Hitchcock Was Right!
First, I need to apologize for a mistake in my last article: I couldn't find a link to the original CogniOath decks I mentioned in time, and the Ferrett tried to bail me out by looking it up. Apparently he missed the target in the midst of all the CogniOath articles, and the link ended up pointing to another CogniOath deck. So when I mentioned I didn't like Skyshroud Forest, people got lost since the linked decklist didn't have any. To clear things up here is the deck I looked at initially and still have in a .DEC file:
1 Dust Bowl
2 Skyshroud Forest
3 Treetop Village
4 Yavimaya Coast
4 Accumulated Knowledge
4 Cunning Wish
4 Force Spike
3 Mana Leak
4 Oath of Druids
3 Powder Keg
SB: 1 Capsize
SB: 1 Constant Mists
SB: 1 Intuition
SB: 1 Powder Keg
SB: 1 Rebuild
SB: 3 Roar of the Wurm
SB: 1 Stroke of Genius
SB: 1 Teferi's Response
SB: 2 Whispers of the Muse
I still can't tell you who posted it - but the exact build really isn't that important for the last article. Again, my apologies to everyone for the mix-up; mea culpa all the way.
Now that we got that out of the way, I want to talk about OBC. I know I talked about Extended in my last article, and I will return to my favorite format throughout the summer, but right now it's getting enough coverage from people who a much better grasp of Magic than me.
Simply echoing what is already being said - or looking for loose ends in a format still over three hundred cards short of its final card pool - doesn't seem very appealing to me at this moment.
So this weekend, I set about finding another topic to talk about. Standard is out of the question, because it won't miss a beat. This weekend Euros will give the Pre-Judgment metagame the final spin, and next week we have Amateurs, followed by two Standard Grand Prixs the week after (Sao Paulo and Taipei).
As you can see from that calendar, any attempt to do some groundwork in Standard will be very short-lived. In two weeks at the most, the metagame will be defined enough to leave little room - or none at all - for exploration. Whatever wacky ideas we might discuss now probably won't be very relevant once the Pro lists start pouring in.
OBC, on the other hand, suffers from neither of those problems. Unlike Extended we know the full card pool - and unlike Standard, we have a full month - until Worlds - to tinker with it before somebody shows up with the"answers."
I call them"answers" because every time I check out the lists from a big Constructed event I feel like I ran out of time to solve a DCI-generated puzzle and I'm looking at the answers, provided by the best minds in the business.
Once I settled my mind on the topic, OBC, I tried to find something new. I really didn't want to give you another version of a widely discussed OBC deck. So rest assure you won't see another QuietSpeculationRoarWonder.dec.
But I will mention Quiet Speculation.
What I have for you today is the result of a very large number of mails and a few hours of discussion (Magic mailing lists are a wonderful, wonderful thing). Here's Duarte Fernandes' Quiet Speculation deck, which surprisingly does not use Green:
"RT Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Birds"
4 Suntail Hawk
4 Mystic Penitent
2 Benevolent Bodyguard
4 Mystic Familiar
4 Soulcatcher's Aerie
4 Battle Screech
4 Deep Analysis
4 Quiet Speculation
3 Careful Study
3 Keep Watch
Duarte has been battling with this deck since the day Judgment came out (not on the stores, but on the MOL-spawned spoiler). It has gone through a long whirlwind of modifications, but I never really felt it was good enough - until I started hearing suggestions about using the Aerie.
I'm probably not the only one who can't remember what Soulcatcher's Aerie does without looking at the spoiler, so I'll help you out:
Uncommon - Judgment
Whenever a Bird is put into your graveyard from play, put a feather counter on Soulcatcher's Aerie.
All Birds get +1/+1 for each feather counter on Soulcatcher's Aerie.
Up until both Duarte and Tiago Chan mentioned this card, I thought the deck would simply crumble to Mono-Black or any fast creature deck (Mongrel-Madness, for example).
Not only would Mutilate clean the board - and Duarte at one time packed maindeck Envelop because of sorceries like the Black Wrath - but also the constant need to chump Roar tokens made Screech less than impressive. I played it in a couple of games and wasn't very impressed, despite Duarte's claims that the deck did quite well.
I've seen a few Speculation-Screech lists on the Net, and most of them seemed to suffer from exactly that problem: Despite its ability to produce four flying tokens, Screech was no match for the current damage speed of the environment and above all was certainly no match for the mass removal available (which includes Upheaval, since we are talking tokens).
