Welcome back! You were quite clear in the comments last week that you wanted to see the rest of my BUG Control brew battling U/W/R Delver—I'm happy you liked it! I also made sure to mention the full board state from time to time this week, so hopefully this will be even easier to follow.
For those who missed last week's installment, here's the list I brought to battle:
And these were my thoughts concerning sideboarding after winning the first game:
Ok, the plan here is simple. Cut as much disruption as possible for removal and replace any leftovers with Flusterstorm to make punching through early more likely. So these seven are what I want to bring in:
And I want to take out these ten:
Ok, so some disruption stays in. Force of Will is the clear cut here I think. I have a low blue count and I'd rather not trade one-for-two against him without a draw engine like Squadron Hawk or Ancestral Vision backing me up. So would I rather have Thoughtseize—I could even board in the third—or Counterspell?
Thoughtseize is the perfect answer to Stoneforge Mystic and quite a bit faster than Counterspell. Counterspell, on the other hand, is better once we have somewhat established control and doesn't help him beat us down.
With both having their merits, I'll keep a split—two Thoughtseizes for the early game and a Counterspell to draw late to lock things up. Having both also gives me the chance to see both in action for future reference. So much for preparation, let's jump straight into the action!
Pile, riffle, shuffle, cut. Game on.
My opponent keeps, and I take a look at these seven:
Huh, not the greatest. Fragile mana, only two lands, and both Thoughtseizes. At the same time, though, it's two pieces of disruption backed by a removal spell and some way to dig for lands. I don't think I can actually ship this.
Ok, I can fetch for Island now to play around Stifle and Wasteland. After not seeing any Stifles in that marathon game 1, I doubt he's playing them, and fetching Island locks me out of black mana. I think I have to play into Wasteland with that Misty Rainforest. The question is do I Thoughtseize here, exposing myself to Wasteland, or do I play Misty and pass, planning to make Abrupt Decay my first spell next turn?
Well, I don't think I can just sit around and do nothing against a Delver draw even if I have removal next turn. I have to Thoughtseize now and hope I don't get Wastelanded.
Well, at least there's no Wasteland. Alright, I leave the Stoneforges since the second Thoughtseize can take care of the Batterskull if he actually draws a white source. Ponder makes sure the Delvers flip two turns from now, and I don't have a castable answer to the second Delver yet, so Ponder or Delver are what I want to take here. Taking Delver means there's no pressure on the board after the Decay if Ponder doesn't hit a white land. Meanwhile, I might easily lose to the surviving Delver if I don't hit a land next turn.
"Take Delver of Secrets, go."
He untaps, doesn't reveal for Delver, and hits me for one (16). He then plays Flooded Strand into Tundra (19) and casts Stoneforge Mystic for Batterskull. Straight hit obviously. At least it wasn't a Wasteland.
I untap and draw Misty Rainforest. Yes, more mana. Alright, gotta deal with the Batterskull now, so I'm casting Thoughtseize even if that means Delver gets another hit in. I'll Brainstorm first to assure the shuffle and maybe trade the Deed or Liliana for another land or cheaper removal spell. He can't have drawn both Flooded Strand and Daze in one turn.
"Brainstorm." My opponent nods. I draw
Alright, Jace isn't something I'm ready to use yet so that goes back. I kind of like everything else here, given that he has no Daze and I now have lands. I don't think I want to shuffle the other card away so I can put back whatever. Let's make it Deed to ensure Gitaxian Probe doesn't warn him if he has that.
I put back Pernicious Deed on top of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, play Underground Sea number two and Thoughtseize again (14), taking the Batterskull and leaving him with the known Ponder, Volcanic Island and Stoneforge Mystic.
He untaps and reveals Spell Pierce to flip Delver of Secrets. He then swings in with Insectile Aberration and Stoneforge Mystic (10), taps Volcanic Island for Ponder, and shuffles before playing another Volcanic Island and dropping Grim Lavamancer.
Alright, Spell Pierce and the second Mystic in hand with Tundra open. Five power on the board means a two-turn clock, and I'll draw a Pernicious Deed. I have to Decay next turn to lengthen the clock, though that Spell Pierce will make getting rid of the Lavamancer and Stoneforge actually troublesome.
He passes. I untap and draw my Pernicious Deed.
"Alright, if I let the Delver connect, I'm too low to stabilize. Abrupt Decay it is. I really don't want that Jace now, though, so I guess I need to crack the fetch even though I have a Forest in hand. Too bad.
"Misty Rainforest, crack it for Tropical Island (9), go."
