What do I know?
What I know is that a boy is weak, and he doesn't deserve half of what is given to him. What I know is that a boy is sad, but he does everything he can to convince those around him that he is not. And what I know is that a boy is suffering, and though what he knows is convincing, it is not the truth and he has nothing and no one to help him to believe otherwise.
A boy has struggled with something for far too long, and he is finally able to say he has kicked a habit, but that boy would be lying through his teeth as he sucked down another beautiful breath of poison. A boy would know how to tell you to win at a card game, but a boy would know nothing. His friends have helped by staying away, and his beloved has helped by staying out of it. And as he drains another cup of one poison, his fingers itch for another.
Addiction is a cruel dance between you and your demons. Some part of you believes that you actually want to spend your last dollar on that drink, that cigarette, that Magic card. When actually all you want to do is make her happy, but who do you believe? Do you believe the voice that says everything is alright, or do you believe the one screaming in the background? After a while, it becomes harder and harder to hear the latter.
Over the last two weeks, I have dragged myself out of a hole that is cigarettes. If anyone ever tells you that quitting is easy, then they would be a liar. If anyone ever tells you that you should just buy nicotine patches, then they wouldn't be telling you the whole truth. You're just replacing one method with another.
They don't tell you about how it hurts to watch others smoking, or how every single person you see in a movie or television show light up makes you want to walk outside and have one yourself. They don't tell you that it will rip you apart, every single moment of every single day. When the thought gets into your head, it is almost impossible to drown out.
And after two weeks, two whole weeks of quitting, I still yearn for something to burn my lungs. And even after two weeks with one cigarette here and one cigarette there, I still find myself driving to a 7-11 at two in the morning buying a brand new pack. But when you wake up, you have to look at yourself in the mirror and face the truth. In the end, every breath of polluted air you breathe is going to take a small amount of time from her, and that might be the hardest bit to swallow.
If you have never smoked a cigarette before, I applaud you. It is a disgusting habit that, like all habits, seems really stupid from an outside perspective. But as someone who has tried to quit smoking multiple times, I will tell you this: it is going to be hard. You are going to fall, but you can't give up. You are going to fail, time and time again, but that shouldn't deter you from your goal.
I know that I occasionally write about topics that are difficult to read, and I apologize for that. Though you may see my agony, if only for a moment, it is nothing compared to what looms on my back. And these few hours I have to spew anything and everything is my only reprieve from that hollow part of me.
I don't know the pain of hunger, not truly. I don't know the pain of losing a loved one, not fully. I don't know the meaning of sympathy, because I have no true ground to stand on. I am cunning, conniving, and coddled, and that does not make for a hero. I am everything that stands in my way.
I am the demon that I'm so afraid of.
But somewhere, lost in the mist of the mind, lies the part of me that wants to be better, and I am slowly learning to listen.
Screw You, Ross Merriam
If I had to choose what topic to write about this week, it would be that Ross Merriam has ruined everything by winning the last Standard Open with Mono-Blue Devotion. I have played against that deck, and multiple variants, about a million times over the last six months, but it had basically fallen off the map as of late. But now...
It was all going to be fine. I was going to play Jund Monsters at the Invitational this weekend because it was a powerful, proactive strategy that jammed big threat after big threat until the opponent was dead. I had finally given up when it came to Standard, because I just couldn't win with anything, but Ross Merriam had to go and prove just how good Mono-Blue Devotion still is, and how easily it beats many of the best decks in the format.
But I can't hate Ross for proving what I already knew. For weeks, I've pondered why Mono-Blue Devotion was not everywhere. Nothing really changed with the release of Journey into Nyx. Maybe I just stopped paying attention to Standard because of the last Pro Tour, or the last Grand Prix, or because I was sick to death of Pack Rat. Maybe I just didn't care.
If I had to choose what to write about this week, it would be Sneak and Show. After "proving" just how good the deck was by 5-0'ing Brian Braun-Duin in our latest VS video from Monday, I really don't know what else to say. Maybe people stopped playing a lot of the hate cards for the deck, or maybe I finally learned how to play it.