But Aerie pushes things to a whole new level. Suddenly, you don't really care about Mutilate, or chumping with Screech tokens. Every time one of your birds dies, the next one just gets bigger. Between Soulcatcher and its Aerie, you will have some very large birds in no time - so fast that you can even come out the winner when facing Wonder-powered flying tokens.
As usual, I don't completely agree with the list. I feel those Keep Watches might be very flashy sometimes, and pull out a couple of tight games, but I feel they should really turn into the missing Bodyguards and Careful Study. Or maybe something else, like the Divine Sacraments in Meddish's list. Somehow, the Keep Watch just doesn't seem right to me.
Still, I haven't put nearly enough time into the deck to change the list purely out of gut feeling and I want to give you the list as Duarte' shared it.
The main thing is you don't really need the joint Quiet Speculation and Roar of the Wurm. There isn't some rule that forces you to do that. Quiet Roar might be the best option - but that doesn't mean you should look at others, even if they involve playing with plains in OBC.
Even if your first deck list crumbles, keep on coming back to it. The first version of this deck didn't have twelve Birds or any Aeries... But eventually those cards showed up, because the deck kept getting changed and getting better.
Is this deck going to rule Sydney's Worlds? Well, I doubt it. I'm sure Duarte would be thrilled to see his deck do well, but above all I think the lesson - no, the suggestion - is you have to keep trying. Simply going along with the environment will normally give you a strong finish, but you will eventually find a glass ceiling: A certain level from which you can't raise yourself any higher because you have lost your ability to innovate. No matter how much you can rethink, morph, or improve known decks, you sometimes need to figure out what holes in the metagame you should be exploiting.
I witnessed a good example of this a few months back at Grand Prix: Lisbon. Being the last European Extended Grand Prix of the season, the metagame was pretty much set. Most players worried only about retouching the top decks from the last events and the whole tournament looked like a tribute to Alan Comer's Gro and its siblings.
As it turned out, a few players did do their homework - especially people with three byes. They figured everyone would be playing Gro variants, thus scaring away Trix, and making almost every single deck in the room a creature deck. Creature decks have a special tendency to lose to Oath. So most of the top players, the ones who came to Lisbon after doing all the work, played Oath.
The result? The three-hour long finals of Grand Prix Lisbon was an Oath mirror match between Kai Budde and Patrick Mello. Coming out of Pro Tour: New Orleans, Oath was the"dead" deck and Trix was"unstoppable." By the end of the season, and mostly thanks to Gro, the tables had fully turned...
But only a few players saw that.
Going beyond the known, popular or expected deck lists can sometimes give you the crucial edge.
Maybe Duarte found it - at least for a few pre-Worlds tournaments... Or maybe not. But trying is a big part of the process. Don't forget to check the top decks... But don't forget to think for yourself.
I hope you like the article. As usual comments welcomed, even if my mail replies are getting a bit slow.
Lately, I haven't been playing in as many tournaments as I used to. Since I'm going to Euros this weekend and to Grand Prix: Sao Paulo in three weeks (doing coverage for both events), I had every intention of taking the"middle" weekend off to rest.
But the Portuguese National Magic team is putting together a Standard tournament to get enough money for the trips to Worlds - and I simply have to play in that tournament. I have to play for two reasons:
- We only found out they wouldn't be getting the paid trips this year (unlike every other past Portuguese team) after Nationals - which was shady to say the least. Playing in a tournament with an expected prize (slots and trips) and only learning we were wrong afterwards never seems right.
- Scheduling a Worlds event in Australia might be very exotic, but it makes the trip very expensive for a large number of players. So I might as well pitch in to get the Portuguese there so I'll have someone to cheer for.
Anyway, the bottom line is I need to come up with a deck for the very first weekend of the Standard season - even if I wanted to netdeck it I couldn't.
Well, actually, I could - and I'm pretty sure some of the players will - wait for the big amateur event in the US. I'm sure the Sideboard will be there and by Sunday morning, Lisbon time, there should be some decklists available for the"junkies."
But that is way too late - and way too cheesy - for me. And I actually meant what I wrote in the main article today. So while most hardworking Portuguese players are getting ready for Euros, I have been toying with new decks in Magic Suitcase and testing with them every chance I can.
It's hard to fix a deck when you are constantly playing against current Standard decks, but it's better than nothing. A big thank-you to the people who chipped in without complaining that they need to practice for another tournament.
