh Ravitz (Josh's performances with Caw-Blade are SCG Open Top 8 consecutive SCG Open Top 8s PTQ win forgettable GP and most recently 6-0-2 and Q last weekend) about how Mortarpod works. Around the time of Josh's second consecutive Open Top 8 he got murdered by AJ Sacher playing the Angry Birds version but stated that Mortarpod changes everything. You can stop the opponent from equipping his Squadron Hawks or sometimes just play a surprise blocker with Stoneforge Mystic.
My deck from last week ran a pair of mismatched Swords but I figured that I might want to jump on this Mortarpod train to see what happens.
The other main change I made was to cut all the copies of Wall of Omens and Survival Caches for Pilgrim's Eye. Really what the deck wants out of those cards is to draw into more and more lands and that's ultimately what Pilgrim's Eye is good at. You get some additional non-zero bonuses just from playing the card... For example you'll see in one of this week's videos that I can surprise-equip a creature and choose Pilgrim's Eye against my black opponent. Pilgrim's Eye has “Protection from Go for the Throat” and this choice proves to be short-term successful.
Most of the rest of the deck remains pretty similar.I did add the fourth Stoneforge Mystic and expanded the Equipment packages in both the maindeck and sideboard. I have to say that Squadron Hawk + Sylvok Lifestaff is quite the defense against the beatdown!
- 4 Pilgrim's Eye
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 4 Squadron Hawk
- 4 Stoneforge Mystic
- 1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
- 1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
This deck can play one of the Caw-Blade eight on the second turn. From a proactive standpoint it has the Equipment aggression of Caw-Blade and the Hawks for support... but plays a more controlling midgame and a more over-the-top endgame. Just hitting someone with Sword of Feast and Famine once isn't the most exciting thing that this deck can do.
Why I Didn't Play It:
Well I didn't have the newer version when I was making my decision last Saturday and I wanted to play Jace the Mind Sculptor.
Possible Areas for Improvement:
For what this deck wants to do I think that it does it pretty well. Short of adding Jace the Mind Sculptor? I don't know.
Some readers brought up the Valakut matchup but as I said in last week's videos I've had some decent luck against Valakut with Tumble Magnet and mass removal. That said the extra Contagion Clasp action and Mortarpods make for good Lotus Cobra defense.
I'm not actually sure what the right build of MWC is; I do know I like this version more than the Wall of Omens / Survival Cache one I posted last time. Pilgrim's Eye is exactly what the deck wanted... Maybe we'll have a similar layer of evolution next week (who knows?)!
Some more videos:
MWC vs. JVL Commando
MWC vs. Boros
MWC vs. B/U Control