If I had to choose what I was going to write about this week, it would be Goryo's Vengeance and how it was going to dominate the Modern PTQ season. The power level of the deck is unrivaled in the current Modern metagame, and the banning of Deathrite Shaman only made it better, but the deck ultimately loses to itself more than not, making it a poor choice in tournaments where you actually have to beat your opponents to advance.
I don't want to sound insincere, because I think Modern and Goryo's Vengeance both sound pretty awesome right now, but the problem is me, and only me. And what I think is only as good as the weight you put on my words.
If I had to choose what to write about this week, it would be all three, so that's exactly what I'm going to do. This weekend will prove exactly what I (don't) know about Standard and Legacy with the Season Two Invitational in Columbus, but you still need something to read about for Modern and the PTQ season.
And so it's time to put my money where my mouth is.
Standard is full of green decks featuring Sylvan Caryatid, and I don't expect that to change, even with the resurgence of Mono-Blue Devotion. I think that Mono-Blue Devotion will change how those decks are built, but I don't think it will push them out of the metagame entirely. Here is Ross Merriam's Mono-Blue deck for reference.
- 4 Cloudfin Raptor
- 4 Frostburn Weird
- 1 Galerider Sliver
- 4 Judge's Familiar
- 4 Master of Waves
- 4 Nightveil Specter
- 4 Tidebinder Mage
- 4 Thassa, God of the Sea
Yes, Mono-Blue Devotion is back and you should be aware. But what I do know is that Mono-Blue Devotion is still weak to a plethora of removal for their important creatures. Without a way to gain significant card advantage through Jace or Bident of Thassa, the deck will still be weak against black decks.
While all of the black decks that are currently popular might have an advantage on Mono-Blue Devotion, it will take a torrent of removal to push them out of the game. This means Doom Blade. This means access to a removal suite out of the board that can deal with Master of Waves. This means staying away from Abrupt Decay and all of the green cards that are particularly weak against Master of Waves. While Abrupt Decay is pretty strong against the early drops of Blue Devotion, those are rarely the cards that kill you.
If you aren't prepared to beat Master of Waves and his millions of elementals, you will lose to the top end of Mono-Blue Devotion.
The downside to playing Ultimate Price and the like is that you'll be weak to the early game of Mono-Blue Devotion. Frostburn Weird and Nightveil Specter both laugh at Ultimate Price, but if you build your deck without answers to these cards, you will fold in the early turns of the game to Thassa and the like. Bile Blight is currently the best option available to you, killing every creature in the deck aside from Thassa and Frostburn Weird. The truth is that there is no removal spell for two mana in Standard that will kill every threat in their deck, but finding the best combination of removal is ultimately your best bet.
One of the reasons why Ross Merriam, and those playing Blue Devotion, prey on the current decks in Standard is that they are incredibly threat dense without being vulnerable to the slew of removal spells that are being played out of the green shells. Jund Monsters ends up being focused on Abrupt Decay, Mizzium Mortars, and Dreadbore to deal with threats, leaving Master of the Waves completely untouched. If that ends up being the case at the Invitational, you'll have Master of Waves running all over the competition.
It isn't like Blue Devotion can skew their creature base. They're going to play Cloudfin Raptor, Tidebinder Mage, and the like. They're going to play Master of Waves. They're probably going to play other creatures that help turn on devotion for Thassa, making their gameplan rather predictable. If you can't build your removal base to negate their early turns as well as their late-game, then you're going to fold to one side or another.
Mono-Blue Devotion isn't the end of the format, nor is it the beginning. At some point, you were going to dedicate some number of removal spells to the deck, because it has been so much of a deciding factor in the last few months of Standard. Without Blue Devotion in the format, Jund Monsters and the like have been able to devote less and less of their removal spells to dealing with Master of Waves, but that just isn't possible anymore.
