booolian: gideon and tamiyo for cutest couple 2012
They do sound pretty good together. I should build a deck for that.
That's how I ended up playing a "Delver variant" without Delver of Secrets. I didn't "cut Delver" from my Delver deck; I built a deck to maximize that interaction.
I was playing blue, so I wanted to start with the engine Nick Spagnolo identified as the real reason blue decks win: Ponder, Gitaxian Probe, Snapcaster Mage, Mana Leak, and Vapor Snag. From there, you can really just do whatever you want as long as it's somewhat reasonable.
I loved the Blade Splicer / Restoration Angel interaction that I first pushed in my video on U/W Delver Humans that I recorded on the 21st, and it seemed perfect for defending planeswalkers. It's particularly good with Gideon and Tamiyo because it lets me eat their creatures with Gideon's +2 ability and draw cards when I'm ahead with Tamiyo's -2 ability.
And believe it or not, that's almost the entire deck:
That's the list I played at the World Magic Cup Qualifier in St. Louis last weekend. I finished second.
Normally these days, when I'm not working on a deck for a Pro Tour you guys get to see it right away because I build decks specifically to record videos. With this deck, I built it because I was inspired by Julian Booher's tweet, and when I played a few games with the deck it felt awesome. I wanted to show off the deck, but I also thought there was a good chance I'd want to play it at the WMCQ so I knew this would be an important one to keep quiet.
The reason I wanted to keep quiet about it is because it gets a huge amount of value from opponents assuming I'm playing Delver and sideboarding accordingly. Probing my opponent in game 2 to see a hand full of small red burn spells like Gut Shot, Pillar of Flame, Arc Trail, Slagstorm, and Whipflare is an awesome feeling with this deck. Not only are they almost certainly losing, but I know that I've successfully leveled them.
I'm not really into cute deck names these days. This deck is saved on my Magic Online as "U/W Midrange," but when I explained to Zac Hill that I built the deck because Julian tweeted Gideon and Tamiyo for cutest couple and that I had my own pick for cutest couple in mind in Blade Splicer and Restoration Angel, he said, "So this is basically OKCupid.dec." So if you're looking for a cute name for this deck maybe that will work.
This deck is the real deal.
At the WMCQ I felt like I won all of my matches until the Top 4 extremely easily; I lost only one game, and that game was very winnable. I lost because I over extended into a Day of Judgment because I'd Probed my opponent and he had neither a Day of Judgment nor a second white source, and he drew both in 2-3 draw steps.
When I showed the deck to Ben Rasmussen, he said it looked confused. I said that's something I look for in a deck; I want it to be flexible and give me options.
After the tournament on Saturday, I wondered if my deck would catch on or if it was just a one shot punch line that let me outplay people who misevaluated my deck. I could point to significant mistakes that every last one of my opponents made in the tournament, so I didn't know for sure if the deck was amazing or if it was just an easy tournament.
On Sunday, there was a PTQ. Ben Rasmussen played my deck and won it. His "win and in" round was against John Penick, who was also playing my deck. I think someone else also made Top 8 with it.
The deck is hard to play. Ben made a number of mistakes, but the deck is powerful enough to forgive that. On Twitter, Jared Carrier told me that Andrew Ohlschwager won a PTQ on 5/19 with a similar deck that I'd known nothing about.
His deck was:
I like everything about my deck more. He has +2 Plains, +1 Vapor Snag, +2 Day of Judgment, +1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, +1 Gideon Jura, +1 Entreat the Angels, -4 Gitaxian Probe, -1 Thought Scour, -1 Gut Shot, -1 Dismember, -1 Phantasmal Image. My draws are smoother and my Snapcaster Mages are much better, which is important because it also means my Restoration Angels (targeting my Snapcaster Mages) are a lot better. The deck doesn't in any way need the additional power of the expensive spells he has.
However, the fact that another PTQ had already been won with a deck like this solidifies my statement that this deck is the real deal.
So why no Delver? Well, what does it do for you? You don't need the extra pressure; your creatures are already very capable of ending a game quickly if you need to. It doesn't defend you well to set up your late game, it doesn't have synergies with any of your cards, and everyone is already gunning for it by playing cards that are good against it and bad against the rest of your deck. I'm looking to be able to go long, and it's a pretty terrible draw any time after my opening hand. It gives you a couple "free wins," but it really doesn't do anything important.
I was wrong last week when I wrote that Delver of Secrets should be banned. Very, very wrong. It was particularly embarrassing because I built this deck basically right after my article went up, and then it was immediately obvious that banning Delver wouldn't do anything. Banning Ponder would be much more effective, but I don't know that that would accomplish anything either. I would cut four Ponders for three Thought Scours and a Vapor Snag and run this deck again in a heartbeat. If the format needs to change, Snapcaster Mage is the one that has to go if you want to actually do anything. If you want the blue decks to still play out basically the same way but with a very slightly lower win percentage, then hit Ponder.