He untaps, draws, and swings in with Stoneforge Mystic and Delver, which I Decay (8). He then thinks for a moment before playing the second Stoneforge Mystic (fetching Sword of Feast and Famine) as well as a Tundra and passing the turn.
I untap and draw Innocent Blood. Good card, but is it good enough? He gets to put me to six during the end step with Lavamancer and has Pierce open. I can kill one of the Mystics with Innocent Blood and need to bait the Pierce with either Liliana or Deed this turn, opening the way for the other next turn, which hopefully can solve the rest. Oh damn, I only have two black mana. I guess I need to use Deed this turn and hope I Brainstorm into something nutty. Let's play Innocent Blood first because if he Pierces I get to resolve Deed and clean the board at three life next turn.
Alright, Lavamancer plus Mystic are lethal, as is a Sword-carrying Mystic once he shoots me here. Time for a topdeck.
Suh-weet! I guess I live on one if his last card isn't something good. What to put back? Well, Delta is dead since I go to one from Lavamancer and Deluge—Massacre would be good here—and I'll be tapped out anyway. Let's put Liliana on top of Delta.
I put back Delta followed by Liliana. "Toxic Deluge, pay two life." (3) He shoots me with Lavamancer in response (1), and his board dies. Phew. Now to win before he can draw a Bolt.
He untaps, draws—no Bolt please!—and plays another Stoneforge Mystic, finding nothing. I guess he likes Sword more than Jitte against me. Makes sense, as protection from black is reasonable against Decay and the ability seems stronger.
He then equips the Sword and passes to me. I untap and draw my Liliana—perfect timing!
"Liliana of the Veil?"It resolves.
"Edict you, go."
He untaps, draws, thinks, and passes back. I draw my Polluted Delta.
Well, I don't need that, that's for sure.
"Plus Liliana." I discard my Polluted Delta, while he drops a Scalding Tarn. Alright, I have Brainstorm and Flusterstorm left in hand, and he has one card and four mana. Do I Brainstorm now? Well, Brainstorm plus Flusterstorm still isn't enough to counter his Lightning Bolt if he draws it. Might as well.
"Tap Tropical, Brainstorm." He Pyroblasts. Well, three copies still isn't enough to fight back.
He untaps, draws, and plays a Scalding Tarn. Go go lands!
Alright, Liliana deals with that. Let's see what we can find. I untap and draw a Swamp.
"Play Swamp, Liliana edict you, go."
Removal off the top please? I draw Creeping Tar Pit and scoop them up.
Alright, that didn't work as I wanted it to. Flusterstorm was terrible here compared to Counterspell; I don't think it's as useful in this deck as it is in Miracles. He doesn't seem to have Stifles anyway, so that weakens it further. Drawing two Thoughtseizes hurt quite a bit life total-wise, but the information and discard were excellent. I don't think I want more of them, but two feel ok. Let's turn one of the Flusterstorms back into a Counterspell and see how I like that.
New boarding plan!
"I'll go first." "Obviously."
We shuffle and cut, and I get to look at these seven:
One land, no black mana?
"Mulligan." He keeps, and I draw another six:
A little slow, but I have lands, a Counterspell on the draw, and a Deed. Has to be better than six.
"Keep. Creeping Tar Pit, go."
I untap and draw Innocent Blood.
"Polluted Delta, go."
He draws, drops another Flooded Strand, and casts Meddling Mage. Alright, he named Abrupt Decay before, so I have to respond somehow. I can either Counterspell and risk running straight into Spell Pierce—though that'd give me an opening to Deed as long as he doesn't have Daze or Force—or I can Decay and possibly have him name something else. If that something else is Innocent Blood, I'm actually in trouble if he has the Pierce. Let's try that Counterspell.
"Tap Sea and Tar Pit, Counterspell." It resolves. No Pierce or holding it back?
He passes the turn, and I draw Pernicious Deed. Alright, back up. I'd have preferred a land. Now what? I can Abrupt Decay and keep Innocent Blood or do the inverse. Or I can try for the first Deed, though that runs into both Daze and Spell Pierce. Well, if it's Pierce, at least it eats up his last mana and prevents a Lavamancer activation.
I'm stuck on three lands with Jace and two Deeds in hand. Taxing counters will get to hit something, and this way I'm looking great if he doesn't have anything. I have a second Deed anyway.
He untaps, draws, cracks a Scalding Tarn for Tundra (16), and casts True-Name Nemesis with a Volcanic Island up. He then passes the turn. Ugh. I guess I would have been better off with the Abrupt Decay play. Now I need to expose Innocent Blood to taxing counters or take a hit. Well, let's see what I draw.