With the Invitational just a few days away, there is no time to screw around anymore. Even if Brad or BBD "breaks the format" with some sweet brew, I won't feel confident playing their deck. I am a creature of habit, and I need to test a lot with a deck before I play with it in a tournament. At this point in the game, trying out a new deck just isn't feasible.
If the Invitational were tomorrow, I would probably be playing this list of Black Devotion for the Standard portion:
Boring? Yes. Powerful? Sort'of. Consistent? You bet.
At tournaments like Grand Prix or Invitationals, you can afford to take a few losses. I fully expect to lose a few matches with this deck, but that's the name of the game for Standard. I will win my fair share by casting Thoughtseize into Pack Rat, but I will lose my fair share to having a weaker top-end than Monsters. But Thoughtseize is the great equalizer, and can bring any deck to its knees.
Last week, after putting up another mediocre performance in Legacy, Chris VanMeter approached me about my Sneak and Show list. I told him exactly what I've told everyone else over the last month: the deck is absurd, and I have no idea why it fell off the map.
Yes, you will lose to Delver on occasion, but doesn't everything? The combination of cheap threats, removal, and disruption give them draws that are unbeatable, but that doesn't mean I should throw in the towel. I've played my fair share of Delver decks in the past, and I can give you many reasons not to play it, but I'd rather not. Legacy is a lot of fun, and you should just play whatever you feel most comfortable with.
And at the moment, I'm most comfortable when I get to put Griselbrand into play.
Do you know how good it feels to draw seven cards?
There isn't all that much to say about the deck. I've Top 8'ed the last two Legacy Opens I've played the deck, and Chris VanMeter did the same last weekend. He ultimately lost to a Delver deck in the quarterfinals, but that just goes back to my earlier argument. You're going to lose to it now and then, but I would much rather be the Sneak and Show pilot than the Delver pilot when my opponent leads with any basic land. Wasteland isn't as good as it used to be (though it is still ridiculously good).
Speaking of demons...
This is the first time in a long time where I don't mind being on the draw. Since you are quite a bit faster than every other deck in the format, being on the draw isn't a bad thing. You get a free discard outlet against counterspells. You get an extra card to hit your fifth mana source for Through the Breach. In fact...
Choose to be on the draw with this deck.
More often than not, you are not going to get punished for it. I find that most of my losses with this deck come from a lack of resources rather than anything else. Faithless Looting and Izzet Charm will take their toll, and when you lose your Gemstone Mine or Pentad Prism, things get ugly.
For the most part, nothing has changed about this deck since the last time I played it in a major event. We didn't get anything new or exciting, but a few things changed about our opponent's decks.
Now that Deathrite Shaman is no longer in our way, this deck could be a monster. As I said earlier, many of your losses come from the lack of ability to goldfish your opponent, but you will win a lot of games by finding your outs and playing to them. Interacting with your opponent in Modern isn't all that enticing when they have Kitchen Finks and Birthing Pod, so why not just shove a 7/7 in their face until they're dead?
If you think cutting Fury of the Horde is a good idea, let me tell you just how wrong you are. The Modern format can get crazy, and giving your opponent any extra turns is dangerous. Fury of the Horde allows your Griselbrand to kill them on the spot, so long as you draw reasonably well. I have only bricked on killing my opponent with Griselbrand and Fury of the Horde two times when starting at twenty life.
I haven't picked this deck up in a while because I fell in love with Patrick Dickman's RUGTwin deck, but that might change with the PTQ season in full swing. I'm going to be playing Modern a lot over the next few months, and I will give you updates along the way. This is where I'm at right now, but that doesn't mean this is the best possible list. If you have any ideas about the deck, I'm all ears.
If you play this deck, patience is a must. You will find yourself in spots where you can't physically win, but you will also close the door on most opponents before they know what hit them. Such is the nature of combo decks. Greatness, at any cost.
When making a deal with the devil himself, don't be surprised when he collects.