While I was completely wrong about that, let me pause for a moment to tell you some things I was right about. Specifically other decks in this format. Ben Rasmussen won the PTQ in St. Louis with this deck (with a different sideboard). He beat Jasper Johnson-Epstein playing the deck from my video here. My Bant Spirit Pod deck, featured here, also made the Top 8 in this tournament. I don't think anyone else played it, so I'm sure it had a pretty good record. This paragraph may just be here to brag, but I guess I think I've earned it. I'm really happy to see those decks doing well, especially the Birthing Pod deck.
Anyway, I'm not sure what to say about the U/W deck that isn't obvious. The game plan is pretty simple: beat small creatures with bigger and better creatures, beat big creatures and control decks with planeswalkers, have the best card advantage, card selection, and tempo engine in the format. It's not necessarily the best deck at doing anything in particular; it just does all the best things.
"So it's like Caw-Blade? Why no blades?" Well, yes, its position in the metagame strives to be similar to Caw-Blade's (shouldn't every deck?), but it's not the same deck. Sword of Feast and Famine doesn't do the same thing here. You don't need it for card advantage. You already have Snapcaster Mage and Restoration Angel with Snapcaster and Blade Splicer. Caw-Blade had efficient access to very small creatures, and Swords would let them become real clocks. This deck can pay three mana for four power and then four mana for six power; you don't need Swords to put your opponent on a clock when that's happening.
I don't want a card that needs me to have a creature in play because I don't have that many creatures. I don't want a card that gives my opponent an easy chance to steal tempo because that's often what this format's about. I don't want to spend three mana to play a permanent at sorcery speed that doesn't have an immediate impact on the board, and if I'm paying five mana I'd rather just a have a planeswalker. Sword of Feast and Famine is sweet when you have expensive spells and counterspells, but it's just not good enough.
Why Blade Splicer over Geist of Saint Traft? Well, first of all I'm not playing equipment, so I don't need a hexproof creature to put it on without risk of getting blown out by Vapor Snag. Second, I have a better late game than most other decks in the format so I really just want to stay alive, and Blade Splicer plays much better defense. Third, the interaction with Restoration Angel is actually absurd. Most of the decks that do want to play Geist of Saint Traft should actually be playing a mix of Geist and Splicer to make their Angels better and to legend rule themselves less often. Fourth, Phantasmal Image is an awesome card, and I'd rather make my Images better by playing Splicer rather than make my opponent's Images better by playing Geist.
This week, I thought there might be a lot of G/R to beat Gerry's Delver deck since conventional wisdom seemed to be that G/R is good against Delver. It's easy for them to play one of the many good answers to Restoration Angel and probably mostly fixes the matchup. U/W Midrange is amazing against G/R. If they can kill my Angel, I still got value out of it, Blade Splicer is a real problem for them, and they really have no good way to beat Day of Judgments and your top end, especially when they don't know your list.
Sideboarding with the deck is tricky, particularly since I built the sideboard purely to give myself as many options as possible. If you pick up the deck, please change the sideboard; not because mine is bad (though it does have one more Day of Judgment than it really needs) but because you'll be much better served by playing cards that you have a plan for and know when to use.
I never side out Restoration Angel, but I often side out Blade Splicer if my opponent has cards that are good against it and nothing else in my deck, like Ratchet Bomb and Slagstorm. Basically, it's good against decks that are smaller than it and bad against decks that are bigger. Vapor Snag and Mana Leak often get trimmed, but you rarely want to cut all of them. Although all the Mana Leaks come out against aggressive decks, particularly if they have Cavern of Souls.
Planeswalkers come out against Zealous Conscripts, Tamiyo comes out against Delver of Secrets, Gut Shot and Dismember are pretty obvious about when you do and don't want them. Consecrated Sphinx could maybe come out against a deck with a ton of Doom Blades, but I don't think it's ever come up that I haven't wanted one. I also almost always want a Day of Judgment for control decks with Titans that I'd like to be able to kill, since I'll often be trying to beat them with planeswalkers anyway.
I think that's all I have to say about the deck right now, but I will be recording with it very soon (though, honestly I'm more excited to record with decks I haven't built yet, but I think people want to see this one).
There were a lot of ways I could have written this article. It could have been a story about my weekend. Friday was my 30th birthday, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to spend it driving to St. Louis so I almost skipped the WMCQ. Instead, I decided to go to my mom's house near Chicago for dinner for my birthday and then drove to St. Louis, getting in at 4 AM.
I could have written about how low the attendance at this tournament was, how I think Craig Wescoe and I were the only players in attendance with any current pro levels, and how badly the WMCQ system works for the United States. But ultimately, I think you're mostly here to read about decks and maybe a little about how to play them and why they're built, so I focused on that. Let me know if I'm wrong.
Thanks for reading.
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