I untap and draw Innocent Blood. Speaking of ripping answers. What now? Do I try to get value off of Deed even if it means eating five more damage if it gets countered? Or do I play it reasonably safe with Decay into Blood plus backup Blood next turn? Well, I'm at eighteen—sixteen once Lavamancer shoots me—and I'm not sure if I ever get a chance to Deed for value again. If he had had Daze last turn, I assume he would have used that instead of losing the two Lavamancer points. So the question is does he have Force or a second Pierce?
Let's look at this in a different way. If I Decay and he has the counter for Blood, I take three next turn, and if he has any other creature, Innocent Blood won't be good enough next turn, so I need to cast Deed then, taking at least another three. Makes jamming the second Deed attractive—highest payoff and relatively similar downside.
"Cast Pernicious Deed." He frowns, and it resolves. Niiice!
"Go." Lavamancer shoots me for during the end step (16); he untaps, draws, and attacks for three (13) before passing the turn.
I untap and draw Golgari Charm. Oh boy. How greedy do I want to be? I can run the perfect Charm two-for one-here and keep the Deed as a reward. However, if he has a counter, I go to six before I can Deed the board—imminent burn range. He didn't have the counter last turn though . . . Oh the temptation.
"Go." He shoots me with Lavamancer as expected (11), and I blow the Deed for three in response. No Stifles, right? It resolves, putting the board back to double Tundra, double Volcanic with four cards in hand on his side and two Underground Seas, Tropical Island on my side.
He untaps, draws, and casts Meddling Mage, which I allow to resolve. He looks through my graveyard, thinks for a moment, and names Abrupt Decay once again. He then plays another Scalding Tarn, finds Volcanic Island (15), and drops another True-Name Nemesis before passing the turn tapped out. No counters among those two cards I hope.
I untap and draw Abrupt Decay. Not helpful yet. Double Blood or Blood plus Golgari Charm? The latter walks into Daze. Unacceptable—I really don't want to take any more damage. Delvers and the third Nemesis—if he has it—still die to Charm, so it isn't like that's dead.
"Innocent Blood?" He bins the Meddling Mage.
"Innocent Blood again?" And there goes the Nemesis.
He untaps, draws, and casts Brainstorm. After putting two back, he plays Wasteland—oh crap—and thinks for a moment. He then taps out for a hard-cast Batterskull and passes the turn. Decay target acquired, and I really need to finally draw a couple of lands now that he has Wasteland.
I draw Liliana of the Veil. Well, I guess if I'm not drawing a land, this is pretty solid. One card in hand. If that's a Daze and he Wastelands Tropical after untapping, I'm pretty much dead barring topdecks. If I Decay, I'll be out of Liliana mana until I draw a land though. Tough call, but I think I'm still going with playing it safe.
He untaps, draws, and swings with Batterskull. I Decay the Germ in response, which works. He then taps Tundra to cast Ponder. He shuffles, draws, plays another Wasteland, and kills my Underground Sea and Creeping Tar Pit before passing. Uh oh.
I untap and draw Verdant Catacombs. Just in time.
"Verdant Catacombs, go."
I draw Brainstorm. Alright, gotta risk not hitting the land here. It's only four life after all.
"Brainstorm." He nods, and I draw:
Good, I hit the land. So what do I shuffle away from this?
I need the land, and I want to Decay the Germ now. I think Jace is still too far away and Thoughtseize just isn't good anymore. It's not like he'll let me catch the Batterskull in hand. Uh wait, do I really Decay here? It leaves me unable to cast Liliana because my Tropical is tapped already. Should I have fetched before Brainstorming? That can't be right. This deck really wants a Bayou I think.
Anyway, what's the plan here? I can only crack one fetch and deploy Top; that will take me to six, well five after I sacrifice the other fetch. Or I can be at nine with an uncastable Liliana, Charm and Top in hand. I guess we hope Top will find the black source in time? I really don't like going below seven against a deck with Bolts.
Put back Jace on top of Thoughtseize.
He untaps, draws, gets his Germ Decayed on attacks, and passes back with three cards now in hand.
"Wasteland. Tap Tropical to play Sensei's Divining Top." It resolves, and I tap the other Tropical to look, seeing Polluted Delta, Toxic Deluge, and Golgari Charm. Excellent, black mana and a shuffle effect. Plus more removal if I need it. Definitely Wasteing as soon as he bounces.
He untaps, draws, and passes back! Yes, Batterskull slowed down. That five-card all-spell hand is a bit scary though.