The first thing was picking a deck I could actually enjoy playing. That obviously ruled out Opposition, any variation of Tog, and Trenches. I'm not a big fan of Green/Red right now (since I don't believe a control player should smile when he figures out his opponent is playing beatdown instead of starting to sweat) so I was quickly running out of choices.
The last time I played Standard was with Mono-Black at Regionals... But Judgment had too many headaches that I would need to figure how to solve with that deck. Besides, Mono-Black is very testing-intensive; you need to know the field and practice hard against every deck to avoid making crucial mistakes.
Eventually, I figured out that all this"complaining" simply meant I wanted to play Green-White and was having a hard time admitting it. Green-White has been so laughable in Standard that it seemed strange to think about it, even with Judgment's steroids for that colour combination.
I try to piece together a few lists starting with a ClericsSplashGreen.dec, which almost had me convinced, all the way to WWSplashingGreen.dec - an idea that lasted about five minutes until I figured out it needed some sort of reliable 'Geddon to survive.
Finally, I settled on playing a lot of Green fat, using White mainly for Brushhopper and anti-enchantment solutions.
The next big question was the Wish-Call thing. In Green-White, you basically can play Living Wish, Eladamri's Call, or no"tutor" effect. Playing Call allows you to have a more"normal" sideboard, Wish gives you more first-game options, and no"tutor" probably means you have a maindeck that can handle most top decks easily.
Since this would be my only chance to play Standard before Sao Paulo and Taipei set the metagame, I thought I might as well try something different. So I went with the Wish plan; besides, my Judgment boxes gave me almost all the cards I needed for the deck. After several changes, the current decklist looks something like this:
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Basking Rootwalla
4 Wild Mongrel
4 Anurid Brushhopper
4 Arrogant Wurm
4 Phantom Centaur
4 Roar of the Wurm
3 Armadillo Cloak
3 Living Wish
4 Krosan Verge
2 Nantuko Monastery
3 Sungrass Prairie
SB: 3 Seedtime
SB: 3 Elephant Guide
SB: 3 Ray of Revelation
SB: 1 Spellbane Centaur
SB: 1 Phantom Nishoba
SB: 1 Sylvan Safekeeper
SB: 1 Gurzigost
SB: 1 Genesis
SB: 1 Mystic Enforcer
The first question is normally,"Why use Cloak over Guide?" Blame it on Tiago Chan. He was the one that talked me into switching them around and I have to say he was right.
More than the life gaining ability - which is quite nice in a lot of matchups, keeping you out of double-Rage range and Psychatog combo for example - the trample is the main selling point. Without Cloaks, the only way to get past Trenches tokens would be Arrogant Wurm. The only way to get past Nightscape Familiar would be Phantom Centaur.
I used to have a third Monastery, but I traded it for the fourth Verge. I don't get to Threshold fast enough to make Monastery good. When I'm using Monastery, I either had a strange hand or I'm in deep trouble. Krosan Verge is amazing and I've found myself in the curious position of not discarding a Roar to a Mongrel on turn 4 because I could play it on the following turn.
A quick sideboard walkthrough: Seedtime is obviously against Blue decks, although so far it hasn't proven to be as amazing as I expected. Elephant Guide goes in against decks with a lot of removal - Mono-Black, for example - or against decks where you don't need the Wax/Wanes but could use some extra help in combat. Ray of Revelation gives you to multiple cheap shots at those Trenches and Oppositions.
Spellbane Centaur goes in against bounce; Nishoba might be a bit"life gain" overkill, but it's great to Wish for if the game drags on; Sylvan Safekeeper saves you from any targeted misdeeds; Gurzigost gets past stalls and recycles stuff if need be; Genesis lets you recur annoying creatures (Phantom Centaur, for example); Enforcer is also a bit anti-stall, allowing you to fly in for the kill.
A large chunk of the sideboard hasn't been used yet - and it's just there because I feel I can't give a Wish decklist without a proper sideboard.
As usual, comments, suggestions, and the like are welcomed. This deck still has a lot of loose ends to figure out and any help would be appreciated.
Super Bonus Track:
I just want to finish this by again congratulating the Magic Suitcase Development team for its bold decision to move the program to open source. I, for one, can't wait to get my hands on it. It will be a great test to the ability of the whole community to create a Magic program we can all relate to, especially a free one.
Quoting from the press release:
"Just because software is free doesn't mean it must suck."