I draw the Polluted Delta. No reason to do anything here might as well wait for more lands to play around soft counters before trying for Liliana.
"Polluted Delta, go."
He untaps, draws, and taps Tundra for Ponder, which sends him into the tank. After a moment he keeps them, draws, and plays a Stoneforge Mystic, which finds Sword of Feast and Famine. That guy's gotta go.
Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have shuffled. Thoughtseize takes me to six, something I've harshly tried to avoid. Jace gets Dazed; Liliana and Pulse get double Dazed or Pierced. The latter seems much safer, so which one do I use? Pulse, Liliana answers Nemesis. Leave Jace second since that's at least a spell I want to cast at some point.
I draw. "Maelstrom Pulse targeting Stoneforge Mystic." It gets Dazed and Dazed again. Houston, we have a problem.
He untaps, draws, replays a Tundra, and passes back.
Do I Top during my upkeep? If not, I'm drawing Jace and likely trying for Liliana, which will eat the Mystic but not the Germ. Down to four. Otherwise, I have to find something better in a single card, and Liliana can now be Dazed. That doesn't sound better.
I draw Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
"Liliana of the Veil." It resolves.
He untaps, draws, and attacks for four (4 – 19). He replays his second Volcanic and hard casts Sword of Feast and Famine before passing with a Volcanic up. I activate Top end of turn and see Thoughtseize, Misty Rainforest, and Innocent Blood. Cheap removal. Good. I'm drawing the land the turn after, though cracking it is rather risky. Maybe I can hit some non-fetches first.
I untap and draw the Innocent Blood.
"Activate Liliana." Golgari Charm or Jace? Charm I guess; I need to get some traction in this game soon, and I'll have the Liliana edict for backup.
He discards Daze; I go with the Charm.
"Innocent Blood?" Batterskull down again. He untaps, draws, thinks for a second, and passes.
I activate Top during the end step, find a Forest, and put that on top. Pain-free lands to cast Jace with. After that I'm even empty-handed for Liliana.
I untap and draw the Forest.
"You got me!" I pack 'em in.
Alright, I guess I lost one of these matches for once. Couldn't run good forever I suppose. However, more interesting than the result—remember, these are just three games—is a couple of observations concerning the deck. We're trying to tune this thing after all. BUGs Bunny does roughly what I wanted it to, though we're a little light in the library-manipulation department. There is still too much variance going on for my liking. That's for later though. The two things that I feel instantly need work are the mana base and the counter suite.
While the last game was an anomaly in my opinion—I found seven lands with 34 cards remaining in my deck in the end, which seems very low—your color requirements are quite high, meaning you need to fetch for dual lands a lot and also meaning you really want to be able to fetch for double and even triple black while getting your other colors online. In short, we need a Bayou. As for what to cut, the Wastelands were nice and I've found that I win by Loam locking quite a lot—these aren't the only games I've played with the deck by now—but I think two of them might be enough.
As to the counter suite, the Counterspells weren't hugely problematic in any of these games, but having four double-blue spells you need to get online early is too much clunk for this deck. Having early double-blue spells also reinforces the mana problems I just mentioned. I think I might want to cut at least two counterspells for cheaper countermagic or more discard after how these games felt. I don't think I'd want more Thoughtseizes though. The damage added up quite a bit and made me feel really bad about casting it. That might be my inexperience with the card though (the discard I'm used to has the life payment associated to Gitaxian Probe instead of the spell itself).
Speaking of Thoughtseize, I think the correct play in game 3 would probably have been to just Thoughtseize the Batterskull when I had the chance and go to six. The way it turned out I'd still have lost to double Bolt, but in the long run I think I win more games here by getting rid of the recursive threat than by throwing away a card every two turns. Post-board I don't have many Counterspells to stop it anymore after all.
There are a couple of other debatable plays in that game. I could probably have deployed a Liliana at some point when I was killing the Batterskull Germ over and over again if I had dared not play around Daze for example. Any suggestions and ideas concerning those situations are welcome—as I said, I'm still learning the deck, and I've been playing a lot of combo for a year now.
And that's another long one for you. I'd write more, but at some point one article has to end for the next to begin so you'll have to wait for next week.
Before I go, a shout out to Josh Cicio aka wweenieking on mtgthesource. While I was busy writing about the deck, he took my original list, tuned it to his liking, and grabbed first place in an 80-player event on December 7th. That's how you do it and thanks for taking one of my babies out to play!
That's it for today; until next time, you can't always win, but you can always try!